(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 350: The Built Environment Memory Hole
This week we’re joined by Tufts Professor Justin Hollander. Justin chats with us about a wide range of topics including VMT Taxes, using eye tracking software to measure the impacts of the built environment on people’s mind, and he reacts to the most recent census release.
For a full unedited transcript see below the fold. For the audio, as always check out Streetsblog USA.
Jeff Wood (1m 35s):
Justin Hollander, welcome to the Talking Headways podcast.
Jeff Wood (2m 29s):
Yeah, it’s great to be here. Thanks for coming on the show before we get started. Can you tell us a little bit about you or
Justin Hollander (2m 34s):
Sure. I have been an urban planner for about 15 years and most recently I’ve been a professor I’ve been teaching at Tufts university and I do research and right. And, and yeah, happy to talk to you about my experiences
Jeff Wood (2m 54s):
And how did you get interested? He is. And where are you always on this track to be interested in cities and urban and all of these things?
Justin Hollander (3m 2s):
Yes. So yeah, my father’s an architect, so like all that stuff was kind of like all around in our family and he would always talk about buildings from, we would be outside. So I kinda kind of started with that. I played SimCity As a kid And I was like a job. Oh my God, this was great. And it’s actually a, as it turns out, real planning is even more fun than, than the video.
Jeff Wood (3m 30s):
Well, you can’t just leave it on overnight and accumulate massive amounts of money either, but which one did you play? I think the last one I did was SIM city 2000 was the last SIM city I played. But that was a long time ago. Yeah, actually I played the original
Justin Hollander (3m 48s):
Sort of a classic. Yeah. I actually tried a 2000. We didn’t like it as much.
Jeff Wood (3m 53s):
No. What about city skylines? No, that’s a popular, oh, I know a designer
Justin Hollander (3m 58s):
On, yeah. Yeah. People talk about that. Things have counted. I’m a little more busy in my life and my wife has told me, I should, I’m not allowed to play computer games. Things like, you know, the garbage doesn’t go out and, you know, things start to pile up. So yeah. So that’s a, you have your own SIM city to take care of.
Jeff Wood (4m 18s):
We got it. Well, I wanted to have you on to talk about a number of things as you’re such a prolific writer, but let’s start with a piece in the hill that you wrote recently about why you believe we shouldn’t tax VMT and should instead raise the gas tax. What prompted you to write this piece?
Justin Hollander (4m 31s):
Yeah. So before the recent infrastructure bill passed the Senate, this idea of, of, of incorporating a BMT program had been floated six months ago by the secretary of transportation, Pete Buddha judge. And he went around and he was like talking about this program that he was with a straight face, telling everybody that instead of raising the gas tax, let’s create this massive government program that is essentially like an invasion of people’s privacy, installing recording devices on their cars and then generate income to pay for the federal highway and other transportation investments to that.
Justin Hollander (5m 16s):
So I don’t know, I just, I was just so mad. That’s a lot of where my writing a research comes from just being yanked. No, here is we have a mechanism w we, we have a mechanism and really the only rationale that he came up with to justify this was that people who drive hybrids and electric cars, aren’t paying their fair share. And, you know, for decades we’ve been using the large S or the federal treasury, you just subsidize and encourage people to buy and drive electric and hybrid cars. And now he’s like turning on these people. So that was really the you kind of challenge we got to meet. And that motivated me and a right.
Jeff Wood (5m 56s):
That, it’s interesting because one of the things that we talked about in the show is how do we need to kind of reduce VMT overall from vehicles cause of the particulates from tire’s and brake dust, a, we have these like a microparticles that ended up, for example, like billions of them have been counted in the San Francisco bay wouldn’t of VMT Taxes helped with, with that goal of reducing overall VMT.
Justin Hollander (6m 15s):
Well, I’m not saying that there’s no room for it to be effective. And, and I’ve throughout my career as a planner and as an academic, I have worked very hard to try to create communities and try to provide incentives, which, or we were just VMT. I mean, you’re right. That people should be driving less. There’s no question about that. But as it turns out, the gas tax is a really great way to encourage people to drive less. And so, you know, as we look at providing a federal funding to be able to make the necessary transportation investments and enhancements, the gas tax is a great way to generate that the system’s already in place. There are other things that we can do more like at the state and local level to reduce VMT.
Justin Hollander (6m 60s):
And that’s really around local zoning, subdivision control regulations, different types of state policies around infrastructure investments, you know, just helping to provide incentives for people to live closer to where they live and where they play. And so that’s going to produce VMT, but it’s a prick this massive government program that’s going to neither put devices and be a cars or a required them to fill out some sort of special form on their taxes. And it’s based on a wall or that tells the government how many miles they drove. That’s just, there’s just some, this perverse redundancy in my opinion, because that’s already, essentially being collected through the gas tax.
Jeff Wood (7m 39s):
Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t be against it necessarily. I think most of the idea that I see would be, you know, kind of like smog checks, where you read the odometer every year and a person sees it and then that’s it. And then you have the tax written on that, but there’s probably obviously room for fraud and grift and those types of things that we see also, you know, the gas tax is something that hasn’t been increased since 1992. And I think a lot of urban issue related folks would agree that that needs to be raised, but for some reason we can’t even get there. And, and this year was kind of a weird, it was just a weird thing to see all these years, people talking about raising the gas tax and then saying that it’s off the table because it’s included in, you know, Biden’s promise not to raise taxes on anybody who makes under
Justin Hollander (8m 19s):
No matter what, under
Jeff Wood (8m 21s):
$400,000. So it’s like, well, that’s really weird. And like you said, we’re already taking money from the general fund to pay for transportation. It’s not like the gas tax is actually paying for everything and the road building era, but a, it’s interesting to see a, kind of the, both sides of what the discussions are and in how things of flipped. And yesterday, we actually heard the news that the last gas station selling leaded gasoline in the world stopped operating. So I’m amazed that lasted this long. So it kind of gives us an indication. I feel like how hard it’s going to be to get rid of gasoline if we can’t even get rid of the lead that we know is, is, is bad for people in gasoline. No, I think it was now Jerry or something like that. It wasn’t in the us, or we’ve been led in a gas a long time ago because of the negative effects.
Jeff Wood (9m 1s):
But it’s just interesting to have that discussion. And then, so the other piece that caught my attention was, was Jared Green’s dirt article on your APA virtual conference presentation. And you’ve been doing a lot of research on the built environment. How much does design impact human wellbeing,
Justin Hollander (9m 15s):
Aton really, really so much more than we understand. I think when you look at the way, the planning functions on a, on a daily basis in jurisdictions all over the country, all over the world, there’s really this kind of built in framework that we all draw on that suggests that there’s some sort of a, kind of like a objective reality of what it means to design places. And that, you know, we, we want to try to create places that provide some sort of economic use or a social value and environmental, but so much of what’s missing is the human experience and that what we need to really value.
Justin Hollander (9m 59s):
And I hope that the kind of a silver lining in a pandemic is kind of a new orientation around health and wellbeing, but we need to value people’s wellbeing in that the design have a built environment, has a major impact on how people’s physiologically, how they respond to the places that they see our discussion earlier about BMTs. I mean, there’s certainly a lot of people who’ve been interested in, but what we set up a place is is, is pedestrian friendly. It makes people want a walk, then you won’t drive as much, but that’s healthy, but it’s a much deeper than that. And that’s some of the stuff that we talked about it in that paper or in that presentation of the APA.
Jeff Wood (10m 40s):
Yeah. I was just so fascinated. I read it and I was like, this is different. And I’d seen stuff about cognitive, you know, thinking about architecture and that, but I just, you know, the way you’re doing the research and putting together the data from people’s experiences through technology that allows people to watch where the eyes or going on a picture or an outdoor experience is really fascinating. And your research shows that we only are aware of about 5% of our cognitive responses to the built environment yet there’s that other 95%, that is, I’m guessing internal,
Justin Hollander (11m 9s):
Right? So it’s happening automatically. When you think about it, like you get up in the morning and you get out of bed and you walk down the hall, right? You’re not thinking about putting one foot in front of you, other that’s all happening automatically. And is this same thing with your heart beating and breathing, these things are happening automatically. So this is what we’ve talked about. This idea that the mind is like an iceberg with only a very small percentage is peaking out that you kind of, we were aware of it we know about, but everything else is happening. Your body is responding to everything around it. And frankly, it’s just beyond our capability to even understand how he can do that. I mean, imagine if you had to like be conscious and aware of all of those things that are happening automatically, or you can never function, that’s why babies.
Justin Hollander (11m 57s):
And so it’s a hard time like crawling and stuff. I mean, like, because you know, that those skills haven’t been developed yet. So yeah. So when we design the street or a Plaza park, we design buildings, you know, we need to have that in the forefront. We need to recognize that people are responding to these places at that kind of subliminal level first. That’s how they’re first responding. And then the fact that they might leave you to think, oh, this building actually looks familiar. Oh. Or I think I’ve been down the street before that’s later and that’s, of course that’s fine. And we can build those kinds of ideas into design, but the automatic response, that’s something that affects us very deeply in terms of health and wellbeing, weight.
Justin Hollander (12m 39s):
And it’s been a, essentially absent from our conversations and planning and architecture,
Jeff Wood (12m 43s):
Or does it impact us? I mean, when something you see as is negative, or does it raise your heart rate, does it cause you to faint? Does it, what does it do to you or physically when you have that response that you don’t quite understand maybe yeah,
Justin Hollander (12m 55s):
You’re right. Or a heart rate. There are no a number of different indicators of stress. And when people have done research with you looked at a brainwave activity, EEG in a certain brainwaves that are indicating that someone’s relaxed or some of that indicate that the person is stressed. And so a galvanic skin response, a measures electrical activity on the surface of your skin. And that’s also suggesting that you’re stressed out or upset. So these kinds of things are all telling us that there’s something wrong. And that is not a good thing for a human to be so upset and worried. The other thing about you mentioned in the eye-tracking, that’s also going to help us indicate a little bit about stress, but there’s something even deeper for like the urban design experience, which is, it helps us where the eye will go first and an urban scene, which is if a person’s is disoriented, that’s a really important wayfinding.
Justin Hollander (13m 51s):
So it’ll help us understand if the person will see the door or on a building, or we will see the sidewalk in a busy area, will they know where to go? So the, and the other pieces, or if there’s nothing for them to see if they’re disoriented, then we can infer that that will make them a stressed out and upset and can make them not want to be in that place anymore, or make them want to just get in their car and just drive away as opposed to explore and walk around.
Jeff Wood (14m 16s):
And this is an experience that I think people have, but they don’t quite realize, I mean, there’s this whole new district’s of buildings in United States, usually urban renewal districts outside of downtown where, or these glass towers and kind of square buildings are constructed and people, you know, maybe it just doesn’t feel quite right to them. And maybe they don’t understand why, but maybe you can explain that through how people’s responses are in those tests that you do.
Justin Hollander (14m 41s):
Definitely. The, one of the things that I’ve been really interested in, especially using the eye-tracking is that when someone does look at a scene or a place where there’s buildings that have certain characteristics and, and some of the stuff that I’ve done in my research has, is bilateral symmetry. I have a look on the right side or your images hierarchy, whether it’s like a top, middle and bottom curves. So when they look at these things and they see these and they fixate on them, so their eye really hones in and stays on that, whether it’s a building facade or an edge or a part of a closet, when they do that, the neuroscientists tell us that they remember it.
Justin Hollander (15m 21s):
We remember when we make those fixations. So we connect with the place or things that we, I mean, a memory is a very much a, you know, a big part of the human experience. So when you build a place where nobody could connect with them, and there is nothing to fixate on, you’re likely going to be failing. That’s a place that aren’t going to go too. And they’re not going to remember, and they’re not going to go back. So I think you’re right, that people have these experiences and they don’t even know why. And so now we’re starting to be able to understand why, what we have some of these really powerful biometric tools that gives us those measurements. And it’s really opening up a whole new kind of discipline with M planning, The Built Environment, Memory Hole, Like sounds
Jeff Wood (16m 5s):
Like something along those lines. And one of the things that always tickles me is when we try to anthropomorphize things, I mean, we give human characteristics to things, everything from a manhole covers, exhaust Vince and even building, why, why did we do that?
Justin Hollander (16m 18s):
Well, actually, a scientist’s have a name for it. It’s called paranoia. And paradoxically is essentially a condition where we, when we’re born, are looking for a face or human body, because we were looking to connect with our mother. And so it’s something that is built into us. It’s part of our DNA. And so looking for these faces, looking for a body’s, that’s something we’re always doing. And we’re always, actually literally scanning the environment, constantly looking for those spaces. And so to extent the pieces or are in the facades of buildings or in our streetscapes and or parks, then we will, we, will we be attracted to them or we will remember them.
Justin Hollander (17m 2s):
We will want to go back to them. I mean, look at some of the most famous book of the world, they tend to look like faces, or it looks like a body. We literally have statues or has some sort of a face like arrangements on their M facades. So this is a big part of traditional or a vernacular architecture and design. And so they, maybe they knew it better than we do today, but so much of a, what am I in my research? I’m trying to like, kind of remind people that there is a sister there that maybe they knew something that we don’t. No.
Jeff Wood (17m 32s):
Yeah. I guess that’s why people like clock towers so much.
Justin Hollander (17m 36s):
Jeff Wood (17m 39s):
And why are we connected to streets that are designed like corridors? Why have we designed away from that affinity in suburbs or on arterial streets? For example, we tend to like streets that are a corridors are in new urban ism that has kind of a reference point at the end.
Justin Hollander (17m 52s):
Right? Right. Well, I mean, I first learned about them prince of quarters and Kevin Lynch, his work, you know, and image have a city. He talks about the important of corridors and edges. But if you go back to the end of the 19th century, scientists had already identified this as a scientific concept called Cigna taxes. And that’s actually a Greek word means to touch. So this need for wall hugging was something that scientists have seen in other species. They’ve seen it in dozens of species. And only about 15 years ago was the first research that showed empirically that humans just like basically, or any other preacher in animal kingdom also are thinking a tactic.
Justin Hollander (18m 37s):
And that we look for these edges and we have this wall hugging behavior. No, no, no. There’s different theories about Y but the fact is this is something that through billions of years of evolution, there’s been an advantage. So over the period of evolution, this is a trait that’s been conserved. And so we as humans have the same trade is it’s worked, we’re still here. And, and so there’s, there is some sort of advantage in, you know, likely about, you know, protecting us from predators. I mean, I, I think you, you might want a gas butt, but that’s the idea of,
Jeff Wood (19m 12s):
I wonder if that’s why I like forests is better than beaches. Beaches seem to be wide open
Justin Hollander (19m 18s):
Spaces, a versus
Jeff Wood (19m 19s):
Forests. I feel connected to the trees. Maybe that’s it, but a lot of people like beaches too. So I don’t know if that explains much when you’re doing this research and you’re using the software that follows people’s eyes on an image. Is there something counterintuitive that you found out about their reactions or what they’re seeing from the data that you get back?
Justin Hollander (19m 37s):
Well, you know, we just did a study pretty recently is the thing that was really most shocking was that, and then we did some Boston and there’s two parts of the Backbay neighborhood. Newbury street is a kind of a, for a famous St. And we wanted to see kind of, how did people respond differently, Newberry street versus a beacon street, which is not quite so a pedestrian oriented, a lot more of those kinds of newer taller glass buildings. And what was really shocking was that it was the cars that people notice the most, both parked cars and the driving cars. And so, I mean, I feel like as a planner, I mean, of course we were all, you know, planters, no of cars are awful and they’re evil, right.
Justin Hollander (20m 20s):
It’s a well-known fact, but we must’ve been from a family. We must find a way to accommodate them, but to see the biometrics, showing it in such bold phase, that is it. That was really the most surprising thing that we’ve seen.
Jeff Wood (20m 34s):
Yeah, no, that’s really interesting. We’re hopefully you’re going to have Megan Ryerson on from university of Pennsylvania to come on a show to talk about safety and intersections. Cause they just released her research on this, using it, some similar technologies that followed people’s neuro stress, or have you seen other ways outside of, of design that this research can be impactful on the built environment or even transportation generally?
Justin Hollander (20m 53s):
Yeah. Well, I edited this book and we had a chapter where they were using a tracker on bicyclists. And so this was a study where they were able to show how eye trackers can be powerful way to understand when a bicyclist approaches the intersection, you know, what do they see? And so, you know, there’s so much support for Sheros and segregated bike lanes, but this kind of study, you know, shows that, I mean, it’s just so dangerous because a bicyclist on a, a, a subliminal level as they’re approaching an intersection, I mean, it’s just total chaos. So having that dedicated lane, and it’s just a, it’s just a really critical,
Jeff Wood (21m 36s):
There are certain streets that are great, that aren’t necessarily kind of new urban there. They have good fenestration or maybe they have a ground floor retail that has a lot of books and things in the windows. How do those work from our brain’s perspective, have you looked at the difference between kind of a traditional architecture versus a more urban architecture? That’s still somewhat pleasing to people?
Justin Hollander (21m 56s):
Yeah. I mean, I haven’t really done a study that gets at that exact question. No, I think it’s a, a really interesting one. No, there’s like this kinda, really powerful idea about the permeability in, you know, an urban setting. So as you’re walking on that sidewalk, to what extent do you feel like connected to what’s behind the wall, right. Are you talking about, or did you see books? That is what you mean? Like the books are like behind and the window in a window, or
Jeff Wood (22m 24s):
Like, just like, if you’re going to go down a retail street, there’s just stuff in the windows. Right. I guess we get to, it’s the stuff that takes your eye rather than the window itself. Yeah.
Justin Hollander (22m 32s):
And I, I think that you’re right, that the most important thing is that we are stimulated visually and that, that we need that stimulation as we kind of are walking on the street. So, you know, if the choices are between urban scene where it’s the videos with the books behind it versus more of a kind of traditional urban scene, maybe, which is brick or some other kind of decorated walls in and beautiful fenestration, there will be differences in a question, but the big thing is you don’t want to just be a blank wall, or if it’s going to be a class, you don’t want it to be opaque in any kind of way like tinted. So I think that that’s what we need. We need that stimulation, a visual stimulation and complexity.
Justin Hollander (23m 16s):
And that’s something that I’ve definitely seen in my research.
Jeff Wood (23m 20s):
Another thing I wanted to get your reaction to was there was a huge, a research study released in the last few days that was covered a little bit in media saying that 60% of Americans would rather live in a big house far away from commercial areas. Of course, the question was binary and small houses in walkable areas where the other side of the question, which is kind of silly, but in my head. But if we look at it as a preference and take it at face value from the survey, why would people choose that specific choice if urban places make us happier? I’m curious if you saw this or if this is something that you all have thought, well,
Justin Hollander (23m 51s):
Yeah, I mean, I’ve definitely thought about this question and I teach a class at Tufts on real estate development. And you know, what, what I think that you’re kind of getting at is that there’s a difference between how we respond to places, subliminally verses how we might answer a survey and the kind of questions that are asked and a survey are not engaging us at that kind of emotional subliminal, unconscious way of, you know, they’re engaging our, our intellect. And the fact is that there’s a lot going on or in our intellectual, you, you know, we’re, we’re always thinking about all kinds of different things.
Justin Hollander (24m 32s):
And sometimes there is a social desirability bias. It’d be a built in there. Sometimes it’s about trying to respond to some sort of like a political agenda. We’re trying to figure out what will, what is a survey author of a lot? So I think though the other piece of it is, is the real estate development side, which is that, you know, they’re is definitely a legitimate demand for a large homes far from everyone else. Very kind of a private. And so from our real estate development perspective, there’s no question that that’s a lot of what the, of the building that’s been going on in the last 10 or 20 years in the United States. So there’s demand for that. And people are buying that and the reason they’re buying it is because it’s easier for the developers to build then that kind of more urban infill type of development, right?
Justin Hollander (25m 20s):
So that’s, what’s being made available, but I think if you wanted to pew did a better job, it would essentially sort of an image. And the two images would be one would be in an urban setting, close to other uses, and it would be exactly the same building, but more remote. And I think what you would see if those two images presented, I think the people were more likely to click on the more urban setting. If it’s more responding to the kind of a subliminal kind of what will be most preferable to them, what they would like more, but that’s not how they’re asking the question. So I, I think what’s going on, is that what the market is producing? Is that more kind of remote product?
Jeff Wood (26m 2s):
Yeah. San and it’s interesting, you, you mentioned that political part too, because a lot of the responses to the survey was that, you know, we’ve made walking political and I can understand that there’s a, there was a whole, you know, a, a thread of thinking about politics and cities and, and how we’ve built freeways and how the, you know, there’s a bifurcation of urban versus rural areas in political thought. And, you know, I, I, even in my, in my newsletter, I even had a little piece about this. And even on the podcast last week, even at a piece about this, how, you know, we’re not different in the United States from European areas because the rural and the urban areas seem to be kind of bifurcating from each other, separating from each other. Whereas the big cities in like London, Paris, and maybe Milan, or, or, or more like New York city and San Francisco in larger cities than they are, maybe there are a rural areas in a rural areas, a more like each other than the countries themselves.
Jeff Wood (26m 49s):
And so it’s starting to kind of split this apart, but that’s a really interesting point about the politics of answering surveys. Even if you gave people, you know, a transect of sorts of this urban design and show them pictures, I think like kind of the pictures that you’re showing people with the eye following software, but you might get a different response. And so I kind of a, you know, through the, the survey out a half-way thinking about it, because I was like, well, this is a binary question and it’s silly, but at the same time, and it continues to kind of a backfill, this tribalism, this idea of, of suburban versus urban, whereas there’s a continuum as you know, and I think there’s a, listener’s no, for sure there is a continuum, but it’s interesting to see a place like pew go this way and have this type of a survey where there is a binary question, and it’s not a more nuanced, which I think a lot of times we’re missing the nuance in our discussion.
Justin Hollander (27m 37s):
Yeah. Yeah. Th there’s this idea of, of a and survey design, forced category biased, you know, you are forcing someone to do. I mean, we might not really no the difference and it, I mean, if it was me, I would want to know, well, is there a central air conditioning? Is there a place to park? I mean, like what’s, what’s in the neighborhoods schools, I mean, right. I mean, it’s so many questions, how far from more rural ones cause sort of work. I mean, isn’t that matter? So I think M you’re just gonna choose, and then they’re trying to like, you know, try and draw some conclusions from those results. I’m not sure I’m not sure the results or their another piece
Jeff Wood (28m 15s):
That I saw recently that I thought was interesting was there is a Jacoby peace, which is a very, a socialist publication. They were saying that capitalism is making us lonely, which I think is kind of an interesting thought process. If you wanna kind of take it to its conclusion in some ways, this seems to be a truth for urban design, even the highest and best use of an allotment of zoning gives us boxes on parcels. So perhaps capitalism is making us lonely and not just from people working so much and that they don’t have time for friendships necessarily, but also because of this visual blight and I’m connecting this kind of to what your research is showing and how people feel when they come in to thinking about these boxes. And then how does zoning create these boxes that happen instead of the good neighborhoods and the good design that maybe makes us feel happier?
Justin Hollander (28m 57s):
Well, I mean, Jeff is, I think it’s a great question, but I mean, we have to like answer this question in light of what’s going on with zoning in this country. I mean, California legislature just passed this new bill, I guess the governor hasn’t signed it yet and it hasn’t gone to a conference, but I mean, they’re talking about getting rid of single family zoning minimum of four units per lot. I mean, I think that if you won’t be a lonely if or units a lot in the theater, California, but it’s not just, they’re a, I think it was Washington state. And where else did I, I read, I mean, th th in Connecticut, they just passed state legislation in many cities, Oregon, Minneapolis, Minneapolis, right.
Justin Hollander (29m 42s):
So I think is one is changing. And I think that we’re gonna start to see an uptake of this. And I think it’s going to kind of really provide a different type of answer to your question of what is it all is said and done. And its zoning is not gonna be the problem. It’s, you know, we’re going to be able to start to build more dense communities and people are going to be closer to each other and not as a lonely, that’s interesting
Jeff Wood (30m 5s):
Though, because I think even though we might get more units out of a parcel, you will still maybe see these boxes on parcels because people are trying to maximize the amount of space that they can get out of a unit. And maybe it’s designed more of like the boxes rather than like an older building that had some, some character, I don’t know, I’m genuinely curious about how it ends up, but it’s just something that came across my mind.
Justin Hollander (30m 27s):
Yeah, no, it’s, it’s, it’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds. And I was following very closely what is going on in Connecticut and you know, so much about it was framed by the black lives matter movement and this, you know, a racial reckoning, but I think it will be interesting to see what actually happens and the impacts of fundamentally eliminating single family detached home zoning in the United States is going to be transformational. I dunno if you know, a, the work of a sudden you hurt or do you know her? No, I haven’t heard that name. So she is, She’s M Dean of the college of environmental design, a university of Georgia, but that’s not why she was famous.
Justin Hollander (31m 10s):
She’s famous. ’cause well, she’s read a bunch of books, but this one that I’m particularly a big fan of is called zoned in the USA. And it lays out in, you know, a real clarity how this single family detached home zoning ordinance that has essentially covered it covered or something like 98% of the land area, United States, the zoning, how it has, has resulted in the development patterns that we’re so accustomed to and that we do. So you, and I think so critique, and then she does a nice job and comparing it to other other countries, but here we are potentially the end, the end of the zone.
Justin Hollander (31m 53s):
And what is that going to mean for this country and settlement patterns? Yeah.
Jeff Wood (31m 58s):
It’s something to be watched in and here in California, we’re watching very closely watching very closely. Some of your other research focuses on, on urban growth or decline change, or what’s your initial reaction to the census release?
Justin Hollander (32m 11s):
Well, yeah, I mean, I’ve just started to kind of look through some of the data, you know, what’s interesting is you are, you’re definitely seeing some substantial growth in cities and you’re S you’re seeing the continuation of some of the trends that we’ve seen. I wrote this book, sunburned cities. So I spent a lot of time looking at it, no United States Sunbelts during the great recession. And there was like a, a big dip in a population, but it’s, it’s really gone up a lot since then. And, but yeah, I mean, I think there’s so much politics in a census and that’s unfortunate, I believe because it really from a demographer is perspective. If it is kind of hard to, to really know how valid and reliable the census data are when compared across a, the S M L centers.
Justin Hollander (32m 58s):
So certainly, I mean, I trust that the data that we’re looking at today and we will, that will be revealed in the coming months is valid, reliable, maybe not so much for comparison purposes in a given the kind of changes in methodology and question wording, no that we’re using this particular a census.
Jeff Wood (33m 17s):
It’s really frustrating because to me anyways, because my undergrad is in geography. And so I did a lot, a GIS data analysis early on in my career. And, you know, when I learned how to do GIS, the thing that was super exciting was that the census had just come out of the 2000 census and they had all these new tools to make maps with and to pull it into tables and do all kinds of fun stuff that wasn’t around in 1990. And then the 2010 census came out and you could compare the two and that you could do all this really cool stuff. Right. And it’s frustrating to see that maybe this year’s will be a little weird for a number of different reasons, whether it’s collection or the pandemic, or the privacy things that the census has tried to do to hide some populations, or to make sure that people feel like their privacy is being a respected.
Jeff Wood (33m 57s):
It’s just, it’s an interesting thing for somebody who’s spent a lot of time on the American community survey and a census website or pulling data, or, you know, a frustrating to see what or what might be and what might not be coming
Justin Hollander (34m 9s):
Out of it. Yeah. And Jeff, I really, I personally think it’s really important to be able to monitor these trends. I mean, its just for a community kind of know like we are, has been where it’s likely to go. And so you really need that, that time series data, you need to have those points 80 or 92,000 9, 10 20 20, or you really need that. And that’s, that’s frustrating for me not knowing how much confidence we can re we have, but I think other people we’ll study this a question or close to it. I think we all have a better idea. And, and like you, you mentioned a pandemic that was another, you know, really critical factor, but we don’t really know right now how much of a data is impacted. I think we will.
Justin Hollander (34m 49s):
I get a sense.
Jeff Wood (34m 51s):
I’m curious too, from your perspective, another interesting thing that pops up is climate migration and thinking about how people are moving from places like the Midwest to Sunbelt cities, which you, like you said, you wrote a book about now or are they going to move back because of climate change because of a drought ’cause of forest fires here in California, et cetera. It’s interesting. Is there going to be a mass migration backwards back to the great lakes because there’s water there or the Western to the Eastern half of the country? I don’t know. I’m I’m curious what your thoughts are on that too. Well,
Justin Hollander (35m 21s):
I, I mean, I know the great lakes would love it if they’re rooting for climate change, that’s why they’re building all those cars. But no, I’m just kidding. Seriously. No, I think that when you look at the climactic conditions at the time of the settling of the Sunbelt, they were so much worse than today, a sense that they had a such a hard time even accessing basic like air conditioning and steady supply of fresh water and electricity. So when you think about some of the challenges that we see today, a a, like you mentioned, or whether it’s a forest fires or a drought, certainly those could impact decision making around a location.
Justin Hollander (36m 8s):
But let’s just, I’m just saying, let’s not forget that these are places that, I mean, Arizona, basically the whole state is, has been a desert for Lee is a few hundred years, maybe more so it’s always been a exceptionally undesirable, a place to go, you know, climatically speaking. But you know, in that desert, there has been the economic investments that have generated employment opportunities and in retirement opportunities, cost or very low, especially compared to California. Yeah. So I’m not so sure that you’re going to see such a drastic change in response to climate. But anyway, that’s my prediction.
Justin Hollander (36m 49s):
Yeah, no, I, I
Jeff Wood (36m 50s):
Was interested. I, I was interested in which you had to say,
Justin Hollander (36m 53s):
I go ahead, I’ll tell you about this a really cool project I’m working on. So in addition to we teach a room planning is at Tufts university where I, I am, we also have a, a, a very well known law and diplomacy school or the Fletcher. And so I’ve hooked up a, some scholars there and, and we’re working in central Africa with a unit out of the woods hole oceanographic Institute, it’s called the center. And we’re collecting data from local partners on hydrology and heat, stress drought, and then a, the woodwind people are climate modelers.
Justin Hollander (37m 35s):
So they’re going to develop some basic GIS maps that are going to like predict the future of what’s expected there. And then my team working on Fletcher, we’re going to kind of help somebody is African cities to develop some strategies to prepare and address changes that are anticipated. So then we said, it’s really exciting. I hadn’t done anything in Africa four. So we wanted to share that. Oh,
Jeff Wood (37m 58s):
That’s really cool. That’s really cool. Well, Justin, how can folks find your books or, or your podcast or where can we find you online if you wish to be found? Yeah. So
Justin Hollander (38m 8s):
I’m happy. You can just Google me and Justin Hollander at Tufts. You can definitely go to my website. I have a website on universities page. I also have a sub stat. Doesn’t everybody have a sub stack? Isn’t that?
Jeff Wood (38m 21s):
Or maybe I, I I’ve had a newsletter since 2006. And I guess maybe you should I migrate? I don’t know. I got the MailChimp. Maybe that’s a different thing than
Justin Hollander (38m 29s):
No, it’s not. It’s the same thing.
Jeff Wood (38m 35s):
Awesome. Well Justin Hollander, thank you so much for joining us. We really, really appreciate your time.
It’s a pleasure.