MLewyn's blog

Jungle Shmungle

Good density and not-so-good density

After seeing another blog post about how density is bad because Los Angeles is dense, it occurred to me to suggest that just as there is good and bad cholesterol, there is good and not-so-good density.

From a new urbanist perspective, good density is density that contributes to walkability: density near public transit, density within walking distance of shops and jobs in a place where walking is possible.

Great post on how regulation really is expensive

Those of us who believe in the laws of economics keep trying to explain that land use regulation really does make development (especially infill development) more expensive.  A recent blog post by James Bacon includes a wonderful essay quantifying the impact of regulation in Austin, hardly one of the nation's most expensive or regulation-happy cities.  The article points out that these regulations tend to be more restrictive in center cities. Read it.

 

New York's problem (or more broadly, the problem of medium density)

After reading yet another blog post talking about how New York is losing migrants to other cities, I had an extremely insightful date.  My date was with a woman who lived in Flatbush, at the outer, more car-oriented edge of Brooklyn.  She drives everywhere.  When I told her about my youth in Atlanta, she seemed downright envious: where I saw slavery to cars, she saw "quality of life" (English translation: cheap land). 

Thoughts On Rails and Buses

Randall O'Toole recently published a paper attacking rail transit, focusing in particular on four transit lines (Los Angeles' Regional Connector train, San Francisco's Third Street train, Seattle's University line, and Honolulu's new rail system).  These transit lines are essentially hybrids between light and heavy rail; that is, they use smaller light-rail-type cars but are separated from streets.  By and large, his discussion is pretty technical and I don't live in the cities he writes about, so I a

What I Got Out of CNU 22

My favorite CNU 22 panel was one on street design.  The panelists (including Victor Dover and John Massengale, authors of a new book on street design) discussed a variety of walkable streets.  For me, the most memorable point was Massengale's discussion of a gigantic arterial in Barcelona; he pointed out that this seemingly very wide street accommodated pedestrians by 1) placing its slowest lanes (with on-street parking that slows down traffic) on the outside, so that at least part of the street did not have dangerously fast traffic and (2) using medians and street trees to make t

supply, demand and housing costs

I've read numerous blog posts and articles asserting that gentrification or rich foreign investors increase housing costs by increasing demand.  But people who raise this argument aren't always sensitive to the role of supply in the law of supply and demand: for example, one  New York Times article states that increasing demand has raised rents, yet cites one housing advocate's statement that “Increasing the supply is not going to increase the number

The Rise of De-Gentrification

A recent study by a Portland-are consultant and professor analyzed the rise of high-poverty neighborhoods, finding that only 105 census tracts with poverty rates over 30 percent in 1970 had poverty rates below 15 percent in 2010.  By contrast, 1231 tracts with 1970 poverty rates below 15 percent have poverty rates over 30 percent today.  (However, the study does not address the location of either group of tracts- that is, to what extent the gentrifying tracts are urban, and to what ex

If You Don't Want An Apartment, Don't Have One

One of my favorite political slogans (more because of its catchiness than because of its wisdom)* is "If You Don't Want An Abortion, Don't Have One." 

It occurs to me that this slogan would be quite appropriately adapted to an urbanist context.  In response to NIMBY attacks on compact development, one might create bumperstickers with slogans like:

"If You Don't Want An Apartment, Don't Live In One."

"If You Don't Want A Small House, Don't Buy One."

 

Cities, Suburbs and Commute Length

I recently discovered a fun tool: the Census Bureau's Census Explorer, which is full of maps about all kinds of things.  In particular, I spent some time exploring commute length.