Monday, October 5

Charting the reinvestment in central cities

The 2008 American Community Survey data was released a couple of weeks ago, and the analyses of trends are starting to come out. One of the big stories is the notable increase in bicycle mode share in several cities, including huge one-year increases in the two leading cities: 42% in Portland and 78% in Minneapolis. Others have teased out the preliminary results of the recession from this data.

An ongoing trend of reinvestment in central cities is evident as well. After several decades of decline, central cities in the U.S. have, on average, been rebounding for the last several years. Bill Lucy has been tracking indicators of this trend for quite a while. He and David Phillips published Confronting Suburban Decline and Tommorow's Cities, Tomorrow's Suburbs, and a forthcoming publication from APA Planner's Press under the working title of Foreclosing the American Dream will continue observing the shifting fault lines between cities and suburbs.

The 2008 numbers reveal a steady continuation of the reinvestment in the cores of metropolitan areas. Lucy charted the differences between a sample of central cities, as defined by traditional political boundaries, and their metropolitan areas for a number of indicators: per capita income, median home values, and income of non-hispanic whites (to account for racial variations).

The money is still flowing outward in a few formerly industrial metropolitan areas, but most metropolitan areas are swinging in the other direction. Washington D.C. has, for the first time in decades, arrived at income parity between the city and its suburbs. The relative housing values in the District jumped between 2007 and 2008, making them now considerably higher than home values in the suburban counties. Other cities have also shown a notable reversal in recent years.