Why the Car Is Essential to Chicago’s Future Success

"Chicago sunrise 1" by Daniel Schwen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

“Chicago sunrise 1” by Daniel Schwen – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


There’s been a lot of tough news out of Chicago lately, but the truth is that headlines aside the city actually has some strong competitive advantages that allow it compete and win in the market. It’s the only fully legit urban style big city in the interior. It’s the cheapest such city in the entire country and is a place where you can actually raise a family. It’s centrally located. It’s got a unique culture I plan to write about in the near future.

And it’s America’s most car-friendly urban style big city.

That last point is one most urban advocates don’t want to acknowledge. But it’s true. And for Chicago to thrive it needs to embrace the things that make it different from, not the same as, NYC, Boston, and San Francisco.

I wrote a piece on this a few months back at New Geography called “Urbanists’ Missing Strategy Gene.”  Here’s an excerpt:

Looking at the things now decried by so many urbanists, ranging from urban renewal to freeways to restrictive zoning that makes building difficult, it’s notable how many of them are well-nigh ubiquitous.  Surely some city, somewhere must have realized that these were mistakes, if mistakes they were. But very few did.

Why is that?

Thinking about cities takes place in a world without any concept of strategy. Harvard business professor Michael Porter, the godfather of strategy, has said, “Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique matrix of value.”  This is exactly the opposite of thinking that goes into cities, in which no matter what the locale, urbanists or policy advocates of various stripes always seem to have the same solutions that they prescribe for every community, regardless of how different our places are.

Click through to read the whole thing.

In their inimitable style, Streetsblog’s Chicago outlet also penned a riposte.


from Aaron M. Renn


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