International Urban Development and Transportation

T.O.D. should not only be about transit-oriented development, but about transit-owned development. When I was a child, I was the first in my classroom to notice that the World Trade Center (Tower 1) had been struck, and I later helped to close our windows, watching as it collapsed. The World Trade Center was a transit-owned, transit-oriented development, as it was owned by the Port Authority, which also operated the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) underneath the Twin Towers.

Real estate revenue helped to fund the operations of public transit. The mall there, one of the most profitable on the planet, was fueled by hundreds of tenants, alongside PATH commuters and subway passengers, tourists and neighbors. (The new WTC Transportation Hub, the $3.7 billion terminal that will also house Westfield’s $1.4 billion shopping center, will eventually be built).

Since then, I have been interested in the relationship between urban development and transportation hubs. Before going to college, I took a gap year with Thinking Beyond Borders in order to study international (urban) development in 8 different countries for 8 months. I conducted research projects in the field, and presented to my host communities, while volunteering on capacity-building projects. I also lobbied Congress(wo)men on Capitol Hill upon my return to the U.S.A., as part of the program. This was quite a formative experience…


Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Quito, Ecuador (Riel, 2010)

BRT in Quito, Ecuador (Riel, 2010)

Empty Streets in Broad Daylight During 2010 Ecuador Coup Crisis (Riel, 2010)

Quito, Ecuador (Riel, 2010)

T.O.D. at Machupicchu, Peru (Riel, 2010)

Spanish Architecture in Cusco, Peru (Riel, 2010)

Sprawling Congestion in Kunming, Yunnan, China (Riel, 2010)

Metro Construction in Kunming, Yunnan, China (Riel, 2010)

Intercity Rail Transportation in Kunming, Yunnan, China (Riel, 2010)

Highways in Kunming, Yunnan, China (Riel, 2010)

Traffic and Smog at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China (Riel, 2010)

Police Arresting Protesters at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China (Riel, 2010)

China Railway Museum in Beijing, China (Riel, 2010)

Beijing Metro (Riel, 2010)

Beijing Metro (Riel, 2010)

Urban Farming in Kunming, Yunnan, China (Riel, 2010)

Motorcycle Taxis in Siem Reap, Cambodia (Riel, 2010)

Congestion Challenges in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India (Riel, 2011)

Traffic in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India (Riel, 2011)

Traffic in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India (Riel, 2011)

Dynamic and Dense Streets in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India (Riel, 2011)

Praying in the Street in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India (Riel, 2011)

Metro Construction in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India (Riel, 2011)

Road Construction in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India (Riel, 2011)

Smog in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India (Riel, 2011)

Train Terminal in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)

Metro Construction in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)

Highways in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)

Congestion in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, India; Colonial Terminal (Riel, 2011)

Rail Terminal in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)

Rapid Transit in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)

Rapid Transit in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)

Public Health in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)

Transportation and Urban Development in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)

Brick Kilns on Indian Highway (Riel, 2011)

Train Terminal in New Delhi, India (Riel, 2011)

Praying in New Delhi Rail Station (Riel, 2011)

New Delhi Metro (Riel, 2011)

New Delhi Metro Station Entrance (Riel, 2011)

Car-Free Holy City: Pushkar, India (Riel, 2011)

Train Station (Isolated by Highway) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (Riel, 2011)


Over time, I’ve realized that the field of urban development recognizes the importance of transportation facilities, but seems to treat these facilities as entirely separate entities that merely allow for T.O.D., but do not partake in the development process, which creates more sustainable, dynamic environments. What if T.O.D. was actually transit-owned development?

Yet public transportation authorities often do not control zoning and land use laws, and they also operate amidst a sea of privately-owned land. Public transportation accessibility can dramatically improve the value of land, which rarely benefits these transportation operators directly. Perhaps the increased property taxes will be siphoned back to the transportation agency, but more often than not, developers benefit the most, and municipalities divert the increased property tax revenue from the agency that made it all possible. This is not a sustainable practice, because most of our public transportation agencies are deeply indebted and cannot build, enhance, and expand. They are the punching bag for all stakeholders. They are the punching bag for all stakeholders, and the problem is that everyone is a stakeholder in public transportation, so no one feels particularly invested.

Ideally, municipalities should provide (joint) developers with generous floor-area-ratio FAR bonuses if the developer renovates the station platforms below their buildings, and incorporates the station entrances into their two sites. These properties should be up-zoned, if they are not already. Of course, researching market and feasibility analyses, tax analyses, financial structuring, incentives, risk, leasing, cash flows, rents, vacancies, prices, equity, debt, loans, and so on and so forth would be necessary.

This public-private partnership model should be being implemented throughout the U.S., but people continue to fear density and displacement, and zoning and land use policies have become 20th century artifacts. Cities need to streamline joint development procedures, allowing for developers to build if they contribute funds towards renewing, enhancing, and expanding the systems that benefit their bottom lines. More contributions means more FAR. If affordable housing requirements and parking requirements make decking unfeasible, they should be exempt from these rules. But these changes require tackling NIMBYism so that transportation agencies can take on risk without being booed away from development.

America’s formerly private, profitable railroads developed real estate. Pennsylvania Railroad built New York Penn Station and developed nearby Hotel Pennsylvania. New York Central Railroad built Grand Central and developed Terminal City atop its rail yards. The Hudson and Manhattan Railroad built the Hudson Terminal in Lower Manhattan, which is the predecessor to the World Trade Center. Elevated railroads connected Manhattan with Coney Island, building resorts at their terminals. Similarly glamorous hubs with offices, residences, and retail were built throughout the country. But then came suburbanization, the Interstate, and the Jet Age. White Americans moved to the suburbs and divested from cities, which is a far cry from today’s migration trends. Regardless, at the time, most remaining assets were sold off, and public transportation agencies now lack the real estate expertise and the incentives to develop.

As such, T.O.D. will have a marginal impact on finances on American agencies, unlike in Hong Kong, where the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is a profitable, privatized transportation company, partly because of all of the real estate that it develops. While this system works in China because the central government leases land to the MTR and technically owns all land, it would not work in the U.S. because America rightly has strong private property laws, and a democratic process. Yet even in democratic Taiwan, the Taipei MRT has a Metro Shopping Mall. In America, a culture of private property ownership has produced a strong NIMBYist movement, which may get in the way of projects here, and of course, it is important to respect communities and their concerns. Indeed, strangely, the value that Americans place on private property has caused them to place restrictions on neighbors, in order to protect their own property values. Yet even if our systems cannot be profitable in our political economy, T.O.D. (literally) stands on its own merits, as it creates more dynamic places for people to live, work, and play, and supports sustainable livelihoods by reducing GHG emissions. America remains a beacon of economic and political freedom in the world.


The City & Climate Change (Hurricane Irene @ Coney Island) (Riel)


The City & Climate Change (Hurricane Irene @ Brooklyn) (Riel)


The United States was founded in 1776, as Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations. America was one of the world’s first democracies in order to protect “life, liberty, and estate”, as prescribed by John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government in 1689. Far from the agricultural society that wrote the US Constitution, cities in the early 20th century had to find means through which zoning could be legally enforced. The 10th Amendment of the US Constitution did grant general police powers to the States and to local governments, and government had the right to enforce order, protecting general welfare, morals, health, and safety. But the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution declared that no American shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, and that no private property shall be taken for public use without compensation. Moreover, the 14th Amendment, approved after the Civil War, expanded equal protection of the laws, applicable to former slaves and rebels, upholding their ability to rein supreme over their private property. The U.S. was founded by classical liberal ideals, and individualism was eventually reflected by state’s rights versus federal centralization, from the electoral college to municipal balkanization, which limits centralized, regional planning…

Cities succeeded in drafting zoning laws, and America’s affair with private property has ironically transformed into an affair with zoning, which is intended to protect the value of property and the public interest. Zoning was originally enacted by erroneously arguing that sunlight and air were important for public health, but it was also enacted because American cities were far more chaotic, dirty, and industrial. The US Constitution granted “general police powers” to the States and to local governments, which became zoning powers. Yet today’s cities no longer have factories next to homes, not only because of zoning but because industry has relocated away from downtown cores (and from the country entirely) due to advances in transportation technology. Today, zoning is used in order to exclude classes of people from neighborhoods, and keep the supply of housing artificially low in order to raise costs. Strangely, progressives have latched onto zoning, even though progress implies change.


There was a factory here, in my hometown, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn


The factory was gone long before I was born into the neighborhood…

Windsor Terrace

Planners point to the Equitable Building as the catalyst for the 1916 New York City Zoning Resolution, but it was one of many skyscrapers soaring towards the sky in the Big Apple. As construction technology improved, the value of Manhattan’s land began to drastically increase, making it feasible for skyscrapers to be developed. Some suggest that it was Manhattan’s bedrock that was conducive to the early development of skyscrapers, but it was really, quite simply, the fact that Manhattan was the economic center of the Northeast and, arguably, one of the lead anchors of the global economy. The Erie Canal connected the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, Chicago, and the Mississippi River. Ports connected New York with Europe and the Americas. Gotham’s skyscrapers were built on landfill, atop subway tunnels, and above countless utility lines. Surrounded by one of the world’s largest natural harbors, New Yorkers have always been squeezed for space, but the city became a global city because of its geography. Skyscrapers are eponymous with New York, but these buildings have become more and more threatened by exclusionary, micro-managed zoning.

The City of New York no longer adheres to the 1916 Zoning Resolution because, according to the Department of City Planning, “if the city had been built out at the density envisioned in 1916, it could have contained over 55 million people, far beyond its realistic capacity” (NYC Zoning, 2015). This excuse allowed for the 1961 Zoning Resolution to incorporate parking requirements and further exacerbate the flight to the suburbs. During these decades, the city would lose millions of people and would deal with bankruptcy, as Robert Moses built highways and ignored public transportation infrastructure. Rather than increasing density along subway corridors in order to fuel subway ridership and revenue, the 1961 Zoning Resolution promoted Le Corbusier’s ‘tower-in-the-park’ model, which was, in effect, a tower-in-a-park(ing) lot. While the City did begin to implement incentive zoning by introducing floor-area-ratio (FAR) into the resolution, thereby allowing for the trade of density for public amenities, many of these amenities were automobile-oriented and at the city’s edges. In 1916, zoning began to limit New York’s density, but by 1961, it had begun to suck the dynamism out of the country’s largest and most prosperous urban area.

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Robert Moses, New York’s power broker, slammed his highways through poor communities, bulldozed entire swaths of minority neighborhoods, and kept parkway bridges low enough to prevent buses from clearing underneath. His political savviness allowed him to become an ‘empire builder’, complete with his own public authority police force. Without running for office, he pulled the financial strings of the New York region, and he caused the Brooklyn Dodgers to move to Los Angeles. He ignored public transit and considered the automobile to be the answer to the region’s problems, allowing for suburbanization, white flight, and continued divestment from the City of New York. He was not alone in his thinking. Modernity was based upon an assumption that the new is better than the old, especially because the old brought along World War II. Modern architecture, modern housing, modern transportation.

However, his bridges and tunnels created a positive feedback loop of self-sufficiency, and his construction projects required little additional funding. He was instrumental in bringing the United Nations to New York. He built two World’s Fairs, designed many playgrounds and swimming pools, and developed Lincoln Center. The longest vehicular tunnel and longest suspension bridge in America, both linking Brooklyn to other boroughs, were also constructed by his public authorities. At the time, these authorities were truly independent of political interference, and relied on tolls and bonds, rather than taxes from non-users.

I do not think that we would be critical of Robert Moses today if he had expanded New York’s subways instead of its highways. He could have at least allowed for elevated railroads along the highway right-of-way. But he considered public transit to be as archaic as the horse and buggy. Many subway projects were sacked in the Big Apple, and streetcars and elevated routes were demolished throughout the country, and throughout the developed world.

Today, we cannot seem to build anything quickly and efficiently; it appears as though we’ve regressed, and cannot seem to find a balanced approach between Moses’ tactful power brokerage and the tip-toeing around that politicians do today. Although Moses’ Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority has been subsumed into MTA Bridges and Tunnels, providing a substantial surplus for the authority, transportation finance in the region remains a depressing topic to discuss.

Yet these massive renewal projects cannot be blamed for all of our problems. Many tower-in-the-park projects remain popular today, especially because the trees have matured; indeed, some residents even enjoy being separated from the noises of the street. Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis was destroyed partly because it was never maintained properly, and because the government had perverse incentives that did not help the poor to help themselves. Mothers were rewarded with more cash if they had no husband, and poor citizens were rewarded with more money for not finding a job. Regardless, Pruitt-Igoe was also especially isolated from nearby goods and services. There was no ground-floor retail, and the land between buildings was completely barren. No one had any responsibility for the property. There are plenty of other public housing projects that have been successful because they were designed better. There was not even a playground at Pruitt-Igoe for the first few years, elucidating how little planners understood human nature.

In the 1950s, the federal government was providing unprecedented funding to cities for urban renewal. At the same time, these cities were reaching their peak populations and peak industrial activity as suburbanization took hold. Meanwhile, the Great Migration brought African-Americans to industrial cities while legal racism and redlining kept them from suburban areas. Highways were built into cities so that goods could be delivered and suburbanites could access jobs, but these roads were built through ‘blighted’ (black) neighborhoods. It was thought that removing blight would simply remove it, and that it would not return. But public housing was not maintained, real estate developers did not want the government to compete for market-rate units, and inner cities became crime-ridden. Unlike Europe, which remained devastated for years after World War II, the U.S. built the Interstate Highway System straight through cities. In relatively homogeneous Europe, this may not have been possible, because wealthy residents would have boycotted these roads; but in the U.S., African-Americans had little power. Civil rights and urban planning are intricately interconnected.

In the end, the government cleared affordable housing in order to build it again. But developing countries today are facing similar conditions that the U.S. faced in the mid-20th century. Slums are spreading disease and residents are living in horrid conditions, even though the mixed-use nature of these slums allows for innovation and for opportunities. It’s clear that conditions need to be improved, but public housing must retain flexible elements in order for residents to be able to shape their communities creatively. They should be able to move things around in their apartments and take ownership of their public spaces. They should be connected with nearby neighborhoods and not isolated by vast stretches of asphalt. They should be bridging the gap socially, economically, politically, and of course, physically.

Many suburbanites continue to think that suburbs are for people who “look” like them. They fear that unhinging stringent, acre-by-acre zoning will decrease their property values. After all, compared to other developed countries, America has relatively non-existent social safety nets, with dwindling pensions. Zoning, in effect, has become a social safety net for many property owners. Municipalities also think that they will receive higher property tax revenues if they keep building McMansions. Yet suburbs are becoming poorer. Young professionals are moving to the cities, where there are more opportunities and more transportation alternatives. Suburbs are, as a result, also becoming older, yet they lack services and lack transportation options for these seniors. Many municipalities wouldn’t want to build an apartment complex, let alone a senior home. But perhaps density will attract dynamism and prosperity back into the area?.

Today, zoning is not only a problem in the suburbs, but also in New York. In fact, because zoning keeps the city from densifying, it pushes out the sprawl. The City of New York continues to micro-manage the Big Apple’s dynamism, block-by-block, hindering free enterprise and transforming structure into shackles. While recent changes have rightly up-zoned swaths of the Big Apple along subway corridors, and have provided FAR incentives for developers that build atop subway entrances and renovate station entrances, zoning continues to hinder growth, accessibility, and affordability. It limits the supply of housing, thereby fueling the gentrification of artificially limited housing stock throughout the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Of course, zoning must remain to some extent in order to prevent the further crowding of schools, sewers, and subways, but the fact that there is crowding means that there should be growth, not limits to growth. Zoning should incentivize developers to build schools below condominiums, or enhance station capacity below office towers. It should not limit growth; it should plan it. Supply and demand. Planners should not succumb to the toxic NIMBYist atmosphere so prevalent in American society. Instead, they should advocate for what they know is best for the City. A balance must be struck between development and preservation, compromising between community and individual, public and private, and expert and local concerns.

So, how do we mobilize, for mobility’s sake? How do we compromise between community and individual, public and private, and expert and local concerns? We must show New Yorkers that even though we cannot transport best practices from abroad, we can translate them to our local context. We can transform our transportation infrastructure.

America’s aging infrastructure continues to fall behind, making our cities less competitive. Joint development not only provides additional real estate revenue for agencies, but it also funnels more passengers into systems, because offices, malls, and apartments are located atop train stations. Plus, properly-designed, active density fuels dynamism, which is arguably what attracts top tier talent. By bridging the gap physically, transportation does not just transport communities, but transforms them socially, economically, environmentally, and politically. Transportation infrastructure is transformation infrastructure, but it can bridge communities or tear them apart. It’s our choice.

Planners no longer face the chaotic congestion of the early 20th century in American cities. Factories, for the most part, are not located next to condominiums and shopping districts. Now, planners are seeking to return to form-based zoning, and they are also recognizing the importance of density by up-zoning along subway corridors and managing urban growth. Yet social justice remains hindered by zoning in many urban areas, where municipalities keep growth from occurring, keep homes from being affordable, and keep ‘undesirable’ human beings from living, working, and playing. Zoning made sense in 1916, but it has grown – unchecked – while cities have shrunken and shriveled. The chaos lamented by early progressives is now desired again, yet we must be careful to retain a balanced perspective. Our cities, like our people, are neither black nor white. We are increasingly aware of our interconnected, gray world, and planners need to design for flexibility, for choice, and for prosperity.


Diesel Ventilation at North Station, Boston (Riel, 2015)


Retail at North Station in Boston, MA (Riel, 2015)


North Station Joint Development (Riel, 2015)


Retail at Park Street in Boston, MA (Riel, 2015)



It is important to note that the suburbanization process in America is unique. In the U.K., for instance, new housing was primarily built by the government, because the economy had been ruined by war, and many cities had been destroyed by German bombings. Thousands were killed and millions were homeless. There were no resources for highway building. Meanwhile, in Western Europe, highways were not built into the urban core, because wealthy residents protested. Unlike in America, dense European cities were more homogenous, and there were no African-American neighborhoods that could be plowed for highway construction…

Meanwhile, in Brazil, the wealthy continue to live in the center of cities, while only the extremely wealthy can afford suburban mansions and gated walls, to protect them from the perceived dangers of nearby favelas. These favelas are quite dense, built with local materials, such as bricks from nearby construction sites, and they are often built along ridges or cliffs, with open sewage running through them. Rich Brazilians fear them, and generally do not go near them. Suburbs cannot exist without high walls, raising the costs. It is more efficient for the rich to live on top of each other in tall condominiums, guarded by high fences and cameras, because highway infrastructure is relatively poor, and people would rather live in the center of the city, closer to opportunities, than spend hours in traffic on congested roads.

In the U.S., until recently, it’s been the poor that live in the inner city, in tall buildings. This is because we have built highways into the suburbs, whereas in Brazil, the infrastructure is not as good and suburbanization has not taken hold yet. There is also not a white-or-black culture there, so there was no white flight. Most people are ‘mixed’ due to the legacy of exploitative colonialism, with Portuguese men arriving without their families for resource extraction. In the U.S., entire families came in order to settle, but this was not originally the case in Brazil.

In South Africa, the outskirts are full of Apartheid-era townships. These townships are largely single-family shacks or structures partly because black South Africans do not want to live on top of each other as it signifies dominance. Apparently, as I was told, this is cultural. Yet these townships are still denser than the areas towards the center of the city, because that is where white South Africans live, but they do not live in tall buildings. They live in gated homes.

In Berlin during the Cold War, capitalists competed with communists to build housing in war-torn West Berlin and East Berlin. Suburbanization never took hold there because the Berlin Wall kept West Berlin within East Germany, and East Germany did not have the money for suburbanization. Besides, suburbanization is, perhaps, the antithesis to central planning.

Typologies, of course, varied in the East and West. The interiors and exteriors of buildings were vastly different. So did the cost, efficiency, technology, and building codes, for housing, retail, office, and so on and so forth. Proportions. Heights. Setbacks. Zoning. Permits. RFPs. Financing development, of course, was entirely different.


So we have Brazil, where the rich live in the center of the city, in dense structures. Then we have the U.S., where the poor have tended to live in the center of the city, in dense structures. And in South Africa, the rich live in the center of the city, in individual homes. Density clearly denotes different things, depending on the context. How do we plan in these different contexts? By translating methods, and not just transporting them.


Born and bred in Brooklyn, my name is Rayn Riel, and I’m a Senior Editor at PlaNYourCity. I’ve circumnavigated the world twice in order to research transportation finance and joint (real estate) development practices in 30+ countries and 25+ U.S. states. I’m a graduate student at Tufts University and I’ve designed Tufts’ only undergraduate urban planning degree, I’ve founded Tufts only undergraduate urban planning student group, and I’ve also been working as a GIS Lab Assistant. Having interned at the NYC Department of City Planning for the past two summers, I interned at MTA NYC Transit and at the MTA HQ Real Estate Department this summer. I will graduate with a B.A. and M.A. in Urban Policy and Planning in May 2016. I intend to become a “Riel Estate” professional.


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46 Comments on “International Urban Development and Transportation”

  1. Rayn Riel January 28, 2016 at 10:51 am #

    It is also important to recognize the connection between transportation and public health. Hamilton et al. suggests “purposeful exercise” for 45 minutes each weekday. However, the illustration below suggests that it is an entirely separate activity from one’s job. Ideally, offices should have showers so that employees can bike to work. Or standing desks.

    But what if there are no bike lanes, or the neighborhood is perceived to be unsafe? Or the weather is too hot? Myriad of factors to consider… Genetics, hormones, cultural norms, social support, education, income, occupation, road safety, proximity to nature, TV habits… More sprawling environments, for instance, tend to mean less walking, less public transit, more vehicle miles traveled…

    But so important to be active, either via leisure and/or via work! And if our environments are nicer, closer to nature, perhaps we’ll be more active. Of course, taking breaks in nature will improve attention, increase focus, decrease stress…


    • Rayn Riel January 28, 2016 at 11:22 am #

      1) Commuting by car introduces avoidable stress into people’s daily lives.

      2) Suburbia’s lack of public spaces limits social interaction, leading to isolation.

      3) Sedentary habits associated with car dependence exacerbate mental ill-health.

      4) Yet, urban areas don’t have better psychological health compared to suburban areas.


  2. John June 16, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    I suppose unless you are from Africa where humans first evolved, you are an immigrant… but in the US, we are mainly more recent immigrants. Immigrants built this country and contribute to its strength. So many different ideas and values make it exciting but also hard to come together.
    but we do. we went to the moon after all!


  3. John June 16, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

    Left out is ENERGY
    The energy of a place
    We are drawn to nature. trees streams oceans


  4. John June 16, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

    food deserts, access, health, nutrition, education, urban farms…

    in poor neighborhoods, not going to find expensive “organic”
    bodegas often don’t stock fruits or vegetables because they don’t have a long shelf life
    and people don’t really demand them — not educated about nutrition
    supermarkets, few and far between

    so, mcdonald’s pops up


  5. Mark June 16, 2016 at 10:28 pm #


    • Mark June 16, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

      This relates to your article. Often we build projects that are not sustainable. Most of the money spent goes to administration in US. Then, let’s say a group of American teens are going to a village to build a small factory. Who decided to put the factory where it is being built? The community? Did they vote? Did some people want it somewhere else? Who is going to use it and work there? How was that project decided over other initiatives? Who did the US org partner with in order to decide this, did they just enter, ignorant of local power dynamics, armed with money, and chat the first person they found? Is it even being used now? Do they have the capacity to finish it or the effort or money after the teens left? How many locals with families who could do the job better were left without a job? This stuff just creates dependency…

      Imagine a group of Chinese teens coming to rural america, speaking little English, taking photos of everyone like they are zoo animals, buying things lavishly wearing fancy clothes not appropriate for the area… To help you … and put local workers out of a job because they will PAY to help you! What a strange concept!


  6. Mark June 17, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    No wonder India has so many cows in the road. It is illegal to kill them.
    Mobs will form and kill you if you try!
    So farmers just release the old ones into the city…


  7. Mark June 17, 2016 at 1:10 pm #


  8. Mark June 21, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

    access access access — so important
    how else do you get to your voting station?
    in a transit desert, with no car


    • John July 14, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

      hopefully not voting for gun control
      even with all our guns gone, then people will just ram trucks into crowds… :\
      how many freedoms you taking!


  9. Mark June 23, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

    this is probably similar to how NY was “discovered” by europeans.

    met with folks with no written language, died from disease like a common cold, fought with arrows… limited agriculture.

    really, a time capsule back 1000s of years for europeans. to when they were hunter-gatherers, before they started farms, towns, specializing, developing more technology, more time for other things, etc


    • Greg79 July 6, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

      Scots were as wild back in the day


  10. John June 28, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    All those old railroads… gone, now we have these guzzling cars! Trucks! “FREE” shipping! Do people not realize that it’s not really free? I’m afraid so, ladies and gentlemen, most people are not awake! All that fuel for those trucks, all that plastic, cardboard… even recycling, all the energy to transport heavy items, all the water, land, such waste, such such waste…


    • Somerdude June 28, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

      Most are not observant. Rarely are their eyes actually open.

      For instance, do people ever notice why they enjoy certain neighborhoods, or prefer walking on a certain sidewalk? Lighting? Benches? Wide? Lots of windows and not just a wall next to it, or fences, and dirty garbage and invasive species etc?

      No most people just live in their own bubbles


  11. Al July 17, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has gone through profound change since Superstorm Sandy three years ago. Hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure repairs and improvements have been planned, contracted for, or completed. The entire system is evolving to meet the challenges that extreme weather events will present to us in the future.

    The subways of NYC Transit, commuter rail lines of Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road and the inter-borough vehicular tunnels operated by Bridges & Tunnels all absorbed major damage on October 29, 2012. We averted even more serious harm because we ceased operations prior to the storm’s arrival and moved subway and commuter rails cars, as well as buses to safe storage locations. Where we could, we also moved critical right-of-way components out of harm’s way. Despite all those efforts, the storm left behind flooded tunnels and maintenance facilities, washed out roadbeds, corroded electrical systems and twisted rails.

    It was through the dedication and hard work of MTA employees, the efficiency of our contractors and the funding assistance of FEMA and New York State that we were able to begin fixing an historic level of damage and fortifying the MTA system against future storms. None of us had ever seen anything like Sandy, but even before the winds completely died, we were rolling up our sleeves and beginning the tough job of restoring service to the millions who depend on us each day.


  12. Bobby July 18, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

    Congestion pricing requires the state’s approval. Just like minimum wages, etc.


  13. Gabe July 22, 2016 at 10:03 am #

    The empire state building had setbacks for zoning.
    Now the zoning laws have changed. They get FAR and build parks/plazas. or transit improvements. But also… setbacks are still there, too.

    Look here, a new building coming up right next to existing one… bye bye windows!


  14. Yoyo July 29, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    nyc reminds me of europe sometimes

    these bldgs in lower manhattan could be in amsterdam
    and we have such nice little pedestrian plazas, historical preservation, even on wall street — makes it even better place to work, even more value. because place to LIVE, WORK, AND PLAY!


  15. Alex August 6, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    Yes. Transportation mean more than just passenger-kms traveled, or nodes and links in a network. It means striving for social and spatial equity, and improving the access for all urban residents to economic, social and educational opportunities.


  16. Alex August 6, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    This is a cool article… apparently, favelas are more LEED certified than the olympics village in Rio. Most of those favela homes are constructed from recycled materials, or garbage at construction sites. Though I’d say that the lack of sanitation and the overflow of raw sewage into rivers from favelas brings down their “rating”… and is one of the big issues with the Olympics (toxic harbor)

    the article:

    The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are almost upon us, yet the city’s lack of preparedness continues to provide international media with an endless feed of concerning stories. The most recent infrastructure debacle over poorly constructed rooms in the Olympic Village has resulted in the Australian Olympic Committee deeming the village inadequate and “uninhabitable” due to safety and health concerns made apparent in their inspection.

    This is incredibly problematic, in part because the Village made history as the first development in Brazil to receive the Green Building Council’s LEED for Neighborhood Development certification. The certification was awarded for the Village’s supposedly sustainably planned post-Olympic transition into an elite neighborhood named Ilha Pura, or “Pure Island,” located in the upscale neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca. This certification holds weight on a global scale and is meant to be a yardstick for sustainability and green building, and yet Ilha Pura has more than missed the mark. What is especially interesting and ironic, however, is that recent analysis by the authors of this article finds one of Rio’s nearby favelas scores 28% higher than the Olympic Village on the same LEED rating tool for green neighborhoods.

    This striking result gets to a core issue of the New Urban Agenda to be debated at the United Nations’ Habitat III conference later this year: how to create sustainable human settlements for all. An estimated one billion people live in informal communities worldwide, and that number is growing rapidly.

    Some of that growth is happening just a short walk from the 2016 Olympic Park in a small favela called Asa Branca. While the world celebrates the Olympics, Asa Branca will celebrate 35 years of struggle and endurance in Rio’s West Zone. Favelas are often stereotyped as chaotic and hazardous liabilities. But a closer examination reveals considerable merit in the organic and responsive environments built by residents. Compact, mixed-use buildings and pedestrian-oriented circulation networks engender the kind of vibrant, street-level cultural life and low carbon footprint that are hallmarks of green urbanism.

    The concept of unplanned communities as models of sustainability emerged after the 1996 Habitat II agenda called for adequate shelter and sustainable settlements for all. Practitioners and urban scholars like John Turner, author of Housing by People, Theresa Williamson, executive director of Catalytic Communities, and Justin Mcguire, author of Radical Cities, have recognized that so-called “slums” are not deformities in the urban fabric, but are integral and important contributors to sustainability. These and other researchers see the mix of physical qualities, social vitality, and economic resourcefulness in communities like favelas that can produce transformative neighborhoods. As McGuirk asks in Radical Cities, “When will we come to terms with the fact that favelas are not a problem of urbanity, but the solution?”

    To illustrate this point, we applied the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system to Asa Branca. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a family of sustainability rating tools owned and trademarked by the U.S. Green Building Council, including LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND). To judge sustainability, LEED ND combines the principles and practices of smart growth, new urbanism, and green construction into 44 measures worth a total of 110 points.

    For a baseline of formal urbanism, we selected the LEED ND certified 2016 Olympic Village. Situated on 180 acres, Ilha Pura contains 3,604 new apartment dwellings for about 8,000 residents in 31 buildings averaging 18 stories in height, with supporting commercial and recreation amenities. On the LEED neighborhood sustainability scale, Ilha Pura scored 47 points and earned an official LEED ND Certification. 40 is the minimum number of points needed to reach a “Certified” ranking (40-49 points), with higher scores meriting Silver, Gold, or Platinum rankings.

    LEED rankings comparedA half mile north of Ilha Pura, Asa Branca also has 8,000 residents, but they live in 1,800 dwellings in single and multi-family buildings that range up to four stories in height, on a 27-acre site. 98 small businesses in the favela serve residents’ daily needs. Using the LEED ND yardstick, Asa Branca scores a Gold ranking with 60 points, an impressive 28% higher than Ilha Pura.

    How does informal urbanism so markedly outperform state-of-the-art formality? The ND scorecard reveals that Asa Branca can’t match Ilha Pura in the green construction and innovation categories because of the latter’s advantages in financing those premium practices. But Asa Branca has nearly double the scores of Ilha Pura when location and neighborhood quality are tallied, including these highlights:

    Affordable housing. Ilha Pura didn’t attempt affordable housing points, but Asa Branca earns the maximum with more than 25% of its homes priced affordably by Rio de Janeiro standards. And the housing is close to surrounding job sites, creating a point-worthy jobs/housing balance for the vicinity.

    Connectivity. Asa Branca’s fine-grained circulation network gives it a highly superior internal connectivity of 875 intersections per square mile, enough to earn an exemplary performance point; and its adjacent, high-frequency transit service earns maximum location efficiency points while connecting residents to regional jobs.

    Compactness and completeness. 100% of Asa Branca’s circulation network are pedestrian paths or woonerfs (where pedestrians have priority over vehicles), all fronted by zero-setback buildings that activate street life with 98 ground-level shops (and jobs) that are a brief walk or bike ride from anywhere in the neighborhood.

    Social equity and collaborative governance. The Asa Branca Neighborhood Association qualifies for the social equity and outreach credits as a grassroots organization working to create a fairer, healthier, and more prosperous neighborhood.

    The Asa Branca results are not an official LEED ND rating like the Ilha Pura certification, but they should prove useful on several levels:

    The Asa Branca Neighborhood Association, which assisted the ND study, can use the results to strengthen collaboration and investment by local government, and those investments can more effectively focus on needs identified in the ND rating, e.g. outdoor civic space, rainwater management.

    The results should spur assessment of other favelas to see if favorable scores persist in a variety of settings, if patterns emerge, and what sustainability attributes are strongest and weakest. While the weaknesses must be identified in order to be addressed, the strengths must equally be identified in order to make sure they are preserved. This also highlights a related, serious global problem: the absence of basic data on favelas, which is urgently needed for correctly understanding strengths and weaknesses, and designing effective responses.

    In fashioning the New Urban Agenda and its “operational enablers,” Habitat III participants can reconceptualize favelas to be essential contributors to sustainable urbanism. The small environmental footprint, social vitality, and economic resourcefulness of informal settlements justify their rightful and productive place in the urban fabric.

    Asa Branca won’t host Olympic athletes this summer, but it does appear capable of winning Gold using a global standard of neighborhood sustainability. This doesn’t diminish the serious problems that Asa Branca faces, nor do the results necessarily represent all of Rio’s diverse favelas [further research is necessary to gauge this]. Nonetheless, Asa Branca’s bustling street life and close-knit residents are convincing evidence of the strengths gained from an organic and responsive built environment. The world can take a lesson from this informal gold medalist—that embracing and leveraging the vigor and potency of favelas and informal communities across the world is critical to achieving sustainable urbanism.


    • justicity August 14, 2016 at 8:18 pm #

      In two days of wandering through favelas and working-class neighborhoods, I found Olympic excitement an often extinguished fire. Graffiti and signs draped across walls by labor activists document the Games’ huge cost to a wounded city. Olympic torchbearers jogged into several working-class neighborhoods and left sprinting, chased by angry residents. Outrage is not difficult to understand.

      Billionaire developers and media magnates have made a fortune off the Olympics; bribe and corruption investigations arising from these Games are a growth industry, with construction companies and hundreds of congressional deputies potentially in the dock. An extremely expensive subway was built to run the length of this city’s well-to-do south coast from Copacabana to the Olympic site. A forest of towers to house athletes rose on publicly owned land; afterward, the developer will turn these into luxury housing. On the route from the international airport to the south shore, Olympic organizers put up colorful walls so that visitors could not see the favelas.

      The International Olympic Committee’s chieftain, Thomas Bach, proclaimed the Rio Games a grand success last week. I wondered at the quality of his eyes.

      To write of pain is to take nothing from the Brazilians, who are gracious hosts and exuberant fans, crowding the waterfront of Copacabana for beach volleyball. Grand athletic achievement is inspiring, and these athletes, the world’s greatest, deserve applause. But the practiced I.O.C. shakedown of cities, the demands that local officials compete to construct obscenely expensive stadiums and news media centers and to guarantee that tourist zones have been swept of the desperate, has rarely looked more problematic.

      Rio is all but bankrupt. Teachers have gone months without pay. Retirees are months behind on pension checks. University professors gather to mop floors and empty overflowing garbage cans.


      • justicity August 14, 2016 at 8:19 pm #

        In June 2011, the last time I was in Aleppo, I visited my grandmother’s home every day. I obsessively photographed the apartment where my father grew up and where I spent much of my youth. I snapped shots of her wooden doors and balcony, our family’s antiques arranged in the glass vitrine, her organized kitchen cabinets and my grandfather’s proud portrait in the dining room. I took only a few sentimental pieces with me when I left to go back to my home in America. I wish I had taken everything.

        My grandmother’s apartment is on a tiny street tucked between parallel one-way boulevards, one traveling southeast toward the heart of old Aleppo, and the other running northwest to the city’s expansive outlying neighborhoods. This diverse part of the city, in the west, has largely avoided the destruction of the war swirling around it — so far.

        Aleppo, where I spent my adolescent years, where I went to college and became an adult before returning to the United States, where I was born, has been split in two since 2012. The west side is in the clutches of the government, and the east is held by rebel forces. Over the last four years, brutal territorial battles tore through the city, dividing neighborhoods that had been interwoven for centuries. Some two million people (including thousands of displaced Syrians) live in relative safety in the west, while over 250,000 live in the east, which has been subjected to years of indiscriminate aerial bombardment by the government’s barrel bombs and, since last year, Russian airstrikes.

        Aleppo is the last major city where the rebels control significant territory, and President Bashar al-Assad thinks that capturing it could bring him close to so-called victory. In July, his forces tightened the noose around eastern Aleppo to wage yet another brutal “kneel or starve” campaign. Supplies of food and medicine were choked off; hundreds of civilians died.

        At the beginning of August, the power struggle on the ground shifted unexpectedly. Activists set thousands of tires alight, creating huge clouds of black smoke, a weak attempt at a homemade no-fly zone to hide the east side from Russian airplanes. The rebel groups forged a fragile coalition and joined forces with the Levant Conquest Front, an Islamist group that recently was called the Nusra Front and was previously Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Together, they battled Mr. Assad’s troops and their Hezbollah militia allies. On Aug. 6, they broke the siege. Trucks from nearby Idlib brought the trapped civilians fresh food for the first time in weeks. Meanwhile, Russian jets struck nearby towns with incendiary bombs in retaliation. The bodies of fighters piled up in trucks like dead cattle.

        As the battle unfolded, analysts on social media discussed events in real time with a zeal that comes only with detachment. Some said this battle would (again) tip the scales of the war. Others claimed that the rebels’ victory meant the bloody end was (again) near.

        A favorite tool of the dispassionate Syria analyst is a map: red and green blobs showing a shifting front line, which streets are held by rebels and which by the government. These wretched maps rudely superimpose their lines over the landmarks of my life: On the east are the people I grew to love through the revolution, men, women and children who defied all odds and stood chanting in the face of one of the most ruthless regimes in history. On the west are my streets, my school, my university, my home.


  17. urbphile August 13, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    lucky to have clean water and electricity compared to slums in 3rd world


  18. justicity August 17, 2016 at 10:03 am #

    A CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT: You have two cows. You keep one and give one to your neighbor.

    A SOCIALIST: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.

    AN AMERICAN REPUBLICAN: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So what?

    AN AMERICAN DEMOCRAT: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. You vote people into office who tax your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.

    A COMMUNIST: You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk.

    A FASCIST: You have two cows. The government seizes both and sells you the milk. You join the underground and start a campaign of sabotage.

    DEMOCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point you have to sell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow, which was a gift from your government.

    CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

    BUREAUCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, then pours the milk down the drain.

    AN AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

    A FRENCH CORPORATION: You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.

    A JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide.

    A GERMAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

    A BRITISH CORPORATION: You have two cows. They are mad. They die. Pass the shepherd’s pie, please.

    AN ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You break for lunch.

    A RUSSIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

    A SWISS CORPORATION: You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.

    A BRAZILIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You enter into a partnership with an American corporation. Soon you have 1000 cows and the American corporation declares bankruptcy.

    AN INDIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You worship both of them.

    A CHINESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported on them.

    AN ISRAELI CORPORATION: There are these two Jewish cows, right? They open a milk factory, an ice cream store, and then sell the movie rights. They send their calves to Harvard to become doctors. So, who needs people?

    AN ARKANSAS CORPORATION: You have two cows. That one on the left is kinda cute.


  19. Frisco August 17, 2016 at 7:13 pm #


    • Franz August 17, 2016 at 10:02 pm #

      LA also great for movie industry historically due to sunlight perfect weather for shooting
      Plus not as many tall buildings being built right next to each other, chipping away the sunlight.


  20. Sammy August 22, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    Even though NYC Subway does not have platform gates, at least they have doors on the subway! Mumbai does not have doors on their trains… People always run to catch it, get knocked down and under, thousands die every year…


  21. Bigg August 23, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    The public is the primary beneficiary of the nation’s intermodal transportation system built to serve public mobility and productivity. Transportation decisions need to be made in an environmentally sensitive way, using a comprehensive planning process that includes the public and considers land use, development, safety, and security. Transportation planners undertake a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of the potential impact of transportation plans and programs while addressing the aspirations and concerns of the society served by these plans and programs. Planners examine past, present, and prospective trends and issues associated with the demand for the movement of people, goods, and information at local, rural, tribal, metropolitan, statewide, national, and international levels.


  22. Kalino August 24, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Geography, geography, geography!

    Have you ever wondered why Europe took over the world? The geography allowed for lots of divisions, mountains, etc, that led to different competing kingdoms, close to the Americas… after the Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, boom! land, labor, capital, domesticated animals and plants, not a tropical climate… the British especially sent their capitalist ideals to the US, Canada, Australia, NZ, etc, with settlers with entire families, to these non-tropical similar geographies…

    Meanwhile, the Spanish were exploitative, sent men mainly, resulting in more mixed populations in the Americas, where indigenous populations were dense (tropics, not argentina)… and, sent African slaves where the local population wouldn’t be subservient/would flee/die from disease, like Brazil. (South Africa, India, local populations were divided and used for essentially slave labor, and non-tropic zones like Argentina, South Africa, received a lot of settlers)

    Argentina was once one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but they did not have a British mindset… they were conquistadors, exploiters, not developers of the land, even though they got so many immigrants, they did not educate them as much, they just extracted.

    Europe moved from hunter-gathering to agriculture and industrial societies eventually because of domesticated animals and plants – they weren’t tropics, full of disease, isolated… Europe had plenty of navigable rivers.

    Also, maori in NZ were treated better than aborigines in Australia because NZ was a smaller place, maori were one people, united, stronger, unlike aborigines in Australia. they could not be divided as much.

    Governors Island was the original settlement here in NYC, to protect from natives… the dutch – brooklyn, haarlem, flushing, stoops… all dutch words. We had slavery, but eventually, immigration fueled industrialization, unlike southern USA, which specialized in agriculture/slavery due to warmer climate. All about geography!


    • Loki August 24, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

      No, it is more than just geography.

      Dallas and Amsterdam are both flat cities. One is sprawled and one is the bike capital of the world.


    • Keoaris September 1, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

      sometimes you need to build a wall — like wall street, so the dutch could keep the british and indians out of their haphazard settlement.

      Southern europe today is poorer than northern europe because it fared worse in industrialization, like the southern US… focused on agriculture, but in southern europe, not as connected to atlantic ocean, blocked off from northern europe by huge mountains… no coal… these were once wealthier, the romans, greeks, spanish…

      ahh, interesting to think about! when will the US get rid of pennies? makes no sense. also, the coins are different sizes/metal values. and no numbers are printed on them so non-english speakers don’t know what a dime, quarter, etc is

      agriculture allowed people to settle in villages, cities… and that depended on areas with domesticated plants and animals, good weather, being close to navigable rivers, etc. land, labor, capital,_Germs,_and_Steel

      china was so centrist, inward, perhaps because rice cultivation required a collective, community effort.


      • Historybuff 7834 November 23, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

        Other countries in the Americas, also blessed with natural resources, did not develop to be as wealthy as the U.S. and Canada. The Spanish and Portuguese practiced exploitative colonialism, rather than settler colonialism, and primarily sent soldiers to conquer what would become Latin America, spreading Catholicism to indigenous peoples, bringing back immense wealth to the crown. Because few women came with the soldiers, Latin America became far more composed of mixed-race people, compared to the U.S. and Canada. In today’s Mexico, the Spanish were able to force indigenous populations to exploit their resources, but in other places, such as today’s Brazil, African slaves were brought instead. And in more temperate regions more similar to a European climate, such as the Southern Cone, massive waves of immigrants arrived, just as in the United States. But these countries, such as Brazil and Argentina, never became as wealthy as the U.S. Argentina, in the early 20th century, was among the ten wealthiest countries in the world, and was wealthier than France, Germany, and Italy. Buenos Aires has the oldest subway in Latin America, and in the 43 years leading up to 1914, GDP had grown at 6%, the fastest recorded in the world.

        While Brazil competed with nations colonized by Spain in South America, inheriting the Iberian rivalry, both Spanish and Portuguese countries were built by Catholic ideals. While Protestant countries exalted hard work, Catholic countries worshipped idleness, a trace of royalty, and sought to make money and then return to Iberia, rather than develop the land with commercial views adopted from the United Kingdom, the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution.

        These commodity economies could no longer export products during the Great Depression, and after remaining relatively neutral in World War II, a series of military dictatorships and hyperinflation, as well as a lack of education, these countries have emerged far poorer than their northern neighbors (in North America), and far more unequal, unstable, and corrupt. In Sao Paulo, as in many Brazilian cities, the highway network has not been developed to the extent as it has been in the United States, so suburbanization has not really taken hold. Also, because the country’s demographics are far more mixed, there is no black-or-white divide that drove white flight in the U.S. Traffic is also extremely congested, so rich people prefer to live in the center of the city near their jobs in gated condominiums, so that they can collectively defend themselves from rampant crime. If they are extremely wealthy, they can live in fortified homes on the outskirts, often with helipads to commute. The periphery is considered as a place for poor people in favelas. There remains no electricity, gas, and running water in many neighborhoods.

        Land, labor, and capital came together in the United States to produce immense wealth, and it was coupled by a respect for life, liberty, and property that was arguably unparalleled outside of the relatively tolerant Protestant countries. These countries were at the fringes of the former Roman Empire, and never became as loyal to the Pope as the rest of Europe, except for Orthodox Europe and Muslim Europe. While Greece and then Italy were once the centers of Europe, the Industrial Revolution shifted power westward, and today, southern Europe remains relatively poorer.

        Some argue that warmer climates cause humans to work less hard, because resources are more abundant, or because it is necessary to rest due to the heat. But the Cradle of Civilization was in quite a hot environment, and Egypt, Rome, Greece, Spain; all of these places, and plenty more, flourished for periods of time. Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, provides a more complex set of theories. Humans originally moved from hunter-gatherer tribes to agricultural societies partly because they had plants and animals that could be domesticated. Regions that had more of these assets, and that could trade across east-west axes, benefitted. Europe and Asia traded ideas for thousands of years, and China was once sailing the seas, setting up colonies throughout the world, before pulling back its operations and focusing inward.


    • Sink September 18, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

      and the Hudson River divided New England from the rest of the country


  23. Hobart September 17, 2016 at 6:43 am #

    Geography is part of why Canada never joined the US!
    But now, it’s led to a lot of confusion at border cities. Niagara Falls… Canada or NY? Always confusion. Same name, different transit systems, so close yet so far for many people. Renting cars, bus stations, infrastructure…

    The war of 1812 was a costly attempt on both sides to grab territory. The US thought a land grab in Canada would be ” a mere matter of marching” and the British thought they could take back the western great lakes. Both sides gained and lost territory and in the end the wars Treaty of Gehnt returned borders to the pre-war borders, since it was basically a stalemate. Blood and treasure were expended for nothing, that war is the biggest waste of any war fought in North America. The lesson of that war was remembered, and in the end no more serious attempts to annex parts of Canada ever occurred again.

    Read more:

    The Canadiens were tired of war and content with British rule.

    Long Answer:

    Twenty-some years before the American Revolution (1754), which was just before the Seven Years War, this is what the map of British Colonies looked like: enter image description here Only a few areas of modern-day Canada were British then: Nova-Scotia, Labrador-Newfoundland, and around James’ Bay & Hudson’s Bay. Quebec extended south to below Niagara falls.

    The 13 American Colonies were centered around New-York City: enter image description here

    1.) Geographic Separation caused the English speaking British colonies north of Maine to be culturally distinct from the 13 American Colonies. The people of Nova Scotia were half New Englanders and half Germans, Highlanders, Ulstermen and Yorkshiremen. Nova Scotia wished to remain neutral. British Naval power and a British Garrison at Halifax prevented any serious American attempt at invasion. In 1777 Nova-Scotian outposts came under attack from New England privateers seeking plunder. That caused even former New-Englanders to form militias and defend their homes. Soon thereafter the New Light religious movement (Great Awakening) started by Henry Alline of Rhode Island swept through New England and Nova Scotia turning attention away from Politics.

    2.) Acceptance of British Rule: When New France fell in 1760, the defeated armies, French officials, some seigneurs, and some merchants returned to France. British credit, currency, and markets such as London was what mattered–not Paris or America. The British successfully implemented representative government in Quebec through respecting the religious freedoms of Catholics and recognizing the political value of the Catholic Church, which was backed by a dutiful French populace that contrasted sharply with the restive 13 American colonies.

    3.) The Quebec Act of 1774 satisfied Quebec and angered the American colonies. It allowed English criminal law to exist in parallel with French civil law and the entrenched seigneurial system. Quebec even had a (legal) mandatory tithe to the Catholic Church, which only concerned Catholics.

    The Quebec Act also expanded the province of Quebec to include Labrador in the East and extended the Western boundary to the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers all the way north to Rupert’s Land. This expansion had the obvious intent of funneling the fur-trading areas serviced through the St. Lawrence into the jurisdiction of Quebec. The land was mainly Indian territory (where the Indians were allied with the French) that was exploitable for the fur trade without endangering Indian land rights and risking war.

    American colonists desired to settle these native lands, and therefore listed the Quebec Act as one of the “Insufferable Acts.”

    4.) Cultural and Religious Isolation: Quebec was the largest British colony in what is now Canada. The language barrier combined with the foreign religion of French Quebec and the history of hostilities from the Seven Years War caused Americans to view the people of Quebec as foes.

    5.) Patriot attacks on Canadiens solidified opposition to the American revolution. American Patriot generals Richard Montgomery and Benedit Arnold Attacked Quebec in an attempt to seize Canada from British control (1775). They took Montreal and laid siege (ultimately unsuccessfully) to Quebec City, where British regulars and a few Canadien militia defended. The Americans were ill-supplied but stayed till spring, when the British navy sailed up the St. Lawrence.

    It also became true that in the wartime alliance reached in 1778 between France and the young American republic, neither partner really wanted to see the other established at Quebec, preferring to have it left to Britain rather than that either of the two new “friends” should hold it.

    6.) Economic Interests: The merchants of British North-America benefited from the influx of British troops (and money) which powered the offense south from Quebec. The Canadians also profited from access to the tariff-protected British markets, which far larger New England competitors had forfeited through the act of war. The fur market in particular began to thrive in Canada. The British Navy on the Atlantic and by British military power in the interior both guarded the fur trade.

    Businessmen came to recognize that their economic stake in the imperial system far outweighed any political discontent over the Quebec Act — and that Act, after all had re-attached the valuable southwest fur domains to Canada. Hence the merchants’ sense of commitment increased with the flow of trade on into the 1780s; as they saw that their St. Lawrence commercial realm was tied both to Britain and to Canada’s own growth westward. Factors of geography and business interest in effect were shaping the prime leaders of Montreal into British imperialists and Canadian economic nationalists combined.

    7.) Many Loyalists moved to Canada to support the British cause. .

    Conclusion: pardon the quotes

    As for the mass of French Canadians in the province (of Quebec), they began to follow their seigneurial and clerical elites into their own commitment to the British side. Naturally the Canadiens still put their distinct community concerns and heritage first; yet they also concluded that the Americans should not be welcomed, but kept outside. The self-proclaimed republican “liberators” had simply turned out to be the same old enemies, les Bostonnais, the Puritans of New England: stabling horses in Catholic churches during their invasion, paying in worthless paper money for crops and supplies seized from habitant farms. The Canadiens did not learn to love their British conquerors as a result — why should they? — but did grow to believe that they were better off with them. For the provisions of the Quebec Act had guaranteed French Canada’s own special rights and character under British rule: guarantees which the Americans certainly would not have given. Instead angry American outcries had greeted the Act because of the very grants it had made to the “French Papists”. Thus for different but historically sound reasons, neither the Francophone and Anglophone communities of Quebec province took to the American path of revolution. They stayed within the remaining British empire — above all, to avoid being swallowed up in another emerging empire, that of the United States.

    St. Johns, PEI, and Newfoundland

    The little neighbouring Atlantic province, the Island of St. John, was hardly likely to affect the course of empires. It certainly continued in British keeping — although an American privateer raid on Charlottetown in 1775 carried the acting governor and two officials off to General Washington, who did not want them, and sent them home. The big island of Newfoundland also suffered, and more harshly, from American privateering ravages. But here British garrisons and naval squadrons still blocked any real threat to imperial control. In any case, the war years brought the island flourishing times in its essential cod fishery, particularly for residents, since many of the visiting overseas fishermen had been drafted into the Royal Navy. Thus Newfoundland, too, stayed surely within Britain’s American empire.
    Great Lake Indians

    At the other, western end of empire, war spread through the inland forests below the Great Lakes, from the Iroquois country to the Ohio and Michigan wilderness. In the upper reaches of New York province, patriot rebel forces contended fiercely with units raised from loyal-minded settlers in the area. But further, the Six Nations Iroquois and their traditional homelands were heavily involved. The Tuscaroras and Oneidas largely sided with the Americans. The rest of the Six Nations, and especially the Mohawks, supported the British; for here old bonds of alliance held strong. They had been well forged under Sir William Johnson as Indian Superintendent till his death in 1774, to be maintained thereafter by his son and heir, Sir John Johnson, later to become Superintendent in his own right.
    For the most in-depth discussion of this topic I could find see this Canadian Heritage Book (free), which is the source of the quotes and much of the content in this answer.


  24. Felix September 25, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    Transit is so exciting. Ferries, security, open data, transit deserts, biking, visualizing data, autonomous vehicles, real estate, decking highways, accessibility, transit modes, exercise, BRT, wayfinding, so many things you can explore!


  25. Taurig October 2, 2016 at 6:30 pm #

    The biggest problem facing us in the US and from the entire world is inequality of wealth, education, opportunity, housing, food, WATER. Don’t blame the weapon, blame the conditions that cause people to reach for those weapons. Fix the conditions and get rid of the weapons. Don’t assume people are born a criminal…

    Speaking of which, why isn’t she leading 3 to 1? This is not a normal race between a Democrat and a Republican. One of the candidates has made it clear that he has no attention span or self-control. World security experts in both parties are terrified by the idea of a Trump presidency. He’s screwed small contractors in his business dealings and bought dumb presents for himself with money from his charitable foundation — a charitable foundation, by the way, that appears to have been managed by a team of gerbils. Also, he keeps changing his positions on critical issues and has paid settlements to people alleging he discriminated against them on the basis of race or not being attractive enough.

    Donald Trump hates losing so he’s been saying things are rigged. How significant, he is going to lose to a woman.


  26. Ramma October 3, 2016 at 10:32 am #

    Americans are lucky that they have a strong system of land ownership. In much of the world, this is not so easy. But the US wanted settlers to expand across the territory, and allowed them to buy plots for cheap, and set up a method to easily calculate it so violent disputes would be kept to a minimum. They had to live there and improve it by growing crops and building a dwelling, and it was only passed during the Civil War since Southern states, which had then left the Union, feared that western territories would have small farmers opposed to slavery.

    In the West Bank, much of the land is vaguely surveyed, and Israel owns a lot of it, though Arabs own most of the private land.

    In Brazil, squatters live all over cities, and in the Amazon, indigenous people have territories, but illegal miners, loggers, settlers often come violently. Many farmers simply live on the land illegally.


    • Hogsfort October 3, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

      Still was chaotic and very political… land, rights, resources, externalities… from sea to shining sea, a pioneering individualism makes the US but is also cause of a lot of issues. USA was founded to be anti-imperial, anti-big govt, and individualistic with its spread across the states, states rights, etc… Puritans moved here, there was no mobility, so we are a lot more individualistic and less “centralized”, plus we dislike taxes for public transit (cities and black people… racism which is not as big in europe since it is less diverse)…

      From Sea to Shining Sea…


  27. Gord October 4, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

    Check this out.

    Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum will present “By the People: Designing a Better America,” the third exhibition in its series on socially responsible design, from Sept. 30 through Feb. 26, 2017. The first exhibition in the series to focus on conditions in the U.S. and its bordering countries, “By the People” will explore the challenges faced by urban, suburban and rural communities. Organized by Cynthia E. Smith, Cooper Hewitt’s curator of socially responsible design, the exhibition features 60 design projects from every region across the U.S.

    Smith conducted more than two years of field research—traveling to shrinking post-industrial cities, sprawling metro regions, struggling rural towns, along border regions, areas impacted by natural and man-made disaster and places of persistent poverty—in search of collaborative designs for more equitable, inclusive and sustainable communities. The exhibition will highlight design solutions that expand access to education, food, health care and affordable housing; increase social and economic inclusion; offer improved alternative transportation options; and provide a balanced approach to land use between the built and natural environment.

    “As America’s design museum, Cooper Hewitt empowers visitors to see themselves as designers—not just of objects, but also of ideas, strategies and solutions that improve our daily lives,” said Director Caroline Baumann. “‘By the People’ will showcase the innovative and impactful actions generated through design, and inspire creative problem-solving at local, regional, national and even international levels.”

    On view in the third floor Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery, the exhibition will be divided into six themes: act, save, share, live, learn and make. To orient the visitor, the complexities of poverty, prosperity, innovation and design in the U.S. will be addressed in an introductory section that will feature a captivating video by Cassim Shepard, an interactive data visualization, “Mapping the Measure of America” and graphics that chart social and economic inequalities.

    The exhibition will continue in the museum’s groundbreaking Process Lab, which offers immersive experiences for visitors of diverse ages and abilities, from families with small children to design students and professionals. Cooper Hewitt will invite visitors to address challenges in their own communities using design thinking and propose solutions.

    The accompanying 256-page book, By the People: Designing a Better America, will be published by Cooper Hewitt and distributed in the U.S. by Artbook | D.A.P. and worldwide by Gestalten. Designed by Other Means, By the People will contain essays and interviews with featured designers and architects, in addition to highly illustrated project profiles. Retail: $29.95.

    In fall 2016 and winter 2017, a series of public programs will inspire conversation about innovative and systemic approaches being developed through design. Planned events include a lecture focused on affordable housing and design (Oct. 13), Designing Resilience (Nov. 10) and Defiant Jewelry with Rebel Nell founder Amy Peterson and a participating artisan (Jan. 26).

    “By the People: Designing a Better America” is made possible by the generous support of the Ford Foundation and IBM.

    Additional support is provided by Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie, Deutsche Bank, Gensler, Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc., May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc., New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, Autodesk, and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.


    Addressing entrenched environmental, economic and social issues, design can act as a catalyst for change. Featured work includes Building Dignity, a dynamic collaboration between domestic violence advocates and architects to improve security for families facing domestic violence in Washington state; Cross-Border Community Station, bi-national Tijuana River watershed, which provides a platform for user-inspired problem-solving research joining science, education, design and community outreach; and the compact OPEN HOUSE, which was designed to unfold and transform a previously blighted property in rural York, Ala., into a public outdoor theater.


    By building on existing assets—culture, natural and built environments—design can help save what is authentic and essential for communities to thrive. The projects on view in this section include the Harlem Hospital Pavilion Façade, New York, which celebrates the building’s historically significant Works Progress Administration murals at a civic scale and establishes a strong community connection; Belt Line Atlanta Concept, a grassroots effort to save and transform four old rail lines into a 22-mile green loop that will connect 40 diverse neighborhoods with transit lines, walking trails, bike paths, parks and adjacent permanent affordable housing; and the LaSalle Cultural Corridor, which helps to preserve one of New Orleans’ indigenous cultural art forms through the revitalization of a major street in the historically significant Central City neighborhood.


    The design of civic spaces helps under-represented communities and new voices share, both in the physical and digital commons. Works on view include Las Abuelitas Kinship Housing, an affordable housing community in Tucson, Ariz., designed for and by low-income grandparents raising grandchildren; Underpass Park, an urban park that activates left-over derelict space underneath Toronto’s elevated roadways, creating a multigenerational community commons that includes public art, recreational and green open spaces; and Farm Hack Tools, designed by an open-source community that nurtures the development, documentation and manufacture of farm tools and skill sharing for more resilient and sustainable agriculture.


    This section focuses on improving access to healthcare, clean water and food. Among the works on view are Humane Borders Water Stations, a network of emergency water stations placed in known desert migration routes along the U.S. and Mexico border; Fresh Moves Mobile Markets, which transforms former city buses into mobile produce markets bringing fruits and vegetables to “food deserts”—communities with limited access to fresh produce—in underserved Chicago neighborhoods; and Firehouse Clinics in California’s Alameda County that are located on the grounds of fire stations to provide a new accessible model of health care provision for the 65 million Americans who live in primary care shortage areas.


    Featured works in this section provide wider access to learning and knowledge to help build more resilient individuals, neighborhoods and regions. Projects on view include D.C. Neighborhood Libraries, local branches that have been renovated or rebuilt in Washington to create new civic spaces for numerous historically underserved neighborhoods; Red Hook WIFI, a community-led project to close the digital divide, generate economic opportunity, facilitate access to essential services and improve quality of life for families via the deployment of a wireless Internet mesh network; and Public Access 101: Downtown L.A., an initiative that mixes urban hikes, interactive field exercise and critical cartography and other interpretive tools to spark creative explorations of everyday habitats.


    Projects on view examine strategies to engage and develop creative and manufacturing industries. The exhibition will feature works such as RAPIDO Rapid Recovery Housing in Brownsville, Texas, which begins with a 400-square-foot core unit erected immediately after a natural disaster and home expansion designed in collaboration with returning families; Raleigh Denim Workshop, which enlisted the aid of master pattern makers, sewers and farmers from the surrounding area to craft classic American jeans with one of the smallest carbon footprints in the world; and Rebel Nell, a design initiative in Detroit that offers job training, life management and financial guidance for women transitioning out of homeless shelters.


    A geographically and culturally diverse Advisory Committee helped to hone the scope and exhibition content that Smith compiled over years of research. Moorhead + Moorhead will serve as the exhibition designer. Tsang Seymour will design the exhibition graphics.


    Organized by Cooper Hewitt, the exhibition series demonstrates how design can address the world’s most critical issues. “Design with the Other 90%: Cities,” on view at the United Nations in 2011, explored design solutions to the challenges created by rapid urban growth in informal settlements, commonly referred to as slums. The first exhibition in 2007, “Design for the Other 90%,” focused on design solutions that address the most basic needs for 90% of the world’s population not traditionally served by professional designers


    • Sara October 4, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

      Meaning to be found on multiple levels… Can a train station, for instance, tackle education access? or public health? or be part of a community space? perhaps. If there is a rooftop farm to teach local kids about farming, it makes the building greener (lowers heating/cooling costs, rainwater runoff etc if the roof can support the weight)… it becomes a transit accessible school that improves public health and the environment. Maybe there can also be local businesses paying rent to the transit agency, a win-win for fighting inequality and inaccessibility and food deserts. And artwork and community murals and bulletins for placemaking and meaning. All while having WiFi and being an LEED transit hub, with good lighting and design, wayfinding, materials, etc. Everything from sidewalk chalk to gardens and trees, sunlight, breezes, etc all has meaning and are factors to consider.

      But too often we work in silos and do not get rewarded for interdisciplinary design. It is hard to coordinate across disciplines, especially in New York, with so many systems on top of each other! like garbage collection, power, communications, water, sewage, telephones, freight, transit…

      (these things pick up gun shot sounds!)


  28. Jlo November 23, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    Indian trains are insane, so many die every day, there’s cows and temples on the tracks…



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