I’m an immigrant from the US so the election results have been both disturbing and humbling and have made me reflect on the amount of time I spend both professionally and personally on urban issues. When I first started doing this over 20 years ago, the inside joke was “urbanism can solve tooth decay.” It was our belief our advocacy work at the time- “walkable urbanism”, “land use planning”, “TODs”, etc. could solve an endless list of current concerns including energy supply, air pollution, and farmland depletion. In many ways that debate was largely won. Yay!
We are now in a confounding situation where the most desirable, tolerant big cities are too popular, too successful, both displacing and locking out people. The legacy systems in many cities, including Auckland, have not adapted quickly enough to the unprecedented return to the city or to the wicked challenges of climate change and technological change.
So here are the some of the usual topics I like to write about- housing, density, absurd planning and zoning rules, transport accessibility and options, proximity, and parking, but now with an even greater urgency and focus. Providing access to, and opportunities of the city – the Right to the City – couldn’t be more important.
Laura Foote Clark, “How do we avoid another Trump?“, Medium.
We have chronically under-built housing in and around our booming cities for decades. The effects of this spill out into almost every problem America faces. Culturally, racially, and economically, we have become more physically segregated.
The future is cities. They offer more economic opportunities. They are more environmentally sound. They force us to become more comfortable with difference. Urban migration is a dominant force of our era. And we have been fighting it tooth and nail.
We must create enough housing to make this urban future available for everyone. Either we stop living in isolation with like-minded neighbors or this country will break.
Stranger Staff, “The Resistance: How to Defeat Donald Trump’s Plot Against America“, The Stranger.
THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISM
Look out the window of your micro-apartment or new town house or aging wood-shingled home. Look at the faces of the people sitting with you in the cafe, or bar, or free clinic lobby, or library. Look across the aisle of the bus, or subway, or light rail train you’re riding. Look at the drivers stuck in freeway traffic with you. Look at the young and old of all colors and creeds who share this city with you, some sleeping, not far from you, under tarps and highway overpasses.
You live inside a machine that has been killing fascism for a long time. Think of the countless refugees from rural America, people who might otherwise have grown up to be Trump voters, who moved to your city and were changed.
Christopher Hawthorne, “Bucking national trend, L.A. voters enthusiastically embrace a more urban future“, The Los Angeles Times.
Still, the idea that L.A.’s core identity is wrapped up in the car and the single-family house — a notion that has been both crumbling and rather desperately defended by nostalgic readings of the city in recent years — took the sort of hit from which it may never recover. This is especially true given the margins Tuesday, with Measure M’s 69.8% support surpassing even the 67.2% that an earlier transit tax, Measure R, gained in 2008 and Measure LV winning just 43.8% of the vote in Santa Monica.
This is perhaps the most important message sent by voters Tuesday: The Los Angeles dominated by the single-family subdivision and the freeway overpass is not some permanent, fixed city. It was preceded by a different kind of city, one deeply reliant on mass transit and active in building cooperative and multifamily housing. The results on Tuesday suggest there is little doubt now it will be replaced by a noticeably different kind of city as well.
This emerging city — which I have referred to as the Third Los Angeles, following the prewar First L.A. of the streetcar and the bungalow court and the Second L.A. of the freeway, the concrete-lined river and the glamorous detachment of the single-family house — will continue to be challenged and even attacked by supporters of what for many powerful people in Los Angeles has been a remarkably generous status quo.
Chris Buntlett, “Six Things City Builders Can Surmise from the 2016 U.S. Election“, Modacity.
2. Think Outside the Echo Chamber
Another conclusion we can reach after this election cycle is that both our personal and professional circles – online and in real life – are becoming increasingly self-reinforcing and self-congratulatory. As we continue to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals, and algorithms feed us with the news and ideas that strengthen existing world views, breaking out of those echo chambers has become practically impossible.
Moving forward, the great challenge will be to stop preaching to the converted, and start thinking bigger and more creatively to get outside of our existing feedback loops. Not only will this help to spread our concepts and messages to a broader audience, but also challenge us to think differently about the problems we face as a society, taking a diverse range of perspectives and backgrounds into consideration.
“After accounting for the fact that highly productive industries are over-represented in Auckland, Auckland firms produce 13.5 percent more goods and services with the same labour than firms in other urban areas, and 11.3 percent more than firms in rural areas,” said Dave Maré, Senior Fellow at Motu.
“Reflecting the higher average skills of workers in Auckland, firms there pay 12.1 percent more per employee than do firms in other urban areas. Labour prices are only slightly lower in Wellington,” said Dr Maré.
As an immigrant myself, I’m in no doubt that if New Zealand is not “the place where talent wants to live”, it’s certainly very high on the list (and probably rising, after Brexit and Trump). But when that talent arrives they’ll be shocked to find that our clean green image is a fantasy, our rates of infectious diseases are diabolical and our housing market so overheated that families are living in their cars. And despite all the evidence it’s a bad idea, we continue to rely on exporting dairy as one of our main industries. -Siouxsie Wiles
Nathaniel Popper and Guilbert Gates, “Rebuilding Our Infrastructure“, New York Times.
Infrastructure is an appealing cause because it provides a straightforward way for the government to inject money into the economy and build the foundation for longer term economic growth. But some economists say returns from infrastructure spending are likely to be much less pronounced than they were in the past, in part because the highest yielding infrastructure is already in place.
Economists have provided vastly different estimates on how much infrastructure spending can be relied on to generate long-term economic growth. All sides, though, agree that the outcome depends in large part on the particular timing and location of the spending. In an earlier era, for instance, new roads vastly expanded the opportunities available to American businesses. Nowadays, spending on highways appears to come with significantly lower returns.
Our friend Kylie’s artwork above was inspired by some awful experiences. Here is some wider media on road hostility and other barriers to cycling. This does not present a very attractive picture of Sydney, in particular for people wanting to walk or cycle.
Gary Maddox, “Tour de France winner Cadel Evans finds cycling in Sydney too intimidating“, The Sydney Morning Herald.
“I’m not intimidated to ride in many places but Sydney is one of them,” he said.
While the narrowness of streets, volume of traffic, poor cycling infrastructure and distance from the CBD to good riding areas were factors, Evans said there was just too little respect on the roads.
Jacob Saulwick , “Heavy fines and stalled bike paths blamed for drop in Sydney cycling rates“, The Sydney Morning Herald.
Until about a year ago, the state government had a target of doubling the number of trips made in Sydney by bicycle. But the government scrapped that target last September – and, in the meantime, cycling rates have remained below where they were in 2013 and 2014.
“Kids these days and their precious iPads. Why don’t they go outside?”
Yeah I wonder why? pic.twitter.com/FFjk6zweOj
— Edmond Chui (@EdmondChuiHW) October 25, 2016
Since the 1980s, the proportion of children being dropped off in a car has doubled to nearly 55 per cent. With it has come worsened air pollution, greater congestion, and increased danger as more kids are involved in road accidents. Worse, it has undermined community cohesion. Schools can sometimes be reduced to faceless institutions where parents and teachers don’t know each other, rather than the hearts of our communities that they can and should be.
We know people are busy so, with the support of giveaways from Micro Scooters, we’re encouraging families to choose one day a week when they and their kids walk, scoot, cycle, even ride a horse if that’s what works for you!
We’re backing schools to set up walking buses and other solutions, with parents and volunteers helping local kids get to class safely.