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Making Dallas Even Better

Density Isn’t a Hipster Conspiracy, Ctd.

sprawlYesterday I wrote about how those who are starting to make the argument that tearing down I-345 is bad for poor people are indulging in crazy talk. Today we have some new numbers to back up that claim from Smart Growth America’s recently released Measuring Sprawl report. According to their research the compactness of cities has a direct relationship on economic mobility: 

The researchers compared the 2014 Sprawl Index scores to models of upward economic mobility from Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley. They examined the probability of a child born to a family in the bottom quintile of the national income distribution reaching the top quintile of the national income distribution by age 30, and whether communities’ index score was correlated with that probability. . . . For every 10 percent increase in an index score, there is a 4.1 percent increase in the probability that a child born to a family in the bottom quintile of the national income distribution reaches the top quintile of the national income distribution by age 30.

In other words, the research shows that denser, more compact cities facilitate upward mobility. And another myth the report punctures is that the idea that dense, urban environments are too expensivee for anyone but young, gentrifying yuppies. In fact, the report shows that the decrease in transportation costs outpaces the increase in housing costs in dense communities.

As metropolitan compactness increases, transportation costs decline faster than housing costs rise, creating a net decline in household costs. An average household in the San Francisco, CA metro area (index score: 194.3) spends 46.7 percent of its budget on housing and transportation, while an average household in the Tampa, FL metro area (index score: 98.5) spends 56.1 percent of its budget on the same items.

  • Joe

    Simek,

    I’m generally in favor of the same things you are, in particularly tearing out I-345, but your arguments are terrible. They remind me of the way Global Warming deniers use data.

    For example:

    “An average household in the San Francisco, CA metro area (index score: 194.3) spends 46.7 percent of its budget on housing and transportation, while an average household in the Tampa, FL metro area (index score: 98.5) spends 56.1 percent of its budget on the same items.”

    Yes, but what are those budgets? A household in San Francisco, CA metro area spends more on housing and transportation than an average household in Tampa, FL does on all its expenses. And transportation alone costs more in San Francisco than in Tampa by about 18%. So density doesn’t drive down transportation costs. It just drives up almost every other cost of living a lot more than it drives up transportation costs. If you need any proof, try to find a reasonable place to live in San Francisco that someone making $50,000 a year could afford.

    Another example in your last post is your suggestion that tearing down I-345 will create 22,500 jobs (a number that might have just as well been pulled out of a hat) and comparing that to the very small section of “South Dallas” that includes only a tiny fraction of what is generally regarded as South Dallas (35,000 people versus more than 500,000 residents that anyone who has lived here more than a couple months would associate with the phrase South Dallas).

    More importantly, you seem to be able to rely only on groups that have clear agenda driven analysis. I don’t trust the numbers put out by these advocacy groups any more than I trust the DCC.

  • Alexander

    Couple of comments on your comment. First, everyone should know the difference between ‘South Dallas’ and ‘the southern sector’. South Dallas is an actual neighborhood. One that is long suffering and bleeding residents at an alarming rate. There are almost no jobs there. The Newdallas study came up with 22k jobs listed out what sectors they would be in: some new white collar office developments, but lots of service industry, some of which would be in new hotels. Those later jobs are exactly the ones that low skill workers can benefit from.

    As for your larger point about cost of living, Simek is using the standard approach. You have to compare percentage of income. Housing costs more where people earn more. Housing plus transportation costs is the most relevant metric to quality of life. Those cheap houses in tampa aren’t really that cheap when you factor in transportation. Conversely, the people living in SF are much less strapped for cash because they have more transportation choices. Freeing them up to pay more for housing. Granted if all you have is a 97 Accord and a dream, Tampa seems like a better choice. But if you have competitive job skills, you should go to SF every time.

  • Ed Woodson

    There are still massive issues of correlation vs. causation. There are dense cities, and less dense cities. Many different factors went in to determining why some cities grew outward, while others became denser. Key factors are generally considered available real estate and transportation networks. Whether density, or some other factors, is key to upward mobility has not been demonstrated. Instead, a correlation has been pointed out. That is all. Admittedly, demonstrating causation (a direct link between density and mobility) is hard, as people and cities don’t like to be the subject of experiments where you control all but one factor (here density). But pretending that you have any kind of dispositive study is just not true.

  • Joe

    “Housing costs more where people earn more.” The two are related, but driving up housing costs doesn’t mean bigger paychecks for Starbucks baristas, it just means that baristas have to live somewhere else. San Francisco is a good example. The poor working class mostly have relocated out of the city. They have been replaced by people who earn far more, different people who have different jobs.

    If the question is whether “dense, urban environments are too expensive for anyone but young, gentrifying yuppies,” San Francisco is a perfect example of how becoming too desirable does force out the poor people who live there, increasing transportation costs all while also increasing their cost for housing. http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/10/san-francisco-exodus/7205/

    And the term “South Dallas” generally means the entire southern sector. I can’t think of anyone who uses the words “South Dallas” in conversation who specifically means only the 12 square miles around Fair Park.

  • thomas

    every single person that lives south of i-30 and the trinity river knows what “south dallas” is. oak cliff is not, and has never been south dallas. south dallas was, like east dallas, oak cliff, preston hollow, cedar springs and dozens of other places, its own city. hence the name applies to that geography.

  • Dubious Brother

    “And the term “South Dallas” generally means the entire southern sector. I can’t think of anyone who uses the words “South Dallas” in conversation who specifically means only the 12 square miles around Fair Park.”
    Seriously Joe? You don’t know the difference between South Dallas and Oak Cliff? I don’t know of anyone that uses “southern sector.”

  • Eric Foster

    No one does anything to benefit poor people. Tearing down I-345 will happen if Preston Hollow/Park Cities deem it worthy.
    They deemed spending $ 100 million just to cover Woodall Rogers for Klyde Warren Park. I-345 is another one of those.

  • Ted

    But in the meantime, it’s a great thing to blog about, particularly if blogging about it drives paid advertizing about all sorts of other things.