Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Are we in Smartphone city yet? Mobile devices and their applications are everywhere. Growth projections are "off the charts." Even attempting to plot the future of all this is probably futile. 

A Census report enumerating the number that worked at home at least one day during a typical workweek is here. Wendell Cox analyzes 2000-2009 Census work-at-home data and notes that working at home had surpassed transit commuting in many U.S. metropolitan areas.  Admittedly, working at home as recorded by the Census is just a proxy for the phenomenon.  Electronic networking is better than ever and we do not know the extent to which it substitutes for or complements the old fashioned kind.

Better and cheaper travel and communications have always caused cities to spread out.  Can they spread to the point where they cease to be cities?  Some will say that this has already happened.

It is safe to say that cities are labor markets.  If one lives within a an acceptable commuting radius, then he or she resides in "the city".  The U.S. large-city commuting average has been hovering near 25 minutes for some years (see Table 3).  Anas in this volume concludes that "the elasticity of the average commute time with respect to the number of workers was about 0.1 in 1990 and 2000." (p. 146)

I recently listened to an urban geographer discuss the San Diego area.  In passing, he mentioned that Camp Pendleton would not be allowed to close because if that ever becomes a prospect, San Diegans will resist the possibility of becoming a part of a Greater Los Angeles metropolis.

Yes, spreading out will continue. There will be more and bigger meglopoli (what a coinage!). But within these, it is likely that most people will be able to work (even commute to work) quite productively within a comfortable commuting range.

Transformative technologies pop up almost routinely.  But their adoption is never simple or easy.  Where and how they will manifest themselves will surprise us. Beaulier, Smith and Sutter ponder all this in an interesting essay.