[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.]
[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic, March 30, 2009] — Maybe you’ve heard of Tax Freedom Day, theoretically the date when Americans have worked enough to pay off their tax burden for the year. Researchers have now come up with Transportation Freedom Day, the date when an average household has paid off its annual costs of getting around in a particular city. For metro Phoenix, that day fell on March 23, but it’s different for each city in the region and across the country. Tempe residents cleared the typical cost of car payments, insurance, gas, repairs, and transit use on March 18. Residents in New River will keep paying until April 9.
Phoenix is in the middle of the pack for U.S. metro areas. Cheapest are San Francisco, with a March 1 freedom day, and New York (March 7). Tucson (March 30) is near the bottom.
The findings are based on research from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, an Illinois think tank that advocates sustainable urban development. Generally, cities with the most density, shortest commutes and most transit options fared best. People in far-flung suburbs generally fare the worst. [Note: To read the full article and online comments, click here.]
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The $30 million park taking shape in downtown Phoenix will be like no other the city has built, officials say. The yet-unnamed spot will use water, lights, shade, and art to create an oasis for nearby Arizona State University students, office workers, residents, and tourists, landscape architect Tom Byrne said. “The concept of the park was an urban weave, so we are weaving together the neighborhood around the park, the offices and ASU,” Byrne said.
The park, which is expected to open in March, covers 2.77 acres and sits in the city’s business district. It’s bound by Central and First avenues and Polk and Fillmore streets. The park is one of several multimillion-dollar projects — including light rail, a hotel, and expanded convention center — that city leaders hope will revitalize downtown. To be sure, it’s not as big as New York’s sprawling Central Park or Chicago’s Millennium Park. But it is expected to be a key gathering place in downtown Phoenix and a long-awaited addition to Arizona State University. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Sarah Karush, Associated Press] — Alice and Jeff Speck didn’t have a car and didn’t want one. But District of Columbia zoning regulations required them to carve out a place to park one at the house they were building. It would have eaten up precious space on their odd-shaped lot and marred the aesthetics of their neighborhood, dominated by historic row houses. The Specks succeeded in getting a waiver, even though it took nine months.
Like nearly all U.S. cities, D.C. has requirements for off-street parking. Whenever anything new is built — be it a single-family home, an apartment building, a store, or a doctor’s office — a minimum number of parking spaces must be included. The spots at the curb don’t count: These must be in a garage, a surface lot, or a driveway.
D.C. is now considering scrapping those requirements — part of a growing national trend. Officials hope that offering the freedom to forgo parking will lead to denser, more walkable, transit-friendly development. Opponents say making parking more scarce will only make the city less hospitable. Commuters like Randy Michael of Catharpin, VA complain they are already forced to circle for hours in some neighborhoods. “Today I had an 11:30 meeting and I had to plan an extra hour just to park” said Michael, 49. It ended up taking him 40 minutes to find a metered spot.
Advocates counter that parking is about more than drivers’ convenience; it can profoundly affect the look and feel of a city. “Do you want to look like San Francisco or Los Angeles?” asked Donald Shoup, an urban planning professor at UCLA and author of “The High Cost of Free Parking.” “New York or Phoenix?” (Shoup prefers San Francisco and New York — hard to park in, but highly walkable.) [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Business Wire] — Atlanta bumped San Francisco out of first place as the No. 1 city on Forbes.com’s 8th annual ranking of America’s “Best Cities For Singles.” According to Forbes.com Executive Editor Michael Noer, “Atlanta got the top spot because of its hopping nightlife, relatively high number of singles, and sizzling job growth.”
The list ranks 40 of the largest urbanized areas in the U.S. in seven categories, including a city’s “cool factor,” cost of living alone, culture, job growth, online dating, nightlife, and the number of singles.
- San Francisco
- Washington D.C.
- New York City
In the March 2008 issue of The Atlantic Monthly an opinion piece by Bruce Katz and Robert Puentes analyzes America’s crumbling infrastructure and assesses the money lost due to congestion around major metropolitan areas. Katz and Puentes point to why infrastructure is such a valuable commodity in a global economy:
The most highly skilled financial professionals…do not choose between New York and Phoenix. They choose between New York and London — or Shanghai. While many factors affect that choice, over time, the accretion of delays and travel hassles can sap cities of their vigor and appeal. Arriving at Shanghai’s modern Pudong airport, you can hop aboard a maglev train that gets you downtown in eight minutes, at speeds approaching 300 miles an hour. When you land at JFK, on the other hand, you’ll have to take a train to Queens, walk over an indoor bridge, and then transfer to the antiquated Long Island Rail Road; from there, downtown Manhattan is another 35 minutes away.