Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Midwest Miscellany

You’ve probably read this already, but Richard Florida has a cover story in the Atlantic Monthly, along with a companion interview. And there’s an interesting interactive map with it too.

Oh, and since I wrote about high speed rail recently, here’s a USA Today article that suggests President Obama already sees high speed rail as one of his legacies. Apparently Rahm Emmanuel was instrumental in getting $9.3 billion for high speed rail put into the stimulus.

Here’s a tough one from St. Louis – and alas around the country. Transit ridership surged last year, but transit systems are cutting back because of the economic downturn. St. Louis is axing service at 2,300 bus stops to save money.

Transit in Chicago is funded, apart from fares, mostly by a mixture of sales and transfer taxes, both of which are getting hammered by the economy. This creates yet another financial crisis for the agency, with a projected $213 million deficit. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. (Commentary on this from Chicago Carless).

Here’s an interesting story. People promoting an extension of the South Shore Line from Northwest Indiana to Chicago want to do their own population projections and not rely on figures from the Indiana Business Research Center. I don’t think this is such a bad idea. I don’t know if the IBRC has been the source or not, but I’ve seen some studies where the population forecasts where far too low. On the other hand, people doing studies need to be sure to rely on objective figures and not commission “home cooking” for their project.

INDOT received a Record of Decision from the FHWA allowing it to proceed with design and implementation of the US 31 freeway upgraded in Hamilton County north of Indianapolis. Definitely a needed project that overall looks like a winner. I previously reviewed the SDEIS in depth. My biggest concern is that INDOT again has reduced cost by down scoping the most important interchange. They reduced the US 31 to I-465 movements to single lane flyovers. Heck, even the I-74/I-465 west leg interchange uses dual lane ramps. I’m all in favor of looking for ways to save money, but would suggest that major freeway-freeway interchanges is not the place. It’s a similar story on the Accelerate 465 project. The most critical interchange at I-70 was significantly downscoped.

Here’s a bit of thoroughly depressing news. The city of Indianapolis is pressing ahead with plans to reconstruct Broad Ripple Ave. despite that fact that everyone knows the project is sub-par. The neighborhood strongly opposes the current plan and it seems to me more or less like a $2 million waste of money. I’ve noted before that Indianapolis has a horrific street system for pedestrians. It is facing a gigantic backlog of needed repairs. Given that, why spend precious funds on projects that don’t advance the ball? The street network of Indianapolis is conceptually obsolete and no longer meets the needs of the city in the 21st century. Figuring out what the streets should be, then designing projects that get us there, is exactly what is needed. (I should note that in this case, I would not agree with the BRVA’s call for bike lanes through the core commercial district. Wider sidewalks are most desperately needed instead).

The city council of Columbus, Ohio approved a budget with major service reductions, which includes reducing police office headcount by 80. Now Columbus just did a major bond issue for things like sidewalks and trails. I’m all in favor of that stuff, but if you’re taking cops off the street at the same time, it doesn’t make any sense to me. I realize capital and operating and two different things, but this is still an interesting juxtaposition.

An excellent commentary on historic preservation from Urban Milwaukee. Oh, and speaking of Milwaukee, a local university did a very nice study on city condo dwellers. And lastly out of Milwaukee, an attempt at an open source think tank called Cream Citizen.

Here’s an article about a study touting Michigan’s success in bioscience. Sound familiar?

After getting shot down multiple times, transit advocates in Kansas City are taking light rail off the table. Here’s a quote from the article:

“The city is set up for cars. As a result, most of the metropolitan area is not densely populated. That, plus a wealth of affordable parking, decreases the number of potential transit riders. And that has made it difficult to win federal dollars for rail systems. Kansas City has about 30,000 parking slots in its central business district, according to a 2008 city parking study. On average, it costs about $7.90 a day to park downtown. Compare that to other cities with rail — in Minneapolis it’s $15 and in Dallas, $12.50. ‘Abundant cheap parking is one of transit’s biggest enemies,’ said Ken Kinney, the HNTB consultant working on Kansas City’s light-rail plan. Generally, an average of 6,600 to 10,000 people per square mile is needed to score federal funds. But Kansas City isn’t close to that number along the 14-mile route that voters rejected in November. In fact, consultants predicted it would average only 3,600 by 2030. Traffic isn’t bad enough. Regional planners say bad traffic sends people in other metro areas screaming for alternatives to driving. All the big cities with rail — Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis — have terrible congestion problems. Our traffic problems just aren’t at that level — yet. ‘We don’t have the market demand fueled by congestion,’ said David Warm, executive director for the Mid-America Regional Council, which coordinates transportation planning here.”

Again, sound familiar? The same is true in every similar sized Midwest city.

UrbanCincy has an interesting article on the Cincinnati Agenda 360 plan. I may do an in depth look at this in the future.

Richard Layman covers the story of bike share vandalism in Paris.

The Youngstown shrinkage experiment continues to garner coverage. Here’s an article from the Next American City. Speaking of that site, they had another interesting column questioning the return to vogue of large scale demolition and land clearance in our cities.

Bruce Katz of Brookings talks about a national Office of Urban Policy. (via CEO’s for Cities)

An article on the all too common theme of the middle class squeeze in a global city. This time from Tornoto. Another study hits the same theme in New York. This is a very serious problem for the country and world. We’ve got to figure out how to create a broad based economic success in the globalized economy. It’s an absolute social imperative.

Here’s some intelligent commentary on the emigration of the talented – out of India. Having seen how a robust diaspora community can power the domestic economy, India definitely gets it on this stuff. They are actually trying to take an objective look at the pros and cons of people leaving. (Hat tip Burgh Diaspora)

It’s OT, but here’s a wacky story from the NY Times about some still outstanding municipal bonds dating to 1868.

More Midwest

Going for the Gold (Medill Reports) – PS, It’s `L’, not ‘el’ – go back to New York
No transit overhaul in city’s Olympic bid (Tribune)
Wal-Mart figures time is right for Chicago push (the Journal)
Pedestrian deaths are up in Chicago despite safety measures (Tribune)

Zimpher takes SUNY job (Enquirer)
CSO Recording gets a Grammy (Enquirer)
CSO Musicians agree to pay cut (Enquirer)
Green tech lab coming downtown (Enquirer)

A world up qualifier. In Ohio. In February. Cool. (NY Times)

Bad roads getting worse (Detroit News)
One leader sees a green future for Detroit (Free Press)

Speed limits trail the pace of growth on I-69 (Indy Star)
Muncie-Indy commuter rail feasible (Indy Star)
$3.5 billion, 200 feet deep, 20 miles long, 15 years (IBJ) – I thought this was supposed to be $1.6? Will America’s cities survive the Clean Water Act?

Kansas City
Lyric Opera making changes in economic downturn (KC Star)

Twin Cities
Minnesota’s red link? $7 billion (Star-Tribune)
Mileage tax, not gas tax, may pay for Minnesota’s road work (Star Tribune)
Twin cities home values fell 10% (Star Tribune)

Topics: Transportation
Cities: Indianapolis, Kansas City

6 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. Randy Simes says:

    The Agenda 360 Regional Action Plan is a great stepping stone towards real regional cooperation and planning in the Cincinnati region. So far there has been high levels of engagement. I just hope it translates into policy.

  2. Cindy in Indy says:

    Your knowledge of the Midwest is incredible. I don’t know how you stay on top of it all.
    I think the biggest interchange issue for Indianapolis is 465 and Interstate 69 Northbound into Fishers. The changes they made recently have helped some but it is still a bottleneck. A bus line is my choice followed by a rapid rail system. Fishers is quite a growing community and the traffic will only get heavier over time.
    I am a big fan of Broad Ripple, especially with the Monon Trail going through there. I am a bigger fan of the cultural districts downtown; but when I do relocation work, people liken Broad Ripple to other areas in their state and like that there is a place in Indy that resembles what they know.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    Thanks for the reference! And keep up the good work.

  4. The Urbanophile says:

    Cindy, thanks for the compliment and your additional thoughts.

    David, UrbanMilwaukee is a great site – people should be reading it if they aren’t already.

  5. Anonymous says:


    a dedicated group of citizen activists are steadily working to enhance the City of Indianapolis' plan for Broad Ripple Avenue. A coalition of Green Broad Ripple, HARMONI and the Broad Ripple VIllage Assn. has created a fund-raising effort: Fortune Favors the BRAVE to raise $2009/ea. from 100 investors. So far more than $33K has been raised. Monies would be used for civic improvements including a shuttle service on weekends, a "green machine" to clean up the streets, landscaping installation & maintenance throughout the Village and an upgraded plan for BRAVE.

    The design firm of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf has been hired to prepare a design schematic overlay design for the City's plans that would improve the pedestrian infrastructure, add landscaping & visual appeal plus augment transit amenities. The group wants to implement a shuttle service for the ThursFriSat crowds. While this has been behind-the-scenes grassroots organizting, the groups are in touch with City leaders who have been supportive. There should be more to report soon, but just know that the Village is working on this!

  6. Website design nyc says:

    Nice article

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