The Citistates Group presents

Thank you for reading This website is no longer being updated, as of October 2013. We invite you to visit our new site at

Archive: Edward T. McMahon

Density Without High-Rises?

Edward T. McMahon / May 11 2012

For Release Friday, May 11, 2012

Edward T. McMahonWhen it comes to land development, Americans famously dislike two things: too much sprawl and too much density. Over the past 50 years, the pendulum swung sharply in the direction of spread-out, single use, drive everywhere for everything, low density development.

Now the pendulum is swinging back. High energy prices, smart growth, transit oriented development, new urbanism, infill development, sustainability concerns: are all coalescing to foster more compact, walkable, mixed use and higher density development.

The pendulum swing is both necessary and long overdue. Additionally, there is a growing demand for higher density housing because of demographic and lifestyle preference changes among boomers and young adults. The problem is that many developers and urban planners have decided that density requires high rises: the taller, the better. To oppose a high-rise building is to run the risk of being labeled a NIMBY, a dumb growth advocate, a Luddite — or worse.

Buildings 20, 40, 60 even 100 stories tall are being proposed and built in low and mid-rise neighborhoods all over the world. All of these projects are justified with the explanation that if density is good, even more density is better. Washington, D.C. is just the latest low- or mid-rise city to face demands for taller buildings.

Yet Washington is one of the world’s most singularly beautiful cities for several big reasons: first, the abundance of parks and open spaces, second, the relative lack of outdoor advertising (which has over commercialized so many other cities), and third a limit on the height of new buildings.
Read More »

Bicycles Belong: A Growing American Way

Edward T. McMahon / Feb 25 2012

For Release Saturday, February 25, 2012

Edward T. McMahonWould you prefer to live in a community where you had to drive everywhere for everything, or would you prefer to live in a community where you could walk, ride a bicycle, take public transportation, or drive to get to where you want to go?

This question is at the heart of the current debate over how transportation funds will be spent over the next few years. The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted on February 2 to eliminate funding for nonmotorized transportation (e.g., bike paths and sidewalks) from the federal transportation bill working its way through Congress. The wildly imbalanced transportation bill also imperils federal support for public transportation systems.

In taking this approach, Congress took a giant step back. The 1970s and 1980s, when federal transportation legislation strongly favored investment in highway infrastructure. Not until 1991 was the funding legislation expanded to other options, with passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. ISTEA broke from the past by including funding for mass transit and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Since that time, about 20 percent of the highway trust has gone to support public transportation and about 2 percent of federal transportation funding has gone to various transportation enhancement projects primarily bike trails, sidewalks, and related facilities.
Read More »

A Long Hot Summer: Climate Change and Extreme Weather

Edward T. McMahon / Aug 12 2011

For Release Friday, August 12, 2011

Edward T. McMahonFriends who live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado recently complained that pine bark beetles were bringing devastation to the forests around Steamboat Springs and throughout the Rocky Mountain West. According to recent reports, Colorado and Wyoming have lost 3.5 million acres of mountain forest to the bark beetle, with up to 100,000 trees on average falling every day.

As bad as the problem is, scientists with the US Forest Service say the problem is likely to get even worse in coming decades as coniferous forests adjust to climate change. Warmer winters allow the beetles to survive and multiply.
Read More »

The Future of the Strip: Downhill

Edward T. McMahon / Feb 04 2011

For Release Sunday, February 6, 2011

Edward T. McMahonFor more than 50 years retailers have favored the commercial strip: a linear pattern of retail businesses strung along major roadways characterized by massive parking lots, big signs, box-like buildings and a total dependence on automobiles for access and circulation.

For years planners have tried to contain and improve the strip. Now they are getting help from consumers and the marketplace. The era of strip development is coming to an end. Evolving consumer behavior, changing demographics, high priced gasoline, internet shopping — are all pointing to a new paradigm for commercial development.

Commercial strips are not going to disappear overnight. But it is becoming increasingly clear that strip retail is retail for the last century. The future belongs to town centers, main streets and mixed use development. Here is why:

Read More »

Infrastructure: Pay Now Or Pay A Lot More Later

Edward T. McMahon / May 21 2010

For Release Sunday, May 23, 2010

Edward T. McMahon

America has an infrastructure problem: crowded highways, leaking pipes, collapsing bridges, and aging transit systems. Lots of people have been talking about the infrastructure problem, although given the deep and ongoing state and federal budget crisis we haven’t really done much about it.

Sure the Obama administration recently directed $8.5 billion to high speed rail and billions more for “shovel ready” projects in the stimulus bill, but considering that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that the nation faces a $2.2 trillion infrastructure backlog, this is just a drop in the bucket.

Infrastructure will lay the foundation for America’s future prosperity but our elected leaders have failed to level with the American people about how the country is falling behind our global competitors or explaining the true costs of making required upgrades and building new systems.” Leveling with the American people” is just one of the key recommendations of Infrastructure 2010: Investment Imperative, the fourth in a series of annual reports produced by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst and Young on U.S. and global infrastructure trends.

Mass transit is just one area where the rhetoric doesn’t meet the reality. While the U.S. has provided “seed funding” for high speed rail in a few important travel corridors, China has leaped far ahead of the US and other countries, including Japan and France and is now the world leader in high speed rail. After years of investment in new highways, China is now investing billions in a cutting edge network of train and subways designed to boost exports and revolutionize the flow of people and goods. By 2012, China will have over 5,000 miles of high speed rail and is currently building 60 new subway lines in more than 20 cities. Next year when a new Shanghai to Beijing high speed line opens (a year ahead of schedule) the journey between China’s two most important cities will be reduced to just 4 hours for a 600 mile trip.

Read More »