Monthly Archives: September 2010

Portland Metro’s Competitiveness Problem

Working at Home Now Leads Transit in the 7-County Metropolitan Area

Jobs have simply not been created in Portland’s core. Since 2001, downtown employment has declined by 3,000 jobs, according to the Portland Business Alliance. In Multnomah County, Portland’s urban core and close-by surrounding communities, 20,000 jobs were lost between 2001 and 2009. Even during the prosperous years of 2000 to 2006, Multnomah County lost jobs. Suburban Washington and Clackamas counties gained jobs, but their contribution fell 12,000 jobs short of making up for Multnomah County’s loss. The real story has been Clark County (the county seat is Vancouver), across the I-5 Interstate Bridge in neighboring Washington and outside Metro’s jurisdiction. Clark County generated 13,000 net new jobs between 2001 and 2009.

While taxpayer funded transit was attracting less than its share of new commuters out of cars, one mode –unsupported by public funds – was doing very well. Between 1980 and 2009, working at home rose from 2.2% of employment to 6.2%. in the four county area (including Clark County). Thus, nearly as many people worked at home as rode transit to work in 2009 (Note). Already, working at home accounts for a larger share of employment than transit in the larger 7 county metropolitan area. All of this is despite Portland’s having spent an extra $5 billion on transit in the last 25 years on light rail expansions and more bus service. (Figure 2).

More at… http://www.newgeography.com/content/001790-portland-metros-competitiveness-problem

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The Commonwealth Bank of Australia/UBS-Demographia Data Dispute

According to The Age:

Investment forums and housing blogs were alive with talk yesterday that an 18-page presentation used by the bank had replaced unfavourable housing affordability figures with data showing housing costs were not out of step with other cities in the world.

One slide compared Australian housing affordability to several cities, citing figures from a combination of the US urban planning research house Demographia and the investment bank UBS.
The slide showed housing in Sydney and Melbourne was more affordable than cities such as San Francisco, New York and Vancouver. But it used UBS data exclusively for the Australian cities, and Demographia data for the overseas cities.

The data were not comparable. Commonwealth relied upon Median Multiple data (median house price divided by median household income) from the 6th Annual Demographia Housing Affordability Survey for international metropolitan areas. However, Commonwealth used a median/average multiple (median house price divided by average household income) calculated by UBS, the Swiss investment house, for Australian metropolitan areas. These are very different indicators.

http://www.newgeography.com/content/001770-the-commonwealth-bank-australiaubs-demographia-data-dispute

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Unmanageable Jakarta Soon To Lose National Capital?

Jakarta is the world’s third largest urban area with 22 million people(Note 1) and the second largest metropolitan area with 26.6 million people

Jabotabek is also one of the world’s fastest growing urban areas and the prospects are for even stronger growth. The United Nations expects Indonesia to add 90 million people to its urban areas over the next 40 years. If Jabotabek gets its present share of Indonesian urbanization, its population would double.

Jabotabek’s Unmanageable Problems: For already crowded Jabotabek and its even more crowded core of Jakarta, this is bad news. Jabotabek covers nearly the same land area as Paris (more than 1,000 square miles), but has more than twice the population. And unlike Paris, with its well-planned streets and multi-story buildings, much of Jabotek is made up of low-slung, terribly crowded makeshift slums.

The nation’s leaders think they have an answer: move the capital. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called upon the government to prepare a study of the options. The entire national government could be moved completely out of Jakarta, or most of the government functions could be moved to another part of Jabotabek. Traffic is high on the list of ills that the President justifiably cites.

More at: http://www.newgeography.com/content/001767-unmanageable-jakarta-soon-to-lose-national-capital

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Missing the Point on Jobs: The “More Transit – More Jobs” Report

The Transit Equity Network has just published a study called More Transit – More Jobs in which it suggests switching 50% of highway funding to transit in 20 metropolitan areas to create an additional 180,000 jobs over the next five years. Their basic thesis is that each kajillion in spending can produce more jobs in transit than in highways. We don’t comment on that, because, frankly, the purpose of transportation spending is neither to create transit jobs nor highway jobs.

More at
http://www.newgeography.com/content/001766-missing-point-jobs-the-more-transit-more-jobs-report

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CHINA: TWO MODERNIZATIONS (DECENTRALIZATION AND LIVING AWAY FROM THE JOB)

Excerpts…

In the time of Mao Zedong, China had achieved perhaps the ultimate in the jobs-housing balance. Companies provided housing for their workers, who were able to walk to their jobs in the same compound. However, the economic reforms instituted by Deng Xiaoping and his successors has led to an abandonment of this model (Danwei housing) and millions of Chinese households have been lifted out of poverty into affluence. Most Chinese households do not aspire to "living on top" of the factory or office.

Foxconn itself is the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer electronic technology, producing Apple’s I-Pod and I-Phone and making products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, as well as the Nintendo, Wii entertainment systems.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal,Foxconn has plans to abandon its Danwei housing and move away from its "perfect" jobs-housing balance to the spatial arrangements that Chinese, Americans and Europeans routinely choose — to work where they like and live where they like.

Foxconn plans to increase its workforce in China from 920,000 to 1,300,000 and intends for many of its employees to be in new facilities in places like Chengdu (capital of Sichuan), Wuhan(capital of Hubei), Zhengzhou (capital of Henan) and Chongqing (capital of the provincial level Chongqing municipality). Foxconn’s decentralization, and the location of other new and expanded businesses in the center and west is strongly supported by China’s substantial infrastructure investment. The nation already has more than 40,000 miles of interstate equivalent highways. When all of the gaps are completed, trucks will be able to reach east coast ports from Zhengzhou or Wuhan in about days drive and little more than two days from Chongqing and Chengdu.

More at… http://www.newgeography.com/content/001764-china-two-modernizations-decentralization-and-living-away-job

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The Livable Communities Act: A Report Card

Excerpts….

The Livable Communities Act would provide financial incentives for metropolitan areas to adopt "livability" policies, which are otherwise known as "smart growth," "growth management" or "compact city" polices.

It is not premature to issue a report card on the Livable Communities Act, since the effect of its favored policy prescriptions are already well known. Metropolitan areas more inclined toward the act’s menu of livability policies (such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Washington and others) are compared to other metropolitan areas (such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Kansas City and others). Our analysis shows that, for most people, livability policies produce less livability, in terms of higher costs and a lesser quality of life, especially in greater traffic congestion, longer travel times and more exposure to air pollution.

More at: http://www.newgeography.com/content/001761-the-livable-communities-act-a-report-card

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Strikes and Alternate Transit Modes in London

The Wall Street Journal notes that the London Underground (metro or subway) is on strike and that transit riders are having to find alternate ways to get around. This is of course, not good news, and the transit strikes that happen often in places like Paris and periodically in places like Los Angeles and Philadelphia are a serious impediment to transit’s growth (along with spending on extravagant projects and excessive and rising operating costs).

By 2000, the entire London bus system had been converted to competitive tendering, with multiple contractors providing the service. Costs per mile dropped by 50%, adjusted for inflation, while service was expanded and ridership rose. Regrettably, some of the efficiency gains were lost once Ken Livingstone assumed the mayorality of the new Greater London Council, while Transport for London (the successor to London Transport) failed to pay sufficient attention to retaining economic competitiveness between the contractors. Still, things are far better today than they were 25 years ago.

More at http://www.newgeography.com/content/001758-strikes-and-transit-alternatives-london

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National Review – Corner Comment and Response

Dear Sir…
Bedminster, NJ

Thank you for your comment. The limited space available for articles like this means that has to pick and choose about what is said. if

If I lived in Bedminster, you can bet that I would never drive to Manhattan and would take the train every time. I have many times driven into New York and will do anything to avoid the backup at the circuitous entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and then the long ordeal of trying to find parking.

Transit serves Manhattan very well… better than anywhere in the nation. At the same time, however, transit simply does not serve the majority of travel destinations, even in the New York area (which is far better served by transit than any other US metropolitan area). Forever, I would surely drive to work in New Brunswick if I lived in Bedminster. Generally, the data shows that few people commute to job locations in New Jersey by transit (except for Jersey City and Hoboken), simply because the service is so bad. My point was that there could never be enough money to remedy that.

My larger point is that transit does a very good job of getting people to dense cores, like Manhattan south of 59 Street. As for the rest of the community, it does far more poorly and often does not serve areas at all. This is not just in New York, but it is also in Paris and London.

Best regards,
Wendell Cox

Letter from Reader…

I disagree with your assessment on why people do not use transit. I think it is the price and hassle many times. I am going to take my 11 year old to Washington DC in early November. I would like to take the train from NJ to Union Station DC. The roundtrip ticket is $268.50, parking is another $45.00. Why on God’s green earth would I even consider it at these rates? This is not including the 45 minute drive to Islen, NJ.

I take the train to NYC all the time with my son, it was a great way to get in and out without having to drive in The City or pay parking. Well, the geniuses created the light rail system that forces the trains to go through Secaucus before heading to New York Penn Station. I can’t even get to Hoboken to take the PATH without changing trains in Newark now a days. In this instance the hassle is getting greater but the driving hassle is still greatest. The price isn’t bad ($18.50 round trip – kids free on weekends).

Thank you for your time,

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On Infrastructure: Time to Dump the Ideology (National Review Online)

Excerpts….

It is a well-known fact that there is a strong relationship between access and mobility in our urban areas and economic growth. A number of researchers have shown that, generally, urban areas experience more job creation and better economies if their citizens can reach a higher percentage of the jobs in the area in a certain amount of time (such as 30 minutes). The reason for this is obvious — larger labor markets are more efficient, and that’s good for jobs and the economy.

Over the past 25 years, the federal government has spent more than $100 billion on transit. The reward has been a reduction of at least one-third in transit’s share of urban travel. In only one of the many urban areas in which the federal government has funded expensive new rail systems has theshare of travel by transit risen more than one percentage point.

More at…. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/245798/infrastructure-time-dump-ideology-wendell-cox

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In China: A City is not a City

Re: China’s Perplexing Housing Boom (Daily Telegraph)http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peterfoster/100052170/chinas-perplexing-property-boom/

Comment on the Article….

The Chinese residential property market is most interesting and there is a wide range of opinion, from alarmists to those who think things are not quite as bad as some have portrayed (I have written on this at http://www.newgeography.com/content/001733-chinas-sliver-a-housing-bubble). What you have seen in Linyi can be observed in most of China’s large urban areas.

My reason for writing is semantic and demographic. Writers, including you,, frequently use the term "city" to describe what are really prefectures (though the translation is incorrectly city). That is not so much a problem until you ascribe a population… In the case of Linyi, you use 10 million. That is a big city … and a lot bigger than Linyi. The city (prefecture) of Linyi covers a land area greater than that of the East Midlands. The city/prefecture of Linyi is composed of 12 counties, which are largely rural. No city in the world as it is understood in English covers nearly that much land area. In fact, the UN agglomeration database shows the present population of Linyi (metropolitan area, their estimates include large rural areas in urban counties http://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/unup/index_panel2.html) at about 1.4 million.

Virtually all of China is divided into these city/prefectures, which contain far more in rural land than urban land (even the city/province of Shanghai). It is rather like Great Britain, which was historically divided into counties… counties are not cities, neither are prefectures.

Best regards,

Wendell Cox

Principal, Demographia

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