Transportation Drives Growth

Terrific article by Christopher Leinberger in this month’s Atlantic. It’s about the increased consumer demand – in both cities and suburbs – for walkable neighborhoods linked by train. The article and his book the Option of Urbanism are worth reading.

Leinberger is best in describing the changing patterns of consumer demand for housing and neighborhoods. As he would describe it from driveable suburbanism to walkable urbanism. He cites data that housing prices have fallen far more in outlying areas than near central cities in the current downturn. And that change in demand is likely to continue, probably accelerate.

He makes the case that rail transit is what makes these neighborhoods work. As he writes: Urban spaces of the kind that people want today feature mixed-use zoning and lots of stores and parks within walking distance. But most of all, they feature good public-transit options—usually rail lines.

Rail transit is a key ingredient to creating the kind of walkable neighborhoods consumers are demanding. And it’s those neighborhoods that are key to retaining and attracting talent that increasingly is the asset that matters most in growing a knowledge-based economy. In the article Leinberger has some interesting out-of the-box ideas on providing incentives to developers to pay for rail transit. Worth thinking about.

But so is a change in state transportation policy. Away from either letting our transportation system crumble (our current path) or more and more funding for new roads (the current proposals) and towards transit along with walking and biking. With an emphasis on rail. Hard to imagine our regrowing a prosperous Michigan without these kind of public investments.

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I’m new to this site and haven’t yet read all the entries. This one interested me as I just wrote a policy opinion on the subject for an application to the Michigan Political Leadership Program. My search was for information on how cities developed in Michigan versus that of the Villages and Townships. While it has been argued many times before, it seems to come up whenever a city tries to annex or take over a Township. In my city, we are considering going the other way even though it has never been done in Michigan. The article on transportation brings up the often used discussion of improving our cities but other than providing rail transit, does not say much about why we still have a departure from the city to go live in the suburbs or beyond. The rail transportation that does exist is seldom used even along such well travelled corridors as Woodward from Detroit to Pontiac and beyond. This is a topic that needs to be explored further at a local, regional and state level.

    1. Thanks for finding the site and commenting. A couple of suggested readings. The first is the Andy Basile letter I wrote about in my most recent post. And then there are reports on Young Talent in the Great Lakes and the New Agenda for a New Michigan which is our big picture take on the Michigan economy. Look under reports on our home page. All three make the case that vibrant central cities are essential to returning Michigan to prosperity.

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