Order without Design: How markets shape cities
Senior Research Scholar, NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management
In his book, urban planner Alain Bertaud argues that applying the theories of urban economics to the practice of urban planning would significantly improve both the productivity of cities and the welfare of urban citizens. Bertaud explains that markets provide the necessary mechanism for cities’ development. Drawing on five decades of urban planning experience in forty cities around the world, Bertaud links cities’ productivity to the size of their labor markets. He argues that the design of infrastructure and markets can complement each other; examines the spatial distribution of land prices and densities; stresses the importance of mobility and affordability; and critiques the land use regulations that aim at redesigning existing cities instead of just trying to alleviate clear negative externalities.
Bertaud insists that municipal urban planning departments would be much more effective in implementing the political objectives of elected officials, like improving affordability, decreasing poverty, increasing mobility, if they were routinely monitoring several types of indicators like inputs, outputs, outcomes, and impacts. Typically, only inputs and outputs are routinely monitored. Bertaud concludes by describing the new role that joint teams of urban planners and economists could play to improve the way cities are managed.
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