Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What do People Do all Day in the Modern Downtown City?

In the good old days, all jobs were downtown and all people lived downtown close to the jobs because transportation costs were too high to allow people to live further from employment centers and enjoy cheaper land. This society would have a small ecological footprint but its residents would be exposed to plenty of air, water and noise pollution and risk of disease from contagion. Transportation innovations allowed population to suburbanize. Information technology innovations have allowed major chunks of firms to suburbanize. In an age of google and other companies located in suburban campuses and hedge funds based in the suburbs, who must work downtown? Why does it matter if high amenity downtowns such as Vancouver's transition to being all residential homes?

One serious answer to this question is that people won't be able to walk and bike to work if they live downtowns and their jobs are in the suburbs but concerns about the sustainability impacts of such job trends can be addressed through congestion pricing and encouraging a greener vehicle fleet.

Somehow, not everyone agrees. Here is a blogger who thinks that some of my ideas come from my rump!


This gentleman would have to explain to me what is the negative externality (that threatens Vancouver's quality of life) that is exacerbated by more condo growth? What are the urban benefits from subsidizing commercial activity? In New York City, does Goldman Sachs or the New York Yankees really need a subsidy to stay at their current location?

Why is this dude afraid to live in a "consumer city" that celebrates its identity and doesn't pretend to be an epi-center of any specific industry such as car making or movie making or oil refining?