Yes, in an ideal world, we would all live in walkable cities with great cycling and public transport.

But, particularly in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, we have been left with around 60 year’s worth of car dependent suburban sprawl.

In quite a few metro areas, the inner city has a great public transport network. Yet once you get out to the suburbs, you’re lucky to see a bus every half hour. Services often also start late and end early.

As a starting point, should there be more emphasis placed on upgrading suburban bus networks to a 10-minute frequency or better?

Better bus networks are less expensive upfront than large extensions to metro and heavy rail systems. And they can prove that demand exists, when it becomes available.

What are your thoughts?

  • AJ Sadauskas OP
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    1 year ago

    No cherry picking, and in fact if I wanted I could have picked even more stark examples.

    Here’s a heatmap of Melbourne property prices, with higher prices being in orange and lower in deep purple.

    You’ll notice that the prices are higher near the inner city, with the highest prices in a cluster of bayside and inner-eastern suburbs just near the CBD (places like Brighton and Toorak):

    Similar heatmap for Sydney. Again, highest prices in the inner city and a cluster of suburbs immediately to the east of the city, on the north side of the harbour, and the inner west. Note also that the further you go west, the more purple the suburbs tend to be:

    There’s also a well-known meme about socioeconomics in Sydney known as the “Red Rooster line”.

    Basically, the fast food chain Red Rooster tends to only operate its stores in working class outer suburbs.

    By plotting a line between the stores that are closest to the Sydney CBD, you get a good approximation of where the boundary line is between wealthier the inner suburbs and the poorer outer suburbs of Western Sydney.

    If you’re interested, here’s some analysis of the Red Rooster line from the University of NSW: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/social-affairs/imaginary-line-exposing-real-sydney-divide

    Here’s a good YouTube explainer of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAPSSQALBXY

    From the Australian Financial Review:

    "Waterfront locations and coveted school zones dominate the country’s most expensive postcodes, new Domain data shows.

    "All the postcodes in the top-20 list were in Sydney, led by the eastern suburbs, the northern beaches and the north shore.

    “Six of the postcodes in the top 20 have a median house price higher than $5 million, and 12 have a median price above $4 million.”

    https://www.afr.com/property/residential/sydney-dominates-melbourne-for-the-20-most-expensive-postcodes-20211213-p59h08

    So yes, Australia hasn’t seen the same hollowing out of property prices in the inner-city and inner suburbs of our metropolitan areas as the US. Very much the opposite in fact.

    And those wealthy folks in the inner suburbs have a lot of well-resourced NIMBY groups that fight what they see as “overdevelopment”, and who get their leafy inner suburbs heritage protected, pushing more development to the outer suburban fringe. This is a serious ongoing issue: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/overdevelopment-bludgeons-us-out-of-our-homes-say-residents-20230208-p5ciwi.html

    In principle, I completely agree that we need more density near existing rail lines, in the inner city, and the inner suburbs.

    I absolutely agree that all new development should be within walking distance of train and trams, in medium- or higher-density mixed-use higher density communities.

    But.

    That leaves a whole bunch of outer suburbs that were built in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and more recently that are heavily car dependent.

    In Australia at least, these outer suburbs tend to overwhelmingly be working class.

    And in many of them, the only accessible mode of transport is the bus.

    At least in the short- and medium-term, the most cost-effective way of providing transport to these areas, and improving social equity, is by improving bus services.

    • poVoq@slrpnk.net
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      1 year ago

      Thanks for the detailed reply.

      I guess it will depend on the location and the circumstances, but I remain sceptical. Here in Europe I see way too many bus lines being under-utilized in similar areas.

      I think we might have to accept that people that used cars all their life are unlikely to switch to a bus service unless forced to by economic circumstances. Maybe the next generation is willing to move back into more dense housing areas and skip cars all together.

        • Christian Kent@urbanists.social
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          1 year ago

          @ajsadauskas @poVoq OMG wow. It’s not like this is a Gordian knot or something. This is Solved Stuff™ in other countries, who know to use value capture and have an expectation of government services.

          As for “more roads” … ffs

          Never be fooled into thinking this is a diabolical paradox. Beautiful, friendly dense urbanism does exist. Just not if you’re an arch-right low-tax roads-supremicist who revels in GDP and migration while pretending to be all “sustainability”.