Planning at the regional scale

How a 'red state' has embraced smart growth

Through its nongovernmental Envision Utah process, the Beehive State has cut pollution, water use, vehicle miles traveled per capita, and land consumption since the turn of the millennium. 

'Triumph of suburbia' is a far-fetched story

Joel Kotkin is on a roll in the past few weeks, making the case that the revival of cities and decline of suburbs is a fraud — but his argument ignores the facts.

Denver's Southeast Line: Low walk appeal, limited job creation

A report found that Denver's Southeast Rail Line, which opened in late 2006, has not been a powerful driver of job growth. Strong housing development has occurred, improving job-work balance.

Oakland: The next Brooklyn?

Oakland and Brooklyn are unique in that they’re the main satellite cities for the two that define America’s urban culture—Manhattan and San Francisco. The comparison doesn't end there.

Transit-oriented, walkable places held real estate values better

A new research paper determined that residential properties near transit stations in five major cities across the US maintained their values significantly better than properties outside of "transit sheds."

Support for compact growth in Cincinnati area

The Ohio Kentucky Indiana (OKI) Regional Council of Governments, which represents Greater Cincinnati, has released the findings from its 2012 "How Do We Grow From Here" survey. The results show strong public support for compact, walkable communities, UrbanCincy reports. OKI has authority over federal transportation funds in the region, and thus has substantial power in influencing future growth patterns. The organization got a larger than usual response from its survey — 2,474 responses and 1,200 commments. Large majorities responded that "It's important to have the option in my community to safely walk or bike," and "urban revitalization and redevelopment efforts are paying off," but only 38 percent said the region is growing in a sustainable way.

New research confirms central-city comebacks

We can now add even smaller cities with populations under 250,000 to the body of evidence showing that the decades-long trend of urban decline in America has been reversed.

Economic vibrancy, or retiree migration

At New Geography, Joel Kotkin is trumpeting a Wendell Cox study that supposedly reveals Americans still love sprawl. "For all the talk of how the Great Recession has driven people — particularly the 'footloose young' — toward dense urban centers, Census data reveal that Americans are still drawn to the same sprawling Sun Belt regions as before," he writes. But there is less here than meets the eye in Cox's and Kotkin's "net domestic migration" figures. Of the 51 largest metro areas, New York City lost 1.9 million people to domestic net migration in 2000-2009 — "the biggest loser," Kotkin chortles — and lost 99,000 more in 2010-2011. Yet the New York metro region has gained more than 2.5 million in total population since 1990, 853,000 since 2000, and 129,000 between 2010 and 2011. Net domestic migration reveals enormous numbers of New York retirees heading south for warmer weather — and often tax breaks — and doesn't necessarily say anything about economic vibrancy. An international city, New York attracts immigrants from around the world. So does Chicago, which lost 53,000 to domestric migration from 2010-2011, and is also steadily gaining population.

Living in the 'Lake Belt'

The recovery of the Great Lakes region may start with thinking about communities differently — and dropping the Rust Belt moniker.

A nationwide survey of livability

Reconnecting America has released an impressively comprehensive survey of every metropolitan region in the US measuring a wide range of characteristics related to livability and smart growth. The survey gives grades from A to D in four areas: Living (housing and neighborhoods), working (proximity and access to jobs), moving (walkability and transit), and thriving (health and culture). The survey is not meant as a ranking — nevertheless it is easy to come up with a grade point average for the largest metro areas (see graph above). The only surprise on the list is Los Angeles, which ranks right below New York City and San Francisco, along with Boston and DC. The reason is that LA has a surprising percentage of the population living in higher-density neighborhoods on a street grid. Known for its driving, LA was built as a streetcar city. That bodes well for rail transit, which is being expanded there. The real value of this report, called Are We There Yet?, is in drilling down to data from individual metro areas, where there are many surprises. I did not know that Lincoln, Nebraska, is so livable (4.0 score for regions under 500,000), or that Greensboro, NC, had such problems (1.0 score for regions between 500,000 and 3 million). You might want to check out the grades for your metro area.

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