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The Economist: Donít expect driving rates to rise again

"Peak car" may be more than just a sustainability nut's fantasy. Young people are souring on car culture and finding other ways to get around and connect with friends. The suburban sprawl that fueled the rise of the automobile is in decline. And now The Economistno treehugging lefty publicationis listing off reason after reason why the trend of declining driving"peak car," they call itis here to stay.


Graphic from The Economist.

First, let's be clear: Driving rates are plateauing and even dropping in developed countries, or what The Economist bluntly calls "the rich world." Developing countries are a few decades behind and are just entering a car acquisition stage. According to a study conducted earlier this year, 20 developed countries show a "saturating trend" on driving.

The results are the same for all three measures of saturation: total distance driven, distance per driver and total trips made. "After decades when each individual was on average travelling farther every year, growth per person has slowed distinctly, and in many cases stopped altogether," the article states.

Is it just the recession? High unemployment? Stubborn gas prices? The Economist, like many analysts before, says the trend goes deeper than those temporary factors. Here's why:

Generational shift. The generation that went cruising around town in tail-finned Chevys is in retirement now. More American retirees have drivers licenses than ever beforeand "more than 90 percent of people aged 60-64 can drive, a larger share than for any other cohort," the article states. "New generations of drivers will replace old ones rather than add to the total number." Older people tend to drive shorter distances than younger ones.

Meanwhile, throughout the developed world, young people are less eager to start driving and they're getting their licenses later. Studies show that people who learn to drive later in life continue to drive less. Gordon Stokes of Oxford University found that people in Britain who learn in their late 20s drive 30 percent less than those who learn a decade earlier.

Geography. The growing preference for urban living, fueled in part by a desire to walk more and drive less, also reduces VMT. In wealthy countries, car use is still stable or increasing in rural areas, but that's not where the future is. "The OECD, a rich-country think-tank, expects that by 2050, 86 percent of the rich world's population will live in urban areas, up from 77 percent in 2010."

Nature magazine recently mapped the urbanization trend, noting, "The United Nations predicts that cities will absorb all of the world's population growthof around 2.3 billion peoplein the next four decades." [emphasis mine]

The preference to go car-free in cities has been on the rise since long before the recession or $4.00 gas prices. Better public transit and new car-sharing services like Zipcar help make this a viable preference.


Graphic from the Economist.

Sprawl. The Economist article points out that "the car has become a victim of its own success." For decades, auto-centric development sprawled outward from cities, as newly-built highways allowed people to commute to the city quickly. But the more people opted to get cars and move out to the hinterlands, the more crowded those highways became.

Given that the maximum time people are willing to take on is generally unmovable at 30 minutes each way, the maximum distance you can live from your job increased with highway expansion and shrunk again with congestion. The Economist calls it a "sprawl wall." It's one of many reasons that more than half of US cities are seeing more growth in the core than the periphery.

Result: Driverless Cars or Better Policies? The Economist takes stock of the growing desperation among automakers about the state of the US market and concludes that they're going to bet on driverless cars to take them into the future: "If buyers are less interested in driving, then cars will require less driving from them."

Driverless cars would bring a host of other factors to bear: They could cut congestion somewhat because they can travel closer together without safety concernsthough if people opt for driverless cars over mass transit they could dramatically increase congestion. And the article says driverless cars could "strain the already weakening link between driving and identity and the sense of driving as an expression of self and skill."

But a far more meaningful outcome of this trend would be for smart governments to revolutionize their transportation policies to accommodate greater transportation options in the future. The Economist notes that "urban planning, in particular, has for half a century focused on cars."

America built 64,000 kilometres (40,000 miles) of interstate highway to get the country moving after the second world war; since 1980 it has built more than 35,000 new lane-kilometres a year. If policymakers are confident that car use is waning they can focus on improving lives and infrastructure in areas already blighted by traffic rather than catering for future growth. That is already happening in London, where cars pay to enter the centre and ever more space is dedicated to buses and cycles. At Canary Wharf, a business district in east London, 100,000 jobs are supported by only 3,000 parking spaces.

By improving alternatives to driving, city authorities can try to lock in the benefits of declining car use. Cars take up more space per person than any other form of transportone lane of a freeway can transport 2,500 people per hour by car, versus 5,000 in a bus and 50,000 in a train, reckon Peter Newman and Rob Salter of Curtin University in Australia.

The transportation bill that passed a few months ago in this country didn't go nearly far enough in envisioning a future beyond car dependence and endless sprawl. That means the country is preparing for a future that isn't expected to happen. The dip in driving isn't a flash in the pan. Given the significant societal factors that have contributed to it, we should expect it to stick around for a while.

Cross-posted at Streetsblog DC.

Tanya Snyder is editor of Streetsblog Capitol Hill, which covers issues of national transportation policy. She previously covered Congress for Pacifica and public radio. She lives car-free in a transit-oriented and bike-friendly neighborhood of Washington, DC. 

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At Canary Wharf, a business district in east London, 100,000 jobs are supported by only 3,000 parking spaces.

And I would guess that a significant part of that for deliveries, mechanics and other people that need to haul stuff around.

by Jasper on Sep 26, 2012 11:40 am • linkreport

I wonder how much of the shift is attributable to car-sharing. Sure, car sharing is still driving -- but I'd wager it results in less driving. Because with car ownership, you see most of the cost upfront, and less marginal cost each time you use it -- i.e., it's "cheaper" to drive once you've made the investment. With car sharing, the marginal cost per use is greater -- so you can still get a car if you need it, but if you don't, you won't.

I know several people who have gotten rid of a car, or not replaced a broken/stolen car, in lieu of car sharing. If that option didn't exist, some of those people probably would have stuck with their car, and ended up driving more. But I don't know whether these anecdotes represent large-scale impact.

by Gavin on Sep 26, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

It's the economy, stupid. Under 30 -- you're screwed.

That an long term unemployment among older groups.

by charlie on Sep 26, 2012 11:57 am • linkreport

"young people are less eager to start driving and they're getting their licenses later."

I wonder how much of this is choice and how much is, at least in the US, because of the push to raise the age of teen drivers and extend the learning period before being fully licensed.

by The Octopus Gallery on Sep 26, 2012 12:20 pm • linkreport

I think it raises an interesting question. If so much of your money goes into owning, maintaining, and operating a car, just to get to your job, whats the point of working so much?

by spookiness on Sep 26, 2012 12:30 pm • linkreport

It's the economy, stupid. Under 30 -- you're screwed.

While the economy is likely playing a role, it's at times of economic turmoil that long-lasting shifts in trends occur. Economic turmoil is a form of "creative destruction" that jolts people and businesses out of the status quo and into new paradigms. We're likely to see many of the trends that have emerged over the past few years become the "new normal" that will last for many more years.

by Falls Church on Sep 26, 2012 1:00 pm • linkreport

I'd question some of the underlying data here.

No question that younger people are spending less money on cars. It isn't your first big purchase anymore, and the quality of used cars means driving cars with over 100K on them is very realistic.

(And that is a good thing)

That said, this is how the reaseachers go the numbers of young people with licences:
In their research update appearing in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, Sivak and Schoettle extend their analysis by using driver's license records and general population data from the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau

Unless you have a magic way to control for (illegal) immigration, the numbers are bunk. We know it has gotten a lot harded to get a licence in the last 10 years, and the bulk of immigrants are young.

(drivingw while on a suspended (or non-existent) licence is a great way to get deported, even if you've lived here your entire life.

by charlie on Sep 26, 2012 1:00 pm • linkreport

I don't think any of this is particularly surprising to anybody who's followed the rise of urbanism and recent demographic trends (ie. pretty much anybody reading this).

However, I just wanted to call out that first graph that Tanya linked to in this post: It's rare to see such a simple graph used so effectively. It tells several different stories, and supports the author's case pretty damn effectively. It's pretty hard to argue with data like that.

by andrew on Sep 26, 2012 1:14 pm • linkreport

While I agree with your article as well as the Economist's research, you do miss one point. The Economist is absolutely a liberal publication. I think it would be offended if you suggested otherwise.

by Patrick on Sep 26, 2012 1:16 pm • linkreport

Out of my group of friends in the DC area, half don't own a car (got rid of it when they moved here), the other half is split between a couple that have cars but don't use them except to run errands (myself included), and a few that still depend on them on a daily basis. As a 28 year old, I find that to be a stark change from 10-15 years ago. Now I also realize DC is not like the rest of America because we have enough transit to get people around, and enough walkable communities to reduce many car trips, but the trend seems to be slowly catching on in other major cities also.

by Where are my keys on Sep 26, 2012 1:16 pm • linkreport

@ charlie:We know it has gotten a lot harded to get a licence in the last 10 years, and the bulk of immigrants are young.

Really. If so, then it went from 'ridiculously easy' to 'really easy'.

As an immigrant, I have laughed myself through getting a DL 5 times. Thrice in VA and twice in OH. It's dead easy. Now, of course, I was a documented alien or immigrant and not an undocumented alien, but some states just hand out a license to everyone who passes the test. They figure it's better for people (read: undocumented aliens) to have a license and therefore insurance than not. That insurance helps everybody else and gets paid for by the aliens.

[Now I think of it, it's kinda odd that they use that argument for car insurance, but not health insurance]

by Jasper on Sep 26, 2012 1:17 pm • linkreport

For those who don't understand the context of Patrick's clever comment, it's because "liberal" means something different in the Economist's context than the way we typically think of it in the US: Classical liberalism, a philosophy of limited government and limited economic regulation, versus social or modern liberalism.

by David Alpert on Sep 26, 2012 1:19 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper; I am presuming you are legal. I am talking about illegal immigrants. REAL ID has made it very very hard. (proof of residency, and proof of presence).

@Where are my keys; yes, that behavior is common, but how many of those friends don't have a drivers licence?

by charlie on Sep 26, 2012 1:21 pm • linkreport

Are we sure young people are "less eager to start driving and they're getting their licenses later" due to a desire to not drive or a desire to take transit, walk etc or is it because they can not afford a car?

Many times while on the bus or rail I hear young people conversing about wanting to car instead of depending on transit cause it doesnt go everywhere, opens too late/closes early, slow, goes out of the way.

by kk on Sep 26, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

As a 24 year old, most of my friends from high school still don't drive because they have expressed lack of interest or can't afford one. Most of the friends I've made in college had a car or are planning to get rid of it.

I was the first of my friends to get a car at 21 mostly because my mom made me.

My mom got me my car.

She even wanted to get me a big SUV but I opted for a small car. "OH IT'S NOT SAFE ENOUGH" she said. I don't care, I don't want to clog the streets and I don't want to pay exorbitant rates on gas. I plan to effectively use it to earn enough from my current job and move closer to the city where I can finally set it aside.

It's an anecdotal experience, yes and me and my friends are a small population, but my friends stem from MANY different backgrounds, computer techs, teachers, actors, philosophy, engineers, unemployed, black, white, hispanic, asian etc. I can see enough of my peer group to tell that cars are definitely not on their mind.

Take that for what you will.

by Another Andrew on Sep 26, 2012 1:55 pm • linkreport

@ charlie: I am talking about illegal immigrants. REAL ID has made it very very hard. (proof of residency, and proof of presence).

You need to get your lingo straight. Only green card holders and citizens have residency (I am not sure about nationals). Visa holders and other aliens do not have residency. Most visa are specifically labelled as 'non-immigrant', and the paperwork contains legalese making you sign that you have the intent to leave when your visa expires.

Residency is a very vague term for a lot of people, with and without papers. I have lived here for about a decade without being able to call myself a resident. Yet whenever entering the US you have to state your residency. I have often discussed the silliness of that matter with immigration officers. Yet I could get a DL.

But not when I was waiting for a visa extension and OH refused to extend mine. The state legislation there had not figured out that there are people that can be here, but do not have papers to show for it, because they waiting for those papers. When I finally was able to get my OH DL again, I was told by the DMV person how to avoid this problem in the future with a minute change on my paperwork.

The legal/illegal issue is not nearly as black and white as many people think.

As for the legal/illegal terminology, I'll refer to: http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/09/vargas-to-ap-nyt-stop-using-illegal-immigrant-136338.html

I am getting off-topic.

by Jasper on Sep 26, 2012 2:49 pm • linkreport

@Jasper; "proof of residency" is a term of art from REAL ID. It isn't US residency. It is state residency.

And yes, the legal loophole is exactly what I am talking about. That being said,we are not talking about the underground Dutch population here.

I am talking about people who are here illegally, without any paper, and yet show up on census numbers. You'd have to take the original paper and see if they accounted from it. From the summary I could find it did not appear so.

So, ergo, the difference between now and 1983 is the presence of a much larger immigrant population.

by charlie on Sep 26, 2012 3:19 pm • linkreport

"less eager to start driving and they're getting their licenses later" due to a desire to not drive or a desire to take transit, walk etc or is it because they can not afford a car?

Yes and no. They can't afford a car AND live in the hip, urban neighborhoods they so desire. Putting the Economist data along with the GWU research on WalkUps basically shows that young people are prioritizing living in a walkable location over buying a car. That's why they can't afford a car even though they desire one.

And, living in a walkable neighborhood makes car ownership (particularly parking) a lot more expensive. A monthly parking spot in Adams Morgan is more expensive than the monthly payment on a used car.

by Falls Church on Sep 26, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

It's super dangerous to compare international trends toward "urbanization" with US national trends towards living in cities. They have different contexts and mean different things.

Internationally, this means people are moving from the rural areas into the urbanized areas. This isn't necessarily walkable grids, but simply places that aren't rural, and include massive shanty towns, etc. In the US, the same definition applies. You'd be super saddened to see how much of the DC area is considered "urbanized" when in fact it's sprawl.

Nationally, there is a trend within urbanized ares to move from the sprawling suburbs into the city centers. This means moving from one part of the urbanized area to the other. This is not to be compared with the international trend mentioned above.

by MDE on Sep 26, 2012 3:39 pm • linkreport

@charlie

I have seen you using the phrase "term of art" when it seems like you have no clue what "term of art" means.

"Proof of residency" is not a term of art from REAL ID. REAL ID requires "documentation of legal status" (meaning SSN/green card/visa) and "documentation of place of residence" (meaning a bill or lease with your name and address).

There is no concept of "residency" in the United States. There are a bunch of different factors that may place you in one place or another, like voter registration, census count, tax status, etc. But there is no such thing as "residency." There is "Permanent Resident" status, aka "green card" status.

by MLD on Sep 26, 2012 3:46 pm • linkreport

The Economist is in accord with the CIA factbook on the US: 82% of the US population is urban.

But consider for a moment what they mean by "urban": basically anything that is not rural. That includes cites like Duluth MN and Eau Clair WI, which when compared to their surroundings, are indeed cities. But living in those places absolutely requires a car.

by goldfish on Sep 26, 2012 4:02 pm • linkreport

I am surprised nobody mentioned the first thing that I thought of. Maybe I missed it, though, since I only scanned many comments.

My first thought was: people are waiting longer to have kids. Young people without kids are probably much more likely to live in an urban area and not need a car. Have kids and people want a bigger home and a yard and safer neighborhoods and better schools.

by James on Sep 26, 2012 4:14 pm • linkreport

...and the other side of the argument/data/statistics/analysis:

http://www.newgeography.com/content/003096-the-road-less-understood

by Matt Hardy on Sep 26, 2012 4:16 pm • linkreport

@ charlie:And yes, the legal loophole is exactly what I am talking about.

I don't know what you mean there.

I am talking about people who are here illegally, without any paper

That is actually not illegal. It is not a crime to be here without papers. Furthermore, in the US, one is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, regardless of their immigration status and citizenship.

I'll refer again to: http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/09/vargas-to-ap-nyt-stop-using-illegal-immigrant-136338.html

Finally, it is not that hard for undocumented aliens to get an SSN, which will get them past any REAL ID requirement. Also, the incentive to get an SSN is driven by the need to work, not by the need to get a DL.

by Jasper on Sep 26, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

Oh, and we're getting wayyyy of base here.

by Jasper on Sep 26, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

Another big factor is the rise of ubiquitous handheld communication and social media. #1 reason to get a license as a teenager (regardless of whether your parents bought you a car) was to connect with peers, or maybe a job. Now, smart phones connect kids, even before they can drive, to all their friends 24/7, no matter where they are or what they are doing. Freedom is an iPhone, not a license to drive.

I don't think the immigration conversation adds much here, as the mix of folks is pretty diverse in terms of age, education and economic background. I wouldn't expect the numbers are "bunk" because of undocumented immigration, anecdotally, most folks that fit that visual stereotype are either waiting to get picked up for a day's work, or fill up a truck/van to the jobsite.

by eozberk on Sep 26, 2012 4:29 pm • linkreport

@James
My first thought was: people are waiting longer to have kids. Young people without kids are probably much more likely to live in an urban area and not need a car. Have kids and people want a bigger home and a yard and safer neighborhoods and better schools.

This is true and is a factor, but also the fact that people are waiting longer means they become more settled and entrenched in city life and less likely to feel a need to leave when they decide to "settle down."

by MLD on Sep 26, 2012 4:32 pm • linkreport

The Economist is absolutely a liberal publication. I think it would be offended if you suggested otherwise.

More like Neo-Liberal:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

by Labelmaker on Sep 26, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

@ Matt Hardy
Ah, a Wendell Cox article. I love how he ends with the phrase "well financed rail lobby". The chutzpah.

by NikolasM on Sep 26, 2012 5:02 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

What are we considering urban ?

The entire area from damn near Richmond,VA to Connecticut is urban as there are no farms, vast spaces of open land etc everything is pretty much filled in except for a few odd places here and there.

Adams Morgan may be a place where people are giving up cars but I have never heard of anyone in NE, SE, SW or NW outside of Chinatown, Adams Morgan, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom dare speak of giving up a car but I have heard of people wanting a car.

Is this tied to a certain demographic of young people (upper/middle/lower class, certain race/ethnicity, geographic setting (grew up in suburbs vs city vs just across borders from a city) or anything else)

How was this determined random sampling at a specific point , calling households, online poll etc.

by kk on Sep 26, 2012 5:49 pm • linkreport

This phenomenom has been noted in various studies. It's real, although certainly we'll have to see if it reverses itself if and when the economy recovers.

No doubt there is no one factor. I liked Falls Church's explanation that periods like this are when one seens paradigm shifts. Frankly, this feels like a paradigm shift to me, and I'm old enough to have felt a couple. I think the biggest drivers of this change are (1) the increased expense of ownership of a depreciating asset and (2) the various factors in a number of US cities that make it easier not to own a car than it used to be. Finally, I think that as a status symbol, an expression of who you are, a car just has lost its centrality in American culture. They're kind of like really nice appliances now.

by Crickey7 on Sep 26, 2012 6:25 pm • linkreport

kk, this particular SW resident does not have a car and has absolutely no desire to own one. it's one of the reasons I moved to SW, in fact. Very easy to be car-free here and on the rare reason I need one, there's a nice variety of ZipCar options here.

by Birdie on Sep 26, 2012 6:51 pm • linkreport

@Crickey7

Interesting you should describe cars as "like really nice appliances now." Many major home appliances were first sold as highly branded items e.g. specifically an Amana refrigerator or GE washing machine. Now such items are largely quantity purchases except at highest end, like a new Viking range. I wonder if cars aren't heading down the same path, where the people who own a Mercedes or a Cadillac still care, and everyone else just owns car, brand irrelevant.

by Wendell on Sep 26, 2012 8:20 pm • linkreport

This is great.

It drives me nuts when the folks around whom I work all complain about their commutes. "Where do you come in from?" "I drive from Centreville." Or Manassas. Or Ashburn, Stafford, Leesburg, Harper's Ferry (!). Hard to muster sympathy for solo drivers.

I can't imagine what future awaits for the commuting exurbanites. Car ownership costs will rise, tolls will become more common and will creep upwards, congestion will persist, time spent driving (and sitting and crawling) will cost more and drivers will become conscious of those lost hours. Telecommuting will mitigate some of that, but congestion will steadily rise to fill the gap.

Meanwhile here in Crystal City, I walk from the Metro station and dream of a BID where the streets are empty of personal vehicles, limited only to deliveries. Gotta keep the beer flowing to the local restaurants.

by Jack Love on Sep 27, 2012 9:38 am • linkreport

I wonder how many traffic models are still assuming linear growth in vehicle miles traveled and automobile ownership per person into the indefinite future, and how many recommendations to improve roadway infrastructure continue to be based on these assumptions.

by Daniel on Sep 27, 2012 9:42 am • linkreport

@MLD
This is true and is a factor, but also the fact that people are waiting longer means they become more settled and entrenched in city life and less likely to feel a need to leave when they decide to "settle down."

I would normally agree with this POV but I know two couples who either recently had a kid and another who are about to have twins. The first couple moved farther out than they initially planned and the pregnant couple said they doubt that they can still afford to live in the Beltway (all things considered obviously).

I myself have swore up and down that if my wife gets pregnant that we're not moving out of the Beltway.

by Fitz on Sep 27, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

@kk

I'd agree that the phenomenon of people giving up their cars is limited to only certain urban areas. Namely those that are walkable, with good transit, and in close proximity to a lot of jobs. It's the increase and expansion of those types of urban areas that is behind the trend toward less driving and fewer people getting their licenses. As the demand for these types of urban areas continues to be robust, more will be built, and we will likely see a continuation of this trend toward less driving.

No one can predict the future with complete accuracy but the market is wildly bullish on walkable, urban places. Of course, the market has been wrong before but if you're convinced that the demographic trends are based on false statistics, then you can pickup some suburban/exurban properties at rock bottom prices right now. Sometimes, the wisest thing to do is to buy when everyone else is selling.

by Falls Church on Sep 27, 2012 10:43 am • linkreport

@Jack Love: It drives me nuts when the folks around whom I work all complain about their commutes. "Where do you come in from?" "I drive from Centreville." Or Manassas. Or Ashburn, Stafford, Leesburg, Harper's Ferry (!). Hard to muster sympathy for solo drivers....

Meanwhile here in Crystal City, I walk from the Metro station and dream of a BID where the streets are empty of personal vehicles, limited only to deliveries. Gotta keep the beer flowing to the local restaurants.

These people that live in the exurbs are doing those of us that live closer-in a tremendous favor.

Presume for the moment that the many hundreds of thousands of people that live in places like Manassas decided that they have had enough of the long commutes, and decided to move into town. The results would be far greater competition for housing within the beltway, driving prices even higher than the unbelievable levels they are now, and hence driving some people that live here out -- if not to Manassas (which would have a comparable drop in housing prices), then to a completely different city.

The exurbs are a real estate safety valve, to relieve the pressure on the inner neighborhoods. We should be grateful for them, and yes, offer them sympathy for the very long commutes they put up with -- because that keeps close-in housing affordable.

by goldfish on Sep 27, 2012 10:56 am • linkreport

I think if, in this hypothetical, everyone in the exurbs decided to move to the walkable places, what would happen is that suddenly these low-density places would be empty, and then it would be politically easier to build new walkable places. The market already wants more walkable places, but a lot of the appropriate land is filled with very low density housing.

If everyone in the region even just lived in single-family townhouses instead of ¼- to 1-acre lots, the whole region could fit in far, far less space than it does now.

by David Alpert on Sep 27, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

Yes, that is why housing is so cheap in and around DC. Besides why build in town when you can just say "but things are cheaper in Manassas!"

At least there is a train from Manassas.

by drumz on Sep 27, 2012 11:02 am • linkreport

@Mr. Alpert: ...low-density places would be empty, and then it would be politically easier to build new walkable places.

This is already underway in overlooked lower cost neighborhoods in DC. EotR, where housing costs around 1/3 of that WotR, there are a number of projects that increase density, and provide these walkable places.

So the politics of such redevelopment have already been solved.

by goldfish on Sep 27, 2012 1:22 pm • linkreport

@goldfish - whats the total number of units in those projects? In fact the politics of redevelopment sufficient to accommodate the CURRENT demand for WUPs is far from solved (though its not only a DC issue - its a MoCo issue, an Alexandria issue, etc)

@DA
whats the point - its a most unlikely hypothetical. We may get more demand than currently for WUPs due to higher commuting costs, and we may get more culture change - or we may not. But even if we do there will still be plenty of demand for autocentric suburban - those places arent going to empty out (this isnt las vegas, and even there they havent emptied out) including among people commuting all the way to DC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 27, 2012 1:41 pm • linkreport

Driving here doesnt really matter that much. even if every car in America goes away, driving in China and India are going to create a hell of a carbon problem over the next 3 decades.

by Not the Issue on Sep 27, 2012 1:56 pm • linkreport

no one piece of the problem is decisive in isolation. Driving in the USA does matter, as does driving (and electricity generation in India and China) Certainly reductions in our our GHG emissions will put us in a better place to negotiate for GHG limitis for emerging economies.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 27, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

@AWitC: One project, Sheridan Station, will have 344 units. There are other projects. Units cost around $200k, around 1/3 of what similar things cost just across the river in capitol hill.

by goldfish on Sep 27, 2012 2:58 pm • linkreport

344 units plus "other projects"? Lets say a total of 700 units.

Even if they were perfect substitutes for all other units (some might consider 200k for a unit in a building with such large numbers of low income units, in an area that still has significant problems (I was last in the area about a year ago, and it the walking from sheridan station to the metro was not good, the streets would have deterred many people from walking) too be an indicator of just how pricey this region is) 700 units is hardly enough to accommodate the current demand for WUPs. It hardly indicates the politics of redevelopment is "solved"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 27, 2012 3:15 pm • linkreport

@AWitC: the politics are indeed solved if there are private willing sellers and willing buyers. That is, if a property is distressed and the owner wants to sell, a developer can buy it and build something with higher density without much interference from either the city or from busybody neighbors. Politics come into play when these conditions -- willing sellers and buyers -- are not satisfied.

And don't sniff at 344 units: that is a lot for a single project, and this certainly is a significant fraction of the total number of units sold in any given year in DC.

by goldfish on Sep 27, 2012 3:26 pm • linkreport

Politics comes into play in many other situations, as this blog regularly documents.

And 344 units IS small compared to total absorption. Its not bad for a single project, but the core will need LOTS of projects to accommodate existing WUP demand, and to bring prices down closer to construction costs. To attempt to provide all the new units needed at the 6 (count em, 6) metro stations EOTR would transform those communities in ways that would surely elicit backlash, and would still not succeed in providing enough units.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 27, 2012 3:40 pm • linkreport

That is, if a property is distressed and the owner wants to sell, a developer can buy it and build something with higher density without much interference from either the city or from busybody neighbors.

Good thing this is always the case.

by drumz on Sep 27, 2012 3:47 pm • linkreport

@AWitC: annual DC home is about 4000 (see here). So yes, 344 units represents a goodly fraction of that (8.6%), particularly for a single project, and is well above the "noise" of the market. There are lots of other projects EotR, btw.

Due to the price of land, home prices in DC will always be 3-4 times the construction costs in the "better" neighborhoods. This contrasts with most of the rest of the US, and EotR, where construction and home costs are fairly equivalent.

by goldfish on Sep 28, 2012 12:39 am • linkreport

@ Birdie

What part of SW are you speaking of

SW extends all the way to Eastover in MD. People seem to forget that SW is much more than just the area west of Nationals Stadium; Bolling AFB, Hadley Hospital, DC Village, etc are all in SW

by kk on Sep 28, 2012 7:46 pm • linkreport

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