Walkable Cities And The Commuters Paradox

Here are a few articles that might be of interest that were recommended by a few Rethink readers.

Shaping The City by Roger K. Lewis from the Washington Post writes a thought provocative column that espouses the notion of walkable cities.

The term “transit-oriented development” (TOD) paints an incomplete picture of state-of-the-art planning and urban design. The terminology should change, along with our mind-set. We should talk about and advocate multi-modal-transportation-oriented development.

Here Comes the Neighborhood by Christopher B. Leinberger from The Atlantic discusses how the conventional suburb is overbuilt and out of favor and how transit oriented development will be in demand.

Urban-style housing in walkable neighborhoods—including those in the inner suburbs—is what’s in demand today. And for a variety of reasons, that demand will intensify in the coming years. Only by serving it can the country kick-start growth in an enormous and essential part of the economy.

“It is very unlikely that new projects in sprawl areas will be financed,” says Jonathan Rose, the CEO of the national development-and-investment firm Jonathan Rose Companies, based in New York City. “Urban areas with diverse transit options and thriving universities are the choice of Baby Boomers and young people.

The previous article encouraged private deveopment in transit which may not be the best idea according to AmericanCity.org in a piece called  Transit as a Development Tool, but in Whose Interest?

If dense, inner-city communities are regaining the popularity they held decades ago thanks to demographic trends favoring smaller households and shorter commutes, private developers need to respond by providing more housing in walkable urban neighborhoods, rather than the same old suburban sprawl we’ve become used to. In order to do that, they’ve got to fund transit improvements through special assessment districts that would coordinate the construction of new buildings with the implementation of better public transportation systems such as new streetcar lines.

The Commuters Paradox

And finally all this talk about living close to your work may actually lead to a happier life. It is a proven scientific fact.

Time in traffic is torture, and the big house isn’t worth it. According to the calculations of Frey and Stutzer, a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office.

So why is it then that we choose longer commutes? Blame it on the commuters paradox and read this interesting post on commuting by Jonah Lehrer.

Consider two housing options: a three bedroom apartment that is located in the middle of a city, with a ten minute commute time, or a five bedroom McMansion on the urban outskirts, with a forty-five minute commute. “People will think about this trade-off for a long time,” Dijksterhuis says. “And most them will eventually choose the large house. After all, a third bathroom or extra bedroom is very important for when grandma and grandpa come over for Christmas, whereas driving two hours each day is really not that bad.”

One thought on “Walkable Cities And The Commuters Paradox”

  1. Nice article as I prepare to start biking to work this week. 🙂 I think the DC area for the most part is moving in the right direction as far as focusing on walkable communities. For example, Hyattsville’s new slogan is “A City Within Walking Distance.” That sums it up right there. I love the network of bike paths and trails in the Hyattsville-College Park-Adelphi-Silver Spring area. While they can improve, they offer a great foundation to being able to efficiently move between them without jumping in your car. Let’s hope they continue to improve the great networks we have today.

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