Saturday, December 13th, 2008

News Briefs

Our friends over at Broken Sidewalk have a great post on how sidewalks are often polluted with poles and other obstructions that would never be tolerated in a street. It’s a great read. Here’s a sample photo:

The left leaning American Prospect talks about NYC’s pedestrian and bike friendliness programs.

The Web Urbanist profiles 15 great library designs.

Stephen Bayley rips on the new urbanist aesthetic and even takes a gratuitous swipe at Ft. Wayne in the Guardian.

Time Magazine talks about how failing cities can reinvent themselves.

Much has been written about the need for the Midwest to think regionally. Well, similar discussions are ongoing in the South. Here’s a couple of articles, one pro and another con.

Since I’ve said nice things about Charlotte, it is worth noting that the banking sector troubles are affecting that town. The Economist has the story.

CEO’s for Cities has a couple of great blog postings on Austin, Texas. You can read them here and here. Here is a great quote from Mayor Will Wynn: “I’m as nostalgic as the next person, but nostalgia doesn’t help deal with growth. The fact is attractive cities attract people. Which side of the sword do you want to be on? If you are not growing, young people are leaving.” And in discussing a presentation by local leader Pike Powers, the blog notes, “Asked about how to overcome internecine funding wars that occur in every state, Pike advised the leaders to ‘construct artificial devices and don’t be afraid to embarrass people. That’s leadership.’ He also admonished them to recognize the power in the ‘unadulterated brashness of saying, “We’re going there”‘ as Austin did when it proclaimed itself in 1991 the Live Music Capital. ‘It works more often than not.'”

American City Business Journals publishes its economic strength rankings. Here’s how our cities stack up. Note that I’ve got a few quibbles with the methodology, but the general thrust of their rankings seems right. Not a stellar outing for the Midwest

  • #47 – Kansas City
  • #57 – Indianapolis
  • #60 – Milwaukee
  • #61 – Louisville
  • #65 – Chicago
  • #72 – Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • #76 – Columbus
  • #91 – Cincinnati
  • #96 – Cleveland
  • #100 – Detroit

Chicago. Chicago is privatizing its parking meters in a transaction that will raise $1.2 billion.

CTA President Ron Huberman releases his December President’s report. Highlights include major progress in eliminating slow zones (down to only 6% of trackage) and increased ridership.

Cincinnati. The airport is at a turning point, with Delta downsizing the passenger counts expected to only be 10 million next year, down from a peak of 22 million.

Columbus. A nice article on high tech Columbus.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital is looking to add up to 2,400 jobs.

Detroit. Time Magazine says Detroit is still waiting for the Renaissance.

Michigan economy stuck in an eight year recession.

Twin City Sidewalks excoriates Livonia.

Indianapolis. The MPO approves expanding a transit study to put together a regional concept plan.

From the Not Good Dept., the IBJ reports that the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has been drawing down the principal in its endowment to balance the budget.

Louisville. The city unveils its version of the sewer overflow fix.

Milwaukee. A neighborhood wants to literally print its own money.

Twin Cities. Minnesota is $5.2 billion in the hole.

8 Comments
Topics: Economic Development, Transportation
Cities: Austin

8 Responses to “News Briefs”

  1. mheidelberger says:

    Its amazing that even newer developments still view sidewalks as a form of realestate to sink their infrastructure. I know that they have sturdy, solid surfaces (the newer ones that have not been reclaimed by the Earth), but can’t a small seperate concrete plot be created to sink a sign or bolt a utility pole to?

  2. joe shoemaker says:

    I first read about locoa currencies 15+ years ago and thought it was a great idea, especially for a neighborhood like Broad Ripple. Employers can even pay their employees with some if the cash, encouraging them to respend within the area.

    Great work. I always look forward to reading your blog.

    joe shoemaker

  3. Dave Reid says:

    That sidewalk is just sad. I’m sure we’ve all ran across sidewalks like this, grumbled, and then walked in the grass. I’m going to have to remember to grab a camera and bug a local official that’s just wrong.

    I still need to be convinced that local currency makes sense but well the River Currency idea is definitely interesting.

  4. thundermutt says:

    Imagine that: Indianapolis’ Central Library Addition is missing from the list of 15 Great Modern Libraries, while a similar glass-and-steel addition to Philadelphia’s Beaux Arts library made the list.

    Perhaps Philadelphia made the list because it plays nice with the original building, the setting, and the neighbors.

  5. Boofer says:

    I thought the bizjournals rankings was interesting, although I generally take a skeptical view of rankings of this sort – they can be easily manipulated (even unintentionally) to make certain elements rise to the top. In that way, you could probably devise very credible, defensible ranking criteria that would make Indy a top-10 metro. Having said that, it is perhaps noteworthy that using this methodology, KC and Indy are the highest-ranking Midwestern metros. What are these cities doing right? Compare KC with St. Louis – geographically close but economically far apart. Compare Indy and Cincinnati in the same fashion. It seems that in nearly every ranking of this kind, the former bests the latter. Can you put your finger on the one thing or few things that separates these cities?

    Speaking of Cincinnati, I thought the airport article reflected common sense. Those of us who follow such things have known about CVG’s extremely uncompetitive local fares for a very long time. And as the old adage goes, “the best cure for high prices is high prices.” Cincy-area flyers driving to LEX, SDF, DAY, CMH, and IND is no new phenomenon. While the airport officials still believe that having a hub is a great thing, I would argue that the downside is presenting itself rather boldly now. The DL hub is shrinking, the airport is shrinking, but thus far the fares are not – and people are still leaving the Cincy area to find affordable airfares. Indianapolis and Louisville are two great examples of airports that never became a major fortress hub (not necessarily for lack of trying) and serve their areas quite well. Those airports are now probably in a better position to serve as economic-development engines of their respective metros. But the irony is this: Cincy-area officials use the Delta hub and its nonstop flights to everywhere as a tool to lure businesses so their employees can LEAVE the area conveniently; Indy and Louisville officials use their inexpensive fares to lure conventions and tourism to the area so people will COME to their towns conveniently. What is the better strategy after all?

    Finally, I also enjoyed the article about Milwaukee printing its own money. There was an article in Time recently that discussed the growing number of local “alternative” currencies around the world. But if you think about it, we all probably use some kind of alternative currency already. Airline miles, credit card reward points, hotel points, Subway stamps and other restaurant punch-cards, loyalty programs of all kinds, even grocery coupons – these are all alternative currencies. They have differing degrees of liquidity and transferability, but ultimately they function just like any government-issued currency, as a proxy for the exchange of value. Wouldn’t it be interesting if Indianapolis or another large metro area had a major effort to promote patronage at local businesses by establishing a local currency? It could be overseen by a savvy entrepreneur who would establish a bank for the “IndyDollars,” allowing registered local firms to exchange IndyDollars for U.S. currency at a prevailing exchange rate. A large-scale program of local-only currency would certainly be a source of recognition for the area, but could also be a solid source of support for local merchants.

  6. The Urbanophile says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Yes, that sidewalk is sad.

    Boofer, I previously posted what I called my “Urbanophile Conjecture”, which is “If you want to be a successful Midwest city, it helps to be a state capital with a metro area of more than 500,000 people”. This explains every city except Kansas City. See:

    http://theurbanophile.blogspot.com/2008/06/urbanophile-conjecture.html

    Other possible things to consider:

    1. River cities that were big in the 19th century seem to have not been able to turn it on. KC was on the Missouri River, but was it really a river town like Cincy or St. Louis?

    2. If you look at the boomtowns – Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, etc. – they seem to be mostly “interior” cities, which again favors the geography of not being along coasts or rivers.

    The latter two items are merely food for thought and areas for exploration.

  7. thundermutt says:

    Every one of those boomtowns has a looming (or actual) drinking-water crisis. I suspect their growth over the next 25 years will be governed (or dampened) by water issues.

    I think there are definitely issues with the major and minor river cities…Pittsburgh, Detroit, Wheeling, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans. Since they are older, have they simply been undergoing suburban flight for longer than other places? Were their advantages limited to legacy transportation infrastructure (such as river junctions, river crossings, rail lines), proximity to natural resources or agricultural regions? Did their wealthy citizens not invest in new ventures after a certain point?

  8. Anonymous says:

    That’s true that the idea of local currency is interesting. These kind of enterprises like barter clubs usually fail though, one reason is that whatever local currency you make as income is taxed by the IRS as if it were US dollars, and the IRS will only accept US dollars as payment. Gresham’s law might apply here where the good money drives out the bad and people will dump their holdings of local currency wherever they can. But I’m no economist.

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