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Found 6 results

  1. Very interesting video of a rapidly expanding transport that few people are aware of. Lac-Mégantic was a wake-up call:
  2. The American Institute of Architects recently turned 150 and to celebrate they decided to put together a list of 150 favorite American buildings (do they know how to party or what?). Click forward to see which buildings made the top ten (you can see if any of your other personal favorites made the list here: http://www.favoritearchitecture.org/afa150.php
  3. America's 10 Most Miserable Cities Forbes.com 1. Stockton, CA 2. Memphis, TN 3. Chicago, IL 4. Cleveland, OH 5. Modesto, CA 6. Flint, MI 7. Detroit, MI 8. Buffalo, NY 9. Miami, FL 10. St. Louis, MO http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/06/most-miserable-cities-business-washington_0206_miserable_cities.html
  4. here is the link: http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680967/the-top-10-smartest-cities-in-north-america#1
  5. Charlotte in same predicament as Wall Street By IEVA M. AUGSTUMS, AP Business Writer Ieva M. Augstums, CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The financial collapse has hit the city known as Wall Street South. For years, Bank of America Corp. and Wachovia Corp. helped turn Charlotte into a financial powerhouse. Now, the big banks have thrust it into the same predicament as the real Wall Street — the city is losing thousands of jobs and an unquantifiable amount of prestige. Residents who invested heavily in the banks have seen their wealth dissipate and lifestyles change radically. "It's kind of sad, disheartening because the banks have been the backbone of Charlotte for so long," said Carl Clayton, a 55-year-old retired school teacher. The loss of so many bank jobs is causing upheaval in other industries. Consumers who have been laid off or fear being out of work are curtailing their spending, forcing restaurants and retailers to close — among them Morton's, a high-end steakhouse, and a 15-month-old Home Depot Design Center. Even some of the Charlotte's lively night clubs have shuttered their doors. "There's a bit of a state of disbelief," said Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. "We are seeing things happen that no one else has contemplated before." Charlotte remains the nation's second-biggest bank town by assets — second to New York, and in front of San Francisco. But, Morgan said, "we don't know what the city is going to look like once we emerge." "We do know that tremendous wealth has already been lost." A big reason why is the amount of banking shares owned by people who have worked for Wachovia, now owned by Wells Fargo & Co., and Bank of America. Both have used their stock to compensate employees. Bank of America's shares have been among the hardest hit among financial companies. The company has lost more than 56 percent of its value since it closed on its acquisition of investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co. at the beginning of the year. The stock is down nearly 85 percent from a year ago. Last year, before Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo, its shares had slid 85 percent. Clayton estimates he has lost about $60,000 because of stock holdings in the two banks, along with other North Carolina banks, including BB&T Corp. "I had a lot of bank stock, but now it's gone," Clayton said. "What wealth I had, is gone." Residents and employees never expected such a downfall. Wachovia, once headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., joined the Top 5 ranks of national banks after it was acquired by Charlotte-based First Union Corp. in 2001. The combined company took Wachovia's name. Banker Hugh McColl Jr. led NationsBank Corp. through some 70 acquisitions starting in the early 1980s. His biggest coup was San Francisco-based BankAmerica Corp., a financial institution bigger than NationsBank. He adopted the name and also moved the headquarters to Charlotte. Some say Charlotte's troubles began in 2006, when Wachovia acquired mortgage lender Golden West Financial Corp. for roughly $25 billion at the height of the housing boom. With that purchase, Wachovia inherited a $122 billion portfolio of deteriorating mortgages, leaving the company with huge losses. Charlotte residents were unnerved as they watched Wachovia falter and then be taken over by Wells Fargo in what amounted to a fire sale late last year. Down the street, at Bank of America, things were looking just as bleak. A series of bad bets in the investment banking unit over the past year sank companywide profits, and as Bank of America completed its acquisition of struggling investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co., shareholders watched its stock price slide to historic lows. Both Wells Fargo and Bank of America have said they remain "committed" to Charlotte. Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, has said Charlotte will be its eastern headquarters, though it remains unclear exactly what that means. The fear is that Wells Fargo, as it completes its integration of Wachovia, will keep shedding Charlotte positions. Wachovia has about 20,000 employees in the city. Bank of America, meanwhile, with about 15,000 employees in Charlotte, is eliminating some 35,000 jobs companywide. North Carolina already has nearly 400,000 unemployed workers. The jobless rate was 8.7 percent in December, the highest since 1983, according to the most recent available data. Charlotte, with a population of nearly 700,000, is the 20th-largest city in the country. About 45 percent of the residents of its home county, Mecklenburg, make more than $50,000 a year, according to data supplied by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Outside the downtown offices buildings filled with bank employees, there's a sense of disbelief as people huddle together drinking coffee or smoking cigarettes and then shuffle off to their jobs. When a reporter approached employees for interviews, they declined to speak, or said they didn't want to give their names, worried about keeping their jobs. Charlotte relies on the banks for more than employment — its lifestyle, even its skyline has depended on Wachovia and Bank of America. Wachovia sponsors the city's annual PGA tournament, among the most popular on tour, while Bank of America's name is on the football stadium and the bank is a sponsor of one of NASCAR's top auto races. Both fill towering downtown office buildings — Wells Fargo, now by way of Wachovia, is building a 48-story headquarters and adjoining city arts campus. The bankers and traders who work for both helped create the demand — and now vacancies — for the high-rise condos near by. "I have received more calls over the past month from people wanting to list their homes, with a majority of them having financial problems," said Rich Ferretti, a broker at Jamison Reality in Matthews, a suburb of Charlotte. Stores in the city's affluent SouthPark area are less crowded on the weekends. And a recent happy hour at Capital Grille, located just across from Bank of America's headquarters, was sparsely attended. Charlotte also faces civic and philanthropic repercussions. Unlike Wachovia, Wells Fargo's executives have few North Carolina ties. Bank of America typically offers up the lead gift on projects. "We will honor our existing commitments and we are still in the process of determining any future commitments," Wells Fargo spokeswoman Mary Eshet said. Now, the city is waiting for major changes. "A lot of our friends work for the banks," said Leslie Hunter, a 38-year-old mother of two. "People are not stopping everything, but their awareness has increased." After being laid off from his bank consulting job 11 months ago, Jim Edwards' daily routine of networking, applying for jobs and going to the gym keeps his spirits up. "I've been out of work and living on my retirement income," said the 62-year-old, who added it's been a struggle finding employment because no one is hiring. While many unknowns remain, Mayor Pat McCrory is optimistic. "Charlotte does have very strong resilience and I anticipate that a lot of the talent that's moving out of the banks will stay," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. Some job relief may be moving in. GMAC Financial Services and Morgan Stanley are rumored to be looking to move at least parts of their companies to the Charlotte area. GMAC Financial Service's chief executive, Al G. de Molina, used to be Bank of America's chief financial officer. Morgan Stanley has already hired at least four former Wachovia executives to help the New York-based firm's retail banking expansion effort. McCrory wouldn't talk about the two firms, but said the large amount of talent in Charlotte will "attract others in the financial services industry to set up here." "We're going through a major adjustment, but when the economy rebounds, I think Charlotte will rebound the quickest," he said.
  6. The most expensive tunnel in the world Jul 29th 2012, 17:28 by N.B. | WASHINGTON, D.C. EARLIER this month, Amtrak, America's government-owned passenger rail corporation, released a plan outlining how it's going to spend $151 billion it doesn't currently have (and has no prospect of receiving anytime soon) to bring true high-speed trains to America's crucial Boston-New York-Washington rail axis. Gulliver has already explained why Amtrak's project is ambitious, expensive, and unlikely. But the more you delve into the details of the plans, the sillier they appear. Take, for example, Amtrak's proposal to bore a 10-mile rail tunnel underneath Philadelphia. As Steve Stofka, a transport blogger, explains, this proposal would require the most expensive type of tunnel imaginable—"It is freaking expensive to bore a ten-mile-long tunnel through an alluvial floodplain under a highly urbanised area—and to maintain it, since it will reside below the water table," Mr Stofka writes. At $10 billion, he notes that the project would be about three times as expensive per mile as the Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Swiss Alps. And all this is for marginal improvements in speed and access. The tracks around and through Philadelphia aren't, generally, big obstacles to high-speed rail—the tunnels in and around Baltimore, Maryland are. It would be much cheaper to replace Baltimore's terrible tunnels than to build a fancy new one under Philadelphia. The Philadelphia tunnel, unfortunately, isn't even the worst part of Amtrak's plan. That honour goes to a $7 billion renovation of Washington's Union Station (pictured), which Slate's Matthew Yglesias rightly calls "insane". Amtrak's cost estimate is many times higher than for similar projects in Europe. And as Mr Yglesias notes, it seems that Amtrak doesn't have its priorities straight: [F]rom the look of Amtrak's proposal in addition to the high unit costs problem, there seems to be an awful lot of emphasis on doing stuff that has no really clear operational benefits. For example, they don't like the fact that right now Union Station's existing platforms have unsightly and inconvenient columns in the middle of them. To get rid of the columns, they need to scrap the 2,000-space parking deck that they're supporting. Then they want to replace the parking deck with a 5,000-space four-level underground garage. That's an awful lot of money to spend on something that has minimal operational value from the standpoint of actually operating a railroad. There's no doubt that America's big east-coast cities could benefit from access to true high-speed rail. But before it gets the funding necessary to make that happen, Amtrak should put forth a credible, smart proposal that puts the needs of passengers and the public first. I have taken Amtrak trains out of Union Station several hundred times. I've never given more than a moment's thought to the "unsightly and inconvenient" columns on the platforms, but I have noticed how trains crawl through the tunnels in Baltimore and move much more slowly, overall, than similar trains in Europe. Renovating Union Station and replacing its parking garage isn't likely to make Amtrak's trains go any faster. Amtrak needs to get a handle on which kind of projects are worth billions of taxpayer dollars—and which aren't. http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2012/07/rail-renovations
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