Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Midwest Miscellany

An INDOT highway worker was struck and killed by a dump truck this week. As we head into construction season, everyone please take extra care to watch out for road crews and to drive cautiously in construction zones. This is a sad example of what can happen when you don’t. Condolences to INDOT employee Mark T. Shepardson’s family

Harvard economist Ed Glaeser notes the relationship between educational attainment and unemployment rates in the recession. He also notes that manufacturing dependency ain’t good (duh) and that areas with concentrated employment are doing better. Interestingly, he notes that almost to as great an extent as current educational attainment, educational attainment rates in 1940 explain unemployment:

“Given the enormous gap in unemployment between skilled and unskilled workers, it isn’t surprising that skills best explain today’s metropolitan unemployment rates. The share of adults with college degrees in 2000 can, on its own, explain about one-half of the variation in the unemployment rate.

Somewhat remarkably, the educational level of the metropolitan area before World War II can do almost as well. The attached figure shows that as the share of the population with college degrees in 1940 increases by 10 percent, current unemployment levels decrease by 6.7 percent.”

Interesting. More quotes from Glaeser:

“The enormously tight connection between skills and unemployment should remind us of the importance of investing in human capital. Skills drive the success of individuals, cities and nations. America’s future rests on the human capital of its population….Beware industrial policies aimed at keeping America tied to heavy industry. The track record of manufacturing cities over the past 50 years is dismal; artificially boosting the automobile industry seems unlikely to do any long-term good…While the regional diversity within the United States might prompt politicians to pursue policies that target aid to distressed regions, that seems likely to be counterproductive. America has always dealt with regional economic disparities through migration. During the recessions, thousands fled the Dust Bowl. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a massive exodus from the Rust Belt. Today’s recession will also prompt mobility, probably toward more skilled, more centralized cities with less historical commitment to manufacturing. Government policies that try to bolster declining regions would artificially reduce that productivity-enhancing mobility. It would be far wiser to focus on aid that helps poor people rather than to throw money at poor places. “

Following on from that, Ball State economist Michael Hicks writes in his column about the need to provide amenities. Quoting: “A far less visible, but far more important part of economic development in is in the creation of places where people want to live. This is harder, more time consuming, but far more fruitful and lasting than relying solely on business attraction. The folks in business attraction know this and work hard to get communities involved in self improvement…..There is an interesting irony to the issue of job attraction versus amenities. The higher the costs of labor the more likely firms are to be solicitous of worker interests. Human capital intensive industries must locate in places where amenities are best. It is simply a matter of minimizing costs. Interestingly those jobs, in industries that are human capital intensive, are the highest paying jobs, in the industries that are fastest growing.”

Remember how I said onshore outsourcing is a good growth prospect for the Midwest? Well, here’s an article from the FT on the near shoring phenomenon occurring in the UK

Speaking of the UK, an interesting research study there shows that, if you factor in the user costs from years of construction, it can actually be cheaper to build brand new rail lines than to upgrade old ones. I think the key here, for both transit and highway projects, is to do it fast. Not only do you save on construction costs from avoiding inflation, you also get the benefits quicker and avoid a ton of user costs. Hat tip The Overhead Wire.

France’s national railway would love the opportunity to run US high speed rail systems.

Andres Duany of DPZ architects had a very interesting column about New Orleans. His point is that rather than viewing New Orleans as the worst governed American city, we should see it as the best governed Carribean city, drawing comparisons to Havana in his native Cuba. It’s worth a read, particulary for its discussion of a unique civic culture there.

Robert Land and Lawrence Levy ask President Obama not to forget about the suburbs.

The Congress for New Urbanism unveils their 2009 Charter Award recipients.

An article in The Guardian about funding problems causing a crisis for American orchestras.

Research disagrees with me on learning to love opera, saying it is like love at first sight.

The Toronto Globe and Mail takes a look at the province’s economic crisis and debates Richard Florida.

Boom turns to bust for adventurous architecture in Spain.

The New York Observer sees how upscale lifestyle magazine Monocle is faring in tough times. (There is also a sidebar).

How about some schadenfreude for our Midwestern contingent regarding Charlotte? “A besieged bank, and its hometown, look inward” and “Charlotte’s identity crisis“.

Here’s a posting talking about the “Beyond Burnham” series ongoing in Chicago media.

In the grand tradition of collegiate pranks, Louisville officials will be mounting an operaton to project its “Possibility City” logo on the sides of Indianapolis buildings using laser projectors. Sounds like a lot of fun. [UPDATE: The city of Indianapolis says No. What a bunch of killjoys. I mean, this is Indianapolis. How seriously can you take yourself? This is a rather small town attitude if you ask me. It says way more about Indianapolis than it does about Louisville ]

And once more in Louisville, an interesting piece on how the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is outsourcing some road maintenance and operations to Louisville.

Here is a piece of very disappointing news. INDOT is announcing it will restrict I-65 to one lane until November for a resurfacing project. A few years back INDOT made a policy change that it would no longer reduce I-65 and I-70 below two lanes each direction for extended periods. The agency appears to have reverted. It should reconsider. I still have nighmares of that time I-65 was down to one lane in Layfayette on the day before Thanksgiving and I got to spend two hours passing around a basketball on the highway with some kids from the next car while we waited for traffic to start moving again. This is a very short project, covering only the distance between two interchanges. And it is only a resurfacing. This summer will see major congestion, particularly on weekends, if INDOT stays with the current plan for a continuous closing.

More Midwest

CTA has plan to avoid service cuts, fare hikes (Greg Hinz @ Crain’s Chicago Business)
CTA slow zones (Tribune)
Transit Alert: CTA says it is on slow train for terrorist alerts (Tribune)
Why Metra is riding slow train to future (Tribune)
Urban Infrastructures as issue with high speed rail (Times of NWI)
Parking meter revolt (CBS2)
What Quinn’s budget may cost you (Tribune)

Tower Place thinking outside the mall (Enquirer) – This mall in downtown Cincinnati is 62% vacant.

Cleveland Orchestra plans deep cuts (Plain Dealer)

Oakland says Cobo deal sour (Detroit News)
Dream of regional transit nears reality (Detroit News)

Kokomo corridor plans becoming reality (Indy Star)
Deal leaves state with one less worry (Indy Star)
146th St. interchange will be the most difficult (Indy Star)
Indy ranks low in walkability (WTHR)

Kansas City
Cutting edge cuisine finds a home in Kansas City (KC Star)

Fate of bridges funding bill is uncertain (C-J)

Doyle seeks full cost for fast rail link (JS) – $519M for Madison-Milwaukee rail
Map of Milwaukee proposed streetcar line (Urban Milwaukee)
Milwaukee skywalk map (Urban Milwaukee)
Wisconsin’s new slogan faces some push back (JS)

Twin Cities
A season of hiring (Star-Tribune)
Gutherie Theater to trim budget by $4 million (Star Tribune)

Topics: Economic Development, Transportation


3 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. JG says:

    The article about INDY walkability was not surprising – however I was glad they high-lighted the NY and Alabama intersection as an example of a walkable area. My thought has been that this intersection is under-developed with the parking lot on the southeast corner. This would truly be the most “walkable” area to live if one considers splitting yourself between work (in the true downtown) and play, shop, and entertainment along the Mass Ave district.

    Additionaly the Mass Ave ambiance rapidly fades as one walks down Alabama. That corner with ground floor store fronts, up stairs residential (5 or 6 floors), and the cultural trail could become a great addition to the neighborhood. My hope too is the city will find good civic uses for the old city hall such as museum space or education. Why not with the cultural trail out front?

  2. Crocodileguy says:

    Regarding I-65’s lane restrictions:

    One thing Caltrans is really good about doing out here is that nearly all freeway projects that involve lane/ramp restrictions/closures occur at night. Resurfacing? Night. Adding/fixing signage? Night.

    Only when something happens that needs immediate correction (like the broken water main that created a sinkhole on the Pasadena Fwy a year ago) does Caltrans do their freeway work/repair during the day with lane restrictions/closures. It’s a nice touch, though the overtime pay makes it more expensive, they can work more quickly with much less of a hassle to commuters.

  3. The Urbanophile says:

    Thanks for the comments – I appreciate your contributions to the blog.

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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