Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Miscellaneous Musings

Someone over at SSC took a four day trip to Cleveland and posted a pretty great series of dozens of photos about that city. You can see them here:

If you have time to peruse these, you’ll see another city with a sparkling urban history and built environment. But as with Cincinnati, these haven’t translated into a positive demographic or economic climate. Included are pictures of Cleveland’s transit system, which includes high quality rapid rail transit lines. If transit will revitalize our decaying cities, how does one explain away the Cleveland example?

Here is an interesting study. Called the Measure of America, it applies UN standards for human development to US states and congressional districts. I haven’t digested it in full detail, but here are some money maps of the nation at a glance by congressional district. As you’ll see, it is typically big city suburban districts that are doing ok in the Midwest. The rest of the place is suffering.

The mayor of Louisville was in Tampa, Florida last week trying to lure expats back home to Kentucky. I’m sure the free Maker’s helped attract them to that meeting at least. The city even has its own MySpace page. The concept isn’t a bad one, but I think overly focusing on trying to lure former residents back misses the broader opportunity for engaging them as an alumni network.

Houston is the cities urbanites love to hate. The NYT attacks them for not recycling. Ed Glaeser of Harvard defends them versus New York. Someone else takes offense at that notion. I’ve written about Houston before. That city, along with other sun belt boomtowns like Atlanta and Dallas, have to somehow be explained away by the sophisticates who say that the ultimate successful city has to look something like San Francisco.

USA Today writes about a new book called Traffic, by a guy named Tom Vanderbilt. It is all about driving in America today, and appears to have all sorts of interesting facts, including a discussion of roundabouts. It may be worth checking out.

Indianapolis has its own streetcar web page now. Welcome to the club. If the experience of other cities is any guide, it is probably $100-150 million for a downtown circulator line. I wonder how much of this would overlap the Cultural Trail? Oh, and Columbus just approved a streetcar study.

Kansas City is planning to put light rail on the ballot in November.

A Republican state senator in Indiana advocates privatizing the lottery.

Jam Productions buys the historic but decrepit Uptown Theater in Chicago for $3.23 million. I took a tour of this some years back when it was open for a rare visit from the public. It’s a magnificent building, but has suffered a lot of damage. Incredible as it might seem, almost all of the interior damage was caused during a single winter when the heat wasn’t turned on and the pipes burst – that was within the last 15 years.

Thanks to Jeff over at Daytonology for pointing out this NYT Magazine article about desegregation by class instead of race in the wake of recent Supreme Court rulings. Louisville, Kentucky is a big case study.

Apparently the Swedes are coming – to Columbus, Ohio.

An article about I-469 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “After 20 years, Interstate 469 remains a lightly traveled loop”


Cities: Cleveland, Houston

10 Responses to “Miscellaneous Musings”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Here is an interesting article in today's Star about Mass Transit for Central Indiana: http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080730/OPINION08/807300317/1291/OPINION08. It seems the people of Indiana are not only telling government what they want the are acting on it; Indiana showed the third largest decline in auto miles in the nation.

    Here is a bold perdiction> Mass transit will be a key issue in the race for Governor in the state of Indiana. To become Governor of Indiana you have to win two parts of the state, Indianapolis and "the region", both are pushing hard for more mass transit.

    I have read here on the blog about "separating" your city from the pack. Well how better to separate yourself and brace yourself for the future than building a 21st century infrastructure now?

  2. thundermutt says:

    The question is: should we make it easier for people to commute (by some means other than cars) from the edges of the metro, thus promoting sprawl?

    If transportation policy is going to drive behavioral change, we have to offer better transit inside Marion County FIRST.

  3. Anonymous says:

    No argument from me on better transit inside Marion County.

  4. deuteronomy says:

    Thanks in particular for the "Measure of America" link. I guess it should come as no surprise to see this sort of material filtered through a UN lens. Thus, the analysis assumes an overwhelmingly critical look at "human development indictators" because we aren't sufficiently social-democratic for the United Nations. This does not seem to be a particularly high-profile report, and rightfully so: many Americans' frustrations with the UN (not all of whom are died-in-the-wool conservatives) are based on the UN's persistent inability to address human needs through anything other than social policy and government aid. This comes as no surprise–that is chiefly why the UN exists. But scarcely ever do UN reports recognize the countless private or non-profit initiatives undertaken to improve standards of living in the US. In addition, the stats they list are uniformly negative, never recongizing that the US has a far higher survival rate for chronic illness than nearly all developed countries, that we have one of the highest percentages of centennarians (our low longevity is almost exclusively due to infant mortality), that our higher learning institutions dominate the world for R & D (not to mention our government support for it), and that even historically underperforming economic groups, such as African Americans, have a higher median household income than all but the richest European countries.

    But it's always good to have a new perspective. Like most UN reports, no doubt all but the most left-leaning few (who tend to be the most insecure about how uncivilized we are in comparison to Europe) will simply respond to the "Measure of America" with a shrug of the shoulders.

  5. Da Ville says:

    thanks for the links to CLE pics. Despite its challenges (which are many…including the winter weather which it can do nothing about)…the montage of pictures display a city that has long been among the most important cities in the Midwest. Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland. Cleveland is more ‘Eastern’ than Midwestern in my mind; a result of lots of ethnic neighborhoods that really do not exist in the next tier of midwestern metros.

  6. Nit says:

    Interesting about I-469. I have always wondered why it was built? No too much development on that side of FTW. My conclusion was that since Indy got 465, the State’s second-biggest city should get 469.

  7. thundermutt says:

    The biggest factor that makes a Midwestern city seem “Eastern” is rowhouses.

    “Old” Cincinnati has (or once had) a lot. I’m less familiar with Cleveland.

  8. thundermutt says:

    Interesting story link:


    Astute readers will recall this concept was foreshadowed months ago by The Urbanophile’s cite of an article in The Atlantic Monthly. It was discussed in this blog by Urbanophile and yours truly. For more Urbanophile commentary and citations on “the Europeanization of American cities”:


    For the paper that may have coined this phrase in 2005, see:


    Interesting reading for an intolerably hot summer weekend.

  9. The Urbanophile says:

    You beat me to it – I’ve got a post forthcoming on this.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Um, the parts of Cleveland which are on the light and heavy rail lines are among the surviving, vibrant, high-property-value parts. It’s the rest of the city which is sinking.

    What “Cleveland example” are you talkin’ about?

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