A story from a coworker of mine: Mr. X (the coworker) and his family move from Queens to Long Island to take advantage of the allegedly better public schools. As a result, they are able to save money by pulling their children out of Catholic school. Were they better off? Apparently not. Mr. X explains that what they saved in tuition was more than balanced over time by the cost of having to have a car for every adult, and later for every teenager.
Tonight I saw lawyer Kevin Dwarka speak on smart growth in Israel, focusing on the weaknesses of Israel's railway system. Although Israel's major cities have rail service, that nation's major rail stations are a classic example of auto-oriented transit: stations surrounded by huge parkiing lots instead of housing and shopping.
One sprawl lobby argument I have occasionally is heard: "So what if people have to drive to reach jobs in sprawling areas? Used cars are so cheap that even poor people can afford them!"
One common argument against infill: "but there isn't room for any more people!" (or, alternatively, "we can't have more people without turning into a skyscraper monoculture!"
Manhattan is far from a skyscraper monoculture- even in midtown there are lots of 2-6 story buildings of all types. And yet our housing density is 70,000 people per square mile- more than four times that of San Francisco, more than seven times that of Washington.
In other words, at Manhattan densities San Francisco could accommodate more than 3 million people.
(Cross-posted, with some additions, from my personal blog).
Since the weekend that just ended was Presidents' weekend, I thought now would be a good time to acknowledge some especially pro-urban Presidents. I don't plan to focus on their actual policies (a complicated topic, and one not very relevant to most pre-New Deal presidencies) but on their post-White House personal lives. The majority of Presidents have retired to resorts, estate-home suburbia, or (in the 18th and 19th century) country plantations.
However, I would like to honor a few exceptions to this rule:
I am currently reading White Flight/Black Flight by Rachael Woldoff of West Virginia University. The book discusses a neighborhood at the edge of a northern city (Philadelphia, I suspect) which was overwhelmingly Jewish as late as 1990, and became black in the 1990s. One area of interest to new urbanists is its discussion of white "stayers" - elderly people who are not at all displeased with integration. What drives them out is not crime or social disorder, but steps.
Today, I read a blog post by Joel Kotkin asserting, for the umpteeth time, that famlies with children prefer suburbs. But at the bottom of the post is a chart comparing the child population (as a percentage of total population) for dozens of cities and their suburbs.
A few weeks ago I posted an entry on transit ridership under several Republican governors who might be running for President; since most governors are judged based on one or two high-profile decisions (e.g.
My review of Emily Talen's book City Rules is now online. To briefly summarize the book: in addition to explaining how land use and street design regulations promote sprawl, Talen shows how those regulations have become stricter over time. In addition to addressing oft-discussed issues like single-use zoning, Talen discusses issues like curb radii (the measurement of the edge of a block).