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  • Todd Alexander Litman
    Lee, I think you raise an important point: that our ultimate goal is to maximize human happiness (or more technically social welfare ) which requires
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2008
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      Lee, I think you raise an important point: that our ultimate goal is to maximize human happiness (or more technically "social welfare") which requires consideration of factors such as the urban quality of life and cultural preservation. Understanding how to make dense megacities livable will be a major challenge. It may be that there is a city size and density that is overall optimal, beyond which incremental economic and social costs exceed the benefits. I suspect that many countries would benefit by encouraging more development in secondary cities, to avoid excessive city size. However, megacities exist so we shouldn't dismiss them. I've been impressed with the quality of development in some large cities, such as Seoul, where thoughtful planning is responsive to residents quality of life, for example, by creating urban villages (residential neighborhoods with public services and opportunities for social interactions) and preserving public greenspace.


      Best New Years Wishes,
      -Todd Litman


      At 04:37 PM 12/31/2007, Lee Schipper wrote:
      And I cycled to work for six years in DC and 6 years in Paris just to
      see what the city looked like on the surface. But I also paid through
      the nose to live in homes close to cycling opportunities/Metro (in a
      pinch) etc. Those that choose larger homes over proximity to the most
      densely built up areas must need more room from their 100 cm (40 inch)
      plasma LED Dvs and their large motorized lawn mowers!

      The question for megacities I think one has to be concerned about is
      where do millions of people live, under what kinds of real estate
      prices, with how much area to live in, as they get wealthier. There are
      huge apartment buildings going up in Shanghai in Puxi, the densest
      oldest part. Sadly, these are displacing the older traditional walkup
      houses, making room for more commercial space, probably leaving the day
      + night time population density higher. The result is much more built
      space/capita. The nice thing about these skyscrapers is that an elevator
      takes inhabitants part of the way to the metro or bus line. The bummer
      is that they are totally overwhelming. Even after 18 trips to Shanghai
      in nearly 10 years I feel dwarfed, and more so than in NY City.  (And if
      you like Shanghai, just watch Dubai!)

      If the Chinese continue with a mostly walking/two wheeler (motorized and
      non motorized) urban structure, how many jobs and other opportunities
      are available within the 30 minute radius of each person's home. The
      answer is plenty if a large share of people and jobs live in these
      towers, thanks to Mr. Otis and his elevators. If they beyond metro and
      to some extent bus based, how long can they hold the line (and their
      pocketbooks) before jumping to cars at the fringes in order to (perhaps
      falsely) "enjoy" more space.

      What is a key element in all of this is land -- values, prices,
      regulation, housing prices and above all housing space available in a
      city of 1 to 10 million or more. My guess is that per capita space in
      Shanghai is 10-15 sq m/capita of home, up from 5 sq m in say 1985.
      That's quite an achievement, but it only came by pushing out hundreds of
      thousands of traditional dwellings in low rise buildings in order to
      make room for the skyscrapers. 

      But in the US that number is closer to sixty square meters, reinforced
      by housing tax policies. What will keep Chinese bundled up in small
      homes, for how long? In New York the number for per capita area is
      smaller, to be sure, but in Manhattan expensive. That seems to be the
      reality - proximity in dense cities is cramped and expensive.

      There is also the issue of proximity to good transit and land prices.
      Land and housing near Transmilenio in Bogota is more expensive than
      elsewhere. (I commend you to Benoit Lefevre's new Phd (in French) that
      dealt with this issue extensively). In places like Bogota (soon),
      NYCity,  Shanghai (soon), Hong Kong, Stockholm certainly Barcelona (80%
      of population within 500 m of a metro or fast bus line) it's hard to
      argue that there is a big bias towards places near fast transport, since
      most of the city is relatively close. In places like San Francisco
      region, Los Angeles, certainly Atlanta, relatively few live by rapid
      transit, transit that came at an enormous price, too. But housing space
      is higher.

      So there is a key element here-- living space and its cost has to be fit
      into speed/travel time, urban structure, etc.  Discussion about what
      kinds of urban forms, densities, etc that focus solely on transport and
      speed and ignore how much space (of what quality) there is inside
      buildings for living, shopping, having fun, etc may be missing the
      forest through the trees, or rather the buildings for the streets.


      Sincerely,
      Todd Alexander Litman
      Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org)
      litman@...
      Phone & Fax 250-360-1560
      1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, CANADA
      �Efficiency - Equity - Clarity�
       

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