Proximity Ten Times More Influential Than Speed?

So says this article, looking at the factors that influence access: proximity, mobility and connectivity.

This is why the updated Comprehensive Plan will be so important to our future transportation!

21 Comments

21 Responses to Proximity Ten Times More Influential Than Speed?

  1. Alexander Craghead
    January 13, 2013 at 10:36 pm Link

    While there’s definitely truth to this, I often see these ideas oversimplified to be “smart growth > transport speed” at the expense of metropolitan mobility. The equation is true when we are talking about 9-5 white collar jobs or coffee shops or the like.

    It is completely wrong, however, when applied to creative arts, cultural venues, specialty businesses, and subcultures. Major cities have richer cultures, more diversity, and more personal opportunity because there are more individuals. Systems that maximize metropolitan scaled mobility — and that means systems that favor speed — exponentially increase the opportunities for collaboration, inspiration, creation, advancement.

    Smart growth is good. Improvements to the community that reduce the number of trips required to live a full life are also good. But they don’t negate the need for true metro-scale transportation.

    (There are many reasons relating to economic mobility that this ought to be transit rather than freeways, but this comment is long enough as it is.)

    So in short, yes, yay smart growth. But let’s not simplify it so much that we forget the need true metro-scale, rapid transit.

  2. Nick Falbo
    January 14, 2013 at 9:03 am Link

    So, how do we get there?

    I agree with Alexander that mobility is vital and neighborhood isolation is not the way, but I worry that “mobility supporters” will fight to maintain auto-mobility, rather than promote other, more appropriate, forms of transport.

    Facilitating high levels of mobility through automobiles is directly opposed to the concept of facilitating high levels of proximity through dense, human scaled development.

    We’re facing this dilemma right now on Foster Road and in the Lents Town Center. A planning process is underway to explore a potential lane reduction along the road to make the corridor more pedestrian friendly and supportive to more dense activity.

    The opponents of the idea are primarily fighting to preserve this metropolitan mobility. In their vision, this mobility is achieved through automobiles.

    To me, this opposition seems to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As long as Foster is an auto-mobility focused corridor, it will be an uphill battle to see the human scale density it desperately needs.

  3. Ron Swaren
    January 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm Link

    East Coast high prices, here we come!

  4. Allan
    January 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm Link

    Is it possible to build enough inventory of dense buildings in a city that is mixed use and walkable so that it isn’t insanely expensive? Or is it geometrically impossible?

  5. Chris Smith
    January 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm Link

    It’s certainly geometrically possible (e.g., Manhattan). The cost question is a little more interesting since it takes a level of public infrastructure to support the private investment in the buildings. On the other hand, the buildings generate more property tax. That’s kind of the theory behind tax increment financing, which might work better if we didn’t sequester the new taxes inside a district for so long.

  6. Allan
    January 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm Link

    I should clarify the question. Can you create a city as dense as Manhattan with rents in the $/sq ft range as the east-side (~$1.00/sq ft per month-ish)

  7. Ron Swaren
    January 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm Link

    Manhattan would be a very poor example of affordable housing.

  8. Nick theoldurbanist
    January 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm Link

    “I should clarify the question. Can you create a city as dense as Manhattan with rents in the $/sq ft range as the east-side (~$1.00/sq ft per month-ish)”

    >>>> More like $3.00+ per square foot per month. A 650 sq. ft. one bedroom apartment can easily cost 2000 per month in Manhattan.

  9. JHB
    January 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm Link

    “I should clarify the question. Can you create a city as dense as Manhattan with rents in the $/sq ft range as the east-side (~$1.00/sq ft per month-ish)”

    I’m curious if anyone has an answer to this question, but Manhattan is such a lofty goal. Is it even possible to create Pearl District or NW Portland style density with rents near $1/sq. ft?

  10. al m
    January 14, 2013 at 6:13 pm Link

    Is it even possible to create Pearl District or NW Portland style density with rents near $1/sq. ft?

    ~~~>Of course not!

  11. Ron Swaren
    January 14, 2013 at 9:21 pm Link

    “>>>> More like $3.00+ per square foot per month. A 650 sq. ft. one bedroom apartment can easily cost 2000 per month in Manhattan.”

    Which is close to what it costs in the Pearl District, when you average in vacation and business rentals.

  12. Douglas K
    January 14, 2013 at 9:40 pm Link

    Thing is, walkable high density is highly desirable. That’s why people pay a premium to live there. You could probably create a high density neighborhood with lousy walkability, no local shops or restaurants, etc. and keep housing prices low because nobody wants to move in … but what would be the point?

    Expensive housing happens when planners and developers get a neighborhood right.

  13. Nick theoldurbanist
    January 14, 2013 at 10:20 pm Link

    “Which is close to what it costs in the Pearl District, when you average in vacation and business rentals.”

    >>>> No way. A one bedroom apt. in a modern high rise in the Pearl would cost about $1400; a comparable apt. in Manhattan would cost twice that. That’s why I call the Pearl ‘Manhattan at half price.’ I lived in NYC for 50+ years, 33 as a tenant, and know that rental market very well.

  14. bjcefola
    January 14, 2013 at 11:43 pm Link

    Is it possible to build enough inventory of dense buildings in a city that is mixed use and walkable so that it isn’t insanely expensive?

    I think affordable housing is an event more than an object, it is the thing that happens when everyone who wants to spend more on housing chooses to live elsewhere. High density neighborhoods don’t have to be expensive, they just might be places where you wouldn’t want to live.

  15. Nick Falbo
    January 15, 2013 at 7:59 am Link

    Didn’t we build cities like this 100 years ago?

    The rowhouses of Baltimore were built as workforce housing. House stacked next to house was super cheap to build, and it achieved densities on par with the Pearl district.

  16. Ron Swaren
    January 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm Link

    Yes, Nick TOU. It’s not as far fetched as it sounds. No, not as high as Manhattan but a lot more than what the market, even in NW Portland, was.

    A lot of 1 br market rate rentals in the Pearl are 1500-2000. However the average can be brought down considerably by “affordable housing” rates, so theses are dragging down the average on market rates/

    And things like this should be included in the average:
    Median Corporate Housing: $2,400
    (from Hot Pads, com)
    or

    Property —2
    Portland, OR
    1 bdrm(s) 1 bath(s)
    Monthly Rates from $2400.00 USD
    (CHBO)
    Or, for twenty vacation rentals in Pearl District:
    http://www.vrbo.com/vacation-rentals/usa/oregon/portland-metro/portland/pearl-district

  17. Nick theoldurbanist
    January 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm Link

    All one has to do is a comparison on Craigslist between comparable housing in New York and Portland, and the striking difference will be readily seen. And don’t forget, a lot of NYC ads are for renovated walkup buildings which were former tenements, with 300-400 sq. ft. apts. So not really comparable at all with the Pearl.

    Corporate rentals are furnished, which costs more. In any case, Portland will soon be glutted with new apartments, which certainly is not the case in NYC.

  18. Andrew
    January 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm Link

    I’m curious about something. There are suburbs that are quite pricy. It’s not just in the city. What makes that so? Density doesn’t necessarily mean high prices. If it did, there would be no ghettos in NYC like Bronsville and East New York. Equally, if low density meant prosperity, then why are there first-ring suburbs going down the toilet? How can you account for the fact that Gresham has gotten such a bad reputation, for example? There’s another piece here somewhere…

  19. EngineerScotty
    January 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm Link

    Ron,

    The market for corporate/commercial real estate is *vastly* different than the market for residential real estate. Manhattan figures for residential real estate do not include office or storefront rents; it’s confusing to try and throw them into the mix for the Pearl.

    Lots of things make housing pricey:

    * Proximity to amenities. (Location!)
    * Quality of schools, infrastructure (including transport) or other public services. (Location!)
    * Avoidance of nuisance. (Location!)
    * Views (Location!)
    * Cachet of the neighborhood (Location!)
    * Proximity to employment. (Location!)
    * Distance from concentrated poverty or other sources of social pathology (Location!)

    Oh, and things like square footage, quality of construction/architecture/fixtures, and lot size matter as well; but the biggest influence on cost in real estate is not the nature of the building, but where it sits. (Location!)

  20. EngineerScotty
    January 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm Link

    Ron,

    The market for corporate/commercial real estate is *vastly* different than the market for residential real estate. Manhattan figures for residential real estate do not include office or storefront rents; it’s confusing to try and throw them into the mix for the Pearl.

    Lots of things make housing pricey:

    * Proximity to amenities. (Location!)
    * Quality of schools, infrastructure (including transport) or other public services. (Location!)
    * Avoidance of nuisance. (Location!)
    * Views (Location!)
    * Cachet of the neighborhood (Location!)
    * Proximity to employment. (Location!)
    * Distance from concentrated poverty or other sources of social pathology (Location!)

    Oh, and things like square footage, quality of construction/architecture/fixtures, and lot size matter as well; but the biggest influence on cost in real estate is not the nature of the building, but where it sits. (Location!)

  21. Garlynn Woodsong
    January 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm Link

    This is an interesting thread, especially Allan’s question:

    “Is it possible to build enough inventory of dense buildings in a city that is mixed use and walkable so that it isn’t insanely expensive?”

    Three thoughts:

    1) Jane Jacob did some pioneering work on this subject, and her conclusion was basically yes, but it takes time. New construction is inherently expensive (though it varies and buildings are cheaper per square foot in the 2-5 floor range than taller, steel-framed buildings; once you get into steel-framed buildings, you apparently want to maximize the height to minimize the cost per square foot [up to about 20-30 stories, beyond which additional costs come into play]). Essentially, Jane’s point was that the most successful neighborhoods already exist, and that new development ideally would incorporate a good mix of existing structures, which can be leased/rented at lower rates than new construction (because their cost of construction has already been amortized). This means that part of our strategy needs to be adaptive re-use, not just new construction, in order to meet demand.

    2) A.C. Nelson’s housing demand studies have shown that the market preference for transit-oriented housing far exceeds the number of new units likely to be built in the coming three to five decades; that is, we actually can’t build enough TOD fast enough to keep up with demand. So, this indicates that part of the high prices is related to scarcity of supply; this would seem to indicate that, over time, if massive amounts of this product do come online, the price may come down, all other things being equal.

    3) Insanely expensive is relative. I’m not sure that we will ever go back to the good old days of cheap housing in Portland, but nor should we want to. The current relatively-high prices are an expression of an increased demand for this product (housing in Portland), because the city is becoming increasingly attractive and desirable. Part of what we should hope for, going forward, is to keep housing affordable, both by providing enough supply to meet demand of the right products (largely TOD), and by growing the economy to provide sufficient wages that folks can afford that housing.

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