28 December 2012

Port cities viewed through fractal analysis (with special focus on land use formation around airports) Draft-Updated 30 December 2012

(This image is the harbor road leading from the port to other land uses in the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus , located  near Selçuk, Turkey. .  It was lined with shops which were selling goods that would be interested to those going to and from the port.  It is not by accident that Ephesus became a major center key in the spread of Christianity as it was a major cultural center in the Roman Empire.  When the port filled in with silt, the city declined rapidly.  This underscores the importance of key transportation nodes to the very survival of an urban areas.The image is located at: http://www.ephesus.us/ephesus/arcadianstreet.htm. This site also has a further description of the street and Ephesus.)

I am still in the process of reading two books: Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next (Kasarda and Lindsay) and Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis (Binelli.)  Both speak of an evolving metropolis where there is  no end state, nor an entirely new phenomena.  Both books blend some of the topics that I first explored in my dissertation almost twenty years ago (The Land Use Impact of an Airport and Urban Structure: A Case Study in Milwaukee, Wisconsin *) which I looked at the land use impact of General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee and compared it to a declining port and suburban area.   It was also at this time that I started my exploration of fractals and complexity theory as they apply to urbanization. Therefore, when I look at the importance and impact of airports and the accession and decline of cities or areas of cities, I view them with a different perspective than other urbanists.

“Things change to remain the same” is an adage that applies to airports.  An airport is a place of transportation interchange between passengers and freight.  This type of node has existed since mankind started to trade by sea, rivers and lakes which make interchange nodes at least three thousand years old.  The interchange node was the reason for the existence of major cities such as London, Paris, Rome (Ostia), Istanbul/Constantinople, New York, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Chicago, San Francisco etc.  The next major transportation mode—railroads, caused the impetus of new cities and the decline of others. Airplanes could be seen as the latest ‘public’ and cargo transportation mode to appear which has over a period of fifty years eclipsed the importance of railroads and waterborne transportation for passengers and non-bulk cargo. Waterborne transportation and railroads are the most efficient to ship large shipments (Passenger railroads still play an important role in most countries (with the exception of the U.S.), although diminished by the automobile). The airport emerging at the same time as automobiles and trucks has been shaped nature of this particular node and the associated landscape.

Within the context of fractal analysis and complex theory: one could see the port as an initiating fractal started with certain rules constrained or assisted by its environmental influences on various scales.  On another level, a port could be seen as an attractor in a dynamic environment drawing land uses that benefit from being near it.   Sea/River ports, airports and railroad stations/freight yards. have attracted warehouses, hotels, housing, financial businesses, industries, shipping companies, restaurants/bars, illicit business, etc.  The difference why areas around  arose and declined was related to the speed of the transportation mode.  The airplane is presently the fastest global transportation mode and its interchange nodes (airports) are presently the impetus for dynamic land use change in many urban areas.  The impact of the airport node is related to its importance in the global airport network and the characteristics of the metropolitan area.

The airport exists, as other previous ports related to older technologies, exist within the chaotic, fractal and complex nature of the city.  However, there are some distinct characteristic of airports that differ from other types of ports/interchange points (sea, river, railroads.)  The airport is related to moving people and goods fast.  The airport land uses are becoming destinations in themselves, such as office and conference hotels.  Some hotels are on the airport property itself (i.e. the Hilton Hotel in Chicago O’Hare airport.)  This attraction is not directly related to the metro area itself, but the importance of the node.  Negative impacts are the amount of land needed the noise impacts, and pollution (air and ground).   Urban planners and other public officials must operate in this dynamic and chaotic atmosphere and be adept at viewing the process in its theoretical and local context.

 *You have to be a member of academia.org  to download this document. 

25 December 2012

A tale of two cities: a city without guns versus a ‘gun toting’ city

(This image is located at: http://locationreservoir.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/when-hollywood-takes-over-a-small-new-england-village-pt-2/ .   I selected this image to represent a small village or city as referred in the narrative below.)

As a trickster and provocateur, I am proposing the juxtaposition of two hypothetical cities: one which prohibits guns and another that requires guns to be carried by all people.  In light of the current gun control debate brought about by the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, a discussion as the one below is warranted. The metaphors of utopia (or dis-utopia) is useful when discussing issues.  The most concrete way to discuss utopias is within the context of a city, which has been used by urbanists for centuries (i.e., Plato, Sir Thomas Moore. )  I will discuss this within a fictional situation of the two hypothetical cities.

At the beginning of 2013, the city council of one city in the U.S. decided that the ultimate solution to violence was the arming of all people above the age of eighteen in its jurisdiction.  Even visitors would be required to carry a gun. Those opposing it had no choice, but to either abide by the ordinance or to leave the city.  This seemed like the perfect solution.   Later, they determined that there must be mandatory gun training.  What about people who were elderly? Should they be allowed to carry guns when their vision and some had mental stability was questionable?  Also, what about people with some form of mental illness?  In turn, they enacted a regulation to screen those who were mentally incapable of owning a firearm. Then, one day a person came into town with a machine gun and killed about fifty people.  The council decided maybe everyone should now have machine guns so that they would be equal.  What about those who could not afford machine guns?  It was concluded that that this was their problem.  The premise was that things could be resolved with guns; no matter the level of conflict.  This resulted in more gun tragedies related to domestic violence.  When one man was fired from a job, he shot his boss before he could reach for his gun.  Of course, he was killed by other workers.  It was resolved that even though there was increased violence that everyone was safer.

Another city, not too far away from the ‘gun toting city’ passed an ordinance to ban all guns from their city.  The city council resolved that no one could have a gun, even law enforcement.  This required gathering all guns and disposing of them.  Anyone caught entering the city with a firearm would be jailed, fined and sent out of the city.  Those that opposed to this ordinance would be required to leave the city.  This was not a problem as a nearby city allowed guns for everyone.  There were organizations formed on counseling people how to resolve issues without violence.  Everyone was happy with the situation.  Police were able to solve problems of burglary, domestic abuse, and accidents without using firearms.  A sense of community based on a culture of non-violent resolution of conflicts.  Then, one day a person with a gun was able to come into the city and managed to rob a store, killing the manager and some of the customers.  Citizens were shaken as they thought that they had done everything to prevent violence.  They began to reconsider their banning of all guns.  Would they have to go back to the armed security guards, gun ownership etc.?  Ultimately, they resolved that there would have to be walls with barbed wires around the city; and restricted and guarded entry gates with armed police, even at their small airport.

This hypothetical situation is symbolic of the division that our country is enduring.  No one could dispute that the ever reoccurring mass killings is a tragedy.  Yet, it also goes on in smaller cases almost daily. We have on one hand a radical segment that would ban handguns, automatic weapons, and assault weapons and make stringent regulations on buying a gun to those who want greater freedom to purchase guns. Both sides interpret the Second Amendment in two diametrically different manners. 

Urban areas are where the majority of gun violence occurs. It is the responsibility of the Federal, State or city/county government to curtail gun violence at the local level?  What is the right mix of regulations that curtain gun violence and be acceptable to most people?  What is apparent is that we as a nation are polarized on this issue to the point of paralysis.  Differing opinions vary by households, neighborhoods and cities within different parts of the U.S.  But, we have to develop a dialog and not one of bullying one opinion over another.  “Shouting matches” never resolve in good solutions.

22 December 2012

2012 Volume of Urbana: Urban Affairs and Public Policy Now Published

2012 Volume XIII


(Click on above image for commentary)
Volume XIII
(on-line first)*
Richard Hartwig and John Bailey

Regina Laisner

Ivani Vassoler-Froelich

Michael A. McAdams

*Articles will be published  first on-line and later selected articles will be published in printed form.
 **If using Mozilla Foxfire as a browser, it may be easier to download documents by pointing on the link for the article and right clicking on ‘Save link as'.
Copyright © 2011 Urbana: Urban Affairs and Public Policy

10 December 2012

It’s the infrastructure…Stupid!

(Pot hole in New Orleans: found at : http://librarychronicles.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html .)

At the present moment, in Washington all talk is focused on the “fiscal cliff. “  However, something bigger is looming; our crumbling infrastructure and insufficient Federal funding.  Well-maintained infrastructure is essential for the economic health of the nation and particularly for urban areas.  Bridges, roads, transit systems, airports, water/sewer systems, and electrical grids are in grave need of repair and expansion.  The problem with our highways and bridges has been known for a significant amount of time, perhaps more than 30 years. This is not a complicated issue.  When you build things, you must maintain them or eventually see their deterioration. This is very evident in the aging Interstate and Defense Highway System, of which many miles are located in urbanized areas, leaking sanitary and water systems; numerous deteriorating bridges in all states and cities, and worn rapid transit tracks. 

Recently, hurricane/tropical storm Sandy proved the vulnerability our urban infrastructure.  It will take months to rebuild all that was damaged in just a few hours. However, some of the infrastructure was in grave need of repair before this natural disaster.  Although denied by some, Sandy was a wakeup call to many that global warming is a reality and not some ‘leftist’ propaganda.  The rebuilding of infrastructure along coastal areas due to Sandy is merely to return to status quo.  What should be in process is rebuilding of infrastructure in accordance with possible erosion, sea water rise and the possibility of possible future storms of the same or greater magnitude.

Those in Washington and in the media are in a panic if we “fall off the fiscal cliff. There will be tax increases, and program reduction across the board.  The Republicans seem to be obsessed with not letting the tax rates rise to that during Clinton era.  Obama is pushing increases to taxes above $250,000 and keeping the social net intact. Republicans want to cut social programs.  All these issues are ignoring the obvious that major infrastructure improvements such as the Trans-Continental Railroad and the Interstate and Defense Highway System were far more important that gaining more revenue or cutting expenditures.  They created jobs, brought about additional development and led the U.S. to be the largest economy in the world.   Other major infrastructure improvements also occurred during the1930s related to the Works Project Administration.  These were not ‘make work projects’ but damns, bridges, public park improvement and other physical structures that are still among us. With infrastructure failure and the needs of new infrastructure not being met, reducing the deficit will be least of the concerns of the U.S.  Urban areas will be gravely hurt by failing infrastructure.  Job creation, social welfare and revenue generation all pend upon maintaining and expanding infrastructure.

The prescription for prosperity will not be found in financial manipulations such as raising debt ceiling, taxing the top 2% more, or cutting programs; although the failure to address them will stifle our economy in the short term; but, creating the necessary support or infrastructure for job creation, economic prosperity, security, health and better quality of life for all the citizens of the U.S.  In the short term, the U.S. will experience higher debts as major building programs are initiated.  But, in the long term, it will lead to an era of greater prosperity.  However, these programs should be tempered with sound knowledge and in the context of sustainability, energy resources and a highly interconnected world.