Hi y’all and welcome to Sunday Reading. Here’s a collection of stuff I found interesting over the week. Please add your links in the comments below.
Whoops, we forgot to build housing. During all the backslapping about the urban renaissance it has become clear that not providing/allowing for housing has crippled the opportunity engine of city living. Marl Gimein, “Why the high cost of big-city living is bad for everyone“, The New Yorker.
With all the advantages of hindsight, it’s hard to believe that anybody didn’t see the skyrocketing cost of housing coming in New York and San Francisco (and other cities around the globe like London, Singapore, and Washington, D.C.). But, in fact, for many years the conventional thinking pointed in the opposite direction. Urban planners such as Oppermann saw growing cities as an overcrowded traffic puzzle. Later, it was said that the deterioration of old urban cores would push everyone who could afford it out to “edge cities.” Most recently, we were promised that information tech and the virtual office would make cities largely unnecessary.
The price of the creation of these imperial cities is that they actually provide decreasing opportunities for many of those who already live in them, or for those who move to them and are not already armed with resources, status, and education. Everyone living in New York or San Francisco understands the general contours of this. Artists get pushed out of the center, the middle class gets pushed into the suburbs, and bus riders are asked to make way (literally) for tech workers.
Toby Manhire, “One in three Aucklanders has recently considered quitting Auckland because of house prices – poll”, The Spinoff.
One in three of those surveyed – or 32.2% if you insist on being absolutely precise – answered yes to the question, “Have you in the last two years considered moving away from Auckland because of house prices?” A further 36.3% selected the option, “No, but it’s a good idea”, and the remaining 31.5% said it’s not something they’d considered.
Like parking management reform, there is an urgent need to reform antiquate zoning laws. This story introduces the excellent term “opportunity hoarding”- Richard V. Reeves, “How land use regulations are zoning out low-income families“, Brookings.
NIMBYism is motivated by a rational desire to accumulate financial capital by enhancing home values. But for parents, it is also about helping their children accumulate human capital by controlling access to local schools. According to Jonathan Rothwell, there is a strong link between zoning and educational disparities. Homes near good elementary schools are more expensive: about two and half times as much as those near the poorer-performing schools. But in metropolitan areas with more restrictive zoning, this gap is even wider. Loosening zoning regulations would reduce the housing cost gap and therefore narrow the school test-score gap by 4 to 7 percentiles, Rothwell finds.
Here’s one of the many recent breaking stories on driverless vehicles. This sleek box has a top speed of 10kph. Even something like this would need to be located on a direct, fixed route to make any sense. It does have the capability to wander around to pick people up if you’re into a hellish airport shuttle experience. Alison DeNisco, “Driverless bus hits the streets in Finland, could revolutionize public transportation“, Tech Republic.
Residents of Helsinki, Finland will soon be used to the sight of buses with no drivers roaming the city streets. One of the world’s first autonomous bus pilot programs has begun in the Hernesaari district, and will run through mid-September.
The robotic buses could be used in addition to existing public transportation options in the future, Santamala said. “Their purpose is to supplement but not to replace it,” he added. “For example, the goal could be to use them as a feeder service for high-volume bus or metro traffic… In other words, the mini-bus would know when the connecting service is coming and it would get you there on time.”
In compiling this list of links, I set out NOT to include anything on parking. Auckland may be peerless with its rapid adoption of progressive parking reforms. While not perfect, and definitely far from over, the major battles have been won. At the final hour, I came across this article and couldn’t resist the urge for this “next level” parking content.
Stephen Joseph, “Why other cities should copy Nottingham’s revolutionary parking levy“, CityMetric.
Nottingham City Transport..has implemented a levy on workplace parking spaces, the money from which goes towards transport projects in the city.
The results are becoming clear to see. Public transport use, already high, has now nudged above 40 per cent of journeys in the city, a very high percentage for the UK.
The wider economic impacts are perhaps more interesting: all the predictions of loss of jobs and businesses have proved unfounded. (In fact, the genesis of this piece was a comment on these pages that Nottingham had grown when many similar cities had shrunk.) Recent statistics show jobs growth in Nottingham has been faster than other cities, while traffic congestion has fallen. The levy, with the other measures, has also helped Nottingham reach its carbon reduction target a few years early.
Although every city is different, there might be some wider lessons here. One, for the transport economist geeks, might be to stop obsessing with congestion charging. Efficient in economic theory though this might be, Nottingham looked at it and decided that it would be very costly – all those cameras and enforcement – and would not target peak hour traffic jams and single-occupancy car commuting as effectively as the levy would.
Have a great Sunday.