Monday, March 14, 2011

Owen McShane: The Urban Reality

The simple reality is that the successful major cities of the Anglo-American world are decentralizing, and reducing overall urban area density, rather than centralizing and increasing density.

This dentralisation is driven by demographics, technology, and people’s personal preferences. These add up to a potent mix, and regulators have found that attempts to halt or reverse this trend have counterproductive outcomes. Auckland Mayor Len Brown may prefer a more compact city to more “urban sprawl” but the evidence suggests the Auckland residents may sprawl to the regional centres of Australia rather than be regulated into Smart Growth submission.

Many planning and media pundits insist that suburban residents are both hugely dissatisfied with the high costs and congestion of their current locations, and want to break their dependence on the car, by moving into high-density apartments near to public transport nodes.

However, the producers of popular television programmes, as opposed to the newsroom “journalists”, have a well-founded sense of real-world market preferences. There is a neverending stream of programmes about “relocation” and I have yet to see one focusing on the delights of making such a move to the inner city. Their most common theme is living life in the countryside with room for growing their own vegetables and enjoying their open space with room for their pets.

For example on a single Sunday, the “Living Channel” featured Better Homes and Gardens, A Place in the Sun, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Country House Rescue, Life in a Cottage Garden, and Escape to the Country. The Food Channel featured River Cottage Autumn, featuring Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall and his passion for home-grown vegetables for whole rural communities.

The motoring programme, Top Gear, is hardly on a mission to help people cure their addiction to cars. Is there any television programme, or even newspaper supplement, featuring the joys of public transport?

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