Monday, March 13, 2006

More on Urban Amenities

Which cities have the best amenities? There are lots of ways to try and figure this out -- housing prices, composite indices of desirable (or undesirable) characteristics, ... I am sure you've all run across various lists. However, this column summarizes perhaps the most interesting approach -- the number of gay men.

How important are amenities for urban growth? Are natural amenities or constructed amenities more important? Read here to find out.

Finally, an interesting argument in favor of reverse commuting. At dinner the other night, a friend of mine who is a professor at Brandeis and lives in Harvard Square made an interesting argument for why he prefers to reverse commute rather than live in the 'burbs. His commute costs him roughly 500 minutes a week. By living in the 'burbs he could probably reduce this to 100-200 minutes thus increasing his available leisure time by at least 5 hours per week. In spite of this seemingly high cost, he gladly pays the price to be closer to better consumption amenities (essentially a better selection of restaurants). Why?

His argument is somewhat behavioral. First, he argues that his productivity increases. He commutes via train and thus his schedule was fixed around the train schedule. He argues that this makes it easier to adhere to a fixed work schedule and increases the number of hours spent at the office by forcing him to get to work a little earlier and stay slightly later. Second, and more importantly, it lowers the price of the goods with more elastic consumption. That is, he must go to work, so it is easy to find the motivation to make the commute. He doesn't have to eat nice meals at good restaurants. He enjoys doing this alot, but small increases in effort completely deter this choice making him somewhat worse off. Thus by living close to the consumption amenities he prevents his lazy self from screwing his restaurant enjoying self by substantially reducing the price of enjoying them.

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