Friday, May 7th, 2010

Midwest Miscellany

“Change is a fundamental part of the human condition, and what seems to be a key issue about our interaction with the urban world is to avoid the creation of conditions that serve to freeze the city and cancel out the possibility of future change. The real trouble with gentrification, just as with huge swaths of social housing, is that it prohibits further social or physical change.” – Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic, The Endless City

HR Examiner just ranked fellow blogger Jim Russell #11 in their top 25 online influencers in talent management survey. I’m a huge fan of Jim whose thinking on this topic is a must-read over at Burgh Diaspora. Congratulations, Jim!

Top Stories

1. Jonathan Glancey: ‘World Class’ just means banal – “What’s wrong with a city being ‘world class’? A great deal is wrong. Why? Because it’s yet another manifestation of ways in which cities are beginning to resemble one another all too closely…The joy of great cities lies in their differences. What’s special about Stockholm is different from what makes London or Vienna attractive. The ‘world class city’, and its gormless sibling, the ‘world class place’, is a political slogan, conjured by globally minded, air-travel addicted wonks, that has been adopted, sadly and dimly, by politicians, quangos and planners around the world.”

2. Tim Bryant @ St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Cities of the past, present, and future discussed in Cambridge. An interesting report from an urbanism conference.

3. Ed Glaeser: Cities Do It Better and Preservation Follies

4. Detroit News: Failed $2B Bloomfield Park Project a Monument to Downturn – An incredible story of a huge suburban development halted and likely to end up being simply demolished down the road.

5. Yonah Freemark: Are pedestrian malls the future or the relic of antiquated thinking?

Shanghai World Expo Pavilions

Totonko has a great photo series of pavilions at the Shanghai World Expo. Here’s a sample photo of the UK pavilion:

How to Save Silicon Valley

NBC Bay Area is starting a series called “How to Save Silicon Valley” that includes some debate about whether the Valley is in trouble, or whether it is simply in one of its period downturns that will lead to renewed period of growth down the road. This 2:30 video presents a bit of both sides. (If the video doesn’t display, click here).

Commuting Time

Business First of Buffalo published a table of commute times by metro. Buffalo was #2 and Rochester #1. Here’s a look at how my Midwest metros fared:

  • #5 – Milwaukee (22.16 minutes)
  • #7 – Kansas City (22.83)
  • #8 – Columbus (22.88)
  • #9 – Louisville (22.92)
  • #12 – Cincinnati (23.75)
  • #13 – Cleveland (23.82)
  • #15 – Indianapolis (23.93)
  • #16 – Minneapolis (24.13)
  • #24 – St. Louis (25.00)
  • #26 – Pittsburgh (25.18)
  • #35 – Detroit (26.06)
  • #50 – Chicago (31.08)

Where to Buy, Where to Rent

Richard Florida has a blog post on the rent vs. buy decision in various markets. Here’s a graphic:

World and National Roundup

The Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, Adolfo Carrión, has moved over to HUD. No word on a successor.

CEOs for Cities posted some key insights from their strategy session in New York.

Ed Glaeser: A Tale of Many Cities – An interesting look at Zipf’s Law of city sizes.

Miller-McCune: How urban planning can improve public health

BeyondDC: Who gets the power? – A look at the state-city tug of war

Mnpls Star Tribune: Will government pensions be next to go bust?

Re-Imagine Rural: Do you have mommy bloggers in your marketing plan?

Global Midwest: The Density Debate

LA Times: Tokyo’s Goal: Be the Greenest

WSJ: The new San Francisco suburbs, a plane ride away – A story about how folks from the Bay Area are moving to Portland and Seattle for lower costs and lifestyle, and semi-commuting back.

AJC: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed seeks massive rollback of city pensions

More Midwest

Get to know your CTA chairman (Red Eye) – Unbelievably, the chairman of the CTA board says he hasn’t ridden the system “in a couple of years”
Metra leaves search engine at the station (Tribune) – Metra claims they can’t install wi-fi on trains because it is too hard, despite the fact that Megabus and airlines have done it easily.
Fewer blacks in city could affect politics (NYT)
City needs $600M more per year for pensions (Greg Hinz @ Crain’s) – And that’s for the next 50 years.
Designers’ Mantra – Learn in Chicago, Then Leave (NYT)

No Mistaking It – I Love Cleveland (Dan Shaughnessy @ Boston Globe)
Merger of Continental and United Alarms Business Leaders (Plain Dealer)

A city with potential or seizing the day (Time)
bing backs off talk about downsizing Detroit (Free Press)
Fixing Detroit: A Laboratory for Saving America’s Cities (Time)
Southland (Detroit Blog)

Monument Circle: Is It Ready? (urbanOut)
Major Move Backwards (Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette) – Indiana’s Major Moves highway program is underfunded by at least $1 billion

Kansas City
Retiring director put KC’s art museum on the map (KC Star)

Report suggests tourism expansion ideas for Louisville (C-J)

Loss of Midwest brand takes chunk out of city’s identify (JS)

St. Louis
Revitalizing the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial: A Vision for Transformative Change (St. Louis Energized)
The History and Possibilities of a St. Louis City-County Reunification (UrbanStl)

Post Script

When the city of Columbus passed Cleveland to become the largest municipality in Ohio some years back, Cleveland didn’t take kindly. Here’s a promo for a TV news series on it that I found linked from the Columbus Dispatch. (If the video doesn’t display, click here).

Topics: Architecture and Design, Transportation

8 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. Pete from Baltimore says:

    MR Renn
    I dont know if this is the appropriate place to ask this. If not, then feel free to delete my comment. But i am curious about the “L” Train in Chicago.

    It seems like a good system. But it seems to be very unique in America. I dont know of many other elevated train systems in America[allthough Baltimore had one years ago].

    My question is why not? Is it too expensive to build? Is it more expensive to build than an underground subway line?

    Or is NIMBY atitudes or building permits a problem?

    There is a debate about building a new Lightrail line in Baltimore and whether it should be underground or on the surface. And i am simply curious as to the practicalities of elevated train systems.

    A “Thank You ” in advance to you or any of your commenters who can answer my question. I figured that if anyone knew the answers , it might be you ,or a commenter here.

  2. Pete from Baltimore says:

    As regards to the article about the CTA Chairman who hadnt rode public transport for a couple of years. I once met a lady who was on the board which decided how Baltimore’s MTA sytem is run.

    And after talking with her for 5 minutes i realised that she knew absolutly nothing about the bus system. She didnt even know what buses ran through her neighborhood.

    I asked her if she had ever taken public transport and she said
    “No. But ive always wanted to.”

    I should mention that this lady was in her 60s.And she had never once taken a bus in her entire life!

    Basicly she worked for a lot of local politicians [ She was on our Congressman’s staff or campain staff ] and this is how she got the job.

    It really explains a lot about Baltimore’s public transport system.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    Pete: it’s not really NIMBYism. Some of the concerns are valid; narrow streets with els on top aren’t pleasant to be nearby. There’s too much noise, and often too little sunlight reaching down. It only becomes NIMBYism on very wide roads.

    Nowadays standard first-world practice is to build urban and even some suburban rapid transit lines fully underground. Even cities where the government can do what it wants, such as Singapore, avoid building els except on top of arterials or freeways.

  4. Pete from Baltimore says:

    MR Levy
    Thank you for your reply. I defintly used a poor choice of words. When i typed “NIMBY” i basicly meant public opposition. I didnt mean it to come out in the biased way that it did.

    As i said, my reason for asking is that part of the plan for the new Red Line Lightrail in Baltimore comes up above ground on a street called Boston Street. Many people want it underground [It will be underground in almost the rest of the city ] . The City wants it on surface level. Since Boston Street is pretty much a highway, i was curious as to how cost effecient it would be to have the train elevated.[There is an underground river that is causing the City to want it on the surface]

    Thank you again for your reply MR Levy.

  5. Pete from Baltimore says:

    At the risk of making too many comments, i would like to mention that MR Renn linked to an article about Milwaukee [Loss of Midwest Brand….] near the end of this post.

    The article itself is interesting. But if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of that page you will also find a fascinating interactive map that compares State taxes. I found the interactive map to be even more interesting.

    Its at the bottom of the page ,just above the Lowes advertisment. I jsut thought that others here might also find it interesting as well.

  6. Jim Russell says:


    Thanks so much for passing along to your readers the recognition from HR Examiner. I greatly appreciate the publicity.

  7. Alon Levy says:

    Usually, surface rail in the median of a freeway doesn’t generate too much opposition. Surface rail on local streets sometimes does. For example, LA’s Green Line’s eastern terminus is a few miles short of a commuter rail and future HSR station because the freeway ends and the city wants the off-freeway portion underground.

  8. Bruce says:

    Pete: it’s not really NIMBYism. Some of the concerns are valid; narrow streets with els on top aren’t pleasant to be nearby. There’s too much noise, and often too little sunlight reaching down. It only becomes NIMBYism on very wide roads.

    Nowadays standard first-world practice is to build urban and even some suburban rapid transit lines fully underground. Even cities where the government can do what it wants, such as Singapore, avoid building els except on top of arterials or freeways.

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