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Old 07-24-2014, 05:26 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Hollister would also have to have no stops between there and SF to make it in less than an hour. Plus that doesn't take into account the time to get to and from the station. It wouldn't make sense to have 90 miles of expensive electrified rapid transit that only stops in a small exurb and SF... Makes more sense to infill the inner bay and improve Caltrain and other inner bay transit.
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Old 07-25-2014, 10:13 AM
 
Location: Laurentia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
I'm becoming more and more curious-how much longer can urban sprawl continue before it can stretch out no further? As suburbs are built further and further out, commutes will get longer and longer. The distance that this continuous urban land can spread increases as more and more jobs spread further out, and as highways are upgraded, but how much further can it go before it reaches critical mass?
The problem with your analysis is that as people sprawl, their jobs sprawl with them (c.f. job sprawl). This has happened to such an extent that many to most commutes nowadays (depending on the metro) are suburb-to-suburb rather than suburb-to-downtown. As long as jobs sprawl enough so that commute times are kept under an hour or so, sprawl could continue indefinitely.

One also has to keep in mind what I call distance compression - two centuries ago an hour's commute for most people was where you could walk in an hour, and in the last century that transformed into where you could drive in an hour on a freeway. For the common man this made a 20th century journey of 70 miles comparable in burden to a 19th century journey of 1 or 2 miles, thus enabling the sprawl and greater green space and privacy that people were desiring since industrialization established itself. Thus you see large metros stretching for 150 miles from end to end instead of 15 miles. The current rise of super-commutes is being driven by economics and personal desires for living arrangements*, and is serving to incorporate neighboring cities within a 100-250 mile range into ever-larger labor-sheds.

Hypothetically, if infrastructure is upgraded by some form of widespread high-speed rail, a freeway upgrade**, etc. which would enable higher regular speeds for travel (100-200 mph) you would see a second wave of distance compression. A journey of 200 miles would be as burdensome as a 70 mile trip is today, and one would expect metropolitan areas to sprawl accordingly; the metropolitan areas of large cities would thus stretch out to 400 miles from end to end. Density tends to get lower the further out one goes, especially if population growth is slow or negative like it will be in the future, and as urban areas sprawl out towards the end point of 400 miles and grow less dense eventually the sprawl will reach a point where the density will be comparable to the countryside. Urban areas will sprawl so much that they won't even be urban at all in the end; that is the only true/theoretical limit to urban sprawl, the point at which sprawl ceases to be urban. In this event, suburbia will be replaced by penurbia, huge swaths of the country will be urban in function but rural in form, and labor-sheds will be the only way to divine the extent of metropolitan areas as opposed to today where you can track suburban-form development.

*The classic case being someone who loves living in the Sierra Nevada but works in the Bay Area. The Texas Triangle is another huge super-commuting center, and there are many cities within a few hundred miles of each other. Incidentally this is the distance range at which high-speed rail is most competitive, although at the rate Texas is going with speed limits freeway speeds might creep up assuming that capacity can be expanded sufficiently (so far it isn't, but in 50 years who knows?).

**Most new cars can attain triple-digit speeds well before topping out, and a good modern cruising car can easily run at 100 mph all day, and for higher-end cars 140 mph all day is no problem. Building roads that support 150-200 mph speeds has obviously long been within our capability (c.f. some Autobahn and racetracks), and cars of 2014 can run at triple-digit speeds, so designing new freeways' pavement and lane space for constant 100-140 mph travel is not nearly as extreme as it seems. This leap is comparable to the original freeway systems, which were designed for constant 70-90* mph speeds (matching the outer envelope of new cars at the time) when previous roads were designed for 50 at most.

*The Pennsylvania Turnpike was advertised with a design speed of at least 90 mph...in the 1930's (and it was the tires keeping one down to 90). Considering that very few cars could even reach 90 mph in the 1930's and the then-current state of safety features and road design 200 mph today would be about as safe and reasonable as 90 was back then. A 65 mph limit was imposed on the same road in the 1950's, and was only raised to a paltry 70 mph two days ago.

Quote:
Eventually sprawl will have to reach a point where parts of the metro are so far from one another that they can no longer be considered suburbs or even exurbs. So how will urban sprawl play out once this "critical mass" is reached?
Arguably NYC and Los Angeles are at this point right now; the Hamptons are well over 100 miles away from the other edge of the NYC metro, and Oxnard is 150 miles away from Palm Springs. There is little meaningful direct interaction between one end and the other, yet they are considered part of the same metropolitan area because they are all part of a discrete web of connected local economies that is urban in form. This produces a situation where cities take the same role as species in a ring species or languages in a dialect continuum, where they are all part of a discrete group, interact with neighboring populations within it, but do not interact with the opposite ends.
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Old 07-25-2014, 10:16 AM
 
Location: Finland
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Has already stopped.
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Old 07-25-2014, 10:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
Hollister would also have to have no stops between there and SF to make it in less than an hour. Plus that doesn't take into account the time to get to and from the station. It wouldn't make sense to have 90 miles of expensive electrified rapid transit that only stops in a small exurb and SF... Makes more sense to infill the inner bay and improve Caltrain and other inner bay transit.
My rebuttal was a comment on the idea that outward expansion has reached its limit, a point which I only find limited by infrastructure and politics. The technology exists to give further outward development reasonable transit times. 100 MPH was an arbitrarily chosen rate. And it is slow by HSR standards. We could easily accommodate stops at Mountain View and Palo Alto and keep times under an hour, end-to-end.

To your point specifically regarding cost, I suggest that we have to consider the costs of not expanding horizontally to Gilroy and beyond. Yes, the infrastructure to make that feasible is costly, but the current CoL represents a tax on workers and employers. It is money not spent by residents because it is being spent on housing. It is money not spent by employers on more employees and more R&D because each worker necessarily costs more. It is, IMHO, more expensive for the region to do nothing than to build such a project.
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Old 07-25-2014, 12:59 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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But more infill can help moderate housing prices too. OK, so lets say you have a $800,000, 1,500sf bungalow on a 6,000 sf lot. I think this is relatively common/typical for some of the lower density Inner Bay areas like San Jose, Fremont, Sunnyvale, etc. That amounts to $533/sf.

Lets say you want to build a 3 storey 8,000 sf apartment building. With a 2,700 sf footprint on a 6,000 sf lot, that still leaves room for a driveway, some setbacks, and yard and/or parking... Lets say apartments are cheaper in this area, maybe $400/sf as is often the case compared to SFH. I think cheaper multifamily exists, but it's usually older. So this new building would be worth $400/sf x 8,000 sf = $3,200,000. The land cost $800,000, so that leaves $2,400,000 for construction and development costs, or $300/sf. Considering this is lowrise (3 storey), it is absolutely feasible, even without economies of scale and basement level parking, plus decent quality of construction, I think $150-200/sf should be perfectly feasible. At first, this kind of housing might sell for $400/sf, but since it's economically viable to build, it would continue being built in large quantities until the new supply is enough to bring down prices to the point where it's no longer viable, which would be when new build multifamily starts selling for around $250-275/sf.

The reason more multi-family isn't being built, I'm guessing is in part because they can only be built in a limited number of areas. High demand for multi-family zoned land and low supply means this kind of land is probably more expensive than SFH zoned land, even if the locations are otherwise equally desirable. More property acquisition costs means the cost of development and construction gets squeezed more, so you might need higher densities to break even. Except even the multifamily zoned areas are often not zoned for all that high densities (unlike Toronto), I think sometimes as low as 50 dua and 1FAR (slightly less dense than my example).

Much of the places that allow truly high densities, like Downtown SF also have much higher land acquisition costs. In the bungalow example I gave, you were looking at about $6 million/acre. Downtown SF would be more like $50 million/acre if not more. At $50m/acre, lets say you have 1/4 acre of land and want to build a condo at 5 FAR (I think that's about the max limit?). And say housing goes for $850/sf. So the building would be 54,000 sf, maybe 40,000 sf when you exclude hallways, elevators, lobbies, etc, so it's worth $34 million and the land cost you $12.5 million. That leaves you with about $400/sf in construction costs, which is not too bad, but highrise construction is more expensive, and when you include financing costs, marketing, planning, risk of having application denied due to NIMBYism, etc... it probably won't bring down housing prices in DT SF very much.

The winners in what I'm proposing would be:
-renters
-anyone who's land has been upzoned
-anyone looking to move to the region

Losers:
-anyone who's land has not been upzoned or was already zoned for (and/or built at) higher densities
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Old 07-25-2014, 02:02 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Bay Area (SF + SJ MSAs) multi family starts

2013: 13,157
2012: 10,099
2011: 5,955
2010: 5,821
2009: 1,731
2008: 7,228
2007: 7,744
2006: 12,582
2005: 10,101
2004: 9,958

That averages out to 8,438 a year.

Compare to highrise and midrise new home sales in the Toronto (GTA)

2013: 16,201
2012: 18,672
2011: 28,723
2010: 21,019
2009: 15,425
2008: 14,851
2007: 23,234
2006: 17,353
2005: 17,693
2004: 13,750
So far it looks like it'll be around 20,000 for 2014.

For an average 18,692 per year, more than double the Bay Area.

And I don't think it's that Toronto has more strict limits on horizontal growth, since it also sold an average of 18,660 new lowrise homes per year during the same period compared to 5,861 SFH starts per year in the Bay Area. Nowadays, it's down to more like 14-15k per year for lowrises which the market is partially making up for with a bit higher condo sales. There's also starting to be a bit more purpose built rental apartments being built, although it's still a very small part of the market.

The Bay Area I would say is maybe slightly less dense, though overall quite similar density, has a similar sized population, is wealthier, higher housing costs, similar demographics... By all accounts it should be building more multi-family.

Even if you take into account the effect of the housing bust in the US, the year with the most MF starts in the Bay Area still falls short of the year with the fewest sales in the GTA, which is 2004, before the condo boom and when the suburb of Brampton was cranking out SFHs for 20,000 new residents per year. 2004 was the year when the Bay Area has the most SFH starts at 10,773, and that still falls short of the GTA where the fewest lowrise sales was 12,205 in 2013. The Bay Area had the most housing starts in 2004 with 20,731. In 2004, the GTA 41,724 new home sales and in the last decade, new home sales in GTA have ranged from 27,153 in 2008 to 46,304 in 2011, averaging at 37,352 per year.

Toronto isn't even that pro-development. Infill is still only permitted in a small fraction of the land area, although the permitted densities are generally higher. At least, sort of, odds are good you'll need a zoning amendment, but if you're a big developer, you'll probably get it eventually.
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Old 07-25-2014, 02:15 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Looking at the census data, housing units in the Bay Area (SF+SJ MSA) increased by an average of 18,907 per year from 2000 to 2010 or +8.6% over that decade.

For the Toronto CMA (smaller than the GTA, and smaller than SF+SJ MSAs) an average of 44,670 units/year were added from 2001-2006 and 37,005 units/year from 2006 to 2011. The increase from 2001 to 2011 was 24.4%.
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Old 07-25-2014, 02:41 PM
 
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Memph, no argument about infill. It is possible and necessary. It is the vertical response to growth pressures. I guess the original question was "Is there a horizontal limit on growth?" The response being, yes, but it is a function of politics and infrastructure.
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Old 07-25-2014, 03:22 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Even if you're advocating for a combination of HSR-oriented greenfield suburbs and infill though, I don't really see it. I mean, what would this development in Gilroy/Hollister look like?

Are we talking high density TOD surrounding the train station(s)? In that case, wouldn't it make more sense to just have TODs closer to SF where rapid transit already exists or where new lines could be built at a lower cost while getting people to work in the same amount of time or less?

Or if the motivation is to open up new areas for single family homes, then we're talking park and rides? But park and rides have limited capacity. We're talking about spending $5-10 billion so a few thousand people can get a single family home? Or are we talking above massive multi storey parking garages? Even then though, you'd be looking at around $200,000 per rider which doesn't seem worth it. Feeder buses? Maybe, but then you're looking at a total commute time more around 1.5 hours one way.
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Old 07-25-2014, 03:50 PM
 
Location: Crooklyn, New York
28,272 posts, read 26,273,936 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patricius Maximus View Post
The problem with your analysis is that as people sprawl, their jobs sprawl with them (c.f. job sprawl). This has happened to such an extent that many to most commutes nowadays (depending on the metro) are suburb-to-suburb rather than suburb-to-downtown. As long as jobs sprawl enough so that commute times are kept under an hour or so, sprawl could continue indefinitely.
And a lot of people have their whole world contained within a suburb or two with very little interaction with the central city (i.e., movies, restaurants, church, shopping, etc.). So the argument for a denser, more urban environment with greater transit accessibility is not as compelling to some of these folks.
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