Friday, 24 of October of 2014

Category » Cities

Another Example of Vibrant Urbanism

Some things you just can’t make up … like this: NYC Subway Elevator Inoperable After Being Urinated In Too Much.

I’ve heard of “vertical sprawl” before, but now we’ll have to add a new term to the lexicon: “vertical urinal problem.”

“An elevator at a Long Island Rail Road station was number one when it came to being inoperable last month. And number one had a lot to do with it.  The elevator at Woodside Station in Queens was only in operation 58 percent of the time.  That is because it has been urinated on so much, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have said urine has actually rusted the floor and gotten into some of inner workings of the lift, causing problems.”

Yet another reason why people do not embrace the transit-oriented vision of Smart Growthers.


Miserable Cities

Forbes identifies the Most Miserable Cities in the U.S.

What do they have in common?  Mostly high density places that are run by “progressive” visionaries.

The list was compiled using crime rates, foreclosures, taxes, home prices, commute times and decreasing populations.


Turnaround Housing Markets

More data is coming out about the conditions of the housing markets in the United States.  Business Insider is the latest, offering its list of the Top 10 Turnaround Housing Markets based on the increase in price between late 2011 and the end of 2012 for a median priced home.  The percentage beside the city represents that change.

  1. Las Vegas   27.5%
  2. Seattle   24.0%
  3. Phoenix   21.8%
  4. Oakland   21.0%
  5. San Jose   20.8%
  6. Salt Lake City   20.5%
  7. Atlanta   18.9%
  8. Sacramento   17.9%
  9. Fresno   17.7%
  10. Tacoma   17.7%

What’s not determined is what is behind the price escalation.  Is it a function of demand outpacing supply?  Is it the impact of excessive regulation?  More to come.


Affordable Housing Markets

The Street publishes the five most-affordable housing markets in the U.S.

  1. Detroit
  2. Atlanta
  3. Minneapolis
  4. Phoenix
  5. St. Louis

The analysis looks at only the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and calculates the amount one would pay each month for a median-priced home, assuming 20% down and a 30-year fixed mortgage that charged the local average interest rate.  None of these cities would be considered a Smart Growth City although Minneapolis perhaps comes close.  Using similar methodology, we also see the five least affordable markets:

  1. San Francisco
  2. New York
  3. San Diego
  4. Miami
  5. Los Angeles

Certainly San Fran and New York qualify as Smart Growth Cities, but there’s enough “plausible deniability” to keep the label off the others.  In fact, Miami and Los Angeles generally have a poor reputation among planners who see them as sprawling cities.  Yet, both Miami and Los Angeles share key characteristics of Smart Growth: Density and Public Transportation.

A generation ago, both cities began building new roads less and invested much more in public transit, including rail transit.  Both cities have also promoted super high densities as a way to contain outward growth.  In fact, let’s look at these ten cities to show how the densities (i.e., people per square mile) relate to affordable housing.  Using 2010 Census data:

  1. San Francisco   17,179 people per square mile (unaffordable)
  2. New York City   11,138 people per square mile (unaffordable)
  3. Los Angeles   8,231 people per square mile (unaffordable)
  4. Minneapolis   7,088 people per square mile (affordable)
  5. St. Louis   5,157 people per square mile (affordable)
  6. Detroit   5,144 people per square mile (affordable)
  7. Miami   5,129 people per square mile (unaffordable)
  8. San Diego   4,020 people per square mile (unaffordable)
  9. Atlanta   3,154 people per square mile (affordable)
  10. Phoenix   2,797 people per square mile (affordable)

If we were to broaden our search beyond the Top 25, the relationship between density and affordability would become even clearer.  Better yet, Wendell Cox has already published the 2012 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.


Congestion Costs in the UK

The Daily Mail reports that gridlock on Britain’s roads is costing families £500 a year in wasted time and fuel.  $800 U.S. dollars.  This represents a more comprehensive way to assessing costs than from previous studies, for it includes indirect costs from businesses passing along the costs to end-users.  From the INRIX summary: “These costs are a result of the direct impact of traffic on drivers in terms of wasted time and fuel as well as indirect costs to U.K. households resulting from businesses passing these same costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices.”

Sounds like the Brits need to abandon their sprawling car-centric ways and adopt Smart Growth, right?  Well, as ADC friend Phil Hayward says: “The UK under its Town and Country Planning system, after 60 years, has attained several targets that urban planning fads aim for. It has the highest urban densities of any western nations. It has the most compact urban form. It has very high petrol taxes and massive subsidies of commuter rail and subway systems.”

In other words, it exemplifies Smart Growth.  Consequently, Great Britain also has the West’s “least affordable housing, in spite of the lowest land consumption per person; the west’s greatest social exclusion, particularly from home ownership, the west’s worst traffic congestion delays, the west’s longest trip-to-work times, and the west’s worst local air pollution.”  (By contrast, the U.S. with much lower densities has the most affordable housing and much shorter trip-to-work times.


What’s Going On On New York Subways?

Yesterday brought us news of a second fatal shoving incident in front of an oncoming New York subway in less than a month.  On December 3, another innocent bystander was shoved onto the tracks as a subway came speeding in.

Of course, there have been many tragedies over the years of people accidentally falling onto tracks and being crushed by rail cars, and this method of demise has also been picked up by people committing suicide.  But this ghastly behavior of shoving seems to be a new development.  Was this a copycat killing?  The report says the woman was mentally ill.  If so, why was she unsupervised?

More importantly, what action should New York take to prevent further tragedies.  They cannot ban subways (to borrow the logic of the gun control crowd).  Can the move the waiting area, say, eight feet back from the edge of the platform?  I’m not sure, but I’m afraid to say I don’t believe we’re seeing the last of these “murder by transit” episodes.


Vibrant Urbanism – Christmas Edition

Just the other day, I was telling someone that it is noticeable that you see far more lawn ornaments in the lower density, suburban ring around cities than you do in the central city.  This is due, in part, to the migration of families to the suburbs.  Not many moms and dads want to raise kids in a tiny apartment above a Starbucks.

It’s also due to urban crime.  The person I spoke to responded that she had once lived near Gainesville’s downtown and remembers having her Christmas decorations stolen.  She has since moved to the rural outskirts of town.  In St. Louis, police are warning homeowners that the presence of Christmas lawn ornaments makes them a target for crime.

In Chicago, thugs are choosing a different way to get into the holiday spirit.  On Chicago’s rail transit Blue Line, a woman was assaulted by a man who had a stocking filled with … goodies … er, no, … coal … er, no, … how about poop?  Yes, feces.  A man attacked a woman with a sock full of feces.

“It was like the biggest degradation I’ve ever [experienced]. I wish he had just hit me,” the victim said.


New New Urbanist Trend

Turning churches into condos.  When you combine the general decline of organized religious participation with the New Urbanist doctrine that implicitly appeals to young urban singles who tend to be more secular in orientation, this is to be expected … for better or worse.


Vibrant Urbanism, Part VXIXX

Man brutally shot in head in broad daylight in Midtown - New York Post

Man and woman found bound and gagged on San Francisco street – NBC News

Suspect Attacked, Robbed 85-Year-Old Woman In Elevator – CBS New York


Vibrant Urbanism, Part IVXIXX

Robbers With AK-47s Hit Two Detroit Gas Stations