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Re: Slow transport? (edited slightly -sorry)

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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
      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.

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

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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