Friday, November 29, 2013

Where do Retiring Boomers Want to Live – near city centres or in the suburbs?

UK Baby Boom and Bust by David Willetts
UK Baby Boom and Bust by David Willetts (Photo credit: dullhunk)
Where Are The Boomers Headed? Not Back To The City( Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox, New Geography, Oct. 17, 2013) 

Also discussed here: With the kids gone, aging Baby Boomers opt for city life(Tara Bahrampour, The Washington Post, Aug. 899, 2013) 

Today we review a debate going on about retirees and where they chose to move, if they do chose to do that. On the one hand, when rearing their children, families moved to the suburbs for the space it offers but when the children are gone, some of the now empty-nesters move downtown to smaller condos. Then, we have a recent poll of retirees that indicates that a huge majority (85%) want to stay where they have always lived. And then, we have statistics from the 51 biggest cities in the USA that indicate that the number of retirees within 5 miles of the city centres has in fact diminished and the number outside this area has increased. 

On the other hand, and in direct contradiction, another poll of the 50 biggest cities indicated that those who live more than 40 mils from the city centre have moved to within 5 miles of it. An additional factor not mentioned by either side is that the main impact of intensification using condos in the urban core is to raise the land prices of all surrounding land which works against low rise family residences such as row-houses or townhouses which otherwise would or could be part of the mix downtown. The end result has important implications for urban design and transportation planning over the next few decades: will downtowns prosper with more residents with money to spend on leisure activities or will the city core become barren with most people opting to live away from it? The debate goes on and city planners and developers are paying attention!

Key Quotes: 

“mini-trend now taking root in some parts of the nation and particularly in the Washington metro area: baby boomers swapping out their single-family suburban homes for the bustle of urban life.” 

 “Between 2000 and 2010, more than a million baby boomers moved out of areas 40 to 80 miles from city centers and a similar number moved to within five miles of city centers, according to an analysis of 50 large cities” 

“Many are empty nesters, and freed of the need to factor in school districts and yard sizes, they are gravitating to dense urban cores near restaurants, shops, movie theaters and Metro stations.” 

“While a 2010 AARP survey showed that 85 percent of people 50 to 64 prefer to stay in their current residences, the percentage decreases with income” 

“Looking at the 51 metropolitan areas with more than a million residents, areas within five miles of the center lost 17% of their boomers over the past decade, while the balance of the metropolitan areas, predominately suburbs, only lost 2%. In contrast places outside the 51 metro areas actually gained boomers.”
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How Do Smart Phones Affect Car Use, Street Networks and Urban Design?

The Car as Smartphone: Effects on the Built Environment and Sociality(22 page pdf, Ben Schulman, 2013)

Also discussed here: Are smartphones changing the geography of our cities?(Human Transit, Oct. 28, 2013)

And here: Grid Unlocked: How Street Networks Evolve as Cities Grow(Sarah Fecht, Scientific American, Apr. 6, 2012)

Today we review a paper on the changing impacts that the introduction of first cars and then smart phones and online devices have had and might have in the future on the design of street networks and of the city itself. Both cars and online devices serve a social communicative purpose. Cars move communications outward and encourage sprawl. The growth of smart phone use appears to be linked to the decline of car use and the tendency for more young people to live in the downtown core where they can communicate freely. Where the car changed street design from dense population cores with interdispersed parks and meeting places to street arteries and major roads to quickly exit the city, smart phones seem to have reversed
 this trend. Interesting!

 street design

 Key Quotes:

“The world's cities are absorbing one million additional people every week—and by 2030, they could consume an extra 1.5 million square kilometers of land, or roughly the area of France, Germany and Spain combined.”

 “streets with greater connectivity tend to have higher traffic flows”

“Correlational studies have suggested that street patterns may impact local economies, physical activity levels, public transportation use, crime rates and social inequality”

“The new ability to carry your social life around with you, enabling instant connections regardless of physical location, has the potential to reconfigure how we think about time and mobility, and in turn how we build environments to suit our travel behavior. “

“Communication is predicated on finding space for interaction, with the growth of any particular place dependent upon how many exchanges can be successfully conducted by an ever increasing amount of people. Historically, the street – functioning within a larger street network - has acted as that space”

“cities and towns are naturally composed of two distinct spheres, exchange space and movement space. (1993) Exchange space naturally consists of nodes where interaction is fostered, such as public squares, bazaars, street corners and intersections, or the street itself. Movement space – roads or thoroughfares meant to connect points on the map– has served a secondary function allowing for the further flow of people, goods and information between disparate places.”

“Smartphone use demands a spatial configuration that allows the user to move throughout an environment while seamlessly and continually being engaged in communicative acts.”

 “location is becoming central to the demographic cohort – the 18-to-34 year olds trading cars for smartphones in The Economist study – that are shifting towards cities and towns that exhibit the form of traditional street networks and space, where the human scale of the individual … represent the basic unit of design.”

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Monday, November 25, 2013

What Is the Answer to China’s Continuing Air Pollution Problems?

Clearing the Air in China(Chris P. Nielsen and Mun S. Ho, New York Times, October 25, 2013)

 Also discussed here: Clean and Dirty: China’s Energy Binge(New York Times, Oct. 26, 2013)

And here: (37 sec You-Tube video) 

Today we review an OP-ED from the New York Times which assessed China’s progress in the use of renewable energy and on curbing air pollution which, for sulphur dioxide, is “one of the most swiftly effective air pollution policies ever implemented anywhere”. At the same time, however, double digit GNP industrial growth over the last few decades has produced an even greater overall increase in emissions and a deadly level of pollution in cities located near industrial centres, such as Harbin and Beijing. A modest carbon tax ($10/ton) could prevent close to 90,000 premature deaths each year and bring in much needed revenue to further accelerate the use of non-polluting energy sources.  

Electricity from Renewable Sources Ann. Growth (%) (hydro, nuclear, wind, solar) (Brown-US; Red-USA) china-electricity

 Carbon Fuels Consumed (coal, oil, nat. gas)  

Key Quotes:

 “its forceful regulation to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants may be one of the most swiftly effective air pollution policies ever implemented anywhere. Those emissions fell sharply from 2006 to 2010..preventing as many as 74,000 premature deaths from air pollution in 2010."

“Last January, Beijing’s level of fine particles, 2.5 microns in diameter or under and known as PM 2.5, reached at least 20 times the level recommended by the World Health Organization for a 24-hour period.”

“reducing sulfur dioxide emissions can even increase fine particle levels in north China in winter, because it frees another pollutant, ammonia, to react instead with nitric acid to form PM 2.5.”

“its record on carbon dioxide. Those emissions have risen by about 8 percent a year since 2007 and increased from nearly 14 percent of global emissions in 2000 to 27 percent in 2011.”

 “Focusing on one key pollutant from one major industry, as China’s planners did from 2006 to 2010, is beneficial but insufficient, because growth in emissions from other sectors and of other pollutants overwhelms the gains”

“a modest tax on carbon dioxide, starting small and rising to about $10 per ton in 2020, could sharply lower the growth of emissions with little effect on G.D.P. growth and consumption over the long run. In the short run, some energy-intensive industries and segments of the population would incur losses, but the tax revenues offer a source for compensating them during an adjustment period.”

 “the same tax would prevent as many as 89,000 premature deaths a year from pollution by 2020, and even improve crop productivity. A larger tax, of course, would bring greater benefits.”
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Friday, November 22, 2013

SeaPark in Seattle and Low-Cost, Dynamic Parking Rate Systems

Image representing Parkopedia as depicted in C...
Image by None via CrunchBase

Also discussed here: Parkopedia 

Today we review an article about how Seattle, Washington apply parking rates that vary with demand in a more affordable way ($1M) than the much more sophisticated $20 M system used in San Francisco. Preliminary results show improved efficiency at the use of the on-street parking spaces which have resulted in a decrease in the rates paid compared to what was charged previously. Occupancy hit the targeted 70-85% range more often during the day and night than before, only falling below 70% in the early morning hours.  

Key Quotes: 

“San Francisco. SFpark uses demand-responsive pricing to adjust the rates of city street meters and garages in eight major neighborhoods, ensuring that spots are always available. The program uses a matrix of street sensors to inform drivers using the SFpark app of space vacancy and prices in real time.” 

cities are using the data they gather to create dynamic parking pricing — so you can get a guaranteed great space if you’re willing to pay a little extra — and merchants could automatically pay for your street parking as an incentive for visiting their business.” 

"Seattle is really showing how cities, often with existing equipment and a little hard work, can do demand-responsive pricing..It's not as sophisticated, but it's such a big step in the right direction." 

“With SeaPark, the city prices parking in different districts based on need, in an effort to ensure at least one or two spaces remain open throughout the day. Officials collect parking data every year and change parking rates — which range from $1 to $4 an hour — on a per-neighborhood basis when basic availability goals aren't being met.” 

“Despite its limited funding, SeaPark remains an impressive system. Take street parking in the commercial core. As of April 2013, SeaPark just about hit its target occupancy of 70 to 85 percent during normal business hours:” 

 “Large green "VALUE" signs placed at the edge of popular districts show people where they can park for longer and cheaper — creating options for travelers who don't mind walking a little farther to pay a little less.” 

“the point of priced parking is not to squeeze city drivers for every penny. In many neighborhoods, rates have gone down since the program began”
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No Need for Drivers Anymore?

Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles - Opportunities, Barriers and Policy Recommendations(32 page pdf, Kara M. Kockelman and Daniel J. Fagnant, Eno Center for Transportation, Oct. 22, 2013)

Also discussed here: Self-driving cars could transform driving, produce billions of dollars in benefits(Joan Lowy, Hamilton Spectator, Oct. 22, 2013) And here: Top 5 Market Trends Driverless Cars Will Rev Up in the Future(Joe Levy, Wired, Aug.14, 2013)

Today we look at autonomous or driverless cars (AV) which will be legal by 2015 laws recently enacted in California, Nevada and Florida. They could save over 20,000 lives per year lost to the 5.5 M car crashes in the USA due to driver error, in addition to over $447 B in economic savings from the 4.8 B hours of productivity lost due to traffic congestion. Although it may take a decade or more to bring the cost per car of the added technology (currently $100K) down to the point (say $1,500) where these savings can be realized, recognizing that overall ownership and operating costs would be less (i.e. 50% for insurance and 13% for fuel). If even a few cars are AVs, the smoother flow of traffic would benefit all the cars on the road. Removing the need for a driver would also bring mobility to those too young to drive, as well as to seniors (40 M over 65 now) who will be doubling in population over the next 20 years and to the disabled. Finally, if a car needs no driver and can be called up when needed, there is less need to own one but rather share it with others – an AV can make 5 times as many trips as a non AV.

driverless cars  

Key Quotes:

“self-driving cars and trucks hold the potential to transform driving by eliminating the majority of traffic deaths, significantly reducing congestion and providing tens of billions of dollars in economic benefits.”

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. with over 40,000 deaths per year

“driverless cars will become shared vehicles. Sharing cars can mean less traffic, more available parking spaces, a cleaner environment, and fewer fatal car accidents.”

“If 90 per cent of vehicles were self-driving, as many as 21,700 lives per year could be saved, and economic and other benefits could reach a staggering $447 billion”

“This could increase fuel economy and congested traffic speeds by 23 percent to 39 percent and 8 percent to 13 percent, respectively, for all vehicles in the freeway travel stream.. should lead to 5 percent reductions in fuel consumption and associated emissions.”

“if 10 percent of all vehicles on a given freeway segment are AVs, there will likely be an AV in every lane at regular spacing during congested times, which could smooth traffic for all travelers”

“General Motor and Nissan are furthest along, but Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo have also begun testing driverless systems. Google's self-driving cars have clocked more than 645,000 kilometres on California public roads.”

“The hardest part will likely be making self-driving cars cost effective to the point where this is not just a gadget that some people enjoy, but becomes mainstream,"

“California, Florida and Nevada have passed laws to regulate the licensing and operation of self-driving cars. California has directed that licensing requirements be ready by 2015.”

 “The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) predicts that driverless cars will account for up to 75 percent of vehicles on the road by the year 2040”

 “a single shared AV serves five times as many trips as a non-shared vehicle.”
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Health Impacts Downwind of the Alberta Oil Sands

Heavy air pollution in Canadian areas with excess cancers(MNT, Oct. 23, 2013)

Also discussed here: Study documents heavy air pollution in Canadian area with cancer spikes(UC Health, Oct. 22, 2013)

And here: Study says pollution, cancer a match near Canada industry(Orange County Register, Oct. 21. 2013)

And here: Oil sands pollution comparable to a large power plant(American Geophysical Union Press Release, Feb. 22, 2012)

And here: Air quality over the Canadian oil sands: A first assessment using satellite observations(Abstract, C. A. McLinden, V. Fioletov, K. F. Boersma, N. Krotkov, C. E. Sioris, J. P. Veefkind, K. Yang, Geophysical Research Letters, Feb. 2012)

Today we review research based on ground air quality monitors and remote satellite air quality imagery that points to the elevated levels of carcinogenic air pollution, downwind of oil sands processing plants in western Canada. This moves the debate about the Alberta oil sands from one about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to one about direct health impacts, such as leukemia, for those who live downwind of these utilities. The findings indicated levels of volatile pollutants such as benzene higher than found in large polluted cities elsewhere in the world. It also underlined the value of taking actual measurements of air quality near industrial plants rather than depending on assumptions from models and stack emissions, as is the case with many urban incinerators, such as the Plasco municipal waste disposal plant near Ottawa. oil sands aq  

Key Quotes:

“found high levels of airborne pollutants, including the carcinogens 1,3-butadiene and benzene, downwind of Canada's industrial heartland in Alberta.”

“found higher levels of leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma in men living near the pollution plumes than in neighboring areas not close to the pollution.”

 "Our study was designed to test what kinds of concentrations could be encountered on the ground during a random visit downwind of various facilities. We're seeing elevated levels of carcinogens and other gases in the same area where we're seeing excess cancers known to be caused by these chemicals."

 “The scientists took 1-minute outdoor air samples at random times in 2008, 2010 and 2012, in Fort Saskatchewan…All the samples showed similar results, including levels 6,000 higher than normal for some dangerous volatile organic compounds”

 "These levels, found over a broad area, are clearly associated with industrial emissions….They also are evidence of major regulatory gaps in monitoring and controlling such emissions and in public health surveillance."

“samples had higher levels of some chemicals than some of the world's most heavily polluted cities. When compared with air samples taken in Mexico City in the 1990s and in today's Houston-Galveston area - known to have high pollution - researchers found Alberta's samples contained more contaminants.”

“In the first look at the overall effect of air pollution from the excavation of oil sands, also called tar sands, in Alberta, Canada, scientists used satellites to measure nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide emitted from the industry. In an area 30 kilometers (19 miles) by 50 kilometers (31 miles) around the mines, they found elevated levels of these pollutants.”
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