NEWS Via NOLA: Putting hip on the map: Real estate markets heat up when a neighborhood turns cool

Putting hip on the map: Real estate markets heat up when a neighborhood turns cool

By Richard Campanella
on March 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM, updated March 12, 2014 at 8:25 PM

“Location, location, location,” the real estate adage goes. In fact, a number of complex variables drive the value of land, particularly for residential areas. They range from schools and quality of life, to amenities and safety, to prejudices, perceptions and social status.

In recent decades, a new variant of social status has entered the real estate equation, and it has since transfigured downtown New Orleans and other American cities.

It’s the curious cultural phenomenon known as cool.

Neighborhoods that a decade or two ago were viewed as dirty, dangerous and disregarded now rank among the region’s hottest real estate markets, turned around courtesy of an emerging social charisma that may be described as “hip” or “cool.” Among them are Bywater and adjacent areas down St. Claude Avenue; Faubourg Treme and St. Roch; the Irish Channel; and Mid City. A generation earlier, places like Faubourg Marigny and the Lower Garden District underwent the transformation.

True, these neighborhoods boast other advantages. They have history, architecture, walkability, high topographic elevation and favorable flood zones, not to mention proximity to resources and employment. But they had these advantages years ago, yet few came a-bidding.

What changed is that they became cool on the social scene. And that made them hot — on the real estate scene.

Coolness is elusive, and some might be inclined to scoff at the notion, as it smacks of affectation and brings to mind poseurs. To be sure, coolness is purely perceptual; it is constructed and superimposed, not innate.

But any illusion that can so thoroughly change the character, composition and property value of a neighborhood cannot be dismissed. Coolness is real in its effects, if not in its posturing, and as such, it’s a fairly recent phenomenon, though not entirely unprecedented.

New Orleanians in times past perceived certain spaces within their city to bear a particular dash, and it was based largely on class. The word “fashionable” appears in real estate ads in the 19th century, usually with respect to St. Charles Avenue or the Garden District. Other code words included “genteel” and “stylish.” Vanity Fair explained in 1869 how “the Americans adopt the term of “down-town” for the (Creole quarter), and dignify their own residential quarter as ‘up-town.'”

But fashion, style and dignity are not the same as cool; if anything, coolness sneers at such bourgeois aspirations. Coolness exudes an aloof poise and a confident sense of self-possession; it is never boastful or chatty, but rather vaguely mysterious, unknowable, and, above all, separate and apart from the masses. It explains why celebrities wear sunglasses, and why the smarter ones know to act taciturn and keep themselves scarce.

Coolness constantly needs to be ahead of the mainstream, and if the mainstream catches up, coolness goes elsewhere. “The act of discovering what’s cool,” observed Malcolm Gladwell in an influential 1997 article entitled “The Coolhunt,” “is what causes cool to move on.” As it does, coolness often produces new cultural innovations and explores increasingly edgy terrain. Coolness thus becomes geographical: it occupies certain spaces, disdains others, and seeks new ones when uncoolness approaches.

And that’s when, and where, it affects real estate.

Decades ago, for example, Bourbon Street was considered cool. But when corporate hotels and mass tourism made the strip all too plebian and crass in the 1960s, coolness moved on to new spaces, such as lower Decatur Street in the 1970s, and extended in the 1980s and 1990s across Esplanade onto Frenchmen Street. By that time, the surrounding area, along with the blocks around Coliseum Square, became the city’s coolest “new” neighborhoods. Both were rechristened, one with the revived historical moniker “Faubourg Marigny” and the other with a circa-1960s coinage “Lower Garden District.” Property values rose, renovation broke out all over, the areas gentrified, and coolness spread adjacently.

After Katrina, when a wave of youth from places like New York arrived in New Orleans in search of undiscovered bohemian coolness, they found places like Frenchmen (not to mention Bourbon) all too similar to what they had left behind. So they proceeded to push coolness into new spaces, down St. Claude Avenue, across Rampart and beyond. Those areas are now changing as Marigny and the Lower Garden District did previously.

Lovers of Frenchmen Street now openly worry that their street is “becoming like Bourbon Street,” an explicit fear that uncoolness may be knocking at its door. That’s happened before, too.

When Bourbon Street became uncool, and the white middle class moved en masse to Jefferson Parish, a new cool space popped up rather spontaneously (coolness is hard to choreograph) in the heart of Metairie. It was dubbed Fat City, and it peaked in the late 1970s with more than 70 nighttime drinking, eating, music and entertainment venues.

But in the 1990s, downtown New Orleans had regained the cool advantage, and Fat City soon found itself in a wilderness of uncool, catering to an aging demographic with musical tastes ranging from hair bands to The Yat Pack.

Jefferson Parish authorities hired a consultant from Manhattan to advise them on how to revive the district. His advice: “create a ‘cluster of cool'” in the heart of Fat City, “where you can really make it look and feel different.”

Managers are trying a similar strategy for the cool-challenged French Market. They’ve been running “Hip Scene, Historic Setting” ads in cool magazines like Offbeat, recruiting earthy craft vendors to counter the beads-and-T-shirts stigma, and piping in the very cool sounds of WWOZ into the flea market like intravenous nourishment for the ailing.

Here and elsewhere, coolness has become an urban planning strategy, and planners today wield its trappings the way their predecessors once plied golf courses and gated subdivisions. “Real” cool, meanwhile, has a mind of its own.

The ever-changing geography of cool has brought with it a cycle of neighborhood change, introducing newcomers and new wealth, sometimes displacing natives and poverty, and making the phenomenon of gentrification one of the most polemical topics in town.

Some would argue that developers and a complicit local government instigate the cool-neighborhood-cum-hot-real-estate cycle, and that may well be true in some cases (such as the Warehouse District and newly christened “South Market District”) and in other cities (such as New York). But I would argue that these forces, in most cases in New Orleans, are eagerly responding to the geography of cool, not initiating it.

Much has been written about gentrification, including by yours truly, and debates about its costs and benefits can be found elsewhere. My interest here is to contend that, while coolness is illusory, its effects upon the cityscape are quite real, and thus can be mapped.

Where is the geography of cool?

To address this question, I devised a technique entailing the distribution of hundreds of points digitally throughout a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) map of downtown. Each point was then ranked 0 (uncool) through 10 (very cool) reflecting how that neighborhood, bar, restaurant or venue is generally perceived, based on a wide range of observations, readings, conversations and vibes from the zeitgeist. I then processed the ranked points into a “heat map” and color-coded from red (uncool) to yellow to blue (cool) to dark blue (very cool).

Yes, it’s subjective; of course it’s imprecise; but after bouncing the estimates off a number of people, I found that a general consensus prevailed.

The resulting map, which accompanies this article, does not represent my personal opinions of what’s cool or uncool. Rather, it represents my attempt to estimate everyone else’s opinions, as best as I can discern them.

By no means should readers take offense at areas mapped in red which they think ought to be blue (or vice versa); personally, I am a neutral observer of coolness, and find the entire phenomenon quite interesting

Where would you map coolness? Where do you seeing it going next? What impact will it have? For better or worse, the geography of cool may influence the future cityscapes of New Orleans.


Richard Campanella, a geographer with the Tulane University School of Architecture and a Monroe Fellow with the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, is the author of the newly released “Bourbon Street: A History,” as well as “Bienville’s Dilemma,” “Geographies of New Orleans,” “Lincoln in New Orleans,” and other books. He may be reached through, or @nolacampanella on Twitter.


via HeritageDaily: 17th- and 18th-century risk of disease through Migration

17th- and 18th-century risk of disease through Migration

HERITAGE March 3, 2014 – No comments

The fate of migrants moving to cities in 17th- and 18th-century England demonstrates how a single pathogen could dramatically alter the risks associated with migration and migratory patterns today.

Cities have always been a magnet to migrants. In 2010, a tipping point was reached for the first time when, according to the World Health Organization, the majority of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2050, seven out of 10 people will have been born in – or migrated to – a city. One hundred years ago, that figure was two out of 10.

Today, cities are generally the safest places to live. If you live in one, you’re likely to be richer than someone living in a rural environment. If you’re richer, you’re likely to live longer. If you live in a city, you have better access to hospitals and healthcare, and you’re more likely to be immunised.

But that was not always the case. In 17th- and 18th-century England, city life was lethal – disproportionately so for those migrating from the countryside.

Dr Romola Davenport is studying the effects of migration on the health of those living in London and Manchester from 1750 to 1850, with a particular focus on the lethality of smallpox – the single most deadly disease in 18th-century England. In the century before 1750, England’s population had failed to grow. Cities and towns sucked in tens of thousands of migratory men, women and children – then killed them. It’s estimated that half of the natural growth of the English population was consumed by London deaths during this period. Burials often outstripped baptisms.

In 2013, cities are no longer the death traps they once were, even accounting for the millions of migrants who live in poor, often slum-like conditions. But will cities always be better places to live? What could eliminate the ‘urban advantage’ and what might the future of our cities look like if antibiotics stop working?

By looking at the past – and trying to make sense of the sudden, vast improvement in survival rates after 1750 – Davenport and the University of Newcastle’s Professor Jeremy Boulton hope to understand more about city life and mortality.

“For modern migrants to urban areas there is no necessary trade-off of health for wealth,” said Davenport. “Historically, however, migrants often took substantial risks in moving from rural to urban areas because cities were characterised by substantially higher death rates than rural areas, and wealth appears to have conferred little survival advantage.”

The intensity of the infectious disease environment overwhelmed any advantages of the wealthy – such as better housing, food and heating. Although cities and towns offered unparalleled economic opportunities for migrants, wealth could not compensate for the higher health risks exacted by urban living.

“Urban populations are large and dense, which facilitates the transmission of infectious diseases from person to person or via animals or sewage. Towns functioned as trading posts not only for ideas and goods but also for pathogens. Therefore, growing an urban population relied upon substantial immigration from rural areas,” explained Davenport.

“After 1750, cities no longer functioned as ‘demographic sinks’ because there was a rapid improvement in urban mortality rates in Britain. By the mid-19th century, even the most notorious industrial cities such as Liverpool and Manchester were capable of a natural increase, with the number of births exceeding deaths.”

Davenport has been studying the processes of urban mortality improvement and changing migrant risks using extremely rich source material from the large London parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields. The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Economic and Social Research Council, is now being augmented with abundant demographic archives from Manchester, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

For both cities, Davenport and colleagues have access to detailed records of the individual burials underlying the Bills of Mortality, which were the main source of urban mortality statistics from the 17th to the 18th century. These give age at death, cause of death, street address and the fee paid for burial, which enables them to study the age and sex distribution of deaths by disease. In addition, baptismal data allow them to ‘reconstitute’ families as well as to measure the mortality rates of infants by social status.

“The records themselves give only a bald account of death,” said Davenport. “But sometimes we can link them to workhouse records and personal accounts, especially among the migrant poor, which really bring home the realities of life and death in early modern London.

“Smallpox was deadly. At its height, it accounted for 10% of all burials in London and an astonishing 20% in Manchester. Children were worst affected, but 20% of London’s smallpox victims were adults – likely to be migrants who had never been exposed to, and survived, the disease in childhood. However in Manchester – a town that grew from 20,000 to 250,000 in a century – 95% of smallpox burials were children in the mid-18th century, implying a high level of endemicity not only in Manchester but also in the rural areas that supplied migrants to the city.

“So studying urban populations can tell us not only about conditions in cities but also about the circulation of diseases in the rest of the population.”

The greater lethality of smallpox in Manchester is, for the moment, still a mystery to researchers; but evidence suggests the potential importance of transmission via clothing or other means – as opposed to the person-to-person transmission assumed in mathematical models of smallpox transmission in bioterrorism scenarios. Although smallpox was eradicated in the late 1970s, both the USA and Russia have stockpiles of the virus – which has led to fears of their use by terrorists should the virus ever fall into the wrong hands. Data on smallpox epidemics before the introduction of vaccination in the late 1790s are very valuable to bioterrorism researchers because they provide insights into how the virus might spread in an unvaccinated population (only a small proportion of the world’s population is vaccinated against smallpox).

From 1770 onwards, there was a rapid decline in adult smallpox victims in both London and Manchester, which Davenport believes could be attributable to a rapid upsurge in the use of smallpox inoculation (a precursor of vaccination) by would-be migrants or a change in the transmissibility and potency of the disease. By the mid-19th century, towns and cities appear to have been relatively healthy destinations for young adult migrants, although still deadly for children.

“Smallpox was probably the major cause of the peculiar lethality of even small urban settlements in the 17th and 18th centuries,” said Davenport, “and this highlights how a single pathogen, like plague or HIV, can dramatically alter the risks associated with migration and migratory patterns.”

“The close relationship between wealth and health that explains much of the current ‘urban advantage’ is not a constant but emerged in England in the 19th century,” added Davenport. “While wealth can now buy better access to medical treatment, as well as better food and housing, it remains an open question as to whether this relationship will persist indefinitely in the face of emerging threats such as microbial drug resistance.”

Header Image : An 1802 cartoon of the early controversy surrounding Edward Jenner’s vaccination theory, showing using hiscowpox-derived smallpox vaccine causing cattle to emerge from patients. WikiPedia

Contributing Source : University of Cambridge

© Copyright 2014 HeritageDaily – Heritage & Archaeology News

via Nat’l Geographic: The Growth of Megacities

Geography in the News: The Growth of Megacities

Posted by Neal Lineback of Geography in the NewsTM on February 17, 2014
By Neal Lineback and Mandy Lineback Gritzner,  Geography in the NewsTM

Megacities’ Expansive Growth

For the first time in human history, more of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in cities than in rural areas. That is an incredible demographic and geographic shift since 1950 when only 30 percent of the world’s 2.5 billion inhabitants lived in urban environments.

The world’s largest cities, particularly in developing countries, are growing at phenomenal rates. As a growing landless class is attracted by urban opportunities, meager as they might be, these cities’ populations are ballooning to incredible numbers.

A May 2010 Christian Science Monitor article on “megacities” predicted that by 2050, almost 70 percent of the world’s estimated 10 billion people—more than the number of people living today—will reside in urban areas. The social, economic and environmental problems associated with a predominantly urbanized population are considerably different from those of the mostly rural world population of the past.

A megacity is an urban agglomeration (accumulation) with more than 10 million inhabitants. Sixty years ago in 1950, there were only two megacities—New York-Newark and Tokyo. In 1995, 14 megacities existed. Today, there are 22, mostly in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. By 2025, there will probably be 30 or more.


Urbanization has been occurring in the developed countries of the West for 200 years. Since the Industrial Revolution, a period from the 18th to 19th century in which machine-based manufacturing grew tremendously, cities have grown rapidly. As technological innovations flourished, economies previously dependent on manual labor and draft-animals began to change. People moved into the cities to find work and relatively quickly, cities began to grow exponentially.

Today, the most rapid megacity growth is occurring in the world’s least developed and poorest countries—those least able to handle the political, social, economic and environmental problems associated with rapid urbanization.

In the most modern industrialized countries, on average, three out of four people already live within an urban area. In contrast, in the least-developed regions of the world, more than two out of three people still reside in a rural area. But that statistic is changing rapidly.

For people in developing countries, even the slums of cities like Mumbai, India, can offer more opportunities than their poor subsistence-based villages can. People gravitate to the cities because the potential for making money is greater there. While most of the economies in rural areas are agriculture-based with little cash flow, in the cities, people may be able to earn cash for work or retail sales.

The 10 largest cities in the world in 2010 and their projected populations by year 2025 are Tokyo, Japan  (37.1 million), Delhi, India (28.6), São Paulo, Brazil (21.7), Mumbai, India (25.8), Mexico City (20.7), New York-Newark (20.6), Shanghai, China (20.0), Calcutta, India (20.1), Dhaka, Bangladesh (20.9) and Karachi, Pakistan (18.7).

According to the Christian Science Monitor, along with the masses come problems associated with providing necessary services like clean water, sanitation systems to remove the megatons of garbage and human waste and transportation systems to ferry workers. In addition, many cities have difficult times providing electrical networks, health care facilities and police protection.

Urbanization is not all bad news. According to the Christian Science Monitor, some see great promise in the trend, especially those companies that build roads and buildings.  If a city is efficient, energy consumption can decrease by 20 percent. Transportation costs for goods and labor can fall considerably in cities because markets and workers are all close together. In essence, cities are where cash flows—they are where economic growth takes place.

As the world’s population increases at the rate of 134 million per year, the urbanization process is pushing more and more people into the cities. Such frenetic rates of urbanization and intense poverty of large urban populations strain resources. Nonetheless, to poverty-stricken, landless people, cities offer visions of opportunity. The resulting massive urban underclass, particularly in developing countries, represents one of the world’s greatest social and economic challenges.

The real question is, “What are the limits to urban growth?”

And that is Geography in the News.

Sources: GITN #1049, “Growing Megacities,” June 28, 2010; GITN #844, “Megacities: 10 Million or More People,” Aug. 4, 2006; and Bruinius, Harry, “March of the Megacities,” The Christian Science Monitor, May 10, 2010.

Co-authors are Neal Lineback, Appalachian State University Professor Emeritus of Geography, and Geographer Mandy Lineback Gritzner. University News Director Jane Nicholson serves as technical editor. Geography in the NewsTM  is solely owned and operated by Neal Lineback for the purpose of providing geographic education to readers worldwide.

via Times-Picayune: Shotgun geography: the history behind the famous New Orleans elongated house

Shotgun geography: the history behind the famous New Orleans elongated house

Few elements of the New Orleans cityscape speak to the intersection of architecture, sociology and geography so well as the shotgun house. Once scorned, now cherished, shotguns shed light on patterns of cultural diffusion, class and residential settlement, social preferences and construction methods.


The shotgun house is not an architectural style; rather, it is a structural typology — what folklorist John Michael Vlach described as “a philosophy of space, a culturally determined sense of dimension.”

A typology, or type, may be draped in any fashion. Thus we have shotgun houses adorned in Italianate, Eastlake and other styles, just as there are Creole and Federalist style townhouses, and Spanish colonial and Greek revival cottages.

Tradition holds that the name “shotgun” derives from the notion of firing bird shot through the front door and out the rear without touching a wall. The term itself postdates the shotgun’s late-19th-century heyday, not appearing in print until the early 20th century.

According to some theories, cultures that produced shotgun houses (and other residences without hallways, such as Creole cottages) tended to be more gregarious, or at least unwilling to sacrifice valuable living space for the purpose of occasional passage.

Cultures that valued privacy, on the other hand, were willing to make this trade-off. When they arrived in New Orleans in the early 19th century, for example, privacy-conscious peoples of Anglo-Saxon descent brought with them the American center-hall cottage and side-hall townhouse, in preference over local Creole designs.

In the 1930s, LSU geographer Fred B. Kniffen studied shotguns as part of his field research on Louisiana folk housing. He and other researchers proposed a number of hypotheses explaining the origin and distribution of this distinctive house type.

One theory, popular with tour guides and amateur house-watchers, holds that shotgun houses were designed in New Orleans in response to a real estate tax based on frontage rather than square footage, motivating narrow structures. There’s one major problem with this theory. No one can seem to find that tax code.

Could the shotgun be an architectural response to narrow urban lots? Indeed, you can squeeze in more structures with a slender design. But why then do we see shotguns in rural fields with no such limits?

Could it have evolved from indigenous palmetto houses or Choctaw huts? Unlikely, given their appearance in the Caribbean and beyond.

Could it have been independently invented? Roberts & Company, a New Orleans sash and door fabricator formed in 1856, developed blueprints for prefabricated shotgun-like houses in the 1860s to 1870s and even won awards for them at international expositions. But then why do we see “long houses” in the rear of the French Quarter and in Faubourg Treme as early as the 1810s?

Or, alternately, did the shotgun diffuse from the Old World as peoples moved across the Atlantic and brought with them their building culture, just as they brought their language, religion and foodways? Vlach noted the abundance of shotgun-like long houses in the West Indies, and traced their essential form to the enslaved populations of St. Domingue (now Haiti) who had been removed from the western and central African regions of Guinea and Angola.

His research identified a gable-roofed housing stock indigenous to the Yoruba peoples, which he linked to similar structures in modern Haiti with comparable rectangular shapes, room juxtapositions and ceiling heights.

“The shotgun house of Port-au-Prince became, quite directly, the shotgun house of New Orleans.”

Vlach hypothesizes that the 1809 exodus of Haitians to New Orleans after the St. Domingue slave insurrection of 1791 to 1803 brought this vernacular house type to the banks of the Mississippi. “Haitian migrants had only to continue in Louisiana the same life they had known in St. Domingue,” he wrote. “The shotgun house of Port-au-Prince became, quite directly, the shotgun house of New Orleans.”

The distribution of shotgun houses throughout Louisiana gives indirect support to the diffusion argument. Kniffen showed in the 1930s that shotguns generally occurred along waterways in areas that tended to be more Francophone in their culture, higher in their proportions of people of African and Creole ancestry, and older in their historical development.

Beyond state boundaries, shotguns occur throughout the lower Mississippi Valley, correlated with antebellum plantation regions and with areas that host large black populations. They also appear in interior Southern cities, most notably Louisville, Ky., which comes a distant second to New Orleans in terms of numbers and stylistic variety.

If in fact the shotgun diffused from Africa to Haiti through New Orleans and up the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, this is the distribution we would expect to see.

Cleary, poverty abets cultural factors in explaining this pattern. Simplicity of construction and conservation of resources (building materials, space) probably made the shotgun house equally attractive to poorer classes in many areas.

Indeed, it is possible that we may be artificially yoking together a wide variety of house types, unrelated in their provenance but similar in their appearance, by means of a catchy moniker coined after their historical moment.

Whatever their origins, shotgun singles and doubles came to dominate the turn-of-the-century housing stock of New Orleans’ working-class neighborhoods. Yet they were also erected as owned-occupied homes in wealthier areas, including the Garden District.

New Orleans shotguns in particular exhibited numerous variations: with hip, gable or apron roofs; with “camelbacks” to increase living space; with grand classical facades or  elaborate Victorian gingerbread. The variety can be explained as a strategy to address market demand with a multitude of options in terms of space needs, fiscal constraints and stylistic preferences.

New Orleanians by the 20th century, as part of their gradual Americanization, desired more privacy than their ancestors, and increasing affluence and new technologies — such as mechanized kitchens, indoor plumbing, air conditioning, automobiles and municipal drainage — helped form new philosophies about residential space.

Professional home builders responded accordingly, some adding hallways or ells or side entrances to the shotgun, others morphing it into the bungalow form. House-buyers came to disdain the original shotgun, and it faded from new construction during the 1910s and 1920s.

A Times-Picayune writer captured the prevailing sentiment in a 1926 column: “Long, slender, shotgun houses,” he sighed, “row upon row(,) street upon street…all alike… unpainted, slick-stooped, steep-roofed, jammed up together, like lumber in a pile.”

Architectural historians also rolled their eyes at prosaic shotguns, and did not protest their demolition, even in the French Quarter, as late as the 1960s.

In recent decades, however, New Orleanians have come to appreciate the sturdy construction and exuberant embellishment of their shotgun housing stock, and now value them as a key element of the cityscape.

Thousands have since been renovated, and the shotgun has experienced a recent revival. Some homes in the Make It Right project in the Lower 9th Ward, for example, were inspired by the shotgun (although rendered in modernist style), and some pre-fabricated “Katrina Cottages” and New Urbanist homes in recently rebuilt public housing complexes are made to look like the shotguns of old.

It’s revealing to note, however, that among the renovations New Orleanians now make to their shotguns is something completely alien to their original form.

They add a hallway.


Richard Campanella, a geographer with the Tulane School of Architecture and a Monroe Fellow with the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, is the author of the forthcoming “Bourbon Street: A History” as well as “Bienville’s Dilemma,” “Geographies of New Orleans,” and other books. He may be reached through his website, or @nolacampanella on Twitter.

via Business Insider Australia: These Maps Show Which Areas Of The Country Have The Biggest Carbon Footprints

These Maps Show Which Areas Of The Country Have The Biggest Carbon Footprints


It’s no secret that the U.S. is one of the biggest carbon emitters around. Households in the U.S. alone are responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, even though they account for just over 4% of the global population.

But which areas in the U.S. are contributing the most? These interactive maps from the University of California, Berkeley show where the U.S. has the biggest carbon footprint. You can even calculate your city’s carbon footprint on their site.

The carbon footprint measurement equals the total greenhouse gas emissions of the zip code in question. An area’s carbon footprint includes things like energy people use at home, energy used by businesses, and transportation. The biggest source of emissions depends on the area. For example, the suburbs have a higher percentage of emissions coming from individual vehicles than big cities do.

The maps use data from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey. The full study was published in December in Environmental Science & Technology.

Here you can see the average annual carbon footprint across the U.S. — green is lower and the orange and red areas are higher emissions. The white areas on the map show where survey data was unavailable.

Most areas range between 40 to 80 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The Midwest and parts of the northeast are the worst areas.

Average household carbon footprint

Zooming in on New York City, you can see that as what the study calls a “mega city” its carbon footprint is low relative to its population density.

New york carbon footprint

Unlike the map above, this map shows only how much emissions the average home is producing — emissions from electricity and commutes. This map excludes emissions from things like goods, food, and services.

It’s easy to see the worst regions in the dark red areas on the map:

Average energy carbon footprint

Here you can see the average vehicle miles traveled by zip code. A lot of driving increases the size of a person’s carbon footprint. The purple areas represent the highest number of miles.

Average vehicle miles in the U.S.

City v. Suburb

Intuitively it makes sense to assume that as the population density of an area increases, emissions per person decrease; when people and businesses are closer together, there’s less commuting, and more resources are shared between people.

But this new research shows that the relationship is more complex. The study suggests there’s really no direct correlation between population density and greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions actually increase as population density increases until an area hits about 3,000 people per square mile.

Carbon footprint and population density

In mega cities, like New York and Los Angeles, the emissions start decreasing again as the population density climbs. This creates an upside down “U” shape when comparing carbon footprint and population density of an area.

This is visible in the plot to the left, which has population density on the x-axis and carbon footprint on the y-axis.

Further, even though these dense metropolitan areas have a small carbon footprint relative to the number of people they hold, the surrounding suburbs have a much bigger carbon footprint, “more than offsetting the benefit of low carbon areas in city centres,” the researchers say.

A changing landscape

If more people move into the suburbs, there could be a significant increase the country’s carbon footprint. Suburbs already account for 50% of the total household carbon footprint in the U.S.

“Increasing rents would also likely further contribute to pressures to suburbanize the suburbs, leading to a possible net increase in emissions,” the researchers write in the paper.

The new insight into how population density impacts carbon footprint shows there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for reducing carbon emissions across the country: Areas with different population densities produce different amounts of carbon dioxide, they also have different main sources of CO2.

For example, transportation accounts for 50% of all emissions in suburban areas. But, in big cities like New York, one of the largest emission contributors is food services. The optimal strategy to reduce emissions in both of these areas would be different: the suburbs should focus on ways to reduce transportation emissions, and big cities should focus on ways to reduce food industry emissions.

via Metropolis Mag: These Maps Show How Subway Maps Twist Urban Reality

These Maps Show How Subway Maps Twist Urban Reality

Komal Sharma
These Maps Show How Subway Maps Twist Urban RealityA new project by historian Benjamin M. Schmidt reveals how wrong subway maps really are.

Courtesy Benjamin M. Schmidt

It’s not a secret that our subway maps distort the geographies of the metropoles they claim to represent. When we traverse a city everyday with an MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority NY) or WMATA map (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), our conception of the city—its boundaries, expanses—easily becomes scrambled. For instance, both Washington’s dense inner core and its spread-out outskirts are all shown on the same scale. In a grid city like Manhattan there might be some semblance of similarity, but in most other cities, reality on the ground is completely different.

A new project developed at Northeastern University tackles these problems head on. Benjamin M. Schmidt, a professor of history, has designed interactive digital maps of Boston, New York and Washington that superimpose each city’s respective subway route map onto a geographically accurate map made to scale. One can adjust the opacity or transparency between the geographic maps and the overlaid subway routes, and can zoom in and out as well.

With research that joins the fields of cultural history and digital humanities, Schmidt’s maps feed into the larger project at Northeastern University’s history department, which uses maps to investigate the urban and social changes in the city. The new maps are rectified, annotated, and aligned with historical maps to track the changes over time. Schmidt’s maps were designed to help explain the concept of “geo-rectification” to his students. “I made these because I was interested in the collision of two different views we have of our cities: the Google maps version that we use more and more, and the subway maps, which are just as important in making us think about the layout of our cities but have a totally different perspective,” explains Schmidt.

The London Underground Map, 1908. See how the map more or less accurately plots the subway lines according to their geographical placement.

Courtesy London Transport Museum

This “rectification” comes some eighty years after the first subway maps began trading in geographical accuracy for abstract clarity. In 1931, when Harry Beck, an English draftsman, first came up with the design of the London Underground Tube map, it was rejected because it was thought “too revolutionary.” Beck had removed all semblance of geography from the map and “cleaned it up” into a proportionate, rectilinear diagram with horizontal, vertical, and angular lines for train routes and evenly spaced dots for subway stops. A trial of 500 maps was run and it became hugely popular among commuters. By 1933, Beck’s diagrammatic map was in full print run and has, ever since, been the template of subways, trains and transport maps across the cities of the world.

The London Underground Map by Harry Beck, 1933. Subsequent editions have more or less left Beck’s schematic intact.

Courtesy London Transport Museum

It’s a classic case of choosing coherence over geographic accuracy. Beck, a commuter himself, understood that for the average passenger on the train, the agenda was getting from one station to another with a quick glance over the map. Geographical accuracy didn’t figure into it. By comparison, the maps that existed before have often been referred to “as legible as spaghetti in a bowl.” Beck, who used to work as an engineering draftsman at the London Underground Signals Office, designed his version invariably similar to electric circuit diagrams that he did for his day job. A map for comprehensibility rather than topographic exactitude, Beck was able to solve a universal problem of growing cities with his sound design, which is probably the reason for its longevity.

One of Schmidt’s “geo-rectified” maps that shows how the “real” DC Metro conforms to the city’s geography.

Courtesy Benjamin M. Schmidt

Unlike Beck, Schmidt makes its clear that his maps are not for commuters benefit. “I definitely don’t think think these maps are useful, per se; there’s a place for accurate subway maps, but not these twisted versions. But I thought it would be fun to show how these examples of good design that we all live with become distorted if you try to “fix” them. I definitely wouldn’t want to see them actually changed along these lines,” he says.

While Beck’s classic design persists in its relevance and needs no fixing, the digital medium does offer us a new kind of opportunity. It allows us to see a dimension of reality that we didn’t have access to before. Yet it emerges that the truth is quite twisted, in more ways than one.

via ‘I used to live here’: Saginaw’s Steep Population Drop hits Neighborhoods

Keyterms: Population Geography, urbanization, deindustrialization, out-migration, white-flight, redlining, push factors, Urban Geography, Economic Geography, Development, Blight, Industry, Manufacturing, secondary economic activity.

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‘I used to live here’: Saginaw’s steep population drop hits neighborhoods

By Mark Tower |

on January 26, 2014 at 7:00 AM, updated January 26, 2014 at 11:17 AM

SAGINAW, MI — Former Saginaw City Manager Darnell Earley often said his job was one of “managing decline.”

In just five decades, the city’s population dropped from nearly 100,000 in the 1960s to fewer than 52,000 by the 2010 census. To say it another way, Saginaw lost 48 percent of its residents during the last 50 years.

The reasons for the decline are many, and the impact of the outbound migration is still felt today.

This week, The Saginaw News takes a look at those trends through the eyes of those who once lived in the city, and some who still do today. The series of reports titled “I used to live here” talks to citizens about what they’ve witnessed during the past few decades in the neighborhoods they’ve called home.

Among their stories:

  • Betty Van Ochten tells how her North Side neighborhood disappeared under the asphalt of a new, wider Washington Avenue.
  • Donald and Barbara Anderson reflect on 42 years of living in the city they call home.
  • Linda Parent tells about her childhood in a neighborhood near the old Saginaw County Fairgrounds.
  • Former Midland residents Beau and Teagan Carnes reflect on their first five years living in Saginaw’s Houghton-Jones neighborhood.
  • Eddie Byas discusses how he hardly recognizes the Buena Vista Township home where he raised his family.

Experts also weigh in on what happened and what the future may hold for the city as it reshapes itself for the new century.

‘It’s not just a Saginaw thing’

Long before Saginaw’s decline came a period of unfettered growth, from a city of about 50,000 people in 1910 to its population height in 1960. In 1968, Saginaw was one of the 10 cities chosen as an “All-America City” by the National Civic League.

Former Saginaw mayor and history buff Greg Branch said similar growth was seen across the nation.

-6e02b6be34b2da6b.jpgFormer Saginaw Mayor Greg Branch

“The American population grew at a very high rate during that time period,” Branch said. “It was the growth of manufacturing, particularly automotive and its spinoffs. There were a number of different factors, but the main one for Saginaw was that GM had jobs here.”

Evelyn Ravuri, a professor of geography at Saginaw Valley State University, specializes in a field called “population geography,” which focuses on the distribution, composition, migration and growth of populations.

Ravuri said Saginaw’s more recent population decline, like its growth, is by no means unique to this city.

“It wasn’t so much people running away as it was they had tremendous incentives to move away.” -Former Mayor Greg Branch

“In the 1970s and ’80s, we start to see a decline in manufacturing, and those jobs start to trickle out of the state,” she said. “And then the supporting industries start to go also. So you start seeing a decline in the population.”

Ravuri said a migration also took place from metropolitan areas across the nation: A departure of baby boomers from cities and into surrounding suburbs.

“This is not just a Saginaw thing,” she said. “That’s been going on for several decades.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1950, 61 percent of the residents in Saginaw County lived in cities, with about 39 percent in townships and villages.

Sixty years later, the opposite is true.

While 29 percent of Saginaw County residents still lived in cities in 2010, the vast majority (71 percent) live in outlying townships and villages. Cities in Saginaw County are the cities of Saginaw, Frankenmuth and Zilwaukee.

“Population spread” into outlying areas hit places like Saginaw harder than large metropolitan areas, such as Boston and San Francisco, because of the availability of undeveloped rural land close to Saginaw’s city center, Ravuri explained.

“Once people started to move out to the suburbs in the 1950s, by the 1960s the malls were moving out, the doctors’ offices were moving out and the educational institutions were moving out,” she said. “It’s no surprise, when you can move out into the suburbs and have everything you need.”

Branch said federal housing policy encouraged the shift the to the suburbs in the 1950s and ’60s, often referred to as “white flight.”

“It wasn’t so much people running away as it was they had tremendous incentives to move away,” Branch said.

He explained that the now-illegal process of “redlining” certain neighborhoods to discourage investment was, at the time, both legal and commonplace. At the same time, Branch said, attractive loans were available to some who were interested in moving into the suburban developments popping up outside city limits.

Saginaw’s struggles

The start of the departure of residents from Saginaw, Branch said, can be blamed on those incentives, coupled with racial tensions reaching a crescendo in the 1960s and the bisection of Saginaw by the construction of Interstate 675.

“You have this huge swath of land cutting right through the main part of the city,” Branch said.

“My dad’s stepmother, my grandfather’s widow, lived in a house on North Michigan in the last block before Weiss. The berm for 675 is where their yard was. They bought her house, and what did she do? She moved out to the township. And a lot of people did that.

“That project alone is probably responsible for the loss of several thousand homeowners.”

Saginaw city township populations
While the city of Saginaw’s population has plummeted since 1960. During the same period, the population of neighboring Saginaw Township has doubled.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau 

Construction of the nearly 8-mile-long interstate business route began in 1969 and it was opened to traffic in 1971.

Branch also acknowledged the city’s failure to annex portions of the surrounding townships as the population spread. The city sold those areas its water.

“I would say that was the biggest mistake that we made,” Branch said. “That suburban growth was on the back of our water system.”

The problem eventually began to snowball, depressing real estate values and causing more residents to leave, Branch said.

“And right on the heels of that, you have the Arab oil crisis, the rise of the Japanese auto industry and, really, the beginning of the loss of GM jobs,” he said. “It’s kind of like you had all these different things coming together.”

Saginaw County’s countywide population grew steadily to a height of 228,000 in 1980 and has since seen a trickle of decline. The county population in 2010 was about 200,000.

At the same time that the city of Saginaw rapidly lost residents, many of the surrounding townships were growing.

Saginaw Township expanded from a population of just under 6,000 in 1950 to 40,840 in 2010. That means the township now has only about less 10,000 residents than the city.

Thomas Township has also seen huge growth in the last 60 years, from a population under 3,000 to one of nearly 12,000. Tittabawassee Township has grown from a population of nearly 2,400 in 1950 to nearly 10,000 residents at the time of the last census.

Bridgeport Township has nearly doubled in size since 1950, from about 5,500 to about 10,000.

Saginaw population shift
The above charts show the dramatic shift in the concentration of city dwellers versus people living in outlying townships and villages in Saginaw County in 1950 and 2010.Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The migration from city to suburbs has had financial consequences for Saginaw, including significant implications on the city’s ability to provide services and maintain infrastructure.

The total assessed value of the city’s taxable property has fallen from nearly $760 million in 2002 to about $610 million in 2011, roughly a 20 percent decrease.

Saginaw’s city government has downsized, staffing 345 full-time and 88 part-time positions in the current fiscal year. Five years ago, the city had 466 full-time workers.

New reasons for hope

But it’s not all bad news for a city full of people with a passion for their hometown and its rich heritage as both an important supplier of lumber and as an industrial and manufacturing hub.

michigan rib overview
Festival goers at the Michigan Rock ‘n Rib Fest in 2013 at FirstMerit Bank Event Park in Saginaw.

Unlike many Midwest cities that invested heavily in the automotive industry, Saginaw’s city government has not yet approached the edge of bankruptcy. Though Saginaw’s expenses are rising and its savings dwindling, city leaders still make final administrative and budgetary decisions, unlike its neighbors along the Interstate 75 corridor that are run by a state-appointed emergency manager.

With a brand new outdoor event venue built in downtown Saginaw in 2013, new residential housing being developed in the city and the prospect of a Central Michigan University Medical School campus on both sides of the Saginaw River opening in 2015, many watching the news are hopeful a new era of growth lies ahead.

Ravuri said that some experts are predicting a revival of metropolitan areas, though she pointed out that it’s unclear if that growth trend might appear in Saginaw.

“It really depends on what those baby boomers are going to do,” she said. “They could delay it if they continue to move out into suburbs. But if they decide to move back into cities, you’ll see it going a lot faster.”

Demolition of the house at 3145 S. Washington in Saginaw
A crew from Rohde Brothers Excavating tears down a house at 3145 S. Washington in Saginaw, Dec. 11, 2013.

City and county leaders are attempting to make room for potential growth and to stabilize remaining neighborhoods. Hundreds of vacant, blighted properties dot Saginaw. Thanks to $11.2 million in federal grant dollars secured in 2013, officials plan to demolish about 950 of the empty, dilapidated homes.

That amounts to about 5 percent of all of the houses in Saginaw. City officials estimate there are another 1,000 blighted homes that still should be demolished.

The homes were once in tightly knit neighborhoods, say people from all walks of life who claim Saginaw as their hometown. Read some of their stories this week in the series “I used to live here.”

  • Follow along and jump into the conversation yourself on Twitter using the hashtag #iusedtolivehere.

Use our searchable database below to explore information on the county-owned properties already slated for demolition as part of the federal grant. Crews have already begun demolishing some of the 413 publicly-owned properties in the database and hope to acquire another 500-some privately-owned empty, blighted homes to demolish.

The plan is to clear all 950 properties by the spring or summer of 2015.

Link to the story.

CNN: ‘Hidden income’ makes China’s rich wealthier than thought


Hong Kong (CNN) — China’s urban rich are making far more than they officially report, suggesting the wealth gap in the world’s second largest economy is much higher than previously thought, according to a new study.

The China Society of Economic Reform released a survey Monday that found “gray income” was 6.2 trillion yuan (U.S. $1 trillion), or 12% of GDP. “Gray income” can range from illegal cash from kickbacks to unreported income and gifts.

“The result has highlighted expanding social inequalities and policy issues surrounding official corruption and income distribution,” said Wang Xiaolu, who led the research for the CSER, in an article in Caixin Online. “The richer the household, the more likely it receives shadow income.”

The study comes a day after Bo Xilai, a once high-flying politician, was sentenced to life in prison for bribe-taking,15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power. Bo is appealing the verdict.

The CSER surveyed 5,344 urban families in 18 Chinese provinces. The results suggest the top 10% of households earn nearly 21 times more than the poorest 10%. The National Bureau of Statistics places income disparity far lower, saying China’s wealthiest make 8.6 times more than its poorest. “China is in a dangerous zone as one the most unequal countries in the world,” Wang wrote.

The survey found that rich families gain 80% of their wealth from business and on average “have decent gains” in stock markets, whereas most middle and lower income families lose cash in the capital markets, Wang said. “We can’t rule out that some of these business gains are problematic, or even illegal, because many survey takers count kickbacks as business gains,” he wrote.

Much of the high gray income is linked to the loose credit handed out between 2009 and 2010, Wang wrote, as well as the rapid increase of government investment during the same period.

“To stop widening income disparity and unfair allocation, in addition to anti-corruption campaigns, there needs to be gradual but firm progress in economic, political and social reform that moves the country closer to the rule of law with public scrutiny over administrative power,” he said.

via Report: ‘Hidden income’ makes China’s rich wealthier than thought –

Urban Observatory comes to life at Esri International User Conference | SmartBlogs

Esri (GIS Mapping Software, Solutions, Service, Map Apps, and Data) just launched an interactive site that allows users to compare/contrast map data between 16 major cities (so far). Themes that can be compared include:

  • Commercial/Industrial zones
  • Roadspeed/Traffic/Airports
  • Housing Density/ Population Density/Senior population/Youth population
  • Public space
  • Temperature
  • Urban Footprint
  • New development

Urban Observatory comes to life at Esri International User Conference | SmartBlogs SmartBlogs.