Friday, July 07, 2006

To ARMs, the NURBs are Attacking!

Or as SunsetBeachGuy says:

Oh man, don’t get Robert Cote started on that one. We have already beaten the pedestrian friendly development pattern vs. the car friendly development pattern. I prefer people to cars. Click on Robert Cote’s name and go discuss over there. Just one little poke at Robert, I thought that the market had thoroughly repudiated this development pattern?


Anonymous said...

Robert, you wrote on the other blog about the linked article:
> Evil New Urbanist propoganda. Transit does not save time, transit does not save energy, transit does not save money. TOD built environments are more expensive, have higher crime and taxes and are almost unbelivably more congested. These perversions of Cotean Exurban Nodaltopias are nothing more than would be social engineering.

Before I critize, I would like to ask some question that we do not misundertand each other. With transit, we mean commuter trains, correct? Why do you think time, energy and money are lost on them? What exactly is TOD, apart from the German word for DEATH? What are Cotean Exurban Nodaltopias? Link?



Rob Dawg said...

Anon 3:16

First this is going to be a big thread. A few bored refugees and a bus load of ben's bloggers looking for some action. Please pick a name any name like say "Peter" for your posts to keep things straight.

TOD = Transit Oriented Development. Good call on the death reference. I've long known it but it was until now a private joke.
Cotean Exurban Nodaltopias = lower density conurbations with defined extents and physical separation.

All of those in the search box on these pages will show numerous related posts. This is not just a blog but a repository of my views for future reference.

I really do consider NURB to be evil in the truest sense. Its very existence assaults every aspect of a free, open and informed society.

By transit I should be more precise; public transit as practiced in the US or concievably possible to implement in the US for the forseeable future.

For a far ranging background discussion see the three Cote versus Cole posts. Thanks for participating, this may get rough but you've already established a firm basis with your willingness to listen before lashing out.

sm_landlord said...

From the article:
"All of these consumer trends suggest that New Villages just may be the future. But there are also compelling economic arguments for developers to build and sell such properties..."

"Where am I?"
"In the Village."
"What do you want?"
"Whose side are you on?"
"That would be telling."
"We want information. Information. Information!"
"You won't get it."
"By hook or by crook, we will."
"Who are you?"
"The new Number 2."
"Who is Number 1?"
"You are Number 6."
"I am not a number — I am a free man!"
(Laughter from Number 2.)

Anonymous said...

I didn't find much with the search function on your blog using Transit Oriented Development, Exurban Nodaltopias, and lower density conurbations, only one critique of the Cole article. I did get some impression of your views by looking for "lower density" and "Cole v. Cote" though.

Let me discuss Transit first. We have in Minneapolis the "Light Rail", built against much opposition in 2003, and today a success: It allows faster public transport than busses and good park-and-ride possibilities for people travelling to downtown Minneapolis. A downside is the optimization of traffic signals for the rail, which slows down slightly traffic on the parallel street (loss of the "green wave" for cars). It seems both economically and ecologically desirable to build more light rails, both into the western suburbs and into St. Paul. For me, one important advantage of rail over busses (and cars) is the driving comfort and the possibility to read during the commute. You wrote, however: "Transit does not save time, transit does not save energy, transit does not save money." I disagree with that.

A community that has been planned along transit lines is the Stockholm Metro area in Sweden. I have too little knowledge now to say much about crime rates; if anything, these communities feel a little bit sleepy, but if you want action, take the sub into downtown! I have seen no congestion in the suburbs, and taxes are high everywhere in Sweden (which is full of completed and attempted social engineering).

What is exactly your alternative? Communities 50 miles away from the work place, which have to be visited only two days a week? That might not work for many jobs. Transport by cars alone, and scrapping public transport? Does then every family memember over 16 need and have a car? What are the distinct boundaries between the communities you wrote about?



Rob Dawg said...


I recognized that from the first two lines. The best part of course in retrospect is the last "answer." Who is Number 1? You are Number 6.

"The Village" was for retired people; Leisured, aimless. A "Transit [Potemkin] Village" would fail for just those reasons.

Sunset Beach Guy said...


I think that this category is best left in the agree to disagree category for me.

However, I am for removing all subsidies of any form from all goods and services.

It is nearly impossible to get accurate price signals and functional markets with the amount of subsidies that go into things like professional sports stadiums, all energy, roads, water, public transit, nuclear power, etc.

Only then will society as a whole know what is cost-effective or not.

Also externalities as an economic concept must be internalized to get accurate price signals.

What is the cost of childhood asthma in Houston attributable to the refineries? Who should pay?

sm_landlord said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sm_landlord said...

This whole debate about transit is moot to me, I simply have no patience for it.
Nontheless, I will vent. Here are the problems with mass transit. As Al Franken would say: "How does this help ME, Al Franken?". Or by extension, the people that I rely upon?

1. Mass transit does not pick me up at my door. I insist on this. I will go where I want, when I want, how I want, and that's that. My time is more valuable than your social values. I leave from my place, not the place of your choosing.

2. Mass transit does not go where I want to go. I don't need a bus to the ghetto, I need to get to my next meeting. I can't afford to take three transfers and waste unlimited time to travel without knowing if I can arrive at my next meeting on time.

3. My schedule cannot be subject to the whims of the transit unions. If some bunch of underpaid bus drivers want to strike for enhanced benefits, I can't be late to my meeting or fail to show up for my work. Their problem is not my problem, and I refuse to be held hostage to their whims and labor disputes.

4. I do not choose to travel in terrorist targets. Busses are terrorist targets, trains are terrorist targets, subways are terrorist targets. My car is not a terrorist target.

5. I need to get where I'm going and return by the optimal route. No public transit system can possibly take my optimal route. I can always take the optimal route in my car.

6. Sometimes I need to carry cargo. For example, I may choose to go to Costco and purchase a month's worth of toilet paper and other supplies. How am I supposed to do this on public transit?

7. If I need something *now*, I can't rely on UPS or Fedex. I have to go get it myself. This is why big cities exist: if you need something *now*, you can get it *now*. Not next week, *now*.

To summarize, public transit serves no function for me. It doesn't even serve the function of delivering the help to my house, as some people claim that it should. My housekeepers all drive cars, and I have to make sure that they have parking available when they turn up for work. Nancy and Lupe would be pissed if they couldn't find a parking space when they arrive for work, and I don't blame them. This whole discussion is moot, moot, moot. Transit communities are moot, moot, moot. They are figments of the fevered imagination of dreamers who do not live in the real world.

{rant off}

Holgs said...


I was gonna post a long winded rant about how selfish, greedy, and self centered you sound... but then I decided that wouldn't accomplish anything so instead I write this:

an emphatic meh!

incessant_din said...


You miss out on some seriously surreal experiences if you don't take public transit, especially in Santa Monica. I have some great stories to tell at parties about the filthy, disgusting people that live along the route of the #12 bus. The one about the prostitute soliciting a busful of commuters at 7 in the morning is probably the most bizarre. I imagine the other Big Blue Bus routes have similar experiences in store.

I definitely think that private vehicles are a great boost to productivity and enable greater overall resource utilization. For instance, I filled up the dually last weekend and drove to Yosemite with my wife for the afternoon, because I felt like taking a walk through Tuolomne Meadows. Perfect weather, perfect scenery, perfect company. If I relied on public transit, I would find that the [unfortunately] under-utilized route from my front door to that piece of heaven is not economically feasible for mass transit. Burned about half a tank of diesel, which probably compares favorably with the energy consumption of mass transit to take me the same 300+ miles round trip. And then, it is more likely that transit would have dropped us off in the relatively crowded Yosemite Valley, forcing us to get other transport to the high country. Good trip for backpacking, but not for an afternoon.

Batteries recharged, I was all set for another week of work, where my commute is less than 5 miles.

I think that public mass transit makes sense for a lot of people, but not all of them. Forcing people into it is every bit as wrong as forcibly denying it. The biggest fault I find in public transit is that usability and productivity are sacrificed for political interests. Try to get to LAX for a flight on the green line. Possible, but don't forget cab fare for the last mile or so. There are at least a dozen examples of this kind of problem in L.A. alone.

Here's another: get from Pasadena to West L.A. using public transportation. Trains and subways get you to Western Ave. or Hollywood in about an hour, then an hour+ bus ride will get you to Westwood. This also assumes you live and work negligible distances from the transit endpoints. Unless you go during peak commute, the 30 miles or so will almost certainly take less time to drive.

sm_landlord said...


Hopefully not too far OT, but I can't resist swapping stories. When I feel like getting out, I frequently walk to the Promenade. One day I'm walking past the bus stop at 4th & Wilshire, and I witnessed a rider attacking a bus. This loser whipped out a 6" blade, tackled the right front tire, and started stabbing it repeatedly. Fortunately a pair of police officers were nearby, who drew their weapons and ordered him off the tire and away from the bus. The bum obviously had experience with this situation, as he immediately assumed the position (face down on the sidewalk) with the knife and his ID on the sidewalk above his head. Maybe he was just an unhappy customer.

Another time, I watched a woman get off a bus, squat down on the sidewalk, and relieve herself right there on the corner. At least she had the decency to wait until she got off the bus.

Another bus story. One time I took a Greyhound from SFO to LAX (don't ask why, I plead insanity). It took 14 hours to go the ~400 miles, which is about a 5 1/2 hour drive. All the way crammed into a seat smaller and harder than the worst airline coach seat you have ever been poured in to, surrounded by derelicts that smelled like unlaundered gym socks and worse. Two fights broke out. Never again.

The Green line fiasco is hilarious. A few years back, someone tried to walk from the end of the Green Line to the airport. Airport police arrested the person, thinking she was terrorist trying to smuggle something into the airport. Apparantly because no one had ever tried to walk the last 1.5 miles to the airport before, at least no one they caught :-) On Wednesday, the mayor's representative stated that it would cost at least a half a BILLION dollars to extend the Green Line the last 1.5 miles to the airport. Instead, the city is spending $1.2 million on a media blitz telling people to take the LAX shuttle bus instead of the "Train to Nowhere". I am not making this up:

In burst of unusual sanity, the City of Los Angeles has finally decided to start towing cars that are left in "no stopping" zones along the major arterials. Apparently no one had ever thought of this before. Now if they would just get the ponderous dinosaur busses off the streets, issue enough taxi permits to remove the artificial scarcity, and stop persecuting independant operators, it just might be possible to get around quickly and safely in LA again.

Here are some more ideas (from 1992, no less):

incessant_din said...

One more thing about mass transit and its effects on suburban/exurban neighborhoods... When we lived near a bus stop in Livermore, CA, we had almost daily solicitors from Oakland/points west (their own identification). Most seemed interested in getting us to buy something, but a few individuals gave me the distinct impression that they were casing the neighborhood.

When we moved away from the bus stop to a location with a less-used transit stop, one that would require more transfers to get to points west, our solicitation traffic has dropped off dramatically.

That alone increases the property value in my opinion. Does that mean that transit can potentially push people away from transit connections due to negative reinforcement? I wonder how to test the hypothesis that transit creates "sprawl". There should be a Master's degree for somebody in that.

Rob Dawg said...

However, I am for removing all subsidies of any form from all goods and services.

It is nearly impossible to get accurate price signals and functional markets with the amount of subsidies that go into things like professional sports stadiums, all energy, roads, water, public transit, nuclear power, etc.

That's quite a shopping list and a common one at that.

Stadia: Yes, a common urban core subsidy.
Energy: No, we are not consistent but in general energy is taxed several times in the process.
Roads: No. Just plain old no. POV operation on public highways is a cash positive government enterprise.
Water: Again, no, just not consistently charged. Even the fabled California Water Projects are money makers and again I'm not talking multiplier effects just bringing in more money than they cost.
Public transit: The elephant in the corner. So grossly subsidized there is no comparable human activity anywhere at any time in history.
Nuclear: No. Price-Anderson is not a subsidy just insurance regulation.

Anonymous said...

I suspect most of you who are posting your opinions regarding public transit have never lived where public transit was a viable option.
I lived in Hoboken for two years and San Francisco for three years; learned to LOVE P.T.. Allowed my husband and I to have just one car. The cost and convenience of P.T. was actually preferable to driving. Both these locations also made P.T. use and suburban living possible, and preferable. The obvious advantage of Hoboken and the neighborhoods of S.F. is there is a central hub (being downtown S.F. and NYC).
But I also believe that a successful P.T. system is possible in less "hub" metropolitan areas. There should be a Five Year Plan during which time all public transit is free (paid for by federal taxes). This would increase demand and thus expand the service, and let people explore the system.
The best possible scenario for most cities/metropolis' would be that households could get down to one car. After the five years the cost would have to be kept low enough that there was no doubt in peoples' minds that the need for a second car can not be justified.

Anonymous said...

When P.T. is inconvenient and expensive, not even I want to use it.
Two examples:
1. Round trip to downtown Riverside from Oceanside on Metrolink, one adult, one 11 and one 9 year old - $75.00 And still had to get to and from the Oceanside train station and needed to be picked up at Riverside.
2. One way bus from Mira Costa College to Carlsbad, for the same three - $12.00 and still had to walk home from the Cole Library bus stop.
This is not a realistic option. It's like insult to injury, inconvienent and expensive.

Rob Dawg said...

LR you miss the fundamental disconnect. Transit is so terrible and terribly expensive that we need to bribe people to use it. You'd never ride transit if you were required to pay anything close to the true costs.

incessant_din said...

I think that I have lived in areas that seem to consider mass transit a viable option. West L.A./Santa Monica claim that mass transit is viable, and the East Bay Area also consider mass transit viable. I have also utilized mass transit in both of those areas. Nevertheless, I don't value my opinion on the matter any more than that of a person for whom mass transit is necessary. It's only in aggregate that these opinions begin to make economic sense.

But I do have some data to contribute. Since BART is considered a shining example, let's consider its finances. Their 2005 annual report states that 53% of operating funds come from ticket fares. That means that you would have to nearly double the ticket fares to cover operating expenses, let alone turn a profit. I am guessing that if fares double, then ridership goes down, and fares go up some more.

Here's the link, look on page 48 of the pdf:

I think that the subsidies reduce parking costs and congestion overall, but let's be honest, a lot of people are paying money to keep you off the streets. Public transportation is a luxury item, like FasTrak. People seem willing to pay a premium for better point-to-point service. Look at the Boeing 787 vs. Airbus 380 debates and see what quasi-free market forces dictate. Both sides make good arguments, but I think we're already seeing the answer from the market in that debate.

Also consider the moral dilemma of thousands of commuters risking their lives on the Bay Bridge because the bridge fares have been diverted to other projects. If this had not happened, the new span could have already been built and paying for itself, if not paid for. Do BART subsidies needlessly imperil the lives of its patrons?

I went to San Diego recently, and was shocked. I found that the Coronado Bridge is now toll-free. How could that be? I didn't hear about a tax levied on homeowners to pick up the tab. Was there a bond measure passed?

Anonymous said...

Arguments are ignoring the fact that we also pay dearly to maintain the status quo, i.e. everyone needing to use personal transportation. What do you suppose the final cost will be for adding the 8 lanes to Interstate 5 between San Diego and Oceanside? What does it cost to own and maintain a car?
One could go so far to say that the war in Iraq is part of the price we pay because we all need our cars.
I say build a P.T. system that is affordable and convenient and they will come.

Rob Dawg said...

LR said...
I say build a P.T. system that is affordable and convenient and they will come.

Well said. I agree. Why then with the force of government and general concensus and a will and numerous efforts has there been no example in the US?

Ans: Transit is too expensive, inconvienient and slow. All characteristics are defining parameters. Horses are not dependant upon foriegn oil. Why not skip the reversion to streetcars and go all the way back to horsedrawn?