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WWL: Our Changing Urban Landscape
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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In this episode:

A look at how we build and live in our cities.


Episode Audio

41:53 minutes (20.11 MB)
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Today on Where We Live, a look at how we build and live in our cities.  What kind of development makes for better city living and what, if any, expansion makes sense in this time of economic contraction?  We'll explore the major urban renewal effort of the 1950's and 60's in New Haven and we'll talk with Professor Tim Roan about legendary architecht Paul Rudolph, whose projects for New Haven and Yale changed the face of a Connecticut City.  Also joining us is Yale Professor Douglas Rae to discuss the history and the future of urban dwelling.  Does the economic crisis threaten the development of renewed, mixed-use, urban centers or does it instead provide us with a golden opportunity to stop the building for a moment and think hard about what the cities of the future should look like?  Leave your questions and comments below.

*Note: This program originally aired on January 5, 2009.


Saving Our Cities/ Saving the Land: The 2nd Urbanism Film Series  continues tonight in New Haven at 5:30.  This year's films evoke a sense of city life at the height of the urban age before the effects of suburban sprawl and deindustrialization. 

Call 203-562-4183 x 11 or email info@newhavenmuseum.org for more information.

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Listener email from Wyn


One of the beauties of investment in infrastructure is that every worthwhile infrastructure project creates more increase in land value than the project itself costs.

Savor that one: every worthwhile infrastructure project raises the surrounding land values by more than the cost of the project!!

It only remains to our communities and states to capture that increase in land value -- that is, to collect it, in the form of a tax on land value -- and recycle it to fund the next project, and the next, and the next.

Were we to start to do that, we would have a very fine local revenue recycling machine.

Instead, we fund such project by federal taxes on wages, and present a fine, generous gift to local landholders, who need not pay for it, and just get to pocket this publicly-funded windfall as if they were entitled to it.

We need to make a correction in how we "do" public finance. 

The mayors of several of Connecticut's larger cities are interested in land value taxation, as is the city council in New London.  We need only the enabling legislation, which would permit us to increase the millage rate on land without also taxing buildings.

Listener email from Stuart

I am listening to your program and am wondering why there is little discussion of the need to more closely connect Hartford with Boston via rail.

Shouldn't the same logic that Prof. Ray applies to New Haven, that is, that the city could be revitalized by a closer rail connection with NY, lead us to conclude that the Hartford-Boston connection also needs to be upgraded?

As a resident of the Hartford local area who goes both to NY and Boston frequently, I find it especially frustrating that the frequency of rail service, particularly to Boston, which is closer to Hartford than NY city is not regarded as a must.

It would seem to me that this would be a tremendous economic AND CULTURAL boost to the region and contribute substantially to the revitalization of Hartford.

Listener email from Richard


I think the discussion of some of the new visions for re-invigorating New Haven on this morning’s program ( 1/05/09 ) was very stimulating, but needs to be extended in a follow on program. In my view, the focus of the follow-on is the issue of spending priorities pertaining to transportation within and in and out of New Haven.


My bias:  Drastically upgrading the Northeast rail corridor is one important component of re-invigorating New Haven. But since rail travel after improvements can be expected to only serve about 5% of New Haven residents and would transport at maximum of roughly 10% of all those working in New Haven, it seems to me that a very high proportion of transportation infrastructure should go to highway/road improvements, not to rail.


New Haven is choked by an antiquated system of inadequate capacity roads and highways leading into and out of The City. This is one major reason why people would not choose to work in New Haven if they could avoid it. A second reason is that even after highway upgrades ( new roads ) those roads are apt to be too small because of the highly inefficient use of passenger cars as the primary means of moving people.


Replacing local highways and roads with an inter-urban light rail system to me seems to be impractical due to its cost and disruption. This would be highly speculative in terms of the capital investment. If the money was invested in an inter-urban rail system and no one came, the public is stuck with paying for the project.


The affordable design for efficiently moving people that has been used in cities around the world is a bus system that incorporates parking facilities in the city and parking facilities in the suburbs. This system can be developed and investments made in an incremental fashion. It would necessitate modifications to existing roads and highways to simultaneously accommodate a large number of new, full featured buses and a portion of the cars that formerly used those routes. New buses would replace a substantial number of existing cars, thus increasing road passenger-carrying capacity.


There would be at least two kinds of buses on the new road/highway infrastructure: Local buses, similar but much better quality than the existing city buses. And, inter-urban buses, having seats with connections for computers, radio and TV ports, Internet, etc. so that business people and others taking the bus would find they could spend their time productively. A vision for transportation improvement might elect to add new buses on a schedule that is keyed to the improvement of road/highway capacity. Don’t buy a bus for an efficient-to-use road that doesn’t exist.


There must be models of cost-effective interurban bus systems in many cities around the world and possibly some in the U.S. Why not draw on that experience to find a best solution for New Haven?   


Note that since the City of New Haven is only one part of the regional New Haven economy, it is essential in my opinion to focus our vision on a regional solution. New Haven should not go it alone. We need to have a Manhattan Project scale program that quickly ( 1 to 2 years ) examines the total transportation infrastructure and its relationship to the New Haven Region economy. A major part of the funding for this should come from the Federal Government – perhaps the money is there now?


Hope the above ideas will give you some fodder for a future program.  //  Richard in Southbury