Friday, December 02, 2005

Public transport more important than coffee bars: 'Creative Class'

I'm currently reading The Flight of the Creative Class by Richard Florida. This book argues that human creativity has become a key driver of economic growth and cities that attract people of the increasingly-mobile 'creative class' will prosper in the future. Though the United States has historically been a magnet for talented migrants, Florida argues that socially tolerant cities in Canada, Australia, Asia and northern Europe are of increasing appeal to the 'creative class', with implications for the US's economic competitiveness.

One finding was that public transport, particularly fixed rail, is very important to the 'Creative Class'.

A common feature of leading creative centers around the world is efficient and heavily-trafficked subway and light-rail systems. The availability of subway and rail transportation was a key factor cited by creative people in the interviews and focus groups for The Rise of the Creative Class, trumping amenities like bike trails, coffee bars, and music venues. (page 201)
Florida mentions that though public transport exists in the US's larger and more creative cities it is sorely lacking in too many others. He goes on to say that:

On this critical dimension (public transport), large cities and regions outside the United States have another powerful advantage in the growing global competition for global talent. (ibid)

In other words, if cities are to attract world-class talent, they also need world-class public transport.

All this is consistent with research by Peter Newman & Jeff Kenworthy (Cities and Automobile Dependence, etc) which highlights the key role of public transport in enhancing a city's liveablity and prosperity.

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