Hi, and welcome back to Sunday Reading. A while back someone in the comments section called me out for not including any articles by or about women. Indeed, this is often the case. The urbanism conversation is male defined and dominated. We are working on making the conversation and the communication here inclusive and accessible to more people. We will keep you posted on this.

In case you missed it, a new group called Women in Urbanism has formed in Auckland. They are passionate about cities and ensuring they meet the needs of women as well as our most vulnerable.

Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog has create a public Twitter list of “Urbanist Women“.

Here’s Alysa Walker’s take on the gentrification story that is almost universally defined by men- “Mansplaining the city“, Curbed.

Sure, women do figure into the books; there’s the requisite chapter on Jane Jacobs, cameos by community organizers and housing advocates (women are always relegated to these roles), and anecdotes featuring the authors’ own wives and partners. A handful of women—like Sharon Zukin, whose book Naked City was one of the first to address gentrification in New York City, and Saskia Sassen, a sociologist and expert in urban migration—are reliably and repeatedly quoted across the manuscripts. But as I flipped through the books again, I was dismayed to discover that nearly all the studies cited are by men. Almost all of the experts interviewed are men. (It should be noted that two of the books offer at least slightly different perspectives: Moskowitz is gay, and Hill is African American.)

As I zoomed out and looked at my own media diet on the topic, it got worse. Much of the content I consume daily about city-making is written and distributed by men (including all but two of the articles and books I’ve linked to above). I see it at the conferences I attend. On the panels I participate in. In the Facebook groups I join. Even at the meetings where the decisions about neighborhoods are being made.

The irony is shattering. A group of very white, very loud men have confirmed that they are, indeed, the problem when it comes to our cities, and now the conversation about how to fix them is mostly being conducted by very white, very loud men—who happen to be very active on social media.

There have been a lot of very serious people providing hot takes on the viability of the Airport – Dominion Road – City Centre light rail proposal. Here’s a funny compilation Matt prepared on John Roughan’s transport misses,  “Roughan confirms LRT Success“, Greater Auckland.

Roughan rubbishing LRT is great as he’s proven to be one of the best reverse barometers we have for public transport so if he thinks a PT investment will flop it means it will be fantastic. Just take a look at some of his previous predictions.

What are the impacts of congestion pricing on the poor? Here Michael Manville raises an interesting question about the assumption that status quo of car dependency, unpriced and congested roads is fair. “Is congestion pricing fair to the poor?“, Medium.

Further, arguing that congestion pricing isn’t fair implicitly assumes that the status quo is fair. But that’s not obvious. It’s easy to think of free roads as a subsidy for the poor, but it’s more accurate to call them a subsidy for the affluent that some poor people are able to enjoy. Driving is expensive: it requires a car, gas, insurance, registration, maintenance, and so on. All of these are easier for the affluent than the poor to afford, and as a result, the affluent drive much more than the poor. This means that the benefits of free roads accrue disproportionately to wealthy people. Free roads function like a matching grant for drivers: the more money people can invest in driving, the more benefit they get from unpriced streets. If, conversely, you can’t afford to drive at all, free roads don’t help you.

Last week Matt wrote a great post on the idea that people not using company subsidised parking should be given the same benefit via a cash pay out.  “Cashout your parking – a free election policy for the taking“, Greater Auckland.

Basically, many employers provide parking for employees, either paying for it directly or using the space it is often a result of minimum parking requirements. The law requires large employers to give you the choice of subsidised parking or extra cash in hand of an equivalent value. This obviously removes a subsidy for those who choose to drive and offers a financial incentive for people to try other forms of transport.

I’m a big fan of policy tools that can nudge people into the desired behaviour change. Many of these these tools are “surprisingly easy” as some companies found in Seattle by simply changing how parking is priced. David Gutman, “The not-so-secret trick to cutting solo car commutes: Charge for parking by the day“, The Seattle Times.

The single most important factor in changing employees’ commuting habits is having an employer that cares about changing those habits, said Sohier Hall, the CEO of Luum, a Seattle-based company that makes software to help employers manage commuting programs.

In that, with the Commute Trip Reduction program, Seattle (and Washington) are already a step ahead of many areas, Hall said. Once an employer has bought in to caring how its employees commute, parking policy is most important, Hall said.

And they started charging, $15 a day, for parking.

“If you had a monthly parking spot, there’s no way you would randomly take the bus or do something else one day because that’s kind of a waste,” said Becky Masters, Delta Dental’s director of compensation and benefits. “It honestly has been such a surprisingly easy transition from a transportation perspective.”

After about two months at the new location, Delta Dental’s drive-alone rate has plunged to about 16 percent, Masters said, and more than half of those 80 parking spaces typically sit empty.

Here’s a fascinating look at how transport technology and human behaviour shapes cities. “Why Even the Hyperloop Probably Wouldn’t Change Your Commute Time“, New York Times.

The curious stability of the half-hour average commute means that when bullet trains – or autonomous vehicles, or whatever innovation comes next – link two places by that much tome, they won’t just open up plausible new weekend getaways and airline alternatives, They will also potentially restructure daily like: where people live, what jobs they hold, how they expand over time.

People priced out of Brooklyn could move to Baltimore. Congressional aides would commute to Philadelphia. Whole cities – and labour and housing markets – would fuse together.

The law of the 30-minute commute is known as Marchetti’s constant. named after the physicist Cesare Marchetti, a mentor to Mr. Ausubel. Mr Marchetti pciked up the work of Yacov Zahavi, a transportation engineer who theorized in the 1970’s and ’80s that people have a fixed travel-time budget. We allocate part of our day to getting around. And that amount, about an hour, Mr. Zahavi argued, holds steady no matter where we live or how we travel.

The Urbanphile, “Driverless Cars and the Return of the Auto-Centric Mindset“, Aaron Renn,

I’ve warned before that cities could easily end up making the same mistake with driverless cars that they made with ordinary cars. Namely, taking a good technology and elevating it above its place to become the central organizing principle of cities.

Here’s how it works: A hot new technology comes along. Cities are desperate to be the leader in it. City leaders worry about “falling behind” in driverless cars. City leaders worry that their city will be perceived as hostile to innovation and tech, and that if they blow it on driverless cars, the tech economy will pass them by. (You have seen this argument made before already with Uber and Lyft). The result: cities compete with each other to prostrate themselves before the driverless car.

Th epicentre of tech and autonomous vehicle industries can’t seem to figure out how to build affordable housing close to where people work. Here’s a close look on what that means for one person commuting in to the Bay Area from Stockton. Conor Dougherty, “A 2:15 Alarm, 2 Trains and a Bus Ger Her to work by 7 A.M.“, New York Times.

Long commutes are a byproduct of the region’s tech boom, which has given rise to a full blown housing crisis. As home prices have escalated beyond middle-class reach, areas far inland have become an oasis of (relative) affordability. Ms. James wakes up in a city where the median home price is below $300,000, according to the online real estate database company Zillow. Prices rise steadily along her commute until she gets off her last train in San Francisco, where a typical home costs more than $1 million.

That’s it for this week. Please leave your links in the comments below.

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41 comments

  1. I went to a Transport evening in Wellington recently, organised by Congestion Free Wellington, and one impassioned woman got up to say much the same as your first story – “A group of very white, very loud men have confirmed that they are, indeed, the problem when it comes to our cities, and now the conversation about how to fix them is mostly being conducted by very white, very loud men—who happen to be very active on social media”. I took that as a fair comment, and decided not to speak. There were women there as well as men, but of the remaining people that rose to speak that night, they were all men.

    It is a serious problem, not just one of white males, but essentially one of “people who already have things” dictating to those who have little. The white male middle-class Councillors who already have a car or two, dictating to the people there without cars, about how there needed to be traffic solutions for vehicles “on all sides, on all sides…”

    1. Isn’t it something to do with human psychology? We all expend more effort trying to keep something than trying to get something. For example it is easier to persuade workers to forego a pay rise than to get them to accept a pay cut.
      You point is clear but adding in the ‘male’ and ‘white’ becomes a little risky not because it isn’t true (at least I assume so in Wellington) but because any reversal of terms may be inflammatory.

      1. Aaah, but Bob – the reason I mentioned white and male, were because the room was entirely white, and mainly male. That may be because if you post flyers for a meeting about Congestion Free, and the people who turn up are mainly one socio-economic group, whose concern is centred around that… But it is interesting – and slightly sad – that this topic appeals more to males than to women. I was seated next to 2 councillors from the local councils – one male, one female – and only the man spoke, not the woman. Or was it because only the National Party councillor spoke, and the Green party councillor did not speak? Same thing – same people – depends which way you want to present it I guess.

        1. Which begs the question of what the flyers should say.

          “Public Transport: How Young and Old Can Access their City”

          “Mothers in the 21st Century: Emancipation from Taxi Driver to Riders in their Own Right”

          “PULL OVER, CARS! Public Pressure Needed to Win Access to our City for the Ageing Population, the Young, the Disabled, and All Those Who Care For Them”

          “TRANSPORT: How the Road Lobby is Ruining Your Life, Your Opportunities, and the Future for All”

          Just thought I’d throw a few ideas out there… 🙂

        2. Sounds rather sad and very old fashioned. In Auckland North Shore at public meetings you mainly get the middle-aged the elderly and a couple of young professional politicians. But at least speakers are at least 50% female.

  2. I was hoping we in NZ could avoid all the identity politics stuff from the US. I guess the US is just to powerful of a cultural force for us to not follow. I think we are on the brink of a general consensus here in NZ of things like CFN 2.0 and the Regional Rapid Rail to get sidetracked about the colour of the skin of the persons who came up with the idea.

    1. Adrian – that’s a fair comment – ideas are completely separate from the colour of the person who comes up with them – but the issue is (to me) more about the background of the person making it, giving them insights into issues that a mono-cultural group might not otherwise have considered. As a broad, generalised example, if you only get the opinion of someone who drives to work, you’re not going to have them understand that there may be issues about where the local bus stops are, or where the places are that children get beaten up on the way to and from school. That, to me, is why the discussion needs to be far broader than just males. Or just traffic engineers. Or just train enthusiasts. Hope that helps to understand where this push is coming from.

      1. I agree with difference of thought being important and experiences will have a major role in that. However, skin colour or sex won’t necessary produce that per se. An alpha woman is probably not going to think that much different to an alpha man. For example, I take the bus to work in the city each day and, therefore, will have a different experience that a woman who drives to work each day. But the difference is experience rather than sex. If we want different viewpoints then we have to make sure we actually get different ones rather than just the speaker being a different sex or skin colour.

        1. “But the difference is experience rather than sex. ”

          But the difference may well be as a result of sex/gender. For all you know the only reason that woman doesn’t catch the bus is that she fears being assaulted in the unlit walkway to her local bus stop. It’s important to get input from the 50% of the population who are female because a city that doesn’t work for that many people won’t work at all.

          1. But surely people can actually understand other people’s needs and wants even if – shock horror – they don’t belong to the same exact classification?

            Gosh, I can even tell what my cat wants/needs and I’m a completely different species.

          2. It is not a matter of understanding, it is a matter of generating.

            Take, for instance, an average heighted person and a tall person. Their worlds are actually really different. For instance, there are a lot of dickheads in Auckland who always pass comment on the latter’s height but never say zip about the former’s. These people are going to have different ideas about the attractiveness of encouraging public conversation. You see that immediately? Similarly, the tall person is probably going to be annoyed at how priority seating works in our PT vehicles… they /can’t/ sit down anywhere but the priority seats, but they’re not a priority seating class of person (disabled, elderly, person with child(ren), pregnant). The average person can sit anywhere, and does. (And depending on the vehicle. standing might not be an option either.)

            The difference is, I agree, from experience, but any possible way of splitting up people will affect their experiences. Women are probably less likely to see toilets as being spaces designed to reflect anatomy because a sanitary bin is a less permanent installation than a urinal. Men are probably less likely to think twice about going through parks at night because we spend all our time talking about men as perpetrators rather than victims.People who never walk anywhere, are probably not going to think about fencing off access to the Pukekohe Warehouse carpark to the train station because they never make that journey. People who only use cars, probably don’t think about how frustrating it is to be on a bus that can’t manage to get back into traffic.

            Yet, if you develop some sort of forum where people can offer different points of view, often you do find that people can intellectually appreciate the insight. And, often, one finds this requires specific groups because otherwise it’s a bit like trying to have a celebration of the opening of Waterview in the Pukekohe shuttle trains. Sure, people who care about Waterview can be there, but in the general course of life they’re doing other things than catching that shuttle. You’ve got to get the people whose views you want in a place where they’ll share those views via a means that they’ll respond to.

            And, of course, one has to allow for a certain amount of parochialism and mistrust. Sometimes people have contradictory experiences where both are actually true and valid, and in such situations I think it entirely reasonable to be a bit sticky when it comes to one’s own views. Indeed, I feel that if you start a conversation with the presumption someone will behave in a particular way it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (both because they adapt to your expectations, and you read their behaviour through the internal model you have of them). It’s a bind, for sure.

            This is why I don’t like terms like “mansplaining” or “manspreading” becausethey situate the disagreement/the clash/the problem within a personalising context that, ironically, generally invalidates the personal truths. This only ever leads to retrenchment. Hilariously, I think the reading quote is actually from an outrage title: a quick look through the whole thing reveals a more empathetic tone (which makes sense, this being related to the point of the piece), which presumably wanted to grab the attention. Outrage titles are also something I dislike, but partly that is because I am bad at writing them myself.

          3. “if you develop some sort of forum where people can offer different points of view, often you do find that people can intellectually appreciate the insight”.

            I think there’s a change required in our consultation process to establish a forum like this. Imagine if retailers, customers, drivers, cyclists, children, elderly, employers, under-employed, and people of different cultures could all discuss a concept for the community in a way that they can hear each other. I think this means the design for the concept should not have yet been started, and that whoever is needing to approach the public for feedback does not actually have a particular solution in mind.

            As for the use of terms like “mansplaining”, yes, they are probably most useful in outrage titles. I’ve also seen them used effectively in situations where no-one present is likely to become defensive and where the term helps to quickly show understanding of a commonly experienced problem. The other use – such as in this post – probably serves to remind the ignorant of how knowledgeable they are, the knowledgeable of how ignorant they are, and in the process amuses those who will be amused and infuriates those who will be infuriated. Or perhaps, they provide an occasional litmus test of tolerance and volatility. 🙂

  3. No-one who regularly reads the – I’m sorry to say it – dick-swinging contests and tough-guy rhetoric in the comments of this very blog will be shocked to hear that Mansplaining is an issue in urbanism / PT advocacy.

    Just watch, for example, all the people tearing into me into the replies to this comment. 😀

    1. Well maybe if you actually posted something useful rather than your usual post-feminist man hating stuff people might actually take your comments seriously Daphne.
      Most people accept that there are a lot of inequalities out there particularly for women although not limited to them. Most would like to see this rectified. What most don’t want to see however is this current post-feminism trend which is blatantly anti-male (equality should be about lifting women up not about bringing men down which seems to be a constant theme with you).

      Kent, mostly good reading however Alysa Walker is basically racist in her comments. Unnecessary to single out “white men” can you imagine the uproar if she wrote a comment like “there are too many black women in that council department”?

      1. “can you imagine the uproar if she wrote a comment like “there are too many black women in that council department”?”

        The uproar would be justified them because white people and people of colour people are not the same in our society, there are centuries of history that give people of colour a massive disadvantage which already makes them less likely to be represented.

        1. Sure, anyone can nag – one of the sexes is more known for it than than other. My point is that let’s not use these dividing terms.

  4. People aren’t just “loud white males”, they’re the product of their culture and upbringing. Sure we probably need better consultative processes to amplify quiet / disengaged voices, but personal attacks should not be targeted at generic groups and should be clearly ad hominem.

    And if you’re not sure who to target, I recommend TRM

    1. How is saying that someone’s race and gender makes them more comfortable voicing their opinion a personal attack?

      It’s an observation that their confidence can exclude others to the detriment of the whole.

      1. Not really. It is no different to the 1970’s version where women and people who were not white were expected to keep quiet. Just this time the half wits demanding that other people not voice their opinion are not white men. People only attack based on gender and race because they fear their own arguments are a load of crap.

        1. “Just this time the half wits demanding that other people not voice their opinion are not white men. ”

          I completely agree, people of all races and colours admonish women and non-white people when they do voice their opinion.

      2. Could say the same about the BLM protesters. They’re very outspoken loudly making comments that would be considered totally unacceptable (and should also be but aren’t) by any other race.

  5. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that if you want something you have to step up and grab it. I don’t mean in some Game of Thrones way, but you need to put your hand up and take opportunities when they arise. So I have no sympathy with the example of the female councillors staying silent while the males talked. Unless they’re being coerced to stay silent, which of course they’re not.

    Comical reference in the article too to the guy being homosexual being a positive in offsetting his “white male-ness” and making him more acceptable to comment on urban planning issues. Not sure what people’s bedroom habits have to do with their ability to add value in a technocratic conversation on urban form?

    1. “Unless they’re being coerced to stay silent, which of course they’re not.”

      Mansplaining sexism to women? All class, mate.

      1. Have you read the Bill of Rights?

        You’re a perfect parody of this whole issue. Chucking out meaningless words and labels with no real thought.

        1. Actually, you are the perfect parody of this issue. A straight white man so blindingly unaware of his privilege that he doesn’t recognise that women and people of colour are constantly coerced into remaining silent. These words are only meaningless to you because you are too lazy to try and understand the perspective of others.

  6. There’s also irony in Alysa Walker gender-testing and race-testing who is allowed to be her ally. It’s not enough to agree with her and want to work alongside her; you must also look different from people she dislikes.

  7. Taking a slightly different and hopefully less controversial tack, but linked to this issue of people feeling comfortable to say things in public – I teach at a university and so it is part of my job to pass on knowledge / experience that i have gained over the years. As part of that, I always try and involve the student audience in the discussion as well, but I have noticed that this is getting more and more difficult. There is a definite theme of students not being willing to say anything unless they “appear dumb” – so they remain completely quiet. The only exceptions to that are, of course, the more mature students who really are the only ones to have input into the conversation. Immensely frustrating to me – and to the mature students (who really don’t want to stand out) – and I do make sure that I never denigrate the questions, but it appears to be far more prevalent now than it used to be 10 years ago.

    I’ve found that the only way of getting any answers is if I question the students directly by name – but that’s hard as you have a massive class of students names to learn / faces to recognise, and of course if they actually don’t know, or don’t have an opinion, then it just drives them further underground. A look of shear terror passes over their faces. I’m not sure if it would be any different if I was a different colour or gender, but I imagine that lecturing a class completely full of middle-aged males would be quite a different kettle of fish. Certainly if I’m in a lecture from someone else my head is full of questions – sometimes just bursting out without stopping them.

    1. If many young people find it hard to even speak in public, of course they’re not getting involved in the transport field. I agree with Angie Schmitt’s comment: “It’s actually pretty sad that so many people who just want to bike and walk safely in their own communities have to become activists.”

      So much in transport is a fight. A fight to resurrect basic rights of safety and accessibility. A fight to be able to even discuss how things are modelled by experts with their “black box” models. A fight to allocate funding to even study things that affect non-motorised users. A fight, essentially, against the established money and influence of the road construction industry.

      Women tend to try to avoid public conflict more than men do. Perhaps you’re right and this holds for young people too. And probably for many others. Of course there are activists in every demographic. We need to find a way for everyone to be able to speak and be heard without experiencing fear and conflict.

    2. Do you want them talking in lectures or tuts? I never bothered getting people to talk in lectures for that reason, whereas in a tut the smaller size is much more conversation friendly

      1. Good point HSB1 – I want them engaged, mostly, and questioning: thinking for themselves. I’m hoping that they will be doing this behind their laptops, but have no way of knowing. I agree that they feel more comfortable in the smaller tutorial sessions – but a lecture is much more interesting (for me, as well as them) if it is a two-way or three-way conversation. I was taught to question everything – question authority, question why things are, question why things are not etc.

        But without doubt the way that younger people are learning is changing rapidly – none of them buy a newspaper, ever, and the Stuff / NZHerald websites are pretty crap, so most of the learning they get is from Facebook and other social apps – which we all know is not really a good substitute for reality. I think the lack of questioning may be tied into that.

  8. If we are going to share “colonisation” stories, I got most of you beat.

    White european male.

    My country was occupied for just about 500 years by a foreign culture. Yes, occupied. Children taken to be soldiers, heavy taxes on locals, occasional massacres. Language influenced, culture changed.

    After that, well, a couple more attempted occupations by neighbours, followed by occupation in World War Two (roughly four years of occupation). More massacres, but fewer children stolen to be soldiers.

    So, anybody who wants to claim 100 or even 200 years of colonisation misery is welcome to compare their history to mine.

  9. All these comments are hilarious.

    Women should speak up more and contribute more instead of nagging about not being represented. We have free speech. We have social media. We have the interweb thingy. Absolutely nothing is stopping half the population from getting their viewpoints to millions. Whether they contribute something that people want to listen to is entirely up to them.

    If someone can present a logical and reasoned argument on the basis of them having a different perspective from me, then I don’t care what gender, race, religion they are. I will try to listen and understand. But if they say I must shut up and listen to them because they are X minority, then they can get stuffed.

    For the record I am not a white male and I do think that acknowledging and understanding different perspectives are essential.

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