US cities are light on veterans

A Veterans day parade in Fairfield, Connecticut. Image: Getty.

Across the US, around one in 12 civilian adults are military veterans. Since the US ditched isolationism, the proportion of war veterans in the adult population has risen to 6.5 per cent.

That sounds like a lot – but what's even more interesting is how they're spread out. A recent study from real estate company Trulia shows that the concentration of veterans isn't consistent across the country. This diagram shows the percentage of veterans in different areas (the map's divided up according to the metropolitan areas defined by the US census). 

The darkest blue patches, which tend to be rural, have at least double the proportion of veterans of the palest, which include many of the country's biggest cities.

Moreover, when the researchers looked into concentrations in specific cities, they found that the proportion rises to one in five in smaller cities; in larger metropolitan areas, it falls to one in 20. When they cross-referenced city size with veteran density, they found that adult civilian populations in large, dense cities had around 6 per cent veterans, while small towns and rural areas averaged at around 11 per cent.:

So why are veterans urban-averse? One solution might lie in the location of military bases. Veterans are relatively likely to live near where they were based while still in active service: most people don't move town when they retire. And bases are rarely built in large cities: they require training space and accomodation for staff and officers, so a Manhattan skyscraper makes far less sense than a smaller town or city where land is cheap.

Also, while veterans' average age is somewhat lower than the general retired population (the median veteran age is currently 64), retirement communities attract their fair share of veterans, especially older vets who served in the Korean or Second World war. The survey found that the proportion of older veterans was highest in Florida, a state best-known for its retirement communities and Disney World. 

Overall, though, the character of the profession itself might offer the best explanation: those who join the military for its travel, physical activity and excitement probably don't lie in bed dreaming of  an overpriced, high-rise apartment and a job at an accountancy firm. 


What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.