Why is it that self-styled “progressive” cities need more help (and money) to deal with their urban problems?
The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development has announced it will spend $122 million in just five cities with “poor, violence-prone neighborhoods.” The cities are Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago – all of which have population densities that Smart Growthers say we should desire. They say high density equals vibrant urbanism. The facts suggest otherwise.continue reading
I think this young felon bought into the Smart Growth rhetoric about ditching the automobile.continue reading
It is said by urban boosters and Smart Growth advocates that there is a renaissance of central cities going on all around the country. That the suburbs are yesterday; downtowns are today … and tomorrow. Indeed, for a sliver of the population – namely, young singles – some downtowns in some metros are realizing some growth. But this is the exception rather than the rule. For other cohorts, the trend is in the opposite direction despite what Smart Growthers claim.
At Forbes, Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox have a useful analysis of the boomer generation. These are people nearing their retirement years who are also now empty nesters – the kids have grown up and moved away. This is important because the growth of suburbs is often understood as the action of parents to find good schools and big backyards for their children. So the assumption is that once this rationale is removed, older empty nesters will head back to the city.
But Kotkin and Cox’s study of new census data shows the opposite to be true, writing that “this cohort in the past 10 years shows a 10.3% decline among core city dwellers, a loss of some 1.3 million people over the past decade.”
“In our ranking of the 51 largest metros in the U.S., the urban cores of San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago scored near the bottom, suffering double-digit percentage losses of boomers. According to the last Census, New York’s urban core, which theDaily News suggested is packed with aspiring seniors, lost 12% of boomers in their mid-50s to mid-60s — or about 274,000 people.”
Smart Growth is based on assumptions … most of which are false. Keep this bit of information handy the next time your urban leaders and city planners advocate higher densities for your community.continue reading
Bicycling is a great recreational activity. My kids have bikes. It’s also great for adults, and I certainly respect people who choose to bicycle to work or to get around. If that is their preference … more power to ya!
But should national transportation policy be re-oriented around the promotion of bicycling as a viable alternative to automobiles. Only in La-La Land.
Or, rather, in La-La-LaHood Land. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood spoke recently to the National Bike Summit and had this to say about transportation policy:
Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.
By favoring he means funding. Consistent with the overreaching policies in the Obama Administration’s Livability Initiative, LaHood wants to direct federal dollars away from roads and toward bike lanes and bike paths. Will this relieve congestion? No. Will it satisfy a progressive, anti-automobile constituency? Yes.
Smart Growthers put a lot of faith in planning and in these ridiculous “solutions” to our transportation problems. Portland, Oregon – the Mecca of Smart Growth – is putting $20 million into a Bicycle Master Plan.
And it is a faith. Way back in 2003 before Howard Dean imploded in Iowa, this progressive leader was the front-runner for President as a Democratic. In an otherwise kids-glove interview with George Stephanopoulos, Dean revealed why he left the Episcopalian church.
Dean said he was raised Episcopalian but left the church “because I had a big fight with a local Episcopal church about 25 years ago over the bike path . . . .”
“Over the bike path?” an incredulous Stephanopoulos asked.
“We were trying to get the bike path built,” Dean answered. “They had control of a mile and a half of railroad bed, and they decided they would pursue a property-right suit to refuse to allow the bike path to be developed.”
Note that is wasn’t just the priority of the bike path but also the assertion of property rights by the property owner, in this case the Epsicopalian church, that led to Dean’s departure. When things like bike paths get cast under the umbrella of “transportation choice,” let’s not lose sight of the fact that it involves not just the diversion of tax money to pet projects but also a built-in hostility to the principles that make us free – including private property rights and free enterprise.continue reading
The Wall Street Journal carries a report on congestion in the USA:
Traffic in America’s big metropolitan regions is a nightmare much of the day. The scale of the problem is bigger than you might have guessed. Since 1982, the number of hours each year that the average traveler spent in rush-hour traffic jams rose to 36 in 2007 from 14 in 1982. Put another way, big-city commuters spend nearly a week’s vacation time dawdling on the road. In the process, that same average commuter wasted 24 gallons of fuel in 2007, compared with nine in 1982.
The article quotes U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D.-Ore Light Rail) who says policymakers should “focus federal spending on the problems of big urban areas, and give commuters in those populous areas more transportation choices.” Blumenauer stresses that word “choice.”
Transportation choice is a key element of Smart Growth, and to the average citizen, transportation choice sounds like a great idea. We appreciate our freedom to choose how we live, work, and play, so transportation choice appears to be consistent with our little-d democratic values. Who could be against that?
In practice, transportation choice means the re-allocation of tax dollars away from roads and capacity-building strategies in favor of wasteful and ineffective projects like mass transit, bike paths, lane reductions and light rail. Smart Growth advocates claim this will reduce traffic congestion, curb sprawl, and improve the environment by allowing people to walk, bike, or bus to work.
But it doesn’t work.
Phoenix has been diverting tax money away from roads for years, yet its congestion has steadily worsened. And their light rail ridership has dropped to its lowest level yet. In Portland – the Mecca of Smart Growth – the effect of light rail (begun in 1985) has proven negligible. For nearly a generation, we’ve been practicing transportation choice, and transit’s market share of urban travel is less than 2 percent.
Unfortunately, the rhetorical appeal of phrases like “transportation choice” is too powerful for our political class to ignore. Chances are they will soon double-down on transportation choice and other Smart Growth schemes.continue reading
One of the key principles of Smart Growth is compact development, which means “communities be designed in a way which permits more open space to preserved, and that buildings can be constructed which make more efficient use of land and resources.”
For Smart Growthers, one upshot to the economic recession that is putting such a squeeze on people is that they’re exploring innovative compact designs. Sergio Santos is one such person. He has turned a closet into his dwelling.
The “room” is equipped with a small microwave oven and a mini-refrigerator. He shares a community bathroom with other renters on the same property. The closet is part of a living space above a restaurant.
Not only is he practicing the principle of compact design, Sergio is also living in a mixed-use development. That’s a Smart Growth two-fer!continue reading