Economic expert Werner Vontobel classifies relevant economic topics.
The traffic jams are getting longer, the air is getting thicker. Therefore, expanding public transport only makes things worse. The better recipe is: Condense, skim off, stroll.
The municipal administration, schools, Migros, the baker, the family doctor, the café, the hairdresser, the plumber, the retirement home, etc. – the vast majority of jobs serve local or regional needs. So why are commutes getting longer and longer? Why does the average Swiss travel around 15,000 kilometers a year by car and public transport? Why are we spending twice as many hours stuck in traffic today as we did in 2010? Why do we take it for granted that traffic will continue to increase?
The 10 Minute Neighborhood
Sibylle Wälty (45), spatial development researcher at the ETH, knows: because we are constantly investing in mobility. And because it is financially and fiscally more attractive for cities to attract jobs and leave the construction of housing, schools and kindergartens to the suburban communities.
It’s no wonder that the distances for work, consumption and leisure are becoming longer and longer. So that the traffic jams don’t rob us of even more time and so that the car doesn’t take up even more traffic space, and in order to at least defuse the ecological problems, public transport is being expanded and the petrol engine is to be replaced by electric drives.
But why don’t we just bring work, living and shopping closer together instead? Sibylle Wälty has already developed a formula for this – the 10-minute neighborhood. At least 10,000 residents and 5,000 jobs within a radius of 500 meters with good public transport connections. This is not just a theory, but based on experience.
If people can walk to everything they need in 10 minutes, then they will. And then it is worth opening a pharmacy, a bar, a hairdressing salon, even a bookshop there. And then it pays off to have a good range of public facilities such as schools, libraries or parks.
Up to 50 percent less traffic
Surveys show that residents of such 10-minute neighborhoods drive only 15 percent of their journeys, compared to around 50 percent in cottager-like suburban communities and rural areas. This also applies to commuting, because the denser the development, the greater the opportunity and incentive to find a job within walking or cycling distance.
According to a happiness research study, every minute less travel to work per day brings almost as much increase in happiness as one percent more wages. You can also save a lot of money on transport costs.
Provided that spatial planning consistently focuses on densification of the centers from 2023, according to Wälty’s estimates, by 2050 a third of the Swiss population will live within a 10-minute neighborhood. This in turn can halve the volume of traffic caused by cars. That also means: less traffic noise, more play area for children, more encounters, more neighborhood, better quality of life.
distribute benefits fairly
Beautiful prospects, but they will only become reality if the baker, the bookseller and all the other service providers can also afford an apartment in their neighborhood. In other words: the added value created by the general public through investments in the neighborhood (public transport, schools, police, playgrounds, higher utilization rate) must be fairly distributed.
To this end, the state can either skim off the increased market value from the landowners, or it can oblige the landlords to adjust their rents to the purchasing power of the residents: “You are part of a neighborhood, so kindly behave like neighbors.”