Trade-offs and city structures

Of late, i’ve been reading this blog on urban issues written by this chap called Sandy Ikeda. One thing i noticed in the blog (don’t remember exact post) is that earlier, the poor used to live in the city centers and the rich used to live in the suburbs. And that this is changing in most places, with the rich trying to move closer to the city and the poor are being forced to move out to the suburbs.

I think it’s due to the steady change in costs. The “rich” are rich when it comes to money and poor when it comes to time. On the other hand, the “poor” may be poor in money, but they are usually rich when it comes to time. Earlier, public transport was scarce, while population density was much less. This meant that cost of commuting from the suburbs was quite high in terms of money, though not much in terms of time (the lack of congestion meant that travel was quick).

What has led to the change has basically been congestion. Due to migration, cities have become larger, and the roads more congested. And hence time – that oh-so-scarce resource for the “rich” – to travel to the city center from the suburbs has shot up, and thus the rich have tried to make do by moving closer to the center.

The poor have been priced out and forced to move away, and this has also led to development of things such as public transport, etc. And I think this trend is only going to continue. There is no chance of a reversal here. Unless of course – a high class premium “first class” public transport system is developed. (note that the last sentence was in passive; mainly because i’m not sure whose responsibility it is. though i think it’s the city governments).

What a premium public transport system does is to increase costs of transports in terms of money and reduces it in terms of time. And makes it easier for the rich to move away to the suburbs.

Of course, this whole model is based on the “traditional” city model where the office space is in the center and the living areas around. It fails miserably in the case of places like Bangalore where most of the office space coming up is located outside the city.

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