Monday, November 24, 2014

How Opportunity Urbanism can save the global economy (Part 2 of 2)

Last week in part one I clarified the problem and framed the situation. This week in part two are the solutions.  To sum up last week's post, the core challenge today is enabling affordable proximity.  Because we have mostly failed at that challenge, COLA/discretionary incomes are stagnant or down, reducing peoples’ ability to upgrade education/skills, start a business, or own a home – and resulting in a general malaise and lack of prosperity.

Drivers of Affordable Proximity
  1. Supply of commercial and residential space: overregulation and overplanning restrict the supply of both dense urban space and less dense suburban space, making it unnecessarily expensive and driving up costs for both residents and businesses.
  2. Mobility: increasing mobility increases proximity.  The appropriate measure of proximity is travel time, not distance – what matters is that you can reach your job in 30 minutes, whether that’s 3 miles or 30.  Increased mobility opens up the supply of housing within an acceptable commute time from a job center.
Strategies for increasing Affordable Proximity
  1. Reducing overregulation and overplanning to make it easier to add to the supply of both residential and commercial space at both urban and suburban densities. An additional benefit is that the construction industry can provide good paying jobs for low or semi-skilled labor.
  2. Increasing mobility: Although there are definitely practical limits, invest in road infrastructure, especially freeways.  Generally speaking, recent investments in rail transit have cost far too much for the number of people moved.  The future of mobility is becoming increasingly clear: self-driving cars, taxis and buses combined with phone apps to enable more efficient vehicle use through ride sharing (i.e. getting more people in each vehicle for each trip).  Simulations show that freeway capacities may increase 2-3x with automated vehicles, and that’s not even taking into account potential increases in passengers per vehicle with ride sharing apps.  Self-driving vehicles also better enable dense walkable neighborhoods by reducing parking needs.  In the shorter term, the wise investment is a high-speed, congestion-priced, managed lane network used by buses, vanpools, and carpools/ride-shares.  Those same lanes can host self-driving vehicles as they become available in the future.  For those concerned about the environmental impact of cars, consider that increasing the number of passengers per vehicle reduces the per-passenger-trip impact, and that future vehicles are likely to run on cleaner fuels such as natural gas or renewable electricity.
Additional benefits from increasing mobility include increasing incomes as new jobs with a better skills match and higher pay open up within a reasonable commute range, and increasing the base of potential customers and employees new and existing businesses can draw on.
  1. Improve both mobility and the housing supply ->
  2. ...affordable proximity is improved ->
  3. ...cost-of-living reduced ->
  4. ...COLA incomes increased ->
  5. ...discretionary incomes increased ->
  6. ...increased consumption and economic activity plus improved ability to pursue additional education/skills, start a business, support charities, or save up the down payment for house ->
  7. ...increased opportunity and prosperity
I'm looking forward to your feedback in the comments...

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At 3:48 AM, February 07, 2015, Anonymous Lina said...

I love Houston :)


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