Welcome back to Sunday Reading. First, here is a bit of housekeeping. After a wild ride our fundraising drive reached it’s goal yesterday. Thanks to all who contributed. Over the next couple of week we will begin fulfilling the rewards including the CFN 2.0 poster. As a reminder we will be launching the CFN 2.0 on Monday morning.

It still amazes me to hear stories about companies that provide free parking to employees and offer nothing comparable for the people that don’t drive. No doubt many of these same companies have sustainability initiatives like printing on both side of the paper or composting coffee grounds. “Parking cash outs” are a simple and proven way to change travel behaviour and fairly compensate all employees.

Donald Shoup, “Here’s an easy way to fight L.A.’s traffic and boost transit ridership — reward commuters who don’t drive“, Los Angeles Times.

In 1992, California enacted legislation requiring that employers who subsidize parking for commuters must also offer them the option to take an equivalent cash allowance instead of the parking subsidy. Called “parking cash out,” the law applies to employers who have 50 or more employees and who rent the parking spaces they provide free or below cost to drivers. When a commuter takes the cash, the employer saves the expense of a parking space.

Parking cash out increases the share of commuters who carpool, ride public transit, walk or bike to work. Studies of employers in Southern California who offer parking cash out found that for every 100 commuters offered the cash option, 13 solo drivers shifted to another travel mode. Of those 13 former solo drivers, nine joined carpools, three began to ride public transit and one began to walk or bike to work. Overall, the share of commuters who drove to work alone fell from 76% before the cash option to 63% afterward.

Speaking of parking, Anne Gibson (NZ Herald) reports on the planning and design for The Pacifica Tower – “Who’s behind NZ’s tallest apartment tower?“. They will be building carparks for only half of the units, and they wont be excavating for car parking, but will sleeve it in above ground behind a hotel. Cars will placed behind one another to save space, and a valet service will retrieve cars. In addition to saving a lot of space this will likely speed up construction. Also, it’s interesting to consider how people will might be using their cars. Since so many people that live in the city walk to work, the cars will be used infrequently, making the valet service less of an issue.

Hengyi does not plan to dig deep to create many subterranean parking levels. Instead, the 138 carparks for the 295-unit block will be above-ground, behind the new hotel planned for the lower levels, Scott says.

“We don’t need to go into the ground. The only excavation work will be for piling,” she says.

Carparks will be tandem – one vehicle parked behind the other – so a valet service will be offered to provide access to vehicles, she says.

There is a growing discussion about the role that big cities play in the economy and the increasing challenges of access, equity and housing affordability. Most economists agree that forcing decentralisation is a bad idea- Joe Cortright, “Breaking Bad: Why breaking up big cities would hurt America“, City Observatory. The solution is to increase housing choices close to the centre and to provide rapid, reliable, transport that doesn’t disrupt economic activity.

The signal characteristic of our economic recovery is that it has been led and driven by the nation’s large metros. Since the economic peak of the last expansion, large metro areas have accounted for about 87 percent of net new jobs in the US economy. This isn’t because they’ve somehow unfairly monopolized resources, but because the kinds of knowledge-based industries that we depend on to propel economic growth–software, business and professional services, and creative industries–all flourish in dense urban environments. Disperse these industries and you undercut the agglomeration economies that underpin their success.

The economic problem with cities is that we don’t have enough of them, or rather, that its so difficult and expensive to accommodate more people in the places with the highest levels of productivity.  The definitive bit of research on this subject comes from University of California Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti and his University of Chicago colleague Chang-Tai Hsieh, who have estimated how much less productive the US is than it might be if the growth of the most productive metro economies weren’t limited. Their estimate: 13.5 percent of annual GDP, or more than $1.6 trillion annually.

Everyone loves a good Carmageddon story. Last week a fire unexpectedly destroyed a chunk of I-85 in Atlanta that carries 250,000 cars a day. Everyone expected a traffic nightmare. It didn’t materialise- Joe Cortright, “Carmaggedon stalks Atlanta“, City Observatory.

So what’s going on here? Arguably, our mental model of traffic is just wrong. We tend to think of traffic volumes, and trip-making generally as inexorable forces of nature.  The diurnal flow of 250,000 vehicles a day on an urban freeway like I-85 is just as regular and predictable as the tides.What this misses is that there’s a deep behavioral basis to travel. Human beings will shift their behavior in response to changing circumstances. If road capacity is impaired, many people can decide not to travel, change when they travel, change where they travel, or even change their mode of travel. The fact that Carmageddon almost never comes is powerful evidence of induced demand: people travel on roadways because the capacity is available for their trips, when when the capacity goes away, so does much of the trip making.

That’s all for this week. Please leave your links in the comments section.

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  1. That first little video from Chris Kenyon – it implies it is London but is unlike any London I’ve ever seen! Anyone recognise the location? It’s not Canary Wharf, but where else in London would it be?

    1. It’s looking south approximately at the Blackfriars Bridge, where the East-West and North-South cycle superhighways intersect.

    2. A far cry from 20 years ago when the “joke” about London cyclists was they were more likely to die from septicaemia than accidents due to the high number of facial piercings needed to complete their Mad Max look

  2. The economist magazine this week had a great feature article about parking issues. Maybe it can be covered sometime this week in an article if someone has the time. Also great to see the fundraiser suceeded

  3. Interesting that most cyclists in the video are wearing cycle helmets in a country that does not require it by law.

    1. There’s nothing wrong with wearing helmets. By choice I would wear one in most situations. I don’t believe it would ever protect me from a serious head injury, but I’d like the protection against cuts and bruises should I fall. But the point is that it’s my choice. I shouldn’t be forced to.

      1. This observation has nothing to do with the debate whether helmets are worth it or not.
        It is just pointing out the interesting observation that nearly everyone in the video is wearing a helmet in a country that does not mandate it.I would have taken a guess it would be around 30 % wearing helmets.Compare this video to some other countries where most do not wear helmets.

    2. Interesting that the two cyclists killed by trucks this week and the one killed by a truck last month were wearing helmets.

      1. 90% of people killed cycling in NZ are wearing helmets, i.e. the same proportion as the general riding population…

  4. Maybe tower developers should be encouraged to include 2 or 3 subterranian car park levels. Then AC can ban cars from the CBD. and the underground car parks joined up to make new rail tunnels. Especially those over North shore line or CRL2
    So will the fundraiser be an annual or biannual event?

  5. We are in London at the moment and have noticed the increase in cycling since our last visit. There are also a lot of cycle hire stations around the central city. This is a major contribution to wayfaring as they have good maps and area guides. Londoners seem to jay-walk to Olympic standards, and cyclists are (quite rightly) very forthright about their right of way.

  6. “It still amazes me to hear stories about companies that provide free parking to employees and offer nothing comparable for the people that don’t drive.”

    I have never thought about it like that but it’s something I deal with every day working in East Tamaki. I’ve been interviewing recently and one of the things our managers tell every candidate is how great it is to have free parking. I’m one of three people in our building (490 staff) who I know use public transport every day for their commute – guess I’m missing out on that subsidy!

    The South New Network gave us the 31, which consistently runs anything upwards of 10mins late (45mins late on a bad day) and then gets further delayed at Hunters Corner on the way to Papatoetoe station. The 353 has the opposite problem, it seems to run almost uniformly 10 mins early! The 352’s new route has added five minutes to the timetable and it’s now taking 20mins longer to get to East Tamaki from Panmure than it did in November. Makes it very hard to actually predict when you’ll arrive at and leave from work. All that adds up to an average of 2.5hrs a day commuting 13km each way from Kohi to East Tamaki.

    It’s obvious that there’s now a catch-22 in East Tamaki: public transport has been so poor that businesses provide enough parking for everyone – which means that nobody is encouraged to use PT even though the network is improving. How to we change that?

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