City and Regional Planning

Rebooting New England

Fall 2016 Studio

The Rebooting New England graduate planning studio was convened by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design in the Fall of 2016. The course, consisting of 12 students in the final year of a Master’s Degree program in City and Regional Planning, was led by Professor Bob Yaro, and advised by Emil Frankel, of the Eno Transportation Institute, Foster Nichols of WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff, Kip Bergstrom, former Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and Vincent Goodstadt, Past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute. This studio’s work builds upon 12 years of PennDesign studios, as well as the recently completed Federal Railroad Administration’s NEC Future Tier I environmental impact stadium for Northeast Corridor Rail.

Rebooting New England sets forth a strategy to rebuild the economy of New England’s cities, which have been bypassed economically and physically for decades. This strategy is underpinned by a modern high-performance rail network between New York and Boston that would link all of Southern New England’s major cities with these two global cities and with each other. This would serve to integrate the labor and housing markets of the entire New York - New England megaregion into what could become the world’s largest innovation economy.

The following recommendations emerged from three months of research and dialogue with practicing professionals, including a distinguished group of advisors from New England and the United Kingdom. A week- long charrette in Manchester, England, as well as a roundtable discussion in New Haven, Connecticut, provided pivotal guidance from key elected officials, professionals and scholars.

Connecting the Dots: Brexit and the 2016 Election

Two revolutionary political events --the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and election of Donald Trump in the US-- occurred in 2016. In both countries, the deciding ballots came from older manufacturing cities and regions plagued by decades of industrial decline. Several generations of
both British and American policies have exacerbated industrial decline by calling for tax cuts, austerity budgets and a laissez-faire approach to economic development. These policies largely overlooked formerly industrial regions, leaving them to their own devices.

In response to this recent history and the display of the public’s sentiment in the Brexit vote, the UK’s Conservative government has adopted a bold investment  and  reform  program.  One  of these  projects  is the Northern Powerhouse, an economic revitalization plan for the North of
England and its older industrial cities. Underlying this strategy is the $52 billion high-speed rail 2 (HS2) project, which will link London with Manchester and Leeds. A planned HS3 line will create a network that links all of the major cities in the North of England with each other.

It is proposed here that the new administration adopt a similar approach to revitalize the economy of Southern New England with a new high-performance rail network linking New York to Boston and all of New England’s urban centers. Following the results of the 2016 election, the urgency of the transformation of older industrial cities cannot be denied. This report is a much-needed blueprint that can be used to rebuild the economy of Southern New England as well as the economies of the entire Rust Belt. Rebooting New England’s strategies also provide important economic benefits to metropolitan New York, the nation’s largest economy, and metropolitan Boston, the nation’s largest concentration of world-class universities and teaching hospitals.     By linking the economies and mobility systems of these metropolitan areas with the rest of Southern New England, this plan
creates the capacity and connective tissue that will catalyze this region’s transformation into the world’s largest innovation economy.


Robert Yaro, Professor of Practice Emeritus