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Re: [WorldTransport] About transport impacts over urban land

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  • Chris Bradshaw
    This is a very important topic to discuss here. I think it is a general rule that location costs more housing-wise, but the buyer gets benefits that, at
    Message 1 of 11 , Aug 31, 2003
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      This is a very important topic to discuss here.

      I think it is a general rule that "location" costs more housing-wise,
      but the buyer gets benefits that, at least to him, appear to be equal to
      or better than the higher margin.

      "Location" refers to both being near that which is desirable, and NOT
      being near to that which is undesirable. Those marketing the suburbs
      have always emphasized the latter (crime, street traffic, noise, poor
      schools, lower-income neighbours), while treating the longer distances
      to desirable services as being very easy to overcome (owning/using one
      or more cars).

      Transit is one of the factors that are part of the positive side of
      "location," however, one does not want to have to use it for more than a
      narrow range of trips (e.g., commuting), while needing the full range of
      services within walking distance (clustered and along a fully walkable
      street).

      All of suburbia in our city has transit, but only for those residents
      limiting their use to commuting (and having regular 9-5 jobs located
      along the peak-hour routes, wanting to avoid transfers) rely on it.
      Only those living in these areas unwillingly (youth, live-in help,
      dependent seniors) will use the off-peak transit service for other kinds
      of trips.

      Most New Urbanism development is of this latter category, since they
      lack internal services and are located too far from where the true urban
      "fabric" of main streets and mixed uses ends. For that reason, they
      still have as much yard space given over to the owners' cars, but this
      space is at the rear, along a laneway, with the house pushed forward to
      the street.

      What our industry needs to do is to educate housing consumers (and
      government officials and developers) to the following:

      1. Walking is everyone's favourite mode, and the destinations which can
      be walked to is at the highest level of "location." There is growing
      awareness that, although driving is seen as superior to transit, it is
      significantly inferior to walking.

      2. Housing price is related to transportation costs; the two must be
      considered as a unit. "Location" reduces the amount of "fleet" the
      household needs, and the distance each vehicle is driven. The
      perception (and much of the reality) is that car-ownership is almost as
      high in high-location areas as poor-location areas (see also next).

      3. People facing low driving needs cannot, in today's market, buy a
      "fraction" of a car; they can only buy older cars (I have found,
      although I have seen no research, that the distance a vehicle is driven
      is in reverse proportion to its age; with age, it becomes less reliable
      and less "presentable"; also, with age, the driving costs shift from
      fixed to variable, gaining some of the costing advantages of
      carsharing). [One way to offer carsharing to those owning older cars is
      to ask, "What is better, owning all of a partial car, or owning part of
      a whole car?"]

      4. Living in high-location areas requires a smaller house and yard,
      since there are more nearby communal areas, e.g., parks, churches,
      schools, coffee shops, bars (cf.: Oldenberg, R. _The Great Good
      Place_). These provide not only out-of-house social spaces, but the
      higher density makes sharing things easier. A walkable area can also
      reduce expenses for health clubs and reduce the time adults spend
      driving other household members. With carsharing, the "fleet" can be
      reduced, further reducing the house's need to provide indoor and outdoor
      amenities and space for vehicles.

      Ironically, as consumers start getting this point, the first symptom
      will be that the location-sensitive price differential for housing will
      actually increase. The second one should be that those in low-location
      neighbourhoods will organize to "invite in" -- through a neighbourhood
      plan -- the services and employment they lack. They will need to "tame"
      their streets to attract the growing number of entrepreneurs who are
      interested in operating small-scale main-street businesses.

      Chris Bradshaw
      Vrtucar, Ottawa
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