Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quotable, the Tangentialism of Regional Networks

Just got a note sent to me from DFWReimagined:

"Out of the million folks who work in Dallas city limits, 727,000 are suburbanites who come for work then scoot when it gets dark."

My response:
The highways allowed it. We're rational people who make rational decisions. As the Baum-Snow study points out, for every new highway introduced within a city, aka an intracity highway (rather than an intercity highway) a city experiences an 18% population reduction. The reason is the highways made land near city less desirable AND less accessible (interrelated concepts). AND, they repositioned land at the increasingly further edge from worthless (lest it's arable) to viable. Like squeezing all of the air out of an inflated balloon.

It should be more advantageous for business to be at accessible hubs of movement, nodes, nerve centers, at which a downtown always has been and ought to be at the top of the hierarchy (ought because of the amount of infrastructure sunk into it). Cities need permanence. Lovable cities have a connection to the past, present, and future.

It should also be relatively difficult to live far away and get to these cores, lest the regional or larger form of transportation has a light imprint upon local fabric, which it never does: see highways, airports, railroads (i.e. "other side of the tracks) etc.

This is how spatial integration plays out. Real convenience and accessibility versus perceived. Take for example Barcelona. You can fly or train in from afar and then immediately get around the city with ease via a variety of transportation routes, most significantly the subway, which is excellent. By being underground, yes it is expensive, but the tracks can operate quickly and efficiently while not disrupting the local networks above. You can get anywhere in the city quickly and cheaply, only to emerge in a new neighborhood, complex, living, breathing, intact.

Disruption to those local networks decreases accessibility and thereby decreasing investment in the area, resulting in decay. Sometimes this is surface rail that does this, but more often it is highways. Raising highways, burying highways, neither of which help much for the cost to do so. Little bang, high buck because it still makes it convenient to live in and pay taxes somewhere else. You're allowed to take advantage of society but not participate in it. To act rationally, is to act corrosively.

So, are regional networks that intersect the local, ie the city as a complex integration of neighborhood units, tangentially *really* that expensive if we're looking at 1)long-term and 2)cost AND benefit from a broader standpoint?