Rapid Transit as an Amenity

An urban rapid transit system needs to be understood as both a consumption amenity and a production amenity. As a consumption amenity, it lets people have access to more of the city, for work as well as recreational travel; people pay a premium to live close to the subway. As a production amenity, it makes it easier to build dense office clusters and expect that people can get to work without too much traffic; businesses pay a premium to locate in city center. This means that such infrastructure is generally good for the city’s economy and the well-being of the people in it, without prominent distributional impact.

City center and rapid transit

I wrote a thread two years ago about CBD job concentration. The thread looks at the total number of jobs in the central 100 km^2 of a metro area, which figure is used because it’s about the land area of Paris plus La Défense and INSEE data only exists at the level of the commune or arrondissement (see for example here). Pointing out that Dallas and Atlanta’s central 100 km^2 have only about as many jobs as Vancouver’s and half as many as San Francisco’s, I talked about the need to build bigger CBDs to entice higher transit ridership.

This looks weird to people who immediately associate European cities with short buildings and polycentricity and American ones with tall buildings and monocentricity. But at the scale of 100 km^2, European cities are far more centralized. Paris has 2.2 million jobs in the central 100 km^2, the Bay Area 850,000, Dallas and Atlanta 400,000 each.

And as I threaded about this, it was pointed out to me that Dallas does not have very strong demand for office space in city center. Parisian commercial rents in the 8th are very high, indicating demand for taller buildings than Europeans find acceptable; Texan commercial rents in city centers indicate no such pent-up demand, and the Dallas CBD has high vacancy rates. In Los Angeles, the center is weak as well – in a metro region 50% larger than Paris, the most gerrymandered central blob, not at all centered on Downtown Los Angeles but rather reaching from Downtown to Century City and UCLA, has around 800,000 jobs. The highest pent-up demand in Downtown LA is residential and not commercial.

I bring this up because this indicates rapid transit is a strong amenity for producers: they pay a premium to locate in city center, provided a large system exists to feed commuters to their offices. This is the case in New York, Paris, and other transit cities, but notably not in large auto-oriented cities like Los Angeles and Dallas.

…but it’s not just about work

Transit cities are not just places of production. The city is simultaneously a production amenity and a consumption amenity. Pure production amenities, like the quality of the harbor, the location relative to logistics facilities, and the tax rate on businesses, do not draw in people except insofar as they lead to higher wages. But transit cities do draw people in – residential rents are higher where job access is better and even where general access to non-work destinations is better.

This effect happens at several levels. The highest level is the regional one: a transit city is less polluted than an auto-oriented alternative of the same size, and clean air is a consumption amenity. The lowest level is the block: the construction of rapid transit raises property values near stations. In between, there are the benefits of access, which like the regionwide benefits are diffuse; it’s hard to point out an exact set of winners and losers.

This is not just a matter of job access. A transit city is good at access to special amenities, of the type that people do not go to very regularly. Ones that people do go to regularly do not require public transit: an auto-oriented medium-size metropolitan region can perfectly well provide high-quality retail choices with plenty of variety. I don’t recall missing anything at the shopping centers of the French Riviera, nor hearing complaints about same from Americans in similar-size regions.

But once the options get more specialized, size and transit accessibility become important. Los Angeles notably has amazing restaurants from just about every ethnic and regional tradition on the planet and also it takes two hours to drive to them because they’re strewn about five counties with no fast transit options. It’s nothing like New York and Paris, which have plentiful options as well but they’re within 30-60 minutes by train.

Specialized restaurants are a convenient example – they won’t cluster in city center because that’s expensive, but they’d like to be in near-center areas, perhaps in the central 100 or 200 or 500 km^2 but not the central 5 or 10 km^2. But the same issue occurs for everything else: museums, visits to friends throughout the region, etc.

The implication of dual amenities

Rapid transit is annoying to analyze in that it doesn’t break down neatly as for one group or another. It’s incredibly diffuse, and the only definitive interest group that benefits from its existence more than anyone else, the providers, is small and doesn’t always benefit from making it more efficient. There are no distributional impacts to mitigate or take advantage of; the environmental impacts are uniformly positive because of the competition with cars and auto-oriented development; the local benefits of access are real but require building an expansive system with hundreds of stations each generating local benefits in a small radius.

The result is that it bores people who enjoy conflict. There is not much there for the marketer to bite on – transit as a product is optimized when everyone uses it. The upshot of the fact that rapid transit is simultaneously a production amenity and a consumption amenity is that there is nothing there for people who enjoy dwelling on class conflict or on postmaterialist New Left notions of conflict, either. Socialist states have built great transit systems once things have settled down and it’s time to rebuild, but would-be socialist revolutionaries in non-socialist states find it boring. Likewise, New Left green politics is much more interested in pure consumption amenities like bike paths and street redesign than in dual amenities like rapid transit, which also benefits the staid corporations green voters define themselves against. From the other direction, people whose political identity is indifference to the needs of anyone who’s not a business don’t find transit interesting, even though it clearly benefits business, because it doesn’t offer opportunity to engage in right-populist or Thatcherite politicking: it’s possible to run the system like a business, but actually kicking out visibly poor people fragments the market and reduces frequency.

60 comments

  1. brettrosen10

    But the same issue occurs for everything else: museums, visits to friends throughout the region, etc.

    This is also relevant to the current move of the Chicago Bears out of their downtown sports stadium. Munich’s Allianz Arena is a good example of land use for a city so car focused.

    • Borners

      A lot of Anglosphere bike paths are made to be seen not used. And there are a lot bike path “activists” who have yet to have much to show for their activism. The kinds of people who don’t get you need to have basic commercial services (supermarkets) within easy cycling distance for any sort of bicycle-based lifestyle to be possible. That the Dutch and Danish have become more cycle friendly over the past few decades while in throck to “Neoliberalism” is unpossible if you believe Satan I mean “Neoliberalism”. Heaven help you if you mention bike culture no.3 in Japan with its privatised off-street parking and let-the-bikes-on-the-pavement approach. And then of course don’t talk about how the only two bicycle towns in the anglosphere Oxford and Cambridge are edited out because elitism-blah-blah-few-bike-paths-yet-lots-of-bike-unpossible blah blah.

      Bikes are so underutilized in the Anglosphere even compared to trains that its a way to set yourself against the world. It also means you never have take responsibility for the world.

      • fjod

        Yes, cycle paths in the Netherlands and Denmark (and anywhere with halfway decent cycling infrastructure) get people to work in a space- and time-efficient way. To that extent, they’re production amenities.

        In Cambridge, out-of-centre science parks are attractive places to do business in part because people can easily cycle there on bike paths. Production amenity!

        I don’t know what you’re referring to re setting yourself against the world or taking responsibility for the world.

        • Borners

          Yeah that last bit was a bit vague. I have been reading too much planning literature that thinks using the “radical” and “neoliberal” makes them moral and clever.

          There are consumption amenity bicycle paths for specific tourist locations, but its definitely a production amenity to which I would include household production (groceries, taking kids here and there). Its the latter that is systemically underrated by Anglosphere bike planners. Look at a map of New York bike paths and its geared towards a tiny fraction of commuters up for the distance instead of within the non-cbd boroughs.

          Cambridge has some good features being unusually Yimby by UK standards, they can’t infill stations for shit though. But real heart of their success isn’t the bike paths, its that the city centre has super-for-its-size job and residence density with a bike-friendly road geometry. That’s the lesson not enough people bother learning.

          • adirondacker12800

            From living in a resort, tourist attractions are a production amenity. If wasn’t for all the city folk spending money we’d be walking a trap line hoping to score some nuts along the way. … when somebody consumes something someone, somewhere, had to produce it.

          • fjod

            I mean in a couple of years time Cambridge will likely have infilled two stations in a decade which by British standards is excellent. Not saying the heart of its success is cycling infrastructure – having lived there I’d say the bike infrastructure is relatively poor compared to mode share. But there are definitely bike paths that act very much as production amenities there.

      • Tiercelet

        I think it might be better to view bike paths as the transit-systemic equivalent of, say, wind power. It takes special circumstances & extensive dedication of resources for bike paths to create an environment where an entirely cycle-oriented lifestyle is possible as the sole or primary means of transit. But (especially when paired with bike-share programs) they make an excellent complement to rapid transit, whether extending the catchment area of stations, providing extra transit capacity, or even just to provide access to rare not-well-supported trips.

        (As someone who’s been cycling in New York for >15 years, during which time we’ve gone from “maps of which streets have fewer trucks” to an increasingly extensive network of dedicated bike lanes, those lanes see very heavy use and have expanded the number and type of people who make trips by bicycle tremendously. Our bike infrastructure is nowhere near as extensive as it ought to be, but it’s definitely not for show.)

        • fjod

          I think in megacities link New York the scale can be too big for most non-central residents to have cycling as a primary means of transport, yeah. But for all size classes well below that I don’t think you need ‘special’ circumstances as long as the city is reasonably dense and not too mountainous – unless you’ve spent decades creating urban forms that are hostile to bikes and walkers.

          • Henry

            Tokyo has very high bike share, estimated at about 16%, and notably it is without any sort of substantial sort of dedicated bike infrastructure.

          • fjod

            That’s true, it’s pretty high. But the really high bike mode shares (indicative of Tiercelet’s “an entirely cycle-oriented lifestyle is possible as the sole or primary means of transit” – not clear why this is the goal we should be working towards, but it was the one I was set) are in smaller cities. I don’t think you could really say that most Tokyo inhabitants’ lifestyles could be entirely cycle-oriented.

          • Tiercelet

            To be clear, fjod, I don’t think we need to work toward an entirely cycle-oriented lifestyle either. I was responding to Borners, who I see as saying that cycling infrastructure is a failure because most Anglosphere places don’t have services built in the right locations for a “bicycle-based lifestyle.” By contrast, I think cycling is a great complementary modality even if it won’t be the dominant one in most places–thus I’d argue cycling infrastructure can be worthwhile in a place even if a “bicycle-based lifestyle” is still not currently possible there. (Hence the metaphor with wind energy–where wind is unlikely to be the sole modality except in a narrow set of conditions, but it’s a useful complement in a lot of others.)

            In re: Tokyo, I think a big part of the higher cycling share is that the road infrastructure isn’t heavily weighted toward cars to begin with. (A very cursory look at this source would seem to confirm this impression: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01944363.2021.1903973) On-street parking is rare, and aside from major thoroughfares, roads tend to be narrow & intended from the start to be mixed-use between cars, bikes, and pedestrians; so you don’t have to solve the problems that dedicated bike lanes or pedestrian zones address. You don’t need dedicated cycling/ped infrastructure unless your roads are built as dedicated car infrastructure (fjod’s “decades creating urban forms that are hostile to bikes and walkers”).

      • Henry Miller

        Not that they are not to be used, but they are a publicly subsidized gym membership. Drive your bike to the path, go for a nice ride, and drive back home. You get your physical actively without having to pay for a gym membership. Or you can get a gym membership to ride on their bikes while watching TV- but you drive to the gym.

        • Herbert

          The health benefits of cycling are larger than the cost of cycling infrastructure – meaning that every additional kilometer the population rides on a bike puts money back in everyone’s average pocket…

        • Tiercelet

          This is like saying that sidewalks are a subsidized gym membership because people run on them even in places where the network doesn’t lead to good destinations. Yeah, most American communities still aren’t walkable, but “Sidewalks are a boondoggle, let’s stop building sidewalks” does not follow.

          Safe places to walk are clearly a necessary-but-not-sufficient condition for walkable neighborhoods. So too bike lanes.

          • Basil Marte

            Um, American suburbia is (in)famous for often lacking sidewalks? And its perhaps less well known sibling phenomenon, where sidewalks technically exist, but its designers evidently chose not to spend their attention on something so predictably underused, thus the sidewalk is full of frequent and steeply sloping curb cuts.

          • Henry Miller

            American suburbs don’t have sidewalks, but they don’t need them. There is zero traffic so walking or riding your bike on the street is perfectly safe. (don’t confuse this with parents allowing their kids to do that!) There is no place you can walk from your home though, so you you drive everywhere (even to the one exception that you could walk to because you are in the habit of driving).

            New suburbs tend to have sidewalks these days. But my comment about no place to walk still applies. They are for exercise.

          • Eric2

            That’s not true. American suburb streets are wide enough that cars go super fast which makes walking there dangerous. And after dark it’s extremely dangerous.

      • Ernest Tufft

        The reasons bike paths often get underused after construction are: 1) Route chosen is convenient for car culture not cyclist. 2) Engineered and built by car culture engineering company simply going after the government money. Quality of grading, surfacing, and landscaping is poor despite often high budget cost. 3) After built, not regularly maintained by street sweepers and protected from homeless campers and other who vandalize the property. Bike paths along rivers get flooded, then takes years to clear away silt.

    • Oreg

      I would also think that bike paths should count as both types of amenity:
      * “As a consumption amenity, [they let] people have access to more of the city, for work as well as recreational travel” — certainly true, even if people don’t necessarily “pay a premium to live close to” a cycle path.
      * “As a production amenity, [they make] it easier to build dense office clusters and expect that people can get to work without too much traffic” — certainly true of bikes as well, even if businesses don’t necessarily “pay a premium to locate in city center” because of cycle paths.
      One could argue that in most places there are too few cyclists to move the needle, explaining the absence of a premium — but that would be true of both types of amenity.

      Part of the problem is that a bike path close to a home or office by itself doesn’t give them access to the rest of the city. It depends on the density and quality of the entire bike-path network. With transit that is kind of a given. Cyclists often face gaps in their infrastructure where they are forced into traffic. Transit users are never forced out of a vehicle onto a road…

  2. Paul

    “Los Angeles notably has amazing restaurants from just about every ethnic and regional tradition on the planet and also it takes two hours to drive to them because they’re strewn about five counties with no fast transit options.”
    Very true. There’s also the problem I’ve jokingly referred to as the LA Paradox: Driving is the only reasonable way to get there, but once you arrive there’s nowhere to park. Part of the problem in LA is bad pricing. Street parking is free or underpriced so tends to fill up, while flat rate pricing for lots and garages encourages long stays. In an auto-oriented city, there’s definitely a cap on how popular a destination can get before traffic and parking issues start to deter additional visitors. Rapid transit removes that cap and lets a place continue to grow.

  3. df1982

    Virtually every would-be socialist revolutionary in a non-socialist state I’ve met, and there’s been a lot of them, believes that public transport in their city should be a lot better, blames capitalism for it being as bad as it is (and, depending on where they live, for their city being a car-dependent urban wasteland), and thinks that a socialist city will be one in which most people do most things via either transit or active transport.

    They might find the nitty-gritty things like network design, construction costs or choice of mode boring (although plenty, myself included, are also nerds who are obsessed with this kind of stuff), but they would also be invested in making sure that all these things are done right, and have seen ample evidence of them presently being done wrong, e.g. lines being built out of electoral calculus or class prejudices rather than on the basis of need, excessive construction and operation costs due to institutionalised corruption and monopolistic business practices, and service being substandard due to self-defeating “economic rationalist” penny-pinching. In the end the far left has been a persistent advocate of radically improving public transport since basically for ever.

    It would only be the second-order questions where I can see the potential for conflicting interests coming into play. E.g. labour efficiency, service allocation, fare structures (or whether to even have fares), etc.

    • Borners

      Is there such a thing as a “socialist” state? Sweden 1930-1980? or the USSR? WTF does that mean?

      I just spent 4.5 years living in Japan where railways are 80% privatised and public housing at its peak was barely 5% of total housing. Top five in walking, bicycling and mass-transit usage. And the socialist left has never been in power at all. How does your calculus deal with that? One could tell another distinctly un-socialist story with Switzerland with its railways making an operating profit, invovled in for-profit housing development, alternating between selling bonds and borrowing from taxpayer to fund capital expansion.

      Coming from the UK where I compared the private suburban rail developments of 1900-1940 with what came after in the Social housing golden age, they are Stalinist cartopias with crappy job access. And all British socialists do is whine about how evil Thatcher was, how if only a magic socialist government comes everyone gets ponies and blowjobs and money will magically flow to all pet projects. One could add that the best parts of Canada’s urban planning in Vancouver (Skytrain infill), Toronto (buses), Calgary (caltrain) all happened under right wing administration. Heck Vancouver has had the best urbanism in N.America and the critical decisions were done by the reactionary Soc Creds!

      There are plenty of evil “capitalist” states that have managed to improve things in this evil “neoliberal” era. Socialists in the Anglosphere aren’t even interested in learning from Soviet triangles or how Prague manages to get megacity levels of mass transit usage.

      • Nilo

        Socialists in Anglophone states believe that making driving harder is a war on the proletariat.

        • fjod

          I mean this is just not even vaguely a position of your average socialist in the UK, which is the place that was being talked about. Beware overgeneralising across the ‘anglosphere’!

          • Borners

            The average British/English socialists just assumes you just find lots of OPM to throw at transit projects and hey presto! HS2’s ongoing cost explosion crisis is either a happy stopping of an environmental catastrophe or a result of the Tories not spending enough. No reflection on the wider problem! The left-nationalist administrations in Wales and Scotland build dorky trams instead more useful heavy rail projects. And all the local administrations want to build them too despite at best mixed results outside Manchester. 3 decades of city-centric light rail has helped alienate the satellite towns resentments of the recovering city centres. If they’d focused on electrification and infill to bring the satellite towns closer to the core Labour might have done better since New Labour collapsed. Of course they’d (socialists) have to accept commercialisation around the stations and that would have corrupted everything with convenience.

          • fjod

            Nilo – You seem to have made a leap from that policy (ignoring all the ones about prioritising public transport, walking and cycling over cars, right there in the last labour manifesto) to “making driving harder is a war on the proletariat” – do you have any example of that being a belief Corbyn has expressed, or might it be that you’ve ascribed motives where none exist? Would you have made this leap had you not been viewing the UK through the prism of the US? Have you seen your criticism reflected by anyone who knows more about British political discourse than you do?

            Can’t believe I’m defending corbyn but here we are.

        • Lee Ratner

          @Nilo, Anglophone socialists tend to have a very strong austerity streak and see what is described as consumption amenities as being things that lead to capitalist perversion.

          • Borners

            This. I’ve gotten into arguements with UK urban planning lecturers where they basically end saying that because private developers are involved its “free market” or “neoliberal” and thus bad. I’ll take evil London high-rise developers over 1970’s roundabout-mania towns. Heck Prince Charles’s Poundberry has a better street layout than most classic public/council housing (no cul-de-sac).

      • df1982

        @Borners: why would you expect anything more than a fringe minority of socialists to take a deep enough interest in public transport that they would know about Soviet triangles or Prague’s mode share? There is a niche who do, but there are plenty of other policy areas that activists might be more invested in: health care, education, welfare, housing, etc. What they almost universally do recognise is the need for sweeping improvements to public transport provision and the need for cities to be less car-dependent.

        And in the UK it’s quite clear that Thatcherism was a disaster for public transport. E.g. bus deregulation led to huge declines in bus patronage, while railway privatisation led to staggering increases in fares as well as higher government subsidies and a Byzantine patchwork of companies passing the buck to each other. It seems pretty obvious that “socialist” measures (i.e. returning the buses and trains to public ownership) are the only viable remedies to this situation.

        It’s not about ponies for everyone but how can society’s resources be best used to benefit the population as whole, and in this regard the privatised model of public transport provision in Britain has been an abject failure (London being the exception, but precisely because it was substantially kept in public hands: the Underground is still government-owned, while other services are kept on a tight leash by TfL).

        • adirondacker12800

          Thatcherism was a disaster
          It worked out fabulllllously. Break things up into itty bitty little fiefdoms, each of them needs a board of directors, a CEO and a COO and CFO and assorted vice, this that and the other thing. And all that market rate borrowing means more churn for the City. It did great.

          • Alon Levy

            Nitpick: one of the criticisms of Thatcherism is the exact opposite – state monopolies were privatized to corporate monopolies because they needed the scale, so there’s still no competition and plenty of groupthink but also privatized profits.

          • adirondacker12800

            Yes, they broke up the big monopoly run by civil servants making moderately good wages and replaced it with umpteen little bitty monopolies with all sorts of important sounding job titles where they could stash the idiot heirs and get dividend checks. And the administration fees for passing out dividends. And “bonuses” for underwriting the loans. I’m sure there were platoons of lawyers suddenly arguing over who was going to pay for what too. Billed by the hour! I’m sure the propaganda was that the titans of private industry were going to be real life Dagny Taggarts and make everything run like clockwork, cheaply in trice. It’s almost always a scam to skim off vigorish.

          • df1982

            So since railways are a natural monopoly then they are best off as a publicly owned entity? Otherwise you get nonsense like Italy, where two competing companies run trains from Rome to Milan every half hour, rather than one company running them every 15 minutes, which would be a lot more convenient for passengers. The UK tried to get around this by breaking the network up into a patchwork of regional monopolies (like cable suppliers in the US), but for the passenger who wants to go, say, from Colchester to London that is still effectively a monopoly.

            The one saving grace was that the fares on the mainline network remained unified (unlike in Italy), although there were still idiotic features, such as not being able to print a ticket out at the station you’re departing from because it’s run by the “wrong” company.

          • adirondacker12800

            How do they get two trains on the same track at the same time?

        • Borners

          I see more continuity than divergence failure. Thatcherism’s blotched privatisation was made up for by the ending the council-housing-cartopia-subsidy nexus, allowing cities to recover from the anti-urban crusade of 1945-1979. BNR sucked even if some APT technology did prove useful eventually. Neglecting electrification, relief platforms, urban rail etc. But more importantly the 1947 Town and country planning act was and is deadly to mass transit.

          My rule of thumb on railway privatisation, if you haven’t privatised parking don’t privatise railways. Add in permissive zoning too. Japanese private railways work because the price controls push them to focus on increasing passenger flow and developing complimentary businesses shops/real estate/musical theatre to reinforce that. JR privatisation worked because they could just adapt existing models of private rail. Successful privatised railways on the Japanese model would fail in the UK because the system is designed to stop development (Bevan’s intent was to inhibit private building enough to make later nationalisation of all land easier…this is why I hate British socialism). Ditto the rest of Anglosphere. There are intermediate models like Korean Korail or Swiss SBB, public operators which show similar features to private Japanese conglemerates. That’s probably a better model. But British socialists want pure “socialism” whatever that is.

    • Ernest Tufft

      In USA naked Capitalism meant Firestone Tire and GM buying up struggling but well used electrified street companies, then ripping up the tracks, removing overhead electric wires, and substituting inferior and incomplete bus lines. Car culture then became more government dependent during the no toll interstate freeway 1950’s and 60’s. Today’s bicycle and pedestrian paths should be fully funded by motorists because of safety liability problem vehicle weight and speed cause. Car culture labels these projects Socialist, when actually it’s Capitalism of the court room in same way Big Tobacco pays for healthcare cost of smoking.

  4. Lee Ratner

    The way I see is that transit is more than just a general transportation service, it is also a commercial service. In order to get people to take transit rather than drive; it needs to be easy and pleasant to use. This is why even in cities that have relatively good transit by American standards like Portland or Boston, most people drive for their pleasure trips rather than use transit. Many times transit isn’t either easy or pleasant to use, especially outside of commuting times. Getting into SF or Oakland Coliseum for sporting events might be an exception but all those suburbanites need to drive to their BART station parking lot and then drive home.

    • Ernest Tufft

      In old street car days, trolleys were used to transport lumber and building materials to house building site. Unfortunately, today’s rail transit restricts cargo, bicycles, sometimes even airline baggage, and taxis refuse to carry delivery dirty cargo from home improvement store, so cars remain necessary transport that may otherwise mostly remain parked on the street curb or in the garage.

  5. Lee Ratner

    Another thought is how does this work in the age of Internet shopping, streaming, and video games? During the Golden Age of Transit (TM), there wasn’t a lot to do at home because no radio, television, air conditioning, and most definitely no internet. People went out for their entertainment and shopping more because they had to. This need to go out to be entertainments has rapidly decreased from the appearance of radio to the present. Keeping you and your guests entertainment at your home is infinitely more possible. Online shopping basically cut back against the need to do necessity shopping and fun shopping because nearly everything can be ordered online and delivered to your home. Many people still like going out to restaurants or for other fun things and the museum isn’t coming to you but it seem that for the events people do go out to, the car is usually more sufficient and comfortable than transit. If they want to get blotto drunk, they would just uber.

    • Alon Levy

      The Internet hasn’t led to any decrease in off-peak or other non-work public transit ridership… in cities with decent systems, off-peak ridership is up, sharply.

      • Phake Nick

        Couldn’t it be said as a reason why Concorde didn’t have successor?
        Also, with work from home and teleconferencing, I think all the rail improvement plan in Japan are now being questioned whether they’re going to be needed when people can simply teleconference, in addition to the problem of aging and shrinking population. Despite Japan is one of the country that see least adaption rate of work from home during the pandemic.

        • Henry

          Concorde’s main issues were that it couldn’t fly anywhere long enough to compete with air travel. That and the fuel costs.

          When British Airways introduced the first lie-flat business seat, it turned out people liked sleeping comfortably for six hours rather than being squeezed into a supersonic bus seat for three.

        • Andrew in Ezo

          The main impetus of rail improvements, at least in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, is to reduce *existing* congestion, not merely the building of new lines. And shrinking population is an issue that effects not just Japan, but other developed East Asian nations (which btw have lower fertility rates than Japan).

          • SB

            Even in countries with zero or negative population growth, its main cities would likely growth via domestic migration.
            But such cities would grow slower than main cities in countries with rapid population growth and urbanization.

          • Phake Nick

            @Andrew in Ezo
            I am trying not to judge whether such question is reasonable, but there are indeed people asking, whether further expansion of railway is necessary, especially when it come to reduce existing congestion, because fewer people should mean fewer people taking trains and it should naturally become less congested, according to those who raise such question.
            @SB
            The problem is, while Japan is already seeing its nationwide negative growth with main city seeing positive growth due to internal migration, the forecast say give it half more century then even the three main cities in Japan are going to see decline in population. It is even more prominent in smaller cities, like Hakodate is expected to shrink from a city of 1.2 million to a city of 400k population over the next 40 years, and thus they think the city cannot sustain its own train line despite it just got a high speed rail station. However Tokyo is also expected to see population shrinking by 2060s except the three central wards. According to Japanese national forecast anyway.

        • SB

          Concorde catered to very high end customers.
          Its failure isn’t relevant for mass transit.

          • Phake Nick

            According to my understanding, mass transit mean transporting a mass of people? Very high end customers are still people.

    • adirondacker12800

      Online shopping basically cut back against the need to do necessity shopping
      Home refrigerators cut down on shopping. Without a refrigerator someone has to shop most days.

      • Ernest Tufft

        It’s the other way around. Smaller refrigerators means smaller cargo demand because daily shopping for fresh veggies and meat can be carried by hand on transit or walking. Larger refrigerators require not only more electricity, but larger cargo capacity of fuel burning car to deliver larger load, and the products delivered are energy intensive frozen, boxed, and ready to eat prepared food products. Moreover, those shopping by car over purchase caloric intake and are themselves more likely to be obese shoppers who do not walk or use transit.

        • adirondacker12800

          If you don’t have a refrigerator buying stuff for tomorrow’s dinner today doesn’t work out well. You can put highly processed frozen food in small freezers.

          • Ernest Tufft

            Processed food is very planet unfriendly for the extra fuel required to market, make, distribute, and store it. In USA, we drove car to Safeway and loaded a cart full of the stuff, although I tended to avoid that long aisle of electricity burning freezers full of frozen TV dinners. So, we drove home and filled up oversized refrigerator with food enough to make ourselves oversized as we watched spectator sports on TV. Eating out in America means driving long distance to shopping mall until one finds an Texas Roadhouse, Applebee’s or some other franchise, worse an In-Out Burger joint. Now that we live in Spain, refrigerator is smaller because we walk around corner to eat out at one of many local outdoor cafes, if nothing is in refrig. We walk to produce market and grocery store, buying fresh foods for few days at most.

          • adirondacker12800

            Just for giggles I checked Spanish supermarket ads. Spooky Halloween Oreos are on sale, Pepsi, Lay’s potato chips and frozen pizza.

    • AJ

      Seems like the invention of automobiles, freeways, and suburban development would be more relevant than radio, television, air conditioning, or internet?

      • Reedman Bassoon

        Before air conditioning, Florida was a place to have a small house to spend a winter vacation in. The annual human migrations in spring and fall were huge. These small houses could be cheaply built because they weren’t intended for permanent use, and after decades in the summer heat they would need to be torn down and rebuilt. Now, cement block construction is the norm, A/C has 100% installation rate (both in homes and in cars), and working from home in a place with no state income tax looks more attractive. Being late to the urban game, Florida doesn’t have much transit, in spite of being the third most populous state. It is making progress, in an affordable fashion (last week, Siemens in Sacramento shipped the first Brightline trainset for the Miami-Orlando connection which is hoped to be running next year. Also delivered were 1600 ft sections of rail from Indiana for the project.)

    • Ernest Tufft

      Since internet shopping delivers, and people shop less, the need for car to carry cargo is definitely down. Delivery systems motivate urban dwellers to junk the expense of car ownership altogether, and either walk, bicycle, or ride transit.

  6. BB

    Dallas isn’t quite like L.A. or Houston. The City of Dallas has 17 or 18 percent of the metro population and will probably be overtaken by Fort Worth in a few decades. Downtown Dallas isn’t even the largest business district in the DFW metro now. That’s the Legacy development, on the Plano/Frisco border in the exurbs, where Toyota North America and J.C. Penney have their HQs and Chase and Liberty Mutual among many others have huge offices. I see a lot of Dallas urbanists complain that DART is building train lines to the suburbs, not understanding that by the time the lines are finished, Dallas will be the suburb.

  7. Ernest Tufft

    I also looked at the alarming geographical spread of cities in general, and suburbanization in particular as a disadvantage in Climate Change epoch, because cities like Los Angeles, which is 13x larger than Paris geographically for only about 1/3 larger population, have greater consumption of resources and eventually can run into precarious financial problems for lack of sufficient tax base to repave roads, repair power, sewer, water, and NG lines, transit systems, etc, as they also compete with surrounding new development suburbs that offer reduce tax rates to move away factories and jobs. So, suburban sprawl invades and eliminates farmland, wetland, and forest areas.

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