Selected extracts – sadly in thrall to ‘market urbanists’ the type that believe that places are poor because poor people choose to live their and open space is a waste of space, but at least hes read something.
…Members of Parliament, Mayors and Councillors receive a lot of complaints from the public about ‘over-development’. But at their core, most of those complaints are really about the congestion and diminished urban amenity which result if planning fails to keep up with population growth.The truth is that if we want our cities to be healthier, more productive, more creative they need to be more like humans and less like cars. Density is the solution, not the problem. But it must be density coupled with amenity.We humans are social animals – we like being with each other, we like looking at each other, talking with each other, talking about each other, learning from each other. ..he healthiest people by and large live in places where there is plenty of useful walking, where they don’t need to drive to do just about anything or go just about anywhere. The fittest, greenest, least energy intensive Americans live in New York.Historically cities have been scaled to conform to our chosen mode of transport. The oldest cities and towns were walking cities with a density and scale to match. Many of our early twentieth century suburbs were built around railway stations. And from the 1920s onward the motor car enabled us to spread out extravagantly.But a typical family is no longer one where dad goes off in the morning and comes back in the evening leaving mum to mind the home during the day. These days both parents probably work, and most households don’t have kids at home. Part time and flexible work and consequently proximity to services and amenities, to the centre of a city, are more important than ever.As properties close to an urban centre with its concentration of employment, services and public transport – be it Parramatta, Chatswood or especially the CBD of Sydney – gain in value, as Matt Wade reminds us in the SMH today and as a consequence households with lower incomes are inevitably pushed towards the urban fringes. Public transport is more distant, less frequent and more expensive if it exists at all, and transport costs take up more and more of the household budget. Gains from lower rents or cheaper property prices can be swallowed up by the costs of lengthy commutes and diminished employment opportunities.Technology and connectivity were meant to alleviate these problems. The car’s ability to disperse us would be remedied, we were told, by technology. We wouldn’t need to battle our way across the metropolis to a distant office – everyone would be able to work from home, and if we wanted home could be relocated from suburbia to exurbia, even further out. Density would fall further and cities become even more decentralised.But rather than the Internet benefiting the periphery at the expense of the centre, as so many expected in the 1990s, it had the reverse effect. The cost of transporting physical goods and commodities has declined, and supply chains have become more elaborate and global. There is no longer any particular need for businesses to be close to one factor of production or another.Ideas have never been more powerful or the pace of innovation more dynamic – and both thrive in cities. The great neo-classical economist Alfred Marshall wrote that in cities, “the mysteries of the trade become no mystery but are, as it were, in the air.”But how can we assure those mysteries and the people who unravel them are in the air of our city?Urban economists like Enrico Moretti and Ed Glaeser and, closer to home, thought leaders on urban issues such as the Committee for Sydney (ably chaired by my wife Lucy) and the Grattan Institute are as one in emphasising the importance of urban agglomeration and the benefits of large scale mass transit.A paper issued by the Committee for Sydney last year argues the best way to deepen the employment market in Sydney and improve the city’s amenity was to:● Increase the supply and diversity of dwellings (and implicitly, the density of population) in established areas; and● Improve the transport system’s capacity to connect people and jobs – this requires better roads, better public transport and better integration of the two….But as Ed Glaeser regularly reminds us, those cities where technology and electronic communication are used most intensively are also those with the most intense opportunities for physical engagement, enabled by proximity and density….
But as the top urban economists remind us, there is no substitute for physical proximity to other humans with kindred skills, interests and work. Cities succeed when they are places that people find desirable to work and reside. Technology gives us greater freedom than ever to choose the city where we want to build our careers and lives and to invest.In other words, a smart city needs more than smart technology, it needs smart people. And to create the environment that will attract them, you need technological imagination and above all smart planning. I can see Lord Mayor that Parramatta has both in abundance.