People are talking alot about Amazon today. If Wikipedia is to be believed, at least 118 cities in both Canada and the United States have expressed an interest in being the place where Amazon ends up putting its headquarters. The company’s search, and more specifically their search criterion, has broader implications for what the next wave of business growth will require from our cities.
According to Citylab, the Amazon search is creating a “transit reckoning” for our cities. This is because Amazon has mentioned access to “rail, train, subway and bus routes” as among a few key site selection criterion. For many cities with limited mass transit options, this one requirement really puts a damper on their bid to bring Amazon to town. Atlanta, for example, seems to check all the boxes except for the unified transit system. When Atlanta officials took a look at the criterion, there was an call among many stakeholders for “real” solutions to the traffic congestion that plagues the City. Yet those solutions, as we all know, can only involve alternatives to the automobile. More cars and more roads won’t help congestion, only transit of the “mass” kind can do that. Furthermore, mass transit without masses don’t work – so density will be required. Cities looking to attract the businesses of the future would do well to heed this clarion call. Density and mass transit don’t occur by happenstance. We need a few things to make this happen, including:
- zoning codes that allow for higher densities as-of-right
- sufficient SF for the growth of commercial and/or industrial uses
- meaningful funding for alternative modes of transit that get residents to and from their jobs easily and efficiently
- investments walkable pedestrian environments and quality open space