Search

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Don’t Design Streets For Death by Chuck Banas

[ Chuck Banas doesn't write that many blog posts, but when he does, they are money. Here's one he filed from Madison, Wisconsin during a CNU conference in 2011 - Aaron. ]

Let’s start with a specific issue: street design. The Congress doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, so I’ve used today to get to know a bit of downtown Madison and critique the design of the streets and public spaces. This didn’t stop me from trolling the online pages of The Buffalo News; during a break this afternoon I spied an article today about sidewalks and pedestrian safety. Author Bruce Andriatch merely scratches the surface of this important issue, falling short of addressing it properly.

But who’s to blame him? A design subtlety that is lost on most non-planners, including Buffalo News columnists, is that sidewalks are a necessary element for safe street design, but insufficient in themselves. If pedestrians are being endangered, the design speed of the road is usually the culprit. Many if not most roads in this country are intentionally designed for much higher speeds than the posted limit. A 30 mph speed-limit sign on a road designed for 50 or 60 mph is a futile—and sometimes fatal—exercise in wishful thinking.

Pedestrian Injury Frequency and Severity Based on Vehicle Speed (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, image from the Bicycle Alliance of Washington)

Here are the sobering facts: at 30 mph, vehicle-pedestrian accidents are fatal in about 5% of cases; at 40 mph, fatalities are 90%. This is not to mention injuries, which can be devastating in their own right: incapacitating injuries are significantly less likely and less severe at slower speeds.

Therefore, the actual, effective solution involves “traffic-calming” the roadway so that drivers naturally move at slower, safer speeds. There are many methods to accomplish this, used in various combinations according to the specific situation. These include: fewer and/or narrower lanes, planting orderly rows of roadside trees, allowing curbside parking, using brick or other types of pavers for the road surface, curb bulb-outs, employing roundabouts instead of signalized intersections, smaller corner radii, etc.

State Street in Madison, WI employs virtually all of the basic traffic-calming devices, including a narrow roadway, wide sidewalks, and orderly rows of curbside trees. This results in a street that easily accommodates all modes of transportation while being a pedestrian destination—it’s simply a pleasant place to be.

Done properly, traffic throughput is still maintained, with less stop-and-go frustration for drivers, and much greater safety and civility for all users of the roadway, including pedestrians and bicyclists. For the vast majority of surface roads, there is simply no reason to design for a speed limit over 30 mph. Doing so seems careless and downright irresponsible, but this is the unfortunate norm for most highway departments.

This isn’t to say that traffic engineers are malicious—they’re just following a prescribed set of rules. The engineering standards that govern most roadway design were written in the mid-20th century, in the midst of a obsession with the automobile and the high-speed expressway. Higher design speeds were considered safer for cars and drivers. This myopic goal ignored any other users, as well as the physical context of the road itself. That the road might be part of a town or city neighborhood hardly entered into the equation. Under these standards, still in effect today, roads are too-often treated identically to expressways, designed only for the high-speed convenience and safety of cars. What happens beyond the curb or shoulder doesn’t matter.

Buffalo’s Elmwood Avenue, the urbanistic equivalent of Madison’s State Street, employs many of the same traffic-calming methods, but sidewalks are often too narrow, driving lanes too wide, and street trees are often missing or poorly maintained.

The good news is that the rules are changing. The old standards, embodied mainly by the AASHTO highway design manuals, have been superseded by new tools and standards, most recently (and importantly) the ITE design manual Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach, adopted in 2010. Traffic engineers and citizens alike now have a sophisticated set of official standards with which to design roads that serve all users and all contexts.

Incidentally, on May 24, Transportation for America released a comprehensive report on pedestrian deaths. Dangerous by Design studies 47,000 pedestrian fatalities in the US from 2000-2009, mapping them on an interactive web page. Enter any location, and find out details on fatalities, thoroughfare type, etc. Check out pedestrian fatalities in your neighborhood; you may learn something about street design and safety in the place you live.

This post originally appeared in Joe the Planner on May 31, 2011.

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Beautiful Buffalo

This week’s video is a short film promoting Buffalo. Called “Buffalo: America’s Best Designed City” after a quote from Frederick Law Olmsted, it features simply gorgeous visuals of the city. If the video doesn’t display for you, click here.

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Replay: Are You a Consumer or a Producer?

Cities like New York offer a nearly unlimited range of pastimes, diversions, and consumption activities. If you want to have a good meal, see a top notch arts performance, shop, etc., this is the place for you. You can get more quantity of quality in the world’s biggest cities than you can anywhere else.

The question I often ask though, is whether most of the people living there and partaking of what the city has to offer in fact are part of helping to create those things apart from spending money on them. While anyone with a job or who does anything is a producer nominally, how many people in these cities are actually part of making the creative energy that flows there a reality? I’d suggest not many. The vast bulk of the people there, residents and tourists, are consumers, not producers. They work in average jobs and recycle their wages into the creative sector via consumption, an important economic activity to be sure, but they don’t directly produce anything there.

I thought of this while reading an article in New York Magazine this month titled, “What Could Make Someone Want to Leave New York and Move to Buffalo?” The author spends time in Buffalo talking to New Yorkers who’ve left or are thinking of leaving, checking out the scene and trying to figure out what caused them to make the switch.

The answer is partially the unsurprising one that it is cheap there and the quality of life can be high compared to the stress of New York. As the author notes, “Buffalo has qualities that tend to attract creative people: cheap rents, derelict industrial buildings, the romantic aura of a faded empire.” It’s biggest problem there is that it is competing against a number of other Rust Belt cities with more or less the same value proposition.

But the surprising second answer for many of them is that moving to Buffalo gives them a better opportunity to participate in society as a producer, not just a consumer, than they would ever get in New York. While testing yourself against the good and the lucky to try to make it to the top in the most competitive city in the world has its appeal – indeed, it’s what brought many of them to New York in the first place – it sometimes comes up wanting versus Buffalo where you can actually do and accomplish things.

Quoting:

“Some people will read this as a story of defeat. They will look at Herbeck and Cloyd [relocators] and think, They came; they couldn’t cut it; good riddance. That’s also a familiar New York narrative, one that’s especially comforting to those of us who stay and stick it out. Because, sure, stained glass and spare bedrooms are nice and all, but no one moves to New York because they think they’re going to get a great bargain on an apartment. You move here because you want to live in New York City.

“But I am here to tell you that this is not a story of defeat. Rather, it’s a story about choices. It’s a story about reaching that pivotal moment when the dream life you imagined for yourself in New York no longer seems attainable or attractive, or simply no longer seems worth the wearying chase. It’s a story, admittedly, about the kinds of people who have the luxury to move away, just as they once had the luxury to choose to move here; that is, people not pulled to one city or another by family obligation or job transferral, but rather by some grander idea of who they are and where they might best fit.”

Buffalo is not just the land of cheap rents, it is the land of opportunity. The place where you can actually play with the raw materials of the urban fabric and shape them to your own vision. A place where the productive avenues have not been foreclosed behind the walls of fortresses of money or connections.

“We tend to think that one of the consequences of leaving New York is giving up all sorts of opportunities. And yet, one quality common to everyone I meet in Buffalo is that, like Nussbaumer, they see opportunity everywhere. Where you see a boarded-up building, they see a future arts co-op. They use the phrases blank canvas or blank slate a lot.”

The article gives several examples of people who’ve taken the raw material of Buffalo and made something of it, including Newell Nussbaumer.

“You can bike around Buffalo and point to a lot of things and say, ‘Newell Nussbaumer did that.’ That week he’d been to City Hall with a group of cycling advocates and had persuaded the city to convert some of its old parking meters to bike stands, which is part of his grand scheme to make Buffalo the most bike-friendly city in North America. (Current title holder: Portland, Oregon.) Later, at the offices of Buffalo Rising, Nussbaumer explains how most of his staff are unpaid interns, who work for free not because they’re hoping to scrabble their way up some media ladder (in Buffalo, that ladder has no rungs) but because, as he says, ‘they know they’re helping to create this city where they want to live.’ I think of the many valiant unpaid interns I’ve known in New York, and while most of them were working hard to create their own lives, not one of them (or at least not the sane ones) imagined they were helping to create New York City.”

A city so far fallen that it has become nothing less than the new American frontier, the place where you can reinvent yourself and reinvent the city.

“When we think about leaving New York, we usually think about what we would lose, and rarely about what we might gain. To that end, prospective destinations are measured by how similar they are to here. Philadelphia is New York, but cheaper. San Francisco is New York, but gentler. It’s the “squint” factor: Well, if I squint, it’s like New York, sort of, and I guess I can live with that. When I went to Buffalo, I expected that to be the sales pitch: It’s a mini big city with parks by Olmsted, a few very nice neighborhoods and a really good museum. It’s pseudo–New York! This, after all, is how struggling cities sell themselves, especially in the post–Creative Class world, as though they’re designer-knockoff versions of more attractive destinations. We’ve got many of the things you love, at a fraction of the price!

“But that’s not what I found in Buffalo. I found it appealing for a different reason: not for how similar it is to New York (which is not very), but for how different. New York will always offer you the singular opportunity of testing yourself against the best, of sharpening yourself against the city’s fabled grindstone. Hopeful people will always scrape together their savings to come here, to split a one-bedroom apartment with five other people, whether that’s in Greenwich Village (then) or Bushwick (now). But New York, for all its mythology, is no longer a frontier. Buffalo is a frontier. And when you think of the actual frontier, you’ll recall that no one ever packed up and moved West to a gold-rush town because they heard it had really good local theater. They moved looking for opportunities. They moved for the chance to build a new life for themselves.

“This, ironically, has always been the siren song of New York City: the chance to turn yourself into someone new, to live the life you’ve always imagined. But what a city like Buffalo offers is a very different promise of what could be. It offers the chance to live on the cheap and start a nonprofit organization, or rent an abandoned church for $1,000 a month, or finish your album without having to hold down two temp jobs at the same time, or simply have more space and a better view and enough money left over each month to buy yourself a painting once in awhile. A city like Buffalo reminds you that, beyond New York, there are still frontiers.”

A very worthwhile article and one that every Midwestern city should consider as it tries to figure out the value proposition it is offering. I’ve often said, trying to emulate America’s biggest cities is a fool’s errand for smaller places like Buffalo. What they need to do instead is to find their own unique niche and vision of what they can be. Ultimately Buffalo would never be a very good substitute New York City. But it can figure out how to be a great Buffalo.

This post originally appeared on September 12, 2008.

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

City Love Videos

I came across a few videos lately that are promotional to a city in some way, most of them as byproducts of an only tangentially related marketing effort.

Chicago

The first is a promotional video for NBC5 in Chicago that shows a slice of the neighborhoods, people, and history of Chicago. Very nice. This won’t display on Google Reader, so click here to watch if you don’t see it.

Buffalo

Thanks to Rust Wire for pointing me to a similar TV station promo out of Buffalo that uses an “Imported from Detroit” style to talk about the grit of the city in the face of adversity. It apparently ran during this year’s Super Bowl. Again, a nicely done piece. (If the video doesn’t display for you, click here).

Indianapolis Rebirth

Here’s one that’s more explicitly designed to pitch a city. It’s a video of various people talking about the rebirth of Indianapolis. I particularly liked Donna Sink’s comments about Indy being the best Indianapolis it can be and not trying to ape Chicago, New York, or other places. The video is well executed. It does have a number of scenes of only in Indianapolis type things such as the Indy Cultural Trail and the People for Urban Progress stadium seat bus stop repurposing. However, these probably won’t come through to outsiders and, as a result, the video I think comes off a bit like one I put up earlier from Lincoln, Nebraska. That is, a lot of what’s said and shown will look very similar to what a lot of other cities could produce about themselves (growing urbanism scene, blank canvas, art galleries, rock bands, tattoos, etc). The Indy secret sauce doesn’t really come through strongly to me. Ironically, the person who made it is about to decamp for San Francisco. (If the video doesn’t display, click here).

Indianapolis Fashion Magazine

The next one is actually a Kickstarter video for an Indianapolis fashion magazine (yes, a print magazine) called Pattern put out by a local fashion group of the same name. It also serves nicely as a promo type video about the city. This one won’t display for you in Google Reader either, so click here to watch.

I think Pattern Paper magazine is a pretty impressive effort, especially for a city the size of Indianapolis. About the same time I picked up the first issue of Pattern, I also read the first issue of the much ballyhooed Chicagoan magazine relaunch, which explicitly said it was trying to be a “top shelf” publication – but any honest assessment would conclude it fell short of that in its debut issue. Contrasting the first issue of an Indy grass roots effort put out by magazine neophytes vs. the first issue of Chicago’s best put out by old magazine pros, I think Indy should feel pretty good about its initial performance. They’ve already raised the funding for the second issue, but you can still in effect buy a copy by becoming a Kickstarter backer for the project. I recommend checking it out. Other smaller cities may be interested in replicating the Pattern collective model if they don’t already have something similar going.

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Replay: Buffalo, You Are Not Alone

It hurts. When a bigtime Harvard economist writes off your city as a loss, and says America should turn its back on you, it hurts. But Ed Glaeser’s dart tossing is but the smallest taste of what it’s like to live in place like Buffalo. To choose to live in the Rust Belt is to commit to enduring a continuous stream of bad press and mockery.

I write mostly about the Midwest, but whether we think Midwest or Rust Belt or something else altogether, the story is the same. From Detroit to Cleveland, Buffalo to Birmingham, there are cities across this country that are struggling for a host of historic and contemporary reasons. We’ve moved from the industrial to the global age, and many cities truly have lost their original economic raison d’etre. Reviving them requires the hard work of rebuilding and repositioning them for a new era, a daunting task to be sure.

But beyond their legitimate challenges, these cities also face the double burden that they are unloved by much of America, and all too often by their own residents. They are forlorn and largely forgotten, except as cautionary tales or as the butt of jokes.

These cities aren’t sexy. They aren’t hip. They don’t have the cachet of a Portland or Seattle. The creative class isn’t flocking. They are behind in the new economy, in the green economy. Look at any survey of the “best” cities and find the usual suspects of New York, Austin, San Francisco. Look at yet another Forbes “ten worst” list and see Cleveland and Toledo kicked again when they are down. They are portrayed as hopeless basket cases with no hope and no future.

But I reject that notion. I do not believe in the idea that these cities are beyond repair and unworthy of attention—or affection.

Someone asked me once why I bother. Why does it matter that these cities come back? Why not just let nature take its course? Why not let Buffalo die, and its people scatter to the winds?

It’s because it doesn’t just matter to a few proud people in Buffalo, it matters to America. The idea of disposable cities is one that is incompatible with a prosperous and sustainable future for our country. Fleeing Rust Belt cities for neo-Southern boomtowns is nothing more than sprawl writ large. Rather than just abandoning our cores, we’ll now abandon entire regions in the quest for new greenfields to despoil. We can’t have a truly prosperous and sustainable America with only a dozen or so superstar cities that renew themselves from age to age while others bloom like a flower for a season, then wither away. An America littered with an ever increasing number of carcasses of once great cities is not one most of us want to contemplate.

But beyond that, it’s because I believe we can make it happen. Look closely and the change is already in the air. Globalization taketh away—but it also giveth. Cities like Buffalo or St. Louis now have access to things that even people in Chicago didn’t not that long ago. Amazon, iTunes, and a host of specialty online retailers put the best of the world within reach. Where once you couldn’t get a good cup of coffee, there are now micro-roasters aplenty. Where once your choices were Bud, Miller, or Coors, an array of specialty brews are on tap, often brewed locally. Restaurants are better, with food grown locally and responsibly. Slowly but surely the ship is turning on sustainability, with nascent bike cultures in almost every city, LEED certified buildings, recycling programs, and more. House by house, rehab by rehab, neighborhoods in these cities are starting to come to life.

Where once moving to one of these cities would have been likened to getting exiled to Siberia, it’s now shocking how little you actually give up. And for every high-end boutique or black tie gala you miss, you get something back in low-cost and easy living. The talent pool may be shallower, but it’s a lot more connected.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still a long and hard journey ahead. And not every place is going to make it, particularly among cities without the minimum scale. We have to face that reality. But more of them will revive than people think.

That’s because a new generation of urbanists believes in these cities again. These people aren’t bitter, burdened by the memories of yesteryear and all the goodness that was lost. The city to them isn’t the place with the downtown department store their mother used to take them to in white gloves for tea. It isn’t the place full of good manufacturing jobs with lifetime middle class employment for those without college degrees. The city isn’t a faded nostalgia or a longing for an imagined past. Most of them are young and never knew that world.

No, this new generation of urbanists sees these cities with fresh eyes. They see the decay, yes, but also the opportunity—and the possibilities for the present and future. To them this is Rust Belt Chic. It’s the place artists can dream of owning a house. Where they can live in a place with a bit of an authentic edge and real character. Where people can indulge their passion for renovating old architecture without a seven-figure budget. Where they have a chance to make a difference—to be a producer, not just a consumer of urban life, and a new urban future. Above all, these people, natives or newcomers, have a deep and abiding passion and love for the place they’ve chosen—yes, chosen—to live.

Still, it can get lonely, and often depressing. It so often seems like one step forward, two steps back. Making change happen can seem like pushing a rock uphill, like you are up there on some far frontier of the country alone, fighting a quixotic battle. Every historic building demolished, every quality infill project sabotaged by NIMBY’s, every massively subsidized business-as-usual boondoggle, every DOT-scarred transport project is a discouragement.

But Buffalo, you are not alone. It’s not just you, it’s cities and people across across this country, from St. Louis to Pittsburgh to Milwaukee to Cincinnati to New Orleans to Birmingham, fighting to build a better future. There’s a new movement in all these cities, made up of passionate urbanists committed to a different and better path. Sometimes they are few in number, but they are mighty in spirit— and they are making a difference. Together, they and you can win the battle and make the change happen.

It won’t be easy. The road will be long. Some, like the great cathedral builders of Europe, may never see completely the fruit of their labors. But the long-ago pioneers who founded these great cities never got to see them in their first glory either. We’ve come full circle. We are present again at the re-founding of our cities. This is the task, the duty, the calling that a new generation has chosen as its own, to write the history of their city anew.

Go make history again, Buffalo.

This article originally appeared in Buffalo Rising on June 14, 2010.

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Urbanoscope

Once you accept the facts of instability, every dilapidated building becomes an opera set, every anarchic service becomes a business idea, every un-enforced law is an opportunity. – Bahi Ghubril, speaking of Beirut in Monocle magazine

Check out my Thanksgiving open thread to see what people are thankful for about their city.

Another awesome program by CEOs for Cities is the Give a Minute campaign, in which they are asking people what would encourage them to bike, walk, or take the CTA more often. Please click on over the web site and make your contribution.

And also if you’re in Chicago, you might want to check out Metropulse Chicago, a new community indicators site put out by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

For anyone interested in the story behind Cincinnati’s abandoned subway tunnels, Jake Meckelnborg wrote a book about it you can check out.

Indianapolis Parking Meters – Final Installment

I wanted to close the loop on the Indianapolis parking meter lease. Unlike in Pittsburgh, where a wise city council rejected a long term lease, Indianapolis unsurprisingly passed it, which is truly disappointing.

I focused on the bad public policy angle of this, others covered conflicts of interest or political angles or whatever matters to them. But all this debate over the transaction of the moment I think obscures the larger trend. Once, Indianapolis was a place where visionary and determined leadership across the community and across parties transformed an overgrown small town and backwater state capital known as “India-No-Place” into arguably the best performing large Midwest city and one of the few holding its own or even leading the rest of America. Today, as this contract helps illustrate, Indianapolis is more and more just another city. That’s disappointing. I certainly hope for the best, but it will be interesting to watch Indy’s performance going forward in this new civic era for the city.

Richard Florida on CNN International

Richard Florida talked about his book the Great Reset on CNN international last week. (If the video doesn’t display for you, click here). Unfortunately, there will be a pre-roll ad on this video.

World and National Roundup

Esquire: Janette Sadik-Khan named one of 2010′s ‘Best and Brightest’

The National Endowment for the Arts published an interesting report on Creative Placemaking

William Fulton: City and State Smokestack Chasing Blows Mostly Smoke

Neal Peirce: A ‘Golden Moment’ for Cities?

Joel Kotkin: The Rise of the Efficient City

NYT: “Smart” Electric Meters Draw Complaints of Inaccuracy

New Geography: The Other Chambers of Commerce

Richard Longworth: A Region on the Mississippi

Daily Yonder: Many outmigration counties are prosperous

NYT: Walgreens tackles food deserts

Owen Hatherley: Shanghai International Exposition

Steve LaFleur: Toronto Election Shows the Failure of Amalgamation

WSJ: New York Poised to Grab New Jersey’s Tunnel Money

NYT: New York Studies Subway Tunnel to New Jersey – Extending the 7 line to Secaucus.

Richard Layman: Corruption: DC vs. Maryland Jurisdictions

NYT: Los Angeles Mass Transit Is Expanding

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Area stunts growth by feeding on itself

Indianapolis Business Journal: West Side revitalization plan aims to capitalize on diverse retailers

Chicago Tribune: Deals bring Chicago’s public pension funds to the brink of insolvency and Risky investments not paying off for Chicago pension funds.

Chicago Sun-Times: Houses more valuable near Metra stations

Vote With Your Feet: Stalled on the Bloomingdale Trail

The Guardian: Top Players Fall Silent as Detroit Symphony Orchestra fights for survival – Even Detroit’s symphony issues are able to muster tier one international press coverage.

NYT: Hello, Columbus – How Columbus, Ohio became a gay mecca.

Winter Cycling in Copenhagen

Apparently most cyclists in Copenhagen keep right on doing it even in the heart of winter. Copenhagenize put up this great one minute video to prove it. (If the video doesn’t display, click here). It’s something to keep in mind as he head into the winter season here in the US and the rest of the northern hemisphere. Copenhagenize the planet!

Buffalo, This Place Matters

I normally don’t link to promotional videos, but this piece from from Buffalo’s CVB called “Buffalo, This Place Matters” is very well done. (If the video doesn’t display for you, click here).

New York Bicycling

EcoMobility.tv in Montreal created the four minute video below about cycling in New York that’s definitely work a watch. (If the video doesn’t display for you, click here).

Reinventing Pittsburgh

A web site called “Changing Gears,” a collaboration of public radio stations in Chicago, Michigan, and Ohio, did a five part series profiling Pittsburgh’s turnaround and the lessons it might offer to others. The site has audio available of course, but also the transcripts of the pieces are there for your reading pleasure:

Post-Script

Matt Heidelberger profiles the 12 most dingy New York subway stations in his wonderful post “The Dirty Dozen.” Like the loss of the Bilerico Project duo to DC, the loss of Matt Heildelberger to NYC is a cruel blow to Indy’s blogosphere.

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Buffalo, You Are Not Alone

It hurts. When a bigtime Harvard economist writes off your city as a loss, and says America should turn its back on you, it hurts. But Ed Glaeser’s dart tossing is but the smallest taste of what it’s like to live in place like Buffalo. To choose to live in the Rust Belt is to commit to enduring a continuous stream of bad press and mockery.

I write mostly about the Midwest, but whether we think Midwest or Rust Belt or something else altogether, the story is the same. From Detroit to Cleveland, Buffalo to Birmingham, there are cities across this country that are struggling for a host of historic and contemporary reasons. We’ve moved from the industrial to the global age, and many cities truly have lost their original economic raison d’etre. Reviving them requires the hard work of rebuilding and repositioning them for a new era, a daunting task to be sure.

But beyond their legitimate challenges, these cities also face the double burden that they are unloved by much of America, and all too often by their own residents. They are forlorn and largely forgotten, except as cautionary tales or as the butt of jokes.

These cities aren’t sexy. They aren’t hip. They don’t have the cachet of a Portland or Seattle. The creative class isn’t flocking. They are behind in the new economy, in the green economy. Look at any survey of the “best” cities and find the usual suspects of New York, Austin, San Francisco. Look at yet another Forbes “ten worst” list and see Cleveland and Toledo kicked again when they are down. They are portrayed as hopeless basket cases with no hope and no future.

But I reject that notion. I do not believe in the idea that these cities are beyond repair and unworthy of attention—or affection.

Someone asked me once why I bother. Why does it matter that these cities come back? Why not just let nature take its course? Why not let Buffalo die, and its people scatter to the winds?

It’s because it doesn’t just matter to a few proud people in Buffalo, it matters to America. The idea of disposable cities is one that is incompatible with a prosperous and sustainable future for our country. Fleeing Rust Belt cities for neo-Southern boomtowns is nothing more than sprawl writ large. Rather than just abandoning our cores, we’ll now abandon entire regions in the quest for new greenfields to despoil. We can’t have a truly prosperous and sustainable America with only a dozen or so superstar cities that renew themselves from age to age while others bloom like a flower for a season, then wither away. An America littered with an ever increasing number of carcasses of once great cities is not one most of us want to contemplate.

But beyond that, it’s because I believe we can make it happen. Look closely and the change is already in the air. Globalization taketh away—but it also giveth. Cities like Buffalo or St. Louis now have access to things that even people in Chicago didn’t not that long ago. Amazon, iTunes, and a host of specialty online retailers put the best of the world within reach. Where once you couldn’t get a good cup of coffee, there are now micro-roasters aplenty. Where once your choices were Bud, Miller, or Coors, an array of specialty brews are on tap, often brewed locally. Restaurants are better, with food grown locally and responsibly. Slowly but surely the ship is turning on sustainability, with nascent bike cultures in almost every city, LEED certified buildings, recycling programs, and more. House by house, rehab by rehab, neighborhoods in these cities are starting to come to life.

Where once moving to one of these cities would have been likened to getting exiled to Siberia, it’s now shocking how little you actually give up. And for every high-end boutique or black tie gala you miss, you get something back in low-cost and easy living. The talent pool may be shallower, but it’s a lot more connected.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still a long and hard journey ahead. And not every place is going to make it, particularly among cities without the minimum scale. We have to face that reality. But more of them will revive than people think.

That’s because a new generation of urbanists believes in these cities again. These people aren’t bitter, burdened by the memories of yesteryear and all the goodness that was lost. The city to them isn’t the place with the downtown department store their mother used to take them to in white gloves for tea. It isn’t the place full of good manufacturing jobs with lifetime middle class employment for those without college degrees. The city isn’t a faded nostalgia or a longing for an imagined past. Most of them are young and never knew that world.

No, this new generation of urbanists sees these cities with fresh eyes. They see the decay, yes, but also the opportunity—and the possibilities for the present and future. To them this is Rust Belt Chic. It’s the place artists can dream of owning a house. Where they can live in a place with a bit of an authentic edge and real character. Where people can indulge their passion for renovating old architecture without a seven-figure budget. Where they have a chance to make a difference—to be a producer, not just a consumer of urban life, and a new urban future. Above all, these people, natives or newcomers, have a deep and abiding passion and love for the place they’ve chosen—yes, chosen—to live.

Still, it can get lonely, and often depressing. It so often seems like one step forward, two steps back. Making change happen can seem like pushing a rock uphill, like you are up there on some far frontier of the country alone, fighting a quixotic battle. Every historic building demolished, every quality infill project sabotaged by NIMBY’s, every massively subsidized business-as-usual boondoggle, every DOT-scarred transport project is a discouragement.

But Buffalo, you are not alone. It’s not just you, it’s cities and people across across this country, from St. Louis to Pittsburgh to Milwaukee to Cincinnati to New Orleans to Birmingham, fighting to build a better future. There’s a new movement in all these cities, made up of passionate urbanists committed to a different and better path. Sometimes they are few in number, but they are mighty in spirit— and they are making a difference. Together, they and you can win the battle and make the change happen.

It won’t be easy. The road will be long. Some, like the great cathedral builders of Europe, may never see completely the fruit of their labors. But the long-ago pioneers who founded these great cities never got to see them in their first glory either. We’ve come full circle. We are present again at the re-founding of our cities. This is the task, the duty, the calling that a new generation has chosen as its own, to write the history of their city anew.

Go make history again, Buffalo.

This article originally appeared at Buffalo Rising.

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Chuck Banas: Putting Parking In Its Proper Place

A recent article in The Buffalo News, citing a study of downtown parking, offers some interesting blog fodder. The Desman Associates study asserts that the parking situation in Buffalo is a mess, and requires better management.

The report recommends hiring a “parking czar” at $140,000 salary to consolidate parking management. As I recall, Desman previously produced studies in 2001 and 2006 which basically said the same thing, minus the “parking czar” baloney. The Buffalo News’ take on the Desman study does get it generally right, however: “The dominant theme in the report is that too many entities are involved in city parking, creating ‘shortsighted’ and disjointed management.”

This much is true. But one quote in particular stands out: “‘Downtown can’t begin to compete with suburban office parks without convenient and affordable parking,’ said Schmand, whose nonprofit agency represents the interests of downtown stakeholders and residents.”

To the uninitiated, this may sound reasonable, except for one thing. Downtown can never compete with suburban office parks on the basis of convenient and affordable parking. To compete successfully on that basis would mean the destruction of all of downtown’s remaining (and emerging) value. 

By definition, downtown can never out-compete the suburbs on suburban, automobile-based terms. By necessity, parking takes up a tremendous amount of land, creating lots of dead, open space, which the suburbs have plenty of. In fact, that’s the suburbs’ main asset: lots of open space. A city’s main amenity is not open land, but density, walkability, a diverse mix of uses, and the quality of the streets and other public spaces. These are the areas in which the suburbs cannot out-compete downtown. These are things cities like Buffalo need to focus on to be successful.

So, if it is evident that an urban environment can never offer as good a “suburban product” as the suburbs can, then why do we continue to play that game? Clearly, the prevailing value system is upside-down. The city’s current strategy is irreconcilable with what downtown currently is, and what the community wants it to become. We’ve got to find a way to break out of this vicious cycle and change this self-defeating paradigm. This requires leadership.

If anything, this simply demonstrates how shortsighted and incoherent our public discussion has become on such issues. If city leaders think that parking is the main asset—and don’t recognize the many natural urban advantages downtown has over the suburbs—then the whole exercise is guaranteed to fail. This strategy will simply end-up undermining the value of the city, leading to a dead downtown like the one we’ve got. Like many other mangled cities, we’ve been trying this strategy for decades and failing, as the condition of our downtown attests. We can’t keep playing this self-defeating game. Who has the guts to finally stand up and stop this nonsense?

Also, there’s my old saying, which I’ve oft repeated: Like all cities, we really have one essential choice; we can have a vibrant downtown where everyone complains about parking, or we can have a dead downtown where everyone complains about parking. If you think about it, that’s the only choice. Really.

For years, I’ve been involved with The New Millennium Group, a local community activist organization dedicated to progressive planning, economic development, and revitalization. In 2003, NMG did a downtown parking survey that showed over 50% of the land area of downtown Buffalo dedicated to surface parking.

In the six years since, the city situation regarding parking, planning, and transportation hasn’t really changed. So to repeat NMG’s original take on the issue: Buffalo doesn’t have a parking problem, it has a parking management problem. (In truth, it’s a transportation management problem, but that’s a topic for another post.)

The fresh angle is this: the city doesn’t need to add another high-priced manager and yet another layer of bureaucracy. We can get much better management of downtown transportation/parking assets if we better utilize the resources we’ve already got. Private companies routinely reorganize management structures to adapt to changing conditions, so why can’t the city? We’ve already got a planning department that studies and understands these issues (and the many related issues, too) and has the expertise to effectively manage parking by putting it in its proper context—which is the problem to begin with.

Chuck Banas is an urban planning consultant and community activist in Buffalo, New York, and chairs the SmartCode Committee at the New Millennium Group of Western New York.

This post originally appeared at Joe the Planner. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Chuck Banas: This Is Sprawl

[ I stumbled across this incredible post via a link from Buffalo Rising. The author, Chuck Banas, posted it on his blog, Joe the Planner, which has only a few posts, but boy do they pack a wallop. Chuck, who is an urban planning consultant and community activist in Buffalo, New York, and chairs the SmartCode Committee at the New Millennium Group (of Western New York)., kindly gave me permission to repost. - Aaron ]

Sprawl is a word familiar to most people, but few can tell you exactly what it means. Even experts don’t always agree on a precise definition.

The term itself is somewhat ambiguous, and often divisive. This is especially true when the word is preceded by the modifiers suburban or urban, which is commonly the case. Then the term is really loaded. Political discussion of the topic regularly provokes the already contentious relationships between cities and suburbs. This needlessly causes communities that should be cooperating to take sides against each other.

Here in the Buffalo-Niagara region, only one other word is as divisive: regionalism. Yeah, I said it. First the s-word, and now the r-word. Good thing I’m not a politician, because my career would probably have just ended. The r-word, as I shall call it from now on, became a four-letter word in this area just shy of a decade ago, after a certain County Executive decided to make city-county consolidation his focus. He got pretty far, too, before allegations of political corruption, a county bankruptcy, and public dissension finally killed the idea. Too bad.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The intent of this post is to provide some conceptual clarity regarding the concept of sprawl, both nationally and locally. I’ll also be explaining what sprawl and the r-word have to do with one another, and why this is fundamentally important to the future of everyone in the Buffalo-Niagara region. As usual, I’ll do this by providing a big-picture narrative combined with some statistics and visuals.

A Case Study for Sprawl

No matter what the wording, sprawl refers to the spreading-out of a population of people and its effects—effects that are often harmful to our individual lives and counterproductive to our shared goals. Of course, sprawl is not unique to us in Western New York, or even to the United States. It occurs everywhere throughout the world in varying forms, but we Americans arguably lay claim to inventing a most peculiar and pernicious strain of it. This has resulted in the virtual trashing of our traditional cites and towns, along with the paving-over of agricultural lands and other countryside that surrounds them.

But the argument against sprawl is not simply an aesthetic one; some of the most debilitating effects are social, cultural, and economic. You might wish to check out my previous post for a provoking take on sprawl as a national phenomenon.

As it turns out, the Buffalo Metro area is a nearly ideal case for the study of sprawl and its effects. This is for two main reasons: (1) the region has well-established pre-World War II, pre-automobile cities and towns, and (2) the metro population has essentially remained unchanged since the end of WWII.

Yep, you read that right. Buffalo’s metro population has essentially remained unchanged for the last 60 years. With all the talk about population loss, it seems that many people don’t realize this. Buffalo hasn’t shrunk; it’s just spread-out. This makes the effects of sprawl quite obvious because there’s been no significant statistical muddying caused by changes in population.

Same Number of People, Three Times the Stuff

What does this mean? Put simply, the same number of people spread over an area over three times larger means there is three times the amount of stuff that the same number of people have to pay for.

Most visibly, that’s over three times the infrastructure costs: three times the roads, power lines, water lines, sewer systems, gas service, schools, fire stations, police, etc. This stuff doesn’t get magically built and maintained on its own; the money has to come from somewhere. And it does: it comes out of all of our pockets directly or indirectly through higher local, county, and state taxes and fees; through the personal requirement to own and maintain one or more automobiles; through the wasted time and money of longer commutes to/from work, shopping, and entertainment; and from chauffeuring the kids back and forth to hockey practice or piano lessons.

All of this extra space we occupy has precisely the effects you’d predict. We in Erie and Niagara Counties now drive 53% more miles per year than we did in 1980. Nationally, the effects are even more stark: from 1977 to 2001, the number of miles driven every year by Americans rose by 151%—about five times faster than the growth in population. Americans spend four times as much on transportation as Europeans. It costs over $7,000 per year to maintain a single car. And, if you can believe it, the average American household today makes 14 individual car trips per day. (An interesting study found that if only one car trip per day were eliminated, this would result in an annual savings of about $1,100 per household.)

Statistics aside, all of these additional obligations in time and money make us poorer—both individually and collectively. Over the last 60 years, we’ve been too busy trying to keep up with basic infrastructure maintenance to invest much in our future. Individually, people have less to spend on housing, food, transportation, health care, entertainment, etc. There are fewer public resources available for schools, parks, cultural institutions, and other public services. There is less disposable income at all levels, and little capital left in society to invest in new business and new forms of wealth creation.

The cycle goes like this: We spread out and build more stuff. Costs go up. Taxes go up. Services get cut. Institutions languish. The quality of everyone’s life diminishes. Citizens complain about the corruption and inefficiency of government. And it repeats in a vicious cycle.

That’s not the only cost. In this zero-sum game, every winner in the region creates one or more losers. As we’ve subsidized new development in the region, older neighborhoods have suffered. Every new house built on a greenfield means a house somewhere else blighted, abandoned, or demolished. Every new square-foot of retail space devalues or destroys a square-foot elsewhere. Poverty and crime grow like a cancer, which are huge economic drags on the region. Without the resources for proper maintenance, older roads, bridges, sewers, and other infrastructure deteriorate. And that cycle repeats itself, too.

The result is we’re less able to compete against other, growing, lower-taxed areas. We have a hard time attracting new people or new investment because we’re continually burdening ourselves with new costs that add no real value to our region.

In fact, it’s not too much to say that virtually all the so-called ‘growth’ that we’ve seen here in the last half-century has been an illusion. Sure, it kinda looked like real growth—new roads, new homes, new strip malls, new schools—but because there has been no increase in population, it’s really a rigged shell game. For the last three generations, we’ve spent the greater part of our collective regional wealth moving about a third of our population further and further out into the countryside.

“So what?” you say? “People voted with their feet.” But if you think this has been solely a matter of consumer choice, a free-market phenomenon, think again. It is well documented that sprawl is driven mainly by destructive public policy, bad planning, and a lack of municipal coordination (again, read my previous post).

There is another significant cost to the low-density, auto-oriented living arrangement we’ve constructed. Vitality, be it economic, cultural, or otherwise, requires a critical mass. If too many elements of the economy and society are spread too thin across the landscape, then even a million people can’t create a healthy, dynamic economy, let alone pay for the required infrastructure. Economic and social capital don’t work if spread too thin. Markets don’t work if too many ingredients are isolated from each other.

The result? We end up exactly in the type of situation we find ourselves today. Surprised, anyone?

The Big Picture

At this point, all of this blather about strip malls, taxes, and blight might have you a bit glassy-eyed. It’s often easy to get lost among the details, so sometimes it helps to step back and look at the big picture.

Specifically, I’m referring to the picture below, which may help bring the issue of sprawl into even sharper focus. This map tells the story of our region’s problems perhaps more clearly than any of the reams of reports issuing from governments or foundations. The diagram also suggests a obvious solution to our regional problems.

Shown on the map at left is the extent of urbanized area in Metro Buffalo in 1950 and 2000 (yellow and red, respectively). The wording of the official U.S. Census Bureau definition is a little tricky, but for these purposes urbanized area refers to just about any census block within Erie and Niagara Counties that has a population density greater than 1,000 people per square mile.

What does this simple measure mean? Well, a high-ish population density of 1,000 or more implies an urban or suburban settlement—and all of the infrastructure required to support it; namely, roads, sewers, electric, schools, police, etc. All that stuff we covered above. So as the map shows, we’ve now got over three times the amount of stuff to maintain for the same amount of people we had in 1950.

If this isn’t a shocking call to action, I don’t know what is. This shows the vital critical mass of people and money and ideas diffused and squandered. This shows our region bleeding to death.

In simplest terms, this is sprawl. This is arguably our area’s essential problem, summarized neatly in a single picture. And bear in mind that this is only a snapshot of a ongoing trend. When the 2010 figures are released, there is sure to be a bunch more red on this map.

The R-Word

What’s the solution? Well, in a word: the r-word. Some people call it regional government (which for me is way too close to the r-word). Others call it metropolitan government or inter-municipal coordination. Whatever the term, it refers to a layer of governance and planning at the regional scale, so that all of the region’s resources can be coordinated effectively.

Currently, there are 64 separate municipalities in Buffalo-Niagara, with virtually no coordination or cooperation between them. Towns poach development from each other. Villages plan independently of their surrounding towns. Developers know the game, and play government entities against one another for public subsidy. There is duplication of services and unnecessary waste. And no one is steering the big ship.

In short, we spend most of our time fighting one another instead of working to compete effectively against other regions—many of which already have their metro-government acts together. If we want things to change, we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done. More of the same old self-inflicted harm won’t turn things around.

There is hope, however. The city-county merger almost came to a vote before county bankruptcy, a control board, and the events of 9/11 put a stop to it. Metro Buffalo already includes respected regional government entities that address certain cross-jurisdictional functions, including an excellent metro transportation system (NFTA) and the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system.

Also, it must be noted, most other regions have leadership that’s just as slow and incompetent as ours seems to be. Nationally, the bar isn’t set that high.

Suffice it to say that, as a region, it is our choice to work together. Or not. We have it within our power to shape our own future, but only if we see that all of us—all the cities, towns, and villages in this thing we call Buffalo-Niagara—are in this together.

The metropolitan area is the only meaningful social and economic unit that exists in this region. We share the same history, culture, climate, sports teams, and cultural assets—and we all ultimately share the same fate. Perhaps, after decades of declining fortunes, we’ve forgotten this fact. Fear has made our politics dysfunctional and turned our leaders into insular cowards. Decades of tough times will do that.

The good news is this: some of the groundwork is already laid. The good ideas are out there. Most people in this area would agree that we need to change how we do things, and a significant number would advocate a regional approach to governance.

But we must choose to govern not based on fear, but on the faith in our ability to shape our future. And each new day hands us the same choice.

This post originally ran at Joe the Planner under the title “Sprawl and the r-word, a Buffalo-Niagra Case Study.” Reprinted with permission of the author.

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Midwest Miscellany

It is significant that the cities doing best by their downtowns are the ones doing best at historic preservation. Fine old buildings are worthwhile in their own right, but there is a greater benefit involved. They provide discipline. Architects and planners like a blank slate. They usually do their best work, however, when they don’t have one. When they have to work with impossible lot lines and bits and pieces of space, beloved old eyesores, irrational street layouts, and other such constraints, they frequently produce the best of their new designs – and the most neighborly.” – William H. Whyte

Heads up to my Cincinnati readers: I’ll be in town to be part of a panel at the Cincinnati Business Courier Commercial Real Estate Developers Power Breakfast on May 6th. We’ll be talking about the new downtown casino.

The Business Courier also ran an interview with me this week as a lead up to the event.

Top Stories

1. Ed Glaeser: Why Humanity Loves, and Needs, Cities

2. NYT: Workforce fueled by highly skilled immigrants – Includes a nice mention of St. Louis

3. NYT: Plan for 34th St. puts buses and feet first – Yet another winning project from NYC DOT. The hits just keep on coming.

4. SF Weekly: The Muni Death Spiral – big problems with the way public transit is run in San Francisco. See also in the Chronicle, “Bay area transit up for unprecedented overhaul.” It’s pretty scary.

5. Richard Layman: Best practice bicycle planning for the suburbs – This presentation is a little wonky and planner oriented, but provides tons of useful thinking on integrating the bicycle into suburban environments.

Best Cities for Jobs

New Geography just released its annual best cities for jobs survey for 2010. It was developed by Mike Shires at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy. Rankings are available for small, medium, and large cities. Here is how the metros I principally track fared in the league tables:

  • #13 – Pittsburgh
  • #21 – Kansas City
  • #25 – Louisville
  • #26 – Columbus
  • #27 – St. Louis
  • #34 – Indianapolis
  • #35 – Cincinnati
  • #40 – Minneapolis
  • #49 – Milwaukee
  • #50 – Chicago
  • #58 – Cleveland
  • #65 – Detroit

There is a separate article explaining the methodology.

Globalization at Work

Someone posted some figures that really bring home the reality of globalization. The data is IBM’s US headcount. I can’t verify these figures, so caveat emptor, but the poster said they were based on IBM’s own reports (and that IBM has decided to stop reporting US headcount).

  • 2005: 133,789
  • 2006: 127,000
  • 2007: 121,000
  • 2008: 115,000
  • 2009: 105,000
  • 2010: 98,000 estimate

The poster suggests this is IBM abandoning the United States. I used to be a partner at an IBM competitor and I can tell you that this is not about abandonment, it’s about responding to competitive reality. Companies like IBM are in competition with offshore based competitors that have ultra-low costs. IBM has two options: respond by migrating more work to low cost locations itself, or forfeit a good chunk of its business. Either way, domestic workers are losing their jobs.

I suggest reading the Economist’s special section on innovation in emerging markets for more info on the world we are in. We can’t take anything for granted in America. People overseas are hungry for business and if we want to stay on top we’ve got to be hungrier and more fearsome competitors than they are.

PwC Global Cities Study

PricewaterhouseCoopers just release this year’s installment of their cities of opportunity study, which looks at 21 leading financial and commercial centers around the world on a large number of variables. New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are included from the United States.

Pulling and normalizing international data is uber-painful, so I tend not to do it. I’m glad somebody did though and produced this report. Just be careful. Their rating scale and color schema leaves much to be desired. For some reason they put #21 as the best and #1 as the worst. Also, a color of black means good and light green means bad (?!). Lots of good data though.

World and National Roundup

Reuters: China banks on rail boom to fire inland growth

Transport Politic: Shanghai’s metro is now the world’s longest

BBC World Service (online audio): Witness the Building of Brasilia – The building of the artificial capital of Brazil was 50 years ago.

Joel Kotkin: The Heartland Will Play a Huge Role in America’s Future

Kaid Benfield: The Environmental Paradox of Smart Growth

Next American City: Can the densities of some neighborhoods be too low for transit to work?

Urban Omnibus: To LEED Is Human; to Lead, Divine

Rust Wire: The Stigma of the Small City

New Geography: Leading a Los Angeles Renaissance

The Economist: Portland and ‘Elite Cities’ – “Is Oregon’s metropolis a leader among American cities or just strange?”

Transport Politic: Denver rejects tax plan, puts FasTracks expansion in doubt

Montreal Gazette: Growth Stymied

Daniel Gross: Why Texas Is Doing So Much Better Economically Than the Rest of the Nation

Indianapolis Public Services

The Indianapolis Star ran a major article about the low quality of the city’s bus system. The dek says it all: “Cash-starved system rated among the worst is ‘just holding on.’”

However, what the Star misses is that you could substitute almost any public service and write the same story. The service levels for public services in Indianapolis are abysmal across the board. Usually with big cities you pay more to live in the city, but you get more and better services. But with Indianapolis, not only is it cheaper to live in the suburbs, but many public services – not just schools and safety – are better, ranging from sidewalk design to snow removal.

This puts the city in a bad spot, unless it is able to change that dynamic.

Ann Arbor Density

Ann Arbor denied approval to a proposed 62 unit apartment complex because neighbors felt it was too dense. There was some type of an anomalous super-majority requirement at work, but I think this goes to illustrate the challenge in trying to promote more dense environments. As the friend who sent me this article said, “Can density ever be approved anywhere?” If not Ann Arbor, where?

This also goes to illustrate why all too many of our inner cities are simply bad places to do business. It’s much easier to do things in the suburbs, where the zoning supports what developers want and the projects are generally so big they can absorb the approval headaches.

Buffalo Smart Code

Mayor Byron Brown of Buffalo announced that the city will move forward with a form based zoning code. Per the mayor:

Our zoning reform effort will act as the foundation for the new place-based economic development strategy for Buffalo’s neighborhoods in every section of the city. The new Buffalo zoning ordinance will be known as the Buffalo Green Code. It will embody 21st century values about economic development, sustainability, and walkable, green urbanism.

You can find out more at www.buffalosmartcode.com.

More Midwest

Here’s one for you. Flint, Michigan wants to build its own pipeline to Lake Huron to get off Detroit water. Both Detroit and Flint are shrinking and they want to build duplicative infrastructure? Something doesn’t sound right.

Chicago
Tollway Authority needs $2 billion to fix I-90 (Crain’s)

Cincinnati
Transplants breath new life into Cincinnati (Soapbox)

Columbus
12 Ideas Laid Out for Downtown 2010 Strategic Plan (Columbus Underground)

Detroit
A Vision for a Shrinking City (MLive)
Dateline profile sparks backlash (Detroit News)

Indianapolis
Indianapolis offers impressive urban planning lessons for Cleveland (Plain Dealer)

Milwaukee
Transit fight derailed previous plans on Zoo Interchange (JS)

St. Louis
Can St. Louis Compete? (Kingsbikeway)
Ballpark Village to Ballpark ‘Tillage’ (Occasional Planet) – An interesting concept for a vertical farm in St. Louis
Just Doing It (Thomas Friedman @ NYT) – Another nice mention for St. Louis in this Thomas Friedman column.

Pittsburgh
Young talent hot spot Pittsburgh (Burgh Diaspora)

Twin Cities
Reverse Migration: Flight to the Exurbs Stops Cold (Star Tribune)
If The Build It, You Will Pay (WSJ)

Post Script

Someone posted this annexation map of Detroit in a Gawker thread about the Dateline NBC special on Detroit.

The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

Telestrian Data Terminal

about

A production of the Urbanophile, Telestrian is the fastest, easiest, and best way to access public data about cities and regions, with totally unique features like the ability to create thematic maps with no technical knowledge and easy to use place to place migration data. It's a great way to support the Urbanophile, but more importantly it can save you tons of time and deliver huge value and capabilities to you and your organization.

Try It For 30 Days Free!

About the Urbanophile

about

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.

Full Bio

Contact

Please email before connecting with me on LinkedIn if we don't already know each other.

 

Copyright © 2006-2014 Urbanophile, LLC, All Rights Reserved - Copyright Information