Tallin, Estonia’s Bold Experiment with Free Public Transit

This story appears in Governing's annual International issue.

What if big-city transit systems were free? What if you could board a bus or train at one end of town, ride all the way to the other end and back, and not have to pay a cent for it? How would that affect the practicalities of urban life in America? The list of possible outcomes, bad ones as well as good ones, is a long one.  READ MORE

Keeping Cities from Becoming “Child-Free Zones”

It’s beyond dispute at this point that there’s been a central city revival over the past decade or so. Downtowns throughout the country have seen increases in residential population, and commercial districts that were moribund in 2000 have come alive with restaurants and entertainment. If you’re seeking evidence, just look around. 

Real as the resurgence has been, however, it is one marked by a nest of nuances. Perhaps the most important of them has to do with children and families. READ MORE

Bill de Blasio: The Neighborhood Mayor

A few weeks ago, on a walk-the-streets visit to New York, I found myself in the middle of a clump of foreigners getting a grand introduction to Harlem. As we gazed at the newly pricey brownstones and lively commercial boulevards, an agitated local resident slipped in to give the visitors a lesson in reality. “Don’t be fooled,” the man warned. “This place is still full of guns and drugs. This ain’t heaven up here.”

The fact that he was telling the truth was less interesting to me than that he felt obligated to make his case. But he did have to. READ MORE

Would We All Be Better Off If Mayors Ruled the World?

More than 40 years ago, the sociologist Daniel Bell made a startling prediction: The coming decades would see nations decline in power and importance. The most important problems of the coming era, Bell said, would be either global or local. Countries would simultaneously fi nd themselves too big to deal with some of them and too small to handle others. 

Bell’s prophecy didn’t become conventional wisdom, but it never quite died away either. At moments when the American federal government has found it diffi cult to take action, critics have not hesitated to portray it as ill-suited to cope with the most urgent decisions in the modern world. READ MORE

A Creative Comeback in the Big Easy

These days it seems nearly every major city has given itself a high-tech nickname that starts with the word “silicon” and ends with a piece of geography. Austin, Texas, has Silicon Hills; Portland, Ore., has Silicon Forest; Chicago lays claim to Silicon Prairie; and New York likes to call a slice of Manhattan Silicon Alley.

But of all the silicon places, the oddest in more than one way is Silicon Bayou, the name New Orleans has bestowed on its technology sector. It’s odd because bayous and technology don’t seem to go together; nor, for that matter, do New Orleans and innovation of almost any kind. READ MORE