» Streetcar projects promise new development along their rights-of-way. But cities must allow new transit-oriented buildings to be built nearby. A look at St. Louis and Portland.
In the United States, streetcars have assumed a dramatic new prominence, in part because of increasing federal support. In dozens of cities, new lines are under construction, funded, or in planning thanks to local political leadership that recognizes the benefits of such investments in relatively cheap new rail lines. While streetcars are typically not the most efficient mobility providers — compared to light rail lines and often even buses, they are slower and more likely to be caught in traffic — they are promoted as development tools. Streetcars, it is said, will bring new construction and the densification of districts that are served by the new rail lines.
But streetcars alone aren’t enough to spur construction of residential and commercial buildings in neighborhoods with
Continue reading Don’t Forget the Zoning »
» A review of twenty one metropolitan areas shows that most are seeing an increasing percentage of their population growth — or a decreasing percentage of their loss — in their core counties.
Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual population estimates for counties as of July 2011. These data provide significant insight into changing population trends in the United States, and the results offer considerable support for the argument that the country’s growth is moving back into its cities, at least to some degree.
National coverage of the data release focused on the fact that the data showed a significant drop in residents moving to exurban counties at the edge of metropolitan areas. The massive creation of housing at the far reaches of regions appears to have slowed to a trickle, and even the movement of the population from Northeastern and Midwest metropolitan areas to Southern and Western areas
Continue reading In New Census Data, An Improved Outlook For Core Counties »
» Ryan Avent’s The Gated City provides insight into the workings of the urban economy, but its proposals to increase the supply of housing in the country’s biggest cities are unreasonable.
Ryan Avent’s new book, The Gated City, provides one of the most readable summaries of urban economics available; for that alone, the book is more than worth its low price. In highlighting the work of Edward Glaeser among others, this author shows how the density of metropolitan regions can play an essential role in increasing the productivity of workers and expand the economy in general. It is Avent’s quite plausible thesis that the great American suburbanization of the past fifty years contributed to the economic circumstances in which we now find ourselves — with an economy seemingly incapable of growth — because of an inability (or unwillingness) to cash in on the benefits of urban density, which encourages higher
Continue reading Dismantling Democracy to Fight NIMBYism »
» Suburban-oriented commuter rail projects may be cheap to construct, but they usually have limited effects on metropolitan travel.
The construction of new commuter rail lines in the United States has been a peculiar trend in an age of job sprawl and changing work habits. Though the largest American transit capital investments in terms of money spent have been in light and metro rail projects, commuter rail corridors — defined loosely as diesel trains running largely at peak hours between cities and their suburbs — continue to attract local interest. Over the past few years, Austin, Minneapolis, Nashville, and Salt Lake City, among other regions, have contributed millions of dollars to their construction.
The results have in general not been impressive. As Jeff Wood catalogued last week on The Overhead Wire, these investments have yielded very limited ridership — especially on a per-mile basis.
Nevertheless, cities to continue
Continue reading The Failure of Regionalism »