Friday, February 4th, 2011


Inside that circle of things [government] should do, absolutely, is be very aggressive about constructing public – or seeing that public infrastructure is constructed and is maintained — well, because this enables the private sector to grow. If you have excellent roads, bridges, rail, and – in this world, broadband – it is more likely that men and women of enterprise will be able to suspend their good ideas, their investments, from that, or build it next to that. – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

Cap’N Transit wrote a response to my post about us needing to build more roads. You can check it out over here.

Top Stories

1. Joel Kotkin: The Midwest – Coming Back? – “With enhanced power in Washington and more common sense government at home, the Midwest could be poised to regain a competitive advantage that has been missing for several generations.”

2. Governing: The Rust Belt Has Arrived

3. Lauri Apple: Being ‘Chicago Enough’ – “Just because someone grew up in a place doesn’t mean they have a better understanding of how to go about leading it (duh). Leadership skills are transferable, and often strengthened when a person leaves a place for a while. Residing elsewhere for a time can help you to gain perspective and become exposed to new ideas that you can then take back with you to your hometown.”

4. Payton Chung: On the Cheap – Payton gives another great example of a foreign heavy rail project that is coming in at a much lower cost that we can build them in America. Something is wrong, people. What is going to really kill transit isn’t political opposition but its stunning price tags. We advocates need to be as focused on bringing the costs down as we are on getting projects approved. With a fixed amount of federal money too, every dollar that we free up can go for more projects too.

5. Richard Longworth: Pain, Yes. Bankruptcy, No

Scary Chart of the Week

Ryan Avent posted this scary graphic at the Economist Free Exchange blog:

Not Good.

World and National Roundup

Forbes: Danger: America is losing its edge in innovation

Grist: An interview with Ed Glaeser

The Economist: Tribes still matter

WSJ: Even in death, budget cuts take a toll – Apparently some places now can’t even afford to pay for pauper burials.

NYT: Mayors see no end to hard choices

NYT: Unusual wave of violence strikes police officers

TNR: The case against economic disaster porn – It’s about Detroit, of course.

The Economist: No Dawn for Detroit

Diana Lind: The bright side of blight

National Post: City of mass construction: Toronto’s unstoppable condos show no signs of slowing down

National Geographic: Paris Underground

This Big City: Why London will struggle to become a cycling city

Architect’s Newspaper: Bloomberg makes space in New York

NYT: Can a city this self-serious take a joke? – A discussion of the new IFC series “Portlandia.” You might remember that I posted a promo for it a while back.

Rust Wire: The Problem With Boosterism

Jason Tinkey: Indiana wants me, but I can’t go back there

Mental Floss: 10 Quick Facts About Pittsburgh

Kansas City Blizzard

There are already cool videos of the Blizzard of 2011. Here’s one out of Kansas City that shows the snow in its most beautiful light. (If the video doesn’t display, click here).

Chicago and the Blizzard: We Were Warned

Ok, the Lake Shore Drive snow-over was a fiasco. But on the whole, Chicago, despite suffering the third highest snowfall in history, took the blizzard in stride. One day off during the event itself, and a day later we’re getting back to normal. Yup, snow will be piled high for longer than I’d like. But after seeing main streets nearly clear only a few hours after the snow stopped and many sidewalks quickly shoveled, I’m proud of my city. But about the Lake Shore Drive disaster show….

Views of Detroit

Here’s a Detroit video that of all places I found on Copenhagenize. (If the video doesn’t display, click here).

They also posted this photo of the intersection of Woodward and Monroe Avenues in 1917:

The Dreaded Stairs

My friend Ashvin Lad sent me this cool You Tube video of another VW sponsored installation that encourages people to take the stairs by making it fun. In this case by making the stairs keys of a piano that really plays. I think I’ve posted some of these before and they’re pretty cool. (If the video doesn’t display click here).

Post Script

A bus shelter bites the dust in Chicago.


8 Responses to “Urbanoscope”

  1. Chris Barnett says:

    Actually, that Avent graph is the opposite of “not good”, and addresses the Forbes claim that the US is losing its edge in innovation. How?

    Clearly, if GDP is up but employment is not, productivity is up. Isn’t that good?

    Isn’t rising productivity the reflection of innovation (doing more with less inputs)? Sooner or later, increased GDP and corporate profit will lead to employment increases; the Avent graph is catching the inflection point for unemployment (which dropped to 9% last month).

  2. F says:

    Chris Barnett: I perfectly agree, although it means that as a nation we need to be doing things to spread the results of this productivity to all parts of the population: lowering the retirement age, reducing working hours, and/or increasing welfare benefits and raising taxes on the rich and yes, also the upper-middle class. These things are politically unpopular, partly because they’ve never really been done right in the States.

  3. EngineerScotty says:

    As a native Orygunian, I find “Portlandia” to be hilarious. Of course, I’m a nearly-middle-aged, not-so-creative (as opposed to a “young creative”), but I think the effect that the new blood has had on my hometown is nothing but positive.

    Being considered a cultural mecca for some prominent (sub)culture is often a good thing, as it gives people a reason to move in and stay. (Not always–if the subculture in question is motorcycle gangs, for instance, it might not be so swell). This is especially important to Oregon, with its longstanding “come visit but don’t stay” culture. Many natives have provincial attitudes and don’t much like the new arrivals (or anything countercultural), but I for one welcome our new hipster overlords.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    re: the Glaeser interview: I highly recommend Ernest Gellner’s Nations and Nationalism. The book argues (among many other things) that modern nationalism is a 19th century urban romantic movement idealizing rural life, while at the same time imposing various urban and industrial norms of cultural homogeneity; this explains Teddy Roosevelt perfectly. It’s obviously not a work of urban studies, but it explains the modern suburbs quite well.

  5. Chris, increasing GDP per jobs doe not have to result from innovation. It can result from apply innovations that previously existed. It can also result from making existing employees work more hours. So increasing GDP per job doesn’t necessarily mean more innovation in the short term.

  6. Danny says:

    It seems like I’m only the second person to take issue with your call for more roads. That said, I also take issue with Cap’n Transit’s criticism of your call.

    Taking liberties with the summary of his response, he is basically saying that your arguments are weak because they make too many assumptions (trends will continue, roads must grow with population, etc).

    I generally see your side of the argument much better than his side, but in this case I don’t think your arguments were merely weak…I think they were wrong.

    One simple reason belies it all: capacity. There is a reason why New York City is still a functioning economic powerhouse despite the fact that the population density is quadruple that of gridlocked hellholes like the SF Bay Area. They have the capacity to move those people.

    When we talk about functional capacity, a lane of grade separated BRT can move about 15000 people per hour. A lane of Light rail can easily move 20,000 people per hour, and in at least one case, up to 40,000. Heavy rail, fully grade separated can move 60-80k per hour.

    A lane of road can move about 2200 people per hour. Okay…if you get everybody to carpool, maybe 4000 per hour max.

    Think about this analogy: If you want to lose weight and could only focus your efforts in one area, do you switch your daily coke with a diet coke, or do you stop snacking on deep fried snickers bars? You should always go for the big wins first…the investments that you know will pay off.

    We would do better by building more scooter paths than we would more roads. If there is any one thing we need more of to confront the growing transport infrastructure needs of a fast growing population, it is transit.

  7. Andy says:

    I actually found the analysis in the Governing article pretty shallow. Am I missing something?

  8. Chris Barnett says:

    Aaron, as you point out in your most recent post, innovation is worthless unless and until it is implemented. And as you are no doubt aware, new technology deployment in large organizations can be painfully slow. Money invested in technology on the upside of a business cycle often doesn’t reap obvious rewards until a downturn.

    I’ll agree that corporations often take advantage of downturns to pare away less-productive people that they were more willing to tolerate when things were good, so that does account for some productivity improvement.

    But in a gross sense, improvement in productivity (more output per worker-hour) is an econmomic “good”, not a “bad”.

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