People will move to cities and use roads less if cities are affordable. If we can lower rent in the city, automobile usage will go down on its own. This is where the fight should be pointed I believe.
That "free parking" in the street is not free, it comes at a real cost in real estate value and road maintenance. Likewise policies that require a certain amount of parking per unit or square foot also makes people pay for cars whether they use them or not.
Making buses or trains share the road with cars instead of giving them dedicated lanes with signal pre-emption, also makes non-drivers pay for cars.
Street parking serves no one well. Finding a spot near where you're going is unlikely, searching for one brings traffic to a crawl, and getting into one creates significant and dangerous disruption to the roadway, particularly for the bike lane.
People who rely on street parking are incentivized to oppose density in the places they park. Mandatory minimum parking requirements result in wasted space, or facilitates car ownership for people who don't care about/benefit from it at the expense of those who do.
Street parking for cars should be eliminated in favor of loading zones and motorcycle/scooter/bicycle parking, which packs much more densely. (Bias towards electric ones if you care to). At the same time, garages (with street-facing storefronts) should be only the list of things you can build by-right.
Drivers should booking garage spaces with dynamic, demand-based pricing from their phones before departing, and should know exactly where they're going to park before setting out.
I used to believe this, but the one thing that drives me nuts about San Francisco is that all the garages close at night. If I want to park a car overnight (e.g. visiting a friend), the only option in my neighborhood is to park in a street parking spot.
I don't think anyone sane is suggesting that we should all stop driving from one day to the next, so there's no need to 'defend' driving. It's more about making driving one option among many, and eliminating some of the subsidies.
I think we should address the reasons people live far from their destinations, rather than the mechanisms which let them lead reasonable lives while doing so. "It's too easy" isn't the reason. "The alternatives are too hard" is the reason.
People live far from their destinations, because there are so many darn parking spots in the way.
It'd take a staggering amount of low-rise to compensate for just one 40-story high-rise killed over the neighbors' concerns about shadow.
We shouldn't underprovision public transit, we should make it better than driving is today.
I agree the NIMBY policies are pretty horrible. 8 story apartments should of been a by right development type ages ago. European cities who take up the parking lane with huge sidewalks are very nice, all of this space for outdoor seating.
Houston is either the worst place in the world to live, or the best depending on who you talk to. They have almost no zoning laws at all, which has resulted in endless sprawl. The place is literally where you go to study the effects of unbounded urban and suburban growth of a city.
Or, when your city is hit by a parking bomb:
you're thinking of dense urban centers, like midtown Manhattan. Think more about what horizontally sprawling cities look like. or suburbs, for that matter. in the suburb I grew up in there was a 3 to 1 ratio of parking lot to buildings in all of the major shopping centers and housing complexes.
in addition to that building was basically restricted only to areas that were suitable to construct huge parking lots on. i.e. it had to be very flat, and have easy access to the large highways nearby.
the way we build our cities has been utterly warped and distorted by cars being much too cheap.
It isn't either or.
Imagine how much parking would be needed for everyone in a 40-story high-rise to put their car there.
And using multi-level parking garages is often prohibitively expensive because the upper levels have to be built to support the weight of the cars.
Cars just aren't that heavy compared to people.
I think it would be hard to exceed that with people, without breaking the fire code.
You can pack a _lot_ of humans into a small space.
Cars are about half that, because they don't pack well.
Of course, libraries are even worse, sometimes you're looking at 300+ psf design loads there.
About as much as many 40-story high-rises already have underground.
It isn't about where you put it, it's about how much it costs.
High-rises aren't necessarily very dense, especially if they're surrounded by a lot of open land— for example, NYC's high-rise housing projects are often less dense than the low-rise apartment buildings they replaced.
As for that statistic about the use of parking lots, I think that also included road space and other forms of car storage; I do think parking lots are good candidates for construction, as doing so doesn't displace anyone, and I would also like to narrow lots of streets in San Francisco (SOMA is basically a giant freeway grid), but I also agree that densification of neighborhoods is potentially more impactful.
Portsmouth, NH has made their downtown completely unvisitable by allowing three or four lots on the edge of the old downtown to be developed into mostly unoccupied luxury condos and hotels. The one municipal parking garage is constantly filled, and on-street parking has gotten cutthroat.
If parking downtown is that in demand, has the city investigated things such a bus circulator, demand-based pricing to fund parking improvements, improving bike amenities and connections or negotiating public parking agreements with private lot owners? There's a lot of potential solutions here, but paving over business districts doesn't make sense.
I have strong anecdotal evidence against that. In Richmond, VA, nearly the entire neighborhood of Monroe Ward was leveled to provide parking for skyscrapers downtown.
No one is suggesting that. Make transit great. I'll pay more in tax if need be.
I just don't want to be told that I have a choice between shitty transit or a deliberately shitty driving experience.
Honestly, the only reason why this is an argument is because people know that taking the bus sucks. I took the bus to work one day to see how it was (this was when I was debating takign my car, right after I started). It was slow, hot, uncomfortable, cramped, a guy fell asleep on me, and I felt sick by the end (motion sickness). So the only option is make driving shittier.
Plus it completely ignores any non-highway driving subsidies, like tax revenue going to local roads and public parking areas, government regulations that mandate parking minimums, etc.
AND it ignores how valuable the land is that roads exist on, that could potentially be used for something else. Now obviously we do have to set aside some land for transportation purposes, but with cars, you have to set aside a lot MORE land, so you have to factor in that subsidy as well. E.g. if the city could, by switching to denser transportation modes, lease out a bunch of land to private companies and earn a million dollars a year, then that's a million dollar a year subsidy.
Must also factor in the untold billions used by the military to ensure cheap oil.
That's the point: It's artificially cheap to do so, because driving is heavily subsidized in the US. What you interpret as the deliberate sabotage of the time/money cost to driving is, in fact, an attempt to make driving reflect more of its true cost. As things stand, those costs -- in terms of poorer physical and mental health, environmental degradation, maintenance, material, space, etc -- are socialized, borne disproportionately by people who would, in fact, benefit from more density and fewer cars.
In places where people have to pay even a fraction of the true costs of rural/suburban living, they overwhelmingly vote with their feet.
That's part of it. But it's also just cheaper to live outside of cities. If you live in a place where land is plentiful, you can have a big house, a garage and a big box store a few miles away. You can get to places on interstate highways (which are not going away because of their economic necessity). This is, for many people, an appealing way to live and a way that requires a car. Where I live it wasn't until mandatory parking in the city that people started to drift back downtown to live.
But it goes beyond just subsidizing roads and fuel and SUVs. The federal and state governments subsidize rural and suburban power networks, water distribution, waste disposal, schools, police, firefighters, doctors, telecommunications... a whole host of things that drive down living costs in rural and suburban areas.
Yes, it's cheap to live outside of cities (in the US). Nobody's debating that. Nobody's saying it's not an appealing lifestyle for lots of people. We're saying that the reason it's cheap is because it's subsidized. It's basic economics. There are precious few places in the world where "it's just cheaper to live outside of cities" without strenuous government intervention.
Power generation, water distribution, waste disposal and the like are typically done outside of urban centers because the denizens would cry NIMBY about the effects.
Those supply networks exist to service the urban centers, it would be wasteful to not use them for the suburbs that they necessarily have to pass.
Additionally, cities pull in food, power, water and other things from rural and suburban areas that exist to support cities.
I do not support commuter culture, but this is a far more complicated issue that car subsidies. There's a huge interconnected web of incentives at play. Any disassembly needs to be done carefully.
I'm sensing an implicit assumption that cutting out driving would result in building more density. But suburban commuters don't write land use policy for urban cores - their existing residents do, and they don't want it, because of noise, shadow, undesireables, etc. They already don't need to drive. Turning the screws on suburban commuters won't change urban NIMBYs minds on what they want their neighborhoods to look like.
And so because transit and cycling both suck in unavoidable ways compared to driving, these anti-car advocates end up creating a world that's worse overall just so that people who drive cars can't have some comfort. This kind of conspicuous self-flagellation is not how to advance as a society.
Western European cities have the enviable advantage of decent weather year-round, just like the US west coast. The central US does not have this; it's more like Moscow: bitterly cold in the winter. And the east coast has a lot of extreme weather too.
Now this doesn't excuse not having good public transit like Tokyo either; it's certainly possible to build that in places like Minneapolis and DC, but they don't (or they simply can't, because the US culturally is unable to).
Cycling is most popular in Northern Europe, which has far worse weather than southern Europe.
And as a cyclist myself, I seriously question how you can claim it to be feasible to bike all winter, in -40 temperatures no less, no matter how you're dressed. I get serious wind-chill problems on my face, head, and hands as soon as the temperature drops below freezing, and that's with a skull-cap covering my ears and some cycling gloves. I do have heavy winter gear I can wear when the weather's cold, but there's no way in hell I can shift the gears on my bike with heavy ski gloves on, and ski pants would probably cause me to wreck. Furthermore, I'm still young enough to not have circulation problems; try telling some 70-year-old to go cycling in -40 temperatures with wind blowing.
It's definitely harder to ride a bike in cold winter weather— but the same is true of walking and driving. One mostly needs cleared roads/paths (as drivers and pedestrians do) and warm, windproof gear (as a pedestrian and skier does). The right bike for city cycling year-round isn't a road bike designed for warm weather high-speed recreation, either.
I wear normal clothes and just add a nice wool 'Buff' scarf for face/neck coverage and good gloves for cycling around NYC in winter weather. I also use snow tires for safety, just because the city doesn't do a great job clearing snow from all the bike lanes, and the bike lane network isn't yet extensive enough that I can avoid mixing with car traffic.
And when it's really cold— even Minnesota closes schools and businesses, anyways:
So— cycling in cold weather is perfectly possible, and, in any case, most people don't live in places where it regularly gets cold enough for cycling to be truly difficult.
That's the entire point of the linked article, less demonization, more letting those who take pay the just price for what they take.
Roads have to be in better condition to take the buses and coaches. Increased transit usage reduces numbers of vehicles on the roads, decreasing congestion and improving travel times. Pollution is decreased.
If you like driving you should heavily push for more public transit, and persuade everyone to use it, while you continue to drive your car.
There is zero transit where I (and many other people) live. The nearest bus is over a hundred miles away. Street cars? Been on a couple in my life. As far as I can tell, tax dollars ear-marked for transit go into a black hole.
I don't mind contributing to "the greater good" or "global society", but don't expect me to both subsidize transit and pay a premium for my only mode of transportation. Local problems need local solutions, but there's so much NIMBYism.
Or if this happens on a national scale a civil war erupts.
You propose to degrade people's lives by eroding their access to something they depend on.
I propose to erode the reasons people depend on it, so that demand falls naturally and an eventual lack of access will not hurt.
Are you going to bury your head in the sand on the problems of crowded housing markets?
There are many roads overbuilt for the kind of traffic they face. Cutting them down to size is an excellent idea. Providing light and heavy rail is also great. Buses have limitations and still require expensive infrastructure for high level of service.
The main reason other modes of transportation suck is bad development patterns, centered all around driving. Unless you fix that, other modes won't be able to effectively compete. So discouraging driving is part of the multi-approach strategy to slowly change mode share and development patterns.
Your attitude is reinforcing the broken status quo.
Are they centered around driving?
First, the development pattern of suburbia was centered around white resistance to racial desegregation . Suburbia wasn't "about" the car, it was about opting out of certain societal changes and rejecting the premise that humans could or should figure out how to live in close proximity in units larger than the nuclear family.
Now that that's fallen out of fashion among many, we're still stuck with it because:
a) Wealthy urban residents have gotten used to things being uncrowded, wish to protect their property values, light, and air, and see preventing dense development in the neighborhoods as critical to doing so.
b) Poor urban residents and their liberal allies across the income spectrum wish to keep rents affordable for the people left behind in cities during white flight, so they pursue policies to keep these people in their homes (rent control, requiring a percentage of units to be below-market-rate and allocated by lottery to those below an income threshold, blocking luxury construction on the belief that it will keep neighborhoods from gentrifying, etc) with the side-effect of slowing down middle-class reurbanization. (If you're a professional but not oligarchical white dude with particularly leftist friends, expect to be called out as a gentrifier if you move to any dense neighborhood you can afford).
The car is just the mechanism that lets us cope with low density. You might think that if the coping mechanism is gone, we'll be forced to find a real solution, but the people who rely on driving are, far as I can tell, a different cohort from the people who control the planning commissions that block construction in major cities.
>Your attitude seems to be that it's up to others to somehow 'fix' modes of transportation until the somehow compete with driving in terms of convenience, because your convenience is apparently much more important than considerations like the planet.
Yeah, basically. We need to fix driving too - public policy kicks towards smaller, more fuel efficient, hybrid, and now fully electric vehicles are critical. Getting people to step down to the minimal motor vehicles that work for them is also great - for example, California got me out of my 28mpg car and onto a 150mpg motorcycle for most trips through the composition of the BART parking lots.
It's always a balance. If we valued the planet above our own lives without limit, the only rational action would be suicide. We would certainly not be having this discussion with manufactured computers sipping generated electricity. It's good that people are pushing the balance further towards the planet's favor, but there are always going to be tradeoffs we're not willing to make.
If the bike lane is not between the parking space and the sidewalk there's something wrong with your roads.
Drivers mostly know to watch for cyclists, though they're pretty bad at it. Pedestrians know to check for cars when entering the street, and cyclists benefit from that caution. But that bike lane with non-driving space to its right? People will blithely step into it, hop out of their cars into it, or stand in it, assuming it's a safe, non-vehicle space.
Maybe it's just because it's so unusual where I live, or because it's in a pedestrian-heavy area, but I do not like it at all, and feel safer sharing the road. (My experience with these (as a cyclist) is mostly along the Drag in Austin, TX: https://goo.gl/maps/TPi9Yyj6SFn )
Like this for example http://www.protectedintersection.com/
Owning a car here is mandatory. Public transportation sucks and the contents/attractions of my city are scattered. For example, from where I live my favorite trail, which I'd love to walk this Saturday, is 23 miles north. The Ikea, which I also need to go to, is 23 miles south. There is no public transportation to get me to those places. Even if I lived in the city there is no public transportation to get me to those places. How do I live a life where I don't throw my whole paycheck into rent AND have the freedom to go out and do stuff around the city? (Note: these seem like pretty reasonable expectations to me) I live where the rent is low and own a car. You need to make an alternate lifestyle for me cheaper, not my current one more expensive.
Likewise, I already have to pay for parking for my job. You're going to restrict supply and make me pay even more? Come on man... We need to talk about solutions which are viable and not waste time trying to punish the rural/suburban middle-class and poor into a lifestyle which isn't even feasible for them.
It got this way through 60 years of low density sprawl. Sprawling further and asking people to drive longer and longer distances is not a viable solution - socially, environmentally or fiscally.
We need to remove the barriers and even encourage mid-scale density on all levels of government. We need to be thinking of creative transit, design and tech solutions to retrofit our cities for something besides single passenger cars because our cities are choking on them.
It's very odd to think that high rents is some inherent fact of city life.
>It goes more or less without saying, then, that with an economy stuck in such a unique rut for so long, the housing prices remained similarly uniquely low as well. There was little incentive to build and invest in a city that wasn’t growing economically. Which is precisely what has helped make it so attractive to many, and such fertile ground for investors now that the economy is finally beginning to recover.
The problem in my city is that in the city there is no middle, there's expensive apartments/townhouses and there's section 8. What I'm most interested in is how do we get mid-priced living introduced into urban areas?
1. I don't know if that's actually true
2. Even if it is, it might be possible to change architectural and design constraints to achieve desired unit economics
3. If it's straight up not possible to build mid-priced units with the same return, then existing condo prices don't sufficiently take into account externalities and we should use local legislation to bump their costs up and take them into account.
They studied this in Metro Vancouver and found that the "expensive" downtown core was actually more affordable than the outer suburbs where you had to use a car for all transportation needs.
I grew up in Vienna, VA, where you needed a car even if you lived around the Metro station, because the town decided to surround it with low-density residential instead of high-density mixed residential/retail: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Vienna%2FFairfax-GMU+Stati.... In contrast, I lived in a relatively affordable New York suburb, where the Metro North station was surrounded by a mix of retail and residential: https://www.google.com/maps/place/New+Rochelle,+NYemail@example.com.... My wife and I had a car, and a baby, and we used the car only once a month because even the Costco was right next to a nearby Metro North stop.
People used to post-WWII suburbs really fail to realize how much government policy distorts peoples' choices. My house in Annapolis (which is at the edge of rural Anne Arundel county) is in a neighborhood where you can walk to a park, a bar, and two quickie marts. The subdivision was built about the same time as Vienna (in the car era), but back then the county had much smaller minimum lot sizes, less than a third the current minimum lot size in the county. The streets are barely wide enough for one car to drive through. That's how people choose to live when you don't force development into a sprawling wasteland model.
 It wasn't substantially more expensive than Vienna, despite being within a 30 minute train ride of Midtown Manhattan.
On top of that, we still need to drive to another town 17 miles away to get groceries every couple of weeks. We need to drive to another town if we want to eat somewhere that isn't Subway or Pizza Hut. We need to drive to another town if we want to see a movie. We need to drive to another town if we want to see family.
Despite living in a very small town, I still need a car and won't be giving mine up any time soon.
Edit: (All of those things suck, but I still love where I live. Moving to a city isn't something I'm interested in.)
I'm thinking of rural towns and hamlets outside of larger cities in Germany and other European countries that have their own bakeries, grocers, local schools etc with housing congregated nearby. The centralization also provides easier public transit to cities, towns and employment centers nearby. Many people still live in relatively large houses with gardens and yards.
A lot of this is a historical development pattern from the intersection of transportation routes. In fact, much of rural American used to develop the same way - many pre-interstate rural towns are likely to have a semblance of downtown at a crossroads or former rail depot, even if it's vestigal or abandoned today.
Even this centralized low-density development is more accessible to the carless, preserves more agricultural and natural space, makes it cheaper and more efficient for municipalities to provide services than 50 different isolated subdivisions spread in a 25 sq mi area.
I favor medium-density inner Brooklyn myself, but I grew up in the suburbs, with a few dozen acres of woods behind the houses, and I'm glad I did. Suburbs are demonstrably awesome too.
Back yard? That does not exist in the US. You get a tiny garden which is not enough.
In Europe we have the various sport fields you can reach on foot or via light rail, not even going into a car. Therefore your kids do not have to drive at age 12.
You can reach work via train, I know people who ride in excess of 200 km daily.
Heck, schools and universities are reachable via such transit.
We have big parks in the cities.
I am not talking cities the density of Hong Kong either. NY is not quite walkable either, it lacks walkability due to grid street design with no accommodations for crossing them easily and safely.
Parks in big cities are completely different from large yards. Parks are nice, but large yards mean you can have gardens, grow food, or have lots of friends and family visit.
You are only correct if "semi-rural" to you means "suburban".
Granted that new neighborhoods seem to be built with less care for yards, but growing up in suburban Texas in a subdivision from the '60s, we all had decent yards to play in, with room for trees, gardens, and sometimes even large swimming pools.
I live in an urban area now, and love it. But people need to open their minds and stop crapping on other peoples' lifestyles.
People saying "I just can't /imagine/ living 30 minutes from the citycenter" are as close minded as those who can't /imagine/ living in a walkable area with shops and food nearby.
You see kids playing around in city parks pretty safely, and people who want the suburbs live in villages on commuter rail about 30+ minutes away. They actually have apartments in the city core that are 2000sqft and can have 3 large bedrooms with a big living room and hallway with plenty of sunlight. The interior of the apartment buildings create a court yard with a little playground and you often see kids there, playing together. They are very pleasant, and all of these people don't need to have a car.
Interestingly, many studies suggest that urban children are significantly more free range than suburban these days. (does not isolate for race/social class)
My parents live in an inner streetcar suburb of Milwaukee, have plenty of living and gardening space, and are a shorter walk to a movie theater than I am in Brooklyn.
Here in Japan, 25 km gets me to the middle of the nearest big city (of about 700K people) from where I live. I have to go through 4 towns on the way. I live in a town of about 20K people and I can walk to 3 different grocery stores and any number of drinking establishments. North America seems so incredibly inconvenient to me these days.
For example my parents live in a mini-subdivision of a dozen or so houses about 5 miles outside the nearest city limits. The walmart is on the way out of the other side of town.
Poor city planning that makes cars all but essential is the problem, not the dozen houses way out in the sticks. In Germany even towns with a population of like 30k have at least basic necessities within cycling distance, and Germany is way worse than, say, the Netherlands. I'm pretty sure that the majority of the population lives in towns that are larger than that.
Whereas if our cities were denser, there'd be more open space left, that is easier to access, by potentially more people. Density != cramped hovel. And density doesn't mean everyone lives in a highrise. There's points between single family homes on quarter acres and 60 story skyscrapers.
I highly encourage you to checkout some examples of cities that saw most of their growth pre-auto:
Here's my personal favorite - Leipzig Germany, metro population around 1 million:
A wide range of uses, densities, housing prices and modes of transportation (dedicated bike infrastructure, transit, and yes even cars). But the compact development area can leave so much more room for green space, nature preserves, public parks, agriculture, watershed protection. There's even many buildings that have yards - it's just everyone doesn't get their own acre.
The Nazis had the same attitude before. Cities had to be car-centric, that's why they moved on with the Autobahn and created Volkswagen. The obligation to use bike lanes (Radwegebenutzungspflicht) was issued under the Nazi regime. It was part of the fascist mindset that cities are made of concrete (instead of children playing in parks).
Here is a video comparing a tram ride through Leipzig in 1992 with one in 1931:
As far as density, people per square kilometer.
Ie Leipzigs boundary for that number includes the city and undeveloped/agricultural/rural areas in the surrounding metro, where Detroit's number is the developed city limits, excluding the suburbs, exurbs and agricultural places in the metro.
I don't mean to get too bogged down in this point too much. I wanted to point out there are plenty of lessons we can learn from pre-auto cities to make our future more livable.
No, Leipzig's boundary for that number does not include their larger Urban Area. Looking at the metropolitan area population of those cities Leipzig is 843,619 while Detroit, the rust belt city you mention, is over 4 million according to OECD.
If you compare the official city limits with the satellite view you will see the developed area containing most of the population is much smaller than the city limits, and you might understand what I am getting at. I think the appropriate measure here would be the weighted density, closer to representing the average density a person there would be surrounded by.
You're current cheap lifestyle is subsidized, it's not about punishing you, it's about having you pay your fair share. It doesn't have to mean that your cost for parking at your work has to go up, but it may mean that you have to pay for the other places you park and for the roads you drive on.
Actually it is, here from the article.
>We agree with most of the policies advocates like Piatowski want, including the “sticks” like parking and congestion fees—but not the way they’re being described.
They're saying that the punishment is fine, just the messaging is wrong. If actual politicians on the left start trying this what do you think Republicans are going to say?
"City liberals think the way you live is wrong and are trying to tax you into living like they do."
Would the republicans saying that even be wrong? I don't think so, their messaging works because it's true, the messaging in this article won't because it's a lie. Hence why I call this a non-starter. Liberals can do better.
It would a lie to use those words describe the view point argued for in this article. If you are claiming that the article is a lie, written only to encourage a change in messaging rather than a change in perspective, you are violating the core principles of discussion of on HN which is "charity".
> After all, very few people think that a zero car world is one that makes a lot of sense. Low-car makes much more sense that non-car as a policy talking point. How do we get people to make these choices. There’s an analogy here to alcohol. We tried prohibition in the twenties. It was moral absolutism, zero tolerance. Alcohol in any amount was evil. That didn’t work.
I personally think that the article makes a very strong point about not viewing cars as evil and not seeking to achieve a non-car world.
> The second point is that small changes matter. Even slight reductions in car use and car ownership will pay big dividends. Traffic congestion is subject to non-linear effects: small reductions in traffic volumes produce big reductions in traffic congestion.
One of the points of the article is that by appropriately pricing cars usage by removing subsidies we can remove market distortion. By causing a minor reduction in car use we can make car use BETTER for those who really need / want it and are willing to pay its real cost.
How so? The way they live their lives is in the suburbs with long commutes. This article lists several reasons car use is bad and why we should reduce it. Hence "City liberals think the way you live is wrong"
>One of the points of the article is that by appropriately pricing cars usage by removing subsidies we can remove market distortion.
Hence "and are trying to tax you into living like they do"
The statement isn't a lie. You are raising the costs of car usage to get people to use cars less. You're doing this because you think less car usage is better. Regardless of whether that belief is right or wrong, for much of the country it isn't going to fly. That's my main point. You and I probably agree on the problem here, our difference is on the solution.
>written only to encourage a change in messaging
See the first paragraph:
>But numbers don’t mean much without a framework to explain them, and so today we want to quickly talk about one of those rhetorical frameworks: specifically, how we talk about driving.
This article is all about messaging, it doesn't really discuss the hard policy options they'd like, it just links to them. In that case, I think their rhetorical framework is weak. "Personal Responsibility" works when the right uses it because it almost always accompanies a change that makes their voters' lives easier (in at least the short-term), see tax breaks. Using "Personal Responsibility" here won't work because it will increase the costs for these same people. That's why I wrote that "City liberals" sentence up there. If this article is the authors rhetorical framework, that sentence is going to be the first thing he runs into. Will "Personal Responsibility" hold up? I don't think so.
^^ Huh? So if the parent is fully convinced that "the article is a lie, written only to encourage a change in messaging rather than a change in perspective" it is against HN principals of discussion for him to say so?
Dismissing an argument or article with a "They don't really mean that" does not tend to lead to very productive discussions, especially when there is no attempt made to asses the argument at face value.
You have to be smart about things though. It's very easy to get into a mindset of "cars are bad, reduce cars any way possible" vs. people who have no viable alternative to a car who those policies hurt, and then you get into a fight that nobody wins.
For example, tolls make basically no sense ever. Once you've paid for the road you might as well get as much use out of it as you can. Even congestion pricing is wrong because congestion should never happen if things are designed well, i.e. reasonable mass transit and low enough rents that people can live near work. If you've failed at those things the solution is to fix them, not penalize drivers to make driving as expensive as the failed alternative.
But minimum parking requirements are a scourge. If the expense of having parking is justifiable then businesses and landlords will build it themselves, because parking is hyper-local -- you drive 100 blocks to get somewhere but a parking space six blocks away is useless. And minimum parking requirements prevent the density required to avoid needing a car, so the more parking you mandate the more you need. It's actively counterproductive.
If anything street parking in high density areas should be converted into travel lanes, which both increases carrying capacity and reduces demand for cars there because it allows private parking to be appropriately priced by the free market.
On the other hand, free street parking in lower density areas makes perfect sense, because you neither need the extra carrying capacity nor do you need market forces to price parking there because spaces aren't scarce there.
I disagree. There's a gap in the experience between driving and other transportation modes such that even if there existed excellent transportation alternatives, driving by car would still be the most desirable and congestion would occur if all transit modes were priced the same.
Being in a comfy car where you can blare your own music is a much better experience than being in a crowded bus.
Congestion happens because roads are near free and roads are a limited resource. The only solution to this problem is to price roads, surface more of the real costs to the end user, and make roads more expensive.
As a society we should be ok with this because roads are very expensive. We should be be incentivizing more efficient and cheaper transportation modes. This will save us money in the long term if roads are relatively more expensive and we don't have to build so many of them.
They aren't priced the same. The capital and insurance costs for a bus are lower per passenger, they use less fuel per passenger, pretty much every part of their cost is lower per passenger. What creates the problem is that if you need a car because mass transit can't take you where you have to go then you buy one. And once the capital and insurance costs are sunk, driving that car is now cheaper than taking the bus. So the problem is that people in cities have to buy cars to begin with.
Self-driving livery service is going to turn this on its head, because if you take the cost of the driver out of the cost of a taxi, that service becomes preferable to personal car ownership for 90% of people. But it will still be more expensive than self-driving bus service to anywhere the buses actually go once you don't own a personal car, so the result is fewer required parking spaces because livery cars don't need to park and more people taking mass transit where they can.
> Being in a comfy car where you can blare your own music is a much better experience than being in a crowded bus.
What's even better is living close enough to walk. Even living a 5 minute drive away instead of 50 would eliminate 90% of the cars on the road at once because each is only going 10% as far. Create enough reasonably-priced housing near where people work that they can actually afford to live there and the traffic problem disappears.
> Congestion happens because roads are near free and roads are a limited resource. The only solution to this problem is to price roads, surface more of the real costs to the end user, and make roads more expensive.
Congestion happens for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones is that people live too far from where they work, the only solution to which is more housing. Or because they have to buy cars because local mass transit is lame or unavailable, in which case congestion pricing doesn't even help because demand for cars is inelastic.
Even if you trivialize the situation into a pure price comparison between cars and mass transit, making cars more expensive is still worse than making mass transit less expensive (or especially free, because you lose the fare collection infrastructure cost). Tolls are more regressive because you're taking money disproportionately from the poor, and subsidizing transit of any kind mostly or entirely pays for itself by increasing activity in the local economy, whereas transportation fees do the opposite and destroy most of or even more than the government revenue they generate.
This is even more true of tolls than e.g. gas tax because on top of that you need a toll collection infrastructure and bureaucracy which itself burns a non-trivial fraction of the money in overhead.
This sprawl inducement is also what makes it harder to build good efficient public transit. Investment in car oriented infrastructure degrades transit effectiveness and intrenches a city and its residents in a car oriented mode.
You're proposing to add to the cost of driving until that side of the equation exceeds the cost of urban housing. But if you don't address density restrictions or minimum parking requirements or urban property taxes, that is not going to end well.
Today it costs $3000/month for an apartment in the city vs. $1500/month for the same apartment in the suburbs and $400/month worth of driving cost. If you add $1100/month worth of driving fees to even it out but still have all the restrictions on creating new urban housing, next month the same apartment in the city will be $4000/month and 95% of the same people will still live in the suburbs. And employers will start to move out of the city because they can't afford to pay employees what it costs to work there anymore.
Whereas if you eliminate the impediments to creating new urban housing (or subsidize it if necessary), the price of the apartment in the city falls to $1700/month and we have the result we need without having a regressive tax on driving.
Essentially new development in greenfield or brownfield areas shields established urban residential areas from needing to be redeveloped.
What about maintenance costs? Those are dependent partly on the level of use a road experiences.
Maintenance costs are dominated by weather.
Typically this argument is the last refuge of someone who wants tolls because they hate cars (or are a company that collects tolls), because it's technically true but practically ridiculous. It has the same basis as claiming we should charge tolls to pedestrians for the damage they do to the sidewalk with their boots.
In some hypothetical world where the transaction costs and privacy costs and other overhead didn't exist it's technically true that you might want to charge someone the 3/8ths of a cent worth of additional maintenance they cause, but in practice those costs do exist and you end up paying a dollar to collect a penny.
In many places it's often paid parking, and even then the "citizen tax bill" of maintaining those side-plots of low-speed road is probably negligible compared to the broader road/highway system or compared to operating public-transport.
I'm all in favor of more public transport and better cities, but singling out parking spaces as the fat to trim makes no sense to me.
On top of that, you hurt all the surrounding businesses because people can no longer easily get to them.
But I guess if nobody's there, at least you don't have to worry about traffic problems, so mission kind-of-accomplished?
No need to make that parking mandatory, but anyone building that stuff will want to include some parking. How much can be left to them.
Maybe it makes sense to do underground parking, maybe that is too expensive.
Interesting semi-tangent: so I recently moved from the states to Munich, and I live in a little apartment complex in a low-ish density neighborhood (Solln) that has 10 units. Somehow, this place has underground parking, which was initially shocking to me, because I don't think I've ever seen such a small apartment complex in the states with that; usually you'd only seen underground parking in far larger complexes in the middle of a downtown-type area.
And my complex isn't unique, tons of small buildings here seem to have underground parking. So maybe it's not that expensive when it's a common thing to do.
Might also just be a side effect of Munich being one of the highest quality-of-living cities in the world, with some pretty high-end auto manufacturing as well.
This needs to be repeated, at least 1,000 more times, because it is the real issue we're facing and everyone is ignoring.
You can't expect people to live lifestyles like they're in big cities, when we don't let any of these people live in big cities.
Until that happens, these "punish driver" attempts are nothing more than punishing poor/middle class people simply for being poor/middle class. They already can't afford to live in cities. Taxing them again just makes them even less able to afford cities.
I imagine the situation is probably just as bad for the carless rural poor.
Car culture also locks out opportunity for other segments of the population - the young, the very old, the disabled.
We basically need to bring the hammer down at the state and federal level on urban NIMBYs, because it'll never happen if left up to city councils.
Regulation certainly needs to be updated, but favoring density is not always a good thing.
That's a surefire way to galvanize your opposition.
If you make the cities a nice place to live people will move there. If you turn the screws on them to try to control them they will go to war with you and you will lose.
This doesn't solve the problem that the low- and mid-level staff of downtown offices in major metros benefits immensely from the ability to drive to work (or to within a few transit stops of work) and would suffer immensely if that option were taken away.
As for driving to work, I do think that transit into work would be a perfectly good (and personally preferable) alternative; Id rather sparse communities have decent car infrastructure and storage at transit connections to dense cities, which don't have as much space to build car storage and road capacity and suffer from far greater utilization since they catch the traffic from all suburbs instead of a subsection of them. It's just a more scalable design.
Most american cities and towns remain very affordable. These cities have tons of vacant lots close to the downtown office areas and are degraded by all the car infrastructure that serves the wealthier suburbanites. In those places, a lot of people of low means actually live very centrally. There's room to contract there and provide ample living space for households of all incomes.
It is really a failure of the imagination. Most Americans cannot imagine a luxurious or aspirational life without a car. It has nothing to do with not having the means for it.
And, fwiw, it really does require somewhat of an imaginative leap.
When someone says that cars have bad consequences and there should be less driving, most objections are really reflexive. People imagine their current way of life, but without a car. A few examples:
- How will I take my kids to school? You won't, they'll walk, because you live close to school, and since there are fewer cars, it will be safe for them to do so.
- You expect me to lug all my costco bags on foot? No, you still can drive there, but you'll drive out as a special occasion once a week anyway. Or you pick up groceries in small batches from the grocery next to your office.
- You want me to wait for the bus that only comes once an hour? No, you'll live closer to your office and walk or bike there. Or you'll take a streetcar that stops one block from your house every 10 minutes.
- You want me to give up my huge front yard? Yes, but you won't need it, because you won't live next to a noisy and dangerous road. Instead, you'll have a small courtyard and it will look sick, with a lemon tree and a koi pond. And with all the money you save on gas, you can buy a little cabin out in the country and enjoy real nature there a few weekends a year.
The imaginative leap requires you to imagine, basically, town life, and most Americans no longer can because they have never experienced it. Some americans in some city neighborhoods or tourist traps enjoy it. It's usually expensive, but only because supply is constrained, not because it's innately costly. People who have lived abroad may have experienced it. Often they return to the US, and are offended by the sheer ugliness of it all. Many college students experience it, it's kind of nice huh, small college towns. Well, to americans that's not "the real world", just a holding pen for young people to squander their youth. But why couldn't it be "the real world"?
Make town living aspirational again, and half the battle is won. But that will only happen if people can imagine it. And that won't happen as long as people imagine `their` life `without` a car. They should imagine `somebody else's` life `with` a car.
And again, the rents in the coastal cities are an exception. Most cities and towns do not have any significant pressure on land prices. Town life is right there in front of us, for the cost of used tire lot and a White Castle, and people cannot see it. Because they'll object that there won't be any room for the drive-thru lane.
>People imagine their current way of life, but without a car
We imagine it because that's what's being proposed: public policy changes to discourage driving, without the attendant changes to remove our desire to drive.
San Francisco homeowners can easily get behind a proposal to make their streets safer, quieter, and prettier by removing all those South/East Bay outsiders and their cars.
They won't get behind a proposal to make their streets louder, in shadow, and full of undesirables by building high- or even mid-rise housing to let the commuters move in.
The movement to shut down driving has legs. The movement to densify doesn't. That's what scares me.
College towns are a great model. One interesting feature of many college towns is the preponderance of scooters and small motorcycles. I suspect these will be crucial (even if only as a transitional step) in densifying. Amazon Prime and the panoply of food delivery apps are also quite popular among students, helping to eliminate the shopping/errands use case for cars.
The thing is, even in the densest cities in the world it's not like people are completely without cars. They just manage to get by with one car per family rather than one car per driving age member of the household.
It has the additional advantage of letting their teenaged kids get around and do shit on their own without having their parents play chauffeur all day.
Between car sharing services, bike shares, and on-demand ride-hailing it's easier than ever to get around without a car and fill in the gaps that a transit system leaves. The only thing that actually gets hard is being able to drive out to go camping or manage the extemporaneous pick-up of free-shit on CraigsList. Even that would be doable if car rental companies were more focused on long term rentals for road-trippers rather than just people who need commuter econoboxes to leave their hotels.
60% of households in Paris do not have any car.
In its suburbs, and in other major but smaller cities in France, again 30% to 40% of households do not have any car.
That's a fair share of people who are completely without cars.
The weekend I want to go out of the city, I just go to the rent a car next to my house and I rent a hybrid car during 48 hours for about $150. If the place I want to go is really far, I take the bullet train and I rent a cheaper car there.
It's perfectly ok to live without car, it's just that the cities need to be designed in a different way.
1. At peak, I only spend $1800/year on gas. Even if that doubled or tripled, that's not enough to buy a cabin in the country - not by a long shot.
2. If I had a cabin in the woods, how would I get to/from it without a vehicle?
3. I don't want to enjoy "real nature" a few weekends a year. I want to enjoy it every day when I get home from work.
Owning and driving a vehicle is about freedom. Freedom to go where I want, when I want, with whom I want. Freedom always makes an exchange for risk (cost, crashing, health, etc) but I wouldn't exchange my freedom for any of those. If you would, that's fine, but don't tread on me.
What gives you the right to tell others what they need, what they should own, where and how they should live? I don't want a small, sick courtyard with a lemon tree and a koi pond. I want a yard where I can go outside and throw a ball around or play with my dog. I don't want to buy and maintain a cabin in the woods. Who are you to tell me that I can't or shouldn't have that?
It's virtually the same message from Andres Duany. His talk from 30 years ago is still so eerily precise and comprehensive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMvwHDFVpCE. When I feel presumptuous, I email this to people (deaf ears, mostly). Leon Krier bangs the same drum, and adds a more sophisticated, architectural perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFiYL8AvvnY.
In case you think we are talking hypotheticals here, what you are describing is exactly how rent control works.
Why tf would you want this? As an European, what I loved about US was that people don't like being all crammed up in small, old and disgusting cities, and they are OK with long commutes as the price for their "house with lawn"...
Population dispersal should be encouraged! It dramatically increases quality of life, and if you take a look at google maps you'll see that the Earth is full of unused space.
Yeah, energy and climate change and all that are serious problems... but let's solve so that having solved them we can enjoy un-crammed living...
Ideal world imho would one where cities and towns simply don't exist: it's individual homes or small-group-homes sprinkled around the planet, with "leisure centers" and "shopping centers" and "health centers" sprinkled uniformly between them, and large chunks of forest here + agricultural land here in-between them. It may sound extremely inefficient, but we have the technolgy to make it work now, so let's do it. Find something else to optimize, like making agriculture vertical instead, and let people live in the wide open spaces they enjoy! Why TF do we insist creating and optimizing these Urban Hells and then complain that anxiety and depression are eating us alive?!
Cities are not part of some grand conspiracy. They're an emergent phenomenon. They exist because they're more efficient at delivering all sorts of value to individual citizens. They aren't just more efficient at concentrating physical resources (a fact you casually wave off, but that's nevertheless very important), they are also more efficient at concentrating social resources.
Opportunities increase proportional to the number of connections in a human network, roughly following Metcalfe's Law. So, by moving to a dense urban area, an individual increases their slate of choices and potential for social/economic mobility. And, crucially, each new citizen increases the per capita value of the network to all current citizens. So individuals have powerful incentives to move to cities, and cities have powerful incentives to attract new citizens.
This is the primary reason for the continued urbanization of the globe, but there are others. I take it that you're probably not gay, disabled, poor, politically subversive, or otherwise significantly different from the average rural person. If you were, you'd have a unique appreciation for how lonely and hostile your ideal world would be to people who don't fit the norm, and how much easier it is for people to find a welcoming community in a city than in a village.
I was born in a tiny farming town and live in a rural village on an island these days, but I am extremely thankful that I spent 20 years of my life in a major city, with all the opportunities and diversity that entails. Yes, cities have their downsides, but I much prefer a world in which we have a choice of living densities, instead of your "utopia" of suburban monotony.
People who like deep thought or long deep conversations with few people under not much time pressure (if you've already commuted 20min to talk to someone for 1h, you're gonna listed to them for that 1h most, likely not go adhd on them after first 15min...) Also, "social homogeneity" (all people in a spatial region having the same cultural background) is really underrated - it really helps you focus when you have deep intellectual/technical work to do when you don't have to always be on alert for "what makes everyone different" or "what joke/metaphor could happen to offend anyone different enough from you"... Interaction with "special people" who actually want to be recognized as such robs you of waaaay too much brainpower that could be invested in other things.
Or mabey I just miss what I never had and I know I'll not have at least in the next 10 years :) ...in my brief interactions with "suburban monotony" in developed countries (rest of the world is a different story) I've really perceived it as heaven/utopia for people loving more personal space, depth, uninterrupted focus and "free attention".
City-dwelling introvert here. It's exactly the opposite. Sprawl isolates introverts because introverts have a harder time expending the effort it takes to maintain social connections.
I was lonely and miserable when I lived in an exurb. The accidental contact you get in a dense area makes it much easier to be an introvert who still has people interested in his life. It also makes it easy to go and make appearances at social gatherings and leave once you've had your fill because getting home is easy. Even more importantly, getting home drunk is easy.
>Also, "social homogeneity" (all people in a spatial region having the same cultural background) is really underrated - it really helps you focus when you have deep intellectual/technical work to do when you don't have to always be on alert for "what makes everyone different" or "what joke/metaphor could happen to offend anyone different enough from you"...
Ok. This isn't introversion, this is just social ineptitude. I'm an immigrant to this country and have never had enough of a problem with this despite not having the inculcated tribal knowledge that locals have. It has certainly never impacted my ability to focus. For one thing, if you're concentrating why are you paying attention to people around you at all?
> I've really perceived it as heaven/utopia for people loving more personal space, depth, uninterrupted focus and "free attention".
Do you think people who live in cities don't have their own offices or rooms or something? We live in apartments, not bunk hostels dude.
The range of people you can get to within 20min in a dispersed population is tiny. The idea of making it harder to talk to interesting people so that you value it more when you do seems clearly fallacious - while it's true that familiarity breeds contempt, surely if you value having interesting conversations you'd want to make them cheaper and more frequent.
> "social homogeneity" (all people in a spatial region having the same cultural background) is really underrated - it really helps you focus when you have deep intellectual/technical work to do when you don't have to always be on alert for "what makes everyone different" or "what joke/metaphor could happen to offend anyone different enough from you"... Interaction with "special people" who actually want to be recognized as such robs you of waaaay too much brainpower that could be invested in other things.
I do think there's a cultural issue of letting tolerance shade into special treatment. But I think forcing everyone to conform is worse - most people have some unusal aspects, and having to constantly hide those is far more oppressive and much more of a barrier to doing deep work.
My experience is the opposite of what you describe. Suburban areas tend to be far more hurried and stressed (partly because they have to drive everywhere all the time). Moreover, there's a lack of "third places"-- social places to interact with people that aren't home or work.
> People who like deep thought or long deep conversations with few people under not much time pressure [...]
I've spent half my life in little villages and suburbia and, in my experience, conversations here are much shallower than corresponding discussions in cities. We have more time to talk, sure, but that rarely translates to deeper discussions. In cities, on the other hand, I tended to encounter people with a higher diversity and density of life experience, which led to much deeper conversation than I've ever experienced in a rural community.
> Also, "social homogeneity" (all people in a spatial region having the same cultural background) is really underrated
There's a small tradeoff, I guess. But I live in a place where >90% of the population shares the same ethnic and religious background, and I don't see how that contributes to productivity in any meaningful way. Diversity of experience leads to far fewer shared assumptions and higher quality of work, I've found.
I've encountered too much software here that assumes everybody only has two names, women only want to be with men and vice versa, all names can be expressed using X alphabet, each user has full use of their hands/eyes/ears/voice/legs, children are genetically related to their guardian, babies are only born in hospitals, etc. When this software collides with reality, it breaks. It might have been written faster (I doubt it), but it's less fit for purpose.
Honestly, if you find it difficult to consider the feelings of others, it sounds like you want the freedom to be antisocial without paying the costs. You won't find that anywhere, rural or urban. You'll simply find a different set of norms. Considering the social ramifications of your actions is simply the price of living in any society, large or small.
> Interaction with "special people" who actually want to be recognized as such robs you of waaaay too much brainpower that could be invested in other things.
Have you ever thought about it from the other perspective? Perhaps they merely want to be treated like you are regularly treated. Has it occurred to you that your desire to be apathetic to the needs of other humans is, itself, a request to be a "special person", robbing many of us of brainpower, etc?
> Or mabey I just miss what I never had
>> and I know I'll not have at least in the next 10 years
Why not? Answer that and I bet you'll go a long way toward answering your question about why humans have been increasingly favoring cities over the last few thousand years.
Citation needed. My quality of life went way up when I moved to a big city: simply having many more people around means there can be a lot more things that cater for niche interests. Humans are social creatures and like having like-minded people around, and for those of us who are weird in various ways, a group of like-minded people is easier to find in a city. At the same time most people have multiple interests and want to be able to move in multiple circles - in a dispersed world I might be able to live in a programmer commune or an anime-fan commune or a goth/industrial music commune or a kink commune or a theatre commune, but I'd be unlikely to find all of them in the same place. (And that's a pretty closely-aligned set of interests as people go, I'm pretty boring). And if your solution is traveling to places of interest, remember that commuting is a huge drain on quality of life, and one that people often underestimate when choosing where to live.
> Ideal world imho would one where cities and towns simply don't exist: it's individual homes or small-group-homes sprinkled around the planet, with "leisure centers" and "shopping centers" and "health centers" sprinkled uniformly between them, and large chunks of forest here + agricultural land here in-between them.
Sounds pretty boring. What would anyone do in the evenings? Where would you go to work on something? Just working in one of a few office blocks clustered together and devoted to related industries, with a couple of restaurants and some bars/clubs, is a huge win - all those random meanings and social opportunities with people who are doing something similar, but not exactly the same, to what you do. But to sustain a cluster like that probably takes a city (I mean maybe you could build a programmer-startup-oriented small town, but I wouldn't want to live in it 24/7).
Out of curiosity, how did you go about finding a group in a city presumably distant from where you grew up?
Even besides that, as a poor graduate student I was living in a group house when I first got here. Essentially that's a mansion where people rent the bedrooms and share the common spaces (living room, kitchen, etc.) It has its downsides--mostly about keeping things clean and stocking essentials like toilet paper and soap--but it's a great way to meet people both through your roommates and your roommate's friends.
And aside from that there are lots of communitarian hobbies you can get involved in. I joined an "urban forestry" group that plants and maintains trees around parks on the weekends. People join board-gaming groups, community gardens, hiking/outdoors groups, meditation centers, reading/book clubs, or similar things. Meetup.com is a good way to find groups that are open to new members. There are also 'community gardens' where you can rent a plot and plant vegetables and it tends to be a good way to meet other gardeners.
There are also lots of social sports leagues in cities. The abundance of public parks and sports complexes makes this easy. So you'll usually find flag football leagues, kickball, cricket, etc. For the really indolent there are even leagues for bar-games like bowling or darts or skee-ball. Volunteering is another good option. I briefly volunteered at a high school to do mock-job interviews for kids where I met some folks. I also got involved in a South Asian Young Professionals group, which I then promptly left because it was a status obsessed meat-market, but if that's your thing. . .
You can also join classes. Crossfit, for example, develops a culty mentality because the gyms tend to form a community. I joined a martial arts school and made friends with some of the people there. If athletics isn't for you, there are amateur cooking classes, acting, improv, poetry, pottery, painting/art, etc. Density creates viable markets for all sorts of niche services and organizations that can't really survive in a sprawly environment.
One big issue with decentralization is that industries tend to congregate. However, there is no solid reason why modern offices need to be all located in the same downtown. Decentralization reduces density and discourages rent-seeking behavior by existing residents.
I might be biased but I like suburbs. I think (without any data to support) they approach the optimal density for most people. Of course, some people find them bland and boring. Urban density is more efficient, no doubt, but I don't get the hate for people enjoying large backyards and the peace and quiet suburbs afford.
That really just means there aren't enough cities, not that everyone should cram into the ones there.
The public infrastructure in India is also abysmal and inadequate to the numbers of people who live there. Tokyo is denser than Bangalore but is much more vibrant and livable (over 6k people per km compared to over 4k people per km) because of good planning, good regulations, and good transit.
My experience is that working in downtown is more productive - and, fundamentally, much more fun - than working in an office park or at home in the middle of nowhere. You can learn a lot from bouncing off people who work in similar-but-not-quite-the-same fields, and just having good lunch options is a huge win.
However, I grew up in sprawling suburban asphalt hellscape, and now live in the core of an old European city. I still love it.
That's an effect of too many businesses being concentrated in city centre, too. Disperse jobs as well as people, and life will be better.
One reasonable argument I've seen is that once you factor in car+gas, the difference narrows. There's also an element of the suburban "ponzi" scheme.
There are very few cities in the US in which owning a car is optional. Only one (New York City) has an outright majority of people who don't own a car. The next two, D.C and Boston, are the only others that have more than a third of households without a car.
The reason is that most cities just don't have the infrastructure necessary to facilitate car non-ownership. It's not that everyone wants to own a car; it's that you have to own a car anyway, at least some of the time, and once you already own a car, the impetus to live in higher-density, more expensive areas drops dramatically.
 You can inflate those numbers a bit by counting Jersey City and Newark as separate cities from the New York City metro area, but no matter how you slice and dice it, it doesn't change the numbers much.
I'm happy to be proven wrong, but in all honesty, I moved 4 cities in as many years, all in different countries, and all of different sizes.
I'm assuming you lived in the outer boroughs? In Manhattan, it's painful to own a car unless you're really wealthy.
I've visited NY a few times and if you can live along the subway corridors then you don't need a car.
Right now I'm in Europe, and own no car. But realistically the roads here and the driving is far more intimidating than in Australia.
You can't understand it because you have it backward.
If land is cheap you have urban areas.
If land is expensive you have dense cities (since a small apartment is all you can afford).
Once you realize that cause and effect are the reverse of what you think, it will make more sense.
When land prices go up, lots get rapidly subdivided with more houses, and then apartments (as prices go up higher).
When land prices go down, buildings get torn down, and the (now vacant) adjacent yards get added to existing homes.
Rural roads are probably fine. The often mentioned 'ponzi scheme' doesn't happen out there.
Especially when there's no similar talk about how we subsidize mass transit.
If we can lower rent in the city, automobile usage will go down on its own.
This will lead to the day when the author complains about how the mortgage interest tax deduction is unfair because people in the city who rent don't get it and needs to be eliminated.
Um. .. yes. Not necessarily because 'unfair' but because it confers no real societal benefit. If you want to lower people's taxes, just lower their fucking taxes. Quit trying to skew market forces to make sure only certain types of people get favorable tax treatment.
There are tax credits and deductions that make sense because they promote socially beneficial behavior like getting an education or raising kids. But nobody cares whether your rent or own.
There are at least two social benefits to home ownership.
First is wealth accumulation. According to GAAP, land does not depreciate. It can go up or down in value due to market forces but it does not depreciate. When people have real, tangible wealth, they are less likely to be dependent upon the social safety net as they go through life. That benefits society. Homes can also be used as an instrument of generational wealth transfer.
Second, owners tend to take better care of properties than tenants. A community where most or all of the inhabitants own their residences is more desirable than one where everyone rents.
If you have no objection to child and educational tax credits, you don't have an issue with skewing market forces. You just want to be the one to decide who gets the benefit of that skewing.
First of all, there is a slight of hand here. I said housing and you just said land. Housing does depreciate. Especially shitty, pre-fab housing.
Secondly, land that isn't used for farming is not a productive asset. There is no societal benefit to encouraging people to sink their savings/investment into non-productive assets. If that savings wasn't being poured into housing, it would have been put into an index fund or other asset class that does more than generate paper-profits via speculation. Home-ownership only functions as an investment vehicle in a political environment that prioritizes raising real-estate costs. Functionally all this does is transfers wealth from people who earn incomes to people who own assets.
>Second, owners tend to take better care of properties than tenants. A community where most or all of the inhabitants own their residences is more desirable than one where everyone rents.
Not really. Once you control for length of residence it's mostly a wash. Long-term tenants aren't any worse than owners. In some cases they can be better because they're not the ones footing the bill for essential repair work. It comes out of their rent and is handled by a property manager who is legally liable for maintaining the property.
>You just want to be the one to decide who gets the benefit of that skewing.
This is literally the role of government. When governed well, society gets the benefit of that skewing by accounting for the externalities that aren't accounted for by the market forces. When governed badly you make problems worse.
I'm getting pretty sick of the self absorbed us vs them mentality. Take a step back and put on a wider lens. If this were some liberal elite who hates you and your life style then why the hell would they want you to come live with them? If you're living in a rural setting and you're not commuting to the city daily, this isn't about you.
> People will move to cities and use roads less if cities are affordable.
You're completely failing to understand and generalizing everyone with that sentiment. There are a multitude of factors that people consider when they choose where they live. Everything from schools, family, friends, to things like personal preference and social anxiety.
Name calling and failure to understand the problem are lazy short cuts and not simple practical solutions.
ok, that's a workable premise to start from. the true costs imposed by driving in urban environments are almost certainly much much much higher than those in rural environments. urban areas is where issues like air pollution, traffic congestion, bottlenecks on bridges and tunnels, scarcity of parking, and the need to share limited road space with pedestrians and cyclists are really big issues. in rural areas these are just not really major causes of concern.
so my reading on it is that true-cost pricing of cars ought to make urban car use much more expensive, but only make rural car use a little more expensive. I think that's highly desirable, actually.
* annual fee for road maintenance
* annual fee for traffic enforcement
* no free parking anywhere except your own driveway. every street parking spot should be metered.
* excise taxes on gasoline to control air pollution and C02 emissions
>People will move to cities and use roads less if cities are affordable. If we can lower rent in the city, automobile usage will go down on its own. This is where the fight should be pointed I believe.
This. So much.
Affordable housing and reasonable transit that makes the entire city and neighboring suburbs accessible will reduce car usage.
I work in Toronto and commute from a nearby suburb. Rent and real estate costs in the city are ridiculous, but I'm planning on making the move anyway.
I would love to live car-free, but the reality is a failure of transit. Transit sucks:
1) Transit in suburbia sucks. A lot of routes are every 30 or 60 minutes.
2) Transit between the suburbs and the city sucks. The systems are not aligned well and when you have layers of busses and trains that only come every 30-60 minutes, it just adds a lot of unnecessary waiting time to your commute. This causes a lot of people to drive and park at the GO station so they can take a train into the city.
3) Transit in Toronto is great if you happen to live and work on a Subway line. If not, good luck - you'll likely add 20-60 minutes to your transit commute. A car makes the rest of the city easily accessible.
So dealing with 2-3 different transit systems makes a commute unreasonable. If you're commuting from a nearby suburb, it can take 2+ hours to get to work.
My partner works in another suburb, and to transit there would take about 2.5-3 hours each direction. It's just not practical.
We've reached a compromise: We have a single car, and we car-pool to a reasonable spot and I take the train into the city. I'm lucky in that my place of work is near a subway stop, so my entire commute in this way is about 75-90 minutes each-way. I often work on the train on my way to work.
I'm planning on moving to the city, but we will never be able to be car-free with the state of transit the way it is. My partner will have to drive from Toronto to her work. Without traffic, probably 25 minutes. With traffic, closer to an hour. But that beats the 2.5-3 hours (each way) that it would take to commute via transit.
But the transit system seems to be built for a Toronto half the size. In between the hubs of density are miles of big box plazas, McMansions and 10 lane roads with neverending traffic jams. Downtown exploded while the subways and Gardiner choked. In the race to develop it seems no one was looking at the big picture of how all this growth was going to interact.
I've heard of the regional transport plan, The Big Move - curious to see how this affects the GTA in the next decade.
The problem are antisocial people who want the big garden in the suburb and drive their car into the city for their commute by day, pushing the massive costs for their lifestyle on the people actually living in the city.
This is pretty ignorant. Not wanting to live in cramped apartments does not make someone an anti-social. There are plenty of shut-ins living in cities.
I mean, kind of. I'm not sure where the author lives, but in Houston, I don't have much of a choice. I already pay tolls and taxes, gas prices and my car note. I live as close to work as is affordable, and still have to drive. There's no bus route from my apartment and I'm not about to ride my bike on I-10. I ask this next question in seriousness, because I'd love to change my habits without moving to a more expensive city with good public transportation: what are my options here? I'd rather not be "disinsentivized" from doing something I have no choice but to do.
All of those things are also subsidized, to some extent. Water is the classic example, but the government subsidizes both fossil-fuel and clean energy, as well as the companies proving phone/cable/internet. The difference here is that you're paying your taxes on your vehicle and the gas, the latter of which is essentially a use tax on driving.
Why don't we stop subsidizing education too?
If you don't live in a hot state, you don't won't know what that's like. It's funny though, shortly after rush hour, our area has packs of people riding bicycles for recreation. I'm pretty sure most of them shower before dinner.
There's no arguing on opinions, but this shows the sheer distortion of perspective you get living in the US as opposed to most of the world.
10 miles is a ridiculously long commute if your job doesn't necessitate massive amounts of space (airport worker, etc.)
How much of that 10 miles is just asphalt? Parking, roads, garages, gas stations, slip roads, onramps, offramps, shoulders? How much of it is actual good stuff?
For what it's worth I used to live in hot places and I rode to work all the time. I changed at work when I didn't have a shower, and showered at work when I did. A few times it was over 110 F. Fortunately, my employer was supportive.
When you had to drop your kids off to school, did you just throw them on the handlebars? What happened when you switched jobs? Did you restrict your prospective employers to a 2 mile radius, or did you just buy a new house and have two mortgages until your old house sold?
What you are saying is fine, but it only works for a select group of people (read: single). Trying to force everyone to do the same thing through punitive taxes is short sighted. There are much better ways to reduce the carbon footprint of vehicles than the just tax people who need them to get to work every day.
Children can walk, or can indeed ride on bikes with parents (I see this now and then where I live, and much more in more cycle-friendly places). They can ride their own bikes, even, in places where drivers aren't allowed to run over cyclists and walkers with something near impunity (which sadly is most of the world). The idea that children have to be ferried around in a car has the billions of people who raise families without a car as a counterexample.
I restrict prospective employers to those within about a 5-10 mile radius of my home, or a 20 minute walk or cycle from rail, but I also am a more competent cyclist than most. At one point my employer was 12 miles away, but that was fine because there was a surprisingly good bike route (shockingly, in LA of all places). I rode down the beach from Santa Monica to El Segundo - the only thing that really made that distance worthwhile. This does contradict what I said about ten mile commutes, I realize, but then most people think ten miles is an absurd distance to cycle.
I was also fortunate enough to be at an employer affected by California's Parking Cashout law, meaning I got the cost of the parking I wasn't using in my paycheck. Not wasting my life on 405 was another big incentive.
So children should walk to school on the highway or a busy road in LA? I don't think that's a very good solution. I think you are trying too hard to justify your idea rather than considering a better solution other than "everyone ride bikes."
LA is a very unique city. Look, if you want to wrap your life around riding your bike to work, more power to you, just don't try force your lifestyle on the entirety of the US population through punitive taxation. Also, if you don't like parking lots, don't live in a huge city. There is plenty of land in the US to live other than a big city.
I would love to buy some acreage in the middle of nowhere and remote work all day. That would solve a bunch of problems.
This is a straw man argument. The whole point is that children SHOULDN'T do that, because it's horribly dangerous. However, that is exactly what any child in places with terrible infrastructure, who aren't driven or bussed, must do right now. Your argument is in favour of continuing this.
"Look, if you want to wrap your life around riding your bike to work, more power to you"
I did. It's why I don't live in the US anymore. However, most people don't have that option.
"Also, if you don't like parking lots, don't live in a huge city"
I'm not sure we agree on what a "city" is. Good ones don't have huge parking lots.
Anyway, I think it's pretty clear we've reached an impasse. Regardless, know that your car-dependent lifestyle is subsidized.
So here's where I think we're differing. You are looking at the end result: no or very few cars, no need for massive infrastructure, redesigned cities for this new post automobile reality, much safer walking and riding, etc. I think that's a wonderful vision, but getting from here to there quickly without something amazing happening (like ultra cheap, ultra range, ultra subsidized electrics paired with massive economic growth to offset the lost jobs of the industry and all dependent companies, etc) would be too painful for the economy.
Some of that vision will happen naturally, but like anything that useful, road vehicles won't go away completely.
No one is talking about "punitive taxation," we are talking about eliminating subsides for driving.
This is not a stick, it's a reduction of your free monthly carrot delivery.
It's as if the government were giving massive subsidies to Angular developers. After 50 years of this the small community of React developers says "hey, um, can we eliminate those Angular subsidies someday?" and the response is "oh my god--stop this horrible social engineering! Don't try to force your lifestyle on the entirety of the US population through punitive taxation!"
I mean, c'mon, I might enjoy flying a helicopter to work every day but I don't force every new apartment to have a helipad, or demand that we only have one home per acre because otherwise air traffic might get too congested. Nor do I complain when I can't park my helicopter for free at the store.
>FastTrak is a nightmare. The answer is gasoline/carbon taxes, since you are "consuming against the environment" on a per gallon basis, not a per mile/per toll road basis
Either way, if you are talking about removing subsidies that directly affect individuals, it might as well be a stick because it's a net negative. You should consider of something that is less directly harmful to people. Subsidizing electric cars is a much better idea because it injects capital into the market and saves people money on something they need to work.
I completely agree. And...
Drivers are the direct beneficiaries of driving infrastructure. Yes, driving infrastructure benefits other people too, e.g. through cheaper shipping, but the sole mechanism by which those benefits are realized is by making driving cheaper. Drivers are the direct beneficiaries, anyone else who benefits does so indirectly.
It's entirely reasonable to support subsidizing driving because you think it will have economic benefits in the form of, e.g., faster shipping (and I think some level of this has been absolutely necessary historically). But it's entirely unreasonable to claim that because your preferred subsidy has benefits, it shouldn't really be called a subsidy.
And people who order from amazon!
Give me a nice half-acre and a self-driving car to get me where I need to go.
The US is seeing fiscal and infrastructure problems across the country from municipalities who spread themselves too thin the past 60 years. They don't have the funds to maintain, much less improve, their infrastructure. We need to make it easier to build denser and start thinking about how to develop more sustainably going forward.
In the end, people will keep trying to sell others on their own preferences, which is very much a nurture thing. If you grew up in the city, you're going to prefer the city. If you didn't, you probably won't enjoy living in the middle of downtown without a car. In fact, that prospect is extremely depressing and I'd honestly rather be dead myself than not have a car.
I agree with you on everything except this one. Going by this thread, the trend seems to be opposite - a lot of HNers who grew up in "boring" suburbs and enjoy the city life, and a few (like me) who grew up in cities and now prefer more open spaces.
Also, it would be nice if those half-acre folks were forced to pay the true cost of their decadence. Right now there's a tendency that denser areas get extra-punished with taxes, even though services are theoretically cheaper to provide.
"Decadence", on the other hand, really seems like name-calling. Let's not do that.
As for the tax situation, that seems interesting. Could you provide more detail? I'm in Brazil, here there's the rural area, that's taxed much more lightly but has less services, and everything in the urban area gets taxed the same percentage of assumed property value, regardless of density. How's it like where you live, and what would you propose to change?
Its not too big of a deal, i just packed a change of clothes, wiped off using baby wipes, and took a sponge bath in the bathroom sink .
Also I didn't get that sweaty in the morning cause it was still somewhat cool, going home is another story though :)
Whenever I'm asked why I do something, I find that I often spontaneously make up a reason for why I do that thing, even when the real reason is because that's just they way it's always been done.
I know not every office has a shower, but many do. And requiring the others to have one would be a pretty small thing.
The problem is not in how most people make their individual transportation choices; people are generally pretty rational and predictable there, with good policy you can alter behavior. The problem is that our policies and regulations generally favor cars, and there's so much cultural momentum there that it's very hard to change.
Cars will be parked inside the building when not in use, people living in the building will get an app to book car usage and to open it, landlord will take care of car maintenance, collective insurance, etc.
The app could also assist in sharing the "renting" cost if, for example, I take it to drive to my office but I also make a little detour to drop a fellow tenant to his or her workplace (and maybe take them back, too).
Sort like the corporate car pool offered by alphabet but restricted to tenants.
Would this work out economically? How low should the hourly/rate be to make this convenient for the landlord and the tenants?
I drive a fairly fuel efficient car. Only fill up every week and a half. That's pretty good I think in my situation.
I'd be happy if Houston made it easier not to drive! Maybe I'll try to find activists working toward that end.