MLewyn's blog

Urbanism and the Oscars

I just finished watching all nine Best Picture nominees, and thought I would discuss what the front-runners should be from an urbanist perspective.  Which films occur in an urban or walkable environment?  Which films present such environments favorably (or at least not unfavorably)?

Mini-Book Review: Regional Planning can be Pro-Sprawl Too

I have written about how local comprehensive plans sometimes favor sprawl over urbanism.  But a recent book by planning scholar Carlton Basmajian, Atlanta Unbound, shows that regional planning can suffer from similar defects. 

Comparing Christie With Other Governors: Public Transit

In view of the recent scandal involving the politically-motivated closing of some bridge lanes in New Jersey, I thought I would start to take a look at how New Jersey Gov Christie's record compares with those of some other governors who might be running for President.  But rather than going program-by-program, I thought I would look at actual transit ridership.  (Statistics here). 

More Evidence That There Are Still Poor People In Cities (Or, I Told You So)

In numerous blog posts (most extensively here) I have pointed out that despite the enormous amount of writing about suburban poverty and urban gentrification, cities still have a disproportionate share of regional poverty.  

A Threat To Retrofitting Sprawl?

Because Houston has no formal zoning code, one might think that infill is easier there than in other cities.  But a few neighborhood activists may create a new obstacle to infll: nuisance law.

Even In Phoenix, You Can't Build Your Way Out of Congestion

A recent op-ed in Canada's Globe and Mail argued that yes, you can build your way out of congestion by building more roads, because after all, Phoenix built lots of roads and they don't have that much congestion.  The author invoked the Texas Transportation Institute's report on Phoenix  to show that government spending on highways reduces congestion.  However, he should have read the TTI report more carefully: between 1982 and 2011,

The Importance of The Margin of Error

Even the best poll or survey is slightly inaccurate, because a poll of a sample of people may not accurately reflect the entire population.  To account for this problem, pollsters have developed the concept of a "margin of error"- a number (usually 2 to 5 percentage points) which shows the range of likely results among the actual population, as opposed to the people who answered the survey.  (For a more technical explanation, go here).

Cities Don't Always Have Higher Taxes Than Suburbs

The Brookings Institution just came out with a national map listing property taxes by county.

Two Implausible Scenarios

The Rand Corporation recently issued a report sketching out two possible scenarios for America's transportation future.  In one scenario, entitled "No Free Lunch", energy prices keep rising, leading to less driving and more compact development.  Under this scenario, government regulates greenhouse gases heavily and taxes driving heavily to support transportation.  In the second scenario, entitled "Fueled and Freewheeling", energy prices are stable, and neither regulation nor taxes increase.

Chanukah Songs for Urbanists

One wonderful thing about Chanukah is how easily its songs lend themselves to adaptation.  For example, last week I adapted the Chanukah song "Mi Y'Malel" (Who Can Retell) here.   Then I created a New York version here.   Create some lyrics for your own city!