London (GLA) Boroughs
Commuting Distance and
Geographical Size

Commentary: Jobs Housing Balance and Urban Villages in London

  Borough Diameter if a Circle (KM) Average Work Trip Distance (KM) Work Trip/Diameter Ratio
Newham 6.9 10.45 1.52
Camden 5.3 8.10 1.54
Southwark 6.2 8.09 1.31
Lambeth 5.9 8.92 1.50
Hackney 4.9 8.34 1.69
City of London 2.0 6.43 3.21
Hammersmith and Fulham 4.7 8.58 1.84
Haringey 6.1 9.75 1.59
Wandsworth 6.8 9.74 1.44
Lewisham 6.7 10.19 1.52
Kensington and Chelsea 4.0 8.45 2.13
Westminster 5.3 7.41 1.40
Islington 4.3 7.51 1.73
Inner London Average 5.3 8.6 1.72
Waltham Forest 6.8 10.15 1.50
Redbridge 7.4 11.98 1.61
Hounslow 8.5 9.92 1.17
Ealing 8.4 10.86 1.29
Sutton 7.0 10.43 1.50
Enfield 8.2 10.81 1.32
Havering 8.3 13.72 1.65
Hillingdon 10.3 11.15 1.08
Greenwich 7.8 11.44 1.46
Croydon 9.8 11.08 1.13
Harrow 7.2 11.82 1.64
Kingston upon Thames 6.3 11.46 1.81
Brent 7.4 9.52 1.28
Barking and Dagenham 6.4 11.47 1.78
Barnet 9.2 10.88 1.18
Bexley 7.7 12.84 1.68
Bromley 9.7 12.45 1.28
Merton 6.9 10.70 1.55
Richmond upon Thames 8.6 12.12 1.41
Outer London Average 8.0 11.31 1.44
Greater London Authority Average 6.9 10.2 1.55
Data from 2001 Census      


London (the area of the Greater London Authority) itself has been cited as an example for a jobs-housing balance urbanism ("urban village"). Here, there are a multiplicity of community high streets that can give the impression that GLA is a collection of urban villages. And, while an argument may be made in favor of a shopping-jobs balance, the data suggests the opposite with respect to jobs. These urban villages are far from self contained. The average work trip distance in 2001 in the London boroughs was approximately 10 kilometers. In the GLA boroughs, the average work trip was 1.6 times the borough diameter (The actual neighborhood or urban village diameters would be smaller).

There are fundamental difficulties with the concept of establishing self-contained urban villages in urban areas. The planning desire to minimize work to job commuting differences is not shared by the majority of households. There may be more than one worker in the household, which makes commute distance minimization more difficult. It is simply not feasible to provide for a sufficient array of jobs that meet the needs of neighborhood residents and employers. At any point, a worker who lives nearby may accept a more remote job for better pay or conditions and choose not to move closer to the new job.

The most fundamental difficulty with urban villages and the jobs-housing balance is that the very reason that urban areas became large was because they developed as large labor markets in which people could work in the local neighborhood or many kilometers away. To transform the urban area into a series of urban villages would undermine the very purpose of the modern urban area. In fact there is a jobs-housing balance and it is at the labor market level - the urban area level. The fences that urban planners would like to build have been and will continue to be ignored by people who tend to do what they want more than what the planners want.

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