Friday, February 12th, 2010

Midwest Miscellany

Denver didn’t really invest in people and higher education. Pittsburgh did, but started decades ago. Denver has managed to attract a lot of well-educated people to the region, which is how many of the boomtowns look so brainy now. In a sense, Charlotte and other Sun Belt cities were built with Pittsburgh dollars. As long as these migrants keep coming, there is no reason to raid the public coffers. When the talent spigot turns off, then the hard choices begin and recovery is a long way into the future.” – Jim Russell

Doomsday Is Here

After several recent near misses, transit doomsday arrived in Chicago this week as the CTA reduced service by 20% after failing to get union buy-in to concessions. As service cuts made their weekday debut on Monday, I was on Chicago Public Radio discussing transit. (If you don’t see the embedded player, click here.)

For additional perspectives, here is my five part series on Chicago transit referenced in the radio segment:

See also: Chicago Transit at Crossroads.

Top Story: Silicon Valley Wants a Bailout

I only have one top story in this edition. The AP reports on troubles brewing in Silicon Valley:

The 2010 Index of Silicon Valley said the region is entering a “new phase of uncertainty” where job losses, a shrinking foreign talent pool, a drop in investments and state legislative gridlock could put its standing as the center of technology at risk……”It’s a report with a lot of bad news in it. Most years, Silicon Valley has all this good news. But this year, it’s not entirely clear when the recession ends if we’re going to be able to very easily get back. That’s not a given,” said Russell Hancock, president and chief executive of Joint Venture, an alliance of business and community institutions. The report noted that the region lost 90,000 jobs from November 2008 to November 2009, and unemployment is higher than national levels.

So what’s the proposed solution?

The region started as an area invested in the defense industry, space and creation of the Internet, and the federal government heavily funded those ventures, said Emmett Carson, chief executive and president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. “When the government made those investments, there were spinoffs that happened in people’s garages. People were drawn here because this was the place that certain work was going on and people were making it happen,” Carson said. He said now the government is making massive investments in biotechnology and clean technology, and local business and government leaders need to compete for that money.

Holy rent seeking, Batman! Can you believe the chutzpah of these guys? The region with the biggest, broadest, deepest venture capital pool, huge numbers of multi-millionaire entrepreneurs, and enormous human capital. And these guys want a bailout? I’ve got a response to that, but it’s not fit for print.

Apparently the folks in Silicon Valley have decided they can get a better return on their money on K Street than in actual businesses. If that’s true, Silicon Valley really is in trouble.

World City Map

Our friends at GaWC recently released this interesting looking map:

I’m not entirely sure what it represents, but it looks cool!

World and National Roundup

The Guardian: The Population Crash – European demographic issues

LA Times: Korean activities target foreign English teachers – anti-immigrant sentiment in Korea

New York Observer: New York’s aging buildings.

NYT: In Portland, Growing Vertical.

Fast Company: How Sandridge Natural Gas Could Turn Oklahoma City Into an Urban Hot Spot.

Rob Pitingolo: Where We Live (a response to some of my writing).

Detroit Videos

Two Detroit-related videos present a sharp contrast. The first is a poignant documentary from the Netherlands talking about the bankruptcy of GM and the current state of Detroit, Flint, and Lansing. Unfortunately, this video does not seem to be embeddable, so you’ll have to click to visit. There will be a brief commercial and prologue in Dutch, but the vast bulk of the film is in English. This film is highly recommended. (h/t Urban Genetics).

This second video (if not visible, click here) is from America 2050, presenting an idealized version of what the future might look like, as a Chicagoan takes a high speed rail trip to see the White Sox in Detroit.

I think this is a particularly effective piece of advocacy work, showing how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

The gap between these two videos is quite stark. The Transport Politic probably summed it up best in a recent post “Detroit Stakes Its Hopes for Renaissance on Transit, But It Has Bigger Hurdles.” There’s still a lot of work to do to be sure.

Indianapolis Unveils Transportation Plan

Indianapolis leaders unveiled a major proposed transportation plan that includes transit upgrades. The Transport Politic also has coverage.

Here’s a video describing the plan. (If it doesn’t appear, click here).

This is by the same person who did the Kansas City video I’ve highlighted several times. This version is an improvement over that already strong piece, because it is about an actual plan, but also because it features more diversity and tones down the references to upscale business establishments.

Kansas City “Malaise”

I’ve had Kansas City on my list of good performers in the Midwest. The region beats the national averages on most of the key performance measures I track. But local leaders have some concerns, as a report from a recent leadership summit highlights:

Area residents on both sides of the state line think Kansas City, Mo., is sick — riddled with crime, bad schools and a squabbling City Hall….[Kansas Gov. Mark] Parkinson said it was sobering to hear how poorly area residents thought of Kansas City and he feared “a malaise of mediocrity.”….Because Kansas City, Mo., is the core city, its poor image reflects on the entire metro area, making it difficult to attract and keep business and people.

Regionalism appears to be on the agenda of this business group:

“A city of 450,000 can’t provide all the amenities for a region of 2 million,” Bowser said. “We have to generate revenues across the state line if we ever dream of reaching our dreams as a region. The state-line carping has gone on too long.”

Michael Burke, a lawyer who intends to run for Kansas City mayor, said the poll’s sour regional impression of the core city didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for public service.

“People have to know that they can’t escape to a bedroom community and enjoy their great schools and lifestyles but not share in the responsibility for funding the regional amenities, like the zoo, the public hospital, and all the other things that make Kansas City the metropolitan center,” Burke said.

More Midwest

It is interesting to see that a couple of Midwest papers editorialized against high speed rail recently. This includes the Columbus Dispatch and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And the Plain Dealer carries an article about Ohioans wondering whether the new rail line will be too slow.

Also in Ohio, a high techs job plan goes on the ballot.

Groundhog Day for Chicago’s Economy? (Bill Testa @ Chicago Fed) – Has the Chicago area lost its mojo?
Apply for a business license, loose your livelihood – only in Chicago (Laura Heller)
High speed rail could be transformative, but stations (and architecture) matter as much as speed (Blair Kamin @ Tribune)

We’re plugging into the smart grid (Enquirer)
Brent Spence bridge designs down to six (Enquirer) – sounds like many people aren’t thrilled with any of them.

The story of the renaissance of Playhouse Square (Plain Dealer)
Youngstown makes strides towards being technical hub (Plain Dealer)

City tallies wins, losses as it prepares new downtown plan (Dispatch)

The future of Michigan’s cities still short changed (Free Press editorial)
Detroit plans alternate use of 92 parks (Detroit News)

Indianapolis mayor reflects his city and his team (NYT)
Downtown Indianapolis: Urban Form, Suburban Experience (Urban Queer)

Kansas City
Museum to get 29 impressionist works from the Bloch collection (KC Star)

Downtown history presents urban opportunity in Milwaukee (Urban Milwaukee)

Maestro pitches Pittsburgh to foreign businesses (Bloomberg)

Twin Cities
MPR may sue over light rail (MPR) – another lawsuit against the central corridor
Decentralization dulls metro’s edge (Star Tribune editorial)

Post Script

Car meets bus shelter in Chicago.

Topics: Economic Development, Globalization, Technology, Transportation
Cities: Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City

8 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. smh says:

    I would suggest that a lot of the “malaise” in Kansas City is due to its terribly inefficient and tone deaf government. Not to understate the problem, but beyond that people in the core seem pretty happy with their community, though crime and education are always close to the front of citizen’s minds.

  2. Tim says:

    It’s the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, not Post-Gazette. That’s Pittsburgh.
    Where’d that Jim Russell quote come from?

  3. Sorry for the error – I got my Midwest papers confused there. Fixed.

    The Jim Russell quote is from here:

  4. west town ed says:

    Re: CTA cutbacks:

    You should have include a link to the ctatattler web site ( to get first hand reports.

    My reading is that while the cutbacks have affected some travel, the effect has not been that great. In Chicago at normal hours, the rapid transit has never been the problem because single 6-8 car trains are operated by a single driver/conductor. Buses are a another issue.

    I live near Milwaukee and Chicago Avenues. At rush hour, I’m lucky if I can get on an eastbound 66 bus within 15-20 minutes although 2 or 3 of them have arrived — there is no room. If I’m heading to the Loop on the 56 at the same time, there are only a handful of people aboard.

    If the CTA could solve this problem, it may not have a budget deficit.

  5. Regarding the new Indianapolis transportation plan, what do you think of the new plan? You commented on the marketing strategy but not on the effectiveness of the proposed system. I would definitely be interesting in seeing your opinion of it, as you have previously suggested many ways for improving transit service in other cities.

  6. Wad says:

    Graeme, the post Framework: Transit Ridership turned into discussion of the IndyConnect plan at the end of the comments. It’s quite a hot thread on the Transport Politic site as well.

  7. @Wad – Thanks for the heads up, I’ll go check it out!

  8. John Morris says:

    I don’t know, I thought the Detroit transit film was sad and deceptive. First it implies that the 9 billion in Obama funding will cover the cost of the rail system. It doesn’t come close.

    Then, one really doesn’t see much in the way of transit oriented development. The guy lives in what looks like pretty typical surburban type development. Car sharing is supposed to solve most of the usual parking issues. There’s little traffic.

    What it does show is the unrealistic fantasy world most people are living in. Real and much more financialy sustainable transit systems are certain to need some pretty big changes in the basic design of cities.

    Perhaps, I’m being a little harsh. I have to look again. There’s a lot of drawn in stuff that implies denser development but it’s very much skimed over– as if seeing normal streets would upset people.

    I suppose this kind of thing would be realistic with –perhaps 4-5 trillion in government funding for the midwest alone! (Or at least one or two) Perhaps car sharing is a panacea of some kind but since the average family takes something like 7 car trips a day, I’m not too sure about it.

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