Archive for the ‘Urban and Regional Economics’ Category

internal migration in China

Monday, May 6th, 2019

I just finished reading a delightful book written by Chinese journalist Karoline Kan. Her work is autobiographical, and more, since she writes also about the lives of a cousin, her parents, grandparents and great-uncle. The 300-page book is very readable, and, at the same time, very informative. I recommend it highly. Among other things, I learned that government control of internal migration began centuries ago, long before the Communist government came to power.

Here is a portion of the book that explains the migration controls. In her memoir, Ms Kan goes on to explain the effect these controls had on her, and on the lives of her parents and grandparents. (more…)

basic income pilot in a California city

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Beginning in 2019, a demonstration of basic income will begin in Stockton, a city of about 300,000 residents, in California’s Central Valley. One hundred households will be selected randomly from neighbourhoods where the median household income is at or below the city median of $46,033 a year. One person, 18 years of age or older, in each selected household will receive $500 a month for 18 months. It is not clear how the recipient within each household will be selected. Benefits will be unconditional, meaning that there are no work requirements and no restrictions on how the money is spent. This makes the experiment more universal than most of this type. The benefits will be funded entirely from private donations, so there is little chance that payments will continue beyond the 18-month period. (more…)

the price of land in New Zealand

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

An explanation for the rising price of farmland in New Zealand.

[T]he upside-down world of apocalyptic holiday homes generally eschews downtowns. Which means New Zealand is doing well. Billionaires such as Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, are buying up beautiful but secluded bits of the planet, planning for a time when it might pay to be a long way away. In the process they are pushing up the price of land for sheep farmers and locals. In other words, pre-apocalyptic gentrification. [Emphasis added.]

Edwin Heathcote, “Armageddon architecture: upmarket bunkers for the worried wealthy“, Financial Times, 8 April 2017 (gated paywall).

Uber and public transit

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

FT journalist Leslie Hook describes a new deal for Uber in Summit, New Jersey, a commuter community just 45-minutes from mid-town Manhattan. The town of Summit contracted Uber to provide residents free rides to and from its train station. This is the first deal of this kind for Uber, but similar deals may be coming.

The Summit deal focuses on what is known as the “last mile” problem of getting commuters to and from rail stations, which researchers consider to be an ideal use case for ride-sharing. ….

Facing budget pressures, US cities are increasingly experimenting to see whether hiring Uber, or its smaller rival Lyft, can be a cheaper alternative to building parking garages or adding bus routes. Personal car ownership is the primary mode of transportation in the US, where only 2 per cent of trips take place on public transportation, a level far lower than other developed nations. (Emphasis added.)

Last month, Boston announced a test programme that subsidises Uber and Lyft rides for disabled passengers, a faster option compared with the city’s door-to-door van service. Earlier this year, a county in Florida started providing free Uber rides at night for low-income passengers — a cheaper alternative to a night bus.

Leslie Hook, “Uber meshes with US public transit in small-town drive“, Financial Times, 6 October 2016 (metered paywall).

Ms Hook is the FT’s San Francisco correspondent. If her 2% statistic for use of mass transportation is correct, this is shameful. It would be nice to see the statistics for large, urban areas such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. Use of public transportation is no doubt higher in large cities.

Years ago, when living in Mexico City, I recall reading that automobiles (presumably including taxis) transported only 13% of the commuters, leaving public transportation (underground rail and buses) to transport the remaining 87%. Even so, traffic jams during rush hours were frequent and often horrific. Needless to say, so was the smog.

a socially responsible ride-hailing app

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Are you using Uber with a guilty conscience? Are you interested in an ethical, online alternative?

Here’s the good news. It exists … in exactly the place you’d imagine: Canada.

TappCar was launched in Edmonton, Alberta, in March. Full-time drivers have insurance, a pension, healthcare and other costs covered. After a weekly fee of about £150, they keep all fares. According to spokesperson Pascal Ryffel, TappCar costs about 5 per cent more than Uber and aims to “appeal to the value judgments of people who care about things like safety and fairness”. Juno, a company with similar thoughts, is launching in New York City.

Lisa Pollack, “Feeling uber-guilty for using Uber“, Financial Times, 31 August 2016 (metered paywall).

Arizona welcomes Mexicans

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Arizona, a solidly ‘red’ (Republican) American state, is enacting policies to attract more Mexican visitors. This contrasts sharply with the promise of presidential candidate Donald Trump to build a high, sturdy wall along the US-Mexico border.

Arizonan movers and shakers have started to think that bringing in more Mexicans is a good way to stimulate growth. To make people from south of the border feel more welcome, county planning organisations, municipal officials and business leaders are lining up behind a proposal to transform their entire state into a “free-travel zone” for millions of better-off Mexicans with the money and wherewithal to qualify for a travel document that is widely used in the south-west, but little known elsewhere — a border-crossing card, or BCC. ….

BCC holders are currently allowed to go 75 miles into Arizona, which takes them as far as Tucson, the state’s second-largest city. But Arizona officials are seeking a change in federal rules that would allow these people to roam across the [entire] state, hoping that if the visitors travel further, they will stay longer and spend more money at malls, restaurants and tourist attractions.

The desired Mexicans are a far cry from the “murderers” and “rapists” of Mr Trump’s stump speeches. They can afford the $160 fee and offer the proof of employment and family ties back home that are required for a BCC, which is good for 10 years and enables Mexicans to remain in the US for up to 30 days at a time. To stay longer or travel further, they need more documentation.

Gary Silverman, “US-Mexico border: Arizona’s open door“, The Big Read, Financial Times, 18 December 2015 (metered paywall).

FT BCC 2015

painting the slums of Mexico

Friday, August 28th, 2015

A remarkable experiment is taking place near Mexico City, with the help of federal government funding. Local residents and artists have transformed Las Palmitas, a barrio in crime-ridden Pachuca, into a mega-mural of bright colours.

[T]he community-building efforts sparked by the mural project … have helped foster a new sense of civic pride and peaceful cohabitation. The Germen Crew [in charge of the work] spent months getting to know residents before the painting began, attending town meetings to discuss colours and workshops for children. ….

In Las Palmitas, officials say the programme, of which the mega-mural is part, led to a 79 per cent drop in the crime rate in the first half of this year, compared with levels in 2012. They see such grassroots campaigns as vital in a country struggling with rampant drug cartel-related violence and crime, Indeed, Mexico has thousands of barrios just as depressing and in need of rehabilitation. ….

[There is now] a queue of demands from cities to get the Palmitas treatment, including crime-torn Acapulco, Ciudad Juárez on the US border and Toluca, Ixtapaluca and Ecatepec in the troubled State of Mexico.

Jude Webber, “Mexico neighbourhood paints over troubles“, Financial Times, 27 August 2015 (metered paywall).

See also this ungated article in The Guardian.

For more ungated articles and images, google “Las Palmitas Pachuca Mexico”

Germen Crew paints Palmitas neighborhood...In the Las Palmitas barrio of Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico, a rehabilitation project has decorated a poor, marginal hillside community and at the same time helped its residents reconstruct the social fabric of their divided neighborhood.The graffiti artists of the Germen Crew, in conjunction with the Mexican Interior Ministry's Prevention and Citizen Participation division, has painted a radiant mural using a palette of 190 colors and the facades of the houses as their canvas. Antonio CerÛn, a neighborhood resident who was hired by the Germen Crew, works painting a wall.

Germen Crew paints Palmitas neighbourhood . . . In the Las Palmitas barrio of Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico, a rehabilitation project has decorated a poor, marginal hillside community and at the same time helped its residents reconstruct the social fabric of their divided neighbourhood. The graffiti artists of the Germen Crew, in conjunction with the Mexican Interior Ministry's Prevention and Citizen Participation division, has painted a radiant mural using a palette of 190 colours and the façades of the houses as their canvas. Vista of the Las Palmitas neighbourhood.

high real estate prices

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Brits complain that foreign demand for real estate is driving up the cost of living in London. Canadians complain that wealthy Chinese investors are causing housing prices to skyrocket in Vancouver and Toronto.

Tim Harford, FT undercover economist, explains that these high and rising real estate prices are often a sign of success, a refection of the fact that increasing numbers of people want to live in a specific geographic area. Absentee owners of vacant homes are not common, so have little or no effect on real estate prices.

London’s excruciating price tag is not just a vulnerability but also a sign of success. It is hard to see how the city can be written off when so many people are willing to pay such extraordinary sums to live there. ….

London is not going to become a gigantic holiday park full of second homes for billionaires — there simply aren’t enough billionaires out there to turn a city of more than eight million souls into the equivalent of a weekend hideaway in Cornwall.

Another concern is that international investors will snap up new-build apartments as investments, then leave them empty. But rental property is a much better investment when one actually rents it out, so this makes sense only if one accepts that most international investors are insane.

Tim Harford, “London’s turning …“, Financial Times, 15 August 2015 (metered paywall).

condemning the liberalism of urban life

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

FT political columnist Janan Ganesh writes that cities are disliked by anti-liberals – both those on the political right and those on the left.

The city has moral enemies. In ancient times and modern, among religious warriors and secular ideologues, urban life has been scathingly equated with sexual licence, denatured materialism and free inquiry. Babylon was condemned. The Khmer Rouge emptied out Phnom Penh. Al-Qaeda tore into a man-made skyline. ….

If the city is liberalism incarnate, anti-liberals will define themselves against it. This includes the scrupulously peaceful conservatives in modern democracies, whom voting patterns show to be strongest in rural areas and small towns. In their demonology, the opponent is never just the “elite” but the “metropolitan elite”.

Twenty-first century London has many disorienting feats to its name. Among them is the arousal of hostility from the liberal left, too. Screeds against this city are now more common in The Guardian and New York Times than the conservative Telegraph and the Mail. ….

Modern London is liberalism — or “neoliberalism”, to use the mot du jour of every bluffing teenage radical — in excelsis. It has taken the free movement of people, goods, services, capital and ideas to anarchic extremes that might have no precedent. ….

What really piques conservatives of right and left is that a place can be so lax and so successful.

Janan Ganesh, “How the left tired of liberal London life“, Financial Times, 11 August 2015 (metered paywall).

public transportation vs private cars

Friday, July 24th, 2015

Availability of public transportation and population density are important factors to take into account when choosing a place of residence. In a recent move from Europe to North America, this influenced very much our decision to live in the downtown core of Victoria (British Columbia) rather than the suburbs.

Living without a car is liberating, but only when convenient, reliable public transportation is available. In most of the world, there is little or no public transportation in suburban or rural areas. Sadly, some cities (Houston, Texas comes to mind) have no urban core, with the result that public transportation is very limited, and not a serious option.

In most cities, driving is horrible. It is stop-start, boring and bad-tempered.

Many people say they drive because they do not like being crushed against other sweaty, disagreeable commuters. I have driven and I have commuted. Fellow passengers are a great deal more civilised than other drivers — and their odours are less offensive than the emissions you inhale in a car.

In many cities today, there really is no need for a car. Public transport and walking can get you almost everywhere you need to go. It is healthier and it is greener. In London, I don’t drive for weeks, or sometimes months, at a time. (Others have taken to bicycles. I do not regard them as healthier — certainly not in London.)

Michael Skapinker, “Why buying a car makes no sense“, Financial Times, 23 July 2015 (metered paywall).