Metro Policy

From its opening pages, the Obama administration’s FY2011 budget request adopts a stance that pervades this blog. Declares the document: “We need to recognize that competitive, high-performing regional economies are essential to a strong national economy.” (See page 20 of the federal budget.) In line with this recognition, the new budget unveils not one, but several proposals to support regional industry or innovation “clusters” through multiple federal departments. Clusters, as we have noted previously, are a fundamental fact of national economies, and a critical enhancer of regional economi

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When it comes to infrastructure, President Obama faces a tricky balancing act. On one side he needs to invest in the kind of infrastructure that the nation needs to remain competitive and put us on the path to a low-carbon future.

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Economic Cold Comfort?

Friday’s economic news warranted only lukewarm to cold comfort for those of us hoping for a sustainable, broad-based economic recovery with steadily spreading opportunity. Top line, the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in six years in the last three months of 2009, expanding at 5.7 percent yearly rate over the previous quarter, as businesses accelerated their exports and began to replenish drawn-down inventories and invested more in equipment and software. Consumer spending was up a bit and exports were up a lot.

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With much excitement across the country, this week marked the true beginning of America’s recommitment to passenger rail service.  Eight billion dollars in stimulus funding was doled out to 31 states in every region of the country.  Those investments ranged from a massive down payment on true high-speed rail in Florida to planning grants in Kansas. However, conspicuously absent were concrete investments in the Intermountain West.  Specifically, the peanut-butter spreading missed two of the country’s 10 most traveled air corridors: Los Angeles-Las Vegas and Los Angeles-Phoenix.

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Whispered in July, rumored in December, and nearly shouted earlier this week, today marks the official announcement of Florida’s high-speed rail investment by the federal government.

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A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Alabama and University of Florida, sponsored by the Natural Resource Defense Council , shows that car-dependent communities have statistically higher rates of mortgage foreclosure than communities with multiple transportation options, such as transit, biking and walking. This also explains to some extent why across the country that “walkable urban” home values over the past two years have been flat or slightly down while fringe “drivable sub-urban” communities have suffered the worst price declines.  The average American household spe

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Initial ballot results should come in around 11 p.m. Eastern tonight for Oregon’s proposal to tax high-earners and businesses to cover a $733 million shortfall in the state budget. If passed, Measure 66 would increase the income tax by two percentage points on those earning over $125,000.

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President Obama’s speech in Lorain County, OH on Friday gives us a good excuse to examine more than just jobs in this Cleveland suburb.  Obama alluded to one obstacle---and a key to his jobs agenda--that went overlooked in most media coverage: “You can't get to work or go buy groceries like you used to because of cuts in the county transit system.” Last November, voters in Lorain rejected a sales tax hike  from 6.25 to 6.75 percent. For transit riders there the result was that, effective January 18,  Lorain County Transit (LCT) eliminated 8 of its 12 bus routesand increased fares from $2.05 to

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So now Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire, has weighed in, capping a week in which Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Energy Secretary Steven Chu did, too. Their timely warning: Congress--and the nation--are stiffing energy innovation research and need to get serious as the year’s budget struggles near. Gates’ remarks are the most noteworthy--and pointed.

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In addressing the 78th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors yesterday, President Obama laid out some general strategies to “rebuild and revitalize our cities and metropolitan areas.” The frame should not have come as much of a surprise as it builds off the speech the president made to the same group when he was on the campaign trail in the summer of 2008. In that speech he emphasized smart infrastructure investments as ways to “compete and win in our global economy. While that goal has not changed in the last 18 months, the strategy to get there may have.

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