Welcome back to Sunday Reading. Here’s a collection of interesting articles/links I’ve comes across over the last week. Please post your links in the comments section.
In most growing, dense cities, housing affordability is becoming as serious economic concern. Conor Sen of WinkBlog calls it the “The biggest business story of the next five years“.
The bigger business story over the next five years is, however, going to be something different: a capacity-constrained U.S. economy where the housing sector is taking “inputs,” like labor and capital, from all other sectors. Housing is set to eat the U.S. economy.
Housing eating the U.S. economy” implies that housing is going to steal your inputs. They’re coming for your workers and capital on the supply side. It’s a different dynamic but a similar outcome — housing is poised to reassert itself as the main driver of the U.S. economy.
Here Jarrett Walker describes how the interdependence of regional transport networks is often lost in the debate over investing in the city centre vs the edge. The CRL comes to mind. Interesting too how many major projects are underway or being investigated to close gaps in rail networks. Jarrett Walker, Core vs. Edge Debates in Public Transit, Human Transit.
In just about every North American regional transit debate I’ve ever been involved in, someone has said: “Why is all this money being spent on transit downtown! Downtown already has lots of transit, while out here in ___, we have nothing!”
Once you learn to recognize it, you’ll see this theme in city after city. Missing links like Vancouver’s are an extreme example. More common is a persistent disinvestment in the core parts of a network even though people from the whole region rely on those parts. Many big city transit networks end up massively overcrowded and failing at the center even as the political pressure is all about extending further toward the edge.
Alan Davies, “Should cycling get a huge increase in funding?” Crikey (The Urbanist).
Cycling has real potential to deal with one of the biggest challenges in inner and middle ring suburbs experiencing increases in population density from redevelopment; providing mobility without congestion.
We know that in the right circumstances cycling can win a very large share of all trips. For example, it’s used for circa 40% of trips in Amsterdam where its mode share is larger than either private transport or public transport. There are reasons why it’d be hard for our cities to reach that sort of mode share but, given the right infrastructure and regulatory environment, we should be able to do much better than we’re doing now.
Over the last couple years I’ve been tracking the demise of the anti-urban, counterproductive measurement (and resulting mitigation) of traffic congestion known as LOS. California has officially dumped the metric and many cities are joining suit. Here’s a good primer on the issues by Stephen Lee Davis, “California officially dumped the outdated “level of service” metric — your state should too“, T4AMERICABLOG.
California made a small but crucial change to how they measure the performance of their streets in 2013, shifting away from a narrow focus on moving as many cars as fast as possible and taking a more holistic view and measuring a street’s performance against a broader list of other important goals.
The movement is catching on in Seattle now. Irvin Darwid, “Seattle May Follow San Francisco in Tossing Conventional Level of Service Standards“, Planetizen.
Currently, level of service (LOS) is measured using the auto-centric volume/capacity (v/c) ratio, “but using it to measure system performance does not help achieve the Comprehensive Plan’s goal ‘…to safely and efficiently connect and move people and goods to their destinations’,”
Seattle has limited ability to increase the capacity of the street system, and it effectively means there are few practical remedies for a situation where the ratio is exceeded except through significant capital investment or changing the standard. [Hence, change the standard!]
And the new standard:
The City will measure LOS based on single occupant vehicle (SOV) mode share, as it focuses on increasing people-moving capacity by reducing travel that is occurring via the least space-efficient mode during the most congested period of the day.
By shifting travel from SOVs to more efficient modes operating on less-congested transportation networks, Seattle will allow more people to travel in the same amount of space…
Here’s more evidence of the urban inversion/return-to-the-city (at least as it relates to the startup economy). Richard Florida, “Startups and Venture Capital Are Going Urban” CITYLAB.
Ultimately, our analysis reveals two big takeaways. The first is that more than half of all startup neighborhoods are urban, with 57 percent of startup companies and 54 percent of venture-capital investments located in urban ZIP codes. The second is that startup neighborhoods have considerably greater shares of commuters who walk, bike, or take transit to work. The share of workers who do so is nearly twice as high in neighborhoods with venture-capital-backed startups compared to the national average (16.6 versus 8.4 percent). In fact, a third of all venture-capital investment is located in neighborhoods with more than 30 percent of workers who walk, bike, or use transit when commuting, and more than a quarter of it is located in neighborhoods where more than half of workers do so.
Ride hail services will allow more people in the dense, transit-supportive cities to go car free. This will in turn support wider public transport usage. Ryan Grenoble explains what is obvious to most people in a city: “The Biggest Beneficiary Of Ride-Hailing Services Might Be Public Transit“, Huffington Post.
But the Morgan Stanley report cites research from the University of California, Berkeley, saying that many of those trips — taken when public transit is prohibitively inconvenient — would have otherwise been made in privately owned cars. And if a significant number of car owners turn to ride-hailing full-time (which might or might not happen), people will be more inclined to take public transit, the Morgan Stanley report predicts. “It has the potential to dissuade users from relying on single-occupancy car trips,” the authors write, “which in turn is consistent with greater reliance on transit.”
Public Address has been posting fascinating stories from Uber driver Ben Wilson. In “Confessions of an Uber Driver II: How we doing?” Wilson describes the conditions of work and the low pay.
So, since I can’t fill you with data goodness just yet, I’ll just give you my n=1 data, which is all that most of us have, since we’ve never been organized as a group before. My own long run average hourly rate for working pretty much only the dodgiest busiest hours on offer has been $27 paid out before costs. Taking off 15% GST, 5% for my PSL, 20% for the cost of gas and maintenance, we’re down to $17.56/hour before any fixed costs.
Then there’s compliance costs, insurance and depreciation costs on top of all that. I can’t even break those down to an hour rate at this point, but my best guess is coming to an hourly rate of around $14 before tax. I have a particularly cheap car, so my insurance and depreciation costs are much less than would be normal. I would be surprised if anyone leasing a newish vehicle was getting much more than $10/hour before tax.
And finally here is an interesting photo essay exploring the Waltham suburb in Christchurch. Phillip Matthews, “Waltham: Christchurch’s forgotten suburb“, Stuff.
Waltham is not just a small suburb, it also feels neglected. When Brougham St was widened in the 1980s, becoming a state highway to the Lyttelton port, the suburb was cut in two and left without a centre. It can be hard to work out where Waltham is, exactly.