Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thirsty Thursday Linkages

Even though much of urbanism is too complex for current math and understanding, the studies are headed in the right direction. Via Hub and Spokes, a new Brown University Economics study shows that for every freeway a city loses 18% of their population:
I think that zoning and densification are important. But there's no way to make people or firms locate in a densely packed manner without providing the transportation infrastructure to allow them to do it. So you have to have some sort of policy at the metropolitan area-level. And what you can get is local communities imposing costs on everybody else by doing something like imposing big exclusionary zoning right next to the urban core. And that's clearly not economically efficient for the region as a whole- they're obviously trying to protect their housing values. So I think that it's important for regional government to be proactive and realistic with transportation planning.
The key is removing all the barriers that prevent the dense places from showing their real value, the synergy and vibrancy of urbanism. The biggest barrier of which, are the inner city freeways.

And while I think some of his conclusions in the interview are silly, like this one:
Now most households are dual-worker households, which wasn't true back in 1950. Highways have allowed two people living in the same house to commute to different areas each day, so I think there's been a welfare gain from that.
We are one step closer to proving that while highways are important in linking one metropolitan area to another or one economy to another, they are destructive within that city and to its economy. If you build it they will leave. There is nothing better Dallas can for the local economy and downtown than incrementally tearing out the freeways within 635.

It's amazing to me how stupidly we have constructed cities both from a livability and in terms of economic efficiency and functionality. The two are interrelated.
In a related note, Phoenix always ranking high on the stupid scale, has arrived at this gem:
The Arizona Department of Transportation and Maricopa Association of Governments are planning $4 billion in work to add capacity to Interstates 10 and 17, add a reliever freeway and improve interchanges in the urban core.

The work, to be paid for from regional Proposition 400 tax money, would introduce new designs to keep traffic flowing freely by segregating short- and long-distance travelers and reducing the need for traffic to weave between lanes. The effort marks a major shift toward reinvesting in the older and most congested parts of the system.

[Bangs head on desk. Leaves it there to type blindly for the rest of this sentence.]

Wow, major shift there. One that should really see some systemic change.

[Pities Phoenix residents.]

[Remembers he deals with the same nonsense.]

[Head returns to desk. This time softly and sullenly.]

Build more highways, raise more taxes, not have money for maintenance, raise more taxes, drive land value down, have more migration outwards away from this give away to highway lobby "investment," have to build more highways to accommodate sprawling population, raise more taxes, not have money for maintenance, raise more taxes...


Again however, another study to prove the above is a colossal waste of time and money (unless you are on the receiving end), is this study showing that reducing demand is the best way out of traffic congestion. And ya know what? It GENERATES REVENUE. [Looks sidewise at Phoenix.]

Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, put out a report on how to get traffic moving faster. They considered lots of the standard solutions -- improving signal timing, clearing accidents quickly, encouraging telecommuting, and so forth -- and found that many of them could, in fact, provide some temporary congestion relief.

But here's the rub: RAND found that over the long haul, these kinds of solutions simply don't have much effect on congestion. They can briefly get traffic moving faster, but just about every improvement in travel time results in ... more people taking to the road! Over the long haul, apparently, most congestion relief efforts sow the seeds of their own destruction.
Funny how that works. From the actual report:
Longer term increases in the demand for automotive travel resulting from population growth and economic expansion can further undermine a strategy's effectiveness. This is why we often see, for instance, that flow improves for a short while when new lanes are added to a freeway but usually returns to former levels of congestion within just a few years.
That red oval highlights the only solutions that the study's authors believe have any significant potential to fight congestion over the long term. Sadly, RAND also found that the road pricing solutions -- the top two -- face huge political and practical obstacles.
Of course, nobody wants to pay for what they have previously been getting for free. Unfortunately, you have no choice. There are no free lunches and it is time to pay the piper for the monopolization of transportation and corrupt city building methods of the 20th century.

And the longer we wait, the more expensive it is going to be. This, I promise you.

And, finally it takes April Fool's apparently for people to understand greenwashing, architectural absurdity, and real estate overshoot (again, all interrelated and fueled by the pedaling of BS marketing and fake money unlimited budgets):

It reminds of this time line, I recently created:

So is it safe to say that we've finally gotten to the Abandoning Stage or the Vestigial considering I compare Dubai and its architecture to the cast of Jersey Shore?

While this onion-like post from Inhabitat is brilliant. It took approximately two April Fool's articles for me to long for tomorrow.
Lastly, and only because I just had this emailed to me, comes an article from CNN suggesting that the 21st century will be a "new urban" one. The general point is that it isn't about always being bigger. I would add, that while it might not mean bigger, it is about finding the "better." It is a similar difference between new money and old money. The kitsch and the sophistocated. Why a 4,000 sq. ft house in McKinney costs the same as a 1,800 sq. ft house in Hollywood Heights and why the latter will retain value and the former might as well be in Detroit.