MLewyn's blog

Too Much Open Space An Interesting Paper

Prof. Robert Ellickson of Yale Law School has an interesting paper up on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) website.  He critciizes widespread popular support for open space, pointing out that too much open space reduces population density and thus accelerates sprawl and reduces housing supply. 

Why Buses Are Inferior

Critics of rail often argue that buses are superior; they are cheaper, more flexible and (sometimes) run almost as fast.  But in a recent blog post, Houston planning student Maggie Colson explains why trains are better than buses, even if the train isn't much faster:

Reading Le Corbusier in 2015

I just finished reading Concerning Town Planning, a short book of essays by Le Corbusier.  Before reading this, all I knew about him was a few key phrases: "Radiant City" and "towers in a park."  And Le Corbusier did indeed like high-rises surrounded by greenery. 

Downtowns are Booming (Sometimes)

The University of Virginia just created a set of tables based on recent Census data.  These tables measure the affluence, age, etc.

Rich Foreigners Like Suburbs, Too

One common argument against new construction (especially high-rise construction) in cities is that rich foreigners will soak up any new housing supply.  This argument is of course based on the assumption that urban high-rises, and only urban high-rises, are irresistible to rich foreigners.  But an article in

Don't Blame the Koch Brothers (for Low Gas Taxes)

After a variety of conservative groups (including some funded by the Koch brothers) sent a letter to Congress opposing gas tax increases, the liberal and urbanist blogospheres were chock full of stories like this one, complaining that Congress can't reach a transportation deal because (in the words of grist.org)  "of the right-wing and Koch network’s coor

More Evidence that Urbanists Should Support School Choice

A recent article , "School Choice Programs: The Impacts on Housing Values" reviews literature relating to the impact of charter schools and various types of school choice programs on housing values.

Do Tall Buildings Attact Foreigners?

I was discussing Washington, D.C.'s height limits with some acquaintances on Twitter; one of them suggested that allowing taller buildings might turn Washington into a "global city", which in turn would cause foreigners to surge into Washington and drive up real estate prices (as has arguably been the case in parts of Vancouver and New York).

This argument seems to be to be based on two assumptions that are at best unprovable:

From The Department of Worst Practices: Two-lane stroads

One phrase that has become common in transportation planning circles is "stroad"- a street that is oriented towards cars (like a major road) but is full of intersections (like a traditional, more pedestrian-oriented street) and thus doesn't function well as either a street or a road.  When I think of a stroad, I think of six-to-eight lane streets like San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville, or Queens Boulevard in Queens.

Best Practices In Publicizing Data : Pittsburgh Shows How

It is fairly common for city planning departments to publish demographic data about city neighborhoods - usually containing basic demographic information such as age, income and poverty.  But Pittsburgh's planning department has created an unusually impressive set of data tables.  It has created a set of six online spreadsheets (available at