Friday, January 29th, 2010
Discover what over 2,000 people already know by following me on Twitter. Every day I send info on many of the most important and interesting urban developments in America and the world, with select diversions to media, art, and current events. It’s a great way to keep up to date and expand your horizons. Don’t miss out.
1. Joel Kotkin @ WSJ: The Kids Will Be Alright.
2. Megan Cottrell: Eviction Is to Black Women What Incarceration Is to Black Men.
High Speed Rail Grants Announced
The federal government announced the winners in the $8 billion high speed rail grant program. The Infrastructurist has the details, but major winners include:
- California: $2.25B
- Florida: $1.25B
- Illinois: $1.1B
- Ohio: $400M
Here’s a map:
The Transport Politic has additional coverage.
I think this shows the challenge we’ll have moving the needle. The feds basically peanut butter spread the money. Given the modest amounts involved to start with, don’t look for game changers anytime soon.
The Surbanization of Poverty
The Brookings Institution recently released a major study on the increasing suburbanization of poverty. While poverty is often associated with the inner city, and we indeed see poverty concentrations there, the suburbs are actually home to 1.5 million more poor people than cities.
Here’s a national map of change in suburban poverty levels:
There is a huge amount of information in this study, including detailed profiles of the top 100 metro areas, so it is one to check out if you have an interest in poverty data.
Small Business Vitality
Bizjournals.com/portfolio.com took a look at small business vitality. They computed an index score for 100 largest metros. Click through for the full list, or here is how key Midwest cities scored:
- #8 – Des Moines: 27.62
- #18 – Madison: 16.12
- #38 – Kansas City: 5.14
- #39 – Minneapolis-St. Paul: 3.61
- #48 – Indianapolis: -0.77
- #52 – Columbus: -2.35
- #57 – St. Louis: -3.81
- #71 – Pittsburgh: -7.83
- #72 – Chicago: -8.83
- #76 – Louisville: -12.01
- #83 – Cincinnati: -15.30
- #94 – Cleveland: -27.42
- #96 – Milwaukee: -29.74
- #100 – Detroit: -53.96
People Prefer the Suburbs
I think any realistic strategy around cities has to start with the recognition that people predominantly live in suburban areas and in fact like living there. I realize many of you would disagree with this, but as I promised when I started the blog, I’ve got to call ’em like I see ’em regardless of whether or not it is popular. There may be subsidies to the suburbs. There may be all sorts of reasons why people choose and prefer them, but they still seem to do it.
The Columbus Dispatch carried an article called “Sprawl Has Spread Deep Into Our Minds” that addresses this matter, citing the work of Ohio State urban planning professor Hazel Morrow-Jones:
Hazel Morrow-Jones has spent much of a lifetime trying to answer a simple question: Why do we live where we live?
The question might be simple, but the answer isn’t — hence the decades of research.
Do we choose a home because it’s close to work or has a pleasing design? Because it’s in a safe neighborhood or a good school district? Near family or close to where we grew up?
The question isn’t merely academic. Finding the answer is vital to keeping our cities and older suburbs healthy, or else residents will push farther and farther away from the central city.
As a professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University, Morrow-Jones knows the possible answers are endless. She also knows that buying a home is an extremely emotional and individual decision, and that no single study will explain every choice.
Despite the daunting possibilities, some broad conclusions can be drawn from Morrow-Jones’ 30-some years of researching the topic, and they present huge challenges for urban planners.
The short version: People like new and big homes far from the central city.
Not all truths are pleasant to hear. I think we should understand and evaluate this research. If we want to really realize the potential of our urban cores, we need to understand where people are coming from, and figure out how to craft a re-imagining of the good life in an urban context that appeals to a material segment of the public. (This article is also indicative of the lure of greenfield economics, where people move to shed legacy costs. Tackling that problem would also help enormously).
World and National Roundup
City Mayors: Cities have to develop into successful brands
The Guardian: Berlin is poor but sexy, and oozes creative wealth
Neal Pearce: No End in Sight to State’s Fiscal Agony
Urban Omnibus: The Public Works
Fast Company: Why You Should Start a Company in New York.
Mass Transit Mag: Bay Area Trains, Buses Face Declines in Ridership and Revenues – “After enduring the most brutal year in the history of Bay Area public transit systems, train and bus operators are barreling down a track toward bankruptcy.”
SF Chronicle: Market St. changes as city evolves (via @OtisWhite)
The Advocate published a ranking of the top 15 gayest cities in America. Interestingly, three of the top five are in the Midwest: Iowa City (#3), Bloomington, IN (#4), Madison, WI (#5). College towns, obviously, but still, there are plenty of those all around the country.
Lastly, here’s a link to a presentation in Akron by economist Joe Cortright. Cortright is the person who did a lot of the research behind the CEO’s for Cities “talent dividend” and other items. He talks about the importance of talent and civic distinctiveness. It’s an hour long piece, so definitely not for everybody, but if you are interested in such things, it is worth checking out.
Amazing Cycling Infrastructure
Broken Sidewalk pointed me at this great idea for cycling infrastructure from Copenhagenize. The picture says it all:
Copenhagenize also posted a video about a super-cool automated bicycle parking facility developed by a Japanese company. Click the previous link if the video doesn’t display.
The Equal States
Fake is the New Real created an interesting map redrawing US state boundaries to make them equal in population.
Transit for World Class Metropolises: Can Chicago Compete? (GOTO2040)
Fewer conventions are choosing Chicago (WSJ)
Phase 1a of the Banks to rise quickly (UrbanCincy)
Detroit: Open for Business (Hour Detroit) – Interview with Mayor Bing, via @urbanbydesign
Designing a better Detroit (Time)
High Class (Hour Detroit)
Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City (PBS) – Preview of a forthcoming program
Hotels spark expansion of downtown skywalk system (IBJ) – Features Your Truly
Missouri Transportation Alliance is looking for ways to run road improvements (KC Star)
Jackson County Sues Kansas City Over TIF (KC Star)
Tarc rolls out another bus music video (Broken Sidewalk)
St. Louis demolished 8,000 buildings in the 2000’s (Dotage St. Louis) – Wow
Talk about a public transit fan. This woman had a map of the Chicago L system tattooed on her foot (via George Ritzlin Antique Maps and Prints).
Anybody want to step up and identify themselves?