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Hedonics, aka Happiness Economics
From the Globe and Mail comes Bogota's urban happiness movement. It's a long article that packs a punch, here summarized.
Proponents of hedonics, or happiness economics, have been gaining influence... [They] assert that, contrary to the guiding principle of a century of economists, income is a poor measure of happiness. Economic growth in England and the U.S. in the past half-century hasn't measurably increased life satisfaction.
How do you make people happier?
Recent studies on life satisfaction show that commuting makes people more unhappy than anything else in life. (It is, apparently, the opposite of sex.) Commuting also happens to rob us of time for family and friends.
The facts show that building freeways is not a good way to reduce commute times.
The only major Canadian city where commute times didn't shoot up in the past decade was freeway-free Vancouver, where the city stopped adding road capacity in 1997 and has been aggressively "traffic-calming" ever since.
The mayor of Bogata started dramatic changes in their transportation system and funding.
"A city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can't be both," the new mayor announced. He shelved the highway plans and poured the billions saved into parks, schools, libraries, bike routes and the world's longest "pedestrian freeway."

He increased gas taxes and prohibited car owners from driving during rush hour more than three times per week. He also handed over prime space on the city's main arteries to the Transmilenio, a bus rapid-transit system based on that of Curitiba, Brazil.

Bogotans almost impeached their new mayor. Business owners were outraged. Yet by the end of his three-year term, Mr. Peņalosa was immensely popular and his reforms were being lauded for making Bogota remarkably fairer, more tolerable and more efficient.

Moreover, by shifting the budget away from private cars, Mr. Peņalosa was able to boost school enrolment by 30 per cent, build 1,200 parks, revitalize the core of the city and provide running water to hundreds of thousands of poor.
How relevant is this for North America?
When Manhattan held a conference in October asking for a prescription for the gridlocked streets of New York, Mr. Peņalosa cheerily suggested banning cars entirely from Broadway.

"He got a standing ovation," observed an astounded Deputy Borough President Rose Pierre-Louis. New York is now considering charging drivers to enter Manhattan.

Mr. Peņalosa was also given a hero's welcome by hundreds of cheering urbanists, planners and politicians at last summer's World Urban Forum in Vancouver. Stuart Ramsey, a B.C. transportation engineer, suggested it was because the Colombian had gone ahead and done what they had all been talking about for years.

"Bogota has demonstrated that it is possible to make dramatic change to how we move around in our cities in a very short time frame," Mr. Ramsey said afterward. "It's simply a matter of choosing to do so."
It all ties into climate change too.
"We could improve our air quality and dramatically reduce our emissions any time we want. It's easy to do. All it would take is a can of paint and you'd have dedicated bus lanes. It doesn't require huge amounts of money. It simply requires a choice."
Posted by dustin on June 26, 2007. Tagged with
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