Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The "density" lobby serves the affluent

by Joel Kotkin

...Ultimately the choice to invest in new subways and light rail as opposed to buses reflects both a class bias and the agenda of what may best be described as the "density lobby." The people who will ride the eight-mile long Second Avenue subway, now under construction for what New York magazine reports may be a total cost of over $17 billion, are largely a very affluent group. The new subway line will also provide opportunity for big developers to build high-density residential towers along the route. In contrast, the bus-riders, as the left-of-center City Limits points out, tend to be working- and middle-class residents from more unfashionable, lower-density districts in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

The proposals for High Speed Rail---a favorite boondoggle of the Obama administration and some state administrators---reveals some of the same misplaced fiscal priorities. California's State Treasurer, Democrat Bill Lockyer, has lambasted the proposed HSR line between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, suggesting the state may not be able to sell private investors on between $10 billion and $12 billion in bonds without additional public subsidies.

Other prominent Democrats as well as the State Auditor's office have challenged the promoters' claims about the viability of the system and its potential drain on more reasonable priced transit projects.

This issue funding priorities was raised recently by the current administrator of the Federal Transportation Authority, Peter Rogoff, who questioned the wisdom of expanding expensive rail and other transit projects when many districts "can't afford to operate" their own systems. He noted that already almost 30% of all existing "transit assets" are in "poor or marginal condition."

Ultimately we need to ask what constitutes transit's primary mission: to carry more people to work or to reshape our metropolitan areas for ever denser development. As opposed to buses, which largely serve those without access to cars, light rail lines are often aimed at middle-class residents who would also be potential buyers of high-density luxury housing. In this sense, light rail constitutes a critical element in an expanded effort to reshape the metropolis in a way preferred by many new urbanists, planners and urban land speculators...(emphasis added)

Read the complete article at newgeography.

Thanks to the AntiPlanner for tip on the Kotkin article.

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At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"light rail lines are often aimed at middle-class residents who would also be potential buyers of high-density luxury housing."

Case and point - The new T-Third, known for running investment bankers from luxury housing to jobs downtown.

At 6:21 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

And there's the Market/Octavia Plan, which encourages a radical increase in population density in the heart of the city, including 40-story highrises at Market and Van Ness. And even the Geary BRT---which, as far as I know, won't be about trains---is seen by developers as an opportunity to put highrises along Geary.

One of the guys who formulated the "transit corridors" theory is shocked at how crudely San Francisco is applying the idea to the city's neighborhoods.

At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what transit is being added as part of Market/Octavia?

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No transit or money for transit is being added with the Market/Octavia Plan, even though it's encouraging 10,000 new residents to that already densely-populated part of the city. And of course the plan restricts the amount of parking developers are allowed to provide with the new housing units, which is why the Bicycle Coalition supports it. All the new residents in the area are supposed to use an already crowded transit system or ride bikes! The M/O Plan's traffic studies don't account for the awful new Octavia Blvd., which brings 45,000 cars a day through the heart of the M/O Plan area.

And then there's the nearbyUC housing development on the old extension property that will add another 450 housing units and 1,000 new residents to the area, while trashing a state and national landmark. The massive UC project also restricts parking in the new housing units.

The M/O Plan, Octavia Blvd., and the UC development are considered "smart growth" by SF progressives! Jane Jacobs is rolling over in her grave.

At 11:01 PM, Anonymous mikesonn said...

Just wait until the Central Subway is completed and the developers starts snatching up parcels in Chinatown.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"He states that the current trend of growth of suburbs will be the dominant pattern around the world."

From wikipedia on Joel Kotkin.

Nevermind that suburbia is the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis in the US.


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