John Rennie Short

John Rennie Short argues cities are key to U.S. economic growth and social justice

The economy has been a prominent issue during the presidential campaign with a range of ideas for how to spur growth and development across the country. In a new article published in The Conversation, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short examines the value of growing urban economies as a key element in addressing this issue.

In his article “Want the economy to grow? It’s time to look at cities and efficiency,” Short writes that enhancing American metropolitan areas with better infrastructure, land use, and smarter technology are important steps to increase productivity.

“Metro areas in the U.S. now house 83 percent of the population and are the main site for innovation and job growth. The 100 largest metro areas hold 69 percent of all jobs and are responsible for three-quarters of the nation’s GDP,” explains Short. “If we are serious about growing our economy, then getting our cities to work better is just as important as tax reform or wage policy. The problem is that cities tend to be discussed in terms of redistributional issues, such as welfare or race relations, but rarely as a platform for addressing the ‘economy.’”

Considering making cities larger and more dense as a way to improve economic performance, Short writes about promoting increased public transportation use as an important tool in boosting the economy.

“There are significant cost savings in increasing the ridership of mass transit systems compared with constructing expensive new systems. Even small-scale policy changes have rolling consequences. Improving traffic light sequencing, for example, reduces travel times, emissions, fuel consumption and road accidents.”

In his column, Short also examines social issues and data as other contributing factors in improving efficiency. Read the full article on The Conversation website.

Image: John Rennie Short. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.