Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Midwest Miscellany

I have received some reports of badly distorted fonts with Firefox on Windows XP. If the font on this site is rendering horribly for you, I’d appreciate you sending me a screen shot, along with your browser and OS version. I’m investigating. In the meantime, you can see a cleaner version by either using Internet Explorer or using the alternate URL www [dot] arenn [dot] com. Please do not share any links using that URL, however, as I don’t want to confuse Google.

Neighbors for Neighbors

Joseph Porcelli, a friend of mine, has a very interesting project going on in Boston that I wanted to highlight. It is called Neighbors for Neighbors, a social networking platform that includes social networks for every neighborhood in Boston. This came out of his experience with his Jamaica Plain neighborhood, which was experiencing a crime wave and needed a way to organize. Fast forward, and N4N has launched, in official partnership with the city of Boston, with hyper-local based social networks that bring people together and span both the online and offline world. This is a model I think is worth checking out.

China’s Empty City

Here’s a fascinating video I found via the NYT Economix blog about an empty city in China from the Al Jazeera English language service. We keep hearing about China’s inexorable rise. Yet clearly there are massive speculative excesses built up in the Chinese economy. We just watched Dubai, another seemingly unstoppable juggernaut, suffer a debt crisis. China is obviously a much strong country, but stories like this make you wonder. (If the video does not display, click here).

Dangerous by Design

Transportation for America released a major study on preventable pedestrian deaths called Dangerous by Design. In the last 15 years, over 76,000 pedestrians have been killed in America. Here is where our 12 Midwest metros stacked up among regions of over one million people. The ranking is by most dangerous, so the top of the list is more dangerous than the bottom:

  • #7 – Louisville
  • #14 – Detroit
  • #20 – Kansas City
  • #21 – St. Louis
  • #31 – Indianapolis
  • #35 – Columbus
  • #37 – Milwaukee
  • #41 – Chicago
  • #43 – Cleveland
  • #46 – Cincinnati
  • #49 – Pittsburgh
  • #52 – Minneapolis-St. Paul (America’s safest major city)

Full data tables are available here.

Oxford Circus Pedestrian Improvements

For those of you who’ve been to London, you know pedestrians overwhelm the too-narrow sidewalks. The city has been looking at various ways to improve this, and one of the more interesting projects is one at Oxford Circus. Broken Sidewalk points us at this video (click here if video does not display).

Here’s the “Before” view:

Here’s the “After” view:

Best Performing Cities

The Milken Institute released their rankings of the best performing cities of 2009. Their index “ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth. The components include job, wage and salary and technology growth.”

Austin, Texas was #1 in America. Here is how the large Midwest metros stacked up. On this one, a higher rank is better, like a normal league table. The ranking is out of the 200 largest metro areas. You know your region is struggling when it can’t crack the top 50. (In fairness, Peoria, a city I generally don’t cover, was #33)

  • #52 – Kansas City
  • #108 – Columbus
  • #109 – Pittsburgh
  • #123 – Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • #125 – Indianapolis
  • #128 – St. Louis
  • #138 – Cincinnati
  • #148 – Chicago
  • #151 – Milwaukee
  • #153 – Louisville
  • #186 – Cleveland
  • #199 – Detroit

No two ways about it, that’s a pathetic showing.

Detroit Roundup

The Wall Street Journal wrote up an interesting incident here a group of people found an old dump truck on the fourth floor of an abandoned factory and pushed it out of a window. Below is the video. If it does not display, click here. h/t Rust Wire.


An American Catastrophe (Bob Herbert @ NYT)
David Bing’s last second shot (WSJ)
Michigan’s roads are in a fix. The Detroit News reports that 1/3 of the states total road miles are in poor condition.

8664: River Fields Exposed

LEO Newsweekly, Louisville’s alt-weekly paper, had a great piece recently called Burned Bridge that talks about how River Fields, once a bona-fide conservation group, has become nothing but a front for East End NIMBY’ism. They are a group opposed to the East End bridge at all costs. They so hated this article, that apparently they might have pulled issues from racks to keep people from reading.

Everyone knows the River Fields agenda in Louisville. However, the National Trust for Historic Preservation allowed their name to be attached to the River Fields agenda in filing a lawsuit against the bridges project. Personally, I wouldn’t be sad to see the Record of Decision re-opened, since that is necessary for the 8664 option. But the National Trust may yet find that their own reputation ends up tarnished by linking themselves with an organization that is actually in favor of demolishing historic properties in downtown Louisville to build a bridge there. The River Fields agenda is antithetical to bona fide historic preservation. I actually asked the National Trust what their rationale was for joining the lawsuit, but wasn’t able to get much from them beyond the press release which said it was not about just the East End bridge, and the list of potentially impacted properties taken directly from the EIS. I think they ought to re-evaluate who they are getting into bed with, however.

National and International Roundup

Carol Coletta: Regionalism as identity theft for cities.

Brain Drain Report: Berlin Wall Edition (Burgh Diaspora)

Three simple rules for getting out of poverty – but how easy are they to follow? (One Story Up). Also from One Story Up, Don’t fall in the poverty trap – you night never get out. This is a great public housing oriented blog by Megan Cottrell. Worth checking out.

Housing bust halts growing suburbs (USA Today)

Paris debates plan for new subway (Yahoo News). Proposed 80 new miles of subways for inner ring suburbs at a cost of $31.4 billion.

High hopes and higher standards for Bloomberg 3.0 (Streetsblog)

LA Mayor seeks creative funding to prevent 7 MPH gridlock (Bloomberg)

Smart City Memphis offers Lessons from Great Mayors.

Grand Plans for Rail in Denver Hit a Wall of Fiscal Realities (NYT)

Salt Lake City passes gay rights ordinance with Mormon backing (USA Today)

California exploring detailed strategy for growth (SF Chronicle via @gosner)

Miami ponders whether the good outweighs the bad (NYT)

More Midwest

Leaseback deals could come back to bite CTA unless Congress acts (CTA Tattler)
Company piles up profits from parking meter deal (NYT) – Related: Chicago’s parking meter deal a massive rip-off (Streetsblog)
What Oprah’s departure means for the Windy City (Julia Vitullo-Martin @ WSJ)
Review of Aqua (Blair Kamin @ Tribune)
5 year tollway project under budget and ahead of schedule (Tribune)

Residents look for trees in I-70/I-71 plan (Dispatch)

An open letter to Cleveland (Cleveland Love via Brewed Fresh Daily)

Detroit voters approve $500 million school bond (Detroit News)

Indianapolis lands 100 more life sciences jobs (Indy Star)
Suburban counties slowly building loop roads to avoid Indianapolis (IBJ) – By the way, Urbanophile readers got the story here first – back in 2007.
Allen Plaza developer bullish on downtown (IBJ)

Kansas City
Mayor-manager system makes problems for Kansas City (KC Star)

Would UAW wage concessions have been good for Louisville? (TNR)
Baxter Avenue elevated train station (Louisville Art Deco)

A void paved over with concrete (Richard L. Birch @ J-S)
City may use water to lure business (J-S)
Republic Airways to add up to 800 jobs.

Ravenstahl at crossroads in defining his legacy (Tribune-Review)
How Pittsburgh is managing population loss (Newsweek)

St. Louis
St. Louis second worst city for crime, report says

Topics: Economic Development, Transportation
Cities: Boston, Detroit, London, Louisville

4 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. Steven Vance says:

    The Oxford Street animation is an excellent production. More cities should attempt these high quality simulation videos. Other good examples come from the California Authority of High Speed Rail and Washington state Department of Transportation (WashDot). See WashDOT’s video on Active Traffic Management in their YouTube channel:

  2. Carey says:

    Too many great links in only one post. I feel like I’m drowning…

  3. Pete from Baltimore says:

    Thank you for providing these links MR Renn.The “Brain drain report” by Burgh Disporia was very interesting.

    I have often wondered if the situation in the former East Germany was similiar to our own rustbelt.It would be interesting to read more about how the German government is dealing with the de-industrialisation of that area.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    Pete: the German government levies an income tax of about 5% on all Germans with the proceeds used to subsidize East Germany.

    The actual rust belt of Germany is elsewhere, in the Ruhr. While the Ruhr is still much richer than East Germany, it’s nowhere near the industrial powerhouse it used to be, with growth occurring mainly in Frankfurt and Munich. To fight that, the German government has promoted high value-added manufacturing there based on global supply networks, outsourcing cheaper work to poorer countries and concentrating on the more skilled jobs.

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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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