Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Balanced and unbalanced

City and regional planners invoke the vague idea of "jobs-housing balance" as being a way that they can plan land uses and land use arrangements to reduce commuting.

It's a dumb idea on many levels. One being, "balance" at what scale (the zip code, the city, the region)? Another problem is that many of us are just too specialized in our occupational choices to be subject to this type of top-down planning. Also, many of us are busy weighing trade-offs against the long commute -- cheaper housing and better schools, being just two of many examples.

A recent report from Jason Bram at the NY Fed looks at New York metro area commuting patterns from 1980-2000. And guess what? Many people are now willing to travel longer distances to work.

Social engineering is, indeed, very hard work. And it appears to be getting harder all the time.