The Saints’ Long March

For most of their history, the New Orleans Saints have actually been the worst franchise in American sports history [1] – though that didn’t stop me from becoming a die-hard fan. The Saints didn’t even have their first winning season for twenty years after joining the NFL, and didn’t win their first playoff game until 2000, 33 years after inception. With the current season offering long-suffering Saints fans their best ever shot at a Super Bowl and a championship, I thought I’d take a look back at how far today’s Saints have come, in graphs:

This graph, showing the Saints winning percentage by decade, makes the progress more obvious:

With the incredible (still going!) season that the Saints are having, we have closed out our first winning decade! This is a far cry from the 60’s and 70’s teams that typically won 3 games a season. Here’s to establishing a tradition of winning in New Orleans, starting in Miami this year!

[1] On what grounds do I, a loyal Saints fan, categorize the Saints as the worst franchise in sports for most of their history? For starters, the Saints were the last team in the NFL to win a single playoff game (exluding the Texans, whose history is only eight seasons long). When looking at other sports, consider that even the Los Angeles Clippers have been to the postseason as many times as the Saints, and they did it in fewer seasons.

All data for the graphs can be found here.

List of Metro Areas By Cost Effectiveness (Adjusted Income)

How cost-effective is your city? More precisely, how well does your hometown rank in median income when incomes are adjusted for the local cost of living? This combination of qualities can be thought of as the “cost-effectiveness” of a city, as measured by adjusting income for cost of living. A number of news sources produce “best cities” lists, and Kiplinger Magazine’s list enables a simple calculation of cost-effectiveness, since it publishes both median income and a cost-of-living index for each city [1]. The ranking of the 50 largest cities in the US by cost-effectiveness (median income / cost of living) is provided below:

Metro Area Cost of Living Index [2]
Median Household Income Adjusted Income [3]
1. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 0.94 57307 60965
2. Indianapolis-Carmel, IN 0.88 52607 59781
3. St. Louis, MO-IL 0.87 51713 59440
4. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 1.38 81163 58814
5. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 0.92 53748 58422
6. Austin-Round Rock, TX 0.94 54827 58327
7. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 0.89 51685 58073
8. Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 0.9 51926 57696
9. Denver-Aurora, CO 1.01 58039 57464
10. Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN 0.88 49979 56794
11. Kansas City, MO-KS 0.95 53564 56383
12. Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC 0.92 51702 56198
13. Salt Lake City, UT 0.98 55064 56188
14. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 1.03 57831 56147
15. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 1.14 63866 56023
16. Columbus, OH 0.94 51687 54986
17. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 1.19 64989 54613
18. Jacksonville, FL 0.94 51269 54541
19. Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 1 54299 54299
20. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 1.14 61740 54158
21. Richmond, VA 1.05 56277 53597
22. Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 1 53593 53593
23. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 1 52857 52857
24. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 1.37 72059 52598
25. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1.58 82664 52319
26. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI 1.13 58946 52165
27. Birmingham-Hoover, AL 0.9 46667 51852
28. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 1.29 66870 51837
29. Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN 0.89 46095 51792
30. Memphis, TN-MS-AR 0.86 44495 51738
31. Baltimore-Towson, MD 1.21 62524 51673
32. Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA 1.15 58480 50852
33. Orlando-Kissimmee, FL 0.98 49789 50805
34. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 1.02 51669 50656
35. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 1.21 60964 50383
36. Rochester, NY 0.99 49508 50008
37. San Antonio, TX 0.93 46203 49681
38. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 1.1 54442 49493
39. Oklahoma City, OK 0.89 43652 49047
40. Pittsburgh, PA 0.92 44814 48711
41. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY 0.93 44747 48115
42. Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH 0.99 47600 48081
43. Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA 1.16 54064 46607
44. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 1.32 60970 46189
45. Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA 1.17 53935 46098
46. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 0.99 45243 45700
47. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 1.23 54991 44708
48. New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA 1.06 45802 43209
49. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 1.42 56680 39915
50. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 1.2 47527 39606

Atlanta tops the list, followed by Indianapolis, St. Louis, Washington D.C., and Dallas. Rounding out the top 10 are Austin, Houston, Cincinnati, Denver, and Nashville. What city holds the unfortunate designation of being least cost-effective? Miami/Ft. Lauderdale is dead last, with Los Angeles, New Orleans, Orange County (California), and Tampa/St. Petersburg all in the bottom 5.

It clearly pays to live in Atlanta or the other top cities, as higher incomes and lower costs translate into a higher quality of life or simply greater net savings. The cities at the bottom of the list generally suffer from high real estate prices and rental costs coupled with lower median incomes.

[1] Here’s the full spreadsheet of data from including 300+ metro areas.

[2] The Cost of Living Index in’s original list is set so that the average cost of living in the US is 100. Here I have divided the Kiplinger index by 100 so that it can be more easily used in the Adjusted Income calculation.

[3] The Adjusted Income, or cost-effectiveness, is calculated by simply dividing a city’s median income by its cost of living (when the cost of living is a ratio centered around 1 as discussed above).

New Orleans, Build Upward

To the extent that any development in New Orleans makes sense, vertical development makes sense. New Orleans historically was a narrow sliver of a city curving along the banks of the Mississippi, where the only liveable high ground in the city was to be found. Historical neighborhoods like the French Quarter, Warehouse District, Faubourg Marigny, and Central Business District are thus densely developed areas with a majority of structures possessing multiple floors. Even Uptown New Orleans, a primarily residential area, possesses many multi-family homes and multi-floor homes built on relatively compact lots.

Why then are so many in neighborhoods across New Orleans and the metro area fighting vertical development? As developers trot out plans for high rise condominium and apartment buildings as a means to rapidly increase the housing supply, many neighborhood groups and even the city council are fighting to curtail growth. But what other options exist in a city that has an average elevation somewhere between zero and ten feet below sea level? High rise towers provide a much greater level of protection to residents and their property; many living in existing modern high rises experienced relatively little property damage even from Katrina. Since downtown New Orleans predates the automobile era, it also possesses human-sized blocks perfect for dense, pedestrian friendly redevelopment.

While the historical character of New Orleans’ architecture should be preserved in redevelopment, many projects are being sidelined due to height restrictions, minimum parking requirements, and other zoning restrictions. But if New Orleans is to accelerate the recovery and redevelopment process, its politicians and citizens will have to accept that higher density development is the only viable route forward. Vertical development can help minimize the threat posed by future storms while rapidly increasing the area’s housing stock. Let’s hope that the powers that be accept this and move projects to fruition with the expediency that true recovery dictates.

When the Saints go marching in…

Today a regular season game will be played at the Louisiana Superdome, and we Saints fans will be watching with excitement since our team is 2-0. Amazingly, the New Orleans Saints have issued over a thousand press credentials, in a sign that tonight’s game is about much more than football. Over $185 million has been spent to renovate the Dome and to erase the memories of the weeks following August 29, 2005.

The Saints’ return to the their home field and the relatively quick turnaround of the Superdome stands in contrast to the condition of many surrounding neighborhoods. While reconstruction has begun, most observers have been appalled at the speed of progress and lack of a cohesive redevelopment plan. But in individual instances, where the political will coalesced, significant progress has been made: in politics, New Orleans’ archaic systems of seven real estate assessors and two clerks of court are being consolidated, while in business the Port of New Orleans is back near 100% of pre-Katrina shipping volume.

The progress with the Superdome and the accompanying media frenzy will be good for New Orleans, and give it a chance to put a more positive image in front of viewers nationwide. To be sure, the rebuilding has just begun, and New Orleans’ familiar plagues of crime and corruption seem to have returned faster than most residents. New Orleans will likely emerge a smaller city; as one of the smallest NFL markets, the Saints’ long term commitment to the area remains an open question. But for one night at least (and hopefully all season!), the Saints will bring excitement and positive energy back to the city – and who can blame us Saints fans for dropping everything else to get caught up in it?