A Bus Called “Bridg’



And finally,  a  local story for a change….Somewhat like the Google bus and other private shuttles that operate in San Francisco, a kid/entrepreneur in Brookline’s Mass. Coolidge Corner says he will start a “pop up” bus service in May, 2014. The service called “Bridg”  will be a supplement to Boston’s MBTA service. The kid/entrepreneur , Matthew George, compiles data of where peopel live and work, and uses it to create a more direct bus service.  “Bridg” (a.k.a., not Bridget) seems  ambitious, with plans to expand the service”every week” (Brookline Tab, 4/16/2014). But, it did receive startup financing- just like  SF!

Perhaps this is a throw back to a much earlier time when there was competition in mass transportation . Depending on its success, the concept could move the Boomers from their surburban and exurb houses into the mainstream.


Location Efficient Mortgage


source: Victoria Transposrtation Policy Institute, 2006


While we are spotlighting the H+T index developed by the Center for Technology, we should also return to a more “homely” instrument used by a few Boomers to buy their first home.

The L.E. M., or location efficient mortgage, was introduced by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the National Resources Defense Council, and backed  by Fannie Mae (FNMA),circa 1999. One article called it the “Bus-Riders Mortgage”  (Wikipedia). The goal was to let borrowers who lived in an area close to jobs centers and shopping opportunities qualify for a larger mortgage. The intuition was that they could cut down on their transportation costs, which are typically 1/3 of more of the household expense. There were offered in SF, Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles.

During the housing recession, “exurb” homes did fall in value more than urban properties. The  L.E.M. mortages, although few in number, are thought to have had a lower default rate.

The chart, presented by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, is from 2006 data. It would be timely to look at the current affordability index.


Drive to Qualify


If  “Houses of Boom” had a subtitle, it would be “Drive2 Qualify”.  Booomers will remember that phrase was the mantra of real-estate agents. Larger, more affordable properties were located further away, and that spurred longer commutes.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicavo has now quanitified what “Drive2qualify” means in financial terms. Using their map tool  you can see how nearly 180,000 neighborhoods are affected when you add the cost of transportation to their cost of housing.

There are more dimension to this, waiting to be mapped: the physical time it takes to travel (google maps),  the use of energy and  dependence on fossil fuels for transportation, and the use of energy, and human investment  in  these longer commutes.





Home to the Car

Donald Shoup of UCLA has made planners everywhere aware of the hidden costs and consequences of  vehicle parking. The extensions to housing and real-esate are obvious. When we build homes and carports, we reduce the need for on-street parking. However, the cost of building increases, and for suburban tract homes, 20 to 25% of the overall square footage may be relegated for vehicles. The design and physical layout of a home are also impacted by the garage. While no one wants to give up their parking space, think of design in a future city where ShareCars are the norm, and taxi services like Uber or Lyft are more common. Meanwhile, in  the chart, you can see that the Northeast is the least likely area  of the country to have garages and carports, and the West is the most likely. One is older and one is new…but neither are contemporary.

The Neighborhood Not

no entry-no exit
no entry-no exit

Driving in America will be a problem as the population ages. “Houses of Boom” recognizes the problem.

But, the issue is finding an alternative.  These  are sobering statistics from “www. smartgrowth america”:

  • Almost 40 percent of Americans over the age of 50 say their neighborhoods lack adequate sidewalks.
  • 55 percent report inadequate bike lanes or paths.
  • 48 percent have no comfortable place to wait for the bus (addendum: this assumes there is as bus!)

How will Boomers get from here to there- enjoyable and safely? In older suburban neighborhoods,  even Levittown, sidewalks were part of the infrastructure. And, access to public transportation, like rail, was feasible, albeit at a distance.  The newer suburbs lack transport redundancy and are built solely around car. Going forward, how will we?