Carbon footprints smaller in city centers

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Carbon footprints in metropolitan Philadelphia

The basis for comparison is not entirely clear from the picture: it says “population + employment”, so if we use less carbon on the job than at home, the city center gets a bonus. But something similar has been found in other cases: for central vs. suburban Toronto, see Norman, Jonathan, Heather L. MacLean, and Christopher A. Kennedy. 2006. Comparing High and Low Residential Density: Life-Cycle Analysis of Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Journal of Urban Planning & Development 132 (1):10-21; for Dortmund, see Wegener, Michael. 1996. Reduction of CO2 emissions of transport by reorganization of urban activities. In Transport, Land-Use and the Environment, edited by Y. Hayashi and J. Roy. Dordrecht: Kluwer. There’s some discussion of this in my paper on road traffic externalities and the competitiveness of walkable retail.

For more discussion of the study behind the map, see Brendon Slotterback at streets MN.

In paradise, build on the parking lot

Now cars only, soon no cars


In a more civilized country this would be entirely unremarkable, but in the city of my birth it’s a sign of great progress: for at least the second time in a year, the San Francisco Planning Commission has approved construction of a city-center apartment building with no car parking and a number of indoor bicycle parking spaces. The site is currently a parking lot, and was once under a freeway. Progress!
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Parking & driving vs. living & working

In Atlantic Cities, Chris McCahill and Norman Garrick report a negative relationship between population and job growth (living, working), and driving within the city. This they attribute to a simple mechanism: cars (and, in particular, parking spaces) displace people. Note in particular the that the cities with declining median income, and people (jobs & residents), saw big increases in parking space & driving. The sample is small, but the story is plausible. Maybe Detroit really does need more parking!