Megaregions and Infrastructure

The University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning and Development is hosting an event in June on Infrastructure in the Southwest Megaregion–meaning Los Angeles and San Diego (or, as I refer to us, North Mexico City).

A number of our faculty at USC are interested in megaregions, or just regions more generally. We have well-respected regional scientist Harry Richardson, and in our policy and public administration groups, Dan Mazmanian and Yan Tang come from an environmental governance and sustainability perspective. We have urban planning faculty who overlap as well, most notably Dowell Myers, whose work on demography and immigration informs so many metropolitan growth questions. Eric Heikkila studies urbanization in Asia, with an obvious overlap here.

The mega-cities and mega-regions discussion in the social science and planning research tends to leave me wishing there were more tangible ways we could theorize and measure the effects of the ‘mega’ part of the equation for sustainability. It is quite apparent that we can ratchet up the numbers of any given urban effect here because we are aggregating large groups into the same geographic container–everything is very big, you know, but it has not always been clear to me what new insights we gain here for regional science and sustainability research, other than a pragmatic exploration of the potential size of the congestion and environmental externalities (which, given population growth numbers, are enough to justify the research). But the research in this field is emerging, so I’m going to listen and learn and see where it goes. To wit, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the mega-project literature on infrastructure and development as a form reflexive modernism. Some of my favorite reading thus far:

Altshuler, Alan A. and David E. Luberoff. Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment Brookings Institution Press and Lincoln Institute Of Land Policy 2003

Flyvbjerg,B., N. Bruzelius and W. Rothengatter, Megaprojects and Risk — An Anatomy of Ambition, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Olds, K. Globalization and Urban Change: Capital, Culture, and Pacific Rim Mega-Projects. Oxford University Press, 2002 .