Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Socialism Diegesis 1.01

On the road of life, socialism is the rumble strip in the breakdown lane. As we roll along we get visual, audible and then tactile warnings that a crash is imminent, we have drifted too far to the left.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Civic Design Fallacy

"Where civic design succeeds, it is usually because it is sponsored by a civic organisation that operates as watch-dog, implementer, funder, maintainer, and supporter of the project because this group has convinced the city that its project is in the interest of the whole community." Denise Scott-Brown

This comment is so completely contrary to the laws of man and nature as to not even rise to the level of being wrong. The cenurbs across western civilzation are strewn with rotting civic corpses, victims of those kinds of planner experiments. The successes of top down municipal planning are rare and IMO almost entirely accidentally sustainable. The general rule is that a built environment lacking flexibility ends up fighting the last war.

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown are "artitects" not "architechs" nor "architects." That's not an insult (in this context at least) but an observation.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Planning Analogy

Planning is to science what astrology is to astronomy.

Affordable Homes? Yes!

One of the big lies about home ownership. Homeownership last month reached an all time high BTW and is increasing faster for minorities than the general population. The "lie" is here is that it isn't about who can -still- afford their home, it's about who can afford their home when they buy. That number is near 100%.

The Planner's Creed

"Those of us who have failed to learn from the past are
determined to make YOU repeat it."

A Threat to Exurbia

Everyone -can- live in a pleasant exurban community. We just cannot all live in the same community. We know what happens when we allow infill at the city level; San Fernando Valley. We'd have none of the problems if the "cities" in the SFV had remained discreet. When they all grew together into a vast continuous urbanscape the inevitable congestion and inability to provide new, adequate infrastructure became obvious.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Collective Iceboxes

My grandfather was "The Ice Man." He was the guy that sawed frozen blocks from the lake in winter and stored them in the icehouse for summer delivery. In his honor I present the following:

Refrigerators are the most energy consumptive home appliances. They throw out of gobs of heat particularly at the times of highest demand contributing to heat islands where there are too many refrigerators in close proximity. It's time to stop this wasteful practice of PORs. It is time to promote public refrigerators. Large community freezers capable of handling hundreds even thousands of households' daily cooling needs thus taking an equal number of wasteful PORs off the "grid." Additionally, because the poor tend to own the oldest, least efficient PORs, the community benefits by also subsidizing their participation. Sure the inconvenience will meet with resistance so we'll have to make the switch by introducing a few minor public policy inducements. We'll allow dwelling units to be built with kitchens too small for an adequate fridge. We'll use public money to build the collective coolers so that people will be freed from the burden of high purchase prices for owning one's own "reefer." We may even need to subsidize operations in order to meet participation goals.

Okay, by now everyone is probably thinking, "this is insane" and you'd be right but reread the above paragraph and tell me how it differs from how we approach transit in the US. Every comment above is straight out of every transit advocacy talking points manual I've ever heard.

Induced Demand

Ahhh, "induced demand." Another perennial favorite of the transport willfully discordant. My take on the entire subject;

IIRC the range of non-consensus was from 3% to 10% of measured VMT on new capacity could be called "induced" but that this number went lower when it was realised that the predictions weren't good enough to account for 3%-5% accuracy in the model. Calling the component that came from unknown or modelling errors "induced" is not any more accurate than calling it anything else. Subtracting out the 3-5% unknown that frequently gets added on to "induced traffic" generation takes that 3-10% number lower. How much lower? Who knows, that is exactly the point.

"Induced traffic" isn't as important as many posters seem to believe; not because they don't see more traffic but because they can't identify which traffic is induced anymore than someone could predict fluid flow by looking at a single molecule of water. Modeling or measurement don't work that way, they breakdown when the phenomena being observed approaches the error level of the measurement.

Induced demand is not vehicle trips that realign to reduce congestion on surface streets, induced demand is what is left over after all the known sources of traffic are counted. Generally a few percent and not coincidentally about the margin of error for such studies. You've fallen for the transit advocacy lie based upon the discredited work of Hanson, Huang and others. The study most commonly used is the infamous, "Mark Hansen and Yuanlin Huang, "Road Supply and Traffic in California Urban Areas," Transportation Research A, Vol. 31, No. 3, 1997, pp. 205-218:

Every 1% increase in new lane-miles generated a 0.9% increase in traffic
in less than five years, which led Hansen and Huang to conclude that
"With so much induced demand, adding road capacity does little to reduce

Was this after controlling for secular growth, population growth and latent demand, or is the total growth? It's even less controlled than that. Let's look at the 3 largest regions of California (1996):

population Lane Miles DVMT
per 1000 per
persons person

Los Angeles 12.2 mill 2.1 21.6
San Franscisco/Oakland 3.9 mill 2.3 20.8
San Diego 2.6 mill 2.3 21.7

Ave of regions >500k pop 123.6 mill 3.3 21.4

See the problem? California urban areas have 50% fewer lane miles per person than the AVERAGE urban area. Can you say latent demand? Notice also that there is little difference in DVMT. Not as car crazy as most think eh?

A 1% increase of road capacity in any of these areas will be overwhelmed by a 5 year 15% increase in population and 20% increase in driving population and commensurate increase in the physical size of the urban areas and ...

There is so much latent demand in California's urban areas that any measure of induced demand is impossible. Indeed, Hansen and Huang finding only 90% after 5 years can easily be interpreted as evidence that increasing road capacity has a negative impact on induced demand!

When freeways get congested, trips go back to other arterials and neighborhood streets. When freeway capacity is expanded, much comes back. The result is a marked improvement in safety and speed. People forget that in an environment of existing latent demand limited access interstate class freeways are capable of the most capacity and that this impacts positively every component of a roads network. This means that sometimes the way to fix neighborhood congestion is to build a freeway someplace else.

Most likely you were exposed to the poisonous opinions of the Surface Transportation Policy Project. The STPP is an overtly agenda based organization engaged in a desperate search of supporting data and relentless media campaign. When the well regarded (but flawed) Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) failed to produce the answers they needed to promote their anti-highway agenda the STPP recalculated the TTI numbers. The most famous case being the TTI congestion index.

The STPP misuses the TTI data. The TTI calculated "congestion" measures are actually more properly called roadway utilization ratios. STPP knows this but it isn't in their interests to acknowledge the formula. This ranks places like LA with a very high road utilization because of density and regionalism as being very TTI Congested when in fact, LA's commute times are typical.

As mentioned above, the TTI is not perfect. When all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail. TTI is the only organization out there trying to quantify "congestion." So regardless of the quality of the baseline and cross regional comparisons; it is the only game in town.

An example of where the formula breaks down. A repeat of the snowstorm of '78 would today account for anywhere from a 6% to 20% reduction in Boston's congestion index.

The TTI -data- are fine. It's the -calculations- they perform that are highly suspect. For one, a place with bad weather is by that factor alone less "congested." Now maybe you think having only one lane open pushing 800 cars per hour in a Metro Boston snow emergency is uncongested like the TTI formula implies but I think the experience would prove otherwise.

They do a good job of bringing together FHWA and Census data in a uniform manner then sadly a few derived calculations, with the goal of a predetermined conclusion, are performed to justify their "solutions." TTIs "solutions" fly in the face of their own data because of this. Once you read and understand that their "congestion index" is a calculation and not a measurement then you can break out the actual data and perform more honest evaluations.

With respect to the myth of induced demand, you would have been better served with a more accurate assessment at:

Other references not necessarily still available included:


Without an acquaintance with the fundamental concepts and methodological issues associated with a full-cost framework, planners and policymakers will be unable to take the first steps towards a more comprehensive evaluation of alternative urban forms, and the policies and investments that cause them to occur. Some of the main concepts and issues explored in this report include the following:

- Costs are real economic resources used by a policy or project.
- Benefits are negative costs; costs are negative benefits.
- Benefits and costs must be defined in a way that is both comprehensive and mutually exclusive.
- Measuring all benefits and costs means considering some that do not have obvious market prices.
- A full-cost accounting framework must look at all impacts, both benefits and costs, that result from a defined change in the state of the world (in the case of this study, either a change in urban form or, more correctly, from a change in policy that attempts to change urban form).
- A full-cost accounting framework must consider all the people affected by the change. Many people may feel the change not just as residential consumers, but also in their capacities as employees of businesses and government.


"For policy makers faced with the controversial issue of induced travel, the critical issue is not whether highway capacity additions result in induced travel, but whether net societal benefits, after accounting for the external costs of induced travel, will exceed the public costs and social costs to be incurred in implementing the capacity addition"

The authors of this paper from the Federal Highway Administration web site clearly believe that induced traffic exists and the only question is to what degree. They argue it is minimal - but gets worse the more congestion exists. Several other studies using different assumption arrive at very different conclusions.

A personal favorite also from: http://www.bts.gov/ntl/DOCS/EAT.html

"A frequent statement advanced by transportation professionals
is that highway improvements, by inducing travel, create more
congestion they eliminate. Although few data exist to
support this statement, it has gained legitimacy by sheer

(A statement from 25 years ago. Still valid today.)

Induced demand is a real thing inasmuch there is a measurable increase within a transportation corridor associated with an increase in transportation capacity. Almost all of this is the existing unmet demand that justifies the expansion. Almost all of the rest is general growth preferentially going where there is capacity. The little bit left over is the part that truly is induced demand. 5% is fine and not worth refining further.

By now the myths of induced demand, global climate change, auto sprawl, conspiracies, transit benefits, subsidies should be part of everyone's worldview or at the very least all should be wary of parroting the latest Newsweek headline.

The future does not lie in "collective" anything. Balkanization and increasing fractionation are the rule.

There's only a very few controlling principles. One is transport choice. It affects several others, desire to be useful (work) and desire to live in a pleasant place and a desire to be as free as practical. There's a list for those issues as well.

Build Your Way Out of Congestion?

We've all seen it:

-- "Building more freeways to cure
-- traffic problems is like loosening
-- your belt to cure obesity."

Here's the truth:

Paul Billings of the American Lung Association, "Building more roads to solve an air pollution problem is like buying a larger pair of pants to solve an obesity problem."

Failing to build and maintain roads is like refusing to buy your children new clothes in the hopes that they will stop growing.

Obesity is caused by consuming far more than one actually produces. This goes for people and transportation infrastructure. Roads contribute far more in productive output than they consume. Transit is the obese villian in this scenario. .

Maybe the railigous meant this other "expert":

"Widening highways to solve congestion is like lengthening belt to
solve obesity - it feels good for a while - but only initiates bigger
problems" - John Valerio VP ColoRail.

Refusing to buy your children larger shoes will keep them
from growing.

Public transit is a tapeworm. Living off a host, giving nothing in
return and ultimately killing both by over-consumption.

Roads no more foster development than spoons cause obesity.

Trying to reduce congestion by building mass transit is like trying
to solve obesity by averaging your weight with the anorexic next
door on public support living there via Section 8 Housing Vouchers.

Maybe the railheads meant:

"Trying to reduce congestion by widening the highway is like trying to
address obesity by loosening your belt." -- Drew Kodjak, NJPIRG

Another famous "expert."

Look, we've poured 300 billion over the last 4 decades into a transportation mode that continues to lose market share. Why is transit immune to the "you cannot build your way out" syndrome transitistas are so sure applies to roads?

Dysfunction-Junction, Railigous

Railigous - the irrational zeal and denail if FAct seen in fixed guideway advocates


Fresnophobia - the Kalifornia disease known elsewhere as World Class City Syndrome.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Acronym-Du-Jour SMARTmode

SMARTmode - (Standard Municipalities And Regular Transport Modalities)

The rational response to "Smart Growth" stealing the language and exploiting it. Actually it is a response to the specific plannning agenda known as Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Obviouslt the advocates should be refered to a TODlers. Transit oriented development lovers.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt. -Mark twain

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Wurd-O-Day, Nexturbanism

Nexturbanism - the latest code wurd for density.

Watch San Buenaventura, California where three strong advocates of Nexturbanism (NxU) are now in positions of power.

Note; every time the general public begins to catch on to the latest planner fad theory it becomes necessary for the wannabe ruling class to change/hijack the language to obscure their agenda. Thus Liberals became New Democrats became Progressives.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Congestion Suggestion

Man goes to the doctor. Tells the doc, "Doc, every time I drink my morning coffee I get this stabbing pain. I think I have a tumor." Doc says, "Take the spoon out of the cup."

Congestion is like that.


"Education: the path from cocky ignorance to
miserable uncertainty." ---Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Ban the Bus! (and the rail)

If we gave out addictive drugs on the corner of the worst urban neighborhooods we'd be accused of pandering to those least able to make good life choices. BUT when we hand out transit in the same manner, well then we are doing good. Here's my plan with Volvos to end transit addiction.

100,000 Volvo Station Wagons would cost about a billion dollars and deliver the same number of passenger miles as the LAMTA with its' billion dollar budget. Sure road traffic would increase 4% but we'd also take 2300 buses off the road and gain hundreds of miles of new general purpose lanes that are currently bus only.

The lease payment on a 2004 V70 crosscountry retails for $469/mo. x12 x100,000 = $562,800,000 so we have enough to give them $300/mo expenses as well. $300/mo buys 1500 plus miles of operating expenses. Hey, and did I mention? We get to buy another 100,000 more next year! Every year until top of the line nearly new safe fancy station wagons are so common that people won't bother to "own" them they'll just leave them around.

Alright, forget that last sentence, I got carried away. Not really because extremism in freeing the poor from dependency is no vice.

Any bets that instead of top of line 2003 XCs we can get brand new stripped vehicles with fleet discounts for less than $300/mo? More like $200/mo but I don't need a sharp pencil to get every decimal place when a broad brush will do. I'll leave the careful figuring to the accountants.

Anyway those 100k Volvo station wagons driving 14,500 mi/yr with an average of 1.6 passengers will total 2.3 billion passenger miles driven normally. For comparison that's about 50% more passenger miles than the LAMTA delivers. If instead we wish to replicate transit perfomance those 100k vehicles need only drive 26 miles per day to match the LAMTA system.

There are less than 330,000 transit "customers" so about 200k Volvos would cover the entire transit using population. To buy those 200k would take a two years so we'll either have to phase this in or sell off the MTA transit assets and go the liquidation route.

Anyway let's do this right with additions to the fleet of Volvos with some Ford Escorts and mandatory chauffeur service (to keep the MTA employees working if nothing else). This is necessary for the mobility dependent who cannot drive and cannot be the .6 part of the 1.6 average occupancy.

Did I mention?, we are talking about providing transportation to the masses for less TOTAL cost than operating costs ALONE are running now. That's the magnitude of inefficiency and dependency and bueauracracy we are discussing. This plan provides better mobility at less cost and saves additional billions in capital expenditures.

There are problems of course. FI, How much space is taken up autos? (See; Earth First! blog) More in urban areas but less than you might think. According to the FHWA and NPTS, the average auto has dedicated to its' use about 110 lane feet parking and roads. That makes my 100k Volvos liable for 2700 acres of pavement. A patch 2.2 miles on a side spread out over the LAMTA service area. We need those 155 lane miles anyway to meet the
areas' unmet demand and under may Volvos for the Masses plan deleting transit frees up lots of new r-o-w and money to pay for it.

Question: And what about all the people who ride transit because they are unable to drive?

Yes! Needs testing. Very good. Back to my Ford Escorts with Escorts. Needs testing for the small number that aren't covered by the free cars program can easily be handled by demand service even at their high costs. Just because I'm exposing most transit users as ungrateful freeloaders don't mistake that for a lack of compassion for societies most needful.

Oil for Blood

Another "Big Lie." We are pouring American blood on Mid-East sand to prop up suburban sprawl with military protection subsidies.

Of course since it is a secret ("unofficial" but nonetheless real) subsidy anyone who might actually disagree with their scholarly proposition is merely ignorant or uneducated or both. As soon as we actually stop paying world market prices for that double secret subsidized oil you can try again. What? We don't get special prices? We -oh-mi-god- have to pay the same as the Japanese who don't have an exonational military? Hmmmm.

Here's a classic example of what scientists are up against when truth impinges on zealotry. The definition of an externality is something that cannot be costed. Humor and educational value are beyond price. Externalities if you will.

As long as you claim the operative US international energy policy and military deployment rationale and justification is secret and unofficial you can continue to wear your sackcloth conduct self immolation and rant outside the entrance of the Trilateral Commission quarterly meeting and say anything you want. If fact those military forces are there to protect your right to do so. Wow! Imagine that your right (and the Oregonians') to mistaken ideas are subsidized! As a special bonus people like me will continue to defend your right to do so in public. No need to thank me, Indeed, I'd risk protecting even the unworthy in the hopes of their possible redemption.

The US military international presence (usually) helps ensure a stable world where commerce and rights are (generally) protected. A stable world allows things like oil to sell closer to their market driven prices, NOT at a subsidized price. Conversely an unstable international scene causes things like oil to sell for wildly unstable (plus/minus) prices. To that extent, the international US engagement, both political and economic, removes price distortions and allows prices to more accurately track market forces. Pretty much the opposite of the usual anti-POV claims.

Your problem is that you tie the fact of US involvement with the speculative conclusion that it must follow that the engagement is in itself somehow a subsidy.

The basic message of articles like this, it seems to me, is that anti-POV agendaists are misclassifying joint costs as subsidies. This is a common problem in assessing the cost of transport infrastructure.

A classic illustration of this misclassification, using sheep farming as an example, is given in C.D. Foster's 'The Transport Problem'. Confusing subsidies with joint costs is like saying that, depending on what the prices of sheep, wool, and mutton are at any given time, mutton producers are subsidizing wool merchants or vice versa.

IMO its' less sophisticated than that on the part of these theories. To a large extent the "POV/oil military subsidy" path is circular:

"The cost of almost everything is hidden in the price
of almost everything."

Joint costs is much more specific than that. No one calls the Coast Guard a subsidy of the surfboard industry yet the US military is a subsidy of the oil industry.

While we are on the subject, let's look at the taxation of domestic US agriculture that our support of democratic stable foreign governments imposes. If those Chilean lemons were not available on the US market then the Ventura County lemon industry would not be suffering. Is this an anti-subsidy?

The entire US military budget is 340 billion and at 3 trillion miles annually the entire bill via gas taxes is only $2.26 per gallon. That still puts us at less than most EU countries. Even the most anti-POV
critics don't assign more than a quarter of the military budget to protection of oil supplies. Back down to 60 cents per gallon.

Nevertheless this produces a paradox. Supposedly oil is artificially under-priced because of military subsidy yet now the price is not fully accounted for by a combination of public and private spending. Can't have both.

http://www.reason.org/121895.html News Release

"But according to the Reason Foundation study, auto-users are already overpaying. For example, California's auto-users pay approximately $16 billion through auto-related federal, state, and local levies, while only $7 billion to $8 billion is actually expended on roadways and other related auto use infrastructure
Reason Foundation study also examines alleged social externalities. Such social costs include compensating pedestrians for blocking their way and military activities aimed at protecting oil supplies in the Middle East".
"Related studies on the cost of automobiles and transportation reform include Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Reforming California's Roadway System, and Looking Beyond ECO: Alternatives to Employer-Based Trip Reduction.

The problem with that is that energy is not the "end product" it is a consumable used in delivering a good or service that people value. Ifind the claims of massive energy subsidies for externalities to be guesswork. The FAct that those guesses as to subsidy frequently vary by an order of magnitude reinforces my claim.

The Sierra Klub list of subsidies has been firmly rebutted as has the claim of signifigant auto/road/POV subsidies. Understand that there are externalities associated with almost every valuable activity. In the case of transportation we've made tremendous progress in identifying and internalizing those costs where possible.

Good thing we made money on the first Gulf War. But then we do have the Pacific Fleet subsidizing your Hawaiian vacation as well. One but not the other? Without a military presence in the Mid-East would petroleum be 15% as expensive? If so then the several dozens of billions we spend annually are a bargain are they not?

I now lay my "howitzer of certitude."

I'm all for internalizing identified costs. Point one out and I'll be there advocating for cost assignment.

Earth First! (Pave The Other Planets Later)

One of the "Big Lies" thrown up to oppose exurbia is the "Paving of America" myth.

The FActs are these:

Centerline Miles of roads, 3,933,985
Lane miles of roads 8,177,978
(Average road width 2.08 lanes, weird huh?)
Percent paved, 60.5%
Centerline Miles paved, 2,380,061
Lane miles of paved roads 4,947,676

Generously assume an average width of 12'
(remember millions are rural).

Square miles of paved roads in the US, 11,245.
This is a patch 106 miles square. BFD.

As a percentage of the US: 0.32%

94 feet of one lane of paved road for
every person in the nation.

This makes a great rationality test. Ask your local planner or urban militant their guess for the "Paving of America."

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Helenites - proponents of the great Portland urban experiment. Named after Mount St. Helens because they mostly rumble and blow smoke but sometimes explode violently if their worldview is threatened by FActs.

Wurd-O-Day is an occasional explaination of the wurds that colorfully describe this exurban nation.


Transit Math - mathematical innumerancy caused by an agenda driven desire to make numbers conform to preconcieved conclusions.

Historical Note: Transit math was first coined on Mar 14, 1999.

Let-Us-Count-the-Phrase is an occasional explaination of clever terms that infest this exurban nation.

NURB Nation

Lately, Andreas Duany one of the leaders of New Urbanism has stated that New Urbanists should avoid the debate over the shape of future transportation in America. Duany has correctly gauged the future and has determined that roads based accommodation of enhanced personal mobility is inevitable.

Duany is spot on, there is no way that New Urbanists or traditional urbanists can avoid or influence the transportation debate. New Urbanism is a movement of community design shaped by the infrastructure systems their designers impose in their residents. Whether they want to admit it or not, every community in human history has been shaped by transportation but it is only recently that dictats from a central controlling authority (as NURBs envision themselves) has attempted to control the revolution.

The nature of a community is determined by the kind of transportation that its residents rely upon. Traditional villages and urban neighborhoods are shaped by the fact that most of their residents were forced to walk everywhere so most of the shops were within easy walking distance of the homes. Modern American communities are designed with the fact that most of their residents have more choices. 19th and 20th century cities and towns were designed and laid out around various rail lines, usually trolley and commuter rail lines. 20th century cities were designed and laid out around rail lines with their various suburbs as vassals in support of the old configuration. 20th century cities and towns were designed and laid out around roads. An evolution that has inhibited New Urbanism.

The NURB premise agenda is thus revealed:

Communities can be radically altered by the mandate of old transportation systems.

New Urbanists must be involved in transportation decision making to prevent transportation choice.

At the same token, what good will expensive and massive new transit systems like light rail and subways be if they are not mandated in conjunction with traditional neighborhood ghettos?

Transportation, then is vital to New Urbanism for New Urbanism means urban design and transportation is the basis of urban design. Therefore New Urbanists must be mandate on all levels of the transportation debate if they want to have a real impact on the future shape of America‚s communities.


"There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be
destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the
ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the
choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what
ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented
when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt." -Twain

Quote-Of-Note is an occasional chunk of brain candy to sweeten this exurban nation.


SmUG - SMart Urban Growth a more precise definition of what advocates wish were called simply Smart Growth.

See also; SmUGLer, SMart Urban Growth LoVER

Acronym-Du-Jour is an occasional explaination of the funny contractions that sprinkle this exurban nation.

Leapfrogging Kalifornicators

California housing mobility is a thing of the past. Partly due to price appreciation. Partly due to Prop 13 discussed downblog. Parlty due to a "housig gap" not seen since the end of WW-II. The "big shuffle" of the past dozen years is over and people have settled in on spot for the life of their mortgage (exaggeration). These people remember their nice family homes in the suburbs (Reseda, Van Nuys) or out in the country (Northridge, Canoga Park) that were overrun by urbaniztion by the time they had to go to community college because there weren't enough spaces in the Universities. They have learned to not stand in front of a commuter train so they move waaaay out to buy some time for their family. They don't need to go to a job -inside- a conventional city, they only need to get to the edge where the jobs and Walcostdepots are located. Oooops, I guess Walcostdepot needs a Wurd-O-Day bloggation.

Nueva Kalifornia

After the revolution I plan on using SLO as my new Capital of El Centro de
Kalifornia. Stretching from San Vincente Blvd at the base of the Pacific
Palisades to my summer Palace at San Simeon, encompassing the Santa Monica
Mtns., Santa Lucia Range, San Rafael Mtns inland to as far as Taft, my
benevolent dictatorship will rule in peace and prosperity. After the
rotting corpses of any remaining lawyers are dealt with my first act will be
to outlaw public transit. My second act will be to replace all these damn
compound Spanish place names. Henceforth Santa Barbara will be simply known
as "Babs."

Regards from the temporary exile HQ in "Cam,"
El Supremo de Nueva Kalifornia


Cenurb - "olde city" disregarding political machinations.
E.g. Boston/Cambridge is a cenurb. SF/Oakland is not.

Wurd-O-Day is an occasional explaination of the unusal wurds that populate this exurban nation.


OPAC- Obsolete Pre-Automotive City
Full credit to J F Scott (who prefers to be known as John Finley Scott)

Regards OPAC as a useful term. Don't mistake obsolete for useless or dysfunctional. Obsolete just means it isn't how we'd do it now. Unfortunately, the term "obsolete" does carry with it the connotation "no longer useful" in the minds of many--dare I say most?--people. Obsolete works but there's also outmoded. "Obsolete" works precisely because of the negative connotations.

Alternate whimsies:

Ossified; physically and curmudgeonly.
Old; psychically and conceptually.
Obviously pales against contemporaries.
Only patrons are convivial.

Acronym-Du-Jour is an occasional explaination of the acronyms that pervade this exurban nation.

Jumpstarting the Exurban Nation, Prop 13

California and Prop 13 is the stuff of legend and many a Doctoral Thesis.

Starting at the beginning:

1974-1975 property valuations and property mil rates were spiraling out of control relative to municipal services rendered. So what. BFD. The big bad government was stealing and people were balking. Enter the "democratic" process. So in 1978 the "people" voted their bread and circuses by limiting property taxes to 1% of the 1975 assessed value and -sales- price thereafter. The whole world turned upside down. But you want to know why this screwed up commuting and transportation in general. Like I said, a doctoral thesis, hang with me here.

Using a theoretical example. A house bought bought in 1995 for $250,000. Today's price, $1m. Yeah, weird. So anyway the effective property tax rate is 1/4 of 1% annually. The sames house provided
outright, at today's price, property taxes would be $900 per month. The owner cannot relocate to a different but equivalent home because of the tax consequences. Think of it reversed. The owners' personal travel budget makes it desirable to commute $900 worth (direct costs and my time value) rather than move closer to work.

Prop 13 so raised the value of good housing that it also all but requires two earner income families. That means two sub-optimal commutes and child care travel trips. See where the Exurban Nation comes from?

Why an Exurban Nation Blog?

Because I beleive persistence, perseverance, perniciousness, and pervasiveness will eventually prevail.

Location Discriminatory Mortgages

I once thought "Location Efficient Mortgages" (LEMs could address the problem of exurban development patterns (e.g. living in Riverside and working in LA) but then my brain started working again. I call location efficient mortgages transit apartheid. "Location efficient mortgage" is like "smart growth." Who would want a location -inefficient- mortgage or who would support dumb growth. Meaningless catch phrases, nothing more. Location Discriminatory Mortgages are the exactly descriptive phrase. Funny how the old VA loan policies that inadvertently used to favor new suburban housing, and jumpstarted the exurban nation trend, were struck down as unfair by the very same people advocating this new version of redlining. (Red Line as in Los Angeles and Boston, etc.) I'm surprised at the willingness of people who claim to want fairness to resort to unequal treatment (LEMs, density bonuses, transit subsidies, tax breaks) as a first step when they agree with the agenda. I'm also concerned about the unintended consequences that always appear. We both know that govt with good intentions ALWAYS results in unanticipated problems. In the case of LEMs; people will buy near transit, use more transit, pay less taxes to local govt and eventually get cars. Result, normal traffic overloading local roads while burdened by higher transit subsidies. In case you haven't noticed I'm describing LEMs in terms of transit but we were talking about POV commute patterns and Prop 13. That's because of two things. First LEMs have been hijacked by transit advocates despite there being no connection. Second, lenders already do a little of this when you apply for a mortgage. They take into account your living costs including travel budgets when determining lending limits.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Exurbia the Solution to Urban Ills

A guy goes into the doctor and says; "Doc, when I do -this- it hurts." Doctor replies; "Don't do -that-."

Billions are wasted addressing the dysfunction of dense urban built environments. From high taxes and crime to low school scores and congestion there is a blind eye being turned on the causes while fruitlessly combating the symptoms.

Problems with dense urban conurbations? Don't build dense urban conurbations.

[Next, controlling the language]