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Viewpoint: The urban future isn’t all about population booms

[Source: Froma Harrop, Providence Journal] — Sunbelt-and-sprawl advocate Joel Kotkin wrote two years ago that the future of American urbanism wasn’t in the “elite cities,” such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but in “younger, more affordable and less self-regarding places.”  He named (his order) Houston, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas and Riverside, Calif.

Boom-city boosters like Kotkin play a numbers game, where the place with the biggest population explosion wins.  This is also a kind of Blue America-versus-Red America urbanology, which includes an element of liberal-bashing: Any place that refuses to be steamrolled by developers is called “elite.”

In the aftermath of the real-estate bust, areas overly dependent on building houses, selling houses and financing houses are in the worst shape.  Economies need non-bubble jobs.  Unemployment rates in the recent hyper-growth centers, Riverside and Las Vegas, are now well above those in the aforementioned “elite cities.”  And Boston’s 9 percent unemployment is only a point above that of the more economically diverse Sunbelt powerhouses: Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix.

There’s little point in pitting cities, regions and states against one another.  This is a big country.  One can like San Francisco for some things and Las Vegas for others.  By the way, what gave anyone the idea that Houston, Dallas and Phoenix are not “self-regarding”?  They are, as well they should be.  [Note: Read the full article at The urban future isn’t all about population booms.]

Procter & Gamble deems Phoenix all-time sweatiest

Shameless plug for sponsoring company.

Shameless plug for bestower of Phoenix honorific.

[Source: Lisa Biank Fasig, Phoenix Business Journal] — Phoenix has gone to the pits again, ranking as the sweatiest city in six of the past eight years.  The dubious honor is handed out by the Procter & Gamble Co. brand Old Spice, which since 2002 has measured the country’s sweatiest cities.

Phoenix has led the Annual Top-100 Sweatiest Cities list for the fourth consecutive year.  Over the time of the competition, the city has yielded an average summertime temperature of 94 degrees. The result?  The average Phoenix resident producing 27.7 ounces of sweat per hour — the equivalent of more than five gallons of milk per day.  Following Phoenix on the list are San Antonio, Texas; Las Vegas; Dallas and Houston. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Despite recent crashes, officials say metro Phoenix light rail safety system works

[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic] — A central Phoenix accident last week marked the 13th collision between a Metro light-rail train and another vehicle since the system opened three months ago, renewing safety concerns about trains in streets.  Last Tuesday’s crash puts Metro on pace to almost double the first-year accident rate of Houston, where light rail earned a reputation as the “Wham Bam Tram,” though Houston has a third less track than the Valley.  The latest collision happened when a motorist began an illegal U-turn at a red light near Central High School, police said.

An analysis of police reports shows an early pattern: illegal turns and confused drivers causing accidents.  To date, no light-rail operator has been faulted and none has failed drug or alcohol tests.  Only one accident has raised questions about whether Metro equipment was working properly.

The record tells Metro officials they’ve learned from Houston’s mistakes and have engineered safe trains and traffic signals.  “I don’t think anything has occurred yet that says we’ve had a flawed design,” Metro Chief Executive Officer Rick Simonetta said.  But the sheer number of accidents since the Dec. 27 opening has fueled the ire of light-rail critics, who had warned that trains and cars sharing streets would lead to problems.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix #22 among major U.S. cities for Energy Star buildings

[Source: Phoenix Business Journal] — Phoenix ranked 22nd among U.S. cities for the number of buildings that received the Energy Star designation in 2008. The metro area had 39 buildings covering 7.3 million square feet that meet the energy efficiency standard last year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Those efficiencies translate to $7 million in annual savings and the equivalent of electricity used by 6,900 households annually.

Los Angeles was No. 1 with 262 structures covering 73.9 million square feet.  That translates to $87.2 million in energy cost savings and 35,800 households, the EPA said.  Rounding out the top five were San Francisco, Houston, Washington, and Dallas.  “Energy Star buildings typically use 35 percent less energy and emit 35 percent less greenhouse gases than average buildings,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement.  “EPA commends all of these cities and all of the others, as well as countless individuals, who are now using more energy efficient appliances and dwellings.  They are saving energy, saving money and protecting our environment.”

Overall, Arizona has 93 buildings with Energy Star designations.  Those include 13 Marriott locations, five Bashas’ stores and Renaissance Square, Collier Center, One North Central tower, Wells Fargo Plaza, and Phoenix Federal Courthouse in downtown Phoenix.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Nielsen study finds Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix are top markets by recent population growth

[Source: Market Wire via COMTEX] — A new Nielsen Company analysis aimed at uncovering expansion opportunities for the retail industry in a down economy has found that sustained growth is occurring in large metros such as Atlanta, GA; Dallas, TX; and Phoenix, AZ, which ranked as the top three fastest growing markets over the last eight years.  The study, which was conducted by Nielsen Claritas, Nielsen’s leading marketing information source, and based on data compiled as of early 2008, showed that Atlanta and Dallas CBSAs (Core Based Statistical Areas) added more than one million in population since 2000, while the Phoenix CBSA was close at 971,849.

Rounding out the top five were the Houston and the Los Angeles CBSAs, which also grew by nearly a million people at 949,905 and 939,317, respectively.  A CBSA includes both metropolitan areas of at least 50,000 population and micropolitan areas with a population between 10,000-49,999.  “And while some of these markets like Phoenix and Los Angeles have been hard hit by the recent wave of foreclosures, there has been no mass exodus from these markets or anywhere else.

People who have foreclosed most likely have not left the market but rather have just become renters. Faltering markets, such as these, will likely rebound and continue to grow — and their underlying demographics are solid,” said Mike Mancini, Nielsen Claritas Vice President of Data Product Management and co-author of a whitepaper that documented the study’s findings, titled “Finding Growth in Challenging Times: Seven Indicators to Evaluate Population Growth.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Census shows older U.S. cities hold on to more people, Phoenix slows

[Source: William H. Frey, Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution] — Newly released U.S. Census Bureau population data for U.S. cities show a new twist on a well-known theme that could be good news for older cities hoping to reverse population declines of the past.  The familiar part of the report indicates that most of the nation’s fastest growing cities are located in the South and interior West.  Places like McKinney, TX; North Las Vegas, NV; and Cary, NC, are registering growth rates that cities in baseball’s “American League Central” division (e.g., Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City) can only dream about.  But the new estimates also show a clear retrenchment of the old “Snowbelt to Sunbelt” population surge, a turnaround that has brought modest gains to many older and coastal cities that lost population earlier in the decade.

Population trends in the nation’s nine largest cities (those with over one million residents) offer a glimpse at the story (Table 1).  Three of these — Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego — flipped from population declines to gains in the past year, while their more high-flying sunbelt counterparts — Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas — showed reduced levels of growth.  The growth slowdowns in Houston and Phoenix were substantial, while at the same time, Chicago’s modest gain was the first registered since 2001.  Another notable flip occurred in Boston, which last year became the fastest growing city in the Northeast, after losing population the year before.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]