JAMES J. CURTIS III, CRE
RICHARD A. HANSON, CRE
LYNN M. SEDWAY, CRE
This edition of Real Estate Issues includes the first of a series of roundtable conversations about hot topics in the field of real estate counseling. The following roundtable discusses issues related to land use and effective practices for building-or rebuilding-cities that strengthen community and are socially responsible. If you would like to participate in or suggest topics for an upcoming roundtable discussion, contact REI Managing Editor Marcie Valeria at email@example.com or 312.329.8429.
TRANSIT AND TRANSPORTATION: The saying goes, "Great cities must have great downtowns, and great downtowns must have great transit." Do you agree? Is it realistic in the United States?
LYNN SEDWAY: I agree that great cities need great mass transportation-I think that's what people are looking for in various demographic groups.
RICHARD HANSON: Interestingly, we're building large condominium buildings in downtown Chicago and the problem we have is not enough parking. Most people do not give up their cars. I think you could have a bus pull into the foyer of their condominium and many residents wouldn't use it. Unfortunately, I happen to be one of those people, and except for going to the airport in a snowstorm or a Cubs game, I never use public transportation.
SEDWAY: They wouldn't use it or they also want their cars?
HANSON: Well, your choice. I didn't do a survey, but what I will tell you is that the city of Chicago attempted to reduce parking in these buildings to one parking spot for each condominium, and it didn't work. We're selling parking spots at 1.3-1.4 to one, which means that almost half the owners have two cars, not one. A long time ago the city also tried to limit the vehicular traffic in the city by experimenting with the idea that you couldn't drive a car downtown at certain times of the day and that didn't get any support.
It may be true that great cities can't work without great mass transportation, but people who actually live in the cities still want cars, and they want them nearby, and they want more than one of them. And I don't think that, at least at the condo level we see ...
MARILEE UTTER: At the high level that you're at ...
HANSON: Yes, at the level of luxury condominiums we sell I don't think people take any form of public transportation other than a taxi.
SEDWAY: They do in San Francisco, but they want a car as well.
JAMES CURTlS: They want to be able to go to the grocery store. They want to be able to go to Costco, wherever.
SEDWAY: Or to go away on the weekend.
UTTER: Maybe one of the key points here is that great cities need great transportation-and not just mass transit. Maybe by focusing on transit we're overlooking the fact that it has to be balanced and recognize autos as well.
CURTIS: I think it's got to fit the size. Consider a place like Madison, Wisconsin. Transit there may mean something totally different than it does in San Francisco or Denver or Chicago. And if you're in Bozeman, Montana, you may just need a downtown van service. The city could facilitate movement around the downtown, but residents aren't going to take a bus instead of their pickups into Bozeman.
SEDWAY: I guess I wasn't thinking of a place as small as Bozeman; I was thinking New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. But it's a good point. Well how small? When we talk about transit and the importance of transit for cities, we're at what size?
HANSON: The question is very interesting, but here's another example. Chicago does have great train transportation, but we're still the second-worst traffic city in the nation, surpassed only by New York. Our transportation is worse, at least according to the U.S. Census, than even Los Angeles. More people spend more time in their cars in Chicago than almost anywhere. We …