Family Vacation: Disney World

We have finally gotten Internet service restored to our condo here in Orlando, so I can drop in from afar and observe how the Rebellion is faring. Thanks to EMR for keeping the blog alive — and especially for giving Pat McSweeney’s legal victory the attention it was due.

Although the overt purpose of the Bacon family trip to Disney World is to ride a bunch of hurl-inducing rides, listen to live performances of Disney tunes we’ve already heard a zillion times, engorge ourselves on fried food and open up our pockets to giant vacuum cleaners calibrated to suck out every dollar bill, dime, nickel and penny, my secret agenda is to study human settlement patterns.

Here’s my verdict: Orlando is a mess. If you ever visit Disney, stay on the Disney property. You do not want to contend with Florida-style dysfunctional human settlement patterns. Frankly, I have seen little edifying enough here in Orlando to write about.

But the good news is, we stopped in Savannah, Ga., on the way down — and Savannah is an urban jewel. I will have a lot to say about Savannah later on.

Indeed, if we ever head down this way again, I am determined to stay in Savannah and let the rest of the family down drive down to Orlando without me. As long as my wife can tune into National Public Radio and the kids have movies to watch, no one will even notice I’m not in the car. Somewhere around St. Augustine, someone will go, “Hey, what happened to Dad? Who’s going to pump the gas?” But it will be too late. I’ll be strolling around the city that inspired “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”


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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    How much of Orlando is Disney’s ‘fault”?

    Think we could compare it to today’s Haymarket and find out?


  2. Groveton Avatar


    Let me start by saying that I have been to Savannah and it is a beautiful place to visit. I have also been to Orlando on numerous occasions and do not care for the place.

    However, I hope you will consider both sides of the coin as you coronate Savannah an “urban gem”. I am sure you will tout the patterns of human settlement present in Savannah. I hope you also look beyond the tourist traps and see the patterns of human misery.

    Here are some fun facts:

    Savannah –

    Per capita income: $16,921
    Percent living below poverty line: 21.8%

    Richmond –

    Per capita income: $20,337
    Percent living below the poverty line: 21.4%

    Orlando, FL –

    Per capita income: $21,216
    Percentage living below the poverty line: 15.9%

    And, of course, no Groveton analysis would be complete without a NoVA example:

    Alexandria, VA –

    Per capita income: $37,645
    Percent living below the poverty line: 8.9%

    And, for RH:

    Haymarket, VA

    Per capita income: $26,503
    Percent living below poverty line: 5.3%

    Is it possible that the forces that lead to dysfunctional human settlement patterns also lead to economic prosperity?

    Also, Jim, do you like any places where fewer than 1 in 5 live below the poverty line? I am nottrying to be insulting but “quaint” for tourists seems to often go hand in hand with “lots of poor people”. Why is this?

  3. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    OK, I admit it, when I learned you were staying off campus I wanted to tell you it is no bargain.

    Believe it or not the Orlando New Urban Region has some of the most admired New Urbanist projects.

    Be sure to see Celebration.

    Not Savannah but any stretch, but it is definitly worth seeing.


  4. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Just saw Groveton’s numbers:

    They are interesting but do not jump to ANY conclusions.

    They are all municipal bounary reflecting numbers that are meaningless from a settlement pattern persepctive.


  5. Groveton Avatar


    I agree that the numbers are somewhat inconclusive based on municipal boundaries. I would say “meaningless” is quite an overstatement. I’d guess that the numbers would have quite specific and personal meaning to the people living below the poverty line within the municipal boundaries of Savannah.

    You and I agree on the problems inherent in the growing wealth gap. I am trying to use some commonly available statistics to look at the wealth gap. Per capita income vs. percent of population living below the poverty line seems like a decent start. The City of Richmond looks pretty bad (sorry – I know you prefer other terms but these stats are kept under the old system of names).

    I am happy to slice and dice the available statistics along different lines. However, some realities have to be faced:

    1. There is no place in the US where a consensus of experts believe that “functional human settlement patterns” are displayed.

    2. The places occasionally cited in a positive sense rarely have strong financial demographics.

    3. The places occasionally cited as examples of obviously poor human settlement patterns often have very strong financial demographics.

    At some point, this dichotomy needs to be taken into account.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: boundaries and better understanding the correlation between “good” statistics and better settlement patterns.

    Why not do this.

    Let EMR decide the boundaries and then instead of using the Census MSAs, use the census zip codes to aggregate the data of the zip codes inside of EMR’s boundaries?

    It would finally start to generate something beyond assertions and claims and perhaps convince some skeptics.

    The Zip codes won’t match up perfectly but they’ll have a lot better granularity and like I said, let EMR pick his better examples.

    and really.. he could also, using the same approach, pick some really bad examples.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR would start with the statistics and then draw in the boundaries to get the answers he wants.


  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    While we at it.. I had this question also for EMR:

    2008 BEST CITIES
    10 great places to build your future.

    Houston: The Comeback Kid
    Raleigh: Work In Progress
    Omaha: Paradise on the Plains
    Boise: Rocky Mountain High Tech
    Colorado Springs: Laid-Back Energy
    Austin: Rockers, Tacos and Chips
    Fayetteville: Funky Green Valley
    Provo: Pristine Tech Mecca

    geeze.. EMR… HOUSTON!!!

    I’ll be hornswaggled…


    I can’t wait to hear this explanation….


  9. Groveton Avatar

    Houston and Colorado Springs both surprise me.

    I’ve been to Colorado Spings four or five times. It seems like the personification of suburban sprawl. Traffic was a nightmare. Nice people, good business opoortunity, nice weather …. but “functional settlement patterns”. I’d rather drive through Tyson’s.

    It’s been a few years, maybe they solved the problems.

  10. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    Just a quick note:

    Meaningless may be too weak a term because the current data avaliable is so badly aggregated that it gives false impression.

    Lucy and Phillips have the right idea, do what Larry suggests. Draw rational boundaries and then aggregate data to rational units.

    We discuss this in Chapters 15, 16 and 17 also see Lucy and Phillips books (Confronting ‘Sub’urban Decline.)

    Larry we address the gross problem of “Best places…” in Chapter 19 Box 5.


  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m waiting on the – “The 10 worst places to live and why you should not live there” chapter…

    when is that due out?

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    from: Kiplingers:

    Criteria for Our Best Cities Picks

    “Our Best Cities for every life stage were chosen with customization in mind. We think you’ll find one that suits your tastes.

    But first, the common themes. The metro areas were all chosen because they have a strong creative class, including scientists, engineers, architects, educators, writers, artists and entertainers. Richard Florida, a professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of The Rise of the Creative Class, has written that such people inject vitality into a city and make it a vibrant place to live.

    [ I thought EMR would appreciate the irony here ]

    Other common criteria include job growth, per-capita income growth and measures of innovation, such as patents per capita. Key considerations are tolerance and diversity — great indicators that outsiders are welcome.

    [oops.. there goes Prince William]

  13. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Groveton, I finally have a bit of time to answer the question you posed in the second comment above. I agree with the other commenters that you have to be very careful about making the kinds of comparisons you’re making.

    But you make a very important statement here: “Is it possible that the forces that lead to dysfunctional human settlement patterns also lead to economic prosperity?”

    You’re getting “warmer,” as they say in the children’s game. The key forces at work are those that led to “white flight” and then generalized middle-class flight out of the inner cities. What drove people out? Crime. Poor schools. Racism and/or fear of proximity to poor people.

    Those forces did not “create” prosperity. They simply relocated prosperous people to the municipalities outside the core city. Those forces did not create dysfunctional human settlement patterns either. I think it’s fair to say that “suburban” jurisdictions “prospered” despite their dysfunctional human settlement patterns because the aversion to crime/bad schools/etc. was an even stronger force.

    Alexandria is an interesting case. Old Town never embraced dysfunctional human settlement patterns. And, as a result, it has evolved from a pretty run-down urban area in the 50s/60s into one of the most affluent parts of the Washington metro area.

    I think that you’ll find that the “functional” urban neighborhoods will be gentrified because they are worth investing in — people can create desirable places to live there. Poor people will be displaced to the older, dysfunctional areas — often in the “suburbs.” Those areas will decay rapidly. Because they are dysfunctional, no one will ever gentrify them. They will become permanent, low-density slums. Eventually, they may be abandoned.

    That’s my prediction. Let’s see if we live long enough to prove me right or wrong.

  14. Hello, I like your blog very much. There is little I have to say about Disney World. I like it very much. The attractions are awesome. But the thing is that it is quite expensive. For me that is not a problem but what should do not well-off people who have several kids and can not afford a trip there. I saw the same complaints on this great site

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