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.
— Cycling Professor (@fietsprofessor) August 9, 2017
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.
— Melbourne Crank (@MelbCrank) August 12, 2017
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.