Suburbs

Democracy is For the Dogs

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With a new round of state and local elections just around the corner, I am regularly asked about what brings Americans out to the polls and helps them politically engage them with their communities.  read more »

Forced Upzoning is Bad Policy, But Here's How We Can Mitigate its Impacts

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A number of bills in the legislature would attempt to “solve” the state’s housing challenges by overriding local municipal zoning ordinances and statutorily allowing developers to build up to Sacramento-mandated levels of density.  The most notable of these bills is SB50, which has no provisions to make any of the housing built affordable, but espouses a “trickle-down” theory which suggests that market-rate (i.e. luxury) housing will “filter” down to create more affordable housing.  read more »

Three Studies That Show Density Doesn't Determine Car Travel

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Recent research sheds new light on the critical issue of the link between car travel and urban density. Conventional planning wisdom has it that increasing development density bestows benefits, most importantly that of reducing driving. This effect seems almost self-evident: more compaction, shorter distances, lower VMTs. Peter Newman and Jeffrey Kenworthy’s (1989) Cities and Automobile Dependence reinforced this intuitive assumption with their extensive and in-depth study (1986) which effectively sealed the case for thirty years.  read more »

Organic Urbanism is the Cure for New Urbanism

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This early 1900s house, after the neighborhood had been rezoned for apartments, declined in value to $7,000 in the 1970s. Being rezoned single-family brought decades of revitalization that raised the value of neighborhood homes like this one to $700,000.

New Urbanism is like a virus. For 50 years it keeps coming back in mutated forms. It needs a cure.  read more »

Of Niche Markets and Broad Markets: Commuting in the US

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The six transit legacy cities - mostly urban cores that grew largely before the advent of the automobile - increased their concentration of transit work trips to 57.9% of the national transit commuting, according to the 2018 American Community Survey. At the same time, working at home strengthened its position as the nation’s third leading mode of work access, with transit falling to fourth. The transit commuting market share dropped from 5.0% in 2017 to 4.9% in 2018.  read more »

Younger Americans Don't Hate Suburbia

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As a college professor who teaches courses about politics and geography at an extremely progressive liberal arts college, my students regularly want to talk about the narratives surrounding deep urban-rural divides which routinely make the news or the seemingly endless stories abound about urban renewal and its proclivity  read more »

2018 Commute Data

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The Census Bureau released data from the 2018 American Community Survey last week, and the big news is its finding that income inequality has worsened. America's transit agencies contributed to that problem as they continue to build expensive transit systems into wealthy suburbs while they cut service to low-income neighborhoods.  read more »

Moving Into Your Socialist Home

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“Housing is a human right,” asserts Oregon’s U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer in a paper titled Locked Out: Reversing Federal Housing Failures and Unlocking Opportunity.” That’s debatable, but if Blumenauer really believes it, then why does he support Oregon’s land-use laws that heavily restrict suburban development? After all, that’s the only kind of housing development that is truly affordable.  read more »

Property and Democracy in America

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To understand how American democracy has worked, and why its future may be limited, it’s critical to look at the issue of property. From early on, the country’s republican institutions have rested on the notion of dispersed ownership of land — a striking departure from the realities of feudal Europe, east Asia or the Middle East.  read more »

Debunking the Fake Farmland Crisis

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“Our farmland is disappearing at an alarming rate,” claims Hanna Clark of the American Farmland Trust. According to the trust, 31 million acres of farmland and ranchlands “disappeared” between 1992 and 2012. Claims like these are used to promote restrictions on urban development such as the urban-growth boundaries found around many California, Oregon, and Washington cities.  read more »