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Thank you for reading This website is no longer being updated, as of October 2013.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: Robert Lang

From Metropolitans to Megapolitans

Robert Lang / Apr 07 2012


For Release Saturday, April 7, 2012

Robert LangIn a space as large as France, the Netherlands and Belguim combined, America’s megapolitans house more than 2.5 times as many people. In fact, they are more densely settled than Europe as a whole and, by some estimates, will house two-thirds of the U.S. population by 2040.

Yet, the United States is often referred to as the land of wide-open spaces with low population density. And, at times, the nostalgia for how America once was is used to influence and validate public policy. For instance, some policy experts firmly believe that the U.S. cannot support European-style passenger rail.

It is true the average population density in the U.S.—about 100 persons per square mile—is roughly half that of Western European countries. But the comparison is misguided. The U.S. has a significant amount of densely settled urban areas scattered throughout. While megapolitans occupy only 17 percent of the continuous 48 states’ land base, America’s megapolitan clusters, as a group, form the world’s third most populous country, behind China and India.
Read More »

FDR National Airport

Robert Lang / Jan 25 2010

For Release Sunday, January 25, 2010

Robert Lang It may be in bad timing when the Republican Party is now in the ascent and so protective of Ronald Reagan’s legacy to argue that Washington National Airport should remove the former president’s name, but that is exactly what I suggest. The reason is not to slam Reagan, who even president Obama acknowledges “changed the trajectory of America.” Rather a name change is needed to recognize the president who created National Airport–Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I can already hear the shouts from the GOP that such a switch would be nothing more than a naked display of power akin to the constant renaming of places that follows regime change in other, less stable parts of the world. Yet the case for “Roosevelt National Airport,” on merit is compelling. Roosevelt’s efforts were instrumental in every phase of the project–from funding, to site selection, to construction, to design. Read More »

Message to President Obama: Do Not Forget the Suburbs

Robert E. Lang and Lawrence Levy / Mar 19 2009

For Release Sunday, March 22, 2009

Robert LangLawrence LevyAmerican suburbs are increasingly diverse places and the economic engines that drive metropolitan areas, which are the key to the nation’s prosperity. Suburban voters provide the decisive margins in congressional and presidential elections, including for Obama, who won big in the formerly Republican-leaning suburbs outside Denver, Minneapolis, Detroit, Orlando and Washington, DC. And suburban lawmakers, like their constituents, will be the “swing vote” in shaping his national agenda. If he cannot sell it just beyond the city lines, then he cannot sell it, period.

But we should not view the suburbs in political opposition but as part of a larger metropolitan area. That means treating cities and suburbs as seamless, synergistic wholes. As the Brookings Institution has documented in its Blueprint for American Prosperity, focusing more federal resources on metro regions and their considerable assets is essential to the nation’s ability to compete in a global economy.

That is why Obama should ensure that his urban advisors adopt a broader metro focus by creating an advisory council that includes suburban members as partners. Read More »

Running Against the Metros Makes for Perilous Politics

Robert E. Lang / Oct 30 2008

For Release Sunday, November 2, 2008

Robert Lang

A recent story in the Washington Post noted that Democrat Barack Obama is the first big city politician to run as a major party presidential candidate in many years. Yes, Senator Obama comes from Chicago–the so-called “Second City” (really the third city behind New York and Los Angeles). Yet his Republican rival John McCain lives in Phoenix, now America’s fifth largest U.S. city having just passed Philadelphia in population. While Phoenix is more famous for golf courses and subdivisions than urban neighborhoods, McCain in fact lives in a luxury high rise in the upscale and highly citified Camelback district.

Both presidential candidates are technically big city guys. But a better way to label Senators McCain and Obama is “big metro guys.” Chicago and Phoenix also rank among the largest metropolitan areas. In this way, the two candidates typify a nation now dominated by urban regions. Just over half (53 percent) of all Americans live in metro areas that exceed one million residents. As Brookings Institution research has shown, the metros dominate the country’s economy, accounting for an enormous share of its technology, venture capital, and advanced services. They are also the places where the U.S. connects to the global economy via major sea ports and hub airports.

Were just the big metros to vote, the presidential race would be a rout every time. The Democrats dominate major urban regions. In an analysis done earlier this year, the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech found that Democrat John Kerry won–often by very lopsided margins–the votes in three quarters of the nation’s biggest and most globally networked metros. And even in the regions that Kerry lost, he almost always prevailed in the core county. For instance, he battled Republican President (and former Texas governor) George W. Bush to a draw in Dallas County. Kerry blew out Bush in the city of Dallas—the place where Bush plans to retire. Read More »