Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Accessibility vs. mobility, zoning amok, Kunstler, NZ, and more

Some more smaller misc items for your weekend enjoyment:
  • Stories of zoning run amok, with amusing commentary.
  • The Austin Contrarian hilariously dismantles James Kunstler's anti-suburban arguments (really more rants), even better than when I did it a few years back.
  • A commentary on affordable housing in Houston by a New Zealander that ran in the Business Journals of Houston and 19 other cities. (Thanks for the link and list, Hugh and Josh) A couple excerpts:
"Houston’s great strength has been its ability to stop political and commercial elites from capturing control and denying Houstonians the ability to make their own decisions about how and where they wish to live and work. It is indeed “the people’s city.”

This did not happen by accident in Houston, but has been the result of a long tradition of sound governance ­underpinned by a political culture fostering constructive discussion and debate that consistently enhances competition and opportunity. In fact, Houston is now widely recognized, internationally, as the model “opportunity city.”

I was privileged to spend two weeks during May in Houston. The lasting impression I have is the refreshing openness, tolerance, optimism and commitment of the Houstonians I met from all walks of life, ­characteristics often lacking in other urban markets currently suffering housing stress.

Houstonians need to understand and appreciate the reality that your great city is indeed a global leader with respect to its political culture and urban governance. And, importantly, that this is being increasingly recognized both within the United States and internationally."

"The idea behind focusing on accessibility instead of mobility is that, if cities are designed so that people are close to shops and services, they won't need to drive as much or as far. The problem with that idea is that consumers rely on a competitive market in retail and services to promote innovation and keep costs low. Consumers who are captive of one or a limited number of stores end up paying higher prices, often for lower-quality goods. Moreover, even in a world with limited energy supplies, there is no guarantee that having local stores within walking distance of residential areas is the optimal pattern. Some experts in the retail industry suggest that higher energy prices will give an advantage to big-box supercenters where people can do all their shopping in one auto trip."
--Randal O'Toole, in "Roadmap to Gridlock," Cato Institute, May 27, 2008.

"Why won't workers cluster around their jobs as they did in the 18th and early 19th century? A number of very forceful reasons:

  • We are not wedded to a job for life any more. The average turn-around in jobs is measured in just a few years. It is expensive to move every time one changes jobs, uprooting one's family; and self-defeating as well if you may be moving back again soon.
  • About 70% of workers live in households with other workers. Whose job will they live next to?
  • Workers work in much smaller units today, so there is no big factory gate to live next to.

--Alan Pisarski, testimony regarding the future federal role in surface transportation, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, June 25, 2008.

Have a great holiday weekend.

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At 12:31 AM, August 28, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good thing the Kiwi visited in may and not August.


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