Category Archives: cities

TED – videos of ideas and lectures online

TED (Technology.Entertainment.Design), a well-known ideas conference, has made videos of its 2007 talks available online and downloadable into your media device of choice. Sponsored by BMW, high profile and polished, which somehow makes me wonder how much of the content is hollow posturing and how much is actually worth listening to. Wish I had time to find out.


Requiem for a Library

NMP and regular Today contributor Siew Kum Hong’s latest column really made my day.

Last November, when asked if the cost of the tunnel was justified by its benefits, the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) director for road development and management Yap Cheng Chwee told this newspaper: “I don’t think it is fair to use a cost-benefit analysis to analyse the project. The main aim was better utilisation and parcellation of land around the area. We found that there was a need to redirect roads in the area and the tunnel was the solution. Benefits like time savings for motorists are a result of the primary mission to utilise land better.”

I found that answer baffling then, and I remain baffled now. How does the LTA make decisions, if not through a cost-benefit analysis? Is there any other basis for decisions? Surely the LTA does not spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money without considering the costs and benefits of such expenditure.

Read the article at TODAYOnline or on his blog.

Siew raises important questions about the decision to destroy the old National Library building for a tunnel. He points out that even in terms of money and time, the tunnel may not have created more costs than benefits. More importantly, he implicitly asks whether  Singaporeans truly privilege efficiency & convenience over memory & identity. Or is it just a couple of engineers in high places?

I’m still upset that the old Central Library had to be torn down for a road tunnel. As if to add insult to injury, there are also large steel letters on top of the Fort Canning Tunnel declaring to all the world that, yes, this is the “FORT CANNING TUNNEL”. As if we haven’t already displayed our state of ignorance enough.

Kotkin: The Myth of Superstar Cities

In an opinion piece for the WSJ, Joel Kotkin argues that famous, well-known urban centers like New York and San Francisco will probably not continue to see high growth and dynamism.

This is because middle-class families have been pushed out of these cities by soaring real-estate costs driven up by rich people there. And as the middle-class goes, jobs follow.

Over the past 15 years, it has been opportunistic newcomers — Houston, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas, Riverside — that have created the most new jobs and gained the most net domestic migration. In contrast there has been virtually negligible long-term net growth in jobs or positive domestic migration to places like New York, Los Angeles, Boston or the San Francisco Bay Area.

So these are the urban centres to watch out for, but Kotkin doesn’t rule out the possibility that some “elite cities” might still have enough social and economic diversity to maintain their dynamism.

The WSJ doesn’t keep its pages up for long but the full commentary is on Kotkin’s website: – The Myth of Superstar Cities

Richard “Creative Class” Florida has a response, but it’s hardly dignified.

They’ve crossed swords before. Kotkin’s earlier article for Prospect basically suggests that Florida’s conclusions are based on obsolete phenomena. – Uncool Cities