Thursday, February 16, 2012

Polycentrism (the spatial kind) in Moscow.

Moscow goes capitalist (their version), and what do they get?  Central city parking conflicts -- and flight from the urban center.  Here is a summary.  Here is U.S. planner (and one-time USC dean) Ed Blakely endorsing a polycentric Moscow.

Subcenters are real and recognizing them has been an overdue antidote to urban economists' old time religion re the canonical "monocentric" model.  No one outside the field could take this seriously as a description of modern cities.

But Bumsoo Lee and I had made the point some years ago (and I have never stopped talking about the fact) that (1) subcenters are hard to define; there are many approaches; and (2) most people in large U.S. cities do not work in either the centers nor the subcenters. 

Using one approach to the definition of subcenters, Bumsoo found that for the fourteen largest U.S. metro areas (3-million and above in 2000), the traditional cores acounted for 11% of the jobs; the subcenters 7%; and 82% were dispersed.

Of these, the longest commutes (in minutes) were to the core; the shortest average duration trips to the dispersed locations, with the sub-centers in between.

What does this show?  Two things:  (1) "Sprawl" is not a transportation problem; this part of anti-sprawl critique does not hold up; and (2) Economic logic prevails; the longest commutes are compensated by the highest wages, which are available where there are the most agglomeration economies, in the CBDs.

A third point is that there are many lesser paying job opportunities and lesser agglomeration opportunies available in very many low-job-density settings.  The shortest commutes are most likely where there are lesser wage premia.

Monocentrism is way out of date.  But Muscovite polycentrism also misses.