How much floor space $1500 per month gets you in 30 popular cities

In this week’s Tw3, The Urbanist comments on:

  • How much space does $1,500 per month rent you in the 30 most magnetic cities in the world?
  • Forget the Sydney/Melbourne rivalry, the new enemy is Hobart
  • What can you do if you don’t want to go into a retirement village?
  • Sydney Architecture Festival launches audio tour of brutalist landmarks
  • Push to cut mobile phone use in vehicles a chance to save lives
  • The rail that fails
  • With Uber out, London coalition calls for driver-owned “Khan’s Cars”
  • If there are 1,500 cars here, there are likely ~1,650 passengers. The same as a full 10 car train
  • Everyone hates tolls, but drastic times may call for drastic measures to fix L.A.’s traffic

How much space does $1,500 per month rent you in the 30 most magnetic cities in the world?

$1,500 will rent you three times more space in Shanghai than in Los Angeles and twice as much in Frankfurt. The per-square-foot price is more than five times higher in San Francisco than in Berlin

According to this analysis, Sydney isn’t in the top tier of ultra expensive world cities; that’s reserved for the likes of Paris and Geneva. Eleven of the 30 most “magnetic” cities have more expensive residential space than Sydney’s $30 per sq m. You might expect to see Manhattan ($58) and London ($54) ahead of Sydney, but Zurich ($51) and Stockholm ($39) might be surprising.

The cheapest cities are Istanbul ($8), Shanghai ($10) and Berlin ($11), with perpetual contender for the EIU’s world’s most liveable city gong, Vienna, a bargain at $16 per sq m (although it’s not clear if the writer has taken into account rent control policies in some cities). Australians expect the cost of housing to stay at traditional levels, but Sydney is a world city now and so it’s getting harder.

Forget the Sydney/Melbourne rivalry, the new enemy is Hobart

Where previously the Sydney versus Melbourne debate would dominate discussion, a new rivalry has emerged and it’s one that just a decade ago you’d never have banked on. Hobart… In Hobart nobody ever needs to get a mortgage. Yes, you heard correctly; mortgages in Hobart are non-existent.

Property prices are relatively low because there aren’t many high-paying jobs in Hobart. Don’t expect Sydneysiders working in finance to migrate there any time soon. But combined with the MONA effect, cheaper housing could mean Hobart is well placed to become Australia’s “new inner city”, attracting artists and creatives who can no longer access the gentrified inner cities of the capitals and who don’t find the lower cost parts of the outer suburbs appealing. Our cities, big and small, might become more specialised in the future.

What can you do if you don’t want to go into a retirement village?

Enterprising baby boomers are turning to co-housing to avoid the conventional retirement communities that were often the only option for their parents.

I think this is part of an increasing trend toward living in specialised communities – we’ve long had small communities of like-minded people based around shared interests like golf courses and even light aircraft landing strips. In the inner city, we’ve got communities based around progressive values. But I think mechanisms like co-housing or the Nightingale model have a limited role because they don’t scale-up easily; the coordination problems are just too large. We’re much more likely I think to demand that developers offer projects that match “people like us”. It means less diversity at the micro level, of course.

Sydney Architecture Festival launches audio tour of brutalist landmarks

The architect’s map has formed the basis of a mobile app, created by Geotourist in partnership with the NSW Architects Registration Board to build public appreciation for this architectural style and raise awareness of buildings that face, at best, an uncertain future, and worse, demolition.

There might be an outstanding work or two here, but being in a fashionable style at the time does not make every building that claims to be Brutalist worthy of protection. This was a major style of architecture, especially for public buildings, in the 60s and 70s; examples were – and mostly still are – relatively common. Personally, I love the best examples.

Like mini-skirts and other fashions of the time, all these buildings should be documented, filmed, modelled and their stories recorded, but very few are so outstanding or socially important that they warrant protection from demolition (and I dispute that UTS horror is genuine Brutalism). Buildings aren’t like precious paintings, mini skirts, or music from the swinging sixties; preserving them imposes a cost on the owner and an opportunity cost – the site is likely to have a more socially useful role if it’s redeveloped – on the community.

Question: should all extant Morris 850s (Mini) be protected from modification or crushing by law?

Push to cut mobile phone use in vehicles a chance to save lives

The campaign might save many lives. After falling for years, the road toll increased in the past two years. Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester says he has “no doubt” phones are at least partly responsible… We should turn off our phones when we get behind the wheel.

This editorial in The Age endorses the marketing campaign, but then points out that people continue to use mobile phones while driving even though they know it’s illegal and dangerous. I don’t see much value in stating what the desirable outcome is if there’s no attempt to articulate how we might achieve it. Increased awareness doesn’t seem to help much because the chance of getting caught is very low.

It’s a pipe dream to imagine that Police can detect offenders; unless detection can be automated in some way like speed cameras, the only solution at the moment is some regulatory intervention that renders non hands-free phones in cars inoperable. The problem though is the burden on business and personal productivity would be very large and unacceptable to the community.

I think we’ll continue to want to be seen to do something (like marketing campaigns) but mostly we’ll continue to tolerate the cost in terms of crashes and casualties. That attitude will be sustained while ever serious road traffic injuries – which far outnumber fatalities – remain steady for all modes except cycling (see How safe is cycling on city roads?).

The rail that fails

Pricey downtown streetcars like Detroit’s QLine underperform as transit—and can undermine overall mobility. But that isn’t stopping city after city from building new lines.

As in Australia, a project isn’t automatically worth doing compared to alternatives just because it’s rail. Many of these US projects are justified by green-washing and take much of their patronage from buses. And even Portland’s lauded streetcar network only carries 16,000 passengers per day; Melbourne’s 96 tram route alone carries over 40,000 per day. Projects should be justified by their net benefits and compared against alternative ways of investing public dollars.

With Uber out, London coalition calls for driver-owned “Khan’s Cars”

Last Friday, Transport for London (TfL) announced it would not renew Uber’s operating license when it expires on Sept. 30. The city transportation authority cited the ride-hailing app company’s habit of flouting government regulations and its approach to reporting serious crimes among the reasons for canceling the license.

Travellers want Uber but the regulator doesn’t. If the regulator were concerned about the long-term viability of Uber given the high level of VC subsidy it relies on, and/or it’s potential to become a monopoly operator, I’d be more convinced. The unavoidable suspicion is the political heft of the taxi industry far exceeds that of Uber. I’d like to see how taxis perform on Uber’s alleged regulatory failures compared to Uber. I wouldn’t hold my breath that the proposed “Khan’s Cars”, if they’re realised, will offer travellers the same level of benefits they see in Uber.

If there are 1,500 cars here, there are likely ~1,650 passengers. The same as a full 10 car train

True; but as one commenter point out, “the cars are going to 1,500 destinations while the train goes to a handful”. The cars in the image are congested, so for the moment they’re going slowly, but it illustrates why we use trains to get to geographically small, highly concentrated places like the CBD, but use cars to get to dispersed destinations. In Melbourne, the ratio of public transport to car trips is 11:89, because the great bulk of trips are to destinations where there aren’t many others “going my way”.

Everyone hates tolls, but drastic times may call for drastic measures to fix L.A.’s traffic

Charging a fee to drive into a traffic-clogged area makes people reevaluate the trip. Is it worth the price? Is there an alternative, like taking the bus or train? Is it feasible to travel in off-peak hours or avoid the trip altogether? It takes just a small percentage reduction in the number of cars to ease congestion. And that’s what you’re paying for: faster driving on a road that would otherwise be slow.

That’s from the editorial in the Los Angeles Times. Traffic is expected to increase as the population and business grow. Relentlessly expanding road supply won’t work and neither by itself will expanding public transport supply. Growing cities need to moderate traffic demand; pricing congested road space is the obvious strategy.