I should read The Atlantic more often–the June issue had a number of great pieces in it. In addition to the aforementioned review by Caitlan Flanagan, there’s a very readable (if fussily technical) piece about the infamous Conficker computer worm and an article on Google and the future of journalism.
I also read an article about the shifting real estate preferences of urbanites by Christopher B. Leinberger. The article, significantly about the need for more light rail in cities, had some facts that surprised me:
- While the recession impacted all housing prices, it had less of an impact on urban and inner suburban dwellings than it had on exurban houses on “the suburban fringe”. In metropolitan Washington, DC, for example, the former group of houses has declined 20% from peak prices, while the latter has lost about half its value.
- The housing nearer the centre of town tends to be on smaller lots, and also includes townhouses and apartments. They’re within walking distance of services, or have good access to public transit. The outer suburbs feature bigger lots and bigger houses, and their owners almost exclusively drive cars. Not surprisingly, younger home buyers are opting for dwellings closer to city centres.
- Suburban households spend 24% of their income on transportation. Urban households in walkable neighbourhoods spend 12%. A hundred years ago, before the advent of the car, households spent an average of 5% on transportation.
- A 2006 article from the Journal of the American Planning Association (I’m waiting at my mailbox every month for that bad boy) predicts that, because of shifting demand, the US could have a surplus of 22 million large-lot houses by 2025.
The article goes on to make a case for the increased use of street cars and other light rail systems to cities. I’m no urban planner, but I’ve witnessed the success (at least, I think it’s a success) of the newish Luas street car system in Dublin, and Vancouver’s own Canada Line. I was just in Toronto, and wondered how effective that city’s street car network was. Does anybody know?