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U.S. Foreign Policy a Series of Unforced Errors

3 hours 43 min ago

President Obama, as a fan and occasional player of basketball, should know about “unforced errors.” Those are the kind of thoughtless, bonehead plays where you lose the ball without a defender swatting it or toss a pass somewhere into the higher seats. If you want to review how this is done, I recommend re-watching the recent Clippers versus Rockets series – if you have the stomach for it.

Lately, America has become proficient in creating such unforced mistakes. At a time when the U.S. economy has been out-performing most competitors – resurging in everything from energy and manufacturing to tech – we appear to be slipping ever more into pessimism and fear of decline. Even the reliably pro-Obama New York Times conveys concerns of seeing the U.S. in a tailspin, losing influence in a world that now increasingly looks to authoritarian regimes, such as China and Russia, for leadership and support.

The Great Unforced Error

You can’t blame Obama for the biggest of all the unforced errors, the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Rather than the “mother of all battles,” in Saddam Hussein’s phrase, it turned out to be the mother of all mistakes. In the end, at great human and financial expense, we turned a country run by a weakened, slightly buggy dictator into a nest of jihadi fanatics fighting Iran’s allies for control of the country. Americans have to watch as Iranian commanders direct the battles on the ground and take the bulk of the credit for successes.

Read the entire piece at the Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.  He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Who Benefits From Other People's Transit Use?

Sat, 05/23/2015 - 22:38

In the May 11 issue of Finance and Commerce, Matt Kramer, a local Chamber of Commerce representative lobbying for additional public transit and transportation spending (currently being debated at the Minnesota Legislature) is quoted as saying “Every person who is riding transit is one less person in the car in front of us.”

This is a fascinating quote. First is the use of “us.” So the Chamber of Commerce (probably correctly) identifies riding transit as something someone else does (since “we” are still in the car) and goes on to imply that it benefits us because there will be fewer cars. (Actually he says fewer people per car, but I think he meant fewer cars, not that it would reduce carpooling.) And I suppose he could mean he rides the bus, and the car in front has fewer people (or there were fewer cars in front), but I don’t think that’s what he meant, since the arguments in the legislature are mostly about building and operating new facilities — such as LRT lines or freeway BRT, rather than supporting existing buses driving in traffic.

This evokes the famous Onion article: Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others.

But it also suggests transit reduces auto travel. The converse is almost equally true, building roads reduces transit crowding. But that is not an argument road-builders make. (It is an argument urbanists make against roads.)

Of course, some transit users would have otherwise driven, but many would have been passengers in cars, walked, ridden bikes, or telecommuted. No one really knows what the alternative untaken mode would be. We have models, but the form of those models dictates the answer. Logit models, which are widely used by travel demand forecasters to predict mode choice (and whose development resulted in a Nobel Prize in Economics for University of Minnesota graduate Daniel McFadden), have the property called “IIA”, which is short for Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives. In short, if you take away a mode, IIA means people choose the other modes in proportion to their current use. So let’s say there are 3 modes: walk 25%, transit 25%, drive 50%, and there is a transit shutdown (like in 2004). IIA implies the 25% of former transit users would split 1/3 (25%/75%) for walk and 2/3 (50%/75%) for driving. We all know that is not true (and there are various techniques to try to fix the models and use more complicated functional forms), but the question of what istrue is not at all clear.

While there are surveys that have answered those questions, they are all context specific. For instance, Googling turns up a Managed Lanes Case Study report:

95 Express bus riders were asked how long they have been traveling by bus and what was their previous mode of travel before using the bus service. 92 percent of respondents (307 out of 334) mentioned they have been traveling the 95 Express bus before the Express Lanes started. Only, 8 percent of respondents (27 out of 334) began using the bus after the Express Lanes opened. Among them, 50 percent (13 out of 27) had their previous mode as drive alone and none of them carpooled previously. Therefore, 95 Express bus ridership consisted primarily of those who have been using the service prior to Express Lanes implementation and the small mode shift from highway to transit was mostly from SOVs. Note that the number of respondents is too small to make any conclusions (Cain, 2009).

Undoubtedly other services would have different numbers, but transit lines are not generally a direct substitute for driving.

The line of reasoning in the opening quote suggests the primary purpose of transit is reducing auto travel, rather than serving people who want to or must use transit. In other words, building transit is good because it reduces traffic congestion (and almost no one argues building roads is good because it reduces transit crowding).

That is at best a secondary benefit, a benefit which could be achieved must more simply and less expensively through the use of prices as we do with almost all other scarce goods in society, even necessities like water.

Transit today is, in almost all US markets, slower than driving. People who depend on transit can reach fewer jobs than those who have automobiles available. Some people use transit by choice, for instance to save money (if they need to pay for parking), and the rest without choice. In my opinion, it is more important to spend scarce public dollars to improve options for those without choices than to improve the choices for those who already have alternatives. Perhaps ideally we could do both, in practice, one comes at the expense of other.

The idea that transit is for the other person is true for the 95.5% of people who don’t use transit regularly. But it warps thinking that the aim of public transit funding is to benefit those non-transit users.

This post was written by David Levinson and originally published on Follow on Twitter: @streetsmn.

David Levinson is a Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota and Director of the Networks, Economics, and Urban Systems (NEXUS) research group. He also blogs at The Transportationist and can be found [@trnsprttnst]. Levinson has authored or edited several books, including Planning for Place and Plexus: Metropolitan Land Use and Transport and numerous peer reviewed articles. He is the editor of the Journal of Transport and Land Use.

Photo Metro Transit Stop at Coffman Memorial Union by Runner1928 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

California in 2060?

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 06:49

The California Department of Finance (DOF) has issued population projections for the state’s counties to 2060.  Forecasts are provided for every decade, from a 2010 base. The DOF projects that the the state will grow from 37.3 million residents in 2010 to 51.7 million in 2060. This is a 0.7 percent annual growth rate over the next 50 years. By contrast, California's growth rate was 1.7 percent annually over the last 50 years (1960-2010), and a much higher 3.0 percent in the growth heyday of 1940 to 1990. However, even with this slower rate, California is expected to grow slightly more quickly than the nation (0.6 percent annually).

The current projections are considerably more conservative than those made by DOF less than a decade ago. In 2007, DOF forecast that California would have 60 million residents in 2050. The current population project for 2050 is substantially smaller, at 49.8 million.

Metropolitan Complexes

To understand where this growth is projected to take place --- and not --- we look at CSA's (consolidated statistical areas).  CSA's are economically connected, adjacent metropolitan areas. CSA's require a 15 percent employment interchange between the metropolitan areas. Metropolitan areas themselves are defined by a 25 percent commuting interchange between outlying counties and central counties, each of which must have at least one-half of its population in the core urban area.

As Michael Barone pointed out in his analysis of the 2014 population estimates, sometimes it is not obvious when one metropolitan area changes into another, as in the cases of San Francisco/San Jose and Los Angeles/Riverside-San Bernardino, which are CSA's. Another example is New York and the southwestern Connecticut suburbs in Fairfield and New Haven counties. This is because there is no break in the continuous urbanization.

Metropolitan Complexes in 2060

If the DOF has it right, in a half century, California will be home to eight major metropolitan complexes. which I am defining as combined statistical areas (CSA's) or  "stand alone" metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population (Figure 1).

The Los Angeles metropolitan complex (Los Angeles-Riverside, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties) would remain by far the largest, growing from 17.9 million to 22.8 million. One-third of the growth would be in Los Angeles County, and two-thirds outside. Riverside and San Bernardino counties would receive most of the growth (53 percent). Riverside County would grow the fastest, adding 68 percent to its population (Figure 2). Overall, the Los Angeles metropolitan complex would grow 27.3 percent, well below the projected state rate of 38.4 percent. This is quite a turnaround for a metropolitan complex that was once among the fastest growing in human history.

The San Francisco Bay metropolitan complex, including the San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Vallejo, Santa Rosa and Stockton metropolitan areas would grow a much faster 45.6 percent, from 8.1 million in 2010 to 11.9 million in 2060. The core city of San Francisco would add nearly 300,000, growing 36.3 percent to 1.1 million, (nearly the state rate). However, only 8 percent of the Bay Area growth would be in San Francisco, and 92 percent outside (Figure 3).  Four counties would add more than 500,000 residents, including Santa Clara (800,000), Alameda (680,000), Contra Costa (519,000), and newly added San Joaquin county, which is defined as the Stockton metropolitan area (620,000). San Joaquin County would also grow the fastest, at 90 percent, reaching 1.3 million. This growth is to be expected, since San Joaquin is one of the more peripheral counties, and where the metropolitan fringe (which includes the commuting shed) has been expanding the most.

The San Diego metropolitan complex, a "stand alone" metropolitan area, would grow nearly as slowly as Los Angeles. San Diego's population of 3.1 million in 2010 would rise to 4.1 million in 2060, an increase of 30.8 percent.

Sacramento's metropolitan complex includes the Sacramento, Truckee-Grass Valley and Yuba City metropolitan areas. Sacramento is projected to grow 52.8 percent, from 2.4 million in 2010 to 3.7 million in 2060.

Four additional metropolitan complexes with more than 1 million population are projected, all in the San Joaquin Valley.

Fresno, which includes Fresno County and Madera County, would grow from 1.1 million to 1.9 million, for a nearly 75 percent growth rate.

Bakersfield (Kern County) would be the fastest growing among major metropolitan complexes. Bakersfield would grow from 840,000 in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2060, for a growth rate of 111 percent.

Modesto (Stanislaus and Merced counties) would be the seventh largest metropolitan complex. From a 2010 population of 770,000, Modesto would grow 74 percent to 1,340,000. However, it is possible that by 2060 the commuting shed will reach the San Francisco Bay metropolitan complex, causing it to consume Modesto, as it already has Stockton.

In 2060, California would get its eighth major metropolitan area, with Visalia-Hanford reaching 1,040,000, up 74 percent from 2010 (Tulare and Kings Counties).

Outside of these areas, the largest metropolitan complex would be Salinas, which is projected to have 530,000 residents by 2060. However, Salinas is close enough to the San Francisco Bay Area that it could be added to that area's commuting shed by 2040. The next largest metropolitan area would be El Centro (Imperial County), with a population projected to reach 340,000 by 2060. El Centro, however, could be included in the San Diego commuter shed by that time, making it a part of the San Diego metropolitan complex. The next largest metropolitan complexes would be in the northern Sacramento Valley, Redding and Chico, both approximately 300,000.

Only 2.4 million Californians lived outside the 8 major metropolitan complexes, or 7 percent of the population. Growth in these areas is expected to be slow, with only a 27 percent increase to 2060.

The Difficulty of Projections

Of course, it is virtually impossible to accurately predict demographic trends 50 years into the future. California’s slower than expected growth in recent decades reflected general economic weakness since 1990, and the impact of ultra-high housing prices, particularly on the coast. However, the 2060 California projections provide an interesting view of the future from today's perspective.

Photo: Bakersfield: Fastest Growth Projected 2010 to 2060. "Bakersfield CA - sign" by nickchapman - originally posted to Flickr as P1000493. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris. Wendell Cox is Chair, Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University.

The Uncelebrated Places Where America's Farm Economy Is Thriving

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 13:15

We consume their products every day but economists give them little attention, and perhaps not enough respect. Yet America’s agriculture sector is not only the country’s oldest economic pillar but still a vital one, accounting for some 3.75 million jobs — not only in the fields, but in factories, laboratories and distribution. That compares to about 4.3 million jobs in the tech sector (which we analyzed last month here). Net farm income totaled $108 billion in 2014, according to preliminary figures from the USDA, up 24% from 2004.

This growth may not be impressive by Silicon Valley standards, but most farms and agribusinesses are likely to be with us longer than the latest social media darlings. Online crazes like FarmVille may come and go, but people always have to eat, and in the rest of world, many of them are eating more, and, as the old saying goes, “higher on the hog.” As the world’s leading exporter of agricultural products, the U.S. farm sector is capitalizing on that. The dollar value of U.S. agricultural exports rose to a record $152.5 billion in 2014, making up about 9% of total U.S. goods exports for the year. It’s one of a short list of sectors in which the United States has continued to consistently post a trade surplus — $42 billion last year.

For 2013, the USDA estimated that agricultural exports supported about 1.1 million full-time private-sector jobs, which included 793,900 off the farm (in the food processing industry, the trade and transportation sector and in other supporting industries).

There are many communities in America where agriculture is still a primary industry — even the dominant one. Working with Mark Schill, head of research at the Grand Forks, N.D.-based Praxis Strategy Group, we analyzed the performance of the nation’s largest 124 agriculture economies and put together a list of the strongest ones. We ranked the 124 metropolitan statistical areas based on short- and long-term job growth (2004-14 and 2012-14) in 68 agriculture-related industries (including food processing and manufacturing, wholesaling and farm equipment), average earnings in these communities, earnings growth, and the share of agribusiness in the local workforce.

Short On Water, But Still In The Lead

California may be struggling with a terrible drought, but its agricultural economy still thrives in the domestic and international markets. Six of our top 10 U.S. agricultural economies are in California, including No. 1 Madera, No. 3 Merced and No. 6 Bakersfield. These California regions have a similar profile: an outsized concentration in agribusiness, roughly 10 times the national average, reasonable growth, and low but rising wages.

All these areas did poorly during the recession, and some, notably Merced, have served as exemplars of what The New York Times described as the “ruins of the American dream.” Many California farm communities, particularly those closer to the ultra-pricey Bay Area, hoped that lower land prices would bring skilled workers, and maybe jobs, to their towns from places like Silicon Valley.

But if this aspiration to become a high-tech exurb has floundered in many places, the traditional agricultural economy has continued to roll along. Since 2004, agribusiness employment in our top-ranked agricultural economy, Madera, has surged 36.6%, which is impressive given that nationwide over the same time span, agribusiness employment has remained pretty much unchanged. Although pay for local agriculture-related jobs remains relatively low, wages have risen 15.7% over the past decade to $26,557 for the 14,700 people in this sector. (Note that farm owners on the whole are doing quite well. In 2013, the average farm household income was $118,373, according to the Congressional Research Service, 63% higher than the average U.S. household income of $72,641.)

The key to California farming is dominance in specialized, high-value sectors. California accounts for a remarkable 80% of the world’s almonds, and that lucrative cash crop has been key to Madera’s prosperity — the county produced $623 million worth of almonds in 2013. The area is a big producer of milk and grapes as well, and has a thriving organic farm sector.

Most of the other California leaders share a similar profile, but with sometimes different specializations. Grapes dominate No. 3 Bakersfield’s agricultural production, while Salinas (eighth), where we have both worked as consultants, describes itself as “the salad bowl of the world,” growing 70% of the nation’s lettuce. The area’s specialization in “fresh” has also made it a center of agricultural research and marketing, which provide higher-income opportunities than more traditional farm-based activities. The Salinas area  has also developed a thriving winery scene along the nearby Santa Lucia Mountains as well as a burgeoning number of organic farms production sector in recent years.

Heartland Hotspots

The other hot spot for the agriculture economy is the nation’s breadbasket. Our second-ranked agriculture hub, Decatur, Ill., grows the cash crops that built Middle America — corn and soybeans cover 80% of the area’s land. Due largely to the more mechanized nature of the area’s wet corn milling industry, and the large related industries, notably Archer Daniels Midland, the average local agribusiness worker makes $85,900 a year, almost three times the wages in Madera and other California farm areas.

In fourth place is St. Joseph, a metropolitan statistical area that straddles the Missouri and Kansas border. The area has become a major center for food processing companies – particularly meat — as well as animal pharmaceuticals. It’s a major hub along the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, where nearly a third of the $19 billion global animal health industry is concentrated.

Other heartland growth areas include No. 11 Grand Island, Neb., No. 12 Evansville, Ind., and No. 14 Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa. All these areas specialize in the agribusinesses that have long defined agriculture in the Midwest: cattle, grains and corn.

Just two areas in our top 10 are outside California and the heartland. Yakima, Wash., markets itself as the “fruit bowl of the nation,” and accounts for roughly 60% of the nation’s apple production, as well as a major share of cherries and pears. About 30% of the local workforce is employed in agriculture or related businesses. Perhaps the most surprising entrant on our list is the only large metro area in the top 10: ninth place Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell. While agribusiness is not dominant in Atlanta, it makes the list due to high rankings in agribusiness wages ($74,932, 2nd) and wage growth (up 24.5% since 2004). This is driven by high-value sectors such as flavoring syrups and concentrates for the beverage industry (Coca-Cola is based in the city), farm machinery manufacturing, coffee and tea, and breweries. Its high ranking also reflects the vast sprawl of the area, which still also includes many large poultry producers, as well growers of rye, peanuts and pecans.

The Agricultural Future

Even as population growth slows in the United States and other developed nations, higher birth rates in emerging markets mean the world will require a 70% increase in food production by 2050. The shift of China alone from self-sufficiency in grains such as wheat, corn and soybeans to import dependence all but guarantees growth opportunities for American producers.

To be sure, agricultural producers and the areas they are concentrated in face many challenges. Climate change is expected to impact the growing of certain crops. Severe water shortages, like the one California is experiencing, could threaten many agricultural areas throughout the traditionally arid West.

These challenges will force food producers and processors to adapt. But what kind of farms will meet the challenge? It seems likely that most of the demand will be filled by large, often family-controlled concerns, as has been the trend for decades. As of 2012, some 66% of U.S. farm production by dollar value was accounted for by just 4% of the country’s farms. The century-long process of mechanization that has steadily reduced the numbers of farm workers has moderated in recent decades. The farms of the future are increasingly high-tech and run by highly skilled professionals and technicians.

Simply put, large producers tend to be better suited to adapt to change, and particularly at marketing abroad. But at the same time, we can expect growth in more specialized fields, such as organic fruits, vegetables and meat as well as wine and specialty products, like olive oil. In fact two California areas known for artisanal production have logged considerable growth in recent years and placed highly on our list: Napa (13th) and Santa Maria-Santa Barbara (16th). In future years, we can expect that many other areas, even in the heartland, may look to these niches for profits.

The notion of a stable peasantry, so important in a country like France, and the romantic attachment to farming among many urbanities, does not apply to most of rural America.

As de Tocqueville noted in the first half of the 19th century, agriculture in America is a business. “Almost all farmers of the United States,” he observed,” combine industry with agriculture; most of them make agriculture a trade.”

The idea of living on the land may impress old hippies, urban exiles and hipsters, but for most U.S. agricultural communities, the attachment comes from producing jobs, incomes and opportunities for local residents. This may not be as utopian an approach as some might like, but it has brought more food to more tables than any farming economy in the world.

Rank Region (MSA) Score 2004 - 2014 %  Job Change 2012 - 2014 % Job Change 2014 Wages, Salaries, & Proprietor Earnings 2004-2014 Earnings Change 2014 Location Quotient 2014 Sector Jobs 1 Madera, CA 63.3 36.6% 9.2%  $ 26,557 15.7% 11.5   14,730 2 Decatur, IL 59.7 7.7% 1.8%  $ 85,907 13.8% 4.4     5,768 3 Merced, CA 58.8 14.9% 10.2%  $ 33,383 3.9% 11.2   22,770 4 St. Joseph, MO-KS 58.4 159.9% -0.1%  $ 44,800 11.9% 3.5     5,333 5 Yakima, WA 56.9 27.9% 2.3%  $ 27,075 14.2% 12.0   34,537 6 Bakersfield, CA 55.2 44.6% 10.7%  $ 26,594 3.2% 8.3   70,559 7 Visalia-Porterville, CA 54.7 14.2% 2.9%  $ 30,536 12.0% 11.1   44,799 8 Salinas, CA 53.8 17.2% 5.8%  $ 32,509 -0.9% 11.7   57,221 9 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 53.0 2.8% 1.0%  $ 74,932 24.5% 0.5   30,758 10 Hanford-Corcoran, CA 52.3 0.7% 1.3%  $ 38,676 14.1% 9.3   11,559 11 Grand Island, NE 51.4 32.3% -0.2%  $ 41,632 14.5% 7.0     8,158 12 Evansville, IN-KY 50.6 21.2% 10.3%  $ 46,548 12.5% 1.3     5,041 13 Napa, CA 50.0 15.5% 4.2%  $ 51,483 -4.8% 7.7   15,008 14 Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA 47.0 6.9% -0.9%  $ 62,298 5.1% 4.7   11,155 15 Modesto, CA 46.6 -2.9% 1.7%  $ 42,215 10.3% 6.2   28,978 16 Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA 46.1 23.2% 8.0%  $ 29,722 5.3% 4.5   24,148 17 Chico, CA 46.0 19.6% 8.0%  $ 37,430 7.6% 2.6     5,485 18 Yuma, AZ 45.6 -18.7% -1.6%  $ 27,921 22.7% 7.9   14,062 19 Santa Rosa, CA 45.3 7.9% 7.6%  $ 41,952 3.5% 3.3   17,864 20 Kennewick-Richland, WA 44.9 29.8% 1.2%  $ 29,603 8.2% 6.3   19,308 21 Wenatchee, WA 44.4 10.2% 0.0%  $ 21,851 4.8% 10.1   14,404 22 Gettysburg, PA 44.4 16.9% 2.2%  $ 37,146 2.9% 6.1     6,032 23 Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL 44.4 10.4% 0.8%  $ 61,311 3.5% 2.6   12,469 24 Walla Walla, WA 43.9 2.5% -1.4%  $ 32,919 6.3% 8.6     6,907 25 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 43.6 27.1% 8.2%  $ 46,168 2.2% 0.4   27,025 26 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 43.3 16.8% 6.7%  $ 37,050 9.5% 1.6   20,959 27 Sioux Falls, SD 43.2 0.4% 4.2%  $ 43,743 11.9% 1.9     7,326 28 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 43.0 -15.2% -1.1%  $ 53,691 24.1% 0.7   11,775 29 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 42.8 -8.0% 1.4%  $ 59,275 13.3% 0.5     6,968 30 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 42.0 5.4% 3.9%  $ 46,590 7.3% 1.6   20,208 31 Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA 41.9 2.0% 2.9%  $ 33,401 10.8% 3.9   11,167 32 Canton-Massillon, OH 41.7 25.1% 8.6%  $ 40,484 -2.6% 1.4     6,009 33 Fresno, CA 41.5 4.0% -0.3%  $ 29,168 7.6% 6.8   66,982 34 Amarillo, TX 41.5 14.7% 4.2%  $ 38,692 6.1% 2.4     7,411 35 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 41.4 5.4% 0.1%  $ 59,584 4.8% 1.5   13,798 36 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 41.3 3.6% 7.8%  $ 49,291 -0.2% 0.6   16,821 37 Kalamazoo-Portage, MI 41.1 6.4% 5.0%  $ 32,065 12.5% 1.9     7,031 38 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 40.9 -1.5% 3.3%  $ 49,930 8.6% 0.8   39,300 39 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 40.8 -7.3% 6.5%  $ 51,866 3.5% 0.3   21,060 40 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 40.5 1.3% 10.9%  $ 38,714 0.3% 0.5     6,401 41 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 39.9 4.6% 10.1%  $ 33,886 3.3% 0.5   19,359 42 Bellingham, WA 39.7 19.8% 4.5%  $ 30,171 6.5% 2.3     5,441 43 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 39.4 26.2% 0.2%  $ 31,156 7.8% 3.5   30,982 44 Appleton, WI 39.3 7.6% 0.5%  $ 43,222 5.0% 2.9     9,032 45 Cedar Rapids, IA 39.1 7.1% 1.2%  $ 60,098 -4.5% 1.6     5,922 46 Gainesville, GA 39.1 19.7% 4.2%  $ 34,848 -9.1% 5.1   10,420 47 Columbus, OH 39.1 -15.7% 0.0%  $ 60,747 7.4% 0.6   14,524 48 Peoria, IL 39.0 -5.6% -4.0%  $ 48,075 20.9% 1.1     5,132 49 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 39.0 -5.0% 9.2%  $ 38,179 2.5% 0.4   11,750 50 Grand Forks, ND-MN 38.9 -10.8% -4.2%  $ 39,268 19.3% 3.5     5,303 51 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 38.8 -2.2% 6.5%  $ 37,495 7.5% 0.4   22,154 52 San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA 38.6 26.0% -0.7%  $ 32,695 11.1% 2.5     7,682 53 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 38.6 2.6% 7.1%  $ 34,455 4.8% 1.0   29,146 54 Sioux City, IA-NE-SD 38.5 -4.7% -1.0%  $ 42,084 -1.9% 5.8   13,565 55 Greeley, CO 37.6 11.8% 2.1%  $ 32,324 -3.4% 4.8   12,935 56 Reading, PA 37.5 5.0% 5.8%  $ 38,675 -2.7% 1.9     8,553 57 Fargo, ND-MN 37.5 3.9% -3.3%  $ 53,253 6.0% 1.9     6,805 58 Joplin, MO 37.4 -21.2% -1.4%  $ 40,138 15.9% 2.4     5,003 59 Yuba City, CA 37.2 -14.0% -3.1%  $ 32,690 13.9% 4.6     6,050 60 Green Bay, WI 37.1 20.6% 3.3%  $ 36,437 -4.0% 2.8   12,150 61 Stockton-Lodi, CA 37.1 -2.4% -2.4%  $ 35,861 8.1% 4.3   25,296 62 Salem, OR 36.7 3.2% 3.2%  $ 26,949 1.6% 4.0   17,217 63 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 36.7 -7.5% 2.2%  $ 51,126 2.0% 0.6   67,224 64 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 36.7 0.6% 5.6%  $ 39,415 2.7% 0.3   16,642 65 Wichita, KS 36.5 7.1% 3.1%  $ 51,114 -5.5% 0.9     7,260 66 St. Cloud, MN 36.3 13.1% 3.6%  $ 34,545 -0.8% 2.2     5,877 67 Richmond, VA 36.2 -5.2% 8.2%  $ 38,672 -2.3% 0.4     5,900 68 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 35.7 12.0% 4.8%  $ 37,100 0.6% 0.4     6,376 69 Rochester, NY 35.3 5.7% 5.6%  $ 36,398 -3.1% 1.1   14,768 70 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 35.2 -0.2% 3.3%  $ 40,743 2.3% 0.5   15,328 71 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 35.1 13.4% 2.8%  $ 46,016 -3.7% 0.4   13,801 72 Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ 34.8 34.2% -2.9%  $ 36,070 -4.2% 3.9     6,008 73 El Centro, CA 34.6 -5.7% -9.0%  $ 27,952 10.9% 7.3   12,420 74 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 34.5 33.6% 2.7%  $ 33,771 -2.4% 0.8     5,185 75 Jackson, MS 34.4 -14.0% -1.2%  $ 36,223 16.1% 0.8     5,237 76 Kansas City, MO-KS 33.8 -9.3% -0.9%  $ 50,538 2.8% 0.5   14,001 77 Harrisonburg, VA 33.6 -10.4% 0.0%  $ 34,844 -4.3% 4.6     7,585 78 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 33.5 12.4% -0.9%  $ 51,997 -4.9% 0.6   16,132 79 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 33.5 -17.5% -2.3%  $ 55,272 3.0% 0.6     9,734 80 Boise City, ID 33.3 -5.1% -1.8%  $ 36,627 8.3% 1.7   12,560 81 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 32.9 -2.1% 2.8%  $ 44,038 -3.7% 0.4   21,369 82 Fort Smith, AR-OK 32.6 -22.2% -2.3%  $ 34,447 8.0% 3.0     8,706 83 Rochester, MN 32.5 9.2% -0.4%  $ 36,864 -1.1% 1.8     5,470 84 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 32.5 10.4% -4.9%  $ 39,201 12.2% 0.5   11,860 85 Las Cruces, NM 32.4 -12.9% -1.1%  $ 23,719 12.3% 2.7     5,506 86 Salt Lake City, UT 32.3 -1.1% -0.1%  $ 39,698 4.4% 0.3     6,090 87 Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 32.2 -19.9% -2.2%  $ 47,083 5.2% 0.9     7,431 88 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 31.8 -2.2% 2.6%  $ 48,162 -9.4% 0.4   14,651 89 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 31.6 9.9% 1.0%  $ 38,510 -3.0% 0.7   16,298 90 Lancaster, PA 31.2 -18.0% -2.3%  $ 45,489 -2.5% 2.4   15,195 91 Goldsboro, NC 30.9 -6.0% -0.2%  $ 31,551 -6.1% 3.9     5,053 92 Knoxville, TN 30.8 1.2% -0.9%  $ 36,956 2.9% 0.6     5,745 93 Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO 30.7 -14.2% -2.8%  $ 33,593 3.0% 3.0   17,130 94 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 30.7 -13.6% 3.3%  $ 43,829 -8.4% 0.6   14,113 95 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 30.0 -7.5% 4.3%  $ 33,166 -3.8% 0.2   10,978 96 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 30.0 -5.5% 0.7%  $ 33,580 2.7% 0.3     6,187 97 Columbia, SC 29.5 0.0% 0.8%  $ 32,795 -1.6% 0.9     8,184 98 Urban Honolulu, HI 29.5 -6.3% 2.8%  $ 29,767 -1.1% 0.6     7,576 99 York-Hanover, PA 29.5 -1.9% -2.3%  $ 43,359 -4.7% 1.4     6,338 100 St. Louis, MO-IL 29.3 -19.6% -7.4%  $ 55,033 4.5% 0.6   20,054 101 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 29.3 0.9% 2.0%  $ 42,074 -9.8% 0.3   63,059 102 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 29.1 -0.7% 1.0%  $ 32,275 -1.1% 0.5   31,740 103 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 29.0 -26.5% -4.2%  $ 45,284 6.8% 0.4     8,457 104 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 28.7 -7.1% 2.1%  $ 35,946 -5.8% 0.5   13,914 105 Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 27.4 3.0% -3.8%  $ 39,609 -1.3% 0.5   10,847 106 Lexington-Fayette, KY 27.3 -15.2% -6.2%  $ 32,557 9.7% 1.4     9,763 107 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 27.3 -15.0% -0.8%  $ 32,745 0.5% 0.7   26,357 108 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 26.9 -6.9% 0.2%  $ 40,376 -9.6% 0.5   38,965 109 Pittsburgh, PA 26.7 -20.2% 0.1%  $ 34,121 -0.5% 0.3     7,765 110 Raleigh, NC 26.4 -17.6% 1.0%  $ 40,219 -9.4% 0.4     6,022 111 Oklahoma City, OK 26.3 -12.3% -5.2%  $ 37,948 4.6% 0.4     6,099 112 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 25.6 -14.9% -8.7%  $ 43,105 -0.4% 2.2   11,733 113 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 25.2 -4.8% -0.2%  $ 33,141 -7.5% 0.4   12,851 114 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 25.1 -21.6% -1.4%  $ 41,848 -8.4% 0.6     7,851 115 Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 24.9 -22.9% -8.2%  $ 25,014 13.7% 1.9     6,572 116 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 24.7 -9.1% 0.0%  $ 47,118 -18.2% 0.3   28,697 117 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 24.6 -19.1% -3.7%  $ 43,853 -5.8% 0.4   59,217 118 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 23.6 -14.5% 1.3%  $ 26,027 -7.7% 0.6   20,043 119 Chattanooga, TN-GA 22.8 -18.2% -8.1%  $ 42,812 -2.2% 0.9     5,466 120 Salisbury, MD-DE 22.3 -13.6% -9.3%  $ 32,913 -2.2% 2.7   10,914 121 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 22.0 -38.2% -11.7%  $ 26,476 20.1% 1.1     7,330 122 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 20.7 -5.3% -4.6%  $ 32,039 -11.5% 1.3     9,269 123 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 18.9 -19.7% -3.8%  $ 31,162 -8.9% 0.1   10,945 124 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 13.2 -16.4% -10.8%  $ 49,598 -24.4% 0.6     5,176


To determine the top regions for agribusiness, Mark Schill of Praxis Strategy Group,, examined employment data in 68 ag- and food production-related industries, including crop and animal production. Only metropolitan areas with at least 5,000 total jobs in the 68 industries are included in the analysis. The five measures are equally-weighted. Location quotient is the local share of jobs in agribusiness divided by the national share in the same industry group. Data is from Economic Modeling Specialists, Intl (EMSI).

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.  He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Mark Schill is a community process consultant, economic strategist, and public policy researcher with Praxis Strategy Group.

21st Century California Careers

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 22:38

California is undergoing profound change.  Most strikingly, people are leaving the Golden State, which was once the preferred destination of migrants worldwide.  California’s domestic migration has been net negative for over 20 years.  That is, for 20 years, more people have been leaving California for other states than have been arriving from other states.  The state’s population is only growing because of a relatively high birthrate, mostly among immigrants.

Domestic migration is not a one-way street.  It may be net negative, but lots of people are coming to the state.  It’s just that more are leaving. Generally speaking, low and middle-income people are leaving.  Those coming tend to be wealthier and older than those leaving.  They are people who can afford California’s higher costs and limited opportunity.  These migratory trends are increasing income-inequality in America’s most unequal state.

Businesses are leaving the state too, but not all businesses.  Tradable goods producers are leaving California, because the state has for ten years maintained the single worst business climate in America.  Tradable goods are goods that can be produced in one place and consumed in another.  Manufacturing is the classic example, but technology is changing what is a tradable good.

Today, many jobs that used to be considered non-tradable services are now tradable services.  Back-office accounting functions can be done anywhere, as can legal research or title research.  Just about any job that is done at a computer is now a tradable service.

Unless they have a monopoly, tradable goods and tradable service providers face relentless price competition.  California’s high-cost environment is forcing them to relocate to lower-cost communities to survive.  Tradable producers won’t be providing 21st Century California jobs.

California, with its beaches, deserts, mountains, cosmopolitan cities and other attractions, is a major tourism destination.  These amenities also make California a wonderful place to live for those who can afford it.  So, wealthy people come to or stay in California, and then try to close the gate behind them.  Our cities become ever more divided between the older haves and the younger have-nots, between opulent consumption and not-so-much consumption.

So who will provide jobs for 21st Century Californians?  In a single word the rich and upper middle class affluents. When they come as tourists, they spark demand for leisure and hospitality jobs.  Consequently, this sector has been California’s second most rapidly growing sector with over 15 percent (239,400 jobs) growth since the beginning of the recession in October 2007.  Only healthcare grew faster or created more California jobs.  Since it is hard to guide tourists or change bed sheets remotely, these are non-tradable services jobs. 

The resident rich will also create jobs.  We see this already in places like Santa Barbara, where there are types of jobs that were unimaginable until recently.  People will come to your house to cook your gourmet meal, clean your house, bathe your dog, trim your toenails, and supervise your exercise. They’ll even bring an athletic gym in the back of a truck.  There are doggy day care centers, with web cams to watch your puppy while you’re separated.  There is a pet cremation center.  There is a dog bakery.  Some people make a living walking other people’s dogs, while some people make a living taking older, apparently poorly-motivated, people for exercise walks.   

Huge amounts of money are spent on homes, and not just on the purchase.  Remodels are almost perpetual for some, and they are happy to pay huge sums for quality craftsmanship.  So it is with cars.  Car collectors used to be hands-on.  Today, many hire someone to restore their cars.

The list of services that wealthy people are willing to pay for is unlimited.  Rich people, indeed all of us if we could afford it, enjoy paying someone else to do even mildly unpleasant chores. 

This has resulted in rapid-for-California growth in non-tradable services jobs.  According to the California Employment Development Department, non-tradable services jobs grew 14 percent since 2000, while tradable-goods jobs declined by 24 percent.

We’ve seen this before.  Domestic service was a large sector in Victorian England, peaking about 1891 when internal combustion engines and automobiles brought renewed economic growth.  This provided new opportunities for workers and raised the cost of service workers.

California won’t see a new burst of economic or job growth in tradable sectors, particularly when the current tech boom evaporates. This is because California’s coastal elites will more successfully restrain growth than did their Victorian predecessors, perpetuating and increasing the state’s income inequality. 

While the Irish Potato Famine and popular pressure forced the Corn Laws’ repeal, California’s elite face no such pressure.  In California’s one-party system, environmental purity easily trumps economic opportunity, and since California is only a state, it has a relief valve for disaffected citizens.  They can easily leave, and everyone that leaves increases the sustainability of the Coastal Elite’s no-growth, consumption based economy.

California’s bureaucracy will provide plenty of jobs too.  When the bureaucracy decides everything, as it does in California, it’s a unique source of middle class jobs.  Working for California’s bureaucracy pays well, but other options can be more profitable.  Lobbying and fighting the bureaucracy can be big business.  As it is, every California community has people whose only job is to help businesses and people navigate the local bureaucracy.

California’s formidable tech sector will diminish as a source of jobs and economic growth.  Venture capital’s changing economics and California’s ever-increasing costs will drive new growth to up-and-coming centers of innovation, places like Austin.  As it is, Austin, with 73.9 percent growth in tech-sector jobs between 2004 and 2014, saw more rapid growth in tech-sector jobs than San Jose, with 70.2 percent growth in tech-sector jobs over the same period.

We’ll be left with a bunch of rich people and a big bureaucracy and the people who serve them.  California will still be a beautiful place, but it’ll hide an increasingly ugly social reality.

Bill Watkins is a professor at California Lutheran University and runs the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, which can be found at

Suburban Migration In Baltimore

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 22:38

One unique aspect of Baltimore is that it is a so-called “independent city” that is not part of any county. Because of this, migration data from the IRS allows us to look specifically at the city of Baltimore. So I wanted to take a quick look at migration between Baltimore and its suburbs.

As you might expect, there’s been a net outflow of people from the city for quite some time. From 1990 to 2011 (the most recent year the IRS has released), Baltimore lost almost 151,000 people on a net basis to its suburbs. Here’s the chart:

You see here that Baltimore had an accelerating net loss of people, but then showed a steep drop in net loss through the 2000s. This is consistent with county level migration I’ve seen in other regions.

When people leave, they take their money with them. Baltimore’s cumulative net loss of annual income to its own suburbs from departing residents is about $2.75 billion from 1992 to 2011. (Income data isn’t available for 90-91 and 91-92 movers). That’s annual income, so this loss in effect recurs every single year. That’s a lot of money. Here’s the chart on adjusted gross income loss (in thousands of dollars):

What was a small post-recession bump in the people numbers is a more sizable one in the money figures.

Since we can, let’s also look at the individual flows of people leaving and people coming in. Here are people moving from Baltimore to the suburbs:

And here are people moving from the suburbs to the city of Balitmore – and yes, lots of people do that:

Here we see that the decline in Baltimore’s net loss was driven both by a decline in the number of people leaving and by an increase in the number of people coming in. This is similar to what I’ve seen in other similar places. The uptick in the recession is due to a drop off in the number of in movers.

There are some pretty dramatic movements in the early 90s, which were an interesting time in urban America to put it mildly. I’m not familiar with the specifics of Baltimore in that era. Some other regions I looked at – including St. Louis, which is also an independent city – show higher early 90’s migration, but nothing like the swing in Baltimore.

We will have to see what happens in post-2011 years. The IRS is delayed in issuing data, and has been trying to kill off this data program entirely, so who knows when more data will be available. 2012 data should in theory be out right about now, but we are some years away at best from finding out what impact this year’s riots might have had.

I should caveat this data by noting that it is based on tax returns that can be matched from year to year, so there are some movers who aren’t captured. As you can see, this is a pretty large data set, however.

Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a Contributing Editor at City Journal. He writes at The Urbanophile, where this piece first appeared.

California Environmental Quality Act, Greenhouse Gas Regulation and Climate Change

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 22:38

This is the introduction to a new report, California’s Social Priorties, from Chapman University’s Center for Demographics and Policy. The report is authored by David Friedman and Jennifer Hernandez. Read the full report (pdf).

California has adopted the most significant climate change policies in the United States, including landmark legislation (AB 32)2 to lower state green- house gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Proposed new laws, and recent judicial decisions concerning the analysis of GHG impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), may soon increase the state’s legally mandat- ed GHG reduction target to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.3 The purpose of California’s GHG policies is to reduce the concentration of human-generated GHGs in the atmosphere. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many other scient.c organizations have predicted that higher GHG atmospheric concentra- tions generated by human activity could cause catastrophic climate changes.

This paper demonstrates that even the complete elimination of state GHG emissions will have no measurable effect on climate change risks unless Cali- fornia-style policies are widely adopted throughout the United States, and particularly in other countries that now generate much larger GHG emissions. As California Governor Jerry Brown, a staunch proponent of climate change policies, recently observed, “We can do things in California, but if others don’t follow, it will be futile.”4 Similarly, the California legislature recognized at the time that AB 32 was enacted that at- mospheric GHG concentrations could only be stabilized through national and international actions, and that the state’s “far-reaching effects” would result from “encouraging other states, the federal government, and other countries to act.”5 Nevertheless, the extent to which California’s GHG policies have and may be likely to inspire similar measures in
other locations, is rarely, if ever seri- ously evaluated by state lawmakers or the California judiciary. Absent such considerations, imposing much more substantial GHG mandates may not only fail to inspire complementary actions in other locations, but could even result in a net increase in GHG emissions should population and economic activity move to locations with much higher GHG emission rates than California.

Key findings include the following:

1. Most scientists agree that climate change risks are associated with the atmospheric accumulation of gases with high global warming potential includ- ing carbon dioxide and other gases attributed to human activity (collectively “carbon dioxide equivalent” or “CO2e” emissions). In 2011 California accounted for less than 1% of global CO2e emissions, and less than 0.065% of the worldwide annual CO2e emissions increase that occurred during 1990-2011. The state’s per capita CO2e emissions are much lower than in the rest of the United States, and comparable with relatively efficient advanced industrial countries like Germany and Japan.

2. Despite its sizable population and economy, California generates a relatively minute, and falling, share of global CO2e emissions. The amount of global CO2e emissions and atmospheric concentrations would have been virtually unchanged, even if California's GHG emissions were zero from 1990-2011, and remained at that level and assuming cur- rent emission trends in other locations continued through 2050.

3. As recognized in AB 32 and by other state leaders, California’s ability to reduce climate change risks is not primarily a function of reducing state emissions. To have any measurable effect on global CO2e levels, the state must show that CO2e emissions can be reduced in a manner that also allows societies, such  as China and India, to improve the prospects for the vast majority of the population now living in or near poverty conditions. Over the last several decades, and especially since the mid-2000s, when climate change emerged as the state’s dominant environmental policy focus, California has failed to demonstrate that it can sustain a thriving middle and working class in addition to its most affluent  population.

4. As sharply illustrated by Tesla’s recent decision to locate a $5 billion electric car facility, and 6,500 green jobs, in Nevada, California continues to suffer from a relatively poor global economic reputation as a place to do businesses outside high-end services and technology development. This drives even green energy manufacturing, let alone more traditional industries, from the state. State policies also reduce middle and working class employment opportunities, and increase housing and other key living expenses, such as energy costs.

5. Ironically this has resulted in a mas- sive displacement of former state businesses and residents to other locations with higher per-capita CO2e emission levels. Since 1990, 3.8 million former residents, approximately the population of Oregon or Oklahoma, relocated to other states. Billions of dollars of  economic activity which might have remained in California have now been relocated to states and foreign countries with much higher emissions and weaker regulations. The cumulative net CO2e emission increases generated by the unprecedented movement of the state’s former residents and continuing loss of economic activity to higher GHG generating locations nearly offsets the GHG reductions that would  be achieved in California under AB 32.

Section I of this paper provides background information about historical CO2e atmospheric concentrations, the extent of global CO2e emissions over time, climate change risks associated with these trends, and California’s relative contribution to worldwide CO2e emissions. This section demonstrates that California accounts for a minute and falling share of global GHG emissions.

Section II discusses the development of California’s current climate change policies and shows that, in the past, California consistently recognized that CO2e emission reduction goals must be adopted in a measured, balanced man- ner to facilitate the concurrent need for economic growth and other important social objectives. Despite recent increases in corporate earnings by Silicon Valley corporations, increased home prices to pre-recession levels, and a decrease in reported unemployment rates, California also includes the nation’s largest number and highest percentage of people living in poverty. Nearly 24% of the state’s population is impoverished according to recently released U.S. Census Bureau statistics and faces enormous economic and social challenges.

The state’s ability to meet its pressing social and economic challenges could be worsened by proposed legislation and judicial interpretations of CEQA mandating much more substantial GHG reductions than even sympathetic scientific assessments have found to be unachievable using any current technology.

Sections III and IV show that, even assuming that California had zero CO2e emissions during 1990-2011, and for an additional four decades projected to 2050, global CO2e emission levels and atmospheric CO2e concentration would be virtually unaffected. In fact, unrealistic unilateral GHG reduction mandates can actually increase global CO2e levels and associated climate change risks by discouraging states and countries from adopting similar policies, and by displacing people and industries to locations with higher emissions.

The achievement of significant, but more realistic GHG objectives and broad-based economic and social growth would have an immeasurably greater effect on atmospheric CO2e concentration levels if the state’s economic vitality proved a workable model that also allows for the achievement of critical social aims, such as reducing poverty and improving the standard of living for the middle class and those aspiring to join the middle class.

Read the full report (pdf).

Dispersion and Concentration in Metropolitan Employment

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 14:09

The just released County Business Patterns indicates a general trend of continued employment dispersion to the newer suburbs (principally the outer suburbs) and exurbs but also greater concentration in the central business districts of the 52 major metropolitan areas in the United States (over 1 million population in 2013). County Business Patterns is a Census Bureau program that provides largely private-sector employment data by geography throughout the nation.

This article examines the most recent data, for 2013, with comparisons to 2007, which was the peak employment year and preceded the Great Recession, the most substantial economic decline in the United States since the Great Depression. There are also comparisons to 2010, the year in which national employment reached its lowest level (trough) before beginning what is, so far, a long and fairly arduous recovery. The analysis uses the City Sector Model (Note)

2007-2013 Trend

Job losses were registered in each of the five urban sectors between the employment peak of 2007 and the trough of 2010. Three of the urban sectors have recovered to above their 2007 employment levels. However, overall major metropolitan area employment remains lower by approximately 800,000. Since the 2010 trough, the largest numeric gains have been in the newer suburbs. The Central Business Districts (CBDs) of the Urban Core have recovered more than double their 2007 to 2010 numeric loss. In contrast, the balance of the Urban Core, the Inner Ring experienced a modest increase over its 2007 employment peak. The exurbs have not yet fully recovered. By far the largest losses between 2007 and 2010 were in the earlier suburbs (principally inner suburbs), where employment dropped 2.8 million and has recovered less than one half of that loss (Figure 1).

Dispersion and Concentration

The dispersion and concentration is most evident in the shares of employment by urban sector (Figure 3). Three of the urban sectors increased their share of metropolitan employment between 2007 and 2013. The largest increase was in the newer suburban areas, which rose from 24.7 percent to 25.6 percent of metropolitan employment. The central business districts also increased their share of employment, from 8.4 percent in 2007 to 9.0 percent in 2013. This trend is similar to the City Observatory (Joe Courtright) findings that urban cores outperformed suburbs in job growth between 2007 and 2011. The Courtright findings were for areas within three miles of the largest city center, while the findings here relate to the generally smaller CBDs (Figure 2).The gains in other sectors were at the expense of the earlier suburbs, which experienced a loss from 45.9 percent to 44.4 percent of metropolitan employment between 2007 and 2013.

From the 2010 Trough to 2013

Since the trough of 2010, there were numeric gains in all of the urban sectors. The gains were concentrated in the suburbs and exurbs, which accounted for 80.9 percent of the employment growth from 2010 to 2013. This nearly equals the 81.9 percent share of employment in these areas in 2007. The urban core, including the CBD and inner ring, captured 19.1 percent of the 2010 to 2013 employment growth, better than their combined 18.1 percent share in 2007 (Figure 3).

There was also geographic concentration in the CBD gains between the 2010 trough and 2013. Approximately two-thirds of the CBD employment gain between 2007 and 2013 was in four metropolitan areas: New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. Along with Seattle and Houston, these metropolitan areas account for 75 percent of the CBD growth. All of the 46 other major metropolitan areas contributed 25 percent of the gain (Figure 4).

Between 2010 and 2013, the largest annual percentage employment gain was in the later suburbs, at 3.2 percent. The CBDs, experienced the second strongest growth at 2.9 percent. However, numeric gain in the later suburbs was more than three times that of the CBDs, due to their already much larger employment base (Figure 5).

Returning to Normalcy?

For decades, most employment growth has been outside the urban cores of the major metropolitan areas, as had been the case with residential population gains. The Great Recession interfered with these patterns, but normalcy may be returning. Brookings Institution Demographer William Frey recently commented on later population trends (through 2014), suggesting "renewed growth in suburban and exurban counties." The new data indicates renewed employment growth in suburban and exurban areas. At the same time, it would not be surprising for the revival in the CBDs to continue, even if the numbers are relatively small in the metropolitan area context, where the dominance of suburban and exurban job growth seems likely to continue.

Note: The analysis is based on the City Sector Model (Figure 6), which classifies small areas (ZIP codes, more formally, ZIP Code Tabulation Areas, or ZCTAs) in metropolitan area in the nation based upon their behavioral functions as urban cores, suburbs or exurbs. The criteria used are generally employment and population densities and modes of work trip travel. The purpose of the urban core sectors is to replicate, to the best extent possible, the urban form as it existed before World War II, when urban densities were much higher and when a far larger percentage of urban travel was on transit or by walking. The suburban and exurban sectors replicate automobile oriented suburbanization that began in the 1920s and escalated strongly following World War II.

Photo: New York: Columbus Circle (by author)

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris. Wendell Cox is Chair, Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University.

How Cities Can Show Resilience

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 23:08

Resilient: Strong. Healthy. Successful again. But how does a city become resilient? Here are five ways that city leaders can help:

Designing for resilience requires systems thinking: Cities are complex, interconnected systems. Think of a city as being like a human body – a harmonious balance of cardiovascular, skeletal, respiratory, and cognitive functions. Each system is dependent on the next, and is easily stressed when unbalanced or shocked after trauma. An obvious example is PTSD, once known as “shell shock,” affecting so many military veterans today.

Health experts have known the value of systems thinking in global health efforts for years. The same logic has grown popular in urban planning. Dr. Timon McPhearson, an Assistant Professor of Urban Ecology at The New School in New York City puts it this way:

“Systems thinking is crucial to problem solving including for urban planning and policy, because no problem exists in isolation, all are part of a larger system of interacting networks; social networks, bio geophysical networks, political networks, and economic networks. Interestingly, it turns out that you can’t understand the behavior of a system by studying its parts; you need to study the whole thing.”

California is an example. It may be easy to understand how the state’s drought is impacting its ability to produce food. However, you may be unaware that the drought is also having tremendous impacts on energy production. Energy and water are inextricably linked, with energy required to pump, treat, transport and cool water. Conversely, the force of falling water turns turbines that generate hydroelectricity, and most thermal power plants depend on H2O for cooling.

The smartest cities create resilience from shocks and stresses: When your body has a weakened immune system, it will often lose the fight against viruses and disease. Cities also bounce back much more quickly from earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods if the core components of their social fabric are strong – things like education, health, general prosperity and community cohesion.

There is also a strong connection between resilience and social networks. Disconnected communities have weak resilience. Transportation systems, entertainment venues and open spaces that bring communities together can have extraordinarily positive effects on their bounce-back capabilities.

Only diverse teams can create epic resilience ideas: The strongest resilience solutions generally come from large, multi-disciplinary teams of engineers, architects, designers, social scientists, and economists. Masterfully crafted city projects are both beautiful and functional. They stimulate the economy and improve quality of life for the community.

They also require diverse teams. Recent research reported by NPR found that diverse teams generally perform better, especially in idea rich fields like research, urban planning, and science. In the world of research, paper citations are a metric of effectiveness. Diverse teams lead to more citations. According to Harvard economist Richard Freeman, “People who are more alike are likely to think more alike and one of the things that gives a kick to science is that you get people with somewhat different views.”

Creating resilience solutions requires input from many, and an open mind to diverse perspectives.
Resilience solutions can have dual benefits: When Superstorm Sandy’s 14-foot storm tide nailed Hoboken on October 29, 2012, the streets, according to Mayor Dawn Zimmer, filled with water “like a bathtub." The storm caused more than $250 million in damage.

The initial reaction was to erect giant sea walls around Hoboken, but citizens cringed at the thought of giving up their magnificent views of New York harbor and Manhattan skyline. Perspectives changed when the city began working with a winning team from Rebuild By Design, a competition created in the wake of the storm to pioneer ways of designing, funding and implementing a resilient future. Instead of erecting big, ugly sea walls, the team created a system of parks, buildings and greenways as barriers against flooding, as well as a park around the city to serve as a rainwater storage site.

The Hoboken example shows how resilience projects following a disaster don’t have to be a drag. They can protect cities and their citizens, and improve quality of life.

Cooler heads design the best resilience strategies: Mayor Lianne Dalziel, of Christchurch, New Zealand, knows something about resilience. Christchurch was hit by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in September, 2010. It devastated the city and aftershocks that followed were equally grim, including a 6.3 aftershock the following February that killed 185 people. A thousand buildings were damaged or destroyed in the city center alone, and rebuilding continues to this day. The financial impacts have been estimated to be $40 billion. Some economists have projected that it will take New Zealand’s economy 50 to 100 years to completely recover.

As I listened to Mayor Danziel speak to an audience of experts and city officials last year, I was deeply moved by her warnings to communities about rushed decisions following a disaster – decisions that could ultimately do more harm than good. She even suggested that a “national cooling-off period” should be observed to prevent communities from major policy decisions fueled by emotion and sadness. It was a joke, but she might just be on to something. How do you avoid making rush decisions? Plan ahead.

Most of the best resilience ideas are borrowed. Salvador Dali once said, "Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing." Every city in the world is different, but the problems they face are often similar. Good solutions should be shared.

According to the World Bank, almost half a billion of the world’s urban residents live in coastal areas prone to storm surges and rising sea levels. This includes New York City, Miami, New Orleans, Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh City and Shenzhen, China; those are six of the ten cities projected to have the highest annual flood costs by 2050, according to Tim McDonnell of Climate Desk.

The United States, Colombia, Pakistan, Somalia, Australia, Guatemala, China, and Kenya are all also losing billions to drought. The World Economic Forum reports that since 1900, global droughts have affected two billion people, leading to more than 11 million deaths. Organizations like Rockefeller’s 100 Resilient Cities Challenge (100RC) recognize commonalities between urban areas, and are working hard to facilitate information sharing. In the networked age of information, sharing ideas is easier than ever.

Hire resilience experts: Are you leading a community development or critical infrastructure improvement project? Hire advisors, engineers, and urban designers that understand how to design for resilience. The community is where resilience starts and ends. It is the grass roots where the best-laid plans are hatched, and it's also where the suffering begins when things go bad.

City leaders must engage with all levels of the socio-economic ladder, particularly the lower rungs. That's where the people who are hit the hardest when disaster strikes are, and where to find those who are usually the most receptive to new ideas, especially if they can see how it will help them in the short run. The key is connecting with them in meaningful ways. And giving them real, open pathways to you.

Charles Rath is President & CEO of Resilient Solutions 21, or RS21. RS21 pulls from a wide array of disciplines to create solutions for cities, countries, agencies and businesses challenged by the physical, social and economic forces that will drive our world in the 21st century. For more information, contact

Flickr photo by superkimbo: Viewpoint from Hoboken... a new perspective on rebuilding after disaster.

How California Became a Blue-State Role Model

Sun, 05/10/2015 - 22:38

California, once disdained as zany, insubstantial and politically unreliable, has now become a favorite of the blue state crew. From culture and technology to politics, the Golden State is getting all sorts of kudos from an establishment media traditionally critical of our state.

For example, the New York Times recently ran two pieces, one political and the other cultural, that praised this state for its innovation and cool – even in the midst of a horrendous drought.

And to be sure, it’s nice to be a pet – at least I hope that’s what our dog Roxie feels. But we may want to understand why those who traditionally lambasted California now grant us their favors. Although some praise is deserved – both the economy and the cultural scene in California have improved somewhat – much of this shift reflects changes in the political and media culture itself.

How a writer looks at California can be increasingly predicted by the writer’s political orientation. For liberals, the nasty California that produced both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan has been supplanted by a cooler, greener and more socially progressive state. If you are on the Right, California is beloved for reasons of nostalgia; for the Left, California is where the future once again is being shaped. Those of us more in the middle are simply unsure of what to think.

Read the whole thing at the Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.  He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Land Use Regulations and “Social Engineering”

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 22:38

All forms of land use regulation are explicitly “social engineering”. Full stop. Let’s acknowledge that reality as we move forward. The question is never whether we’ll be engaging in manipulating society through land use regulations, but how and why.


The typical pejorative reference to “social engineering” includes things like government built subsidized low income housing or rent control imposed on private property. There are large numbers of people who find this sort of thing distasteful. I understand the objections, particularly since so much public housing has been so bad and rent control distorts the rental market. Then again, lots of for-profit housing is really bad and all sorts of other things distort rental markets.

How about a municipality that dictates all new construction must be single family detached homes with a minimum 2,800 square feet on a lot that’s at least a quarter acre? What exactly is the logic behind that kind of land use control? Well… a particular town might want to “socially engineer” a middle class demographic in and a lower class demographic out. If only large expensive homes are available then the “wrong” kinds of people can’t live there. And their “undesirable” children can’t attend the local schools, etc.

It’s also possible to “socially engineer” a private community so that it only includes people of a certain age… say, 55 and over. Municipal governments love retirement communities because they pay property tax, but don’t burden the town’s budget with school aged children. And most of the social services for retirement age folks are paid for by federal and state programs rather than local government. This sort of thing certainly distorts the local property market as well. So let’s be honest and say that some people like certain kinds of “social engineering” but not others.


Voters in some areas value the rural agricultural quality of the landscape and don’t want to see the place paved over with new subdivisions, gas stations, and strip malls. Land use regulations are put in place with restrictions like zoning that requires new homes to be built on no less than forty acres. In addition, there are procedures that restrict new construction based on water availability, flood hazards, soil percolation, and so on. These policies work together to keep most of the land unavailable for development. These policies do in fact preserve the beauty of the open landscape, but they also restrict the supply of buildings and drive up the cost of property in the area. “Social engineering.”

Other areas have pro growth policies that encourage development. Each new shopping mall, housing tract, and car dealership represents tax revenue and progress. There are a host of professional organizations that relentlessly lobby for new growth in order to promote full employment, affordable middle class homes, and a continuation of the suburban lifestyle. As property taxes rise the cost of having land sit idle becomes prohibitive just as potential profits rise. Owners are pressured into selling or developing whether they necessarily want to or not. Individual buildings sell well and bring many immediate benefits, but the long term consequences often destroy the landscape and reduce the quality of life. “Social engineering.”

These photos show a form of development that is illegal almost everywhere in North America. The buildings all touch. That’s illegal. Some buildings have both commercial and residential uses. That’s illegal. All of these buildings have little or no parking. That’s illegal. Even at just three or four stories there’s still far too much density. That’s illegal. There’s a long list of handicap accessibility inadequacies in these buildings. That’s illegal. The streets between these buildings are much too narrow. That’s illegal. And yet these are highly desirable places to live and command premium prices on the open market in large part because they are so rare. So much so, in fact, that voters introduced rent control and other measures to help keep at least some working class people in the neighborhood. “Social engineering.”

“Social engineering.” Use the term if you wish. But apply it evenly across the physical and political landscape.

John Sanphillippo lives in San Francisco and blogs about urbanism, adaptation, and resilience at He's a member of the Congress for New Urbanism, films videos for, and is a regular contributor to He earns his living by buying, renovating, and renting undervalued properties in places that have good long term prospects. He is a graduate of Rutgers University

More Privatization Pain For the Public in North Carolina

Thu, 05/07/2015 - 22:38

Privatization done right can be a great boon. Done poorly, it can harm the public for decades. We see another example of the latter ongoing in North Carolina (h/t @mihirpshah). The Charlotte Observer reports:

The N.C. Department of Transportation’s contract with a private developer to build toll lanes on Interstate 77 includes a controversial noncompete clause that could hinder plans to build new free lanes on the highway for 50 years.

The clause has long been part of the proposed contract. But it was changed in late 2013 or early 2014 to also include two new free lanes around Lake Norman – an important $431 million project supported by local transportation planners.

Some area officials were surprised that under the contract with I-77 Mobility Partners, the developer would likely collect damages if the state added two new general-purpose lanes from Exit 28 to Exit 36 at the lake.

Many of these long term privatization contracts are loaded with “submarine” clauses like non-competes that lurk underwater ready to rise up torpedo the public without warning. Did the people of North Carolina know that they were signing away their right to make public policy for the next 50 years when they did this deal?

What raises serious a red flag is that the clause that incorporated the I-77 added lanes project was added late in the game, which suggests that the current impact were not an accident:

Bill Coxe, a transportation planner with Huntersville, said he doesn’t know who lobbied for the revision. The new language wasn’t part of the draft contract from 2013, but it was added before the final deal was signed in June. “We saw that late in the game,” he said. “We aren’t sure who modified that.”

Mooresville’s representative on an advisory committee that helps make transportation recommendations said she didn’t know about the change to the contract with the developer. Neither did Andrew Grant, a Cornelius assistant town manager who helps shape regional transportation policy.

So many of these deals have less to do with bringing in private capital to finance infrastructure improvements than they do contractually creating a decades long stream of monopoly rents for the contractor.

Chicago got burned when an arbitrator ruled it owed $58 million to the group that leased the city’s lakefront parking garages. The city had promised it would not allow anyone else to build a garage open to the public to compete with the lessee. But it did anyway and they had to pay damages.

Contra the claim in the article that these clauses are necessary to attract investment, simply look around and see that businesses take huge investment risks every single day in markets with no barriers to entry for competitors. You don’t see Walgreens going to city governments and telling them they won’t open a store unless the city promises not to approve a CVS within a two mile radius, for example. We often see retail competitors right across the street from each other

But why invest in the actual marketplace when you can sign a sweetheart deal that grants you a five decade monopoly?

In this case, it appears to be free lanes and toll lanes side by side on the same facility. So there’s some justification for some sort of agreement on the state’s plans for the free lanes. But given that the free lane expansion was already on the books and supported by transportation planners, to have the project de facto killed through a clause slipped into a private contract in a way that does not appear to have been vetted by the public is dubious. If the residents of the area had known the free lane project they were banking on would be basically taken off the table for 50 years, it might have created protests that could potentially derail the contract. So by simply adding a non-compete clause, the state and contractor could do the same thing without stirring up the public until it was too late. It’s all the more reason why there needs to be much, much more scrutiny on the terms of these deals.

Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at theManhattan Instituteand a Contributing Editor atCity Journal. He writes at The Urbanophile, where this piece first appeared.

Interstate 77 map by Nick Nolte (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Driving Farther to Qualify in Portland

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 22:38

Portland has been among the world leaders in urban containment policy. And, as would be predicted by basic economics, Portland has also suffered from serious housing cost escalation, as its median multiple (median house price divided by median household income) has risen from a normal 3.0 in 1995 to 4.8 in 2014.

One of the all too predictable effects of urban containment policy is at least some households will drive even farther to "qualify" for mortgages than before. Single-family detached houses have been the national preference in housing in the United States (and a number of other nations) for decades. Significant "leakage" can occur as people skip over the urban growth boundaries, inside of which housing has become unaffordable. For example, after the 2010 census, San Joaquin County, with its seat of Stockton, was added to the San Francisco Bay combined statistical area (CSA). Combined statistical areas are combinations of metropolitan areas have a somewhat weaker economic connection, as defined by commuting patterns than within metropolitan areas (Note 1).

As in the San Francisco Bay Area, more Portlanders are now commuting from outside the metropolitan area in large enough numbers that four additional, metropolitan areas are now included in the Portland CSA.

Driving to Qualify from Corvallis and Albany

Perhaps most notable addition is Corvallis, seat of Benton County and home of Oregon State University. Corvallis is rather exurban to Portland, even though it is now officially in Portland's commuting belt. At least 15 percent of resident workers in Benton County travel to one of the central counties of the Portland metropolitan area (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington in Oregon and Clark in Washington) or vice versa. This is no 30 minute commute. Corvallis is 85 miles from downtown Portland. It is 65 miles from the nearest potential Portland MSA employment in southern Clackamas County. Further, the Corvallis metropolitan area is not adjacent to the Portland metropolitan area. To get to the Portland metropolitan area by the most direct route, a Benton County commuter passes through two other metropolitan areas Albany and Salem.

This would be a very long commute, even by comparison to the nation's largest metropolitan regions. Take New York, for example. The New York CSA extends from outside of New Haven, Connecticut, to beyond Allentown, Pennsylvania, to beyond Toms River, New Jersey and includes all of Long Island. Yet some of the farthest reaches of New York are no closer to Manhattan than Corvallis to Portland. These include Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, New Haven, Connecticut, and Port Jervis, New York. Philadelphia, beyond the New York CSA, is only slightly farther away (90 miles).

Or, consider Los Angeles, which its undeserved reputation for sprawl. The Los Angeles CSA is the second largest in the nation. Yet, Banning, which sits on the mountain pass leading to Palm Springs is 85 miles from Los Angeles. San Clemente, the southernmost point in the CSA is only 60 miles from downtown. The expansive Portland commuter shed suggests that, in some ways, Portland, already far less dense, is also more sprawling.

Expansions for Linn, Marion, Polk and Cowlitz Counties

The Portland CSA added two more metropolitan areas in the Willamette Valley. Albany (Linn County), only about 15 miles closer than Corvallis is one. Salem, the state capital, was also added. Salem includes Marion and Polk counties and is 45 miles from Portland. To the north, Longview, Washington (Cowlitz County) was also added. By comparison with Corvallis, Longview seems close, at less than 50 miles from Portland.

The Portland CSA now stretches 175 miles from the southern Linn County border to the northern Cowlitz County border. There it has collided with the southerly expanding Seattle CSA, which now includes Lewis County (Centralia-Chehalis), 85 miles from downtown Seattle.

However, this does not imply 175 miles of continuous urbanization. Like all metropolitan areas, combined statistical areas, including Portland, have far more rural land than urban land.

Dispersing in the Metropolitan Area

Perhaps the greatest irony is that an “urban containment” policy designed to prevent sprawl could well be accelerating it. Higher prices, in part due to this policy, have forced more people to look ever further for housing that is affordable.

Approximately 98 percent of Portland's population growth between 2000 and 2011 occurred in the suburbs (Note). There was a small, but significant percentage growth around the central business district, but its addition of fewer than 7,000 residents paled by comparison to the more than 325,000 added to the suburbs and exurbs. The balance of the urban core, (the inner ring) grew by little more than 100, which is glacial for an urban sector with more than 200,000 residents (less than 0.1 percent).

None of this should be surprising. The attractive inner city developments, especially the Pearl District, do not provide for the economic needs or wants of most people, as the population trend data indicates. Few households are drawn to buy less than one-half the space they want at nearly three times the price per square foot they would pay in outer suburbs like Forest Grove, Wilsonville or Hazel Dell.

Job Dispersion

Fortunately for both the suburbanites and an exurbanites, Portland's job market also dispersed between 2000 and 2011, meaning that a smaller percentage of commuting was to downtown or the balance of the urban core (Figure 3). That makes it easier to drive to qualify. It turns out that while planners plan, people usually make choices that suit their basic needs rather than those of a particular urban ideology.

Note 1: Metropolitan areas are defined by commuting patterns. Oversimplifying, metropolitan areas are organized around central counties that contain all or part of large urban areas ("built-up" urban areas). All such counties are included in the metropolitan area as well as any counties that have a strong commuting interchange with the central counties. For example, in the case of Portland, the central counties are Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas in Oregon and Clark in Washington. Columbia and Yamhill in Oregon are outlying counties as well as Skamania in Washington. Combined statistical areas are created from combinations of metropolitan areas that meet a weaker commuting interchange threshold. A complete description of the commuting thresholds that apply to metropolitan areas and combined statistical areas is found here.

Note 2: Based on the City Sector Model (Figure 4), which classifies small areas (ZIP codes, more formally, ZIP Code Tabulation Areas, or ZCTAs) in metropolitan area in the nation based upon their behavioral functions as urban cores, suburbs or exurbs. The criteria used are generally employment and population densities and the extent of transit, versus car use. The purpose of the urban core sectors is to replicate, to the best extent possible, the urban form as it existed before World War II, when urban densities were much higher and when a far larger percentage of urban travel was on transit. The suburban and exurban sectors replicate automobile oriented suburbanization that began in the 1920s and escalated strongly following World War II. The data from 2000 is from the 2000 census. The 2011 data is from the 2009-2013 American Community Survey (mid-year 2011).

Photo: Benton County Courthouse, Corvallis (in the Portland commuter shed) by Gregkeene (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 us or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris. Wendell Cox is Chair, Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University.

Some Progressives Grow Disillusioned with Democracy

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 22:38

Left-leaning authors often maintain that conservatives “hate democracy,” and, historically, this is somewhat true. “The political Right,” maintains the progressive economist and columnist Paul Krugman, “has always been uncomfortable with democracy.”

But today it’s progressives themselves who, increasingly, are losing faith in democracy. Indeed, as the Obama era rushes to a less-than-glorious end, important left-of-center voices, like Matt Yglesias, now suggest that “democracy is doomed.”

Yglesias correctly blames “the breakdown of American constitutional democracy” on both Republicans and Democrats; George W. Bush expanded federal power in the field of national defense while Barack Obama has done it mostly on domestic issues. Other prominent progressives such as American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner have made similar points, even quoting Italian wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini about the inadequacy of democracy.

Read the whole thing at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.  He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

A Fix for California Water Policy

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 22:38

Critics of California’s current water policy advocate more infrastructure spending on things like dams, canals, and desalination plants.  Many would also curtail water releases for the benefit of fish and other wildlife.

Certainly, infrastructure spending would be better than wasting money on the governor’s high-speed-train fantasy.  However, California cannot spend enough money on water infrastructure to prevent water shortages.  And, solving California’s water shortage does not require an end to “dumping water” to save fish.

California has a history of droughts lasting as long as 200 years.  You can dam every canyon in California and line the coast with desalination plants, and you won’t solve the water shortage in a 200-year drought, or even a ten-year drought.  Under the current allocation and pricing system, California will simply consume every new drop of water produced. We will have a water shortage all the same.

Consider Westborough and Hillsborough, in the South San Francisco area. Hillsborough consumes more than four times the water per person as Westborough, just six miles away. Increasing the supply of water in California will simply allow Westborough to be more like its neighbor. The problem is how to constrain demand in places like Hillsborough.

California policy makers prefer to use authoritarian conservation policies and police-state enforcement tactics to allocate water and control demand.  These polices do not end water shortages.  They perpetuate the shortage, and they add to the burdens imposed by energy and growth policies which are already driving businesses and people out of the state.

Eliminating California’s water shortages in the presence of recurring droughts will require that the state resort to something truly radical --- a free market in water.  This will require that ownership of water be clearly defined, that resale be allowed, and that we adopt a market-clearing price.

We know what this looks like. Water markets equipped Australia to endure the 1995-2009 Millennium Drought. This was the worst Australian drought since European settlement.  Total water stored declined to just 27 percent of capacity. Yet water trading allowed Australian cities to avoid the most severe water restrictions. It protected agricultural businesses, and it ensured that the country’s endangered habitats and species received adequate water.

Remarkably, in an end-of-drought survey, over 90 percent of Australian farmers reported that water markets were important to their businesses’ survival. There are many lessons for California here.  A key one is that the tension between water users is completely the creation of policy. There is no need for the tensions between the agricultural industry and California’s cities, between growers and endangered fish, between Hillsborough and Westborough, between neighbors. Water markets can balance competing uses in a way that benefits all.

To work, markets need something to trade. The basis for trade in a functioning water market is exclusive access to a share of water from a specific body. Australian water laws provide this. California’s water laws do not.

In California, water rights are often tied to land ownership. The right to surface- or ground-water is conferred by owning the land and often can only be transferred by selling the land. If a land owner wants to use the water, he needs only to put a straw in the ground or the stream. The landowner is entitled to “reasonable and beneficial” use of the water, but that right only extends to the borders of the property.  He can use all the water he can pump, but he has to use it on his land. There are legal barriers preventing the sale of water.

This creates a “use it or lose it” system of water allocation, with lots of absurdities.  We have growers using sprinklers to irrigate low-value crops like alfalfa in our deserts, while neighbors shame each other for watering their lawns and cities establish water police to enforce arbitrary rationing goals.  We have huge aquifer overdrafts, with massive damage to the environment and to highways and canals.

California water users are drawing from a common pool. Since they cannot do anything with their water except use it or lose it, an individual’s incentive is to use as much water as possible, before it’s gone and his neighbor gets it. During a drought, it’s literally a race to the bottom of the well. A functioning water market would provide each user with a specific allocation. Then, as the supply of water diminishes during a drought, remaining allocations would become more valuable, increasing the economic return to conservation.

Prices in a functioning water market would behave just like those in any number of other healthy markets. Consider gasoline or coffee beans. Over the past year, the price of gasoline in California declined by 30 percent, reflecting new supplies and slower demand growth in some markets. In 2014, coffee bean prices increased by 72 percent, in fewer than four months, reflecting a severe drought in Brazil. Australia’s water behaves the same. During the Millennium Drought, water’s price increased by 20 times, from a low of $25 AUD per acre foot to $500 AUD. Naturally, when the rains returned, the price fell.

California water prices are much more stable over time, but they vary a lot by geography. California municipalities see prices that vary by about 12 times. For example, Ventura pays pumping charges of just $120 per acre foot, while San Diego is purchasing desalinated water for $2,200 per acre foot. Price discrepancies like this defy economic laws. There is certainly nothing resembling a scarcity price for water.

When you pay your personal water bill, the price that you pay does not signal that we are facing a critical water shortage. Water prices have increased incrementally, but not nearly enough to convey our dire situation. The gas lines of the 70s reminds us of what a world without scarcity pricing looks like.  Remember how quickly shortages disappeared when price controls were abandoned?

California does not need another speech by the Governor.  It doesn’t need another legislative proposition promising additional water supply 20 years or more later (think Proposition 1). It doesn’t need more dams or canals.  Remarkably, it doesn’t even need more rain, although more rain would be nice.

What California needs is a process to define who owns the water and how much is available.  A comprehensive rewrite of California’s water laws is the best way to achieve this, but this is probably politically impossible, especially since that rewrite would require Sacramento to cede control of water allocation to the markets.  Alternatively, California has a court-mediated alternative in place.  The process, adjudication, is far from perfect, but it can work.

Twenty-three of California’s more than 400 groundwater basins have already undergone adjudication. While not models of efficient water use, adjudicated basins are a big improvement over non-adjudicated basins. Unfortunately, the current legal infrastructure requires a minimum of 10 years for the adjudication process to work.  This is obviously too slow to help with our immediate problem. Sacramento legislators have promised to implement policies to expedite adjudication, but we are still waiting for them to deliver. This should be California’s single highest legislative priority.

Absent meaningful reform, litigation will take on an increasingly important role. Significant Proposition 218 cases have already been decided in San Juan Capistrano and Ventura. The Ventura case is especially noteworthy. The City sued the local water purveyor over pumping charges which are greater than those of local farmers. Suing to lower the City’s already low water prices during a severe shortage shows impressive audacity. Fortunately, an appeals court ruled that the current rate system is legal. Ventura’s pumping charges are not going down anytime soon.

The San Juan Capistrano decision seems less helpful. There, an appeals court ruled that the City’s tiered rate system, which increases the cost of water as the number of units increases, is illegal under Proposition 218. We ask the question again, what will constrain the demand for water in places like Hillsborough? Or San Juan Capistrano? We are not qualified to object to the legal decision on its merits. But the cost of water for all users in San Juan Capistrano very likely ought to be higher than it is today. A free market in water would tell us just how much higher.

Finally, allowing a market price for water would contribute to increased supply during droughts.  Businesses and business people are amazingly efficient at taking advantage of profit opportunities.  Who knows where water would come from if the price were higher? Water districts would have economic incentives to explore supply alternatives such as rain catchment, waste water reuse and desalination. Residents would have incentives to explore household alternatives such as grey water irrigation systems. Maybe Mexico would put in desalination plants and sell it to us? Maybe some business would use tankers to import water?  We don’t know how markets would provide the water, but they would.  We see this with oil, coffee, and every other commodity.  It’s time for California to move to a market price for water.  It’s time to end the current nonsense.

Matthew Fienup teaches graduate econometrics and works for the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University, where he specializes in applied econometric analysis and the economics of land use. He is currently working on his PhD at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California Santa Barbara. He holds a Masters Degree in Economics from UCSB. Bill Watkins is a professor at California Lutheran University and runs the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, which can be found

Photo by TCAtexas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

America’s Cities Mirror Baltimore’s Woes

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 12:56

The rioting that swept Baltimore the past few days, sadly, was no exception, but part of a bigger trend in some of our core cities towards social and economic collapse. Rather than enjoying the much ballyhooed urban “renaissance,” many of these cities are actually in terrible shape, with miserable schools, struggling economies and a large segmented of alienated, mostly minority youths.

We are witnessing an unwelcome reprise of the bad old days of the late ’60s, when much of American core cities went up in smoke. Already this year there have been serious disturbances in St. Louis as well as neighboring Ferguson. There’s also been a cascading of urban violence in cities such as Chicago, where the murder rate in 2013 exceeded that of the Capone era. Overall, the geography of fear remains very much what it was a half century ago. The most dangerous places in in the U.S. in terms of violent crime tend to be heavily black cities, led by Detroit, Oakland, Memphis, St. Louis, and Cleveland. Baltimore ranks sixth.

Of course not everything is as it was. Some cities, notably New York and Los Angeles, are much safer today, and there remains a strong pull for younger people, particularly the well-educated, to move to core cities, at least in their 20s. Black urban professionals enjoy opportunities that were rare a generation ago to reach the highest levels in our most elite cities.

But, as Baltimore makes clear, we are still very far from what Aaron Ehrenhalt has labeled the “great inversion,” in which our cities change into affluent redoubts while the suburbs devolve into future slums. In reality, this is very far from the truth: cities are, if anything, becoming more bifurcated than ever, with a large, and seemingly unmovable, population that has benefited little from the gentrification of some urban neighborhoods, including some in Baltimore itself.

The Persistence of Concentrated Poverty

Perhaps the biggest sign of how limited the urban renaissance has been is to look at the growth of precisely the kind of highly concentrated poor areas like those that blew up in Baltimore. Yet although the suburbs’ share of poverty may have increased, the average poverty rate in the historical core municipalities in the 52 largest U.S. metro areas remains at 24.1 percent, more than double the 11.7 percent rate in suburban areas—despite a considerable urban turnaround in this period.

David S. Holloway/Getty

In fact, neighborhoods suffering entrenched urban poverty (PDF) actually grew in the first decade of the new millennium, increasing in numbers from 1,100 to 3,100 and in population from two to four million. In other words, poverty spread but also became far more intense in cities. “This growing concentration of poverty,” note urban researchers Joe Cortright and Dillon Mahmoudi, “is the biggest problem confronting American cities.”

Certainly Sandtown-Winchester—where Freddie Gray, whose death sparked the riots, grew up—fits this mode. As the liberal Think Progress website explains, more than half of that neighborhood’s people between the ages of 16 and 64 are out of work and the unemployment rate is double that for the rest of the city. Median income is below the poverty line for a family of four, and nearly a third of families live in poverty. About a quarter to a third of the buildings are vacant, compared to 5 percent in the city as a whole.

Yet the people in these neighborhoods do not represent the majority of black America. Besides the gap between blacks and whites, there is also a growing one among African-Americans themselves. This is painfully obvious in the Baltimore region which, extending to the Washington, D.C., suburbs, has some of the highest black wages and homeownership rates of any of the county, and ranks among the best places for African-Americans in a new study I co-authored for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism.

In fact, five of the ten wealthiest black communities in America are in Maryland. Needless to say, residents in those towns are not rioting. There is an increasingly enormous gap between entrenched poor communities, such as those in Baltimore, and a rapidly expanding black suburban population. Barely half of the 775,000 African-Americans in the Baltimore metropolitan region live in the city, and those outside do far better than inside the city limits. In the last decade, suburban Baltimore County added160,000 blacks, far more than moved into the city (PDF). The black suburbanites not only make more money than their urban counterparts but their life expectancy (PDF) is at least eight years longer.

These trends can be seen nationwide. In the last two decades of the 20th century, more blacks moved into the suburbs than in the previous 70 years, a trend that continues unabated. The 2010 Census indicated that 56 percent of African Americans in major metropolitan areas live in the suburbs. This movement was particularly marked among families with children; the number of black children living in cities like New York, Oakland, Atlanta, Los Angeles all dropped precipitously, as families sought out safer streets, better schools, and more affordable space.

The Changing Nature of Urban Economies

African-Americans came to Baltimore and other northern cities in large part to work in the steel, port, and other blue collar, industrial businesses that flourished in mid-century America. Yet most of those jobs are now gone, leaving behind those who must scramble to find work in the growth industries of today—education, technology, medical services. This is the case in almost all heavily black cities, not only in the Northeast, but the Midwest and even parts of coastal California. But today’s star urban industries, notably technology and high-end business services, employ few working class blacks. African-Americans, for example, occupy only the tiniest sliver of jobs—roughly 2 percent—in Silicon Valley. Nor have African Americans done well in the tech boom, driven by software-related firms more likely to staff themselves with Indian technocoolies than boys up from the ’hood. Between 2009 and 2011, earnings dropped 18 percent for blacks and 5 percent for Latinos, according to a 2013 Joint Venture Silicon Valley report.

Overall the places where these industries have grown often produce not more opportunities for poor people or minorities but rather a subtle form of “ethnic cleansing.” A recent report from the Urban League, for example, pointed out that the very cities most praised as exemplars of urban revival—San Francisco, Chicago and Minneapolis—also suffer the largest gaps between black and white incomes. Notwithstanding the rhetoric, much of the “hip cool” world increasingly consists of monotonic “white cities” with relatively low, and falling, minority populations, such as San FranciscoPortland, and Seattle. These places are achingly political correct in theory, but are actually becoming whiter and less ethnically diverse as the rest of the country diversifies. The situation has changed so much that former MayorGavin Newsom even initiated a task force to address black out-migration.

Inverting the Inversion

Baltimore proves that the “great inversion,” insofar as it exists at all, positively affects a relatively small part of the urban population, particularly in historically black cities. Cities may well have become a popular abode for the young, well-educated, and the rich (usually white), but they also contain another, usually much larger population of those, mostly minorities, who have been left behind in the urban evolution. Midwestern urban analyst Pete Saunders describes Chicago in this manner: “one third San Francisco, two thirds Detroit.”

This is precisely what we see in Baltimore and many traditionally black cities. Everything that does not work in cities today—education, for example, and sometimes law enforcement—most directly affects minorities and the poor. Crime may be down overall in many cities, but not necessarily in predominately minority neighborhoods. As blogger Daniel Hertz has demonstrated, violent crime has actually increased since the early ’90s in several large, predominately African-American Chicago neighborhoods.

Clearly what we are seeing then is not an urban kumbaya you see in TV ads for fast food and web services, but a hardening of class and racial divisions. Suburban poverty and crime may have increased in recent years, but they are not nearly as entrenched on the periphery as they are in the city. Places like inner Baltimore function essentially as a kind of dead-end, a cul-de-sac for dreams of a better future.

The Changing Geography of African-American Opportunity

We are witnessing a very unwelcome resurgence of racial tensions over the past six years, with concern about racism at the highest level since the Rodney King riots in 1992. Today, particularly in the divisive aftermath of Ferguson and other police-related controversies, two in five Americans feel race relations have gotten worse since President Obama took office, while only 15 percent thought they had gotten better.

How do we reverse this ugly trend? Sadly it takes more than good intentions and handouts. To be sure, the initial Great Society programs helped reduce chronic black poverty. But the poverty rate was already dropping: in the prosperous early ’60s, black poverty plummeted from 56 percent to 34 percent; in contrast, in the years after President Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty, it dropped only slightly, to 32 percent. But by the ’70s this progress—despite the implementation of such programs as affirmative action—slowed to a crawl, in large part due to cascading social problems, particularly in industrial cities like Baltimore.

Many progressives have blamed conservatives starting with President Reagan for the conditions that still prevail for many African Americans. Yet it turns out that expansive era was pretty good for blacks, if not for their leaders. Even as poverty spending growth slowed, the poverty rate dropped in the Reagan years to around 30 percent for African-Americans. Similarly the economic boom of the Clinton era saw even greater progress, with poverty dropping to 25 percent. It began to rise again, albeit slowly, during the tepid recovery of the Bush era, but then began to rise more steeply during the Great Recession, and through the slow, and also tepid, recovery of the Obama years.

Clearly an improved economy is more important than ramping up social spending. Indeed, according to USC’s Luke Phillips, states. like New York, Massachusetts , California and Illinois spend almost twice as much on welfare payments than do states like North Carolina, Texas, or Florida, both in terms of GDP and state spending. Yet the best results for African Americans in our Center for Opportunity Urbanism study were found overwhelmingly in the former Confederacy, states generally not well known for their generosity to the poor or interest in racial redress.

This is leading to a stunning reversal in black migration patterns. Between 1910 and 1970 six million African Americans migrated from the South to the North in what became known as the Great Migration. But since World War II the migration has changed course: ambitious blacks now head toward the suburbs, or the South. Between 2000 and 2013, the African American populations of Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Raleigh, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and San Antonio all experienced growth of close to 40 percent or higher, well above the average of 27 percent for the 52 metropolitan areas.

“Blacks who have relocated tend to be either retirees or well-educated, well-off middle-agers with children,” John Giggie, associate professor of history and director of graduate studies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, They move to the South not because they like the politics (most probably don’t) but because they seek economic progress. Part of the reason may be that sunbelt cities have more broad based opportunites for middle and working class residents than have the increasingly post-industrial economies of California and the Northeast corridor.

Our leadership class, black and white, misses all this. Sending Al Sharpton, President Obama’s highly publicized advisor, to Baltimore hardly bodes well for improving things on the ground. A little bit of catharsis, perhaps, but at some point you need to deal with reality.

It would be far better if some CEOs or investors—American, Asian, or European—came to the old Chesapeake city bearing plans for expanding jobs and opportunities. That, at least, would begin to address the economic and social isolation that, inevitably, finds its expression in fires on the street. Good jobs and the prospect of a better future—not good intentions—is what ultimately matters.

This piece first appeared at The Daily Beast.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.  He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Photo by Voice of America, Victoria Macchi

Silicon Valley: Jelly in the Jam

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 22:38

My last post was about how Silicon Valley is evolving into an urban form that’s not quite leafy and open enough to be a suburb anymore, but not really vibrant and compact enough to be a proper city either. “Too thin to be jelly. Too thick to be jam.” The story got an unusually large number of visits. I received some well informed comments that touched on the reality that Silicon Valley is a big place and I shouldn’t generalize. Palo Alto is very different from Fremont and so on. It’s not all isolated corporate enclaves. Fair enough. So here’s a quick follow up that explores the jelly in the jam.




This is the town of San Carlos twenty five miles south of San Francisco and an equal distance north of San Jose. We all have our biases. I’m partial to the kind of walkable Main Street small town that was common everywhere a century ago. I like a place with mom and pop shops and a mix of modest cottages and grand stately homes a few blocks in each direction. For me that’s the perfect balance of city and suburb. A Main Street provides a broad range of activities while accommodating pedestrians, cyclists, and cars without prejudice. These places can also be well served by public transit – not so much to get around town, but to efficiently connect people to other towns that are also walkable. If these small towns are then surrounded by working farms and a bit of nature all the better. Toss in a nearby city for access to culture and jobs and I’m in heaven. But such places are hard to come by in America these days. Fortunately, Silicon Valley has a string of such places along the historic rail line like little gems imbedded in the post WWII sprawl.


San Carlos sits between two major freeways and right on El Camino Real and the CalTrain line that serves the entire peninsula. It’s possible to navigate most parts of San Carlos as a pedestrian, hop on a train or a bus, or drive to just about everything in the Bay Area. You have a lot of transportation choices that are equally good. What’s more important to me personally is that being a pedestrian or cyclist is actually pleasant in San Carlos. Transit within most of the town itself is entirely unnecessary. There are areas up in the hills with a lot of twisting cul-de-sacs that are more manageable in a car, but there’s at least a continuum of housing options including small apartment buildings next to shops downtown. People can select their own personal sweet spot.


There are relatively “affordable” $950,000 bungalows (this is the Bay Area) while the big fancy homes up on the hill with water views sell for $7,000,000. I understand these numbers seem ridiculous to people in other parts of the country, but San Carlos has immediate access to very well paid jobs so these prices are justified based on local incomes. If you have the money it’s a great place to raise a family with excellent public schools and a safe clean environment. It’s also a pretty fabulous retirement spot if you decide to age in place. And it isn’t terrible to be a young single person in San Carlos either. That little downtown and the train station make all the difference. You’ll find the same basic arrangements in similar older towns along the train line: Burlingame, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Mountain View, and so on.


Here’s another point that’s often overlooked by city planners obsessed with making everything pretty or attracting the right demographic to their town. Every town needs some ugly utilitarian stuff. Even in a place where schmaltzy tract homes sell for a million bucks people still need plumbers, electricians, and low grade warehouses. If a town zones or redevelops these areas out of existence they induce more people to get into their cars and trucks to commute to distant industrial parks in a region where freeway traffic already comes to a complete halt during most business hours. And these suburban warehouse districts are also excellent buffers from the ugliness and noise of freeways and rail lines. No one wants to live pressed up against a diesel train or freeway interchange full of tractor trailers. It’s often a mistake to see these light industrial areas as redevelopment opportunities for dense infill housing.


Some of the comments I received from my last post mentioned recent projects that brought transit and density to some Silicon Valley suburbs. This is San Bruno, home to tech companies like YouTube. It has all the same advantages of San Carlos: immediate access to good jobs and nearby culture, the same freeways, El Camino Real, a BART rail station, similar single family housing stock, and so on. But the two towns are very different. I would love to live in San Carlos, but I could never live in San Bruno. Here’s why.


San Bruno was built after cars had come to dominate the landscape. There never was much of a town and everything built over the last sixty or seventy years has been organized around the freeways. A rail station in a shopping mall parking lot that’s cut off by massive twelve lane roads is just miserable for pedestrians and of little use to people in cars. There are plenty of people on foot in San Bruno, but they’re very poorly served in this environment.


Density and transit all by themselves do nothing for a town if the public realm is completely car oriented. These new infill apartment buildings are perfectly respectable and I’m sure they’re very comfortable on the inside. But once you step outdoors you find yourself in the left over space between parking lots and highways. You can physically walk to the supermarket and the dentist and the train station so it checks off a lot of boxes on the “Smart Growth” list, but you feel like a social outcast as you schlep around the edge of speeding vehicles. The scale is out of whack with human needs because the needs of cars always come first. Adding apartments and giant parking garages to a suburban environment also adds that many more cars to the already congested roads. This kind of development bothers people who want a traditional suburb and it falls short for people who want a genuine urban experience. As I walked around this cluster of apartments I thought about how it could have been done better. What if the ground floors had shops in them? What if the sidewalks were wider? What if the roads were more narrow? What if the buildings were organized around outdoor public space instead of having the greenery sprinkled around the edges in useless landscaped berms and highway medians?


As I made my way from one suburban train station to the next I discovered another infill project that actually made an effort to do many of the things on my list. Wide sidewalks? Check. Meaningful public space? Check. Shops on the ground floor? Check. At least a few narrow side streets? Check. Train station around the corner? Check. This place was significantly better. But… context is important.


Here’s a Google Earth view of the area in which I colored the roads, surface parking lots, and multi-story parking garages blue. What would you call that building to pavement ratio? It looks like 60/40 to me in favor of pavement. The largest garage is owned by BART and is designed to collect suburban drivers and funnel them into the city by train for the last little stretch of the commute. This kind of train station is a highway patch to relieve traffic congestion in the city. It has nothing at all to do with “transit” or any kind of urbanism. It’s a clumsy and expensive prosthetic limb for cars and highways.


Here’s what it looks like on the ground. This well intentioned mixed use infill project is an island in the middle of the usual suburban sprawl. I’m quite certain that the people who live in the single family homes across the street drive to the Trader Joe’s market even though it’s only a block away. If I had to choose a spot to live this place is marginally better than San Bruno, but still an order of magnitude worse than San Carlos. And I should point out that San Carlos has a downtown of mostly one story buildings surrounded by much smaller apartment buildings than these and a majority of detached single family homes. “Density” has nothing to do with the success or failure of good urbanism.


Here’s the sad part. Even after what must have been an heroic effort on the part of everyone involved in getting this project built it still fails to cultivate enough foot or vehicular traffic to support small shops. The Trader Joe’s and the Starbucks are doing well enough, no doubt feeding off the morning and evening commuter flows from the BART station. And there is a small dry cleaner that’s managing to get by so far. But the rest of the storefronts are empty and have been so from the get go. Too thick to be jam. Too thin to be jelly. I keep wanting suburban retrofits to work, but they rarely do. The typical suburban chassis makes incremental urbanism a hit or miss affair. Mostly miss. The question is… what are the alternatives? Do we just let the cost of the existing single family homes rise until people and businesses pick up and move to Scottsdale or Orlando in search of economic relief? Do we let taxes rise on all the strip malls and gas stations until the necessary funds appear to repave all the twelve lane roads out in front of them? Or is mediocre the best we can expect from half assed infill projects that do the best they can under the circumstances?

John Sanphillippo lives in San Francisco and blogs about urbanism, adaptation, and resilience at He's a member of the Congress for New Urbanism, films videos for, and is a regular contributor to He earns his living by buying, renovating, and renting undervalued properties in places that have good long term prospects. He is a graduate of Rutgers University.

Building a New California

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 22:38

The Golden State has historically led the United States and the world in technology, quality of life, social innovation, entertainment, and public policy. But in recent decades its lead has ebbed. The reasons for this are various. But there is one area of decay whose story is a parable for California’s other plights—that area is infrastructure.

California’s infrastructure, like California, has had a golden past full of larger-than-life personalities and heroic deeds. But in recent decades the state has lost its innovative edge, resting on the laurels of its past successes without adequately preparing for any such bold endeavors in the future. California’s infrastructure imperative, then, is this: to accomplish bold, ambitious projects that promise a transformed and vibrant future for California, yet are still practical and sensible, and have proven viability.

Should California manage to get its act together and embark upon a course of infrastructure renewal, it will be taking one of several steps necessary to transform itself into an opportunity society again. Systemic reforms beyond infrastructure will be necessary to renew Californian society and lower the cost of living, raise the quality of life, and create opportunities for entrepreneurs and middle-class families. But infrastructure is a fantastic place to start.

Aside from basic infrastructure renewal like fixing up roads and bridges, expanding our water storage capacity, and reforming public policy and internet regulation to provide a world-class infostructure, there are three main physical infrastructure projects California should be focusing on to bring the state forward into the 21st Century. These are driverless car networks, a new nuclear energy grid, and an archipelago of desalination plants.

The current strategy for the future of California’s transportation system is wildly unrealistic. Passenger rail is simply too ineffective to justify building an expensive new High Speed Rail system that wouldn’t even be able to pay for itself. Commuter rail usage rates have been on the decline. A better way forward would be to embrace the power of computerization in the transport sector, and put our population on a path towards using self-driving cars.

The benefits of a driverless car network are numerous. They include greater safety, optimized traffic flow, reduced congestion, higher productivity, and cheaper, more effective travel for those unable to afford a car. The possibilities are endless. Already a test range at the University of Michigan is exploring what a driverless car system would look like. One could expect such a system to seriously reduce traffic congestion, improve transport speeds, conserve energy, nearly eliminate accidents, increase worker productivity, and generally revolutionize driving.

So how could California go about transitioning to a driverless car system? In the short run, there wouldn’t be much in the way of new construction to worry about. It’s mostly a question of technological investment and regulatory reform.

First, the state of California should partner with major universities and tech firms currently working on driverless car systems, and fund research and innovation projects geared towards enhancing the vehicles.

Once driverless cars are tested, California should work to lower the barriers to their deployment. This might include reforming insurance and licensing laws, to make it easier for people to purchase one. It would also help to offer incentives for middle-class individuals to purchase these new vehicles, too, such as tax deductions.

As with all public goods and services, government policy towards transportation ought to be designed with providing the widest array of convenient options for consumers, rather than forcing people into a single system or expecting them to use costly, uneconomical, heavily subsidized services. The call for a driverless car system is not to rid the roads of traditional vehicles. Nor is this a call to abandon rail or buses or cease investing in bike paths and walkways. This plan, rather, would seek to make one particularly middle-class-convenient option more available.

The next area California should focus on is its energy generation system, through a new nuclear generator fleet. Currently California generates energy with a combination of coal, oil, natural gas, and renewable power. Governor Brown has launched ambitious initiatives to have as much as 50% of the state’s electricity generated by renewables within a few decades (which doesn’t do anything to make energy cheaper for working and middle-class citizens and families, much less businesses.) Meanwhile the state’s use of fossil fuels for energy generation for backup continues to grow as unstable renewable energy sources go online.

We need an ambitious energy infrastructure plan if we are to both provide cheap, readily-available energy to the masses of California’s citizens (and thus provide them with a lower cost of living and higher quality of life) and to continue the state’s commitment to combatting climate change. Incidentally, there is a way to achieve both of these goals, while growing the state’s economy at the same time. California should open its fossil fuel fields to exploitation, levy a carbon tax on the profits, and use that revenue from the carbon tax to fund an ambitious nuclear program that could generate a majority of the state’s electricity within a few decades.

California’s antipathy toward fossil fuels has led it to impose onerous regulations that hurt growth and provide little environmental reward; the deposits of oil and gas off the coast and in the interior have been made even more accessible by the fracking revolution, and if it wanted to, California could become an energy giant. So California could open its fields for drilling, fighting off regulations and lawsuits by various anti-oil interest groups, and begin reaping huge revenues through the imposition of a light carbon tax.

This light carbon tax would go towards funding research in advanced nuclear energy, and towards a fund for establishing a fleet of a dozen or so advanced nuclear plants across the state. This would signify California’s continued commitment to reducing carbon emissions and adopting advanced energy.

These new nuclear reactors are not the hulking behemoths of Three Mile Island. Some new reactors have been designed to be as small as a car and power a small city. They are extremely safe. And, far more importantly, nuclear energy is the gift that keeps on giving. In civilizational terms, nuclear energy can power our society forever. And it provides far more bang for the buck than solar or wind, the current green fetish power sources.

Finally, California seriously needs to confront the water scarcity challenge that has perennially afflicted it throughout its history, and seek a permanent solution for providing cheap and plentiful water to the residents of this parched coastal strip. Desalination is the best way to secure that.

We are currently in the midst of what appears to be the worst drought California has faced in its entire history as a state, and this does not bode well for the future growth of California. Adequate water is one of those resources that every civilization has depended on. Although California is not literally “down to one year of water” as a recent LA Times article misleadingly claims, we are in a shortage that is economically catastrophic, environmentally devastating, and entirely unnecessary- for it is man-made. Better water policy in past years, allowing Californians to use more of their river water, could have staved it off, as could better storage infrastructure construction. But these projects and policies were never put in place to the degree necessary to stop this drought from happening.

Rationing and conservation may indeed be the short-term solution, but we need to look to a longer-term solution- and buying more water from other states doesn’t solve the problem.

Many arid coastal countries – including Australia, Israel, and some of the Persian Gulf states – use desalination plants to water their burgeoning populations, and it is something of a miracle that Southern California has gotten by without such systems. We have a long coastline on which we could build numerous desalination plants, powered by the aforementioned fleet of nuclear reactors. This system could more than satisfy the needs of California residents, farmers, and industries, while simultaneously reducing the pressure on our streams, rivers, and reservoirs.  It would be incredibly capital-intensive and costly, and would perhaps lead to some unforeseen environmental consequences. But it is a better water policy than what we are doing now.

This infrastructure program would likely require budget, tax and regulatory reform, as well as the broad support of the majority of Californians. It would represent a reasonable response to the now excessive power of the environmental lobby.

But more than fiscal reform and public support, it would require a newfound political moxie in both the private sector and the public sector. We need a new generation of visionary William Mullhollands, Henry Huntingtons,  and Pat Browns to pursue these and other reforms to turn our Golden State golden again.

Can it be done? With some political maneuvering and engineering ingenuity, sure. Will it be done? That’s a choice that our next generation of political leaders will have to make for themselves.

Luke Phillips is a student studying International Relations at the University of Southern California. He is an editorial intern for the magazine The American Interest and a research associate at the Center for Opportunity Urbanism.

America's Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 10:23

The United States has 53 mid-sized metropolitan areas, with populations from 500,000 to 1 million. These metropolitan areas together had a population of nearly 38 million in 2014, according to the most recent Census Bureau population estimates (Table). In number, they match the 53 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population), though they have only one fifth of the population (178 million). The mid-sized metropolitan areas are growing somewhat slower than the major metropolitan areas, at an annual rate of 0.81% between 2010 and 2014, compared to 1.00% in the major metropolitan areas. Combined, the major metropolitan areas and the mid-sized metropolitan areas have two-thirds of the US population.

Largest Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas

Honolulu is the largest, with a population of 991,000. Honolulu seems destined to graduate into the major metropolitan category, though its growth rate over the last year could indicate this will occur in 2016 or later, rather than 2015 which appeared to be likely from earlier data. Tulsa, Oklahoma's second largest metropolitan area, is growing somewhat more slowly, but seems likely to pass the million mark by the 2020 census. Third-ranked Fresno is growing somewhat faster and should also reach 1 million population by 2020. Bridgeport, which is a part of the New York Combined Statistical Area (Note) has grown almost as fast as the other three since 2010, though like Honolulu, its growth rate in the past year has been halved. Bridgeport has an outside chance of reaching 1 million by the 2020 census.

The next three fastest-growing metropolitan areas, (Worcester, Albuquerque, and Omaha) all have populations exceeding 900,000. Worcester is experiencing the slow growth that would be expected for the Northeastern metropolitan area and is unlikely to reach 1 million this decade. Surprisingly, Albuquerque is growing almost as slowly and its 2014 growth was well below its previous three-year rate. Albuquerque has typically been a fast-growing metropolitan area. Omaha, which ranks seventh is the fastest growing of this group, sustaining a growth rate of about 1.0%, which is above the national average. Omaha should reach 1 million before 2030.

The ninth and 10th largest mid-sized metropolitan areas are growing more strongly than average. This includes Bakersfield and Greenville (SC), both of which should reach 1 million before 2030 (Figure 1). Greenville is the only other metropolitan area in the top 10 growing at a rate above 1.0 percent (1.08 percent). By contrast five of the top 10 major metropolitan areas are growing at above 1.0 percent (Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Washington, Miami, and Atlanta).

Among the top 10, all but Albany, Albuquerque and Omaha are single county metropolitan areas. Metropolitan areas are made up of complete counties, only three are single counties (San Diego, Las Vegas, and Tucson). Among the mid-sized metropolitan areas, their smaller size means that many more are composed of single counties.

Smallest Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas

There were two new entries to the list of mid-sized metropolitan areas in 2014. One was Fayetteville (AR-MO), home of both the Wal-Mart world headquarters (Bentonville, AR) and the University of Arkansas. Santa Rosa, which is an exurban metropolitan area in the San Francisco Combined Statistical Area was also added.

Fastest Growing Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas

The 10 fastest growing mid-sized metropolitan areas are from every major region of the country except for the Northeast. Cape Coral, FL was the fastest growing between 2010 and 2014. Its growth rate picked up substantially in 2013 to 2014. Cape Coral (formerly called Fort Myers) was hit particularly hard by the real estate bust of the late 2000s. The core municipality itself has not only the usual street system, but an extensive canal system (photo above). It is hard to imagine a metropolitan area that feels less urban.

Charleston, SC was second ranked, nearly equaling the growth rate of Cape Coral. Four other Southern metropolitan areas were among the fastest growing, including Fayetteville, AR-MO (4th), academic and research center Durham, NC (6th), which is a part of the Raleigh Combined Statistical Area. The other Southern entries were Rio Grande Valley and border metropolitan area McAllen, TX and Sarasota (North Port), FL. Current growth rates indicate that Charleston and McAllen should exceed 1,000,000 by 2030, while chances for Sarasota and Cape Coral are somewhat less (Figure 2).

Three of the fastest growing mid-sized metropolitan areas were in the West, including Provo, UT, Boise, ID and Colorado Springs. Des Moines, was the only Midwestern metropolitan area among the fastest growing.

Slowest Growing Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas

Virtually all of the slowest growing mid-sized metropolitan areas are former industrial behemoths that lost out in the competition for survival in the Northeast and Midwest. A visit to any of these cities will reveal either a relatively strong pre-World War II central business district or the remains of one. Each of these has a built form that looks more like Louisville or Cincinnati than the dominant pattern for new metropolitan areas that developed with a far more modest density gradient and with much weaker cores.

Five of the slowest growing are actually losing population. Since 2010, Youngstown has lost an average of 0.5% of its population annually. Scranton (Wilkes-Barre), PA continues its eight decade decline. The list also includes Toledo; Syracuse; Akron; Dayton; and Springfield, MA; which once had been strong manufacturing centers. The list also includes New Haven, which also lost population despite being home to Yale University. Allentown is also an old manufacturing center, but has recently been added to the New York Combined Statistical Area, indicating the expansion of the nation's largest labor market. Perhaps the most unusual of the bottom 10 in growth is Albany, NY, which is one of the largest state government centers in the United States. Certainly, the Albany area has lost much of its industrial base, but a large government presence often can compensate for such losses.


The list of mid-sized metropolitan areas is fluid. As noted above, a number of mid-sized metropolitan areas could move into the major metropolitan category before 2020 or 2030. On the other hand, there will be new mid-sized metropolitan areas. Three seem likely to be added by the 2020 census (Lexington, KY, Lafayette, LA and Pensacola, FL). There should be a rush of new mid-sized metropolitan areas between 2020 and 2030, at current growth rates. This could include Visalia, CA; Springfield, MO; Corpus Christi, TX; Port St. Lucci, FL; Reno, NV; Asheville, NC; Huntsville, AL; Santa Barbara, CA; and Myrtle Beach, SC.

Note: Combined Statistical Areas are larger labor markets that are combinations of metropolitan areas. The commuting exchange between these metropolitan areas is less than that required to be included in a metropolitan area. Perhaps the most notable examples of combined statistical areas are New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The New York CSA which extends from the metropolitan area to include New Haven and Bridgeport in Connecticut and Allentown in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Los Angeles CSA includes the Riverside-San Bernardino and Oxnard metropolitan areas. The San Francisco CSA includes the San Francisco metropolitan area, the San Jose metropolitan area and the smaller metropolitan areas of Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Vallejo and Stockton (added since 2010).

Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas (US) Population: 500,000 to 1,000,000: 2010-2014 Population 2013-2014 Rank Metropolitan Area 2010 2013 2014 Annual % Change: 2010-2014 Rank % Change: 2010-2014 1 Honolulu, HI 953 987 992 0.94%        21 0.48% 2 Tulsa, OK 937 962 969 0.79%        25 0.71% 3 Fresno, CA 930 956 966 0.89%        22 1.03% 4 Bridgeport, CT 917 942 945 0.73%        29 0.35% 5 Worcester, MA-CT 917 928 930 0.34%        43 0.26% 6 Albuquerque, NM 887 903 905 0.46%        39 0.14% 7 Omaha, NE-IA 865 896 904 1.04%        15 0.99% 8 Albany, NY 871 878 880 0.25%        45 0.19% 9 Bakersfield, CA 840 866 875 0.96%        19 1.00% 10 Greenville, SC 824 850 862 1.08%        14 1.42% 11 New Haven, CT 862 863 861 -0.03%        49 -0.20% 12 Knoxville, TN 838 852 858 0.56%        36 0.66% 13 Oxnard, CA 823 841 846 0.65%        32 0.62% 14 El Paso, TX 804 835 837 0.94%        20 0.25% 15 McAllen, TX 775 819 831 1.66%          8 1.48% 16 Allentown, PA-NJ 821 827 830 0.25%        46 0.34% 17 Baton Rouge, LA 802 820 825 0.67%        31 0.62% 18 Dayton, OH 799 802 801 0.05%        47 -0.10% 19 Columbia, SC 768 792 800 0.99%        17 1.02% 20 Sarasota (North Port), FL 702 733 749 1.52%          9 2.19% 21 Greensboro, NC 724 741 747 0.73%        28 0.71% 22 Little Rock, AR 700 724 729 0.97%        18 0.66% 23 Charleston, SC 665 712 728 2.16%          2 2.19% 24 Stockton, CA 685 705 716 1.02%        16 1.50% 25 Akron, OH 703 703 704 0.02%        48 0.09% 26 Colorado Springs, CO 646 679 687 1.47%        10 1.21% 27 Cape Coral, FL 619 661 680 2.23%          1 2.75% 28 Boise, ID 617 650 664 1.77%          5 2.15% 29 Syracuse, NY 663 663 661 -0.04%        50 -0.21% 30 Winston-Salem, NC 641 652 655 0.53%        37 0.54% 31 Wichita, KS 631 638 641 0.38%        42 0.44% 32 Lakeland, FL 602 623 635 1.25%        12 1.84% 33 Madison, WI 605 627 634 1.08%        13 1.01% 34 Ogden, UT 597 622 632 1.35%        11 1.62% 35 Springfield, MA 622 628 629 0.28%        44 0.11% 36 Des Moines, IA 570 600 612 1.68%          7 1.91% 37 Daytona Beach (Deltona), FL 590 601 610 0.77%        26 1.46% 38 Toledo, OH 610 608 607 -0.10%        51 -0.16% 39 Augusta, GA-SC 565 580 584 0.77%        27 0.59% 40 Jackson, MS 567 577 578 0.43%        40 0.06% 41 Provo, UT 527 562 571 1.93%          3 1.64% 42 Harrisburg, PA 549 558 561 0.48%        38 0.53% 43 Scranton, PA 564 562 560 -0.17%        52 -0.38% 44 Melbourne (Palm Bay), FL 543 551 557 0.58%        35 0.99% 45 Youngstown, OH-PA 566 556 553 -0.52%        53 -0.52% 46 Chattanooga, TN-GA 528 542 545 0.72%        30 0.44% 47 Durham, NC 504 534 543 1.74%          6 1.70% 48 Spokane, WA 528 536 541 0.58%        34 0.98% 49 Lancaster, PA 519 530 533 0.62%        33 0.60% 50 Modesto, CA 514 526 532 0.79%        23 1.09% 51 Portland, ME 514 520 524 0.43%        41 0.61% 52 Fayetteville, AR-MO 463 492 502 1.89%          4 1.88% 53 Santa Rosa, CA 484 495 500 0.79%        24 0.98% Total   36,361     37,316     37,620 0.81% In 000s Data from Census Bureau More familiar names substituted in some cases (Census names in parentheses)


Photo: Cape Coral, Florida (fastest growing mid-sized metropolitan area)

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and a member of the Board of Advisors at the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University.

When it Comes to Technology Privacy, the Eyes Have It

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 22:38

Back when integrated circuits were safely ensconced in missiles, spacecraft and machine tools, information technology could take us to the moon or build better cars, but – as long as they didn’t blow us up – they didn’t seem destined to strip away the last of our humanity. But as information technology has emerged as a factor in everyday life, the threat to our autonomy and privacy as individuals has mounted.

This comes at a time when many, particularly the young, worship technology as a new kind of secular god. In a poll of British people, about as many said they trust Google to have their interests at heart as they do God. Apple, in particular, notes Brett Robinson, writer of “Appletopia,” has adherents who back their products with “fanatical fervor.”

Yet while information technology may bring many blessings, it also threatens our basic freedoms. Such concerns have existed for years, particularly in science-fiction novels like Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1924 classic, “We,” which described a society where technology served to curb personal privacy and autonomy. Four decades ago, computer industry pioneer Willis Ware warned that the new communication technology, rather than simply making information more universally available, could also increase the “intensive and personal surveillance” of individuals.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.  He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Photo by Android Open Source project [Apache License 2.0, GPL or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

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