Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
Efficient and Nice
Settlement Dispersion and Urban Economies
Massimo Battaglia and Marco Frey
In economic terms, urban areas are characterized by the presence of exter-
nalities, as the result of the higher productivity that agents could achieve by
being close to other producers or other market agents (so-called “agglom-
eration economies,” in the form of urbanization economies ). In this sense,
cities are the most economically efficient way for a spatial distribution of
relationships among individuals. The basis for this higher efficiency is the
existence of these “agglomeration economies,” whose advantage has stim-
ulated the phenomenon of urbanization in the last two decades of the 21st
century. Agglomeration economies have been considered the key factor in
offering higher incomes to the city households [1]. However, once a certain
size is reached, agglomeration economies can degenerate into “agglomer-
ation diseconomies,” characterized by a progressive reduction of the advan-
tages and positive effects of agglomeration [2]. In this perspective, in
recent years, the attention has focused on urban sprawl and congestion phe-
nomena, as manifestations of diseconomies at the urban level [3]. Capello
and Camagni (2000) highlighted how literature identified the determinants
of urban location rather than urban size or level of settlement dispersion,
such as the type of economic function developed by the urban center, its
spatial organization, and the efficiency of its internal structure. Moreover,
recent studies have increasingly emphasized the role of other qualitative
determinants , such as climatic variables, aesthetic elements, the presence
of public goods and innovative services, effective local government poli-
cies, and social interactions [4-6].
This brief framework shows how, in addition to the economic factors
that are important in explaining urban growth, a good quality of life (as a
mix of good social relationships, environmental quality, attractive land-
scapes, excellence in government, innovative services, availability of pub-
lic goods, and so on) represents a relevant factor for sustainable urban
growth . These advantages constitute the “urban amenity,” i.e., the desir-
able package of goods that can be demanded by the “consumers” at the
urban level. According to the “urban planner” perspective, cities are the
center of business, political life, commerce, and services: from this point of
view, the analysis of the conditions, which contributes to the outline of
urban amenity, is very important. Today this analysis can be developed into
two different perspectives: (1) a perspective of applied research, based on
specific urban contexts characterized by relevant growth; and (2) an oper-
ative-experimental perspective, oriented to design planning and local gov-
ernance tools, whose aim is promoting the most effective and qualitative
mix of “goods and services”.
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