Human capital, individual wealth and economic development: a second-hand idea?

It’s summer, so I have more time to read books. Amongst others, I am reading Second-Hand Time by the Nobel prize winning author Svetlana Alexievich. It is a phenomenal book : poignant, depressing, capturing the complexities of post-Soviet Russia (and, indeed, of the Soviet Union) through a collage of first-person interviews. Alexievich is an outstandingContinue reading “Human capital, individual wealth and economic development: a second-hand idea?”

The right to (escape) the city: why affordable rural mobility is important for cities.

It is summer. I regularly take my bike out of the city for long rides, and enjoy spending time walking in forests and swimming in rivers. I’ll soon be heading up the Saint-Lawrence to Charlevoix for a few days. Many other Quebecers are also enjoying the summer months to get out of town… All thisContinue reading “The right to (escape) the city: why affordable rural mobility is important for cities.”

Land-use planning in Canada: whose land is it anyway?

Urban planning: pragmatic and necessary Urban planning plays an important social role in Canada, despite being perceived by many as an irritant (why can’t I do what I want with my property?). Real-estate and land are immovable, so there can be no straightforward market; it is impossible to privatise all land (unless we accept thatContinue reading “Land-use planning in Canada: whose land is it anyway?”

Carbon footprint, eugenics and surveys

An interesting survey was issued in April by IPSOS, and was reported in the Financial Times. It asks over 21000 people in 30 countries which actions they think will be most effective at reducing their carbon footprint. The survey shows that there is a wide gap between people’s perceptions and the actual carbon impact ofContinue reading “Carbon footprint, eugenics and surveys”

The sidewalk is dying: long live the sidewalk!

Sidewalks underpin the right to the city Sidewalks are basic urban infrastructure. They have a variety of prosaic yet critical functions. If well maintained and designed, they provide space for pedestrians to walk that is protected from traffic (because slightly elevated with a curb), that is dry (the curb canalises run-off water), and can encourageContinue reading “The sidewalk is dying: long live the sidewalk!”

The debate about Montreal’s REM-Est: using technology to obfuscate wider questions

The problem: infrastructure by diktat There is heated debated in Québec about Montreal’s planned light-rail line towards the East of the city (REM-Est). When I say ‘planned’, I am exaggerating. The Québec government has granted autarkic powers to CDPQ Infra, the infrastructure investment wing of the province’s massive pension fund. Under the pretense that theContinue reading “The debate about Montreal’s REM-Est: using technology to obfuscate wider questions”

Montreal’s road-work charter: a small step for citizens, a giant leap for Montreal

On 11th May the City of Montreal announced its (very welcome) road-work charter. For a moment I had a dream. The dream of coordination I dreamt that road works would now be coordinated, along the lines outlined for New York. I dreamt that all City departments (transport, infrastructure, parks, water, waste management…) would enter theirContinue reading “Montreal’s road-work charter: a small step for citizens, a giant leap for Montreal”

How to further segregate cities: work-from-home and 15-minutes

Allow me a brief thought-experiment. Let us imagine, for a moment, that the dream of many office workers is realised: henceforth they permanently work-from-home, saving on commute time and costs. No more pesky interruptions, no more tiresome colleagues, no more central business district, no more office buildings! Let us further imagine that their lives areContinue reading “How to further segregate cities: work-from-home and 15-minutes”

Is urban planning reverting to modernism?

Those of you with the leisure and patience to read some of my blogs may have noted a recurring structure to their argument. I briefly describe a popular idea or position (e.g. 15-minute cities, cycling, electric-cars, heritage protection…); I then acknowledge the benefits of the idea but discuss some complicating factors. My point of contentionContinue reading “Is urban planning reverting to modernism?”

Electric cars and urban transport: a sustainability fix?

There is little doubt that an electric car emits less CO2 than a conventional car when it runs (assuming its electricity source is fairly clean). There is also little doubt that over its life cycle an electric car will emit less CO2 than a conventional car (but this is not completely clear-cut). For these reasons,Continue reading “Electric cars and urban transport: a sustainability fix?”