Urban planners should therefore constantly revise old land use regulations (or create new ones) to adapt them to the new economic and cultural realities of the time. Unfortunately, urban planning departments tend to prefer designing new regulations over reviewing existing ones for their relevance. As a result, a city's land use depends on layers of regulations that often contradict one another and whose objectives have been lost with time. Digging into urban regulations is often like digging into an archeological site; one often encounters elaborate artifacts whose original purpose baffles the mind.
. In the same way as publicly owned firms are obliged to publish quarterly financial indicators to inform the public of the state of their finances, municipalities should publish quarterly a set of indicators that will inform the public about the welfare of its inhabitants. The local municipal democratic process would be greatly enhanced by such actions
large public buildings like new subways or new zoning regulations seem impossible today. A severe status quo bias has set in as we resist and fear large-scale changes that were embraced to build New York into the world's greatest metropolis."
. Is there any justification for the complete abandonment of public open spaces in a residential area? For reducing street dimensions and distance between buildings to the width of an emergency vehicle? To have windows through which the sun will never shine? The most radical architectplanner, including myself, would never dare propose such types of standards. Only the users themselves could generate such a radical residential design and justify these extreme trade-offs between open space and access to jobs and amenities
. The increasing regulatory frenzy that characterizes some cities like New York imposes large economic costs on the entire country. In a paper published in 2015, the economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti found that, between 1964 and 2009, the high cost of housing in some US cities relative to wages had lowered aggregate US GDP by 13.5 percent
If minimum housing standards have such an obvious disastrous consequences for the poor, why do most urban planners continue to include them in their master plans? The only answer I can think of is planners' propensity for utopia and their dislike for reality. A quotation from Albert Hirschman, "an oppression of the weak by the incompetent,"l2 best illustrates this point.
The regulations fixing minimum housing consumption are therefore not benign, even when they are not enforced-and usually they are largely unenforceable. Their only effect is to make more difficult the life of poor households living in settlements below the minimum standards. The people living in informal settlements are usually poor, and their poverty is further exacerbated by the very regulations that make their settlements informal.
. Angus Deaton, in his book, The Great Escape, writes "the need to do something tends to trump the need to understand what needs to be done. And without data, anyone who does anything is free to claim success."2 This perfectly characterizes the design of many housing policies.
Because of their higher speed and increased comfort, electric bicycles, where they are authorized (as in Chengdu, China), could meaningfully compete with buses or cars as a means of commuting in larger cities
On a typical street in Manhattan, parked cars are using 44 percent of the street area available to vehicles (not including sidewalks). Given the scarcity of road space, transferring all on-street parking to privately operated underground garages would greatly increase city mobility, the safety of pedestrians, and the pleasantness of a city in general. The political feasibility of doing so is remote, as many users of free or quasifree on-street parking consider it as a basic human right
Individual transport and shared individual transport give access to the entire road network, while the various public transport modes are restricted to a network, which by necessity is a fraction of the entire road network. Because individual transport modes use the entire road network, they provide door-to-door travel without the need to change modes of transport on the way. Additionally, individual transport provides continuous 24/7 service, while public transport services are restricted to preset schedules with low frequencies outside peak hours
When transport systems provide adequate mobility, then the large concentration of people in metropolitan areas increases productivity and stimulates creativity. Empirical data confirm the link between large human concentrations and productivity. Physicists from the Santa Fe Institute have shown that, on average, when the population of a city doubles, its economic productivity per capita increases by 15 percent.
. Allocating urban land and activities is not a pure design exercise: It requires an understanding of how labor and land markets work. It is impossible to design the future expansion of a city without taking into account the impact of the labor and land markets on the future distribution of the population. Land prices, rents, and commuting times are not mentioned even once in the master plan's nearly thousand pages of text, maps, and tables. It is a rather typical document that exposes the hubris of planners who think that a city needs only to be designed by a clever engineer, without taking into account market mechanisms that are constantly at play. Trying to obstruct markets always has grave consequences
The traditional master plan exercise seems to be a fossil left over from the time when the planning practices of command economies fascinated the world. It would make more sense for cities to monitor data and indicators in real time and to adjust policy and investments according to what works and what does not, rather than waiting 10 years to assess results and eventually changing direction. Some cities, like Singapore and Hong Kong, have adopted a real-time monitoring adjustment approach for managing their development. Their management system has become more similar to that of corporations, which have to adapt rapidly to external shocks.
Informal developments are likely to develop at the fringe of urbanization in cities where the costs of land development are higher than what a portion of the population can afford (or is willing to pay). When a large part of the urban population cannot afford the cost of the minimum standards imposed by regulation, the enforcement of the planning rules becomes impossible. In many cities of developing and emerging economies, informal settlements typically represent 20-60 percent of the total housing stock. In Mumbai, for instance, the most prosperous city in India, informal settlements represented more than 55 percent of the housing stock in 2010.1 The growth of informality is not necessarily driven by poverty but by the arbitrariness and high cost of land use regulations