Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Midwest Miscellany

California Follow-Up

As a followup to my “What’s Killing California” piece, here are a couple of other takes in the media of late.

Time Magazine staked out an optimistic position on the state in a major cover story called, “Golden State is Thriving, Despite Its Woes“.

John B. Judis takes a more centrist track over at The New Republic in his lengthy “End State“. While he grants Time’s assertion that California is a powerhouse in high tech, biotech, and green industries – but notes that jobs in those sectors continue to decline despite output gains.

Conservative writer William Voegeli had a piece in City Journal taking California to task for its high tax ways. He followed this up with a rebuttal to Time, and also an LA Times op-ed.

Detroit Roundup

My piece on Detroit as an urban laboratory and new American frontier is still going crazy out there on the web. I wouldn’t have expected it when I wrote it, but that is now the all time number one article on my site.

The international press continues to have a field day. The Guardian weighs in again this week, talking about how the Motor City became a ghost town.

Popup City looks at how the car drained Detroit.

Yahoo says Detroit house auction flops for urban wasteland.

Time magazine talks about how private security is booming.

Detroit native James A. Reeves looks back at the city he grew up in.

City Journal’s Steven Malanga looks at feral Detroit.

Daniel Howes expresses outrage at an interesting Detroit practice. Various groups endorse and support candidates based on how much the candidates donates to them. They fund their PAC’s from candidates.

A Detroit city councilor says the city needs a Marshall Plan.

And here’s another Detroit classic from Sweet Juniper.

GOOD Video: Emerging City Innovation

The folks at GOOD put together this interesting video on innovation (if video does not display, click here):

GOOD also has a look at crappy bike lanes in pictures.

High Speed Rail – A Simple Point to Point Service

The Transport Politic has a great piece up on high speed rail corridor market share in Europe. Eurostar has an 85% market share on the London to Paris market, but for trips involving transfers on either end, market share is only 5%. This prompts the author to ask if direct service is the defining element of high speed rail.

This backs up something I said all along about the proposed Midwest high speed rail network. Namely that we should not view Chicago as the hub in the sense of an airline passenger or package sorting hub, which is all about traffic interchange, but rather as being about a series of point to point corridors driven almost entirely by O&D to and from Chicago. This has important implications:

  • If each corridor stands alone, then you don’t need to build the full network to get value. Every corridor you build brings value in its own right. On the flip side, so-called network benefits may not be large as the system is built out.
  • It is not necessary to have a single high speed rail terminal in Chicago. Rather, let each line use its own logic terminal station. This is important because the logical corridor is the IC/Metra Electric for all trains from the south and southeast (St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Louisville). Rather than Union Station, you could have a station at Van Buren St. or Millennium Station.

More HSR:
High speed trains are making China smaller (Newsweek)
FRA preliminary rail plan: no plan at all (Transport Politic)
Spain’s high speed trains out muscle airlines> (Business Week)

The Economic Development Potential of African American Men

Rust Wire pointed us at a study by an organization I’d never heard of called Policy Bridge on African American men in Northeast Ohio. I haven’t read the entire thing in detail yet, but Rust Wire’s take looked interesting and the abstract hit a lot of the points I’ve pounded again and again on this blog:

The loss of African-American male potential is, in fact, a loss of income that is crippling the regional and state economies. Creating economic opportunity for African-American men is, in fact, creating opportunity for Greater Cleveland. By investing in better educating, fully employing, and fairly compensating the African-American male population, the area is investing in its own well-being. The return on investment will come in the form of increased consumer buying power, increased income and property taxes, increased civic engagement, and renewed economic growth.

Before this reward can be realized, however, the community must undergo a change in viewpoint: The African-American male population must no longer be seen as a potential drain on community resources, but as an untapped well of economic potential and a key ingredient to Northeast Ohio’s economic recovery.

Sad Transit Chart From Cleveland

Brewed Fresh Daily ran a great analysis of RTA ridership, which is poised to hit its lowest level ever:

Columbus to Use Conservation Easement to Preserve City Center Site

I previously reported that Columbus wanted to scrape the City Center Mall site and put a park there. I said this might not be a bad temporary use of the land, but that they would be unlikely to create the type of civic gathering place they hoped for. Well, not only is the city moving forward with the park plan, they also want to use a conservation easement to try to make sure it stays a park forever.

This would be a mistake. Not only will this park again likely not achieve the goals set out for it, one legislative body has no right to try to bind what future legislative bodies can do with that land. The world belongs in usufruct to the living. Just as the policies of the past – including many pernicious practices – don’t and should not control us today, we have no right to tell future generations how they ought to run their city.

Previous: City Center Mall to be demolished

Featured Site: American Dirt

I’ve linked to the relatively new blog American Dirt before, but wanted to highlight it again. The blog is written by a landscape architect in Indianapolis who takes a look at public spaces and the design of our cities in a critical and super-in depth way. He just started a major series on the City Market. This guy writes as long as I do on occasion – and that’s saying something – but it is excellent stuff. I actually have him on my National Blogroll because what he writes about is very relevant nationally and not everything is about Indy – he’s done pieces on many other cities. Suggested starting points:

National and International Roundup

The Paris ideal of bike sharing meets reality. Apparently 80% of the initial Velib’ fleet has been destroyed or stolen.

New York was voted the most attractive place for business in the world, according to Japan’s Mori Memorial Foundation (Bloomberg via @jorgeimontalvo). Also in New York, Doing more with buses (Streetsblog).

A talk with Fred Siegal about three ways big cities go bad.

Safety costs chafe railroads (WSJ)

The Economist looks at the Dallas performing arts complex.

More Charlotte schadenfreude: the Washington Post looks at the bust in the boomtown, which, of course, attracted notice in Charlotte.

Atlanta water and sewer rates are among the nation’s highest, according to the Journal-Constitution. Again, Clean Water Act compliance is an incentive to working class people to head to the exurbs. One person had a water bill of over $200. And also in Atlanta, the New York Times reports on how the city’s string of black mayors may be broken.

After generations in the spotlight, Harlem fades as center of black politics (NYT)

Great Mayors: Denver’s John Hickenlooper (Smart City Memphis). Also in Denver, can FasTracks be saved? (Denver Post)

Free parking spots could sprout meters in Arlington (WashPo)

The Southern Piedmont: Where NASCAR Meets NASDAQ (New Geography)

Melbourne predicts a population of 7 million by 2049 (The Age).

Columbus Dispatch: Sprucing up sidewalks seems to pay off for cities.

More Midwest

“When somebody tells you they just moved to Youngstown it probably isn’t helping the town’s image to blurt out, ‘Why?'” – new resident Liz Hill in at vindy.com (via Rust Wire)

Amid the ruin of Flint, seeing hope in a garden (NYT)

Big Plans Afoot for Congress Parkway (Chicago Architecture Blog)
New Modern Wing Crosswalk on Monroe (Blair Kamin @ Chicago Tribune)
Environmental Report Gives NWI Another Bad Mark (Gary Post-Tribune)
Railbed Redux (Architect’s Newspaper) – Piece on Bloomingdale Trail

Can Cincinnati be the Silicon Valley of consumer marketing? (Hard Knox Life)

The Accidental Mayor (RiShawn Biddle @ The American Spectator) – Note: RiShawn is a former Indianpolis Star columnist.

Kansas City
City’s P&L district subsidy increasing to $20 million/year (BlogKC)

Re-writing history in the suburbs (Broken Sidewalk)
21C named best hotel in North America (Broken Sidewalk)

Pittsburgh Mayor Faces Tests if Re-Elected (NYT)
Churn (Utterly Opinionated) – Via Burgh Diaspora

Twin Cities
Girl, 12, is youngest Minnesotan to kill moose (MPR) – the picture is priceless

Topics: Economic Development, Public Policy, Transportation
Cities: Cleveland, Columbus (Ohio), Detroit

4 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. Alon Levy says:

    You’d expect that the City Journal types would stop hyperventilating about taxes just enough to note that Texas is not the only red state. Overall, there seems to be no correlation between state taxes and unemployment right now. California just happens to be exceptionally badly off, and Texas exceptionally well off.

  2. Steven Vance says:

    I’m not sure everyone who reads the NYT article about Vélib bike sharing is understanding the “other picture:” The vandals are likely disenfranchised youth who see bicycling (the lowly act of riding a bicycle through/around town) as an urban middle class activity. The same youth who burned cars in 2005.
    That’s the real news in the story.

    And though we don’t have a vandalism (or hate) problem in the United States, we still have a problem about encouraging (marketing to) people to ride bikes for more activity types (including trips).

  3. Wad says:

    California is exceptionally bad off, but the problems are far above the pay grade of the think tank types.

    Taxes are high, but cutting taxes won’t result in a corresponding cut in the cost of living.

    The cost of living in California is high not only because of supply and demand, but also because of the expectation of supply and demand. Costs will remain high in California because the state is expected to continue to grow economically and demographically.

    Has the sun finally set on the Golden State? We only know if the few bad years of California are going to be like the decades of stagnation in the Rust Belt.

    The reason why California has remained resilient despite cost arbitrage of states in the South and the Southwest have to do with the state being able to leverage its natural and social capital.

    California’s natural advantages include pleasant weather, beautiful scenery and tremendously productive agriculture. California also has very busy Pacific ports in the Bay Area and Southern California, as well as a minor but still vital inland river port in Sacramento.

    California’s social capital comes from attracting people not only from other parts of the country, but also the world. We have a lot of problems with immigration, but it also does confer strong economic bonds between the home countries and California. If California’s economy suffers, so will the economies of Mexico, Central America, and much of Asia.

    California also has a diversified economy, so our population is not dependent on a single industry or locked into an economic strategy. Arizona and Nevada, both of the places that were supposed to bleed California dry, have long been dependent on momentum growth. It worked to the extent that people could be counted on to keep coming, yet the lack of an economic bedrock and locational disadvantages leave them in far direr straits.

  4. John says:

    Regarding the Cleveland transit graph, I have a couple of questions:
    1. I would be interested to see this graph overlayed with a graph of the population of the City of Cleveland. I would expect a close match between loss of residents (customers) and lower ridership.
    2. Would other cities look much different? I doubt it. Most transit agencies lost a lot of ridership between the mid-70’s and the mid-90’s as central city populations declined.

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.

About the Urbanophile


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.

Full Bio


Please email before connecting with me on LinkedIn if we don't already know each other.



Copyright © 2006-2014 Urbanophile, LLC, All Rights Reserved - Click here for copyright information and disclosures