Cities and Cultural Cringe
Following up on my last post’s promise to tackle both cultural theory of risk and cultural cringe, here is my take on the latter issue.
It is normal for people to have some degree of national pride and fervor. Cultural cringe refers to the opposite trend: when, in some circumstances, people in certain countries feel national shame and develop an inferiority complex. The term cultural cringe itself was coined by A. A. Phillips in 1950, describing Australia’s inferiority complex toward Britain in literary fields: Australians thought their literature was too provincial and perhaps too incomprehensible to the British readers, and as a result many authors were uncomfortable making the local references celebrated in the literary canon of Britain, France, Russia, the US, etc. This notion has been generalized elsewhere. Amos Oz says he felt uncomfortable writing books in such a peripheral country as Israel until he read Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, showing how literature of and by the provinces can thrive.
From its origin in Australian literature, the idea of the cultural cringe has expanded to other fields, including the law, social relations, technology, and business. It seems endemic in former colonies, especially ones that are not rich. One writer in Nigeria argues how best practices thinking is cultural cringe by giving an example of a recent legal importation that turns out to already exist in traditional Yoruba law. In Australia itself, political scientist L. J. Hume pushed back against the notion that there is cultural cringe, arguing it is true of literature but not economics of other fields. But in mass culture, the vast majority of countries, both developed and developing, consider American film and television superior to their own and have domestic industries that focus on arthouse films or low-budget flicks.
Cultural cringe in legal, political, or technological fields remains endemic in many other developed countries. In one recent example, Emmanuel Macron said France is inherently resistant to change and (by implication) ungovernable, comparing it negatively with Denmark. In business, 1980s-era America was replete with books telling managers how to think like a Japanese or German, which trend ended when the Japanese lost decade and the economic crisis of German unification made these countries less fashionable.
Lying in the intersection of business, politics, and technology, urbanism and transportation are amenable to analysis using this concept. As in the Nigerian example, the third world tends to have too much cultural cringe and too much faith in the merits of importing first-world methods. Conversely, the United States (and to a large extent Canada) today is resistant to outside ideas and does not know how to be a periphery.
Urban layout: there’s a world outside Europe
During the SB 827 debate in California, supporters reassured restive city residents that the density the bill promoted – up to 7 floors right next to transit lines and up to 5 a little farther away – was gentle. “Paris density,” they said. Everyone likes Paris as a tourist. Everyone recognizes Paris as good urbanism.
There is very little cultural cringe in the United States – on the contrary, Americans are solipsistic in every field. However, one of very few exceptions is that the American middle class vacations in Europe and is familiar with how walkable European cities are. (It’s even referenced on Mad Men when a minor character goes on walks in their car-oriented New York suburb.) Paris is the largest and richest city Americans of a certain wealth and education level can be expected to be familiar with and like, but by the same token the YIMBYs could mention Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Rome.
But it’s useful to think of what was not mentioned. Certainly not Hong Kong or Dubai, which seem to be mentioned almost exclusively negatively in Western discourse. Not Tokyo, which Westerners are much less likely to visit to the point that the Western blogs talking about Japanese urbanism (like Urban Kchoze) are notable for it. Nothing in the middle-income world, including some old cities (like Mexico City and Istanbul) that have building height, street width, and stylistic variation that first-world urbanists would approve of (and do if they’ve been there).
In this situation, the invocation of famous European cities feels less like a dialogue and more like an attempt to induce cringe defensively, to make people feel less attached to their cities’ American auto-oriented character. In effect, it’s an attack on “it will change the character of our neighborhood,” a line that’s much less common in countries that are used to thinking of themselves as inferior to whatever they consider the metropolitan core (such as the first world writ large in Israel, or the former colonial master in ex-colonies).
Transportation: a little cringe is good, but not too much
In the developing world, there is extensive cringe. Without using that term, I suggested it as a reason behind high construction costs in the third world, which are similar to the costs of the first world today and several times as high as those of the first world from back when its income levels were comparable to those of subway-building third-world countries, in the early 1900s. In Latin America and China, development is more inward-looking, and China in particular learned to build subways from the USSR in the 1950s, not a rich country. In former colonies, there seems to be a greater willingness to import methods from either the former colonizer or from countries that aggressively invest in third-world infrastructure, like Japan and China; the result is very high construction costs for projects for which I have data in India and other countries of that development level.
In some cases, like India’s high-speed rail program, the country imports technology wholesale, and Japan (or China) may insist on an exact copy of its methods. As it is, Japan refuses to call Taiwan High-Speed Rail a Shinkansen system even though it runs Shinkansen rolling stock: construction methods were European, so Japan only calls THSR a high-speed rail system using Shinkansen-based technology.
However, decisions like India’s standard-gauge metro lines happen even in indigenous systems. Delhi Metro uses standard gauge not for some turnkey technological import, but purely because it feels more modern whereas Indian mainline trains feel dinghy and dangerous. Evidently, Delhi Metro electrification is 25 kV, which is standard on mainline trains but unheard of on first-world metros; modifying subways for high-voltage electrification requires expensive concrete pouring, since high-voltage catenary requires more generous clearances to avoid arcing, whereas modifying rail gauge is routine since the European vendors are used to selling to broad-gauge Finland and Spain and the Japanese ones are used to their country’s multitude of gauges.
And if India errs on the side of too much shiny adoption of foreign technology, the US errs on the side of adopting too little. Americans do not think their country is inferior. American authors do not think they need to experience another country or speak another language before they write. There was a time when the American business community felt outcompeted, but today it feels like it’s at the top of the world, Silicon Valley having long left Japanese corporations in the dust; I stopped seeing complaints that American cars were inferior to German and Japanese ones not long after Obama’s auto industry bailout.
The American policy sphere seems especially constrained. There is some cultural cringe toward London, leading thinktanks like the Regional Plan Association and TransitCenter to overlearn from London’s peculiarities (like the Oyster fare cap and contactless credit card payment), but not much toward Continental Europe and practically none toward Japan. Instead, the attitude toward non-English-speaking countries is one of dismissal. When Richard Mlynarik pointed out to a Caltrain official consultant that Japanese trains turned much faster at terminals than Caltrain thought possible, the consultant replied, “Asians don’t value life the way we do.” (Update 2020-09-05: since a bunch of people in the Bay Area reference this line, I am reminded that this was not a public employee of Caltrain but a consultant brought in for the Transbay Terminal project.)
If India fails to understand where its own methods could be superior despite being a peripheral country, the United States fails to understand that it’s a peripheral country in the first place. Transportation innovation rarely happens in North America. It happens in Western Europe and Japan, and to some extent in developing countries that have less cultural cringe than former colonies, such as Brazil and Colombia and their invention of BRT or Colombia, Bolivia, and Mexico’s use of aerial gondolas in mountainous suburban areas.
Urban development: you are not New York
I’ve been reading Aaron Renn’s blog, the Urbanophile, since maybe 2008. At the time he was still in Indianapolis, in (I believe) management consulting, writing about how his city was trying to become culturally and economically bigger than it was, and sometimes but not always succeeding. A recurrent theme in his writings has been that Midwestern American cities are desperate for development. They keep saying they need more creative people, more venture capital, or whatever else is in vogue. (In contrast, he says, Rhode Island, where he lived later, doesn’t even understand how peripheral it is.)
However, the way the Midwestern cities he focuses on try to attract this elusive development is through cheap copying. An old post of his I can no longer find contrasts world-class Indianapolis with world class in Indianapolis. The former involves investing in some city institution to make it world-class, or more realistically notable enough that boosters can call it world-class with a straight face. The latter involves inviting a starchitect or another person with international cachet (such as Richard Florida) to build something in Indianapolis that’s notable and is exactly as notable as what this person might build in any other city of that size, with no particular connection to the city itself.
In the transportation field, many American cities build mixed-traffic downtown streetcars and beam with pride if they get 4,000 riders per weekday. Often this mentality overrides any attempt to provide services to city residents: thus, the streetcar in Detroit is not integrated with the city’s bus network, and in fact a bus runs on the same street, on different lanes from the streetcar. This isn’t about some mythical preference for rail over bus: these cities build whatever they hear is in vogue and will get them noticed by New York media, whether it’s peak-only commuter rail, a downtown streetcar, a limited bus that calls itself BRT, or now a bus network redesign around untimed 15-minute frequencies.
Cringe vs. dialogue
It’s important to distinguish dialogue with a foreign culture and cultural cringe toward it. One difference is that cringe implies infatuation; however, infatuation can also develop among immigrants who are steeped in the metropole’s culture after having lived there even while maintaining ties to the old country. A bigger difference is the extent of two-way dialogue. Israelis use the expression “unbroken country” to refer to the mythical average first-world country in which you can get things done without having to tell government bureaucrats that you served in the military with their bosses; however, few have lived abroad long enough to know the details of what makes these countries tick better.
With limited knowledge of the core, the periphery can worship at the feet of the few people who do know, which leads to political bias. This is where moral panics of no-go zones come from: there is an Israeli television show purporting to portray how things are in Europe, but any connection between Belleville (or other racially diverse Paris neighborhoods) and what they depict is completely incidental. In that case, the bias is right-wing. In the opposite direction, left-wing bias can occur when American liberals and socialists are enamored by European health care and education systems and elide a thousand details that distinguish them from American renditions of single-payer health care or free college tuition.
But the biased reaction is only common in places that care little about how to govern. “Well, actually Tower Hamlets is a no-go zone” is not a blueprint for reducing nonwhite immigration to the United States or Israel. Instead, in the policy sphere a more common reaction is a shrug. Dialogue is threatening: the people capable of it are typically not the top pundits on this issue. Instead, it’s more common to aggressively dismiss knowledge that’s hard to access, even among people who at the same time invoke the cringe. In Israel it takes the form of self-denigrating lines like “this is Israel, not Finland.” Cultural cringe leads to lower expectations this way.
When Phillips criticized Australian authors who deracinated their writing to appeal to British taste, he was implicitly saying that Australians couldn’t root their literature in British experience. Oz, similarly, felt constrained about writing when he was young because living in Israel, he could not root his books in Paris, Milan, and other flashy cities whose books he devoured. The economic (or legal, or technological) analogue of this observation is that the reason there is cultural cringe is that people in peripheral areas (which in transportation include the United States) are too unfamiliar with the core and cannot dialogue with it the way people in different parts of the core can.
Urbanism is not literature. One doesn’t need extraordinary sensitivity and a lifetime (short as it may be) in a culture to produce very good insights about transportation, housing, or municipal governance. It’s possible to break out of the cringe by acquiring detailed knowledge of how the core operates. In the case of the third world and subway construction, it means learning enough about current and historical construction methods to be able to propose ways to build infrastructure at low costs commensurate with these cities’ low wages; in the case of the United States, it means learning enough about what makes European, Japanese, Latin American, etc. urbanism tick that it can be adopted domestically.
Urbanism is not literature in a far more important sense: there really are better and worse traditions there. It’s not enough to have pride in what you have when what you have is a third-world city where the poor don’t have running water, or for that matter an American city that would shut down instantly were gas prices to rise to levels necessary to stop global warming. Learning from the core is crucial. It’s just equally important to do so through dialogue and not through the ignorant self-denigration that is cultural cringe.
I think you’ve got this slightly wrong. It wasn’t the authors but their public who suffered the cultural cringe. Many creatives felt they had to get away to practice their craft which explicitly was not to imitate the “home” country ie. UK. It was the institutions and society, not the artists, who were afflicted. The most famous are the gang of “brilliant creatures” in the 60s: Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes, Clive James & Barry Humphries. Humphries made his fame by viciously satirising middle-class Australia with his Dame Edna Everedge, Oz Ambassador Les Paterson, Bazza McKenzies and his native Moonie Ponds (suburb of Melbourne). Funny that it was Howard Jacobson who made the doco ’Brilliant Creatures’ in which he examined how these Australians stormed and broke thru the barricades of stuffy London/Cambridge; even more ironic in that Jacobson came to Australia in the 60s to take up what was Greer’s vacated professorship at the University of Sydney: she was fleeing the stultifying post-war cultural cringe of Australia while Jacobson was fleeing the stuffiness of class-bound England and he found Australia a wonderful escape (at least for a few years; of course he was a Manchester jew so may have felt more exclusion than usual in Cambridge & Blighty).
I forget which of the four it was, who explained that there was a binary choice that Australians faced, especially in Oxbridge: either be appalled at the pompous self-affirmation evident the instant most Oxbridge types open their mouths and thus adopt a wild colonial boy/gal attitude to make fun of them or alternatively decide to join them. No accident that the ones who “made it” chose the former while no doubt the ones who chose the latter mostly disappeared from view (though I suppose Geoffrey Robinson successfully deployed the “can’t beat-em so join-em strategy”).
Of course change was in the air, and some of the Brit intelligensia were primed to be receptive to the invading Aussies. In Jacobson’s doco there is a wonderful piece with (Lord) Melvin Bragg explaining how Greer (I think) simply blew into Cambridge like a hurricane within 12 hours of arriving in the UK. Before long Eric Idle, president of Footlights Review, had made her the first woman member of the FL joining a brace of other future Pythons and David Frost, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore et al. You could make a similar case for those who made it in Hollywood from Errol Flynn to Mel Gibson, Hugh Jackman, Geoffrey Rush, Heath Ledger, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett etc. Cultural cringe? I don’t think so.
By the end of the 70s the cultural cringe was largely over though of course lingering on in the hearts of a certain conservative minority. And alas, many lesser politicians and planners of infrastructure who continue to do their study tours of London rather than places so obviously superior in transport projects. But in artistic fields it wasn’t the case for a long time. Our sole Noble prize in Literature (excluding Cotzee, a later immigrant), Patrick White wrote books that were rooted in Australian culture, and later literati such as Peter Carey (double Booker winner) and Thomas Keneally (his most famous work, Schindler’s Ark is European, for which he won the Booker, but almost all the rest are very Australian).
As a prime example in infrastructure: last week the Victorian government announced a 90km circumferential underground Metro,’Melbourne Loop’, to link up the outer suburbs (and the airport for which the only public transit is a bus!). All existing Metro and tram lines are radial and so it makes a lot of sense, and to support TOD for this fastest-growing city in Oz. However, the catch is very British, reminiscent of the underplanned/very-late London Orbital M25 or even London CrossRail (about 50-70 years late): expected completion about 2050, starting in 2022 (which is too neatly beyond even the next term of parliament, ie. always NIMTOO when it comes to spending money, in this case estimated at >$50bn). And yes, if you guessed there is an imminent election, you’d be right.
As I understand it, cultural cringe in its original formulation is specifically an elite phenomenon. Phillips was talking about serious literature, and as I understand it, refinements of the idea by others noted that Australia did express a lot of pride in mass culture, especially sports. The big-name actors you mention are part of this trend, but are also renowned for their success in Hollywood (except Mel Gibson with Mad Max 1), not for their domestic character acting. It’s similar to how Israel is proud of Gal Gadot but not of its own filmmakers (many of whom are Arabs who criticize Israeli racism).
Speaking of the imminent election: is Labor going to actually win? And if they win, are they going to maybe shut down the concentration camp in Nauru and actually let refugees in?
I don’t think so. Cultural cringe refers to the prevailing zeitgeist prior to “liberation” that began in the 60s and was complete by the late 70s. It meant that much of the populace and a lot of the so-called establishment elite (not the future elite like Greer, Hughes etc) measured everything, especially artistic, by reference to England and Empire. For success with endogenous culture not just mimicking someone else’s, paradoxically these budding intellos etc had to leave Australia. Another group from the same period that I didn’t mention was the Oz Magazine crowd–Richard Neville etc who had founded the magazine initially as a U Sydney student new-age newspaper but ran into the usual institutional resistance as the 60s picked up, so they took off to London and set up Oz in London and had a constellation of key players/contributors like Greer herself, Robert Hughes, rock-critic Lillian Roxon (which reminds me, she grew up just down the road from where I am writing this), Martin Sharp (who became famous for his album covers such as Cream’s Disraeli Gears and the Dylan poster etc), Jenny Kee (years later returned to Australia to be a renowned clothes designer) etc. Oz was taken to court over the infamous Kids Edition obscenity trial (which was defended by John Mortimer, assisted by a young Geoffrey Robertson!). John and Yoko marched in the streets in front of the Old Bailey to defend free speech. The judge was notoriously biased and convicted them but it was rapidly overturned and the judge disgraced, and they became cultural heroes. However Oz didn’t survive but one of their Brit publishers was Felix Dennis who was also convicted, went on to become extremely rich by publishing girly mags but also used his wealth to fund all kinds of things. Greer and James stayed in UK, Hughes went to Time in NYC, as did Roxon (who died just after publishing her masterpiece, of an asthma attack during a New York heatwave!) and Sharp, Neville and Kee found their way back to Australia which had changed by then (as the whole world had).
By then the Australian New Wave cinema was underway with films like Roeg’s Walkabout, Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and Gallipoli (which established Mel Gibson as a serious actor not just beefcake), Fred Schipisi’s The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (based on Thomas Keneally’s book) and Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career (which began the careers of Judy Davis & Sam Neill). All of this showed definitively that the cultural cringe was truly broken.
One thing to keep in mind is that the loop won’t be the only new mega-project that will be constructed and there will be other projects going on during the same time period in Melbourne. And there will also be projects in Sydney going on too, all competing for people and money (unlike Paris in France or London in UK which doesn’t have to compete as much with another city).
That said, even with these things in mind, and 30 years is way too slow and I don’t think it’s the whole story. If they manage to keep things on-time and prevent a delay like Crossrail, quick maths shows Sydney with all it’s bumbling Anglosphere management will open around 80km of new rail lines (not counting upgrades/conversions) between now and 2029. Yes, it’s entirely Metro but that’s another story. Clearly, even at 90km Melbourne’s Loop can be done much faster.
As I said, 99% of Melbourne Loop is about an announcement just before a state election. As per Alon’s latest posting and our discussion on taxes, this crazy slow building of urgently needed transit infrastructure is all due to budgetary constraints, in particular the conservative’s self-imposed arbitrary limit of 23.9% of GDP as federal tax revenues! (And when Labor gains power, these conservatives and the Murdoch press start screaming if Labor tries to catch up on all the things they never did while in power, like the do-nothing 12 years of the Howard government.) It is simply not enough, especially with our small population and huge country. If we taxed up to the OECD average of 34% it would raise another $120bn p.a. (at least) which could comfortably fund this infrastructure over a 10+y period instead of the absurdity of announcing such projects to be completed by mid-century.
I think it’s federal level taxes that are capped at 23.9%. Add in local and state taxes, you’ll get closer to 34%.
Yes, I said the 23.9% was federal, but the total including states is about 28% (this imbalance is often cited as a governance issue, which I’d agree with except for the incompetence of states). I trapped myself by citing the OECD average because I think that is low-balling and too widely encompassing of different styles of governance and societies. People can blather on about Singapore (which actually is not in OECD but …) however how many Australians or other First Worlders would really want to adopt their whole system (remember it is the most unequal rich country … followed by the US).
No, I compare us to what we would aspire to, namely the Nordics, France, Germany, Netherlands (maybe even the UK in terms of tax but actually a poor example in terms of what they do with their high taxes). My statement about the potential extra revenue if we went to the OECD average still stands, but that is also a kind of politcally nuanced argument, and secretly I am the neo-lib, econo-rationalist nightmare: we need to spend a lot more just to catch up on so many things. But you’d still be hard pressed to achieve the levels of the Nordic, France & Germany; now do people really hate what they see in those countries? Do they think that not taxing ourselves anywhere near their levels is due to our cleverness? Or maybe why our cities have shit transit and transport, unaffordable houses (with no alternatives), absurd utility prices (because we allow the big foreign nationals who control our gas (in top 3 in world, potential #1) so that we pay more for domestic gas than the Japanese do for the same (Australian) gas ((LNG)!).
Note that in the tables in these comparisons Switzerland is only a tiny bit lower than Australia, at 26.9%, however as I explained earlier that excludes the compulsory health insurance that adds 11% GDP, thus their true rate is closer to 38%. The Australian figure includes the cost of healthcare.
Anyone with perspective knows to be sceptical about these figures and comparisons, but does anyone in Australia not think we are relatively lightly taxed compared to our peers? (For one thing, our GST is 10% while EU TVA is 20%, higher in some of those Nordics.) And it is actually worse–because we have sold off the literal crown jewels, ie. assets and infrastructure owned by the crown. Inevitably this means most of it is in the hands of foreigners which in turn means that that is where the profits on our own infrastructure end up. Does that sound viable to anyone? This week it has been confirmed that the latest giant road tunnel (WestConnex) will be sold to Transurban (majority owned by Canadian Teacher Pension Fund) for $9.3bn, which will give them a near-monopoly on this outrageously lucrative business (below). If it is so profitable then why on earth doesn’t the state arrange it as a public-owned corporation/statutory authority, say like the things that run NYC’s roads, tunnels and bridges (and which Robert Moses used to self-fund so many of his projects)? Or ensure it is Australian pension funds that own these assets (our superannuation funds at $2.4 trillion are supposedly the biggest in the world).
WestConnex is the mother of all tunnels at 33km so adjust those figures to Transurban owning 128 of 132 km of Sydney’s toll roads, ie. 97%.
Incidentally Transurban bought NorthConnex in a non-tendered behind-the-scene deal! They are going to have to raise $4.6bn for their purchase of WC. Meanwhile there is $5bn of construction to finish WestConnex and so this deal is probably “financing” less than 50% while the state takes all the risks. Wait, that’s not all! (Editorial, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Sept. 2018):
Quelle surprise. Every single tunnel they build ineluctably leads to demands for further tunnels to relieve the congestion created by the last tunnel.
I didn’t ask for this kind of response but okay.
This guy has something to say about it: https://www.skyscrapercity.com/showpost.php?p=151840426&postcount=3977
Obviously, not as nice as having it 100% state-owned, the Transurban ownership is problematic, to say the least, and if they decided to forego the sale they could probably make even more money over the long run still but overall it’s still a fairly good outcome for the state if not road users. And the state government isn’t selling their 49% stake so they will still have some of the toll profits, their stake being transferred to the rainy day fund. In any case, the state isn’t the biggest loser, it’s the federal government who paid for parts of it and won’t be getting any money back from tolls.
Oops, wrong one, here’s the corrected one.
Untangled, you need to give your summary of what you think any link you post says. Of course you don’t have to, but then no one is going to click it. Also helps if you give the correct link …
You’ll note that I did this for my links which were the opinions of academic economists. I wouldn’t know what to expect on a blogsite labelled skyscrapercity …
As to the sale of 51% of WestConnex, no it is not a good deal. You doubtless said the same thing about selling the 100% monopoly of Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport to the current bunch of corporate thieves (and allowing appointment as KSA’s first CEO then Chairman, the chief of staff of the PM whose government privatised it)? It is one of the highest cost airports in the world (IIRC its parking is the highest in the world). Providing a for-profit company with a 97% monopoly over a major city’s transport system is not worth any amount of money (which is only going to be consumed in actually finishing the tunnel!). The reason the govt is selling it now is to gain the credit for this bunch of pollies (some of whom will end up as consultants for Transurban as in the past) instead of Labor who probably will win the next election. Or the risk that Labor may choose not to privatise it–though that’s a long shot as this false economics has infected everyone.
Re the federal contribution: of course that would have been by Tony Abbott, our second-last PM … err, no our PM third back, whose transport policy was “not a dollar to rail transit”! But I agree, the feds should have a law banning privatisation of such infrastructure, or at least for ten years when its true value would be apparent and its operating practices settled. But of course this lot of feds would love to privatise the NBN before the next election if they feasibly could, even though they botched it (deliberately, another wonderful contribution from Tony Abbott and our previous PM Turnbull).
Ugghh. I meant to add to my comment about M2 + M6 that perhaps the real action in Paris to create an orbital link between the ‘burbs is the tramways. This was covered by Alon:
T3 combined with T2 form a ring around central Paris, while T1 spans an arc across the northern outer suburbs.
Here is an excellent map of all the tramways in Ile de France:
This new network of 9 lines began with T1 which opened in 1992.
However no one pretends that trams are “rapid transit” and so they have committed to an oribital system of proper Metro plus RER that should tie in most of the greater Parisian region. Of course, like much of the world, this is partly a rebuilding of what they used to have: (Wiki)
Before any Australians say that it is all well and good for a country of 64 million to pamper their capital with all this fabulous infrastructure, in fact France has a program to install a tramway in all provincial cities and towns of greater than 250,000. If you’ve visited France in the last decade you’ve probably seen them, in Nice and Bordeaux (which was the first to deploy Alstom’s wire-free system that has been installed in Sydney and many other places).
I just looked up Melbourne Loop. It’s an abomination. For maybe $2 billion you could build an airport-Jacana connector. For maybe $10 billion airport-Heidelberg. You could build a couple more spurs to places like Monash for $1 billion each. Anything beyond that is a gigantic waste of money. The traffic from airport to any given suburb, or from suburb to suburb, is minimal and is well satisfied by buses running on Melbourne’s arterial street grid. If you have tens of billions to spend, a much more effective use for it is a few more radial lines to the CBD. For the same money, that would transport many times as many passengers.
Melbourne Loop is not being built solely to link to the airport. That is merely a thing it can do. (As for your projections about servicing the airport, you are extrapolating todays use when that is unsustainable; you know they are spending a billion to add another lane on the freeway to the airport but no one in this universe thinks that will cure the congestion. One complaint about building a Metro to the airport from the centre is that it won’t service most Melbournians who live in the ‘burbs; this is at least partly correct.) The real objective is to take pressure off the radial lines and the centre, and provide more mobility between outer suburbs. There is very little detail (because it is a vaporware project conjured up for the election) but IMO it should aim to develop a whole series of TOD at the interchange nodes with the radial lines–and that these should have a density requirement imposed, otherwise in typical Australian style it will simply promote more sprawl and car-dependence. A 30+year timeline is beyond a joke. Really, it is an official plan to do nothing. Very Australian and a hangover of the cultural cringe, British style (do nothing until it is too late when it will cost a fortune and it is beyond governments ability to shape the development around it.
I mentioned suburb-to-suburb traffic in my comment. The amount of it is very small. There are ten more radial corridors that can support more traffic than any suburb-to-suburb corridor.
Once the Metro Tunnel is finished, there will be a surplus of radial capacity.
TOD is also a red herring, existing stops can be upzoned for TOD and small spurs can be built to serve the universities and such which are not currently served.
The plan is vaporware BECAUSE it’s so grandiose. If it had more realistic dimensions, like a $2 billion spur to the airport, then it could be funded and built much more quickly.
I think Melbourne will need still need a second radial tunnel.
Eric, 2018/09/02 – 09:29
Exactly the bizarre argument I cited. Before Paris RER-A line was created, its traffic was zero. Today it is 300m p.a. Ditto Paris new orbital Metros (btw, M15 is 75km with 36 stations and is under construction, first section to open in 2022). Your argument says it should never have been built. No, really it is what you are saying. If your name wasn’t Eric I’d suspect you were Alan Davies of the (Melbourne) Urbanist blog who takes a braindead econo-rationalist argument to say that a rail line serving Tullamarine should not be built until the airport surpasses (IIRC) 30m pax. Meanwhile billions are spent, even more billions lost on the resulting congestion, by building yet more roads. And apparently the concept of incorporating serving (the line if not the same trains) a new suburb(s) en route—ie. a TOD–is beyond discussion.
The radial lines carry more traffic because lots of people are obliged to travel all the way to the centre and back out again (or of course just stay in their cars). No doubt Melbourne needs both; I wonder what it is about the Australian mindset that says we can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. Or delay doing anything until everyone reading this article (or voting in any near election) will be dead.
As for TOD, it needs every help to get it off the ground. The most important one is that is the “T” and the more the better. I’d say at least two is the minimum, ie. it is the junction/transfer point of at least two different transit lines (plus local feeder buses)`. Obviously you believe that because there is no circumferential transit traffic today then it is pointless discussing it. That logic is beyond me. My own logic says that, further than just the Loop itself, the government should use the expenditure as justification for imposing density requirements on the TODs in a zone of perhaps at least 2km radius. And this really needs to be done right now, not in 20 or 30 years time after the thing is built! Just like rail should be built to be operational at the opening of Sydney West airport not delayed, like Tullamarine, for another 30 years.
Or perhaps, instead of a stupendously expensive underground Metro Loop, it should be an aerial tram:
You also wrote:
This, too, says it all: don’t create a TOD today, just leave it to later. Other than the crazy politics and economics of that, have you not noticed Melbourne and Sydney are ready for insurrection on the streets over the unavailability and unaffordability of housing? Other than the usual NIMBY response (which is to immediately halt all immigration) transit + TOD is the only feasible solution.
As for those small spurs! Haven’t they been talking about building such a spur to Monash University ever since it was created in the late 50s? And I am pretty sure Alon would tell you of the negative impact of the ad hoc addition of such small spurs (branching) to a big network. In the context of airports, think of RER-B3 serving Paris-CDG, which is a spur about halfway along RER-B’s eastern arm. It is express from city to that junction but sharing the tracks no longer works as the line carries more and more people (from both airport and eastern suburbs line B5 which they wish to extend further into the suburbs) so they are building a completely separated airport line. Or look at Heathrow which for most of its history was served only by the Piccadilly line of LU which stopped at every station, became extremely crowded, had no provision for luggage and took an age to get to the city centre (it actually took longer than the coach I used to get to Oxford from Heathrow!). It too was replaced by a dedicated express line, which is soon to be replaced by a spur of London CrossRail (it is to be seen now well this arrangement works because IMO the Elizabeth Line is going to get very busy very soon after opening).
The paradox is that a big, very expensive project like Loop is more likely to be built than all those small scale spurs etc.
I agree, except that it basically already has one. The southern part of the loop (stations: Southern Cross and Flinders Street) has 6 tracks. 2 of those can be used for the loop, 2 for a radial route, and 2 for intercity. I think at most one or two grade separations would be needed for this to work.
You would then have a 3 line network: 1) Metro Tunnel, 2) via the south side of the CBD, Cragieburn and Upfield lines connecting to Mernda and Hurstbridge lines, 3) Belgrave, Glen Waverley, Alamein lines running into the CBD, around the loop in one direction, and out again, with a downtown circulator running circles around the loop in the other direction.
The vast majority of that is radial traffic.
When the population of Melbourne reaches 12 million, like Paris, then it can start thinking about a radial line. Anyway, though M15 is circumferential with respect to historic Paris, it’s radial with respect to La Defense, so I’m not sure it qualifies as circumferential to begin with.
No, they carry more traffic because 1) many more people want to go to the CBD than anywhere else, 2) all these people going to a single place means that the road traffic is worse, and the economies of scale in rail higher, each of which push the mode share of rail higher.
You don’t need to impose density requirements. Just remove density limitations, this is enough for TOD to sprout up at transit stations with good CBD access. See Canada (Toronto, Vancouver) for examples of where this has already been done.
See my plan at the beginning of this comment. It has no reverse branching, and tolerable normal branching. It won’t be able to reach 40tph like an unbranched metro, but can certainly reach 24tph like a suburban rail line. Which is more than enough for the forseeable demand.
That express line was built in order to make money by charging premium fares to rich passengers – and it wasn’t a great success in that respect, IIRC.
A big project itself is in reality a collection of small project segments/elements – that is a lot of why it is expected to take until 2050 to build. It is “too much to chew” all at once for a mid-sized city like Melbourne.
The 18km rail link between the airport and St Marys has already been confirmed and will hopefully open by the time the airport is built. The 18km link is Stage 1 of the North-South Link. An extension of the double-decker Leppington line will also meet up with the link. However, (you might hate this part) Sydney Metro is building the North-South line and it’ll be built to Metro standards, although it’s not a radial line, it’s a cross-suburban line so a bit like the Melbourne Loop. They’re also considering a radial link but that won’t happen when it opens, however, the tunnels for the radial link will be dug out as part of the North-South Link so it can be easily built in. If they stick to the plan (picture below), the entire 60-70km North-South Link will be complete by 2036-41. There was a leaked Turnbull document in the news today which would have funded the other stages of the North-South Metro. Fingers crossed for it to be opened by the time the airport opens and fingers crossed for the whole thing to open by 2036 or 41 at the latest. If this does happen though, it would happen faster than this loop despite being an almost similar length.
Another one linking the Mernda Line and Werribee Line via the booming Fisherman’s Bend.
Melbourne’s population will reach 8 million soon. Don’t forget though that Paris already has a non-radial loop in the form of metro pairs 6 and 2 and trams make an almost loop. The time for a loop for Melbourne has come, they just need to build it faster.
Many more people want to go from suburb to suburb, it’s just that the rail network in Melbourne hasn’t catered to this. Even Sydney’s train network does a slightly better job at this with their radial lines that interconnect and non-radial T5 Cumberland Line (although this really a line that was hacked together on the cheap using 2 radial lines rather than dedicated non-radial line).
That’s what’s happening in inner-city Melbourne and all over Sydney (because Sydney loves density) but this won’t be enough. Hopefully, the loop the be the catalyst for big TOD developments to spread all over Melbourne (like Sydney).
The Dandenong group of lines is the busiest in Melbourne and is limited room for expansion, even after Metro Tunnel. There’ll be 21tph on opening day from the existing lines alone. Another thing to keep in mind is that while it’s not shown on the Metro map, the Dandenong lines have to share track (and train paths) with V/Line trains to Gippsland (which runs painfully slow between Dandenong and Caulfield) so there’s really not that much room.
Maybe but Paris Line 15 at 75km is getting built in 15 years (2015-2030). And Sydney’s North-South Link at up to 70km (if goes to plan) will be built in around 15-20 years, a full 10-15 years less than Melbourne despite being in the same country. There’s no huge reason why it can’t be done for example say 2040 or 18 years if it starts in 2022 as suggested, instead of 2050. And as I mentioned earlier as well, Sydney is currently on track to open 80km of new lines between now and 2029 so I don’t think it’s too much to chew on. (Sydney Metro Northwest-2019-23km, Sydney Metro City-2024-16km, North-South Link-2026-18km, Sydney Metro West-a date of late 2020s has been given but Infrastructure NSW says 2027-at least 25km but possibility 30km from Westmead to Zetland)
First, the population of Paris-urbaine (ie. greater urban Paris) was under 4m in 1901 (Ile de France which is a bigger area was 4.7m); the population of intramuros Paris was approx. 2.7m; it peaked at 2.9m in 1920s before declining to todays 2.24m). So, very comparable to today’s Melbourne and Sydney, and not coincidentally when both cities are facing these issues provoked by growth and scale (as it happens Paris-urbaine is very similar to the area of Greater Sydney) . In little more than the decade from 1900 Paris built a majority of what you see today of their Metro (IIRC, 8 of today’s 14 lines). No one doubts it was a visionary and necessary thing to do. It transformed Paris … except for the suburbs which continued to be served by radial suburban rail until the RER in 1977. But of course that was because of the politics, ie. Paris as the centre of the universe versus the great unwashed banlieus. I’ll bet a lot of planners wished they could have done the same to the suburbs back then. Building orbitals, whether roads or metro, is extremely fraught, politically and budgetary, and it all just gets ineluctably harder every decade that passes. This is my main issue with Australian “planning” (in reality non-planning, British or Anglosphere style). The fact that our cities are more sprawled than Paris or Ile de France, is a strong argument to build this infrastructure and do it now not in some ridiculous mangled future.
Second, you are kind of correct about La Defense, but not the lessons to be learnt. It is no accident that you can now label it as “effectively a radial”, because it was totally planned in a way we simply refuse to do in the Anglosphere. They built massive roads and plenty of transit (M1, RER-A, T2 orbital, soon RER-E). It is a stupendous example of a successful TOD. In other words, they built it and the people came. It took a lot of pressure off the centre. Fancy that!
Third, you seem in denial on almost all issues, in the usual Australian manner: we’re too small for such a project (so let’s wait a half century), all traffic is thru the CBD so it’s silly to do anything anywhere else (thus ensuring central congestion gets worse, despite pouring evermore resources into its transport infrastructure and producing evermore exurban sprawl), and the biggest whinge of all: it’s all too expensive. As if we aren’t one of the richest countries in the world. Thank goodness the Sydney Opera House was costed at a few million so that we began to build it. Its budget exploded maybe 50x but is there anyone, even an econo-crat, who thinks it wasn’t worth it and in fact hasn’t repaid itself many times over? (It was more nation-building than anyone, including its proponents imagined, and Alon, its completion in 1973 both coincided with and was part of the loss of that cultural cringe. In the same manner it was opposed by the conservatives who would have closed it down if it wasn’t so advanced when they won government from Labor who initiated it. A lot like the today’s NBN and energy policy to combat climate change, and Gough’s city policies, Medicare etc etc.)
Sure, strictly speaking you don’t “need” to, just like you personally don’t “need” to live in a nice house in a nice location etc. Otherwise you get the mess typical of developer’s laissez-faire (less affordable hi-rise or cheap & nasty sixpacks) and importantly, a poor impoverished kind of urbanism. It is exactly this that creates resistance in the Anglosphere. If a modern-version Haussmannian planning rules were imposed, well, voila you’d create a wonderful Haussmannian style of urbanism, instead of a Corbusian or Neimeyerian type (that is not the first choice of anyone in the world). But like most limited-vision Australians and their planning professions, you have an aversion to it. A century or more ago, or even 60 years ago, such an attitude might have been fair enough but today there is more than enough evidence to argue the opposite.
I agree. It is what they did with the Sydney airport train that was so expensive it needed the state to bail it out (demonstrating that this kind of infrastructure needs to be built and then run by the state to maximise its utility; a lesson still not learned). Of course it would have been so much easier and cheaper if it had been done (ie. planned!) from the very beginning: billions of pax who were forced on to the Piccadilly line (or those who stumped up the absurd cost of a cab) would agree. Yet I’m not sure you have learned the lesson. Which is: build these things as early and as quickly as you can. We know Melbourne and Sydney are destined to reach 8m so exactly what is saved by forever delaying? Certainly not the true cost (which includes the future cost of building it, plus the humungous economic cost of decades without it, not to mention shaping the city to be more livable for those extra millions of residents). To say we can’t afford it brings us back to the dumb arguments about not wanting higher tax than 23.9% (or 29%) of GDP, etc.
Untangled, 2018/09/03 – 03:04
Wow. While I was writing my reply to Eric you were posting something very similar in its specific replies to him. I can agree with almost all of your post! And I am not about to nitpick and will take such agreement when I can.
Just a minor detail. Paris M2 & M6 do form an orbital but it is obviously a completely different scale with a radius of only a few km and length 26km. OTOH they were built between 1900-06 and today collectively carry about 200m pax p.a. Certainly a worthy example of good planning. Alas, as I wrote earlier they weren’t so conscientious about greater Paris though it was well served with suburban rail which in turn is what allowed the creation of the RER system. And that RER system was created in a timely fashion (1977) compared to London whose equivalent London CrossRail won’t open until later this year, 41 years after Paris.
Re Sydney West rail link, I would love to believe they will build that North-South link in a timely fashion, but history and lack of continuity between our fast-changing governments (state and federal) don’t produce optimism. Remember this was a Turnbull-supported project. Now the feds are back under the neanderthal Right those two other dumb paleo-conservative Sydney-siders, former PM Tony Abbott and current PM Scott Morrison, will probably dump it. (Abbott is as vindictive as Trump in dumping anything supported by his nemesis, totally independent of logic or even politics.)
Here is something from less than a year ago.
In a long time. It’s 5 million now.
That was built through MUCH denser areas, in an era when cars weren’t an alternative. Had it not been built then, it’s not clear that it would be built now, even with the density.
T5 carries a miniscule fraction of Sydney’s rail passengers. Proves my point about the relative uselessness of suburb-to-suburb lines. It’s OK that T5 exists because it uses existing surface lines, but a new subway on this route would be a giant waste of money.
The first stage of Sydney Metro is “non-radial”, but succeeding stages will send it through the CBD, i.e. another radial line! Yes, it would be nice if Melbourne’s various radial lines crossed here and there to provide transfers in the suburbs, but you can’t change the past in this regard.
Alon Levy will be the first to tell you that La Defense is terrible TOD, that they should have built skyscrapers in central Paris instead. I personally disagree with Alon because I put more value on Paris’ architecture, but it’s clear that building La Defense was a trade off of better architecture for worse convenience and economic value.
There hasn’t been too much resistance in Canada – which happens to be the country most similar to Australia.
There were never “billions” of passengers to Heathrow. Since the Piccadilly extension to Heathrow opened in 1977, there have been about 1.5 billion TOTAL passengers to Heathrow (including transfer passengers, those who arrived by car or bus, and so on). This is a good example of the problems of how you look at transit in general. You make up a crayonista fantasy map, make no effort to calculate what its actual benefits will be, and if anyone points out that certain parts of it have a very low ROI, you call them a neoliberal enemy of transit. Apparently facts and numbers are neoliberal…
It’ll get there in 30 years. Considering the time to takes to build infrastructure, 30 years is enough time to think through things but not enough time to rest on your laurels.
A small fraction but I’ve been on these trains and I can say it’s well used, otherwise you wouldn’t running it all day. Also, you need to be aware of the fact that TfNSW has a messed up way of counting passengers and some of the numbers will be hidden in T2 and T1 Lines. Here’s the case of the Hunter Line, a suburban line (using DMUs) for the city of Newcastle, which uses the same ticketing system as Sydney.
I think it would be. If they can justify Line 15 today, then they can justify these 2 lines (which are much closer in).
I would still consider the first stage to be radial to an extent. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the predicted passenger loading on this metro line shows that the most crowded point will be near Epping (an interchange station) and Macquarie Park rather than near Chatswood. So even though the line is fairly radial and will extend to the city, this clearly indicates strong cross-suburban demand and that not everyone wants to go to the city. And the existing buses from the Hills serve these areas quite well too, a huge chunk of M2 Motorway Express buses don’t go to the city.
This is correct and I personally don’t mind height although I do realise height is not the only factor of density, Michael has a different take on this though. Another thing to note is that Sydney seems generally less resistant to height than other Australian cities. The punch-up in Melbourne over a not very tall development in Ormond (a middle ring suburb) generally wouldn’t happen Sydney’s suburbs. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people in Sydney who don’t like height, but there seems to be less of them. Probably why Sydney can get away with having way more cranes than Melbourne despite Melbourne growing faster. Also interesting but keep in mind this is for entire states:
I was meant to quote “Had it not been built then, it’s not clear that it would be built now, even with the density” on top of one of the responses.
Eric, 2018/09/03 – 07:30
There’s that anti-planning disease again. An unwillingness to plan for perfectly predictable issues until you get overwhelmed by them, and it becomes a nightmare to do anything about them. We’ve got to develop a vaccine against this pernicious Anglosphere malady.
Most of the rest of your post is in the same vein: because it doesn’t carry many people today, it shouldn’t be built (or even planned for; like in the manner of Bjelke-Petersen who actually sold off the land so no railway could be contemplated in the future which of course it was and the ROW had to be repurchased all over again, to connect Brisbane, Australia’s 3rd city, to the Gold Coast which was a piddling little thing but is now Australia’s 6th city).
As to that orbital really being part-radial, well that’s a characteristic of cities bounded on one side by water as both Melbourne and Sydney are.
Those billions I was referencing included commuters on the Piccadilly line (rough calc: 210m pax p.a. thus about 100m on the western half who were forced to share with Heathrow pax; say about 40 years, roughly 4 billion give or take a billion or so …).
First, I don’t think Alon says La Defense is a terrible TOD, just that he would have preferred for it to remain in central Paris where the old CBD is. Second, he’s wrong just as you are when you talk about a trade off over “worse convenience and economic value”. I wrote long answers to Alon on this subject. Not only is La Defense the biggest financial district in all of Europe but in fact it is extremely conveniently close to the rest of Paris–only two stops on RER-A; this makes it closer than Wall Street is to mid-town or up-town, and a heck of lot better than Canary Wharf is to The City. And very convenient for those masters-of-the-universe types who tend to live along T2 in leafy Puteaux, Suresnes, St Cloud or Boulogne-Billancourt, or just across the Seine in Neuilly or in fact the 16th on the other side of the bois (all these are the most prosperous districts in France and Europe).
The real trade-off, as you yourself mention, would have been the urbanism of Paris and a real cost in lost tourism and associated acitivities that even an economic-rationalist would understand. I wonder if the couture and luxury-goods industry (along Faubourg St Honoré) would have survived–an industry worth hundreds of billions. In fact the cost would have been incalculable because once Paris was breached it would have consumed the city and spread like a plague and before long it would have turned into the mess like London is. Luckily the French, unlike the Brits, don’t allow false neo-lib arguments take precedent, and once they saw what it would be like (with Pompidou’s first fantasy, the tour Montparnasse) they stopped it in its tracks. This was as significant as Choltitz choosing to disobey Hitler and not dynamite Paris. Of course the reality is that Paris nor France needed to sacrifice one thing for the other as it could, and did, have both.
Hey, it’s part of the Anglosphere world, in case you missed it. We don’t object–except as pure NIMBYs against any change–but lay down in worship before the financial gods of neoliberalism (though as its sequelae appear the resistance is slowly picking up, alas not always in positive form as Brexit and Trump show). The only reason to look twice is that Toronto may be positively influenced by its (nearby) Francophone neighbour. Toronto may be ok but I’d prefer Montreal (and its Metro would make me feel right at home, ie. when home was Paris!).
That’s not what you said. You described “billions of pax who were forced on to the Piccadilly line” by the lack of a faster Heathrow connection. Piccadilly commuters were not forced onto the line, they were already there.
It would be even more convenient if it were zero stops on the RER-A from the rest of Paris.
Just because NYC and London have two CBDs for historic/political reasons, doesn’t mean other cities should imitate this.
Funny to see you advocating the interests of the masters-of-the-universe over the interests of everyone else.
I wouldn’t call London a “mess”, it seems to draw more tourists than Paris. Tourism is a single-digit percentage of Paris’ economy and I suspect the economic gains of a single CBD in Paris would outweigh the losses in tourism, but nevertheless I support the current setup because some cultural artifacts are worth paying for.
I have no idea what this means, except that you are opposed to making people better off, and to the benefits in health, happiness, and quality of life that come along with that.
When you have two, and the rest of the metro area is oriented cooperatively you are spreading out peak direction to more stations and alternating platforms. Brooklyn and southern Queens are using uptown platforms in the morning. The Bronx and northern Queens are using downtown platforms. Vice versa in the afternoon. It spreads things out tidily, for Manhattan anyway. YMMV in other cities.
It would still be more efficient if you had those stations and platforms concentrated in one area rather than two.
You have no concept. Very very broadly it’s three, East Side/West Side/Downtown. There are 20 tracks of north/south subway between 64th street and Houston Street ( the street north of Houston on the East Side is East 1st. ) not counting the two tracks of the Flushing line or the two tracks of the Canarsie line. It’s not two places it’s a dozen distributed over 5 trunk lines. Off the top of my head if I’m not selecting the correct train I can change trains at 63rd and Lexington, 59th and Lexington, 51st/53rd Lexington, Union Square, Bleeker Street any anything south of there it seems like there is a subway station on every corner, I just select the right train. Oooooor I can change trains at Columbus Circle, TImes Square, Herald Square, funky odd things with TImes, Herald and Union Squares using the BMT/Broadway lines, and West fourth and again just pick the right train for south of there. Most of the time. there’s other more obscure ways to skin cats. It spreads five and half million people a day all around.
Eric, with this last post you are truly running on empty.
I said those Piccadilly commuters were forced to share with Heathrow travellers (and their luggage which ends up congesting the train foyers as there is zip provision; have you not been on it, back in the day?). But like the long-suffering Brit public they mostly suffer all this in silence. Long-distance commuters using the Southern trains from places like Brighton-Hove etc, and paying thousands for a Season Ticket to London, are forced to stand the entire trip (in fact this has produced some notable activism).
Hah, seriously? Somehow you think demolishing the most beautiful city in the world, and the densest city in the western world (adding to its financial centre would actually reduce residential density), is absolutely necessary for all those benefits. Funny then, that despite that shocking burden, La Defense is wildly successful. Imagine trying to squeeze it all into the 8th & 9th (and edges of the 2nd and 1st–I suppose one could fit quite a bit on the Tuileries!) and then coping with the daily crush (as adirondacker says correctly). Heck, even La Defense is running out of space (right now they are demolishing several ’70s low-rise apartment blocks in its river precinct to build a pair of super-hi-rise office blocks; true, these are controversial because they may disrupt the fabulous Triumphal Way from the Carrousel-Arc-de-Triomphe-La-Grande-Arche) but they are going ahead (because they are not in central Paris; this is as it should be). BTW, my “two stops to Paris” was meant as “to the old CBD around Auber station”; it’s actually only one stop to inside Paris (at Etoile).
But your various posts reveal that in fact you don’t support TODs. The reality is that once a city exceeds a certain size (well below Paris’ 12m) it will auto-catalytically begin to do it. The only question is how to guide it to be the best solution for both those specialist users and the city. London is so obviously still struggling with that issue. Of course the US creates its super-ugly and super-inefficent Edgeless Cities which is their version of exurban sprawl for business. Paris needs more TOD, and that is what GPX and Metropole Grand Paris is all about. Such as the redevelopment of brownfield sites like St-Ouen-St-Denis (creative arts precinct such as Europe’s biggest film studios), Ile de Seguin, Pte de Bercy-Charenton, the SE corner of the13th, and the likes of the mega-university research complex at Saclay.
My comment is about how the Anglo version of neoliberal capitalism has not spread “the benefits in health, happiness, and quality of life” on any remotely equal basis like in the true social-democratic countries like France, Germany & Nordics. Like everywhere, inequality has increased in France but nothing as bad as the USA (worst in OECD list, ahead only of Singapore and HK) or the UK. Despite its mega-city status (largest urban area in EU with those 12m residents) it is the best managed city too (though the only other EU city of comparable size it can be properly referenced is London). Its healthcare is rated the best in the world (where do you think the USA rates?). Its transit is currently rated the best in the world. The decision to create La Defense was a terrific decision that supported growth of the modern business district and everything that entails and embraces. Are you (or Alon) seriously suggesting it inhibited it? And I very much support poaching some of those masters-of-the-universe from the UK due to Brexit (and those who freely choose Paris will be the best of the bunch, if you can grade such overt personal avarice and selfishness! I just hope Macron doesn’t grant them any extra tax perks.).
The daily crush is worse than it would be if there were skyscrapers in Les Halles instead of a shopping center and a park strategically named after an African liberation activist who was not fighting French colonialism. The RER A peaks Les Halles -> Auber in the morning, so from that perspective all employment from Auber west counts the same, whereas employment east of Auber spreads out the crowds.
Also, I don’t know who rates transit here as the best in the world. Certainly not the Parisians, who complain about the RER all the time.
I literally said the opposite. I said to remove zoning restrictions and let development naturally occur everywhere, especially where it is most productive, meaning where density is already present. The only exception to this being certain culturally valuable areas like central Paris, but there I recognize the economic cost this choice entails.
I too have many issues with Anglosphere tax, health, and corporate policy which leads to greater inequality (and often not to greater economic growth). None of that has anything to do with city planning though.
To repeat myself yet again, I’m in favor of La Defense because I want to preserve Paris’ architecture despite the economic cost. And even if such architecture didn’t exist, I would not “inhibit” building La Defense, I would just encourage building to high density in central Paris, with the side effect of La Defense being a less desirable peripheral area where less development would occur.
How is it so hard for you to grasp that there is a middle ground between “the government forces you to build” and “the government forces you not to build”, i.e. “you choose whether or not to build”?
Alon Levy, 2018/09/04 – 00:36
Once again, one really wonders what you are seriously suggesting. But I’m not going to bother because I don’t think you really believe it. If they had done as you, retrospectively, appear to wish, there would have been a lot less justification in building RER-A &-B thru Les Halles etc in the first place. Would the Pompidou Centre be built if … And you appear to be confirming what I said: destroy Paris to “save” Paris. There was a better way, and IMO it has been conclusively proven beyond any reasonable doubt.
And btw, you making the same error as Eric, in quoting today’s traffic flow as evidence for something that never happened. Namely, it is clear most workers heading to La Defense are not coming from the far eastern banlieus, but where would they all be heading if your plan of skyscrapers in Les Halles came to pass, and La Defense didn’t exist? Also, I have to take at face value the claims that RER-A has had a significant social effect with all those north-eastern banlieusardes using it to come into central Paris (and only a tiny minority of them were dealing drugs on the lower levels of Les Halles). Your policy would leave them more isolated in those poor suburbs if you turned this part of Paris into a sterile business district (like most such districts around the world; Paris’ district is better because it happens to contain all its historic activities from the shopping district (Grands Magasins, rue St Honoré) the theatre district of the lower 9th and all the cafes and restaurants that service all these things. Have you been in lower Manhattan at 5.30pm (at least in the 80s or 90s) and likewise The City in London: both dead like out of a zombie apocalypse movie. I’d bet La Defense is a lot like that even today; and better that than lump it on a still-vibrant inner Paris.
Re Parisian complaints: when did they not complain about most things? Ask most Francophile visitors and they are always amazed at how Parisians and French don’t seem to understand how great their own country is. And my own experience is that extended exposure, ie. beyond a holiday or short visit, doesn’t change this (though I was always back and forth across the channel and there is nothing like a visit to Blighty to make you appreciate Paris and France!).
Eric, 2018/09/04 – 02:19
By definition, laissez-faire doesn’t create TOD! The example and proof of this is the US and especially places like Texas cities with few regulations. It just leads to a unregulated sprawl with edgeless cities massively dependent on cars (for the reason that transit has great trouble servicing such sprawl).
And tellingly you say “let development naturally occur everywhere, especially where it is most productive” but “everywhere” is clearly not TOD and what is “productive”? Clearly corporate America has a very different view of what it means for them. It seems we are just too far apart to possibly agree on basics of city planning.
It is strongly influenced by city planning and especially transit planning. Most transit or urbanism blogs have it as a fundamental factor driving most planning issues. Take Australia’s two major cities, both destined to become mega-cities sooner rather than later. We are one of the richest countries in the world as well as being towards the top in healthcare, education, housing and not to bad on inequality. Yet, despite that all metrics point to a sharp downturn for the current young generation who won’t be able to afford to buy a house and even renting anywhere they prefer will be difficult. Unless they have recourse to the bank of mum&dad. (In addition education and healthcare costs and the creation of two worlds, one public and impoverished, the other private and very expensive. Sound familiar?) The cost and availability of housing is a huge driver in quality of life or even job accessibility/satisfaction.
Indeed all of this is why neoliberals tend to hate and distrust city planning. For them urbanism is a dirty word, and they hate on Richard Florida and his ilk.
The glaringly odd thing in all that is “encourage high density”. Don’t you understand that intramuros Paris is already the densest city in the western world. It doesn’t need to be of even higher density and there would be no (additional) advantage and in all likelihood there would be disadvantages.
Then you say you are ok with TOD but actually find La Defense “less desirable” (I presume for business). I think La Defense was a great project in city planning because it created a great success (biggest business centre in EU) so it obviously serves business very well, and also took developmental pressures off central Paris (saving the 8th & 9th, and Montparnasse etc). Given just how proximate to Paris it is, there is hardly a significant inconvenience in working there, or locating your head office there. It is a mere 4.2 km to the Arc de Triomphe and workers can access most of Paris and back again in their lunch break. This is much more convenient than most of NYC is to Wall Streeters.
OK, so this is the previously unmentioned horror you have. You think a communist regime has forced IBM to locate their European HQ in La Defense! Nonsense. Companies locate there freely, and of course would be mad not to, given the proximity, the excellent transport (road & transit) and general utility*.
It is the epically silly Anglosphere aversion to “planning”, and is why so much of our world is such a mess. Oh, and I consider France is the “middle ground” in balancing personal liberties with what is necessary for a well-functioning modern society.
*In fact of course it was enabled by the state (on a poor area of light-industry and low-quality housing) without which IBM would have had to look way out further in the banlieu or naturally not locate in Paris at all. I have just refreshed my memory on its origins and it was a giant undertaking, in clearing the site, planning and politics, transport and transit planning etc. It seems the building of RER-A was a catalyst for it to take off.
The question is, what would have happened without all that effort? After Pompidou’s Montparnasse plan fell into a deserving hole, there must have been a risk of either the laissez-faire option (as a panic by politicians worried they would fall behind) or in fact failure in France’s big-business environment. I can’t see that you or Alon have provided a feasible alternative except one that would have destroyed Paris which today would most likely resemble the mess of London.
The US is not laissez-faire. Not sure how you reached that conclusion, except through the lazy thinking that “the US is right wing, so it MUST be laissez-faire.” The US has extremely strict zoning laws, which lead to some of the world’s most expensive housing in places like San Francisco. There is just one major city in the US without strict zoning – Houston – but even in Houston the government interferes in many ways to promote sprawl. And nevertheless, Houston has the cheapest housing of any city of its size in the US.
And why is that? Because of government policies preventing density. In central Sydney you have cheap 1-2 story buildings surrounding major rail transfer stations when there is easily demand for 10 (or 30?) story buildings. That’s due to government zoning regulations, not lack of demand.
When “city planning” means the prevention of TOD via restrictive zoning, then absolutely yes.
So what if it’s denser that other cities? Currently only the rich can afford to live there. Assuming you actually care about housing affordability, this should be a clear signal that more density is needed.
That’s Sydenham, not really central Sydney. There is still a large amount of light industry there, though not as much as there used to be, it’s been slowly changing but it’ll change fast very soon. I can’t see Sydenham getting 30 stories though, it’s right on the Sydney Airport flight path and when you’re waiting at the station, you can see more planes than trains and the station can get very loud from all the planes. When you’re landing in Sydney, you can very clearly see the station not too far off the ground. The distance between the station and the runway is about 1.8km, so it’s very close.
Eric, 2018/09/05 – 05:33
I used the term laissez-faire because that was what you were describing (“remove zoning restrictions and let development naturally occur everywhere“). But you’re right, I should not have applied it to the US which has a seriously crazy exclusionary zoning system. And yes, I know about Houston which prompts my question to you: where are all its TODs which your theory suggests should spontaneously arise. Sure, Houston has cheap housing as you’d expect when it allows unlimited sprawl (and so little control that they built on flood-prone land and in fact still are after Hurricane Harvey and its $120bn damage) and, so far, is willing to both build the roads and use them to get around. You couldn’t pay me enough to live there. And why is it such a mess? See my bolded bits below:
Oops, in my last post (2018/09/05 – 08:57) I apparently didn’t close the blockquote after “Eric Holthaus, 11 April 2018”. If it easy for you to do Alon, tx.
Eric, if you are Australian and civilized then you may have been listening to our national broadcaster this morning, the Jonathan Green-hosted “Blueprint for Living” (Saturday mornings, ABC Radio National). He interviewed Owen Hatherly about his new book (international edition is published later this month):
Part of the blurb says:
In fact it was spooky how it seemed like he was reading from my script! Except of course, it’s all pretty bleedin’ obvious, innit?
Its frustrating that Americans only look at Amsterdam for bicycling. You never hear about Japan, for example, which has widespread use of bicycles. I believe they bicycle on sidewaks, and that’s a no-no, because you would never do that in Amsterdam.
The US Midwest has been willing to try things to spur local activity. Kalamazoo, Michigan built the first pedestrian mall in the US (i.e. it closed a couple blocks of the downtown main street). It succeeded (initially) and then failed (eventually). Enclosed malls, with ample parking, took over in the ’60s, but have now gone the way of the dodo (Sarasota, Florida recently opened what some developers consider to be the last new shopping mall in the US). If the Seminole Gulf Railway were to offer passenger service between Sarasota and Tampa, and if High Speed Rail were to be built between Orlando and Tampa, it would be a first step towards having TOD there.
I’d like to push back on the idea that there’s very little cultural cringe in America. Americans do experience cultural cringe, but it’s not towards other countries; it’s less developed parts of the US comparing themselves to more developed parts of the US.
This means that educated Southerners will say things like “our public transit is awful, we should be more like Boston”, not “our public transit is awful, we should be more like Paris”. There are plenty of Southerners who go to school in the Northeast or California and try to bring those practices back home, but it’s rarer to look at international models. The counter to that is the “real America” narrative, but… that’s a separate subject.
While understanding what you mean, that is not cultural cringe which has a specific meaning, almost contrary to what you are describing. The “we’ve been doing it this since my great-great-granddaddy …” phenomenon is certainly a cringe but you mean provincialism, which is that locals don’t believe they have anything to learn from others. Whereas cultural cringe means that the local culture doesn’t actually value its own local creativity and measures only against exogenous ‘other’, in your case northern big-city, normes (which happen to be Euro in origin). Thus, the way that people like Truman Capote, Harper Lee and Tennessee Williams had to escape their narrow provincial origins to have their talents recognised, and possibly avoid being lynched.
Again, this is different to those “educated Southerners” you speak of who recognise the value of progress wherever they find it, in this case in US northern cities. That is “evidence based” observation and logic, no cringe involved.
In the US I would say that the most obvious example of cultural cringe is highly visible in Washington, and in fact every state capitol and civic building around the nation: the dominance of neo-classicism taken in whole from European examples. In fact scooped up by Daniel Burnham and his committee to redesign L’Enfant’s Washington, on their extensive European tour. Somewhat paradoxical because Burnham was a pioneer of sorts in his commercial practice deploying all the things we associate with an American form of building and architecture. Ironically, our own Australian planned capital of Canberra was designed by another Chicagoan, Walter Burley Griffin, who had trained with Lloyd Wright. Even though Australia was assuredly suffering strongly from cultural cringe back then, the combination of new-found nationhood and a non-European sensibility in Burley Griffin (and some say his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, is owed more than ever acknowledged) managed to break the mould away from neo-classicism. The new Parliament House, built into the hilltop, was even bolder and divides people to this day. Not that the Washington Mall isn’t magnificent, being the last great classical capital, but every time I see it (practically every day on the news) I do feel a tiny cringe in questioning whether this was truly representing the emergent new-world nation in so slavishly copying the old-world.
That’s not quite what I mean. Cities like Dallas, Miami, and Washington aren’t rural backwaters, but the South still has an inferiority complex vis-a-vis the North, and will copy trends even when it’s counterproductive to do so.
For instance, the Mayor of Miami Beach just ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor on turning Florida into a “21st century economy”, proposing to borrow innovations (like Hyperloop!) from Boston and California to improve local infrastructure. Except… Miami really has quite different needs (the tropical climate being an obvious example), so copying San Francisco isn’t going to solve things.
The first three lines of the Delhi Metro were built as broad gauge, at the Ministry of Railways’s insistence, so perhaps there was some consideration of through-running with Indian Railways lines.
You are right. However after the first 3 lines Delhi metro and pretty much all of the upcoming metro projects in India have ben planned using standard gauge. The reason given is for easy procurement of rolling stock. The actual reason DMRC in Delhi went for standard gauge is the fear that the Indian Railways would swallow the metro lines into its own legacy network.
The exact same fear of mainline takeover drove compatibility decisions in a few Western cities (like Philadelphia and Paris). The silly thing about Delhi is, it’s using 25 kV electrification, which just about no metro system uses, but it still use incompatible track and loading gauge with the mainline.
“It’s easier to procure rolling stock” is just wrong. The European and Japanese vendors deal with a bunch of incompatible gauges, and learned to make their track gauge modular.
Delhi (except couple of lines), Mumbai and a host of Indian metro systems use 25 KV AC catenary instead of 3rd rail. The most notable exception is the Bengaluru metro which uses 3rd rail for all sections. There are very few underground sections and most lines are completely elevated. The mainline railway electrification in India is completely 25 KV AC catenary and may be that is the motivation behind its use in metro lines.