No, the CBD is not the driver of jobs

By Leith van Onselen

Much of Australia’s planning policies are based on the presumption that the bulk of the population commutes to the central core for employment. As such there is the desire by planners to limit urban sprawl, which is believed to reduce overall commuting times, resource use and pollution, and the need for costly infrastructure improvements, such as new rail lines. Similarly, there has been a growing desire by planners to increase the proportion of housing located along transit nodes, such as train stations, again based on the assumption that most citizens commute to the central core for work.

Ross Elliott, author of The Pulse, has written a great primer questioning this notion. In association with Urban Economics, Elliott has undertaken a detailed examination of ABS Census data to determine where jobs in Australia are located. And contrary to popular belief, they have uncovered that the lion’s share of jobs in Australia’s capital cities are not located in the core, but the suburbs:

A widespread impression exists in the mind of many from the general community through to the media, urban planners and even some senior policy makers that the city centres (‘central business districts’) of our capital cities are the biggest employers in our economy…

The reality, however, is that despite their profile, our CBDs account for a very small proportion of jobs in the economy. Census data for employment has its limitations but even with these limitations in mind, the evidence is emphatic: employment in our cities is overwhelmingly located in suburban locations.

Based on analysis of the ABS Census, in Sydney in 2011, the CBD accounted for only 8.3% of all jobs in New South Wales, and for only 13.4% of all jobs in wider metropolitan Sydney. Including the surrounding areas of Pyrmont, Ultimo, Potts Point, and Woolloomooloo raises this share to just 9.7% of all jobs in the state and 15.6% of jobs in metropolitan Sydney.

In Melbourne, the CBD is home to just 7.6% of the state’s total employment, and to just 10.6% of all jobs in greater Melbourne. Including the ‘fringe’ locations of Docklands and Southbank sees this share rise to only 10.3% of the state and 14.3% of greater Melbourne.

In Brisbane, the CBD share is just 5.8% of the state and 12.5% of the Brisbane region. Including South Brisbane, Fortitude Valley and Spring Hill raises this share to 8.8% of the state’s jobs and 18.8% of jobs across the Brisbane region.

Looking at it another way, in these major centres at least 9 out of 10 jobs state-wide are located outside the CBD/frame, and even across the metro region, about 5 out of 6 jobs are located in suburban locations as opposed to the centre…

…in 2001 the Brisbane CBD’s share of metro wide employment was 14.3%. Over the ten year period from 2001 to 2011, this share actually fell to 12.5%. Including the city fringe areas saw the ratio slip marginally from 19% to 18.8% over the same period, suggesting a leakage of sorts from the CBD to city fringe areas. CBD employment actually grew in that period by 18,793 jobs but what the data reveals is that suburban employment in the Brisbane metro grew faster and by much more – an increase of nearly a quarter of a million jobs across the Brisbane metro region compared with the 18,793 increase for the CBD.

In Sydney, the CBD and inner city areas accounted for 15.1% of jobs in greater Sydney in 2001. By 2011, this proportion had changed little to 15.6%. (Boundary changes by the ABS over the period make CBD-only comparisons difficult). An increase of more than 40,000 jobs in the city area over that time was dwarfed by the increase of more than 200,000 jobs across greater Sydney in the same period. Hence the ratio remained unchanged.

In Melbourne, the CBD share of metro wide employment was only 10.2% in 2001. Ten years later, it too had changed little, reaching only 10.6% (although a slightly larger boundary in 2011 would account for this increase). The inclusion of the Docklands and Southbank precincts over this period sees the ratios move from 12.1% of greater metro Melbourne jobs in 2001 to 14.3% by 2011 – a significant increase of sorts, which points to the impact of these new precincts on spatial employment patterns in Melbourne. But still, the combined areas of the Melbourne CBD, Docklands and Southbank account only for one in every seven jobs across the metropolitan region. Hardly a dominant position…

As for the policy implications of these results, Ross Elliott makes the following salient remarks:

There are a number of quite significant public policy implications that suggest themselves based on this evidence. Public transport policy is just one. Our public transport systems are mostly based on a hub and spoke system (particularly for fixed routes as with rail) where the hub is the CBD and the spokes spread out. This system serves a highly centralised employment model but is notoriously inefficient (and prohibitively costly) when it comes to decentralised employment.

If typically our CBDs contain only 10% to 13% of broader metropolitan area jobs, even with unlimited budgets, the capacity to ever reach high proportions of overall public transit use are virtually non-existent simply because the networks will struggle to take people where their jobs are (overwhelmingly in the suburbs). This reality of employment distribution is something which receives very little prominence in public policy discussions about public transport investment; perhaps it should receive more? If only 10% to 14% of all jobs in the metro region are in the inner city areas, how can we ever expect to set targets much above that for public transit use? It’s a logical and mathematical improbability.

It also means that the billions of dollars needed to upgrade public transit systems will only ever be able to serve the minority of the working population whose jobs are in locations capable of being served by public transport, based on current distribution of employment and the nature of transport networks. And it means that the majority who use private transport to reach their suburban workplaces would be unrealistic to expect the scale of infrastructure investment needed to de-congest the suburban road network. Fixing this conundrum means either a massive re-centralisation of employment around the CBD or achieving rates of population density across urban areas of Australia that are more likely to be found in Asian centres. Neither of which will happen soon.

The other large, daily population movement around our cities, that of students, is obviously also very decentralised and thus not efficiently serviced by a CBD-centric transportation system. Plus, community wide changes of attitude about child safety have had a noticeable impact on the proportion of students who catch public transport, walk or cycle to school. by students.

There is no easy answer in this but setting unrealistic public policy targets for public transport systems in cities where employment is overwhelmingly suburban and not easily serviced, is setting ourselves up for public policy failure and community disappointment.

Another implication that flows from this spatial distribution of employment involves TODs (transit oriented development). The premise on which much TOD thinking is based is that creating housing options around transit nodes such as suburban train stations will allow people more convenient commutes to the inner city and hence relieve road congestion by lifting public transit patronage, among other promised benefits. There will no doubt be a proportion of the population for whom this is very appealing but given the low proportion of jobs actually located in CBDs compared with suburban locations, this level of demand is finite.

Indeed, it may be that as well as creating higher density housing opportunities around suburban train stations in order for residents to commute into the city, we could equally consider creating higher density employment opportunities around suburban train stations, so that inner city residents could commute to suburban workplaces. Is it fair to suggest that to date, the emphasis on TOD planning has been largely on TODs as dormitory residential opportunities for inner city workers, and that this doesn’t align very neatly with the realities of the demography of employment? The evidence points to a broader land use mix for TODs than many have envisaged.

Another public policy implication is both planning and market based. Our CBDs are expensive places for businesses to operate from, but this higher cost base is offset against a number of locational and marketing conveniences along with amenity factors that CBDs have in their favour. However, steeply rising rents, combined with costly car parking may be pushing more employers out of these locations and into city fringe or suburban locations. The evidence is there to support this…

This high cost structure may be encouraging a decentralisation of employment away from CBDs. If this is true, this would mean that costs are pushing jobs into locations that are less well served by public transport. Suburban employment is efficiently served by the private vehicle while centralised jobs in high density CBDs are well served by public transit. Further public policy attempts to raise the cost of business in CBDs (such as cordon tolling – a vehicle tax on the inner city) may only have the effect of further decentralising employment and working against the very claims of its proponents (to encourage more public transport use)…

Planning regulations which typically favour housing density in inner city areas may need to be more flexible in the future if creating housing closer to places of employment is to be a reality.

It’s equally possible that the potential for employment land uses in suburban locations has been inadequately considered by policy makers. It is a complaint of many developers that access to suitably zoned employment land in suburban locations is constrained. Perhaps allowing more opportunities for this to happen would mean creating opportunities to take workplaces closer to peoples’ homes? The same could be said for major transit nodes. As noted earlier in this article, while these have traditionally been thought of as high density dormitory opportunities for inner city workers, the evidence suggests they may equally offer opportunities as high density employment locations for residents living along the network.

Readers often bag Texas for being a sprawling car-dependent wasteland. However, despite having two of the five biggest metropolitan areas in the United States (Dallas and Houston), Texas’ average commute time (24.8 minutes) is below the United States national average (25.2 minutes), primarily because Texas’ liberal land-use laws allow dispersion of both employment and population, resulting in more Texans living nearby work (as opposed to commuting from the suburbs to the CBD).

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. Why do we need CBD’s today? The ‘central’ part surely became redundant with other forms of contact, other than foot…..

      • Jumping jack flash

        Interesting. While I was a middle manager in Sydney I was told that we were under no circumstances to accept staff working from home as an excuse for not coming into work unless they had an approved and inspected work area at their home.

        I suppose that was to prevent this kind of thing from happening.

        What is very interesting is that this person did actually seem to have a designated work area, and Telstra is still liable for injuries outside it.

        Another nail in the coffin of the NBN perhaps?

        But perhaps not. I remember they were in the process of setting up a “work from home” centre near where I lived in Sydney, where you could come into a safe and secure office environment near your home and then use that as a base for telecommuting to wherever it was that you worked. For a fee. Perhaps something like this is the answer?

        • That suburban work from home centre is a great idea! Perhaps that is part of the answer of moving away from the CBD reliance, particularly in the corporate world. Maybe the Point Cook developers mentioned in today’s other article could set up a few to attract & service their clients…

          I hope the outcome of this court case hasn’t set back working from home too much – it is both very concerning & disappointing that the law looked upon it this way.

      • Cases such as this, or the Commonwealth employee who received compensation when injured having sex in a motel with a colleague while away on a work trip, are rare and hardly likely to influence a sensible employer’s decision whether to allow staff to work at home. As the number of employees working at home increases, you would expect such claims to rise while the number of claims at the formal workplace decreases.

        A more likely concern is whether the employer is actually getting their money’s worth. Down time that might be spent networking at the workplace (which probably has intangible spin off benefits for the employer) might be spent with the kids instead.

        OTOH, a happy employee is usually a productive one.

      • What a load of crap. There are all sorts of reasons for settlements in these cases. Its often cheaper to settle than fight these frivolous claims. Then you get magistrates such as the neanderthal who sentenced the bega butcher for two years for mutilating that poor lady. Working from home done well, is extremely efficient. Fast broadband should be a real opportunity to decentralise further. I dont pretend to understand planning better than UE, however i do question urban sprawl. We are not evolving sufficiently overall if we seriously think, bigger is better. I saw 3dicks the other day ponder a popn of 50mill. Ffs, who wants the volatility of that circumstance in a boom bust country like australia.

  2. The Woodlands, Texas is a great example of a developer creating demand for housing by incouraging companies to set up their offices in that subdivision. Giving away land, naming streets after companies etc. Commercial development in this area is hot property, decades into there Master plan (without government) the worlds biggest company is moving there world wide headquarters to it. 10,000 jobs initially and expanding into their 500 acre site 15 minutes to the airport. Already with a $130,000 average income and average house price of around twice that. The development has around 100,000 people and 100,000 surrounding it. Growth rates are very high and with disposable income after tax and mortgage payments averaging $100,000 business is booming. This suburb boomed over the GFC, no sign of it at all. The suburb has a mixture of high and low density, some people I knew didn’t need a car. Walk to work, a super size mall, world class shows, lakes, parks, Eco awards, all from a Capitalist billionaire!

    • Yes, and is it “woodlands” or WHAT? Look at it on Google Earth, and see what you CAN have along with “housing affordability”. You can hardly see the houses for the trees….!

  3. I agree that transport, particularly rail networks, focused on reaching the CBD is outdated and is not effective. However, the large flaw I see in this piece is that it does not account for employment that is located near suburban stations. I’d hazard a guess that this makes up a substantial percentage of the suburban employment that’s discussed. More detailed analysis required.

    The emphasis should be on achieving a properly integrated and efficient transport system, where a connection does not involve going to the CBD and then changing to reach a suburban location. Sydney is starting to see some of this with light rail and train connections that are achieving more of a grid with cross connections, but there is still a long way to go. Some employment cannot effectively rely on transport and needs road access like industrial uses located in outer lying suburbs so it is unrealistic to achieve a huge percentage of people using public transport. However, I’d suggest it’s potentially far higher than suggested above with an effective network.

    The planners have been looking to locate housing and employment close to each other for a while now but, depending on the location, more often than not the level of non-resi uses will be minimised by the developers (it’s still there to some degree) as residential turns out to be the ‘highest and best use’.

    • Another big barrier is the high levels of stamp duties charged on housing, which discourages people to move to locations closer to their employment. It’s not uncommon for people to change jobs and then have to commute across town.

    • However, the large flaw I see in this piece is that it does not account for employment that is located near suburban stations. I’d hazard a guess that this makes up a substantial percentage of the suburban employment that’s discussed. More detailed analysis required.

      It would be interesting to see. I know where I am, whatever union the call centre workers belong to have negotiated a condition that any office must be within 1-2km (can’t remember exactly how far – but basically a short walk) of a train station.

        • A while I suspect. There’s a strong need for high quality verbal communications, something that tends to be lacking in nearly all offshore call centres.

          • Good. Pleased to hear it. Couldn’t agree more on the need for high quality communication. It’s a pity that too many companies have disagreed.

  4. Important insights. The crux of the matter is does Aus want to go down the US path or European/Asian high-density path? IMO, there is no need for the latter when you have so much land. Spread out and encourage employment outside of CBDs. In due course, CBDs will price themselves out of much employment anyway as home and mobile working rises. Public policy should look to stimulate this trend, because it is far more difficult and expensive to build efficient high-density living for millions of people than it is to space things out appropriately. The quality of life for people is much much higher in a more distributed environment also. It’s a no-brainer really, and all parts of the US with possible exception of Manhattan are evidence of this. I used to live in the Tri-state (CT) and by far the majority of people worked and lived outside of the city. And there is far less space available there than in Texas or Arizona for example, yet its still very feasible.

  5. Very good article raising important points.

    A mining town might only have 100 workers at the actual mine, but these require 1000 other workers to support them. There are teachers, butchers and bakers, cleaners, mechanics, etc. None of these work at the actual mine.
    Our CBD is like this too. Think.

    CBD has great transport so our planners approve 1000 more office jobs in the CBD. Our planners then zone 1000 more houses at Kellyville. Our planners are then surprised when 1000 (or even 100) more cars appear city-bound on Windsor road. Brainless.

  6. Building higher density near access to railway lines is quite sensible. But why do our planners allow units right alongside busy roads? The stinky busy road (eg Pennant Hills Rd) is becoming lined with 2/3 story dwellings, yet if you walk away from the road 100 or 200m you find houses on large blocks. Surely 100m off the stinky noisy road would be a better place for the dense living.

    • ” But why do our planners allow units right alongside busy roads? ”

      hmm silly me I always thought the purpose of those dog box apartments was to dampen the noise of the main roads so that suburbia could be more peaceful. Are you suggesting that people actually live in those boxes?

  7. dumb_non_economist

    Somewhat surprised as I thought that this would have been a Rumsfeld “Known, known,” other than to quantify the %, especially for town planners!

  8. This whole analysis falls apart when you consider that whilst the Sydney CBD might only have 13.4% of jobs across metro Sydney, it takes up only 0.2% of the land mass of metro Sydney. I’m sure other capital cities are similar.

    Hub-and-spoke rail is a highly efficient (read: cheaper) way of moving people to work, given the density of employment in the CBD. Transport upgrade options for servicing low-density employment, not so much.

    • The problem with buses is they (generally speaking) have to drive on the same roads as cars, and are thus subject to the same congestion problems.

      They also tend to be substantially less comfortable than trains to use, but that’s a separate issue.

      • Tried strap hanging on the London Underground in peak hour lately?

        But for longer distance commutes above ground, I agree (provided you can get a seat).

        • Tried strap hanging on the London Underground in peak hour lately?

          I’d take it in a heartbeat over the same density of people in a bus during peak hour traffic.

  9. arescarti42MEMBER

    “This whole analysis falls apart when you consider that whilst the Sydney CBD might only have 13.4% of jobs across metro Sydney, it takes up only 0.2% of the land mass of metro Sydney.”

    That’s exactly what I was thinking. You’re talking maybe 10km^2 of land within a 10,000km^2 urban area supporting 10-15% of the jobs.

    The other thing worth noting is that trips made to the CBD aren’t just commutes. CBDs usually have a high concentration of shopping, sporting and cultural facilities, and given you often want these things to be accessible to everyone in the urban area, public transport is a very efficient way of providing access.

    Leith, I know you are a fan of the flexibility of car based transport and the effect that has on urban land values and costs to businesses. Unfortunately car reliance is very energy intensive and makes the whole of society extremely vulnerable to increases in the price of oil. Public transport is far less energy intense, but tends to be costly and inefficient in low density car-burbia.

    My concern is that energy in the future will be expensive enough to make driving relatively long distances daily by car prohibitively costly for most people. Shouldn’t we should be adapting our transport systems for this now?

    • Unfortunately car reliance is very energy intensive and makes the whole of society extremely vulnerable to increases in the price of oil.

      Have you any idea how much juice a 1/2 empty CityRail set pulls off the grid?

          • Interesting, thanks. The average economy of cars has probably improved quite a bit since then, although I doubt if it has caught up to buses and heavy rail.

            Car pooling would certainly improve the equation a lot.

          • The average economy of cars has probably improved quite a bit since then, […]
            Since 2004 ? I doubt it. Since 1994, maybe.

            Though given the ongoing proliferation of SUVs on the roads, I expect it’s actually gotten worse.

          • The energy efficiency of real life commuter rail systems is a myth. There are no good studies of the energy use PER RIDER KILOMETER. Just a whole lot of assumptions that are not even true.

            The US Transportation Energy Data Book is one of the few honest attempts. NYC’s commuter rail system and perhaps 4 others in the US, are the only ones that actually are more efficient than the AVERAGE for private cars….!

            Any sub-1800 cc car, or any car with 2 or more people on board, is more efficient than even the MOST efficient commuter rail systems, let alone the average.

    • “Shouldn’t we should be adapting our transport systems for this now?”

      No, we should abandon the monocentric view of our cities and look to decentralise jobs to where people actually live. The current planning system is based on the incorrect view that most people commute to the city for work. As it does not reflect reality, it is destined to fail.

      Moreover, urban consolidation policies create preverse outcomes, such as ‘leapfrog development’, whereby a large number of people search for affordable (or should I say less unaffordable) housing in far-flung places, forcing them to incur a longer commute. This increases sprawl.

      • arescarti42MEMBER

        Fine. I get that the current planning system and urban land use policies have a lot of issues. I get the benefits of decentralisation, but where does urban densities and non-car transport fit in to this?

        Back on the energy point, there’s an inverse relationship between urban density and energy use. If you assume that the cost of energy is going to be an issue in the future, then isn’t locking our cities in to an extremely energy intensive urban layout and transport system is going to be a problem?

        • “….there’s an inverse relationship between urban density and energy use…”

          There doesn’t NEED to be. Just price the energy to reduce its use and let people and businesses work out the best way to save it. Low density housing can be extremely “sustainable”, there is a lot more potential for things like solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps, composting, using wind and sunshine for HEVAC and drying clothes, burning biomass, collecting rainwater, reusing grey water, etc etc etc.

          The urban economist Anthony Downs suggests that trying to affect energy use by changing urban form is like moving the living room wall instead of moving a picture on it, when you don’t like the position of the picture.

          Actually, the correlation between urban density and energy use is explained by discretionary income, not efficiency of form at all. There is a negative correlation between density and housing unaffordability; all the most affordable cities are low density. Therefore, households consume more energy because they have the spare income, not because the urban form is less efficient.

    • “makes the whole of society extremely vulnerable to increases in the price of oil”

      Here’s a novel idea: if you want to ween society off imported oil then put a tax on it. Why should the someone who lives and works in the burbs and hardly commutes be penalised?

      And as Leith has explained numerous times: urban planning has the perverse unintentional outcome of increasing oil usage. People who can’t afford the suburbs move to cheaper exurban towns and commute twice as long.

      • Great point. If you are worried about sustainability and reducing car use (fossil fuel consumption), then it is far more efficient to implement taxes directly on energy and congestion charges etc, instead of blunt instrument urban growth containment policies. As Phil Best pointed out the other day, there are academic papers that suggest that urban growth containment policies are 20 to 60 times more costly to society than taxes on the factors that are meant to be changed. Anthony Downs suggests in “Still Stuck in Traffic” (2004), that taxes (on energy) and other “pricing” mechanisms would be like shifting the position of a picture hanging on a living room wall, while urban growth containment policies are like trying to shift the wall instead.

  10. Good article, but a major flaw in it is that it doesn’t say what jobs are located where.

    While a relatively small percentage of people work in the CBD, I would argue that those areas generate the greatest level of wealth due to the types of industries that gather in them.

    The significantly higher percentage of wealth that is generated in the CBD, and it’s immediate surrounds, and the fact that it will have a lion’s share of services, draws higher net worth individuals.

    This continues to perpetuate the CBD as the centre of the city. The article talks about decentralisation of the city, but it hasn’t been borne out here.

    • “The article talks about decentralisation of the city, but it hasn’t been borne out here.”

      Seriously? In Sydney most software/tech companies have moved out of the city and North Sydney and are now located in the silicon belt stretching from North Ryde to Baulkham Hills in the NW.

      Optus relocated 6000 employees to Macquarie Park. Woolworths have done similar with a massive campus in Norwest business park.

      • The great pity is that we don’t get as much benefit as we might from these relocations because the high cost of buying and selling deters many people from moving close to work.

      • PS you forgot to mention the far-sightedness of the ALP in moving its power base from Sussex St to Terrigal 😉

    • “…..The significantly higher percentage of wealth that is generated in the CBD….”

      Wealth is not “generated” there, it is “transferred” there and consumed there. The strength of a nation’s CBD’s is not necessarily a good sign, it might mean high levels of successful “rent seeking” in the economy. Wall Street is a classic example. The share of total profits in the US economy captured by “finance” increased over 40 years from around 10% to over 40%. This makes for strong CBD’s, but it is not necessarily good economics; it is “rent seeking”.

      Wealth is actually created in resource-consuming sectors of the economy. It is ideal if the finance sector helps the whole to grow, without increasing its share of the profits.

      • It is ideal if the finance sector helps the whole to grow, without increasing its share of the profits.

        Well I’d say that like all increases in wealth, the ‘share’ for all existing sectors should technically shrink.

        A side not is to compare global banking. IIRC, th bank of America has 44 million customers, yet is about as profitable as each of our big 4.

        Our big 4, lets for argument sake say are equal in customer base, would be around 5.5 milion each. So they are 8 times more expensive to provide banking services.

        Likewise, the big 4 between them make a little over $20 billion per year in after-tax profits, around 2% of GDP, phenominally high.

        Every man, women and child is paying an approximate $1,000 after-cost margin for the utilty of banking, compared to $125 for Bank of America customers.

        Real wealth dispersal is about less exertion getting the same outcome.

        From subsistence agrarians working an entire day for their food supply, to a pre-industrial craf society spending 1/2 a day on food, with the other half being surplus to acquire gods from trades guild memeber, etc.

        The share for food as gone from 100% exertion, to 50% exertion. Banking should be the same.

        But tickets to be clipped I suppose…..

        • B—-y GREAT comment, Rusty, pity we are so late on this thread.

          Exactly, tickets to be clipped.

          I find it ironic that many of the “occupy Wall St” crowd and the like, also regard mass public transport as an article of faith. Yet the places where it actually requires “only” about 50% subsidy instead of the 90% plus that is typical, are solely this way because of industries like Wall St maintaining an urban form that is an anachronism in this day and age.

          I can’t help suspecting that the vaunted “advantages of face to face interaction” in finance-sector agglomerations like Manhattan, are just more vested interest perpetuation of a status quo that is quite good for them. We live in an era when total substitution of communications technology for proximity would make the MOST sense in the very sectors that remain the most hidebound.

  11. Dale SmithMEMBER

    The assumption that everyone who lives in the suburbs needs to commute to the CBD for work has long ago known to be false by planners. But it does not fit their ideology as it’s not really about housing at all, but private transport (oil) vs public transport. And you quickly see how any post on housing soon mentions transport ie good high density housing/public transport and bad sprawl/private transport. This is because the quickest way to entice (force) people into using public transport is to make housing so expensive that you cannot afford any transport but shanks’s pony (public transport). Public transport needs volume/very very high density to make it less uneconomic. Restrictive zoning planning works great in forcing house prices up.
    One of the arguments in support of the CBD is not only the supposed extra amenity value they offer but how they are the heart and soul of a city. Many theorised what would happen if you removed the CBD. Would the city survive? The Christchurch earthquake was able to put that theory to the test. And guess what happens when you remove the CBD. Not much. That’s not to say that a city is not improved by a great CBD, but a city won’t die if it does not have one. After the earthquakes CBD businesses quickly relocated to other suburban commercial nodes and yes, work from home businesses and employees. In fact one of the few benefits of the earthquake is that it has forced many businesses to allow their employees to work from home. And amazingly, productivity is the same if not better, less traffic, less use of fuel, saves time and as one employee who was spending $40 per week on fuel, they happily told me that since being able to work from home, it was like getting a $40 a week pay rise. This is after tax and didn’t cost the employer a cent. You could call this the new future of the city – decentralized where you have a home, and a business, close together physically, or by digital means. After all, look how we can all communicate in these posts and yet we can be ‘sprawled’ from one end of globe to the other. A decentralised home/work city means there is less travel by any means and particularly not being forced to go to work in the CBD just to subsidize public transport. But as your article points out, suburbs already support the majority of jobs in a city, in spite of the media to the contrary. And yet where is the State and Local Govt. focus in Christchurch? It’s recreating the CBD as ‘the’ employment place, with no focus or support for what people want, and technology is starting to allow.

  12. All spoke and no hub? I beg to differ. I t is theconcentration of both government and power. Who has CBD car parks allocated sans salary? Australian monopolies, duopolies, oligopolies love their access to government and vice versa, the peons be damned. The rentier rules ,whether in govt or private access.

    Classic example of defiance of your logic- The T2- only people with two plus people could access this lane. Brisbane West had a large storm several years ago prior to the 2011 floods-express lane for the priviledged (9-7am–4-7pm). When reality struck and things had to be efficiently logistcaly provided they put out an announcement- the T2 regulations were suspended to allow the traffic to flow-social engineering at is best- bollocks– the private road for the PS & its cohorts will be temporarily suspended. The emperor has no clothes, the bride stripped bare.

    Place ALL public servants on the same time commuting efficiency of the present, with failure resulting in dismissal-without government supplied cars oe transport lurks, You want a revoltion in commuting-start there.

    Big business would have no reason to concentrate if it had to chase the ear of government or visa versa. Seperate the mouth of one from the ear of the other, good luck with that-power is concenrating not separating-admirable but not practical at present.