Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Why I Love Jury Duty

As we approach election season and participation in one of our great civic duties, I am prompted to reflect on another civic duty, jury duty to be precise. Most people view this as an imposition. Practically speaking, I’m inclined to agree. But I find that when I actually end up going, not only do I enjoy myself, I come away with my faith in America stronger than ever.

There’s a vast literature on juries and their role in a republican system. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote extensively on it, for example. But the aspects that stands out for me personally are the diverse slice of the community you end up cooling your heels with all day and the relationships that develop with them.

I’ve been on jury duty in places ranging from Bloomington to Chicago. I’ve been in jury pools with truck drivers, preachers, country good-ol’-boys, students, black grandmothers, immigrant citizens, soccer moms, construction workers, and much, much more. I’m always amazed by all the types of people you serve with. People who live in the same city as me, but with whom I would rarely interact with. Like most people, I tend to stay in the same social circle of people who are broadly similar to me. I live in a very diverse neighborhood, but still my day to day interactions tend to be with people who have a not dissimilar profile in many respects.

Nevertheless, I find that despite all the different people who come together, in a group that would rarely if ever be assembled elsewhere, a type of rough camaraderie always develops. Nobody wants to be the schmuck stuck on the jury for a three week trial. And everybody knows that nobody wants it. It creates an instant commonality and bond between people, bringing them together. It shows me that we’re not all so different after all, despite how different we might seem.

What’s more, I find myself thinking that if I were ever to find myself on trial, these are people I believe would give me a fair shake. Like everyone, I curse the “runaway juries” who award millions to people who spill coffee on themselves. But with so many trials out there, clearly this must be the exception. I’ve never seen any reason to believe that the groups of people I’ve sat with on jury duty would be anything other than a fine group of people to judge a case.

So in a sense I think that in addition to the purely practical aspects of jury duty, there’s a function of community building as well, of bringing together everyone for a shared experience where there is actually lots of personal interaction. That’s what makes it different from say a sporting event. We can all cheer for the same team, but does that mean anything if we never talk to each other? But when 50 of you are stuck in a room all day with nothing better to do but talk, you get a different quality of experience.

That’s why I think jury duty is so important. It creates bonds across the diverse groups of our community, reinforces everything that we have in common, and gives us reasons to have faith in the quality of the people in our city. In an era where cities are more diverse than ever, and indeed where attracting diverse talent is key to creating civic success, institutions like jury duty that serve as “civic glue” are more important than ever.

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

More Louisville Transit Goodness

In my Pecha Kucha presentation and my list of quick, easy, and cheap improvements to Indianapolis transit, I suggested a better “How to Ride” guide and video. Well, Indy may not have done that, but Louisville did. Here’s a cool rap video on how to use a TARC bike rack on the bus.

I actually think this video could be improved. There’s too much focus on the performers rather than the actual content of how you are supposed to actually use the bike rack, but still it’s a great entry. I particularly like the use of rap to make it interesting and not just a dry instructional video.

Moving on, my previous posts about Louisville’s historic rail systems (see here and here) created some controversy. A commenter named “timecruncher” said:

“People, people! Louisville did not have an ‘el system.’ There were some grade separations on existing steam rail lines that were built to separate rail main lines from street crossings where lenghty delays were problematic.

“The abandoned Baxter Avenue station was built by the L&N Railroad and served its trains between Louisville, Cincinnati and Lexington (and points in eastern Kentucky). The CCC&StL bridge — also known as the ‘Big Four’ bridge, did, indeed, carry electric interurbans of the Indiana Railroad and its predicessors across the Ohio River, but it was not in any way an elevated passenger railway in the sense of Chicago or New York systems. By the same token, streetcars of the Louisville & New Albany Electric Railway (The Daisy Line), used to operate over the K&IT bridge between Portland and Vincennes Street in New Albany. These streetcars were wide-guage to operate on Louisville Railway trackage on the Kentucky side of the river. This was streetcar service, however, and simply operated on a freight railroad river bridge!

“Steam (and later diesel) – powered passenger trains used all of these bridges at one time or another, but commuter rail service in and out of Louisville on the major rail lines never amounted to more than a couple of ‘accommodation’ trains out to LaGrange or Bardstown.

“Baxter Avenue station is no more than a sad testament to the loss of good intercity rail passenger service. This was once a convenient boarding spot for north and eastbound trains that did not require driving downtown to Union Station. L&N ceased using it in the early 1960s.”

This got David Schooling’s authorship juices flowing. He sent the note and photos below to make his side of the case.

“Louisville did indeed have an elevated electric train system. This was the Kentucky & Indiana Bridge Company’s ORIGINAL 5.5 mi. elevated from Louisville to New Albany IN. In the downtown Louisville the El segment was 15 blocks along with three elevated stations, stretching primarily along the Ohio riverfront wharf area. The trains upon it were three cars or longer and multi-unit, NOT TROLLEYS.

“This is an indisputable, concrete historical fact. Sources are vast and deep and far too numerous however here’s a short list; Kentucky Historical Society, Louisville Board of trade, Harpers Weekly News, the Encyclopedia of Louisville, Local Libraries, University of Louisville.

“From the 1880’s forward not only grade separations, but lengthy elevated rail projects and structures were completed in and around Louisville, not just downtown, from the 1880’s till the late 1930’s. The end result of 50 years left Louisville with numerous sections of elevated rail. These were done by The K & I, Ill. Central, New York Central, C&O. and Pennsylvania Lines.

“Due to a quickly mushrooming population, early in Louisville’s history when it was the nation’s 12th largest city, there were repeated calls for a metro system and or subway. Neither was accomplished, instead one entrepreneurial group installed in 1886 an elevated commuter train system with operations starting simultaneous to the opening of their newly built rail and horse drawn conveyance bridge. That train went from a steam operation to being electrified in 1893.

“Some get confused on several points. The Baxter El and The Baxter El station which never saw electrification. It was primarily an in-city elevated boarding station for numerous long distance passenger trains. No freight was ever handled only baggage, mail and parcels. It was a passenger station only. Commuter trains to Bloomfield did run from this station as well as other noted stops and stations on this line such as; Crescent Hill, St. Matthews, Long Run, Simpsonville, Scotts Station and Shelbyville as commuters took advantage of the close-city portions of the numerous long distant trains scheduled to and from this station.

“No one ever insinuated that the Baxter line was electric, and conversely not being electric does not negate the fact that it was an elevated line crossing five major streets, with an elevated station and an elevated line running over one mile in length that also happened to serve commuters also. It functioned indisputably an elevated commuter and passenger line.

“The Big Four bridge and attendant elevated approach lines, is an interesting item. First of all, the original 1895 version had perhaps the highest elevated station in the world at an amazing 60 ft. in the air. To deny the fact that elevated structures with trains atop them were elevateds is non-sense.

“They were over three miles of long elevateds in three different sections, each elevated segment had rail still over 50 ft in the air in the air well over a mile from the actual Big 4 bridge, all manner of trains steam, electric, diesel, passenger, local passenger commuter, freight were atop these elevateds and some even stopped disgorging and picking up passengers at the one of the highest elevated stations in the United States, in Jeffersonville Indiana. The 2 1/2 story station elevated over 60’in the sky was locally dubbed ‘Sky station’.

“No the Louisville’s elevated system was never equal to – ‘the Chicago or New York’ systems. I have never taken such a position, but it is simply a fascinating look back a history and comes as total shock to many that we ever had such things not because they weren’t there or didn’t exist, but because they are very ethereal and almost totally unknown, even to some rail fans. In the plainest terms, no one has ever heretofore systematically documented and organized a coherent presentation of Louisville’s elevateds and electric trains.

“However the long and especially the early sections Louisville’s elevateds actually do bear striking physical, structural and photographic resemblances to systems in those huge metropolises.

“Admittedly our buildings aren’t as impressive but neither are we an enormous mega city like those megalopolises either.

“Here are also some really quirky, historical facts that do indeed tie into to Chicagoland. The early ‘L’ third rail electric train that exhibited in that city in 1893 for 8 weeks was packed up and shipped directly to Louisville. Here it ran at grade level for four years around Central Park, with many more passengers here, than there, many hundreds of thousands rode the 3rd rail trains here in Louisville. Who knew Louisville had a ‘THIRD RAIL ELECTRIC TRAIN’ and had it for years?

“Below is a K & I Bridge Co. elevated commuter train, was rolled out the concurrent, the same day the bridge opened in 1886.

“In 1893, that early steam commuter line converted to electric equipment. Thereafter the steam equipment was restricted to freight trains.

“The first electric elevated train in the United States ran over the ‘Daisy’ line elevated trackage between Louisville KY and New Albany, IN. The Chicago elevated ‘L’ trains converted from steam to electricity in 1895. This is also absolute historical fact. Check in with the University.

“Years later in 1908 when a new operator bought the bridge trackage rights, and equipment, and decided they were smarter than the K&I, and would henceforth start running single electric cars, not trains (excepting peak/rush hours) and furthermore negated the wonderful totally intersection and traffic free elevated route, by deciding to down ramp immediately over the bridge to fight 30+ blocks of traffic, and switched gauge to match street car gauge, and discontinued running on the elevated system, THAT’S when the trolleys ran.

“Was the new owner’s strategy successful? Yes and No. The new scheme certainly worked, but two car train units (broad gauge) consisting of power car and trail car equipment were still very necessary, due to the immense patronage the Elevated trains had racked up. The original K&I elevated trains had over 1.5 millions in ridership by 1907 by 1908 it peaked at 1.8 million.

“The downside was the longer transit times and commuters suffered in a staggering fashion. The direct and traffic hassle free elevated route of the elevated delivered passengers from New Albany to any of the downtown stations at Seventh, Fourth, or First Street elevated stations in 10 to 12 minutes. Ostensibly the idea was surely that by mixing single cars along with the trains, the Ridership would surely soar exponentially, Right? Wrong. Given over 30 blocks of street running to reach downtown, the new formula didn’t have a prayer of further exponential growth.

“That particular route was known as the ‘Daisy Line’ in various forms and iterations however lasted from 1886 until 1945 and even an afterlife as ‘Daisy Line’ bus transit up until the 1960’s. There was at some point single car movements over the K&I bridge, but timecrusher just did not know the entire story and focused only on a single facet of history.

“Louisville additionally enjoyed a thriving commuter train network, with minor and major rail lines providing that network.

“Railroads of the K & I, L & N, Louisville & Northern, Interstate, Indiana R.R., Louisville & Interurban, B & O, Ill. Central, Southern and Pennsylvania all provided inner city as well as suburban commuter trains with over 250 stations and stops on transit maps from 1910.

“Here the last electric train over the Big Four Bridge into Louisville, on Oct. 31st 1939, runs 50’ high on the Butchertown elevated.

The 16 car B&O Commuter trains served the Indiana Army Ordinance plant in Charlestown, Indiana, located 16 miles north of Louisville. The WWII train commuters arrived on three different shifts, as the plant was open and operating round-the-clock, or as we would say in today’s terms 24/7.

“Commuter trains also ran between Louisville and the Armor Center a Ft. Knox, 30 miles to the southwest.

“Over a long time span and certainly NOT just during war time, there was a tremendous amount of commuter train activity in, through, and all around Louisville and its surrounding bedroom communities.

“Other commuter trains, steam and diesel, ran from Louisville to: Prospect, Harrods Creek, Shepherdsville, Bardstown, Beuchel, Jeffersontown, Fisherville, Crescent Hill, Anchorage, Buckner, LaGrange, Pewee Valley, Eastwood, Simpsonville, Shelbyville, and in Indiana: New Albany, Clarksville, Jeffersonville, Charlestown, Sellersburg, Memphis, Scottsburg and many more.

“In 1910 there were more than 250 local and suburban stops and stations that had regular daily commuter service, some 3 or 4 times daily, others hourly. However, the exceptional and original El, ran from 5 am to 2:30 am, with 15 or 20 minute frequencies, until 9 pm after which it was on 30 minute schedules. This was not an interurban rather it was an inner-city train, transiting thru total cityscape, albeit it did cross state and municipal boundaries. When the original electric equipment was ordered for the El train in 1893, the owners specified they wanted the latest, modern and ‘exactly the same equipment as on the New York City roads’.

“Oh Yeah!!! We had commuter AND actual elevated trains – in spades.

“Another unique feature not to be forgotten or taken lightly, the original El also connected with pass thru trackage directly within one of the cities large Rail Stations at Seventh Street or ‘Central’ Station and at the next stop, the El station was atop the very center of the Steamer Ship Wharf.

“In other words it was a rapid, elevated connected to multi-modal travel, with train connections, via the Southern, C&O, B&O, Illinois Central, New York Central, to all cities North and East and some West and Local Steamboat excursion trips plus actual Steamship Line transit to Evansville, St. Louis, New Orleans, Southern Ill., Cincinnati, Wheeling & Pittsburg – multi-modal connections, long line rail & steamship via a single elevated commuter line.”

More great stuff. Thanks to timecrusher and David.

One correction on a previous post. One of the pictures I had posted of the Louisville freight subway system was actually the Chicago system. It should have been labeled as such, but I missed that. To avoid confusion, I deleted that photo. But Louisville did indeed have a freight subway system. Here’s a blowup of the pic.

Here’s another modern day Louisville tidbit. The Louisville Water Company is building a long, underground tunnel through bedrock to serve as a natural filtration tunnel. During construction, this has a rail line running through it. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Kansas City in Monocle, Cincinnati in Minneapolis

Regular readers know that I’m a fan of Monocle magazine. While it certainly has its “lifestyles of the rich and famous” side to it, which might turn some people off, it also has great international and urban affairs coverage. This month there was a nice four page spread in there about Kansas City. It includes several pictures, including the skyline, the Power and Light District, the airport, and more. Give the demographic of this magazine’s readership, with a large international contingent, this is great exposure.

Monocle articles aren’t online for non-subscribers, but here are some excerpts:

“When Sean Hopkins first visited Kansas City for a job interview, he had no clue what to expect. The stereotypes rolled through his mind: farms, cornfields, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. Upon arrival though, California and Florida bred Hopkins was pleasantly surprised. ‘I loved the feel and the flavor’, he says. ‘Kansas City has something to offer that a big city doesn’t – a slower pace of life that’s good for the soul.'” Ok, that might not be what city leaders would hope to advertise, but it is still a positive statement.

“Like many US regions, Kansas City touts itself as a biotechnology hub and seems to be making progress. The Stowers Institute for Medical Research opened in 2000 with a €1.3 billion endowment. It has lured 400 world-class scientists, including neuro-biologist Debra Ellies”. This is an interesting story. Kansas City is one of the rare big cities without a medical school and academic medical center. Concerned they would miss out on what they saw as an essential industry of the 21st century, life sciences, local billionaires decided to endow a medical research center from scratch. This reminds me of what I said previously about being hungrier when you don’t have anchor legacy assets to fall back on. This may not have been the right industry for KC to focus on, frankly, given that they started from a weak base, with no intrinsic competitive advantage, and this is an industry everybody wants a piece of. Still, you have to admire the “go large” philosophy.

The #1 thing Monocle says needs to be fixed? Public transport. Kansas City is going to the ballot on Nov. 4th to vote on constructing a 14 mile light rail line. This involved a sales tax increase. It will be interesting to see how this fares, so to speak.

Update: A local Kansas City blog reaction – priceless.

Meanwhile, a group of leaders from Cincinnati paid a visit to Minneapolis to see that city up close. I think these sorts of things are critical. You have to get out into the world and see what is going on. So many people never visit the city right down the street, much less successful places around the country and the world that might have lessons to be learned. If you are never exposed to the best of what is going on elsewhere, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing the narrative of your own progress. By that I mean that most cities are constantly undertaking civic improvement initiatives. It is is very easy to judge the success or failure of these solely in terms of what they replaced. New convention center on what used to be a weedy lot? It must be great, right? But when you actually visit other places, especially top performing cities, you see where you really stack up. Every city these days has restaurants going in downtown, condos, etc. So much of what is conventionally viewed as progress is really just riding the trends.

Minneapolis is a good place to visit because it is a bit larger, but not so different as to make its lessons seem inapplicable. I also has a great reputation for its progressive urban policies, has a thriving urban center, a major airport, many corporate HQ’s, etc. Here are some sample excerpts:

“I was impressed by the Minnesotans’ self-esteem. They really seem to believe they are exceptional.”

“Charlotte and Minneapolis are very focused on the future, while we talk too much about the past”

“If we want our region to stand out as one of the best places to live, work and play, then we have to have big, bold ideas and not be afraid to get out of our comfort zone to implement ideas.”

“I was not in Charlotte, but I did go to Minneapolis, and I heard the question come up a second time: How do we define ourselves as a region? What do we do well that makes us unique? What can we tell someone about our city in the length of an elevator ride that might make them want to move here?”

Again, Minneapolis is a place with a lot of pride, swagger, and ambition. They don’t let being in the frozen north be a deal killer. Instead, they embrace the winter and winter sports with pride. They are going out and hiring the top world architects to design their major civic structures, such as a Jean Nouvel’s new Guthrie Theater. They are building light rail lines. Basically, they took the conventional wisdom about what a hip, livable city should be and are trying to really implement it. And they are having some success. Again, our friends at Monocle put them on the list of top 25 global cities.

Still, a lot of this is not distinguished. Starchitecture and light rail only get you so far. The more important things to me are items like the embrace of the outdoors and natural landscape of Minnesota. The other key thing that is often overlooked is how Minneapolis-St. Paul made having “twin cities” be an asset for them, not a liability. In many places this would have simply caused unbearable civic strife. They figured it out. Again, it’s not the hand you’re deal much of the time. It’s how you play it. Invert the world.

Also, a visit can highlight what is not replicable. Minneapolis-St. Paul is the only true primate city in the Midwest. It dominates its state as thoroughly as Chicago does Illinois, but is also the state’s capital and home to the state’s flagship university. Also, one visit to Minnesota will quickly leave one with the impression, and a correct one, that this is one of the single whitest cities in America. Check the racial makeup of that city sometime. It’s easy to talk a good game of urban progressivism when your entire metro area is lily white. Notwithstanding that, as immigrants have started arriving in the area, the politics have shifted to the right, a trend Longworth noted in his book.

In Other News

To bring this back around to Monocle. They recently held an online panel discussion about the future of the city. It’s 20 minutes long and definitely worth watching online or downloading to your iPod.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

A New Approach to Regional Economic Development in Indiana

The Indy Star is on a roll. Fresh on the heels of starting a dialog on the priorities of public services in Indy versus aspirational peers, they run a major story highlighting something that’s been evident for some time, namely that there is a large and increasing disconnect between Indianapolis and the rest of the state.

The facts are stark. Consider, the Indy metro area is 25% of the state’s population, but it has:

  • 13% of manufacturing jobs lost in the state
  • 31% of all the jobs currently existing
  • 43% of all the college graduates
  • 44% of all entrepreneurial income
  • 47% of professional services workers
  • 64% of all the population growth since the 2000 Census

Also, while Indy has gained jobs since 2000, going from 862,700 to 908,200, the rest of the state lost jobs, with the total non-Indy employment slipping below 2 million. The income gap is even more severe. Indy actually exceeds the national average in income per job, at $47,777 vs. $47,286. That’s not rock star performance, but probably not awful either on a cost of living adjusted basis. But the rest of the state earns far less than the national average per job, only $38,226, and continues to fall further behind.

Why is this? Simply put, it’s the globalized economy. The new economy we are in favors big cities over small ones and rural areas. The new economy also requires more than just low cost, low skilled labor – at least in Indiana, which will never be cost competitive with a $200/month worker in China. Consider this, quoting, “What sustains the Indianapolis-area economy is a diversified mix of hospitals and insurers, colleges and government offices, logistics and life science, advanced manufacturing and entertainment, bars and restaurants. Together, these sectors provide more than 400,000 jobs, or almost half the metro-area jobs, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports show.” Many of these sectors are much smaller or don’t exist elsewhere.

Given the realities of the new, globalized economy, what should be done? There are many things, but one of them is to recognize the centrality of cities as the engines of the world economy. And not just cities, but larger cities. There seems to be some sort of minimum scale necessary to support an economy that can compete in the 21st century. As a rule of thumb, I set that level at around one million in a metro area, though I think smaller places can succeed in certain instances.

In that regard, Indiana needs to adopt metro-centric thinking in how it develops economic development strategies. Conveniently, there is already an organizational concept that more or less maps this out. It is called the BEA economic area, and it is effectively the extended economic “solar system” of a city. This would map the state into seven regions, each of which should create a regional economic development strategy and look to stimulate economic growth in the periphery through closer linkages to the core. In that geography, Indiana would be made up of seven basic regions:

  • Chicago (Northwest Indiana)
  • South Bend/Mishawaka/Elkhart (extends into Michigan)
  • Fort Wayne (includes a Michigan County, but should probably also be expanded to Ohio)
  • Indianapolis (which includes part of east central Illinois). This is clearly the largest and most important in Indiana, and includes half the state’s population, including Richmond, Terre Haute, Marion, Kokomo, Bloomington, Lafayette, Anderson, Muncie, and Columbus.
  • Evansville (includes part of Kentucky and Illinois)
  • Louisville (Southern Indiana)
  • Cincinnati (Southeastern Indiana)

This is much more realistic that the current model of “economic growth regions”. For example, EGR 6 includes Blackford, Delaware, Fayette, Henry, Jay, Randolph, Rush, Union, and Wayne counties. That’s not an economic growth region, it’s an economic decline region.

Fortunately, four of my seven regions include a city over one million in population, which means they can be efficiently articulated with the global economy. The others may find it more challenging, but I think there’s clearly hope and indeed, those medium sized cities in Indiana have actually been hanging in there.

Each region would create its own regional strategy based on its unique circumstances. For example, Northwest Indiana is well positioned to become even more integrated with Chicago. Its cost of living compares favorably to the south suburbs. It has the Lake Michigan shore line. And it still has a strong heavy industrial base, albeit one that does not employ nearly as many people as it used to. Extreme fragmentation has long bedeviled the region and it won’t be easy to fix. But Rep. Visclosky has long been championing improvements and the state created a Regional Development Authority that is looking to jump start several initiatives.

Above all, these need to be truly regional strategies that include the outlying areas as well as the core urban zone. As I’ve noted before, this would not be a charity mission. It is mutually beneficial for everyone.

This approach is against the trend what globalization has been doing to cities. As Richard Longworth noted, “Globalization is disconnecting cities from their hinterlands”. Saskia Sassen also notes in her global city research how global cities have turned away from their city regions and given primacy to building networks with other global cities. As the facts above suggest, we’ve seen that disconnect happening in Indiana as the performance of the capital city and the outlying areas decouple.

While this might work for New York, I don’t think it will work for Indianapolis or any other Midwestern city in the long haul. For Indy, it is not a matter of “or” but “and”. The city needs to both articulate itself with the global economy, and shore up its base closer to home. It is manifestly not sustainable for Indianapolis to be prosperous while the rest of the state sinks into ruin. That might work for a while, but sooner or later a bankrupt and enfeebled state government won’t be able to provide the support the city needs – for example, in transportation funding – to stay competitive. And an increasingly resentful outstate area will become unwilling to pass the legislation needed to allow the city to even help itself. Any extensive new transit service, for example, is likely to require some sort of state law change to enable a regional governance and financial structure, just like Lucas Oil Stadium did. For most cities that aren’t the top tier mega-global elite, being part of an integrated, successful city-region by embracing the expanded notion of the city is a better route to success.

Traditional regional thinking has revolved around how to keep the urban core strong in an era of suburbanization. In the new world, there needs to be an expanded concept of regionalization, one that embraces not just keeping the urban core strong, but also building strength in exurban areas that are having trouble adapting to the new economy.

Clearly, for Indiana the most critical region to get right is Indianapolis. The worst of the economic storm has hit smaller industrial cities, and most of these are in the Indianapolis zone. The Indy region is half the state’s population, so that’s 50% of the problem right there. What’s more, it is the only in-state metro of over one million, and thus it is more likely to actively embrace its extended Hoosier region than, say, an out of state metro like Cincinnati.

This is not going to be easy. It certainly isn’t going to be high on the city’s priority list. Mayor Ballard has huge problems to deal with at home, and likely isn’t giving much if any thoughts to places like Richmond or Terre Haute. The outlying areas, for whatever reason, also seem hostile to the idea.

Consider Anderson. There is no better place to start that getting Anderson linked into an expanded metro area economy. It is only 26 miles from I-465. Suburban sprawl in the northeast corridor is already hitting Madison County. The county has lost huge numbers of manufacturing jobs. If I were in Anderson and saw my own town struggling but a boomtown only 25 miles away, I’d probably be asking myself, “How do I get some of that?”

Instead, Anderson has taken active steps to try to keep Indianapolis away. Madison County used to be part of the Indianapolis metro area, but I’m told they specifically petitioned to be removed so that Anderson could be a standalone MSA, notwithstanding that Anderson has zero brand recognition outside the state.

There was a golden opportunity on the table to link Andersen closer to Indy in the form of a joint airport with Fishers. This would have been a unified replacement for Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport and Anderson Municipal Airport and it would have been located in southwestern Madison County. The benefits of this would have been huge. Firstly, Fishers would have helped pay for it, so that’s free money. It would have created an institutional vehicle and common concern linking struggling Anderson with booming Fishers, and created a lot of mutual communication and linkages between the cities. It would have really helped bind Anderson into the greater Indianapolis economy. It would have also been a magnet pulling development out I-69 and closer to Anderson and no doubt that city would have reaped spinoff businesses. But last year Anderson’s new mayor decided to pull the plug on the idea because he didn’t want Anderson’s airport relocating outside the city.

Anderson has adopted a “go it alone” strategy in trying to lure foreign companies to locate there. The city recently went on a solo trade mission to China, for example. This type of solo show is costly to keep up, especially for a smaller city.

The city has in the past demonstrated zero sum thinking when it comes to economic development. Consider, they are unhappy that workers have chosen to live outside the city limits, including many city employees. They want to explore potentially requiring new city hires to live in the city. When you have to force people to live in your town, you are already playing a losing hand. The city also bemoans workers at Nestle living in Fishers. And they were extremely unhappy when IBM chose nearby Daleville for a call center. In his book, Longworth repeatedly used Anderson and Muncie as examples of struggling cities that engaged in beggar thy neighbor behaviors rather than collaborating.

Believe me, I get that what municipal limits a business locates in matters. In Indiana it is hard for a city to reap any tax benefits from a plant outside the city limits. If everybody relocates outside the city, the central city will die and that’s not at all healthy. As former Indianapolis mayor Bill Hudnut put it, “You can’t be a suburb of nowhere”. But you also can’t be a city that looks at everything outside the city limits as the enemy. No business or prospective resident looks at things that way. Instead, you’ve got to figure out how to carve out a role for yourself and put your best foot forward in making the case for your city. You have to figure out how to create a compelling environment. And then as part of a healthy region you’ll reap your share of the fruits. A rising tide lifts all boasts. Anderson needs to make sure its boat is part of the Indianapolis fleet that is headed for a safer economic harbor, not on some solo cruise out into the perfect storm.

Fortunately, I’ve seen some positive developments here as Anderson Mayor Kris Ockomon recently called the arrival of a 400 jobs in Muncie “a good day for everybody”. Amen. That’s exactly the right tone. And he went on to say, “I think we can still be very competitive”. Again, I agree. And that’s the fighting spirit, even if I wouldn’t suggest that Muncie is the best place to try to be competitive against. Companies have probably figured out by now they can play Anderson off versus Muncie to get even more gigantic incentives.

One only needs to look at the old industrial cities that surround Chicago to see what might happen. Places like Elgin, Joliet, and Aurora were once dying. Now they are thriving hubs in their own right. It’s certainly tougher for places like Anderson, which are smaller and aren’t located next to an economic colossus. But the successful example is out there to study.

Again, as I’ve said before, it is going to have to be Indianapolis that moves first and makes the case for the benefits of expanded regionalization by finding ways to help these smaller cities. I know that the IndyPartnership already does a lot of good regional work. Maybe Mayor Ballard could make himself available as needed to help lobby for a new plant in one of these cities. The city could help integrate attractions like Columbus, Indiana into its tourism materials. Make sure that people flying into the airport for economic development visits to regional places get the VIP welcome (if that’s not already being done). Arrange for Lucas Oil Stadium tours or even see if someone from the Colts organization might be willing to help make the pitch.

When you are the big dog everyone is naturally going to be suspicious. That puts the burden on you to prove your good intentions. My classic example is the 96th St. bridge on the White River. That project was going nowhere. Then Mayor Goldsmith of Indianapolis agreed to pay 50% of the cost, even though by state law it was a Hamilton County responsibility. Then, when the city went to the southside to expand County Line Rd. where it was on the hook for the cost, it had the moral authority to ask for Greenwood’s help.

Again, this won’t be easy and probably isn’t the top priority for anyone. For example, exurban commuting to Indy is a lot less tenable in a high gas price world. But I believe it is absolutely critical to securing the long term future of the state and turning around a lot of these regions that aren’t doing well.

I think Indiana is well placed here because a good chunk of the state is in the orbit of a million plus metro. Places like Illinois have a much worse geography. Ohio is another state where I think a similar approach is warranted because of favorable geography. Many states have one “primate city”. Ohio has the 3C’s and a few other decent sized places like Dayton and Toledo. This has often been viewed as a weakness, because state investments in cities have to be peanut butter spread across all these larger cities. But again, invert the world and stand the problem on its head. Figure out how to make poly-centricity work. Use those multiple nodes that are capable of operating at scale and build regional economic development strategies around them.

Update: For more interesting reading, here’s a European perspective on city-regions. Also, Louisville has an initiative called Wired 65 that is looking at a more broad regional framework for competitiveness from a talent perspective.

Monday, October 20th, 2008

This Is Not Your Father’s CTA

I’ll admit it’s not the perfect time to be defending the Chicago Transit Authority. A major fare increase is on the table. The system remains operationally unsteady. The media continues to report debacles like the Block 37 “super station” and the impact of budget cuts on the Brown Line project.

But you know what? I’m feeling optimistic. I’m starting to see a stream of good things out of the CTA. Let’s not minimize the challenges or the pain or how far the agency still has to go, but the new leadership brought to the table by Ron Huberman is really starting to propagate out to the riders in a tangible way.

Let’s refresh on my definition of public transportation. It’s exactly that: transportation for the public. Transit should be a public service, not a social service. It exists to serve the general public just like parks, libraries, police and fire, etc. It isn’t only for the poor, the disabled, the elderly, etc. It’s for everyone. But it’s also about transportation, not about secondary outcomes like the environment, neighborhood revitalization, congestion reduction, or creating public works trophies for cities. Those things might indeed happen, just like poor people might choose to ride transit. But the core mission of transit is getting riders where they want to go in a manner that is competitive with the alternatives in terms of cost, end to end journey time, and quality of experience.

That’s why I’m happy about the new leadership at the CTA. There seems to be a new rider focus at the agency that I’ve never seen before. Consider some of the recent changes:

  • The rollout of Bus Tracker, to give the public access to real time bus arrival times, available via the internet or on mobile phones. Coming soon: a texting based interface.
  • The new alerting system for planned service disruptions where people can sign up with the CTA for service alerts via email. In the works: a similar service for unplanned disruptions.
  • Pulling seats off Brown Line cars to create more room. Capacity can’t be increased while the three-track restriction is in progress, and in the meantime this is a creative solution to the problems. This may not be the ideal permanent fix, but it’s good in the here and now.
  • Exploring the idea of grocery stores at L stations. This might not be viable, but adding services that benefit riders and potentially rake in revenue is a great idea. Let’s get creative here. (My personal wish item here: public restrooms, at least at certain major stations)
  • Getting the CTA on board early with Google Transit.
  • The new linkage with iGo cars at stations.

Here’s the best example of the changes at the CTA. Yours truly spent three years publishing a blog about the CTA. It was well-read, I’m pleased to say, and was featured in publications like the Chicago Reader. I never once heard from the CTA about it, however, even to tell me I was full of it. Fast forward a bit: when someone started the present-day blog I mentioned called the CTA Tattler, not only did the blog attract CTA attention, Ron Huberman himself decided to get involved. The blog owner has a direct pipe to Huberman to get reader questions answered, and he even hosts periodic “Coffee with Ron” sessions where people can sign up to meet Huberman in a small group format. That’s a sea change in attitude almost beyond belief. The CTA is waking up to the possibilities of the new media and seeing it as another opportunity to get close to riders and their needs, not just as an irritant. (Note: the publisher of the CTA Tattler seems to do something for CPD, where Huberman used to work, so there may be a connection between them and/or the CTA itself might be behind the blog. I don’t know if it is or not, but if so, my respect for their new media skillz would only go up :))

Beyond the rider focused initiatives, there are even more good changes:

  • Refreshing the online store to bring in money and start better leveraging the CTA brand for revenue generation.
  • Experimenting with high tech digital advertising screens that can drive additional advertising revenue.
  • Getting beyond rail centricity by looking at Bus Rapid Transit. While smaller cities pooh-pooh the idea of bus transit as not sexy enough, despite the examples of places like Curitiba and Bogota, the CTA isn’t too proud to even try learning from Cleveland and its HealthLine system. In an era of limited budgets, options like this need to be looked at.

What a lot of these have in common is the “quick, easy, and cheap” approach that I touted for Indianapolis. As I showed in that city, there’s a lot we can do right now, that doesn’t cost a lot of money, to start making transit better. That applies just as much to the CTA as to IndyGo.

The CTA is facing a mountain of obstacles. Let’s not minimize that. Problems range from a $10 billion capital needs backlog just to bring the system up to snuff, to a senior citizen free ride program that both put a hole in the CTA’s budget and worst of all plays into stereotypes of transit as a social service, to bureaucratic inertia. There are many, many more. Many of them are beyond the agency’s control. Even for those that can be changed, you can’t turn a battleship bureaucracy on a dime. But rather than throwing up their hands and just blaming the world, the new CTA has looked at what can be done with the resources at hand. And as it turns out, there’s a lot. There’s a world of difference between the “can do” attitude and the “can’t do”. For a future post, maybe I’ll put together my quick, easy, and cheap list for Chicago. Because there’s even more in this vein that can be done.

Do I think Huberman and the CTA are perfect? No. But I do think there’s been a big change here, based in new leadership, and dare I say it, we may have hit the inflection point.

One thing is for sure, the city can’t hope to host a successful Olympics without a quality transportation system. I’ve been to Madrid several times and seen the competition up close. They have completed brand a new international airport expansion, with its Richard Rogers designed terminal that might be the most stunningly gorgeous in the world. They have a fabulous, high quality metro system, and many miles are being added as we speak, as are additional high speed links. Chicago’s got Midway pretty much squared away with its nice new terminal. The O’Hare modernization proceeds at its current slow pace, dogged by lawsuits and airline industry problems. The CTA is the “final frontier” that has to be put in place. Let’s hope the quest for Chicago 2016 will prompt the community to break the logjam and enable both the long term and short term improvements that are needed to create a world class transit system come into being.

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Review: New Indianapolis Airport Terminal – Part 2: Interior

This is the second installment in a multi-part series providing a comprehensive look at the new H. Weir Cook Terminal at Indianapolis International Airport. You can also read part one (the interior), part three (finishes and furnishes), part four (signage), part five (the artwork), part six (miscellaneous, or rethinking the airport as public space), and part seven (conclusion).

The two principal routes into the airport are via the parking garage, and from being dropped off in front of it. I only did the former, but found it a rather dramatic entry. Inside the garage, you are channeled to a central corridor leading to the airport. This isn’t just a boring walk but features an atrium like structure with artwork you can see here:

You can see the underside of the canopy I showed in the exterior review. Now this may not wow you, but when you compare it to the typical boring walk to the terminal, again you see how the designers added a nice touch.

On entering the terminal, the architects exploited the well-known trick of forcing you through a relatively confined space in order to heighten the sense of grand entry to the terminal. I can’t do this justice with my photos because I’m not good enough to get a picture that does justice to the immense size of the interior of the main terminal building. Frankly, my jaw hit the floor when I walked in. This is clearly a very dramatic entrance and one that will really make a great impression on people.

Here is a picture of the departures hall, or a slice of it anyway.

Wow, that’s good stuff. The sheer height of the ceiling impresses, as does the sheer spaciousness and vast openness of this facility. The skylights and white color scheme bathe the entire area in light. Someone described the terminal as “European” in its design. Well this shot illustrates one reason why. Rather than the traditional US long, horizontal bank of check-in counters pressed against the entry with too little space to navigate, this one features vertically oriented bays with lots and lots of space to move around in.

This shot shows the interior of the front facade, which is totally glass as you can see, plus a shot of the “tripod” style support columns. I hope this also helps to give a sense of the immensity of the structure.

Here we see a close up of one the entry doors. Again, very well executed in glass – clean and simple, but not boring.

Here’s a view the ticket counters. You’ll notice immediately the same motif as used for the exterior drop off canopy.

What can I say except this is great. The nice thing about this shot is that you can see the context of the check in counter within the massive space of the departures hall. It makes me think of walking up to a ticket window in Grand Central Terminal or another classic train station Great Hall. It hearkens back to a more civilized era of travel while being firmly part of the modern age.

But in a sense the best is yet to come. As you pass through the check in area to what at an ordinary airport would be a dreary, overcrowded security screening area, at the new IND to pass easily into a large circular area called the Civic Plaza

This is a huge pre-security shopping, dining, and relaxation area. It is both a place to capture a few last moments together before your loved one departs, a place to hang out waiting for that delayed planed to arrive when picking someone up, and, airport officials hope, a destination shopping area. You can see here also the art work suspended from the ceiling.

Here’s a view from the far side of the Civic Plaza looking back towards checkin.

You can see how this is really just one big space. Again, very different from the typical airport. Also, if you click to enlarge that picture so that you can better see the tower in the background, you’ll notice that the slope angle of the support piers in the interior of the terminal is identical to that used on the tower, just as I previously noted for the parking garage. While this might on the surface seem a bit facile, I think it really goes a long way to giving the entire terminal complex a strong sense of design harmony. It would be interesting to know exactly what that slope is and why the designers chose it.

I’ll have more Civic Plaza pictures in a later installment, but will note that there is comfy furniture to sit on, as well as tables to eat at our work on your laptop. The backside of the terminal is of course again a glass curtain wall that allows people to watch the planes and bathes the space in natural light. (It will be very interesting to see this at night).

Oh, one super-cool thing: you can actually see the skyline of the city in the distance. Enlarge the image below for details. Note that this was actually taken not from the Civic Plaza itself, but from the post-security corridor that links Concourse A and B and runs between the Civic Plaza and the wall of the building.

The retail in the airport is significantly upgraded. Civic Plaza features a Brooks Brothers, Johnston and Murphy, an Indy 500 Grill and Gift Shop, the Cultural Exchange (a gift shop with good from several local museums), and well-loved locals like Cafe Patachou.

From the central Civic Plaza, the airport splits into two more or less identical concourses. As I noted, these have a protected post-security connection, unlike in the old airport. Speaking of security, here is a shot of one of the screening areas. (The next two photos are courtesy of IndyTypeGuy)

Time will tell how this functions.

Here is a shot down one of the main concourses.

You can see that this is a pretty standard airport concourse. However, the designers did add a little visual relief through periodically exposing the support structure. These show as bands running perpendicular to the direction of the concourse. Here’s a closeup:

Items such as the furniture and the gate counters will be covered in a future installment.

Again, there is significantly upgraded retail in the concourse areas as well. Stores include Vera Bradley, Borders, the famous Shapiro’s Deli, and many more. This includes, of course, Starbucks. I also noted a spa. One store I found interesting was CNBC. There are multiple outlets of this. I wonder what they will be selling. Or is this the new CNBC Indianapolis Bureau? :) You decide.

Arriving passengers find this as their baggage claim area:

Again, what can be said except, it’s a baggage claim. This is a ho-hum space. I can’t remember the flow from the concourse to the baggage claim area. However, with the concourses and baggage claim the least impressive areas, the airport is not, I don’t think, going to wow the person for whom Indianapolis is the destination airport. The biggest impression is made for people coming in through the Departures Hall and Civic Plaza. This airport looks much better going than coming. To some extent, there’s not a lot that could be done about this. It’s true of most airports, and with the baggage claim area on the lower level as normal, it is not possible to reproduce the grand space upstairs. Still, I think there were probably opportunities to produce an upgraded baggage claim design that would have provided a better arrivals experience. Keep in mind, passengers are probably going to experience some wait time here, so making this experience as pleasant as possible is key. This would be one of my first targets for future upgrades.

Moving on, I’ll give you some shots of areas you’ll likely never get a chance to see. First is the ramp leading to the baggage claim automation under the terminal.

Even though it is not publicly accessible, it still looks like some design thought went into it. This is where you see whether someone cares. Do they only make things look good on the surface, or does quality permeate everything they do? It is tough to have good table manners when guests in are in the house if you don’t have them when you dine alone. So I was very pleased to see this not bad ramp.

Here is the sorting equipment itself.

Given the well-publicized baggage handling fiascoes at other new terminals, let’s hope this works right, and does so out of the gate.

Lastly, the new airport has a proper international arrivals setup. While there are admittedly very few international flights, one day that might change, and having a real setup is critical to being taken seriously.

First, here’s passport control.

And here’s the secondary screening area for Customs and the Department of Agriculture.

I was very fortunate to find this area open on the tour, though admittedly with a heavy security presence, since normally these are highly restricted.

On the whole, the interior of the terminal is very nice. The entry in the Departures Hall and the Civic Plaza is particularly stunning. While again the jury is still out on functionality, this looks like a very intelligent layout that will hopefully work well. The concourses and baggage claim are a rather standard, but on the whole this is an extremely successful design. I like it better than the exterior as you can no doubt tell.

Dare I say it, a facility this nice might actually make it fun to fly again. Again, it reminds me a little of a grand train station in a modern way, and you can see where some of that romance of flying, the sense that you are doing something special, might rear its head. I dread stepping into most airports, but this is one that I think would be a pleasure to be in, at least as far as it is possible these days.

The question I have is whether or not the city can actually support this terminal. The terminal was clearly built with future traffic volumes and growth in mind. There are huge number of restaurants and shops. But IND only sees like 8 million passengers per year. This looks like an airport designed to support more like 18 million. Will all of these shops survive? What will the experience be like when the airport is mostly deserted? The crowd at the open house as you can see from the pictures was heavy, but not overly so. This really filled the terminal with energy and life. But will it always be that way? If the old terminal is any judge, No. This is certainly a facility the city is going to have to grow into. Hopefully there won’t be too many growing pains along the way. In the meantime, the city can enjoy this great new asset.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Review: New Indianapolis Airport Terminal – Part 1: Exterior

This is the first post in a multi-part series providing a comprehensive review of the new H. Weir Cook Terminal at the Indianapolis International Airport. When you are done here you can read part two (the interior), part three (finishes and furnishes), part four (signage), part five (the artwork), part six (miscellaneous, or rethinking the airport as public place), and part seven (conclusion).

Let’s get a few things out of the way up front.

Is this terminal world class architecture? No.

Did Indianapolis deserve world class architecture for $1.1 billion? Yes.

Is this nevertheless a terminal the city can be proud of? Yes, clearly.

Perhaps the best summation I heard of the terminal was “Indianapolis: You Don’t Have to Move Anymore”. I went into this tour with a skeptical eye ready to find problems. But I found very few. There is a clearly a huge amount of intelligent thought and attention to detail that went into this. The city has been on a roll implementing major capital projects: the library, Lucas Oil Stadium, the convention center expansion, and this terminal all come to mind. Of what I’ve seen, this is the most successful major civic project in the city from an architectural point of view. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and this terminal is a more than worthy first impression for visitors. I expect more than a few new arrivals to be taken aback that a terminal this good exists in a smaller Midwestern city like Indy.

This terminal is not world class in that its architecture will not, with limited exceptions, attract notice for its design. Architects HOK are known for functionality, not the sublime. Yet this terminal is world class in a sense. Namely it would be a terminal that would look at home in any city in the world, no matter how elite. And in practice it kicks the crap out of such notorious pits as LGA and LHR T3. While it is no Madrid Barajas, this airport outclasses almost every other one I’ve been in – and I’ve been in a lot. And while Madrid may possibly have the world’s more stunning airport, it has functional problems, notably a single long row of gates in its international side, the fact that you need to take a train to a remote satellite, and extremely long waits for bags from the automated system. If the new IND is as functional as it looks, it should actually beat Madrid from a functional standpoint.

If the new terminal is not a grand slam home run, it’s at least a triple.

With that, here’s a picture of the main terminal building on the departures level.

You see clearly here the modern design in white metal and glass. Very sleek and aerodynamic, befitting an airport. The tortoise shell type of design of the roof just says “airport terminal”. While I think it works well, it is pretty boring vernacular architecture, IMO. Similarly, the wing shaped canopies, sloped forward to provide the feeling of forward motion and energy, are effective, but standard. This is a motif that is in wide use today and while effective is not inspiring.

The same motif is echoed on the light poles along the access road:

These are nice light standards. The same motif also recurs in the interior, at the ticketing counters, for example.

One the whole, you can see a pleasant, modern airport design here.

Here’s an interesting look of the back side of the terminal building from the tarmac between the two concourses.

To me this looks a bit like a gigantic eye rising up out of the ground.

Here is one of the concourses.

Again, what can you really say except, “It’s an airport”. I do though like how the light poles angle following the slope of the curtain wall on the concourse.

Here’s one publicly accessible area of the exterior of the terminal, this one right outside of baggage claim.

You can also see a piece of art here. There’s another similar area on the other side of the terminal. I actually like this space a lot. It is also easily visible from inside the terminal because of the glass wall, which very neatly draws the outside in.

The airport authority could have stopped with this basic, serviceable terminal design and declared victory. But they didn’t fall into that trap. Instead, they brought a lot of design intelligence to the ancillary structures of the airport, even something as mundane as the parking payment processing barrier. This is where the design really shines. In fact, I’d argue that the exterior architecture of these buildings actually exceeds that of the main terminal.

Here, for example, is the new control tower.

This is the first major structure you see entering the airport off the expressway so it is critical to creating a good first impression of the facility when arriving by highway. As the third tallest tower in the country, it is even more so a prominent structure. The original tower was designed by I.M. Pei and was one of the few structures in town designed by an architect of international repute, but this tower actually surpasses it. I’ve never liked the typical airport tower with flat windows set at oblique angles to create a sort of octagonal effect. This one with its continuous curve sloping away from the building looks much more handsome in addition to creating a sense of upward thrust. The octagonish small top piece fades into the background next to that. Note the similarity of the angle to the lighting towers flanking the concourse. There’s also a faint allusion to the motif used for the canopies (and of course the direct use of it for what appears to be a bus shelter on the bottom left of the photo). The buttresses underneath reinforce the look of this tower as a sort of cap or stopper on the concrete shaft, which I think is a nice touch.

The tower itself rises up from a base building that is a low rise office structure.

In this building the designers used horizontal banding to reinforce the low rise nature. This makes a nice yin and yang type contrast with the main tower. The other thing I’d say is that this building looks nicer than most new Class A suburban office buildings you see in the city. Given that this is an ancillary structure with presumably no public access, it is remarkable to see this much care go into the design.

Here you see the parking garage in a distance view, showing a decorative corkscrew-like funnel object on the top of the circular entrance and exit ramps.

And here’s a closeup.

Here you see that it almost looks like a radar or satellite dish, and you see the upward thrusting motif from the tower and the concourse lights again.

Continuing with the garage, here you see a view of the canopy over the central corridor of the garage. Parking passengers are funneled here to get into the main terminal building. The interior features artwork that will be covered in a future posting. This structure uses the same metal “tripod” type supports as the main terminal. Interestingly, it forsakes the upward thrusting motif in favor of a downward facing arc. You’ll see the contrast with the tower in the background. I’m not sure on the reason for this, though it might have to do with light capture. Whatever the case, it again gives a nice yin-yang balance. Remember this design because you’ll see it again a couple more times.

Here is the side of the garage facing the terminal, seen panned to one side. This is likewise taken from the departures road in front of the terminal, just the same as the central canopy, only from a slightly different spot.

Speaking of the canopy, you see the downward arc carried through here. You also see a lot of landscaping. This will hopefully end up looking very nice.

Here is one of my absolute favorite shots. It shows the side of the parking garage.

The entire garage structure makes use of the upward thrust motif. This pictures lets you see that the angle of the slop one the garage is identical to that of the top of the tower. There are also two sloping projections that reinforce this. The mirrored glass reflects the extensive glass on the main terminal. The narrower base treatments also carry through in a way as well. Again, this is a parking garage. most places this would be a simple rectangular block. But here the airport authority decided to spend money to do something special with it. This is an example to follow elsewhere.

At the new IND, it is even a pleasure to pay to park. Here’s where you do so. Again, we see the same design cues. And again, we see a lot of attention paid to a structure that could have ended up an afterthought.

Since I’m a road geek, I’ll wrap this up with a picture of a service road overpass that is rather tastefully done as these things go:

To sum up, while I think the exterior of the main terminal building itself is rather undistinguished, it is serviceable and effective. But the other buildings in the complex really stand out for being so much above the average you normally get.

I’ll wrap up this installment by noting two other unique facets of the terminal. First, this was the first terminal designed from the ground up post-9/11. This means it was designed to clearly accommodate in its very conception the new security environment in which we live. It features all sorts of cool things like in-line baggage scanning, two large security screening halls, a plethora of dining and shopping opens both before and beyond security, protected connections between concourses to that you don’t need to re-pass through security, etc. The TSA setup at the airport will also feature the latest scanning equipment – including the dreaded Total Recall-esque see through your clothing X-ray booth – fast track lines, family lines, etc. Hopefully this airport will prove a dream for people who are used to the tacked on security at most other airports.

Secondly, this is one of the very first airports to target LEED certification. In fact, it might be in the first instance in the United States where an entire terminal complex achieves LEED certification. While it will be a year or so before the US Green Building Council renders a ruling, LEED compliance was built in from the ground up. (If they don’t pass certification, someone should lose their head). Here are some of the green features in the new airport:

  • Public transport will be provided
  • A roofing membrane that is star rated for energy efficiency will be used
  • The project will use local materials wherever possible
  • Light fixtures with shielded and directed light – which reduces light pollution – will be used
  • Infrared switches on bathroom and toilet fixtures will be used, as well as high-efficiency toilet fixtures to reduce water consumption
  • Construction waste management will be carefully controlled, and old asphalt and concrete reused as back-fill in other areas of the project
  • The timber used in construction will be obtained from Forest Stewardship Council environmentally managed and sustainable forests
  • Airport vehicles will be powered by electric motors wherever possible or using clean-burning fuels
  • An energy-efficient underfloor heating / cooling system will be used in the plaza and adjacent spaces
  • The high ceiling space of the terminal will have a conventional air volume HVAC system employing stratification principles to conserve energy
  • High-performance glazing with ceramic frits will be used to reduce interior glare and solar heat build-up in the concourses
  • Locations will be provided for the storage and collection of recyclable materials
  • A two-tiered glycol recovery system will be used for the separate collection of high- and low-concentrated storm water run-off. Glycol and wastewater will be recycled
  • Sealants, coatings, paints and carpet systems with low levels of volatile organic compound will be used to reduce allergic reactions and odours

By the way, while public transport for now means the bus, supposedly provisions were made in this terminal for a future light rail terminal.

You can read more about the LEED certification efforts and green features of the airport here and here. Assuming the LEED certification comes through, this would make the new IND terminal the most environmentally advanced airport terminal in the United States. The city and airport authority should market the heck out of this. I’d even devote an entire display in the Civic Plaza (a central interior space in the terminal) to this permanently. If you google for the Indy aiport and LEED, you already see the city getting lots of specialized press for this. The environmental features are one area the city could attract notice for the design, and so everyone should take full advantage of this. With things like this, the new IPL wind farm, and some of the city’s Sustain Indy initiatives, perhaps Indianapolis can start changing the game in how its is perceived vis-a-vis the environment.

There is an official web page with lots of information about the new Indianapolis airport. There is what appears to be a fan site, including forums and photo galleries you might want to check out. And I also found this cool brouchure.

Stay tuned for future installments.

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Invert the World

“When I am weak, then I am strong” – II Corinthians 12:10

I’ve always struggled with SWOT analysis (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). It seems to me that most situations can be viewed in multiple dimensions. Or, as the well known philosophical proposition puts its, everything implies its opposite.

Consider the case of Eli Lilly in Indianapolis. It’s obviously a huge strength of the city to to have a major life sciences company headquartered there. Lilly money literally built the city. But Lilly is also, in a sense, a weakness. An anchor company like that provides stability and a base to build on, but as we know, an anchor holds you in place. Absent Lilly and other “legacy” employers in life sciences, what would the picture really look like for Indiana in that sector? Would the state be hungrier to build its life sciences industry if these jobs didn’t show up in the surveys, inflating the region’s true performance? Lilly is an opportunity as well. As the company pursues a Boeing-like “systems integrator” strategy where it no longer wants to be a traditional vertically integrated concern, there are big opportunities for Lilly spinoffs to turn into something, and for local services firms to start doing more business with Lilly. The Greenfield laboratory sale to Covance is a case in point. And of course, there are also threats around Lilly. Pharma is a maturing and consolidating sector. While Lilly has made smaller, opportunistic purchases, it has shunned the mega-deals that others have done. Lilly’s board clearly understands that most of these deals are not good for shareholders, and have decided to be wise stewards of their shareholders’ money. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t let some other dumb board of directors waste their shareholders’ money. If Lilly were acquired, it would certainly send shockwaves through the region, and I don’t think the city has a contingency or action plan for it.

So in many respects, things are what you make of them. Applying this to the Midwest, I always hear people whining and complaining about how we don’t have oceans, we don’t have mountains, the climate is terrible, it’s flat and boring, etc. Well, this might all be true. But is it a bad thing? Does it mean you can’t compete?

Try this thought experiement. Pick a smaller Midwestern city and exchange its population with that of San Francisco. What do you think the reactions would be. Here’s my bet on what the Midwesterners would say about San Francisco:

  • This place is terrible. It’s an earthquake zone for crying out loud. It costs twice as much to built things here because of that. It isn’t fair.
  • I hate it here. The terrain is so rugged. People today want pedestrian and bike friendly neighborhoods. We could never have that with all these hills.
  • Why did we have get stuck on the tip of this crappy peninsula? We’re isloated, there’s no room to expand, we’ve got all these bridge choke points, etc. This is killing our competitiveness.
  • The weather sucks here. It’s foggy all the time, it never gets warm, you need a jacket in August, etc.
  • Just our rotten luck, we’ve got the ocean, but it’s cold and their’s no good beaches. The winter is yucky and rainy.
  • Woe is us, we don’t have any water since the whole West is nothing but a gigantic semi-desert. Those jerks the Midwest have the Great Lakes, plus they get plenty of rain too. I can’t believe their luck.

Get the picture?

Try the experiment the other way. What would our friends from San Francisco think of the Midwest? What would they do to build social and built environments to take advantage of what the Midwest has to offer. Consider: the Netherlands is flatter than a pancake, but they managed to turn that into an advantage by creating the most bicycle friendly country in the world. And lest you think the Midwest climate prevents that, I’ll tell you that the Netherlands is famously rainy and not very warm to boot. I think our friends from out west might have a very different view of the Midwest from its current residents.

Yes, there are good hands of cards and bad hands of cards. But often it is just how you play them. The person who has the best hand doesn’t always win. Heck, a lot of time the person with the best hand folds and isn’t even in the game. That’s too many Midwestern places. They’ve already all but folded.

Yes, all things equal, I’d like sunny weather all the time too. Climate has definitely played a role in the migration from the north to the south and west. And beyond the physical environment the Midwest suffers from a host of legacy problems that are legitimate challenges. Nevertheless, I don’t think any of that is a reason the Midwest can’t compete.

We’ve got to invert the world. Stop looking at things from the traditional negative perspective. Start looking at them in a whole new way. Stand the problem on its head. How can we turn our perceived weaknesses into strengths? Why can’t we use flatness and open spaces to our advantage? Why not exploit centrality? Not in a superficial “60% of the US population is within an X hour drive” way but in a deeper, more structural way. Why can’t an agricultural legacy be a strength, particularly with the trends in local, organic, and environmentally friendly food production? There is no possible way to have environmentally friendly farming in California when the state’s entry agricultural complex is dependent on dams and irrigation. Similarly, what’s there in the manufacturing heritage? What about the people and culture? Start figuring out the way to make a liability into an asset.

I’m not going to offer the prescriptions here, but I do believe that much of changing the game for the Midwest is around changing the mindset. And looking at the region in a new and fresh way is a big part of that.

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Chicago: Corporate Headquarters and the Global City

Chicago is the Midwest’s only “global city” (or world city if you prefer). There are many paradigms of the global city, but the most widely cited is Saskia Sassen’s. The Cliff Notes version goes something like this. As businesses became more globalized and more virtualized, this created demand for new types of financial products and producer services – notably in the law, accounting, consultancy, and marketing areas – to help businesses service and control these far flung networks. These financial and producer services are subject to clustering economics, and end up concentrated in a relatively small number of cities around the world. These global cities serve as control nodes for various global networks and key production sites for these services.

Although the typical 1-3 million aspirational metros I often feature in this blog have law firms, accounting firms, marketing agencies, and banks, they mostly do not function as global cities. That is because those services are oriented towards domestic consumption and servicing the local market only. In a global city like Chicago, these services are qualitatively different, in that they are designed to serve the needs of global networks, and they are produced to a great extent for export. Columbus’ law firms serve mostly Columbus and Ohio. Chicago’s law firms serve the world. This also explains why the boom in Chicago’s core includes employment growth, while smaller metros, despite their entertainment and residential improvements, are showing urban core employment declines.

This also explains an interesting conundrum. The number of large company headquarters in places like New York and Chicago have been declining while the urban core has been booming. Sassen’s theory explains this in terms of growth built around financial innovation (currently hitting a rough patch to say the least) and producer services, not corporate headquarters.

But I’m starting to notice something. I don’t have the resources to do an empirical analysis, but I’m seeing anecdotal evidence that the global city may actually be starting to attract company headquarters again, albeit a reconstituted notion of the headquarters. Just as Chicago was not able to reinvigorate itself until it figured out how to reposition its experience as an agro-industrial capital into a global age, similarly, the corporate HQ needed to reinvent itself, and is reinventing itself to take advantage of the new global cities.

I was struck by the recent example of Mead Johnson Nutritionals, a spinoff of Bristol-Myers Squibb. This company is currently headquartered in Evansville, where it has also located its key manufacturing operation. But Mead Johnson is planning to move its headquarters to Chicago. According to the article:

“Mead Johnson Nutritionals is looking at Chicago and other cities as a possible location for its corporate offices. Working in a large city will make it easier to conduct business throughout the world. Mead Johnson makes Enfamil and similar products and about half of its sales come from overseas. Having offices near Chicago, for instance, will place executives in close proximity to global-business consultants, leaders in the field of nutrition and an international airport.

Between 40 and 60 people will work in the corporate offices, most of them in new positions. Evansville will retain the company’s operations in research and development, U.S. sales and marketing and information management, as well as a bulk of the finance and human-resources departments, Paradossi said. Mead Johnson’s liquid products will continue to be made in Evansville, he said.”

This excerpt makes two key points:

  1. In addition to just access to global flights, the company specifically wants executive access to the producer services found in a global city, in this case global-business consultants.
  2. The headquarters being moved is not a traditional headquarters, but rather a thin layer of only 40-60 top level people who require close interaction with providers of producer services. Traditional headquarters functions such as R&D, Sales, and IT will remain in Evansville, as will production.

In short, proximity to producer services (and international flights) is a source of advantage to the company, else it would not be making this move, which will cost money in its own right and create a coordination burden with the bulk of the staff left behind in Evansville. We’re also seeing a new concept of what a headquarters is. The “headquarters” is actually splitting into two: an executive headquarters and an operational headquarters.

Is this an isolated example? No. Two other ones in Chicago come immediately to mind. Boeing relocated a small headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. This company wanted a location independent of its operational businesses. A more recent and probably better example is Miller, which is again moving a small headquarters function from Milwaukee to Chicago, this time explicitly to gain access to the marketing services available in Chicago. Many traditional headquarters functions, as well as a key production facilities, will remain in Milwaukee.

I’m not sure if these are isolated cases or a trend. And it isn’t entirely new. Some companies have maintained these type of executive headquarters for a while, though historically the examples I can cite have been motivated primarily by the residential preferences of the CEO. For example, Men’s Wearhouse has a small HQ in Fremont, California (the Bay Area) where the CEO lives while most of the work gets done in Houston. Lincoln National moved a small headquarters to Philadelphia from Ft. Wayne when it hired a new CEO from the Philly area. But I do find it interesting that companies are now moving to places like Chicago where they don’t have a historical connection, and are explicitly citing access to producers services as a rationale. This will be an interesting trend to watch.

I think it also goes to show the uphill battle smaller Midwestern cities will have to fight. While some of these are doing well on the whole and are home to clusters of new economy businesses, they are not production sites for international producer services. This will mean that until they develop some type of export oriented production of and participation as a node in a global network for some specific service, they won’t probably see the same types of urban core development as the major global cities.

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Globalization and the Soft Power of Cities

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has stressed the need for the city to become more international. A recent blog posting elsewhere covers some interesting facets of his program, so I thought I’d use that as a departure point for thinking about globalization and the city. Mayor Ballard is absolutely right that to be successful in the 21st century economy, a broader vision is required, one that acknowledges global realities and gets the city more engaged in the great global conversation. In my view, there are five main planks of any city’s globalization agenda:

1. Fostering increased global business, cultural, and social connections; being a part of the global network.
2. Raising the city’s brand awareness and improving its brand image internationally. This is related to point #1. Interestingly, I think Indy’s brand is probably stronger globally than it is nationally due to motorsports.
3. Retooling the local economy and civic environment to effectively compete in the global marketplace. This involves addressing the institutional structures of government, legal and regulatory frameworks, economic development strategies, culture and social structures, financial and business practices and capabilities, academic and research capabilities, facilities, and civic associations or NGO’s.
4. Attracting and preparing the next generation workforce for the jobs of the future. This is related to point #3
5. Increasing the percentage of foreign-born residents locally. This is related to point #3.

I could write a novel on any of these points, but this post will deal mostly with the first two points around the interconnections and the brand image, and how cultural or “soft power” is a big part of it.

Mayor Ballard caught a lot of grief for proposing a major international cricket tournament and the creation of a Chinatown locally. I think this was totally unfair. Neither proposal might be workable, but they aren’t prima facie stupid. In fact, I think they show some creative thinking and have a lot going for them. Cricket is huge among people of Indian background. With India and China being big players globally, those are definitely two key communities to get linked with. While I think Chinatowns tend to be a legacy of previous generations of segregation, Indy already has an organically growing Asian commercial district in the Lafayette Square area that it isn’t hard to imagine providing some city branding support for. A cricket tournament would fit in with the city’s longstanding sports strategy. While I’m not sold on the Chinatown concept, I actually think the cricket one is still worth pursuing as it would appear to be a bit of a whitespace opportunity to exploit.

Mayor Ballard is also making two international trips: one to Europe and one to South America. And he’s looking to re-invigorate and leverage Indy’s sister city program. Lest some sophisticates mock this too, note that it is a page straight out of Mayor Daley’s playbook in Chicago.

However, the linked blog notes a rumor that Mayor Ballard plans to shut down Indy’s sister city relationship with Eldoret, Kenya because there is no economic benefit in it. This one would be a mistake. Getting plugged into the global economy isn’t just about quid pro quo economic development. It’s about cultivating the soil. It’s about creating an environment in which the city can flourish, in which companies and businesses choose to create their futures. A sister city relationship with Kenya might not fuel jobs locally in the short term, but it definitely could play a role in the city’s overall globalization strategy, because a) it is oriented towards Africa, an often overlooked part of the globe that is likely to be increasingly important in years to come, and b) it helps build cultural and philanthropic “soft power” that can help strengthen the city’s brand image. Both of these are underexploited areas for smaller American cities and thus represent an opportunity for Indianapolis.

Much is made of the United State’s supposed use of “hard” military power around the globe in contrast to the diplomatic, economic, and cultural “soft” power of the Europeans. That supposedly garners us hatred and them affection. While this is no doubt oversold, there is something to the idea of thinking about the various dimensions of power. For a city, one might think of hard power as its financial and economic control over hinterlands and global economic networks. Soft power might include cultural exchanges and philanthropic endeavors.

For an American city, I think there are opportunities to boost its brand by including the soft power aspects of globalization in its internationalization strategy. Given the general view of the United States abroad, it could potentially draw extra attention and create differentiation versus an average American burg.

Imagine Indianapolis being involved in facilitating economic development in Kenya, or in the provision of humanitarian services there. This would be the city planting its flag in a struggling region and doing some good in a way that, if handled correctly, could both help people and get some great recognition. There are any number of other programs out there that might work in this same way.

For example, the Children’s Museum isn’t just America’s best children’s museum at home. It also has mounted several major international traveling exhibits and maintains relationships with cultural institutions around the world, including the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the Guangzhou Children’s Place and four other Chinese institutions, and Children’s City in Dubai.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is also active, both in bringing traveling exhibits to Indy, loaning works to help other museums stage exhibits, and even creating its own traveling exhibits. Its Moroccan rug exhibit, I’m told, is still out there on the road traveling the world.

The Rotary Club of Indianapolis has had a “twin club” relationship with a Rotary Club in Savannah la Mar, Jamaica for many years. This included significant cultural and humanitarian exchanges. Rotary has maintained relationships and exchanges with other clubs as well.

These are just a few examples. I stumbled across a lot of this serendipitously. If you mapped out the humanitarian and cultural connections Indianapolis has to the world at large, you would probably be surprised at the breadth of what is there. I’m sure, for example, many religious groups maintain both evangelical and humanitarian connections around the world.

I’m not going to say that Indy is the only small city with these connections. I’m sure most cities have them. But I am not aware of any smaller city that has taken a strategic look at its soft power connections globally and how they could be marshaled to both drive business connections over the longer term, and to boost the city’s brand image abroad. It certainly wouldn’t be a slam dunk to figure this out, and perhaps most smaller cities have bigger fish to fry at the moment, but I think there’s an opportunity there if someone can figure out how to take advantage of it. At a minimum, cities should not shut down whatever initiatives they have in the works, such as the aforementioned Kenya sister city relationship, just because there is no immediate term gain. We all know how overly focusing on quarterly results has brought down many a company that took its eye of long term success. Similarly, cities require a practical mixture of both shorter term business development and longer term fertilizing of the soil.

The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

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Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century.

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