Book News: August 14th, 2008

By Chris Webber and Alan Berube.

This report from the Centre for Cities and Washington’s Brookings Institution has found that the USA has a lot to learn from Britain’s urban renaissance. While British politicians and officials have always been keen to scout for policy ideas from the States, US politicians don’t always follow suit. The report suggests that US mayors, and the next US administration, should look more closely at British policy ideas, to help American cities compete in the future.

The report points to examples of UK innovations which could be exported Stateside including London’s congestion charge, introduced in 2002, which has resulted in volumes of traffic falling by one-fifth, and bus usage up by 15%. Miami, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco and other cities are currently considering congestion charging as one way to solve their traffic problems, but none has yet committed to it.

It also highlights the national clamp-down on urban sprawl with stricter controls that have helped cities like Leeds and Bristol to avoid the lengthy commutes and gridlock seen in cities like Atlanta and Los Angeles. A national drive to re-use urban land, rather than build on green belts, has kept UK cities compact.

The report concludes that despite these successes, the UK government could do more to champion cities, by giving local government the financial and political powers to help cities get through the current economic downturn.

The report is available from: