Edited by Robin Hickman, Moshe Givoni, David Bonilla and David Banister
Chapter 6: Spatial structure and travel: trends in commuting and non-commuting travels in US metropolitan areas
The economist Robert Lucas famously noted that, once you start thinking about economic growth, it’s hard to think about anything else. Those who think about cities also think about economic growth, to the point that describing cities as the “engines of growth” is almost a cliche. Paul Romer, perhaps the father of modern economic growth theory, has launched his Charter Cities project, which recognizes that the most promising option for lagging economies is successful cities. He seeks to foster well-run big cities as “opportunity zones especially for the working poor.” Human capital, entrepreneurship and creativity, Julian Simon’s (1995) “ultimate resource,” are most potent when ideas can be exchanged. But some analysts simply tout the advantages of proximity to a “knowledge base” found in cities. This is misleading. Knowledge is highly fragmented, specialized, and dispersed. Various locators seek the peculiar benefits of interactions with highly specialized sources of ideas. Urban districts and clusters of specialized firms and outlets are well known. Matt Ridley (2010) has famously discussed human progress this way: “I believe that at some point in human history, ideas began to meet and mate, to have sex with each other.” This was surely not casual or random sex. It refers to specific interactions involving specific proximities. But this denotes complex spatial organization.
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