Development-Oriented Transit, Redux

I wrote years ago about the problems of so-called development-oriented transit – that is, transit built not to serve current demand but future development, often to be funded via land value capture and other opaque mechanisms. Today I want to talk not so much about the transit itself but the arguments people make for it.

The context is that I appeared on Kojo Nnamdi’s show last week discussing the plans for a ferry network in Washington DC, which I had heavily criticized in an article for the DC Policy Center. I was discussing the issue with guest host Marc Fisher and two locals involved in the ferry plan. I criticized the ferry plan over the poor land use on most of the waterfront on both sides of the Potomac, contrasting it with the Staten Island Ferry and Vancouver’s SeaBus (both of which have skyscrapers going almost to the water’s edge at the CBD end and decent secondary CBD development at the outlying end). My interlocutors answered, don’t worry, the area is undergoing redevelopment.

I heard something similar out of Boston, regarding the Seaport. People recurrently talk on Commonwealth about how to connect to the Seaport better, and at one point there was a plan to have the Fairmount Line reverse-branch to serve the Seaport (rather than going into the CBD proper at South Station). The crayonistas talk about how to connect the Green Line to the Seaport. Whenever I point out that the Seaport is at best a tertiary destination I’m told that it’s growing so it needs some transit.

In both cases, what’s missing is scale. Yes, waterfront redevelopment in former industrial cities is real. But the only place where it’s happened on sufficient scale to merit changing the entire transit system to fit the new development is London, around Canary Wharf. And even in London, the CBDs are unambiguously still the City and the West End; Canary Wharf is a distant third, deserving of a Crossrail line and some Tube lines but not of the dense mesh of transit that the City and West End have.

The important thing to understand is that TOD sites are practically never going to eclipse the CBD. La Defense, for all its glass-clad glory, is still smaller than the Paris CBD, stretching from west of Les Halles to east of Etoile. The peak job density at La Defense is higher, but westbound RER A trains are at their most crowded heading into Auber, not La Defense, and the CBD maintains its medium-high job density for several square kilometers while La Defense is geographically small. And your city’s waterfront redevelopment is not going to be La Defense or Canary Wharf.

If the TOD sites are not going to be primary CBDs, then they must be treated as secondary centers at best. One does not build transit exclusively for a secondary center, because people along the lines that serve it are going to be much more interested in traveling to the primary CBD. For example, people at the origin end of a ferry system (in Washington’s case this is Alexandria and suburbs to its south) are traveling to the entirety of city center, and not just to the redevelopment site near the waterfront. Thus the transit that they need has to connect to the CBD proper, which in Washington’s case is around Farragut and Metro Center. A ferry system that doesn’t connect to Metro well is of no use to them, and whatever redevelopment Washington puts up near the Navy Yard won’t be enough to prop up ridership.

The principle for redeveloped waterfronts has to be the same as for every secondary neighborhood destination: be on the way. If there is cause to build an entirely new metro line, or run more buses, and the new service can plausibly go through the redevelopment site, then it should. In Boston’s case, the 7 bus has high usage for how short it is, and so does the Silver Line going to the airport, so it’s worthwhile making sure they run more efficiently (right now the 7 and Silver Line run along the same inner alignment but peak in opposite directions without being able to share infrastructure or equipment) to serve the Seaport better. However, building a line from scratch just for the Seaport is a bad idea, and the same is true of the area around Waterfront and the Navy Yard in Washington.

In fact, the two closest things New York has to Canary Wharf – the Jersey City waterfront and Long Island City – both developed precisely because they were on the way. PATH was built to connect the railroad terminals at the then-industrial waterfront and the traditional center of Jersey City at Journal Square with Manhattan. Mainline trains began to be diverted from Jersey City to Manhattan when Penn Station opened, and with the general decline of rail traffic the waterfront was abandoned; subsequently, Exchange Place and Pavonia/Newport became major job and retail centers, since they had available land right on top of rapid transit stations minutes from Lower Manhattan. In Queens, something similar happened with Long Island City, once a ferry terminal on the LIRR, now a neighborhood with rapid residential and commercial growth since it sits on multiple subway lines just outside Midtown.

One exception to the be on the way rule is if there is a nearby stub-end line or a natural branch point. Some metro lines stub-end in city center rather than running through, such as the Blue Line in Boston, the 7 and L trains in New York, and Metro Line 11 here in Paris. If they can be plausibly extended to a new redevelopment site, then this is fine – in this case the CBD will be on the way to the new site. The 7 extension is one example of this principle; the extension is overall not a success, but this is exclusively due to high costs, while ridership per km is not terrible.

In London, the Jubilee line and Crossrail are both examples of this exception around Canary Wharf. Crossrail expects intense demand into Central London but less demand on the specific eastern branch used (the Great Eastern slow lines), making the City into a natural branch point with a separate branch to Canary Wharf and Southeast London. And the Jubilee line stub-ended at Charing Cross when it first opened in the 1970s; plans for an extension to the east are even older than the initial line, and once Canary Wharf became a major office building site, the plans were changed so as to serve the new center on the way to Stratford (itself an urban renewal site with extensive redevelopment, it’s just smaller than Canary Wharf).

The ultimate guideline here is be realistic. You may be staring at a place that’s doubled its job density in a decade, but it won’t be able to double its density every decade forever, and most likely you’ll end up with either high-density condo towers or a small job cluster. This means that you should plan transit to this site accordingly: worth a detour on a line to the CBD, but not worth an entire system (whether ferry or rail) by itself.

39 comments

  1. vanshnookenraggen

    It must be noted that the Silver Line was in fact built before there was any development out in the Seaport. But it was on the way to the Airport so it works. The Green Line crayoning has a more important focus which is to reduce transfer pressure at Park and DTX which are at crush loads. Since the SL tunnel is already there it would be a fairly cheap extension out to the Seaport after South Station.

        • newtonmarunner

          Yet proposals using T-61 still reincarnate every 6 months or so (eyes roll) …

          • F-Line to Dudley

            Yep. Single track that crosses the gut of one of Southside’s busiest interlockings against 3 lines of T traffic and every Amtrak schedule’s deadhead to/from the yard…then reverts to street-running before it gets close enough to Silver Line Way or Black Falcoln Cruise Terminal to tie into any other brand of Seaport transit. But…it exists, therefore it must be!

            Southie Haul Road is actually a far better use for transit if kept restricted to just trucks and transit vehicles. It’s in convenient range of the three CBD-located T bus garages and all routes originating from them, it’s well grade-separated with only a couple lights and its lone kinda-bad signal (Pumphouse Rd. connector to Summer St.) slated for near-term improvements, it’s never subject to peak congestion because of the way truck trips to port are spread around the clock, and it actually direct-interfaces with the Silver Line at Silver Line Way. You could do something radially-reaching with it on bus right this second if so motivated. If in the future the proposed relocation of the Food Market parcels at Widett Circle for ground-level train storage and air rights redevelopment allows for the roadway to be realigned direct to the Mass Ave. Extension intersection, you basically have the outline in-place for the whole southeast quadrant of the Urban Ring–BRT or LRT–scoped out between Dudley Square and South Station via the Haul Road, Melnea Cass Blvd. (which is reconfigurable for a transit reservation), and the SL Transitway.

            But, no…Southie pols and biz leaders actually want to open up the Haul Road to general car traffic at rush hour…because cars solve car congestion.

    • newtonmarunner

      Fwiw, to be pedantic, the Boylston St Subway to Seaport vía South Station also should increase development by SS — expanding the size of the CBD — as more service will go there. But like you said, that’s an ancillary benefit. The main reasons for Boylston St. Subway to Seaport are capacity upgrades — (1) to decongest Park & DTX, and (2) to allow the Tremont St. Subway to go down Washington St., giving South End, Dudley Sq., Grove Hall, Mattapan, etc. rail service rather than inefficient BRT.

  2. SCC

    Can you elaborate on the difference between how you’re using the term “TOD” here, and the concept of an “edge city”? It seems to me that you’re using “TOD” here as a synonym for an edge city, while the transit-oriented development concept isn’t quite that. Transit-oriented development is, more conceptually, project-based; each development (which can hardly be of a scale similar to a CBD) is an independently-built real estate project. Thus, an agglomeration of TODs around a transit station or ferry landing, or even a network of public transit options, can become a CBD; hence central business districts like La Castellana in Madrid or downtown Brooklyn, made up by many different developments and projects.

    The edge city is also related to the term you call “secondary centers”, but you don’t seem to make clear a difference between a TOD and a secondary center except for that a TOD is a secondary center on a transit line. But is this still quite the case, when a TOD is a single real estate development project, while a secondary center would still likely be a smaller agglomeration of real estate developments.

    Then again, how useful is it to differentiate between a single TOD real estate development project and a cluster of real estate projects? Spatially, it’s still a single cluster of jobs in the analytical framework of transportation demand modeling, where only a plurality, and not a majority, of trips are commutes to jobs. In that case, making a semantic differentiation between the American English connotation of a transit-oriented “development” as a discrete project versus a more general English-language denotation of “development” as an uncountable noun, doesn’t even really matter. Or perhaps, TOD should be redefined from “transit-oriented development” to “transit-oriented district” for the purposes of discourse on regional transportation demand modeling.

    Lastly, I do want to point out that, for your example of the LIC and Jersey City/Hoboken business districts surrounding the Manhattan CBD in the New York City metro, LIC and Jersey City historically had significant ferry traffic before transit and roads were built into Manhattan starting about a century ago. The ferries predate PATH and the ferry terminals were the connections between Manhattan and the railroad terminals; PATH was not quite built to connect Manhattan with the railroad terminals, but was built to REPLACE the ferries as the connection between Manhattan and the railroad terminals. Long Island City is also a weird case of “district” versus “development”; until about 15 years ago (i.e. starting from the previous real-estate cycle), Long Island City was pretty much a single transit-oriented office development surrounded by a district of obsolete industrial space. It has only been in the past two real-estate cycles that LIC has become a secondary center, as a number of discrete development projects have been built to replace the industrial space; these separate development projects have agglomerated together to create another secondary center to rival downtown Brooklyn and the Jamaica neighborhood.

  3. Michael James

    Alon, you’ve got some fuzzy thinking in this lot.

    Be on the way.
    At one level that is kind of obvious, and in terms of getting a TOD up and running a.s.a.p. sure. But they can be created. It’s true for quite a bit of the outer stretches of NYC’s and London’s Metro lines. Ultimately it’s going to be true of Canary Wharf, which was more or less the end of line (even if most lines thru it continued further out) for its first 30 years. In typical Brit fashion, it might take half a century but there are a bunch of developments (CrossRail, Stratford as a interchange of CrossRail, Underground, DLR and Eurostar) that will make it on the way. In fact the new housing you speak of is the least of it, especially as almost all of it to date is very expensive and filled with empty apartments. Apparently it is also that in the more central showcase Shard apartments are still empty . The thing is that the east of London is a vast area just crying out for active development to relieve London’s housing crisis and with all this transit infrastructure they may be laying the groundwork, however they are just leaving it to property developers which means both piecemeal and deeply inadequate in terms of affordable housing.

    By contrast, take the Tung Chung New Town TOD next to Hong Kong’s airport. It is a very good example of a purpose built TOD that is not really on the way. Obviously it was possible because of the mega-infrastructure built for the airport but actually the MTR that serves it, dead-ends at Tung Chung (the Airport Express uses completely separate tracks and the trains don’t ever stop at Tung Chung; to get to/from the airport to TC you catch a bus or taxi). I am sure that at least some of TC’s residents are there because they either work at the airport or they are frequent travellers (my friend who lives there works for an American tech company that services mass-spec instruments all over north Asia). (The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge enters HK at west Tung Chung so it will make it even more desirable for frequent travellers.) But, despite it being 31km from Central the MTR journey of 27 min means that it is as convenient to live in as many other places in HK. The TOD was built by a mix of MTRC (the land value capture) and private developers. They specifically planned part of it (called Yat Tung Estate) as affordable housing–though they had some troubles persuading developers to build it. YTE currently houses about 40,000 residents and its main issue is that it is less than perfectly connected to the main TC development directly to its east. There is provision for a Tung Chung West station and extension of the MTR but it hasn’t happened. Building YTE as a 100% rented social housing estate was an error, IMO. A new eastwards extension of the main Tung Chung complex (“Tung Chung East”) has its own MTR station (already shown on maps though not yet built or in use). The final projected population of all this will be about 260,000, and I believe it is about halfway there. Unlike London’s east docklands, they had to reclaim a lot of it (350,000 m2) from the bay.

    That is the way to build DOT. The MTR already carries 236,900 daily average (weekdays, 2014; does not include Airport Express traffic).(Such that the two tracks on the Tsing Ma bridge are getting congested due to the Airport Express and TC & Disneyland lines forced to share at this point–I don’t quite understand this as they are on the lower level of the bridge and don’t share that level with vehicles; my guess is they must be able to build extra tracks across the bridge? It is a very wide bridge.)

    Re your comments on La Defense, again I think you are confounding a few things. It may be “still smaller than the Paris CBD” and have fewer jobs but in the Paris CBD you’re counting a lot of non-business (bank, finance etc) jobs, eg. all those Grand Magasins and of course the huge tourist hospitality trade in the area. Though I am amazed to see that La Defense gets 3m tourists a year (no doubt partly because it is so easy to get there on M1 or RER-A). Naturally if they had realised it was going to be so successful they might have taken action to secure more of the land around it, though I have no idea of how developed it was at the time (my guess: well developed; remember it is quite close to Paris and this region–Puteaux, Suresnes–is quite desirable, ie. expensive, leafy real estate). They are developing a significant new section (“Les Groues”), adjoining just NNE of the Grand Arche, of about 76 Ha. I have read “While initial plans for La Défense were for 800,000 sq m of office space, almost 3.5 million sq m has now been developed.” Les Groues has potential of 600,000 m2. Is there really comparable office space (not including retail etc) in the Paris CBD? The much bigger area (“Seine Arche”) behind the Grand Arche will ultimately be (re)developed. Though many of the transit lines pass thru La Defense (ie. on the way) the reality is that it was/is really a DOT with it being the effective terminus for a majority of transit pax (and 100% of M1).

    [Incidentally did you watch the final stage of the Tour de France on tv? Excellent and rare aerial coverage of this part of west Paris. It began in Poissy and proceeded thru the National Parc de St-Germain before looping back to Paris. ]

    So ultimately I am not at all sure I can agree about your plea to planners to be realistic. Most of all they need to be bold because all the great successes have come from that. Especially in these mega-cities where housing affordability is such an issue. The problems of Canary Wharf is that it is half-baked; everything is too little and too slow. All the infrastructure to and around Stratford is lying unused because central government (lazy Tories; it is outside the remit of Sadiq Khan’s GLC) refuses to fully back their own projects. And their buddies, the property developers don’t want any hint of social or subsidised housing. Of course with Brexshit maybe they’re right (by accident).

    • Alon Levy

      Tung Chung is a lot of things, but a CBD it isn’t, and Hong Kong isn’t building lines that connect outlying areas to Tung Chung. It’s connecting Tung Chung to the CBD, which is completely different.

      In contrast, the commercial TOD in London is cobbled out of on-the-way things. Stratford was a rail hub already, and Canary Wharf’s rail lines go, chronologically, DLR (connection to the City, originally planned to be part of the Jubilee line extension until Maggie happened), then Jubilee line extension (on the way to Stratford and also a connection to the West End), and now Crossrail (natural branch point).

      Now compare this with proposed DOT in the US. The Track 61 plan (thankfully killed) and the Green Line crayon would both reverse-branch and avoid the Boston CBD in favor of the Seaport. The ferry proposal in Washington only serves the waterfront by definition and doesn’t connect to Metro or go anywhere near the CBD. De Blasio’s streetcar connects near-waterfront streets to Downtown Brooklyn and misses most subway connections to Manhattan, while his new ferries connect the waterfront condos to the East Midtown waterfront, which has by Manhattan standards nothing.

      • Michael James

        We’re talking about creating TOD or DOT, not about creating CBDs, secondary or whatever. Tung Chung is a very successful DOT that is not on the way.
        Re Stratford, I said all that in my post, but you have missed the fact that it doesn’t have much transit traffic at all yet. (Much of which was rushed so it could be there for the Olympics but they have never used the Eurostar station that is built and waiting …). As for DLR and Jubilee Line, like I said, they pass thru Canary Wharf but this is not really on the way (you’d find the vast majority of pax are heading to CW, just being fed by those transit lines coming from other stations they service).

        But I agree with your last points: a TOD is not going to work too well if not connected efficiently to the main CBD.

        • Alon Levy

          Tung Chung is successful residential transit-development synergy. In this way it’s like private Japanese railroad developments (like along the Den-en-Toshi Line) or like postwar Stockholm, which built the subway around the same time it was planning the housing projects that became the Million Program. In both cities, rapid transit connects these developments to the preexisting city center.

          • Michael James

            Right. But that is all I was saying. That it is possible to build and make a success, even when not on the way. And my other point was that in any big and growing city, almost anything you build today will eventually become on the way. You seem averse to the long-term planning required to build these things. The “cost savings” of short-term fixes almost ineluctably become a cost burden as reality (congestion, housing unaffordability) become inevitable.

          • Alon Levy

            I don’t know, will it be on the way? La Defense has been happening for 50 years and it still has fewer jobs than the Paris CBD. Tokyo has been spending the last 30+ years trying to move functions out of the three central wards and yet those three central wards remain the CBD, and to the extent there’s any change, it’s that the CBD is creeping west into Roppongi (just as the CBD here is creeping deeper into the 8th). Neither of these cities has done anything as boneheaded as plan a ferry connection from a suburb to a redeveloping waterfront.

    • rational plan

      The Shard flats are empty because the owners wanted far too much money for them, no one is going to pay that much to live at London Bridge! They have withdrawn them from sale to avoid embarrassment. The Shard is mostly offices and a hotel, it has a few luxury apartments fitted into the skinny pointed bit. Great views but a bit narrow for the floor plans I’ve seen.

      The whole empty apartment s owned by foreigners meme, is just a bit of xenophobic nonsense dressed up in class war rhetoric. Sure people have read stories about ghost cities in China etc and a lot of towers were funded by off plan sales in Hong Kong and Singapore, (which is not something a british has traditionally done. But there is scant actual evidence that occupancy is much different whatever the nationality. The real stats show that unoccupied properties are at their lowest percentage of the total since modern records began. Which is not surprising with London’s crazy property prices. Some people go on about second home owners but the reality it’s mostly people who sold up in London and bought a pied a terre for the working week and relocated their family somewhere more than 90 minutes by train from London where the property prices are less insane. With the rise of homeworking the five day a week commute into town is falling, more and more people are either trading a super commute of a couple hours a day for a 3 or 4 day week in the Smoke, with some homeworking or if they have the cash a small flat or flatshare in the city for that nice home in a pretty market town and good school for a half the price or less than a cramped terrace in London.

      The real problem is that London has increased it’s population by nearly 2 million in 20 years, yet has hardly built enough new houses to keep pace. Everyone is looking for scapegoats but woe be tide the politician who hints at touching green belt or densifying any residential neighbourhood. What has been built on has either been former employment land, or the redevelopment of towers in the park council estates to much higher densities (as they have no real power), The swathes of two storey terraces and semi’s are sacrosanct.

      • Michael James

        rational plan, 2018/08/05 – 11:37

        Some inconsistencies in your “explanation”. On one hand you say that some of these building were marketed directly in HK and China, yet OTOH you aver that a majority of the apartments are unoccupied most of the time. The exact same thing occurred in Australia–it was a response to the GFC in panic that the absurd property speculative bubble that supports our economy would burst. A lot of those apartments remain empty which is the Chinese habit (it is a form of banking for them).

        http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/may/24/revealed-foreign-buyers-own-two-thirds-of-tower-st-george-wharf-london
        The London skyscraper that is a stark symbol of the housing crisis
        Exclusive: Tower under-occupied, astonishingly expensive, mostly foreign owned, and with dozens of apartments held through secretive offshore firms
        Robert Booth and Helena Bengtsson, Wednesday 25 May 2016

        Of the 214 units, 184 [86%] have no registered voters (and the rest are unoccupied).
        Of the 210 with accessible deeds, 131 [62%] were foreign-owned.

        And, the appropriately named Candy brothers’ One Hyde Park:

        http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/28/london-the-city-that-ate-itself-rowan-moore
        London: the city that ate itself London is a city ruled by money. The things that make it special – the markets, pubs, high streets and communities – are becoming unrecognisable. The city is suffering a form of entropy whereby anything distinctive is converted into property value. Can the capital save itself?
        Rowan Moore, Sunday 28 June 2015

        One Hyde Park: Whoever bought these flats (oligarchs and sheikhs is the usual assumption), don’t find reason to be there very much, hence the blackness. If you tour other luxury areas, you will find two contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, they are enervated, depleted, losing energy, as shops and restaurants find that their businesses can’t be sustained by the occasional populations …

        A Brazilian architect once asked me why there were no favelas in London. They are coming now – sheds in back gardens, small flats and houses appallingly overcrowded.

        Now, ok, you might be able to make a halfway argument for such luxury developments (anything on Hyde Park was going to be totally unaffordable to all but the 0.1%), but the fact is that there has been no serious attempt to solve the housing problem for the vast majority. I agree that nominally the Shard is irrelevant–except of what it represents. Even when redevelopment (eg. of the notorious Heygate Estate, see below) is supposed to have mandated portion of affordable housing, without fail the developers manage to wriggle out of the commitments. Even when the commitment was pretty modest. This is to be expected of profit-driven and ethics-of-alleycat property developers. But the politicians should be both better and smarter. It is actually possible, not to mention absolutely necessary, to do both. But then you had Mayor Boris Johnson (who as one of the Chipping Norton Set did just as you describe: working week at his London mews house or whatever, weekends at his country cottage near Oxford). As Rowan Moore (previous citation) says:

        Instead, the only approaches that this government knows are to deregulate and incentivise the private sector, in the belief that, ultimately, it will meet the city’s housing needs unaided. Which it has not, for many decades, done, if ever. The result is that the weak spots, in market terms, are cannibalised. What goes is the soft but essential tissue that makes the city worth inhabiting and that, ultimately, makes it desirable to those outside investors.

        Sure, like you said, everywhere resists densification but that is why politicians need backbone and resolve, but this problem is especially bad in the Anglosphere. They seem to know only one version of “densification” and that is the very expensive and completely unnecessary high-rise bling we see in London. The alternative, which I believe would ultimately gain public approval and be much more affordable is Haussmannian-style development.

        https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/jun/25/london-developers-viability-planning-affordable-social-housing-regeneration-oliver-wainwright
        Revealed: how developers exploit flawed planning system to minimise affordable housing The release of a ‘viability assessment’ for one of London’s most high-profile developments – seen exclusively by the Guardian – sheds new light on how developers are taking advantage of planning laws to ramp up their returns
        Oliver Wainwright, 25 June 2015

        A council blunder in Feb. 2013 revealed that it had sold the 9 hectare estate to Lend Lease Group for just £50m, having spent £44m emptying the site and £21.5m on planning its redevelopment.
        In October 2012 MP Simon Hughes called for the first detailed Heygate planning application to be withdrawn because it proposes just eight social rented homes. Outline planning permission for the Heygate site proposes 2,535 new homes in total of which just 79 will be social rented.

        Finally, I repeat: there is masses of land in east London. Why on earth is it being left to rot? Answer: it’s essentially a form of “land banking” (but at public cost) for the developers who eventually will get around to building more blingy apartments or houses for anyone except those who run London and need an affordable place to live. Stratford could be a really, really great development if done properly … but it sits neglected despite all that transit infrastructure …

        • Untangled

          Stratford could be a really, really great development if done properly

          Your favourite real estate guy, Frank Lowy, has kind of already recognised this. Sadly, he’s just sold it to Unibail-Rodamco. Although, it’s now got an even weirder name Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

          • Michael James

            Oh yes, one of those giant concrete box shopping malls that kills retail and street-life in a radius of 20km. (They developed a neutron bomb to do the same thing but this is far more effective!)
            Frank Lowy is doing what that other ancient Oz mogul Rupert Murdoch, is doing: capitalising before he gets too old and loses control. Alas, both family empires are passing the torch to the sons.

          • Alon Levy

            Hey, the largest malls in France are La Defense and Les Halles. I can confirm that street life within 20 km of both is quite lively.

          • Michael James

            Alon Levy, 2018/08/07 – 12:35

            Hey, the largest malls in France are La Defense and Les Halles. I can confirm that street life within 20 km of both is quite lively.

            No, sorry but not true. First, despite the large number of people (workers & those 3m visitors) the “streetlife” on that giant pedestrian podium is quite poor. Though it is a long time since I have been there, everything I have seen it always looks the same–vast concrete plazas with few people. This is Le Corbusier crossed with Neimeyer. This is certainly made worse by the fact that there are superhighways serving the whole complex, but of course they are all hidden from view and most people using those malls are driving in and driving out, probably never to see actual daylight. I’d bet Americans love it! (I rest my case. 🙂

            Second, the surface level of Les Halles is a bit of a desert! Even though the gardens aren’t a bad feature, the reality is that they aren’t used much and there is little in the way of crowded street cafes; of course there are some (though I also remember there is a high concentration of American fast-food joints here, crowding out Café Costa) but if you measure it per Hectare (surface only) I am sure you’d agree it would be way below the Parisian average, even on car-dominated nearby rue de Rivoli or Bd Sebastopol or rue Rambuteau. Most people heading there quickly disappear underground, most people exiting the underground quickly leave the quarter. It is only saved by (1) being in vicinity of the rest of Paris, eg. the 8m visitors to the Louvre; (2) ditto, adjacent to Pompidou centre (5+m, the most visited plaza in all Europe), and Fontaine des Innocents and the remnants of the old Halles in rue Rambuteau. Even hipsters inadvertently end up here by following rue des Francs-Bourgeois/rue Rambuteau from the Marais. The adjoining pedestrianised Horloge residential area is a grim reminder of 1970s civic planning. If Kubrick could have, he would have filmed the Milk Bar scene of Clockwork Orange here in Les Halles–he wouldn’t have had to build any sets! (Alex would have travelled in on the RER-A from the eastern suburbs! Done a bit of drug dealing in the lower levels before a refreshment at the Milko and topping it off with a rumble in the streets/backalleys of the Quartier Horloge, whaddya think?) In fact one suspects there may have been a soupcon of life imitating art, here.

            Having said that, I hope the La Canopée reno has improved its ambience; the French still manage to create a vibrant urbanism even out of stylistic horror eras like the 60s/70s. I’ve seen plenty of this kind of thing in England and it is a true “horrorshow”; I haven’t been to Stratford but I’d bet on it being pretty awful and entirely negative effect on street life (which is probably mostly on traffic). The ancient (60s-70s) planning notion that a giant mall can be the nucleus of urban development was a dead parrot a long time ago. Just that in the Anglosphere they still leave it in the hands of moguls like Frank Lowy (his company, Westfield, owned the old Twin Towers underground malls in NYC and today the shops around the Oculus (which I presume is at least an improved version?). No accident that Unibail-Rodamco owns both the Forum des Halles and the La Defense malls!

        • Michael James

          Correction, I have been to Stratford but not dissimilarly to all those DIDO (drive-in, drive-out) mall shoppers: on a 300km/h Eurostar, underground without stopping:-)
          Like I said, I reckon Stratford has great potential but I have very little confidence the Brits and their proxies in town-planning (the Lowys and Candys of this world, or the other Australian development vandals around the world, LendLease) will bring it to fruition. Already there are plans for a clutch of hi-rise apartments which will further kill streetlife. Probably with underground walkways directly linking to CrossRail, LDR + Jubillee Line, and of course to the Westfield Mall!

          Incidentally, the tv advertisements of Westfield in Oz reveal their utter hypocrisy. They show the usual smiley shiny people swanning delightedly around the shops. But do they show this as one of their modern wall-to-wall white shiny-surfaced malls that represents 99% of their properties? No. The advert shows the wonderful QVB (Queen Victoria Building) which is one of those Victorian relics with central atrium and lots of wrought iron; it is in the middle of Sydney CBD (opp. Town Hall square) (somewhat reminiscent of the Le Louvre des Antiquaires, or maybe GUM in Moscow). I am certain Frank Lowy was one of those who in the 70s was arguing for it to be demolished to make way for a modern mall or car-parking.

          • Untangled

            The advert shows the wonderful QVB (Queen Victoria Building) which is one of those Victorian relics with central atrium

            Why would they be showing that? It’s not even a Westfield property, did they get permission from Vicinity (a rival company, their most well-known property is Chadstone)? Admittedly, the QVB is directly linked via a pedestrian tunnel (ok, really just an escalator) to Westfield Sydney so even though Westfield Sydney and QVB are owned by different companies, so it feels like it’s part of the same complex, but I can’t imagine that link extending to advertising.

          • Michael James

            Untangled, 2018/08/08 – 21:18

            Why would they be showing that? It’s not even a Westfield property, …

            Seems you are correct. QVB would be an anomaly amongst Westfield properties which seem to be exclusively those bland concrete-and-tile affairs that look identical all over the world.
            But I stand by the comment, ie. that their advert shows something very much like the QVB and utterly unlike their concrete vanilla crap one actually experiences in their malls. (I am assuming the Oculus might be a step above their usual, not because of Westfield’s planning input but because it was imposed by Calatrava’s design.) I haven’t seen the ad for a while and you ask a good question. Would they really show a “mall” or retail space that they didn’t actually own? Without getting into conflict with misrepresentation/false advertising? Probably. And possibly it is a recycled British advert–I really don’t know, but again the point is how even they understand how bland and unattractive their own dominant mall designs are that they are compelled to use something vastly more attractive to most people.

  4. adirondacker12800

    the traditional center of Jersey City at Journal Square with Manhattan

    Journal Square didn’t exist until after the H&M arrived. It’s a re-re-re-development.

  5. newtonmarunner

    While I agree with Alon, the obvious limitation of Alon’s post is the politics. Tunneling in the CBD is extraordinarily expensive (even if a high return), and de-interlining to eliminate reverse branches demands people lose some one-seat rides, which is politically difficult to do. Reverse-branching on a low-demand line to the CBD seems cheap financially in the short term, even if longer term, it constrains capacity, and precludes things of greater transportation value longer-term. Shuttles away from the CBD are also much cheaper, if an order of magnitude less useful, than tunneling in the CBD. And of course voters and politicians always want their parochial interests served, even if at the expense of others. So “good transit” advocates have their work cut out for them at the political level.

    • newtonmarunner

      I might take issue with your idea of extending stub-end Lines to secondary destinations. In the case of extending the Flushing Line (7) to Hudson Yards and the Canarsie Line (L) to Meatpacking, you’re exacerbating the unidirectional demand each line has, raising operating costs per rider considerably.

      Flushing is solvable by sending the Astoria Line to 42nd St./Hudson Yards, and Flushing to 60th St./Broadway Local. You would, however, need a new yard for the Astoria Line — maybe send it across the Hudson River to Hoboken for a storage facility.

      With its limited value, the L, however, shouldn’t be sent to NJ —at least for a long time. Further, paying the operating costs to send 15+ additional L trains per hour reverse peak (35+ tph on the L) seems inefficient.

      The Blue Line in Boston, however, works well if it both (1) connects to the Boylston St. Subway @ Arlington, Copley, or Kenmore, and (2) prunes a Green Line Branch — save the B.

      I have yet to figure out how to do DC post-deinterlining (in order to get 30+ tph from Ballston to RFK vía the current Orange Line Route). Probably need a relief line giving NE DC/Silver Spring on the Greenbelt/Silver Spring Lines an early transfer to Farragut/Foggy Bottom to relieve L’Enfant, Gallery Place, and Union Station.

      • adirondacker12800

        People from Queens, who use the Flushing line to get to Manhattan, get off at Grand Central. To be replaced by people from the East Side who want to go to Hudson Yards. More people from Queens get off at Time Square to be replaced by people from the West Side who want to go to Hudson Yards. And the reverse in the other direction.
        Ignoring for a moment that Queensboro Plaza isn’t set up to send Flushing Trains through the 60th Street tunnel, taking the Flushing Line out of service to cut back the platforms would be very very painful. If they are sending 30 or more trains from the Flushing Line through the 60th Street tunnel there isn’t any capacity for Queens Blvd trains. Probably would mean all of the expresses go down 6th and the locals go down 8th. I’m sure that would go over real well. Especially the mayhem at Columbus Circle.

        • newtonmarunner

          The IND Lines in Queens should be separated from the IRT/BMT Lines, anyway. [It’s necessary for SAS Phase II to have the requisite amount of capacity.] De-interlining should be done regardless of whether you switch Astoria and Flushing Lines: it’s an enormous capacity/reliability upgrade for such minimal financial cost.

          Switching Astoria and Flushing to 42nd and 60th, however, would (1) match line and tunnel demand, (2) give Flushing and Chinatown a 1-seat ride to each other, and (3) allow LIRR Main Line Local and Port Washington Branch to transfer at Woodside to the 59th St. Tunnel (as opposed to the current 42nd St. Tunnel). Not saying switching Astoria and Flushing would be my top priority but the project has significant value for the financial cost.

          • adirondacker12800

            IRT trains never run in passenger service on BMT/IND tracks. they are too narrow. IND/BMT trains never run on IRT tracks. Ever. They are too wide. So IND trains never, ever, never, run on IRT tracks.

  6. Adam

    Quick Los Angeles question, our HRT Purple line feeds the CBD and is being extended west to a dead end at the veterans hospital, about 6 km from the sea. So although called the “Subway-to-the-Sea” the funding for the final 6km is not there.

    At the same time, two nearby LRT North-South lines have been just combined in the planning process into one North-South line to create a “Suburbs-to-the-Airport” 45km line. This line DOES NOT connect to the CBD at all.

    The Final 14 km go north-south from the CBD HRT to the Airport.

    So my simple question is, “IS it a good idea to have a high capacity CBD HRT act as a Feeder line to a lower capacity LRT?”

    Has anywhere in the world tried to use high capacity lines to feed low capacity lines before?

    Because this plan seems more or less insane to me.

    Clearly the lower capacity LRT should feed the high capacity CBD HRT, terminating at the HRT line, and the HRT is what should be extended the final 14km North-south to the airport.

    This would mean that end-to-end riders, on the “Suburbs-to-the-Airport” line would not have a direct one-seat ride to the Airport, they would have to transfer to the HRT.

    But it seems like a complete no brainer, in terms of the overall system and how transit is used. Because this extension would connect the HRT to every single one of the currently disconnected 7 separate LRT lines.

    With this one extension, every Los Angeles LRT rail line is directly connected to the backbone HRT line.

    I feel like I must be insane because everyone in los angeles transit seems to agree the HRT should feed the LRT and not the other way around.

    perhaps it is just path dependency? They’re so committed to the obsolete “Subway-to-the-sea” plan they can’t get out of that thought process?

    • Alon Levy

      Wait, when you say north-south LRT line to the airport, do you mean Crenshaw or Sepulveda? Sepulveda should really be heavy rail – and honestly, the Green Line is functionally heavy rail, it just has short platforms and runs LRVs but is fully grade-separated and they can lengthen the platforms if ridership ever grows to the point of needing more capacity. Crenshaw can’t really branch off the Purple Line because then you’d be reducing frequency to Century City and UCLA. Sepulveda maybe could – you’d have heavy rail going from the VA Hospital north into the Valley – but that would cut off the north-south line from Westwood to LAX.

      In either case, it’s not really true that a heavy rail line is feeding a light rail line. If you’re going to the airport then you need to change trains, but the primary destination is still the CBD (and the second biggest is probably Century City, not LAX), so it’s the light rail network that’s feeding the Purple Line and not the reverse.

      • Adam

        Sorry that was confusing how I dashed it off.

        A fifteen km LRT for the ESFV (the suburbs) was just approved and the sepulveda corridor study will be a 30 km line that will connect to the south of the ESFV to the airport.

        Metro is going to combine the two projects to make this a single 45 km north south line from the suburbs to the airport. And because the ESFV is LRT the entire line is likely to be LRT.

        Metro will not have the money to build the sepulveda corridor as HRT anyway since every HRT station costs at least $500,000,000.

        My basic issue is that the money spent on building fifteen km of rail from the purple line to the airport would be better spent extending the purple line to the airport instead.

        This would force a transfer from a 30 km ESFV line to transfer to purple if they want to go to the airport.

        Right now, if a 45 km line is built, the forced transfer is from purple to the ESFV airport line. Thus backwards feeding.

        The green line service is being remapped on to the Crenshaw line, so it will no longer be fully grade separated, it will be constrained by the grade crossings on the Crenshaw line.

  7. rational plan

    It turns out foreign owners are not much different to other wealthy buyers. Most of the properties are rented out. The next most common use is for their children to stay in while studying in London. Very few of the properties were unoccupied.

    As for Stratford, well it has some good parts and not so good parts. The Olympic park is very nice and is already busy all year round. The former Olympic village works well again great landscaping and is mainly 12 storey mansion blocks. As it’s nearly private and social rental the owners have a long term interest in it’s health. apart from a small Sainsburys there are no chains. The developer scouted for independent retailers from across NE London and invited them to open new restaurants and shops. So it’s got some nice places to eat and a few local shops overlooking the central square and spread around the parks.

    The former Media centre is filling up with tenants and some new canal side restaurants are doing much better than I expected as they’re a bit of a trek. Once the new museums get built, performance spaces and university campuses then the whole park area will be quite special. And by that time the surrounding new Office blocks and apartment towers will hide most of the Westfield centre. I’m in two minds over it, It is a good mall on the inside and has great occupiers , but the exterior is a massive hulk. Most of the people come by train and tube and it is heaving most of the time, but any good retail centre is, otherwise those shops would not be there. The Mall has not sucked the life out of the old town centre, as well Stratford has, well, always been a value proposition. The Mall has ensured that there is a strong commercial core and the throngs of people it attracts is attracting more development and much to my surprise is attracting major office occupiers.

    The rest of the Stratford is shall we say a mixed bag some good buildings, some shocking. The high rises mostly line the main road from the station out of the town centre westwards to the Urban motorway. I think the new Ikea funded rental neighbourhood to the South could be quite pleasant. Plus the old gyratory around the town centre is finally going to be downgraded to normal city streets. It’s not going to be perfect, but I don’t think it will be a disaster either. The existing street network is being kept and the towers are being kept either to the main road or near the station or Westfield, the rest is mostly low to midrise blocks with some new terraces in a few spots. Luckily for them Fish Island to the West was already a major centre for artist studios and that has provided the kernal for major small business growth to occupy non residential spaces and help stimulate other retail and leisure uses in the area.

    • Michael James

      rational plan, 2018/08/10 – 15:19

      It turns out foreign owners are not much different to other wealthy buyers. Most of the properties are rented out.

      Where’s the evidence for that? I’ve given you evidence but you seem to be giving only opinion. And I am referring to all that bling they have thrown up in prime sites along the river. Not to mention, even if it is rented (and the evidence seems pretty solid that the majority of foreign-owned apts in those developments is not) it will be at stratospheric prices. Incidentally the fuss about the separate entrances (one for the majority wealthy owners and a separate one with separate elevator, for the mandated “affordable” units) in Knightsbridge etc is more than testament to the British affliction. Housing apartheid, even within the same building! Or in an appallingly designed building seemingly given a makeover to fulfil council PR to provide affordable housing (Grenfell Towers, nevermind the inflammable cladding to prettify it, but the lack of fire sprinklers and removal of one of two staircases and poor design of hallways-stairways that made it impossible for residents to escape if they were above the 4th floor). I wouldn’t have much confidence that the 40+ storey buildings being built in Stratford are not going to deteriorate into tack pretty quickly, not to mention safety.

      As for Stratford, you’ve not described anything I didn’t acknowledge. The total reliance upon commercial property developers has a guaranteed outcome–at least in the Anglosphere. Westfield Mall does suck the life out of street retail within a large radius, and the vast majority of people who visit it don’t ever leave it other than in a car (I’d bet there is even limited provision for pedestrians to come and go from the rest of Stratford). Read Alon’s writings (above) on their biggest mall in France in La Defense: “La Defense has been happening for 50 years and it still has fewer jobs than the Paris CBD.” Almost certainly that giant shopping mall serves a lot of west Paris suburbs (and maybe some of the workers in La Defense who then take their shopping home on the Metro/RER?) but you’d be hard-pressed to say it brings much to the development. On the contrary I am sure it is part of the problem of La Defense’s podium desertification. I can only hope that CrossRail might bring improvements but I doubt it because the overwhelming factor is that property developers are doing the “planning”.

      2018/08/05 – 11:37
      The real problem is that London has increased it’s population by nearly 2 million in 20 years, yet has hardly built enough new houses to keep pace. Everyone is looking for scapegoats but woe be tide the politician who hints at touching green belt or densifying any residential neighbourhood. What has been built on has either been former employment land, or the redevelopment of towers in the park council estates to much higher densities (as they have no real power), The swathes of two storey terraces and semi’s are sacrosanct.

      Precisely. But the real reason is not NIMBYism which is universal everywhere in the world, but political philosophical: for 40+ years there has been no role for the state. And the state has made sure the mayor of London doesn’t have the power, and that Councils are so under financial pressure they are forced to sell off to the property developers in what will come to be seen as one of the most corrupt actions of this era. In some ways it is worse than Maggie’s school playgrounds sell-off. Do you know that there are 90 (ninety) of those “towers in the park council estates” like Heygate and Aylesbury (the first to be redeveloped)? They are an absolute goldmine of opportunity to relieve London’s housing problems in both quantity (because, incredibly, the actual residential density of those horrible towers is quite low) and affordability. But so far they are doing nothing more than giving them away to property developers who only want to sell to the highest “market” price.

  8. rational plan

    The “buy-to-leave” phenomenon in housing has come into question after a report commissioned by the Mayor of London found that almost no homes in London owned by overseas buyers are being left empty.

    The research, by the London School of Economics, found that “there was almost no evidence of [new-build] units being left entirely empty – certainly less than 1pc”.

    The numbers focus on those who live abroad, and so do not include foreign nationals who already live in the UK, but do include British citizens who are expats abroad. The LSE report also underlined that developers rely on off-plan sales to help fund the early stage of development, get funding and reduce risk.
    ……….
    The University of York report found that 53.5pc of foreign buyers had a mortgage, compared to 69.4pc of British buyers, with south-east Asians most likely to be borrowing. Mr Hudson added that research suggested that buyers are largely “not ultra-wealthy overseas Russian oligarchs or from Middle Eastern oil money.”

    “There are quite a lot of people who are using mortgage debt from south-east Asia to buy,” the report said.

    “It’s the newly emerging middle classes in Asia getting in on this, who are not any wealthier or poorer than those [British] first-time buyers looking to buy.”
    ………

    There are lots of dodgy clickbait articles about the London property market, it certainly drives the comments sections but most of them consist of dodgy stats, or ‘research’ done by the journalist.

    Stop relying on the Guardian for evidence. The state of the London housing market is just clickbait for it’s metropolitan liberal core readership. They are in a state of rage that newly qualified urban professionals can no longer afford to get on the property ladder in London.

    Please don’t peddle that rubbish about poor doors and housing apartheid. Socially rented tenants can not afford the management fees that private owners pay. Should they pay for the pool or gym, upkeep of fancy lobbies and carpeted halls? Never mind other extras that are in some blocks. The social housing organisations would certainly not want them. Separate entrances mean that they and their landlords can pay for harder wearing finishes and none of the non essential services.

    Mixed buildings only occur if the authority insists on it or the site is too small for separate buildings. Most prefer the occupiers to be separated into different buildings, not only for management reasons, but is easier to just sell on the social housing element direct to the Housing association. Alternatively on smaller sites the authority may accept more social housing built on cheaper land elsewhere in the borough or the cash equivalent to their housing department.

  9. rational plan

    As to redevelopment of these 60’s and 70’s housing estates the councils are using private money to replace out of date housing stock and in theory replacing it with better and in a lot of cases more stock than was before. But this means a lot of mid to high rises to squeeze in all the units to pay for it. But there have been a quite a few cases were it has gone quite wrong. The Heygate is an example were political wrangling has meant a much worse deal than what they could have got at the beginning.

    The site went through almost 20 years of wrangling and multiple developers as each new council party and factions within parties cancelled each others plans. All the delay has ratched up costs and has meant that the amount of social housing has dropped in response.

    I do think council should have the restrictions on borrowing lifted as long as everyone is fine that the local tax payers are on the line for what their elected local representatives spend the money on. But it was partly because no one really believed in the first place that councils ended up with these restrictions. Pre Corbyn I would have said British local government has become pretty responsible, but hearing the mutterings on twitter about all these red tory northern councils needing a clearout and many momentum fans wanting them to run illegal budgets to strike against austerity, I quietly despair.

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