Sunday, February 02, 2014

A denser future?

The latest issue of Cityscape includes "Point of Contention: A Denser Future?" involving five essays. One way to frame the question is to ask whether market forces or planners' policies will dominate in the future? Another is to ask which market forces?
We know two things. First, market forces have dominated in the past. Second, market forces dominate in most European cities which continue to decentralize in spite of much tougher planning policies in place for many years. I feel safe saying that market forces will continue to dominate here and there.
Some of the authors highlight all of the new transit infrastructure recently put in place. But that is simply "if we built it, they will come" -- which is highly unlikely. 
I recently noted that cities (here as well as European) have gone through stages, from the “walking city” (pre-1880) to the “streetcar city” (1880-1920) to the “automobile city” (post- 1920) – to “smartphone city” (post-2007).  Elements of each co-exist in many large cities. But smartphone city is new on the scene and still in the process of unfolding. The paraphernalia of smartphone city is the infrastructure we should be thinking about. Kotkin and Cox note that the rise of telecommuting requires no new transit and now new high density development.