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'Talent Wants Transit': Companies Near Transportation Gaining the Upper Hand (npr.org)
328 points by bootsz 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 317 comments



I think what’s interesting is that there are people in the Bay who want to live in apartments and take transit to work and there are people who want to live in houses with gardens and stuff. The people in the latter group do not want to allow the people in the former group to have the experience they desire. But that’s because the people in the latter group do not want just to live in houses with gardens. They want to live in houses with gardens where their neighbours also have houses with gardens.

So we have these big fights about property rights and whatnot when it’s just that the two aims are incompatible and the latter group wants the status quo (which is necessarily easier to adhere to)


I'll bite... I've protested apartments being built near my house-with-a-garden in the suburbs (Seattle area).

Not because I have a particular interest in my house price, or want to interfere with other people, but because the plans are doing absolutely sweet FA to improve the infrastructure to cope with the additions. In general, I'd be happy for the extra apartments if they came with extra infrastructure. We'd all benefit from it.

In one case, they started planning to add hundreds of apartment blocks specifically targetting young families, and yet the way it was being done there would be zero money going towards local schools to deal with the extra influx. Usual construction requires money towards schools, but there are loopholes, and the developer was using them, and the city seemed happy to let them.

Nor were there any plans to deal with the additional cars being added. Even with good transit links to Seattle, the roads leading to the proposed site.

Nor were there plans to deal with increased sanitation or power demand on an already flaky power grid.

The list literally goes on and on. What we keep seeing around here is developers interested in doing the absolute bare minimum to build apartment blocks, and a city content to just let them overload an stretched resources.


Whose job is it/should it be to get that infrastructure built, and on what timeline? Obviously it's not reasonable for a private contractor to have to build a school addition for each housing block (or is it?), but if the people haven't moved in yet then there's no data to show the city so that they can project tax/levy money and scale schooling, transit, and other infrastructure appropriately.

If we let the circular dependencies stymie us at all turns, we'll never get anywhere. Gotta start somewhere, and having people to clamor for services seems like a good place to do so as any to me.


This isn't really a circular dependency because the developers can't build without the city's permission. If a developer plans to add N units of housing to an area that means there is need for NxM of various kinds of resources in the area, and you need them before NxY people move into the area and need them.

You can't just suddenly have 10,000 more people and no sewer system for them until you find out exactly how much poop they produce.

It's not even like questions like "If you add this many 3 bedroom homes to an area how many schools do you need" aren't unstudied questions, either. Civil engineering is a thing and should be able to answer questions like that pretty darn well.

Who is responsible for actually building it is a fair and open question with several different answers, but as long as city planning is a thing, the city that approves construction is responsible for ensuring that that construction will not overload resources somehow, and I don't even see how that can be under dispute.


> It's not even like questions like "If you add this many 3 bedroom homes to an area how many schools do you need" aren't unstudied questions, either. Civil engineering is a thing and should be able to answer questions like that pretty darn well.

That's not the kind of question civil engineering answers. That's more urban planning.


That's fair. The point still stands.


10,000 people sounds like a lot, but in terms of a large city’s sewer system it’s not that meaningful. In terms of traffic etc you are talking about 10k people in a 3,870k people population area. That less than 1/3 of one percent.

PS: Simply from the overall US population growth rate the metro area should expect to add ~27,000 people every year.


The exact number is not particularly relevant and is deliberately vague since it doesn't say in what area or what kind of city I'm talking about.

This is because the point is to illustrate the ridiculousness of suggesting that infrastructure should only be meted out once demand is known in the concrete with people living there by pointing out that until you build the sewer system, N people still need to poop, not to talk about what kind of population growth is normal for a large city.


I was assuming you where being approximate and continuing to talk about the Seattle area.

Anyway, my point is more the US population is growing so just about every Metro area needs to deal with continuous growth. And 10k homes are generally not going to fill up in a single day it’s going to relate to the areas migration pattern. City’s can’t just stay static while continuing to be viable.

That said, OP seemed more concerned with Developers not paying for infrastructure which is a reasonable concern, growth on the other hand is not optional long term.


Cities “can’t just stay static while continuing to be viable.”

I have to wonder what you mean by static and viable. Seems like the cities most derided for being static are also quite viable: San Francisco, San Jose, etc...


From 2000 to 2017 San Francisco grew 13.5% and San Jose grew 14.5%.

Going back San Francisco county grew from 680k in 1980 to 884k in 2017 that’s significant growth which tracks fairly well with overall US population growth. https://www.biggestuscities.com/city/san-francisco-californi... So, it was ranked 13 in 1980 and is ranked 13th in 2017.

San Jose grew faster than the national average from 1960 to 2017. https://www.biggestuscities.com/city/san-jose-california

Thus, perception does not match reality in these cases. On the other hand overall US population does not grow that fast. So, things can feel static in the short term.


For large-scale development, it is reasonable for a private contractor to have to build a school addition for each housing block. I've seen it in Flowermound, TX. The developer built a really nice elementary school and donated it to the city. Perhaps it was required by the town. Perhaps the developer got a tax break. Either way, the nice school surely contributed to higher selling prices for the homes the developer was selling.


> Obviously it's not reasonable for a private contractor to have to build a school addition for each housing block (or is it?)

In the UK there have been various methods to get residential developers to pay for infrastructure.

They're fairly recent, and I'm not too familiar with them.

Even if the developer isn't to pay the full cost, there are efficiencies by the local government working with the developer to build relevant infrastructure at the same time.

Example: https://www.telfordhomes-ir.london/media/press-releases/2017...


I wonder to what point some of these methods just increase housing prices.

For example, having the developer plant trees along the street means the price of the new build goes up (of course the developer will pass along costs), and existing residents get an improved neighbourhood without increased taxation. But is this not something the council should be paying for? After all the new homeowners will be paying council tax, why must the also pay a fee to join the community?


> Whose job is it/should it be to get that infrastructure built, and on what timeline?

The new residents, so, by proxy, the developer putting the apartment block in.

Of course, the developer immediately starts grousing about regulation, and excessive fees, and apparently, this is the reason for why we can't have sub-$400,000 apartment units.

> Obviously it's not reasonable for a private contractor to have to build a school addition for each housing block (or is it?)

It is reasonable for them to pay the city enough money to construct the infrastructure necessary to serve the new density they are adding.


infrastructure in sprawl costs more per capita than in dense urban developments. If these people will move to the same city anyways, maybe the city should be subsidizing the cost of the infrastructure because it’s cheaper to provide it to a big building on an existing street than it is to a new subdivision down the road


> infrastructure in sprawl costs more per capita than in dense urban developments. (snip) it’s cheaper to provide it to a big building on an existing street than it is to a new subdivision down the road

Unfortunately, even if you divide the costs per person, it's still often cheaper to get 40 people new water lines in say 20 average suburban homes, than it is to get 40 people new water lines in say, one building in Manhattan.

Infrastructure costs do not scale evenly per mile. The capital costs in infrastructure are rarely the actual wires or pipes, it's the installation and maintenance labour. Which are considerably more complex and more expensive in dense urban environments, than it is in the sprawl.

There are plenty of downsides to sprawl (it's a waste of land, for instance). But sprawl is nearly always cheaper (even after removing all subsidies), that's kind of the whole reason sprawl exists in the first place.


The problem is, you're comparing a Manhattan high-rise to 20 single-family homes. Price/performance tends to be mid-rise apartments, which look like duplexes for the most part. These mid-rise apartments are cheaper per-capita both capital wise and maintenance wise than sprawly single-family homes.

Sprawl exists because of zoning codes, not because of a market equilibrium.

If you're interested in the phenomenon, read https://www.strongtowns.org/the-growth-ponzi-scheme/ about the Growth Ponzi Scheme.


> you're comparing a Manhattan high-rise to 20 single-family homes.

That's generally what people mean by "Dense Urban" vs "sprawl", yes? You could replace "Manhattan" with "Chicago Loop" and it would be the roughly identical.

> These mid-rise apartments are cheaper per-capita both capital wise and maintenance wise than sprawly single-family homes.

They aren't, sprawly apartments (like duplexes, or low-mid-rise apartments) are roughly equivalent to costs as sprawly single family homes, and dense apartments are more expensive.

This gets confusing, because sprawly apartments (like duplexes or low-rises) are usually lower quality and lower maintained than nearby single family homes, and therefore are cheaper. But if you brought the SFH down to that lower level of maintenance, they too would be cheaper in a similar way. (And similarly, if you brought those low-density apartments up to the quality of nearby SFH, they would be slightly more expensive).

> Read Strong Towns

I have, many many times. They get promoted on HN on a literally daily basis.

Strong Towns is a fun blog to read, but unfortunately, Strong Towns is simply wrong sometimes. Their understanding of suburban finances is one thing they are semi-routinely incorrect on, they assume most suburbs are only financially viable if they continiously grow -- and while this is true for some, it is not common for most. The Growth Ponzi scheme they mention, while true for a handful of suburbs, does not apply in any way to 75% or more of suburbs across the US.

Don't take my word for it. Most municipalities budgets are public record (they should all be, really). Look up one near you, and see this for yourself.


Asserting that "sprawly apartments" have the same cost as SFH is not compelling unless backed up by TCO figures, since it runs up against the metric of "geometric efficiency". If I have more destinations nearby, I spend less on all forms of transit, which compensates for rent and utilities costs. And if my neighborhood is denser on average, then I have more walkable destinations, subject to zoning law, and each destination in turn sees a better return on infrastructural investment.

Urban streets in Japan tend to blend together because they allow commercial uses throughout - you can wander a single neighborhood for days and not see every storefront. It's not just the transit. There's a built-in bias towards density there that is not present in US suburbs, which are largely motivated to build big box retail and office parks instead of houses because they are bigger moneymakers. We are setting a market equilibrium by law.


> This gets confusing, because sprawly apartments (like duplexes or low-rises) are usually lower quality and lower maintained than nearby single family homes, and therefore are cheaper. But if you brought the SFH down to that lower level of maintenance, they too would be cheaper in a similar way. (And similarly, if you brought those low-density apartments up to the quality of nearby SFH, they would be slightly more expensive).

Without TCO figures, I can't agree or disagree with you. Moreover I feel like this is permeated with a pretty common American bias, namely that homeowners maintain their property better than landlords (the myth of the yeoman property owner).


I'll break this down another way.

I'm going to pick a random suburb that happens to be near me. They are about a 33% even split of old suburbs (1940-1960s), middle suburbs (1970s-1990s) and new suburbs (2000s+), with maybe 15% of that new suburb land still totally empty. There are a few duplexes and apartment buildings in there, but nothing dense. No buildings higher than 3 stories, it's like 95% low density stuff.

Their budget for 2017 includes $7,143,000 towards "Major Streets and Local Streets". That's costs for basically every road except the freeways (those are maintained by the state). This suburbs spends that, every year, on roads alone.

"OH MY GOD THATS SO EXPENSIVE" says StrongTowns, "OBVIOUSLY SUBURBS ARE DOOMED!"

There are 75,000 people living in this suburb. That 7 million dollars, divided per person (per capita) per month, comes out to $8/month per person. (That's number is artificially high, because it includes none of the businesses or retail that also pay taxes -- it assumes just the residents alone shoulder all the burden).

Even ignoring all business revenue, for less than the cost of a Netflix subscription per person, this suburbs maintains every single street in the entire suburb.

An average house in this Midwestern Michigan suburb, costs about $150-200k. A single family home pays a couple hundred dollars per month in property taxes. It costs just $8 of those couple hundred dollars per month, to maintain every single street in the suburb.

Is it possible the municipality mis-counted something? Sure! Is it possible they aren't fully accounting for every possible road cost? Perhaps! Let's pretend they mis-counted by something extreme, let's assume they are a full 50% under-estimating on literally every street in the sububrb.

That doomsday scenario means a citizen might have to pay $16/month for roads, instead of $8. Oh no, what a terrible world that would be

I'm not pretending every suburb is identical. I'm sure there are suburbs that spend more than $8/per person per month on roads. Some suburbs are more sprawled out than others. But generally speaking, there is no great infrastructure apocalypse coming down upon us. It's just not happening, unless some major disaster wipes everything out all at once (like a hurricane, or a tornado, or a screwup like Flint's Water crisis).

-----

The Growth Ponzi scheme makes a great headline for StrongTowns. But for most people, it's completely fanfaction. It is not grounded in any reality whatsoever, for the vast majority of people who are reading it.


> There are 75,000 people living in this suburb. That 7 million dollars, divided per person (per capita) per month, comes out to $8/month per person. (That's number is artificially high, because it includes none of the businesses or retail that also pay taxes -- it assumes just the residents alone shoulder all the burden).

Are you assuming that each of those 75,000 people owns property and pays property tax? That is a pretty inaccurate statement.

Moreover I too will engage in your random exercise. Let's pick Paso Robles, CA [1]. Rather than guestimating property taxes based on some weird anecdotal extension of my own property tax, I'm going to take a look at the city budget [2]. The city earned $10,370,327 in property taxes in the 2017 FY. The city paid $1,258,730 to maintain its streets in the same FY. That's 12.1% of property taxes devoted just to street maintenance. In fact, if you look at the city budget, property tax can barely pay for the public works of the city. Without other sources of revenue, the city would fall woefully behind on its payments.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paso_Robles,_California

[2]: https://www.prcity.com/DocumentCenter/View/23619/Two-Year-Ad...


> Are you assuming that each of those 75,000 people pays property tax?

Yes, because effectively, they are. Renters pay for it through their rent (landlords don't just eat costs for free) and obviously children don't pay for their own, and homeless folks don't and such. But effectively, most every resident is paying property taxes (or someone is paying their share for them) in some way or another.

> I too will engage in your random exercise. Let's pick Paso Robles, CA

So, using your approach for the suburb I picked, all road construction + maintenance + repair costs are about 20% of the total suburban budget. Approximately $8/person/month. (This is in Michigan, where we have snow+ice+flooding for 6 months straight each year, so that seems totally reasonable to me.)

Using your own link for Paso Robles to the budget they provided, they're devoting 12.1% of property taxes to street maintenance. With ~29k people, that's ~$4/person/month.

So, your suburb spends even less to maintain their roads (per capita) than mine does. Isn't that a good thing? Doesn't that just further reinforce the fact that there is no coming "infrastructure apocalypse" for roads? If Paso Robles needed to double their entire road budget for some magical reason, you'd still be paying less than what folks up here already pay every single year.

> In fact, if you look at the city budget, property tax can barely pay for the public works of the city. Without other sources of revenue, the city would fall woefully behind on its payments.

Isn't that also a good thing? In a perfect world, the total taxes collected would pay for all the services provided, with a little set aside for a rainy day and nothing more left over.


> Yes, because effectively, they are. Renters pay for it through their rent (landlords don't just eat costs for free) and obviously children don't pay for their own, and homeless folks don't and such. But effectively, most every resident is paying property taxes (or someone is paying their share for them) in some way or another.

I think this is a weak argument you're using to make the price per capita seem low. If your income is $10 / mo, and you pay $4 in property tax, then you are spending 40% of your income in property tax.

> Using your own link for Paso Robles to the budget they provided, they're devoting 12.1% of property taxes to street maintenance. With ~29k people, that's ~$4/person/month.

That's still 12.1%. Whether it's $4/person/month or $1/person/month, it's 12.1% of property tax.

> If Paso Robles needed to double their entire road budget for some magical reason, you'd still be paying less than what folks up here already pay every single year

Again, how does that matter? The city will now be paying 24.2% of their property tax on road maintenance, leaving a shortfall.

> Isn't that also a good thing? In a perfect world, the total taxes collected would pay for all the services provided, with a little set aside for a rainy day and nothing more left over.

Right but what about emergency services, and city vehicle fleet maintenance, and sewage, and parks... The property tax cannot pay for all services associated with the sprawl. Oh and building new infrastructure. The city relies on a bevy of other taxes and entitlements to pay their budget, including various State transportation subsidies.


“If your income is $10 / mo, and you pay $4 in property tax, then you are spending 40% of your income in property tax.”

Those numbers don’t seem very realistic?


The obvious reason that property tax collections 'just barely' manage to pay for public works is that citizens set the rate of both taxation and expenditures (taking into account the availability of state and federal funds). They're not broke, they could raise the tax rate, they just don't want to.


> But sprawl is nearly always cheaper

Spawl is cheaper to build new. However, sprawl is more expensive to maintain.

Suburbs run into this problem quite dramatically when they start contracting and suddenly their infrastructure costs start soaring relative to their budgets.


If it is taking people from actual rural areas (and not just suburbs), rural areas can grow much of their own food, heat their homes with renewable wood, draw their water from a well, shit into a drain field. The only infrastructure is power and roads and the roads are needed regardless because rural areas produce resources that cities require to exist. Be it crops, milk, meat, coal, iron, copper, sand/glass, stone, concrete, ect.


  heat their homes with renewable wood
This is increasingly regulated against, and we wouldn't want more if that even if unregulated.


>> Whose job is it/should it be to get that infrastructure built?

> The new residents

Surely it's not their sole responsibility. New residents boost the local economy, so the old residents benefit.


Those apartment buildings are paying the same property taxes as everyone else.

That I'd what property taxes are for. To pay for stuff like this.


  paying the same property taxes as everyone else
Not per capita, they aren't.


Shouldn’t all this be a responsibly of local government that will get influx of tax revenues?


That government is run by elected officials who receive a majority of their political contributions from developers... nobody has a lot of time to read (and "help write") the controlling rules (that they always want to update) which affect them as much as the developers do. City councils are run by developers.

Also, the tax revenues often don't offset the ongoing cost of the development to the city (if they do the proper roads, sewers, power, trash, policing). They are a sunk cost at the time of development and then there's no money for maintenance (without more growth).


You get less taxes per person if people don't own their own land and houses.


Imagine you rented a shared, five-bedroom house, with 4 other roommates.

Each of you pays 20% of the rent, and utilities. These are your only expenses.

Now, imagine that I move into your house, demand that you knock down a wall, build a fifth bedroom, and a second bathroom. Construction will cost $100,000, and I will generously chip in my 16% of it.

Do you see a problem, here?

The only fair way to handle this, is to make me pay the full cost of construction. New construction must pay for 100% of the new infrastructure necessary to support it.


The fifth bedroom and second bathroom primarily benefit the new resident. Better infrastructure, by contrast, benefits everyone. For instance, more trains = more frequent trains = less waiting at the train station. More bus routes means more potential destinations for you.

If you never intend to use public transit no matter how robust it is, this won't apply. However, in this case, you should really consider the environmental impact of your actions.


> If you never intend to use public transit no matter how robust it is, this won't apply.

They actually still benefit, even if they don't use the public transit. If the less people took public transit, then they would have to drive, and traffic would be much worse.


Sure, but when we're talking the effect of new residents moving in, which by itself can increase road traffic. The nice thing about public transit is that—when done right—more customers can actually mean better service for everyone.


All bathrooms in the house are communal, so it 'benefits' everyone. It takes the bathroom situation from overcapacity (6:1), to medium capacity (3:1).

However, everyone was getting along just fine, with the bathroom at capacity - (5:1) The new bathroom only became necessary when another person moved in.

> Better infrastructure, by contrast, benefits everyone.

For various reasons, nobody was in a hurry to install a new bathroom before the sixth housemate showed up, and made the bathroom situation untenable.

> If you never intend to use public transit no matter how robust it is, this won't apply. However, in this case, you should really consider the environmental impact of your actions.

This doesn't just apply to transit. This also applies to sewage, roadways, city services like police, schooling, etc. When any of these systems are at capacity, and need a large capital expense to expand, it is unfair for existing residents to shoulder 95% of that financial burden.

Adding more buses to a bus line is not a large capital expense. Adding more trains to an under-capacity train line is not a large capital expense. Building a new train line, because a neighbourhood with 5,000 residents, who were sufficiently served by surface streets, but now has 25,000 residents, who cannot be served by existing surface streets is.


If all bathrooms were communal and wait times were a problem, I might agree to this theoretical deal!

There's also a wide array of possible benefits to more people moving into your neighborhood, that don't really exist in a house. It's not just a larger tax base for public transit—there's also a greater potential for new restaurants, shops, etc to open, to serve the greater customer base. I suppose your new housemate could in fact be a master chef who is happy to share dinner most nights—but probably not.

But more fundamentally, I don't think people should have the same level of control over their neighborhood as they do their houses. You don't own your neighborhood. Other people's interests—including those of future residents—should be considered.


What a weird coincidence. As someone who rents, I share none of those concerns, even though in theory they should affect me just as much. This “but what about the parking?!” argument gets trotted out so often, but it only ever really seems to concern those who stand to gain from a housing shortage. If you want more infrastructure, vote for more infrastructure.


Race to the bottom... make everyone's life worse because there's a fad right now, till the techbros get kids. Still won't let the working class stay where they grew up, but who cares.

Yeah, the Safeway parking lot is already half full at 3am with cars that don't move until the next morning. All the street parking is full and the "transit corridor", that allows the apartment owners not to put in parking, is a bus line that is loved by the homeless because it takes 3hrs each way (no one else wants to take it).

What kind of infrastructure are they going to put in? A $30B subway that goes everywhere (the buses are late because of the traffic)? I don't think my vote is going to convince everyone else to kick in $30k.


If you're referring to the move away from suburbs as a "fad" that you oppose, you're on the wrong side of history. Suburbs are extremely wasteful, boring, and lacking in opportunity for their residents. We need to get as many people into the urban centers as possible.


Well, since the population of SF (like Manhattan, Tokyo, Paris) hasn't been growing much over 1%/yr for the past 30 years, I'm comfortable with history.

You can have enormous growth in established centers (not bombed out) if you don't have property rights. See Beijing or Shanghai. I've seen 30-50x 30 story apartment blocks go up in a year. I don't mean 1 block like that. I mean 5 or 6 just looking around. Each one has it's own school, fire, policestation, and is designed for a subway stop and a mall underneath. It's amazing what a centrally planned economy can do!


Suburban density has been the norm for most of human existence until the last century. Not everyone prefers to live in crowded dirtty noisy "exciting" environments. Stress shortens lifespan.


Suburbia is a postwar invention, enabled by and designed for the automobile. We have not lived in habitats made of subdivisions, cul-de-sacs, collector streets, and parking lots for "most of human existence."

You may be thinking of the traditional town, which is characterized by pedestrian scale, mixed uses, and continuous structures right up to the sidewalks of narrow streets, engaging pedestrians instead of boring them with "open space."

Walkability was not a novelty for the young and childless. It was how you got your kids to school and yourself to work or the grocery store. Mixed use wasn't about "exciting." If you prohibited commercial uses for miles around your house, you'd have a hell of a time buying milk.

About the only thing a traditional neighborhood shares with suburbia is single-family houses. In most other ways it's the polar opposite: its defining characteristics are what suburban zoning prohibits. It would be a huge win for urbanists to reform modern suburbia in the image of the traditional town. The Bay Area's housing capacity would skyrocket. Planning based on minimized travel needs and a redundant, load-balanced street grid would significantly soften the impact of growth on traffic.

Turning this [0] into more of this [1] would be immense progress. You don't have to build Manhattan.

Andres Duany's spiel on this topic is excellent. Here's a nice compact PDF: http://www.ulct.org/ulct/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2013/02/....

[0] https://www.google.com/maps/@37.3649085,-122.0288736,3a,90y,...

[1] https://www.google.com/maps/@37.8669525,-122.2587504,3a,75y,...


No, not everyone prefers that. But over 70% either does prefer it or has no preference.

There is more than enough land for that 30% who want a suburban house. They should just leave the rest of us our 1% of the land to build high density housing.


I don't think demand for housing is called a fad. Demand for housing changes. What was once a bad place to live becomes a good place to live. Unless you want to freeze the nature of changing demand, we need to change the way we build housing.

Also, as long as population increases, housing stock will have to increase more.


Not quite a techbro, but I am a techie old enough to have kids.

We have a house, with a backyard the size of a tablecloth, and one car. My wife drives it. Lots of apartment buildings nearby, some of which do not come with any parking.


I’ll also bite and say it should not be that controversial to oppose housing development that comes without a transportation/education/garbage/power/water plan. You can’t just shovel thousands of people into a neighborhood designed to support hundreds and declare the housing problem solved. “Just add housing” is a simplistic and insufficient solution.


This. Who must do the infrastructure building may be debatable, but it's entirely reasonable to oppose new units when no one is pulling their sleeves to build infrastructure.


Don't schools get funded by local property taxes? More development (the hundreds of apartment blocks) = more property taxes = more funding for the school.s


Yes, but in addition to that are impact fees for development. That's specifically designed to cover the build up of additional infrastructure necessary to support the buildings being added. But there are loopholes that developers like to use to avoid them, and cities willing to look the other way. I don't blame the developers for wanting to avoid the fees, that's just good business sense.

I do blame the city for being willing to look the other way and enabling it.


In theory, more development = more property taxes. But reading the OP's post, it sounded like the developer was avoiding those taxes.

It's fairly common for big developers to get temporary tax abatements for developing big projects. I have seen "temporary" over 10 years, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that sometimes it goes beyond 20.

The OP mentioned Seattle, which apparently has a boilerplate 12-year tax abatement for multi-family developments: https://clarknuber.com/seattles-multifamily-property-tax-exe...

12 years is a long time to underfund municipal services in an area.


That’s the problem. Housing geared toward young families tend to have a lot of school age children and they tend to create higher school costs than they pay in taxes.


A lot of Communities charge "impact fees" as a bit of a pre-tax so that they can extend infrastructure as necessary to support development projects. Of course a lot of municipalities will just mismanage and spend it on other things.


I have a funny anecdote about developer building high rise condos in a very crowded market, take some shortcuts to squeeze in as many units as possible under the local zoning law, and pay the consequences.

I know people who live in a newly built high rise condo in a very crowded, popular city to live in west side of US. It was built during the recent building boom.

Recently they found out that about a few dozen units in the building have filed claim against the HOA/owner due mold under carpet, that starts around laundry machine.

The outbound water pipe connecting between washer and the main outbound pipe of the building is apparently too small. When the washer is in use, it builds up too much pressures and starts a slow leak behind the washer. This is in a hard to view area and goes undetected, starting mold problem.

I was told that the builder wanted to fit in more condo units but stay below allowed outbound sewage pipe size (?), so the hack they came up with is using narrower pipe between the washer and the main outbound pipe in the condo building.

Yes, builders don't have to build/pay for roads and other infra, but indirect cost is always paid by someone else. Even the residents of the development.


I wonder if the same folks who were against extending the NW to LaGuardia are now the same ones complaining about Amazon moving in

Bit of a vicious circle when there are complaints about lack of infrastructure and then objections to building more transport links


>Not because I have a particular interest in my house price

Where I live condos/highrises have gone up and the very few houses that remain as neighbors...well the prices haven’t gone down because supply is up, in fact the prices of the houses have skyrocketed.

That wouldn’t be true of every location, but it would be interesting to have an interactive map to see where this type of developments have occurred/when and then resulting prices of the remaining homes. Correlation/causation and all of that but I’m sure there would be interesting patterns.


> the way it was being done there would be zero money going towards local schools to deal with the extra influx

This is built into the system. More housing units means more property taxes which goes directly to schools.


> but there are loopholes, and the developer was using them


A lot of these big fights also happen because of the "FU, got mine attitude" that affects owners and renters alike. The fact of the matter is that cities like San Francisco are mostly composed of renters, and could easily outnumber NIMBY homeowners to build much more dense housing. However, thanks to policies like rent control, among other issues, renters don't organize and vote to advance their own interests the same way homeowners do.


  renters don't organize and vote to advance their own interests
Renters supporting rent control are doing exactly that: FU, got mine.


>thanks to policies like rent control, among other issues, renters don't organize and vote

I'm not sure I understand this train of thought, can you clarify how rent control disenfranchises people?


If you tally up all of the people who own their home in San Francisco and all of the people who live in rent-controlled apartments you get a majority of the voting population. It follows that either they don't have a stake in the housing crisis or that they stand to benefit from it. Either way they have no incentive to vote for solutions to the housing crisis. As long as the majority of voters in a democracy aren't negatively effected by an issue it's unlikely to get solved.

Abolishing rent control at the state level (as WA did in the 1980's) would go a long way toward lowering the cost of housing in the bay area. All of a sudden the majority of the population would be clamoring to approve as much new housing as possible and investors would be rubbing their hands in glee thinking of how much money they could make by undercutting the existing market while still turning a larger profit than they would have previously. Seattle faces all of the same issues that San Francisco does, earthquake-proofing expenses, massive influx of population, water on three sides of the city, disproportionate zoning allocation to single family homes, etc. But unlike San Francisco, Seattle has seen an incredible construction boom in high-density housing because it's actually legally possible and economically viable to build.


I'm not sure if disenfranchise is the right word to describe it, but rent control leads to the following, in SF at least:

- Not caring about getting new housing built, because the tenant is under rent control, and their housing hasn't really gotten more expensive, not their problem etc.

- Not wanting new housing to be built because new housing is not subject to rent control — They'd rather keep the old units.

- New renters subsidizing old renters because landlords can't charge market rates to old tenants, creating a divide between old tenants and new ones.

- Creates a sort of class divide between the haves and have-nots, well off newcomers paying exorbitant prices vs. those less well off trying not to be gentrified away from "their" neighborhood. This is also a reason many oppose new housing in lower income neighborhoods (Mission, for example).

Taken together it is easy to see that policies like rent control make it difficult to organize behind a common interest (More, and cheaper housing for everyone) the way homeowners do (Keeping property values high).

I am not suggesting this is the only reason housing prices are extreme, but I do believe that if renters were more closely aligned in such a tenant city like SF, they could easily overpower NIMBYsm to achieve their interests. 60% of SF renters are under rent control [1]

[1] http://commissions.sfplanning.org/cpcpackets/2017‐007933CWP....


Rent control insulates current residents from paying market rates for housing. This reduces their incentive to fix the problem (expensive housing) because they have already have cheaper housing... as long as they don't need to change housing (often prompted by new job location/family growth etc). Rent control has the follow on effects then of decreasing mobility and increasing commute traffic.


"They want to live in houses with gardens where their neighbours also have houses with gardens."

... which is a totally reasonable and in-bounds objective for an actor in a democracy.

I might not personally vote for such a thing - I happen to think that a LOT of San Francisco should be in-filled and doubled in height - but I value democracy and local control more than I value my personal tastes in SF neighborhoods.

The predictable retort which will now appear, like clockwork, is that local control is inherently undemocratic to which I would respond: how did you vote in the Marijuana legalization ballot initiative ? Where do you stand on sanctuary cities ? Why are those local control issues palatable, but financially inconvenient ones are not ?


A local city choosing to ban gay marriage or gay people from their city would be completely democratic, but would you be willing to defend that action? It gets even muddier when you start to consider who has more power in those situations to influence votes, or to deny people their rights to vote and so forth. This is similarly the case with NIMBYism which can be viewed as a battle between the wealthier home owners and the influx of young professionals who are being priced out of basic living arrangements.

Democracy only really works when each individual actor is playing on the same equal playing field. When you have companies lobbying to frack on public parks or wealthier individuals taking advantage of outdated laws or AirBnB, that's not exactly something I'd consider democratic.


I have learned not to value local control. This is because I value incumbent residents and future residents equally, but local control only can give the former group of people a voice. In this way, I do absolutely find it anti-democratic.

I would definitely prefer issues like marijuana and sanctuary to be settled on the national level if that were possible. Same goes for zoning. I don't see the paradox you seem to see; when these things are forced to be solved on the local level, I'll support my position. That doesn't stop me from thinking that sometimes the local level is part of the problem.


> This is because I value incumbent residents and future residents equally, but local control only can give the former group of people a voice. In this way, I do absolutely find it anti-democratic.

Maybe I'm just a hick who doesn't understand big city think. But I interpret this to read "The people around here can't make proper decisions for our future, so let's depend on everyone else from other places to make the decisions for us and force us to obey."

That logic seems flawed.


They aren't incompatible. The people who want houses with gardens just need to live further away from the transit stations than the people who want to live in apartments and take transit.


London has recently mandated a minimum housing density for any development within walking distance of a train or tube station. Seems a good idea.


Chicago keeps trying to encourage that and apparently that causes "gentrification". Everybody is going to get pissed off about something.


You know what really causes gentrification? Artists.


"just need to live further away"

there's the rub. most suburban outposts of transit on the west coast just have SFH around them, which is a nice $billion entitlement to public infrastructure if you can get it. anyway THOSE people have the most to lose (neighborhood, lifestyle) from new apartments and a huge amount of political leverage over land-use in their area.

in summary, very fine grain local control of housing/transit planning is bad.


  most suburban outposts of transit on the west coast just have SFH around them
If you define "suburban" as SFH neighborhoods, that's a tautology.

With respect to Caltrain, it's not the case at all.


There's a perverse incentive in that, considering that the people who want houses with gardens have them already, and the developers are making a request to build apartments, i.e. if you destroy local public transportation, you will make it more expensive to build apartments in the neighborhood.


people in the latter group do not want just to live in houses with gardens. They want to live in houses with gardens where their neighbours also have houses with gardens.

If the apartments threaten to block the sun for your garden, is it really totally irrational to care?

You might think gardens are stupid, but you've got to admit gardens generally require sunlight!


Which is why tall buildings are not generally built right next to and to the south of low buildings, never mind gardens. This is straightforward planning 101.


I'm sure the neighbors will be happy to sell the air rights above their buildings so that plants can get that sunlight. Which I'm sure would promptly sold by the garden owner o because its worth a lot of money. It's a classic, well I don't personally profit and in fact lose a little so I'll stop them from doing it -- I could try to bargain with them (compensate them, etc) but I choose not to.


I think it's simpler than that; I think there's a subconscious application of the doctrine of prior use. If I'm using the sunlight to grow plants, I feel like somebody shouldn't be able to roll in next door and shade my garden with solar panels. There's plenty of precedent, see water law in the West.


And California also has problems dealing with water pricing during draughts due to the that precedent.


> I'm sure the neighbors will be happy to sell the air rights above their buildings so that plants can get that sunlight.

Or the majority of the people that live somewhere will have all "air rights" controlled by the city, and dictate how tall things can be built. "Air rights" aren't a thing unless the jurisdiction makes it a thing; you can't charge a toll for planes passing overhead.

Why would you "bargain" with someone who doesn't own anything that you want? You're talking about compromise, not bargaining, and that involves a friendly relationship; the kind normal people living in a home don't have with anonymous developers.


> you can't charge a toll for planes passing overhead

You can up to at least 365 feet, and sometimes higher depending on jurisdiction.


They almost certainly do own something that you want. That thing is usually money.

I am sure that the vast majority of garden owners would be willing to accept a couple thousand dollars in exchange for having slightly less sun hitting their house.


> the people in the latter group do not want just to live in houses with gardens.

Pro tip: you are a very smart person, but not even you are good at reading the minds of everyone else. Not only that, there are people who live in houses with gardens who share your opinion.


A lot of NIMBY-ism is because of money. Having an apartment complex go up in your backyard often reduces property values. It's not that people don't want other people to have a place to live, they retain want to retain their property values. It sucks selling your house for less than you paid, or worse, being upside down on your mortgage.


Unless things are being zoned in some crazy space-filling fractal shape, the vast majority of houses-with-gardens are going to have houses-with-gardens as neighbors. And the boundaries don't have be abrupt. There's plenty intermediate solutions between houses-with-gardens and 20-story apartment towers and any planner worth their salt knows it.


Yes, it should be that way, but if you can talk the planning committee into making an exception just for you... you can make a bunch of money in the year it takes to build and sell the building... then you leave (well, first you need to contribute to the right politicians).


gardens for everyone i say


gardens for some... miniature American flags for others!


I think people would like to live in a freehold house and take transit to work if given the option between a lease hold apartment with all the extra costs ground rent, management changes etc


I don't necessarily think "talent" wants transit. Something that matters to every job seeker is what "home" is going to look like, and being close to transit opens up more types of "home" to choose from. Some talent wants the pace of downtown while others want 4 bedroom houses with yards. Being near transit does a better job of providing both of those to candidates, thereby increasing the talent pool's size.


>Being near transit does a better job of providing both of those to candidates, thereby increasing the talent pool's size.

It goes beyond that. Transit enables density that car dependent infrastructure cannot. Now that job security is a thing of the past, people need to live near a high density of jobs so they don't have to uproot themselves and their families when it's time to change gigs.

Moving out to far flung areas with only a handful of big employers makes that tough. Changing jobs might mean adding a half hour or an hour to your already long commute. Jobs in transit-rich areas, however, give you a lot more opportunity without having to substantially alter your non-work life to match.


To add onto this, the rise of double and multiple-income households means that for optimal placement, more often than not you want to be next to multiple transportation options so that all earners have a somewhat reasonable commute time.

(It's also, I believe, a factor in why people move less often around the country now; it's hard to find two optimal jobs in any potential destination.)


I won't claim it is fun to move, but it hasn't been that big of a deal ever since the US highway system was built a century ago. I've done this a few times, as did my parents and siblings.

The advantage is that I have never had to suffer from expensive housing or a long commute. My worst commute was 20 minutes by car, and my current one is 3 minutes unless I walk. For people making this choice, housing is cheaper by a factor of 5 to 10, not even counting the extra land we get.

Even if I insisted on staying in one area though, I really don't need the density of jobs found in a megacity. If you fit the local industry well, there are usually several employers doing roughly the same thing.


>I won't claim it is fun to move,

The logistics of moving aren't the issue. It's the social disruption of uprooting yourself, having to make decisions about what your spouse will do about their job, having to transfer your kids to a new school when they're still learning how to socialize and form bonds with people, leaving your friends and community behind, etc.


Spouse: quit the job; the family only needs one

School: homeschool

If learning how to socialize and form bonds with people is a major goal, then being uprooted is good practice.


Moving is easy when you are single. Married with kids though, not so much.


You do it anyway because it is best for your family.

My parents did 1500 miles twice while having 3 kids. My brother did 350 miles with 2 kids. I did 1300 miles with 3 kids, and then 120 miles with 5 kids.

Being willing to move means that we get short commutes, cost-effective (high goodness per dollar) houses, and plenty of good employment choices. You're giving up a lot if you are unwilling to move.


People also just don’t want to be stuck in traffic for an hour and a half. If 101 were as free flowing as it was in the mid 90s the desire for transit would be less but given arteries like 280, 101 in the SF bay area or 95, 90, 93 in the Boston area are perennially clogged the alternative is transit.


   If 101 were as free flowing as it was in the mid 90s ...
Assuming you mean bay area 101; I remember lots of people moving just because the commute on 101 was such a mess even then.


Might mean the 101 down by LA


Sorry, 101 in the SF bay area, not _the_ 101 in LA.


LA has a peninsula that leads into a valley?

context clues are strong today


  arteries like 280, 101 in the SF bay area... are perennially clogged
This is unnaturally aggravated by two lanes being "carpool lanes", mostly full of solo drivers.

Go back to 4 all-purpose lanes and 1 true carpool lane (2+ licensed drivers) and throughput would be way better.


Thanks to induced demand this is generally not true: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/09/citylab-unive...


Meanwhile, we FLY down 101 every morning because reverse commute down the Peninsula into the valley. I don't think the people who complain about CA from what they hear online could even believe the speeds we manage.


There is no reverse commute in the bay area anymore. It's uphill both ways


So I'm lying, then. As are all of the traffic maps that show eastbound bridge traffic being wide open in the mornings, south 280 and 101 being wide open in the mornings, and the opposite in the afternoons?

It doesn't really take me 20 minutes to go 22 miles in the heart of Silicon Valley at rush hour?

okay then.


My personal experience of driving south from ~San Francisco down to Sunnyvale along 101 in the mornings is that it takes me around 1.2 hours, on average. I'm not sure what traffic maps have to say about it, but every time I drive down I hit backups at Millbrae, San Mateo around 92, Menlo Park (the Facebook exit), Palo Alto which is just always congested, and Mountain View.

In fact, the traffic is the deciding factor for me in ruling out regularly working in the Peninsula.

Where do you start, and at what time of day, to get 20-minute drive times? I'd love to know the secret.


Marsh, 7:35, to Winchester in SJ.


Ah, that's the difference then! I'm starting from Brisbane and ending in Sunnyvale, usually leaving around 8:30. I'll try 7:30 next time!


That places you downstream of all Facebook traffic.


Ish. Actually I live pretty much right next to Facebook, so Facebook traffic is my traffic. Trust me, when I commuted from the north, I'd spend 3-5 minutes sitting on my own damn offramp just to go a few hundred feet to my house while all the FBers and bridge folk were trying to turn left onto a gridlocked overpass :)


Heck, when I worked in that neighborhood, the Marsh Road overpass was just one lane each way!


There are choke points along 280, 380 interchange, 92, sand hill, and lots more going south, going north there are msny more, but you could have a commute such that you avoid those. I was more talking about SF to valley (at least PA) and likewise from at least PA to SF.


  eastbound bridge traffic being wide open in the mornings
The fact that it's the toll "free" direction is also a factor.


Moffet to Vallco Cupertino is a 13 minute morning commute. Cupertino to Moffet is a 27 minute morning commute, if not longer. Cupertino back to Moffet takes me 15 minutes in the evening, the reverse takes 31 minutes.

There is definitely a reverse commute.


101 South of 85 has little traffic reverse direction (commute direction is into mountain view in mornings; out in evenings).


there is no reverse commute, but I did have to train myself to realize that even in seemingly stop and go thick traffic we were still doing 65 mph.

The chokepoints being by some bridges and particular exits


What times of day are you driving? I can tell you that when I drive 101 south, I get stuck at the construction chokepoint at the East Palo Alto IKEA (between University and Embarcadero), and that adds at least several minutes of slow-and-go driving compared to before the construction started.

The only way I'm driving fast down 101 south is if I'm there at 11 am. Which counts as morning, but is also unreasonably late even for salaried workers in a relaxed company.


I quit a job which took me from SF to the penn on 101. There were slowdowns at the 280/101, airport, 92, 84, university, oregon, etc... sure off peak is different, but that’s nin commute hours. The traffic going north has similar slowdowns. Now, there are a few exceptions here and there like if you’re going from Hillsborough to some parts of sandhill and such, but the longer SF-valley and Valley-SF is clogged during commute hours.


I don't blame you, that's a really long drive to do twice a day, any way you slice it.

I was trying to come up with analogous commutes in other areas, but even Everett to Seattle is "only" 34 miles.

I wouldn't recommend a >40mi car commute in any populated area, frankly. If you're not coming from a busy area or going to a busy area, you're at least traversing a busy area, and in this case you're talking about all 3. I'm not sure what you're expecting out of that kind of distance. Even at 2am you're probably talking at least 45 minutes by the time you get out of the city and get off the freeway into your destination.

When I think "bad traffic", I think of low average speeds, not just long commutes with a few bottlenecks.


7:40 in that stretch, which is the only place that slows down. Hopefully they'll be done with Willow and the bike bridge soon.


  believe the speeds we manage
Given that's the stretch where that guy autopiloted himself into a barrier at 70+, we believe.


If by "valley" you mean Palo Alto, yeah you'll be ~at the speed limit all the way.

101 South backs up from around Mountain View in the morning, in my experience. Not as bad as 101 North during those hours, but the 101-S traffic had a large effect on my last job search.


I work in SJ, so I take 85 and 280.


I can't speak for everyone, but I for one hate daily commuting by car. I live in SoCal now and one of the biggest things I miss about Boston (where I lived some years ago) is being able to read a book during my morning commute.

I don't mind driving for personal errands or vacations, but for daily commuting transit is much better in so many ways. I find the California car culture obsession to be one of the most idiotic things about this place. It's got some of the nicest weather in the country, so if anything this should be where you want to be walking and outside not crammed into a car huffing exhaust. It's so unbelievably ridiculous.


Funny. The one thing I miss least about working in Boston is the commuter rail and subway.

Now I'm commuting via car to an office just outside I95, it takes less time, is much less stressful, costs $150 less per month and is far more reliable.


> $150 less per month

Are you considering the $.50 average cost per mile from car travel -- gasoline, maintenance, insurance?


A car has a high fixed cost whether you use it or not. It only costs about $.25/mile in variable costs.


True, but not if you bought the car only to commute. Before my wife took a job requiring a car commute, we didn't own one. In our case nearly the entire cost can be allocated to the commute.


Yes. Commuter rail passes are just that overpriced. If I had to pay for parking the costs would be about the same.


I agree, I own a car but take a commuter train daily to downtown Chicago and it's so nice to catch up on news and drink my coffee instead of swearing at traffic. I still use the car when leaving the city.


> Being near transit does a better job of providing both of those to candidates,

How is that different from "talent wants transit"?


The article seems to imply that "talent wants transit" because they want carless urban life. OP says there's the other side of the same coin.


I think this is a point that's often missed.

I've mostly lived and worked in Chicago. I live in the city, and commute by CTA. My colleagues who live much further out in the suburbs, and commute by Metra, often spend about the same amount of time in transit as I do.

If there's a story here, it's that the halcyon days when people could efficiently get around a megalopolis on highways are gone, and most the value proposition of those giant self-contained office parks out in the suburbs is gone with it.

Which isn't to say that it doesn't make sense to build offices out in the suburbs, just that they better still be reasonable to access from a train station. And that doesn't even necessarily mean "close" - many people in Chicago still have the better part of a mile left to walk after they get off the train. But they have the benefit of infrastructure to support walking -- a mile walk in the city itself is a much less daunting proposition than a mile walk in Naperville.


The problem with suburban office hubs is that outside of anomalies like Tokyo, rail networks are generally heavily radial, going from the suburbs to the city. A job in the city will be accessible to pretty much every worker in the region via rail; you put a job center further out, and a good portion of the labor market is stuck having to take trains into the city and back out into your suburb.


Bay Area resident here from south suburbs.

Chicago has some of the best commutes there are.

If the Bay Area was more like Chicago (regional rail, roads), we wouldn't have as much hand-wringing as on this thread.


Chicago car traffic is horrible. But, Chicago is flat, and has great rapid transit and rail.


It's all relative, but I find Chicago vehicle traffic isn't that bad compared to other metro areas (and I moved here from a smaller city where you could traverse the entire city in 20 minutes). Before I moved to Chicago, I was told that traffic was a nightmare, and I should be prepared to spend at least an hour commuting 1-way by car. But I just haven't found that to be the case -- Chicagoans love exaggerating about two things: the traffic and the weather. Of course, traffic on the I-290 and I-90 at rush hour can be bad, but if you time your departure right, it's not too terrible.

Chicago's car infrastructure is more or less commensurate with its size. Seattle on the other hand was not designed for the population it currently has, and traffic there seems worse.


It used to be even better. RIP, bar car.


Even with the walk Metra from naperville is faster than trying to fight your way in via 290


Yea it's a bit the tail wagging the dog or something along those lines. I think the consolidation and clustering of companies into downtown cores or in the case of the FANG, mega campuses causes people to look into ways to have a suburban "america dream house" as that type of housing stock near the downtown cores is either extremely expensive or undesirable.


Yup. More and more young people have no desire to own or drive cars every day. This will be a huge shift in the coming decades.


"Despite being pegged as the generation that shuns owning a car, millennials appear to like buying autos more than their Generation X counterparts did when they were younger."[1]

[1]https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/30/millennials-like-buying-cars...


" We find that Millennials own fewer cars than previous cohorts." [1]

"“Millennials have a lower rate of car ownership than previous generations at their age.” [2]

"We find that today's young adults do own fewer cars than previous generations did when they were young." [3]

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S09670...

[2] http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/demographic-shift...

[3] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308021126_Millennia...


Careful with those headlines - the details corroborate the parent comment.

Millennials don't own as many cars because they are poorer than their parents were at the same age. Of the millennials that are financially independent from their parents, car ownership is steady or higher (relative to previous generations).

See also: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18560580


Wonder how many young people can spend 45 minutes without looking at their smartphone and how much internet use/addiction is pushing this trend?


From my vantage point in an express bus on the freeway at rush hour, I can see into cars quite well. It's people of all ages staring at their phones while barreling down the interstate at 70mph. So no, I doubt being addicted to phones is driving Transit use!


People have always found things to do on the train: https://mcnyblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/35mm_10292_030d...


I wouldn't call it addiction. But rather, transit is much more of an enjoyable experience with a smart phone and headphones than 10 years ago when you just had a newspaper.


I don't even look at the screen. I listen to podcasts, which I was doing ten years ago, but not fifteen to twenty years ago.


I doubt it, the number of high schoolers getting their drivers license is by far the lowest it's been in a very long time.


Because insurance rates for new drivers are perpetually going up, states pass more and more laws with hoops to jump through and the utility it less than it used to be thanks to the internet and smartphones.

They will almost all get licenses when they get to a point in their life where the cost/benefit makes sense.


I mean getting you're license doesn't mean you will own a car and get insurance, it's certainly a life skill to know how to drive, where many schools are still providing services that people just aren't taking full advantage of.


I suspect that, like most things that young people are spending less on, it's due to ever-growing financial insecurity. Interesting application of the avocado-toast argument, though.


The desire is mostly from intense gaslighting in small population areas of the country relatively speaking.

Its unlikely the gaslighting would ever work in, for example, rural Ohio.


I've saved ~$6,000 this year in gas, parking, tolls, maintenance, insurance, registration, and depreciation, by ditching my car. [1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

My employer pays for my bus pas, but even if it didn't, I'd only be spending ~$1,200/year on it. I also dropped $300 on a really nice pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and $20 on a new umbrella.

But, sure, the explanation for that must be gaslighting.

[1] Insurance: ~$1,200

[2] Depreciation: ~$1,000

[3] Registration: ~$300

[4] Parking spot: $1,800

[5] Tolls: ~$1,400

[6] Gas: ~$400

[7] Maintenance: ~$200


Yep. We have & mostly don't use a car, and it saves us significant amounts of money.


How much are you saving in rent compared to the same home off the bus line?


Perfect example of what I was writing about.

By analogy, consider if I cut my legs off, how much money I'd save on shoes, all the cool kids are doing it, my anecdote applies to everyone's situation, and my employer would pay the medical insurance so I'm not sure why non-cool people are walking around with legs.


> Perfect example of what I was writing about.

> The desire is mostly from intense gaslighting in small population areas of the country relatively speaking.

I assure you, my desire to save money did not come from gaslighting. I understand why other people make other choices, but please don't tell me why I run my life the way I do.

You insist that the reason some people are ditching cars is because of irrational gaslighting. I give a single, logical reason for why I have ditched my car. You point at my explanation, and claim that it goes to prove your point.

I'm not saying that my dad, who lives 20 miles out of town, and moved ~100 tonnes of cargo in the past two years should ditch his pickup truck. I am saying that there are good reasons for why many urbanites are ditching theirs.


No, not owning a car in the city is like not having legs. Just yesterday, somebody was laying some propaganda on me about how I could save money by getting rid of my second helicopter. Would you put out one eye, or cut off one ear?


That's an interesting angle that I think makes sense. Though I'll admit I absolutely want transit (as I never want to own or care for a car).


I currently live in SF and work in South Bay, but this is probably the last job I'll accept down there. Being able to walk to work, or at least jump on a short bus ride to work cannot be understated for quality of life.


No shit, your quality of life is poor when you spend a minimum 1/8 of your waking day trying to get to and from work?

You're framing it as a "man, suburbs suck" argument when it's more like "man, choosing a job really bloody far from home really sucks".


Terrible traffic and extremely high housing costs with low housing density makes it very hard to live near work in Silicon Valley.


But I'm not sure living in San Francisco (the most expensive place) then commuting a very long way to somewhere that is actually cheaper to live is the obvious fix.

But, as a homeowner, I get that it's not so easy to pack up and move every time your job changes addresses.


I'm the opposite. I'm 31, live in the South Bay, and am so happy to jump in my car and spend 30 minutes driving to work, sipping coffee, thinking about the day ahead, and listening to news or music. On the way home, the commute is a chance to unwind and relax.

I find San Francisco claustrophobic, and I can't think of a more miserable commute than walking to, waiting for, and riding public transportation in the rain or heat with a crowd of other people. I've turned down jobs in the city for that reason.

I don't pay any more for the house I'm renting than a decent apartment would cost in the city, and I have a small yard and a quiet neighborhood to live in.

I don't know how you city people do it.


Not sure about your commute, but the thing I hated about commuting in a car was the variability of it.

I was commuting from Seattle to Bellevue, a distance of about 11 miles. On a really perfect day, it could take 15 minutes. On a normal day it would take between 30-60 minutes. On a bad day it could take up to 2 hours. There were enough bad days that I had to plan everything around that 2 hour commute.

After switching to a job in the city, I knew the longest it would ever take me to get home was about an hour and 15 minutes, and that was if I walked.


You were supposed to switch to a house in Bellevue. That too would let you walk to work.


It wouldn't. Bellevue is too car centric for that to be true. Wide roads, infrequent crosswalsk, multiple freeways to walk over even for ~1 mile distances.


I live and work in SF and my commute is mostly walking, including past a park, which helps me wake up or wind down. I also ride a train for about 10 minutes each way and use the time to study foreign language (using apps like duolingo).

I find car driving to be claustrophobic in comparison to being outdoors. I can't think of a more miserable commute than trying to be entirely attentive to driving in traffic when not awake yet. I've turned down jobs in the south bay / SoCal for that reason.

I don't pay any more for the house I'm renting than a decent apartment would cost in the south bay, and I have a small yard and a quiet neighborhood to live in.

(downtown is, after all, only a very small part of SF)


I find car driving annoying, where the only thing I can stimulate my mind with is low value podcasts. I have to divert my attention to anxiety producing driving in a town where people don't give a fuck about turn indicators or other safe driving practices.

In a train or an uber I can put on my noise cancelling headphones, sit, read and not have to focus on a road. If the train is full, I can still read standing up. It's like the standing desk :)


My big city commute is a half hour walk. Best two parts of my day. If it's raining, I hop on the train.


I just moved out of the city and miss my 25 minute walk to work. I'd walk my son to school, which was 1/2 way to my office. Now, it's a 20-35 minute drive + 25-35 minute subway ride. :(


> I've turned down jobs in the city for that reason.

Not all of us, I feel, really have this luxury. Each time I've had a job change, the overwhelming majority of fish biting are in SF. Not all of my changes have been voluntary, and I've seen numerous people imply that switching too often is a huge flag. I'd love something in the South Bay, but I feel like it's mostly FAANG down here, and if you're looking for something smaller, and perhaps more meaningful…

So I hop on the terrible public transit and keep looking for jobs — outside of CA, because the entire Bay Area is frankly never going to pull its collective head out of the ground and fix the housing crisis.


> I don't know how you city people do it.

We feel the same about you. :)


I think a lot of it relates to how extroverted/introverted a person is, or more so, how important being around other people is to them.

Additionally, a lot of people have tons of anxiety around driving, and being in a city can completely get rid of that. I'd imagine self driving cars would return some of the interest back into the suburbs.


Yep, or to put it the other way: how important being safe from other people is to them. Additionally, a lot of people have tons of anxiety around strangers, and being in a vehicle can completely get rid of that.

The same can probably be said for dependency. Some people want to feel that the government cares for them, while others want privacy and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from living with minimal outside help.


This doesn't make sense to me. I like the independence that transit brings -- I can go anywhere in my city and not be lugging a huge and expensive personal asset around. I can drink and take transit, I can be tired and take transit, I can take transit in a snowstorm and be assured my chances of experiencing a snow-related mishap are lower. I feel safer in a train or on a bus than on the road, especially in the first snowstorm of the year. I'm a small woman, and I don't really have problems on transit. I feel safer on the train than in an Uber. A guy recently made a pass at me on transit late at night but we ended up chatting and he told me his cornbread dressing recipe. Very useful before Thanksgiving, though I didn't end up making it.

I don't want to feel the government cares for me -- I want to know that my tax dollars go to something useful instead of something stupid. Highways don't make me feel like I have "minimal outside help". A bicycle sure does :) Walking does more so!


You don't control when the transit operates, where the transit goes, or what type of equipment is used. You have no ownership. You can do nothing if the line shuts down due to snow on the tracks. This is not independence.

The car is fine in snow. There are numerous modern alternatives to the old-style heavy chains, which of course are still available.


Well, I mean, you also don't control where the roads go, when the roads are open, the availability of parking when you get to your destination, or the requirements your vehicle has to meet to be able to operate on public roads.


Look at a roadmap and compare to a transit map. Also look at the schedule of road closures.


I think to a large extent it's about personal preferences. I greatly prefer living in a (medium sized, ~1.5m people) city and being able to walk most places and take public transport to the remainder.


> live in the South Bay, ... and spend 30 minutes driving to work

so, you work locally in the south bay?

there is no place north of the south bay within a 30 minute drive during commute times (which extend to 10:30 if you're talking about MTV)


The entire South Bay isn't a 30 minute commute. Where I live in the South Bay, Moutain View is quite often >45 minutes, sometimes 50+. The HOV lane is nowadays clogged w/ single occupant stickered electrics, or people cheating b/c it isn't enforced. The non-HOV lanes are worse.


What kind of car do you drive?


You drink coffee while driving?

Seems unwise.


Where do you live that this is surprising?

I see people putting on makeup and checking email while driving. Not while stopped in traffic, actually being in control of a rapidly moving vehicle.


Not to be that guy, but I can top that. I recently saw a young woman eating pasta in her car. On an actual plate, with a fork and knife and napkin, while driving on the freeway.

I'm a motorcyclist, so it causes a bit of rage in me (it's just so damn selfish), but then I remember that they can't hear me or simply don't care and it's safer to just get the hell away from them.


I've done this while also drinking coffee and driving a manual transmission car. It was very difficult, but so satisfying, and I got to the beach on time.


And you're proud of your gross display of selfishness, negligence, and recklessly endangering the lives of others?

That is perverse and repulsive. Maybe you should read some statistics on the practical results of distracted driving. Or maybe you should see how the families of people killed by texters feel?


Gotta get that spaghett ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Honestly, that kind of thing should lead to the loss of their license after one instance.


I sympathize, but disagree. In CA, distracted driving is a moving violation, but does not have points on the license as a penalty. Going nuclear as a 1st response does not help.

Increasing fines, mandatory driver education classes for violations, points on a license, and perhaps a lock box (akin to the ignition lock we install for DUI offenders) are, IMO, better measures to take.

Repeated offenders should have their vehicle impounded and license suspended for increasing amounts of time per violation

e.g. 1st offense - $250 fine + class, 2nd - $500 fine, 3rd - $1500 fine + impound + 1 month suspension, 4th - $2.5k fine + impound + 1yr suspension. 5th time should be 60 day jail sentence, car impounded, license permanently revoked, $5k fine


Is typing on your phone while moving at highway speeds much less dangerous than a DUI?

A first DUI conviction in CA involves large fines, generally a 6 month license suspension, is a misdemeanor, and potentially up to 6 months in jail. A $250 fine plus class is a joke. The fine for accidentally running a red light in SV is double that.

Driving and looking at your phone is not a joke, a car traveling at 70 mph is a lethal weapon that can easily kill entire families in an instant, and it should be treated with commensurate seriousness. I know a couple families that have almost been entirely wiped out due to other drivers, with the survivors left as paraplegics.

I think serious penalties for what is seemingly very common might be a shock initially, but once people realize how serious it is, I imagine the infraction rate will drop rather rapidly. Drinking and driving used to be much more common than it is now.


Listen, I agree on most counts. I commute 50 miles every day (even when it rains) in LA on a motorcycle and every day I am put in a dangerous position by idiot distracted drivers. Or people jumping into the HOV lanes. It makes me furious. I've talked with my partner and now she never uses her phone will driving, but did before.

I, of course, want distracted driving treated with the same seriousness. It's why every few months I write to my state reps about this issue. It disproportionately affects me as a rider. Ask any motorcycle rider if they know someone injured, maimed, or killed by a car. I've been hit by a distracted driver. Btw, it hurts quite a lot.

It is indeed more dangerous than DUIs, statistically speaking, but a shock and awe playbook will never work. We need to boil the frog, so to speak. DUI activity became something that's shameful, over time. So too, can we employ the same tactics against Distracted driving. Another example would be cigarettes. They went from cool to gross.

This is why I'm in favor of incremental increases in fines and penalties, instead of a big bang approach. We need to reach out to drivers and educate them instead of making them feel persecuted for what they consider to be "harmless behavior".


Fair enough, I suppose DUI penalties were phased in over time as you say. I used to ride too, sorry you got hit, but I'm glad you're still with us.


More anecdata: I have seen:

  - Someone watching a video on YouTube while driving

  - Someone on their phone, with headphones on, while driving
People are using their cars like they’re already driverless ;)


I've seen a driver watching porn on a maybe 20 inch screen while on a packed but still speedy Autobahn. One hand holding the screen while steering with his wrist pressed against the wheel (looked rather elaborate and acrobatic even), kinda, while the other hand was out of sight and "busy" somewhere "below".

I've seen another driver having her foot on top of the wheel, cutting her toenails with a clipper, also on the Autobahn.

And the amount of truck drivers I seen reading a newspaper (actual-paper one, usually "Bild") while behind the wheel is astonishing.


I took a mini-bus while I was in Bangkok to go to a nearby beach area and the driver was literally doing both. He had his headphones on and was simul-watching YouTube videos and talking about them over the phone with what we guessed was his girlfriend. I was almost equal parts horrified/afraid for my life and amazed that he was able to successfully weave through traffic while doing it.


I had a [ride-hailing service that shall go unnamed] driver actually start watching a movie on his car's infotainment system (I assume it was after-market to allow that) while driving us.

With subtitles, no less. In moderate traffic (which is the worst kind for distracted driving).


> Where do you live that this is surprising?

Anywhere in the world.

Moving a cup of scaldingly hot coffee around while driving is not very sensible.


Last time I drove at rush hour, I had enough time to have _made_ coffee while sitting in standstill traffic, nevermind drink it.


I know HN doesn't like commenting about downvotes, but I have to say, I'm kind of shocked that people really think this is OK.

I like coffee as much as anyone, but christ, I can wait until I get where I'm going!


I commuted for 12 years from SF to HP in Cupertino. 1 hour each way. Finally I realized that was about one extra work week / month, just in the car. That put me off car commutes forever. I have mostly worked in SF since I left that job, I was even able to walk to work at 2 jobs. That is the best. Now I commute to the East Bay, but I'm able to do that on Bart. That is manageable. I mostly meditate which is good for me but otherwise would be hard to find time for.


If your home and work are right near BART stations, then that's really not bad. The killer is when you have to do "last mile" commuting, and the commute becomes multimodal. I'm doing that now and I absolutely hate it.


May not work in the Bay Area, but the London solution for that is a Brompton folding bike.


Seconded if I was lured back to London id get a Brompton ideally on the tax efficient ride to work plan.


The killer is probably waiting at the BART stop. BART has this "last mile" problem partly due to negligent police.


Try the ferry. Once you get a whiff of sitting outside on the bay during a beautiful sunset commute, breathing in the urine odors of your typical BART car will never seem a viable alternative.


Yes! When the Expo line opened in Los Angeles I restricted my job search to companies accessible via the line.

I chose my next job because it was accessible via the Ballona Creek bike path and buses (though the 2 buses made a 20 min drive take an 1hr+).

My current job is a shorter bus trip and a shorter bike ride. I'm not willing to drive 1-2 hrs one-way to work. I want time to be a part of my community, to have hobbies, to do more than drive, eat, sleep, work and to get that time I need a short commute.

If a long commute limits my existence to drive, eat, half hour couch potato, and sleep than the job is not worth it.


What if the Expo line goes down? There could be a strike, a suicide on the tracks, some other sort of wreak, track maintenance, etc.

Roads are highly redundant. You can route around almost anything.

Also, why not move to the job? That is the huge win for shortening a commute.


> What if the Expo line goes down?

Then there'd presumably be a bus replacement service for the few days until they got it running again? I don't remember any of Dublin's mass transit systems going down for more than a couple of days.

Track maintenance, incidentally, is normally done on weekends and/or late at night to minimise disruption.


I mean, life happens. If metro goes down there are buses, ride share, e-scooters, and walking if I'm close enough.

Life happens with autos too, there are accidents, flats, running out of gas/engine won't start, road closures, one time my apt garage door was broken and I couldn't get my car out.

I am all about moving closer to jobs. In fact, I do live close. From my apt to my old office in SM it was 6.5 miles, to drive that could be an hour. Gridlock is awful within cities even in short distances.


What if there is a crash on the highway? What if your car breaks down? What if have a medical emergency and cannot drive?


"Roads are highly redundant. You can route around almost anything."

Crash on the highway: pick a different road

Car breaks down: rent one (BTW, not scalable to a mass transit strike)

Medical emergency and cannot drive: call for an ambulance


Not sure where you live, but "pick a different road" doesn't really work for 99% of the country.


I can't wait to pick a different Bay Bridge


Well, you're commuting too far, but anyway: San Mateo has a bridge, you can go via San Jose, and you can go via Marin County.

Even the Bay Bridge is seldom 100% out. It has multiple lanes, unlike a typical rail line.


This is what you need: https://www.watercar.com/


You HAVE a different Bay Bridge. It cost us $8 billion. You damn well had better like it.


You sound like someone whose never driven in Los Angeles during rush hour on the westside. It's not too uncommon that every single road is completely jammed.


This actually happens a lot, they usually just run a bus to substitute. But it can suck sometimes because it adds a lot to a commute. One time I biked 20 miles because the train was delayed for 90 minutes after someone parked their car on the tracks. Bicycles and public transportation are like peas and carrots =)


I don't suppose you'll see this because it's pretty old by now but:

> why not move to the job? That is the huge win for shortening a commute.

it is, but it's a huge loss as far as making your kids change schools and make new friends.


Transit systems can run backup buses on the roads when the trains are down for a significant amount of time.


Which they regularly do.

See: LA Gold Line for the nth time that a Big Rig smashes through the center divider and rests on the tracks.


For me, transit not so important but a low-hassle commute is. If transit is the only way to achieve that, great.

For example - When I first worked at my current job, it was a 45-90 min drive over interstate. A year later, I moved closer and now it's a 15-30 min drive over regular streets.

Upsides: Lower commuting stress - even when my current drive home looks fubar, I can tolerate it long enough to either get home or find a pub and wait it out over a brew.

Downsides: My housing costs tripled.

My previous job was a 30-60 min drive, but later took a shuttle bus that had a stop right in front of my job.

Upsides: After 30+ years of interstate commuting, taking my hand off the wheel for a couple of years was a godsend.

Downsides: The bus stop was basically a street corner with no shade or rain protection, so waiting for the bus on some afternoons was a bit challenging.


"Talent wants transit" says transit salesman. OK.

I don't want transit, I want a relatively short commute that doesn't kill my soul. Ideally not working from the office all the time, IDEALLY NOT WORKING EVERY DAY.


Ultimately this is probably the real solution: Less work, more remote.


Indeed, after getting next to transit the next step will be allowing more remote work, until companies are all remote.


Remote work is great and I agree it needs to become more culturally accepted, but almost every remote-only worker I talk to about it with has mixed feelings. The gist I get is that remote work has its ups and downs and usually their preferred ideal world would be having an office to go to but only 1-3 days a week, depending on the individual.


Talent wants transit... for other people. So the roads aren't so crowded.


I wonder if talent wants transit specifically, or if they just want an employment situation where they don't need to drive their car to work or be limited in where they must live.

Telecommuting fits this as well, if the job allows for it.


I've been telecommuting for about 6 years. I'd prefer good transit and a nice office.


The stats are sort of misleading. Of COURSE 97% of people drove to an office park in an Illinois suburb, because that was the only way to get there.

OF COURSE almost every commutes to downtown Chicago by transit, because parking costs are insane.

I'm not saying I'm not pro-transit; I am. Very much so. But these stats don't capture how many of the 97% hated commuting by car but had to, and how many of the 90% "non-automobile" commutes are being done by people grudgingly (or AFTER driving a car to a train station, paying for parking, waiting for a train, and wishing they had a nice big free parking lot at their destination).


As a human living on earth, I don't actually much care what the 97% or 90% actually think about their commutes. Using transit instead of single-occupant cars is a huge improvement from an environmental and economic standpoint.


You should care because the real way to get people to use transit is by making it better than the alternative.


Or, you know, charging for the true externalities of owning a car like Denmark does.


The thing to remember whenever “better than the alternative” comes up is that transit is good where cars are bad and cars are good everywhere else. Transit is never going to beat out cars in environments where traffic is light, density is low, and parking is cheap. But traffic isn’t light and parking isn’t cheap where density is high.

This is about deciding which kind of city you want and building the transportation options that fit that environment. Cities built for cars are very different from cities built for density and walkability. You can’t compare the two modes devoid of that context.


Converting single occupant lanes to dedicated bus lanes would help, too. Prioritize vehicles carrying the most people.


Raising the price of gas helps too.


Not really, no.

Raising the price of gas negatively affects the working poor more than helps the environment. That subset of society may not live in an area accessible by transit, or their employment requires them to be in a different location than is feasible to travel to by transit.


> Raising the price of gas negatively affects the working poor more than helps the environment

In the short run. In the long run, the proceeds could be used to encourage the working poor to move to cities where they don't need a car. Given how financially terrible car ownership is for America's poor--between traffic tickets, civil forfeiture, police violence, predatory lending and collection practices, insurance practices, et cetera--I think it would be a net boon.


This is a horribly naive statement which disregards the existence many different jobs other than office and retail.


> disregards the existence many different jobs other than office and retail

Gas taxes can be raised in a way that is neutral to our working poor. It's a minor adjustment to the lowest tax bracket.


So what? Should the environment be subsidizing a benefit to the poor? We have better ways to help the poor than to let them trash our planet.


You can raise the Federal gas tax, and simultaneously lower the bottom tax rate from 10% to 0%.


Or from the other direction: not subsidizing automobile transportation.

If we funneled as much money to mass transit as we do to vehicle infrastructure, there'd be no competition.


Not everyone works in an office.


I agree except that often means to make car driving worse so transit seems better. Making transit actually better would be the key.


And the way to do that without discharging a loaded 12ga into the foot of the economy and everyone's quality of life is to make public transit better and more plentiful, not artificially raise the cost of private transit (which raises the cost of everything that depends on it). While the HN crowd had the economic stability to absorb an increased cost of private transit a huge chunk of the population would be negatively impacted in a way large enough to be worth avoiding. Carrots > sticks.


Not if we want to achieve aggressive climate goals.


That doesn’t address the point about people driving to the transit station. If someone is willing to tolerate driving their car one hour, adding a transit leg will just allow them to drive one hour while living slightly further from their office, which in isolation doesn’t help the environment.


As a human living on Earth, I don't actually care much what you think.

See how that feels?


When done right, subway commuting is amazing. I live in Manhattan, and my commute is 15 minutes.


> When done right

> live in Manhattan

You and I have had very different experiences with the subway over the last year.


> You and I have had very different experiences with the subway over the last year

"The average American commute crept up to 26.4 minutes in 2015" [1]. In New York City, the "average one-way commute [is] almost 36 minutes" [2], with "a major gap" being in the realm of "12 minutes of delay" [3]. Compared to mean American traffic delays, New York at its worst is many other cities on a good day.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/02/22/the-a...

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/realestate/commuting-best...

[3] https://ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/we-are-being-held-momentari...


A bad commute in NYC can be pretty awful. Recently the first snow storm of the year led to catastrophic delays for NJ residents who had to drive. (I know someone who had to sit in their car for 13 hours for a normally 15 minute drive)

Many people commute by car to a park and ride and then by train and then by subway. Any delay anywhere in the system causes major downstream problems.


> the first snow storm of the year led to catastrophic delays for NJ residents who had to drive

Sorry, I was contrasting non-driving commute outside New York to New York City mass transit commuting. Originally, density--à la NYC--was suggested as a solution. Someone responded by trashing the MTA's history of delays. Hence my comment. Driving in and around New York City is frustrating, unreliable and expensive.


I get that its super fashionable to hate on the NYC subway system, but its easily the best transit system in the US. No other city is remotely close.


Sure, if you want to add the "in the US" qualifier that limits the comparison to areas that would have had to create a public transit system in spite of US policies favoring automobiles, then sure it's impressive. But compared to almost any reasonably-large city in Europe or many places in Asia, it's still an embarrassment.

If you want to see transit done right, go to Tokyo. People have sub-hour commutes of over 100 miles there. Everything is comfortable, clean and on-time. If we honestly want to make public transport succeed, we have to stop letting those in charge compare themselves to other failures and, instead, hold them accountable to operating at a level we know is being achieved elsewhere.


When it works, it's great, and in spite of so-called "statistics" to the contrary, it works pretty reliably for me during rush hour.


I think the parent was referring to how it feels like a dystopia for the time you are in it.


I'd take NYC's dystopia over any other U.S. city's transit options.


Which is not responsive to the commenter's skepticism of characterizing it as "amazing".


OP probably has a US-centric view, and in that frame of reference it is amazing in comparison. Everything is relative.


On the flip side, the previous office in the suburbs with 90% car ridership probably forced everyone to own a car and drive in. The other stat didn't show how many people wanted to drive in, either. This seems like an apples to apples comparison to me.


From my comment:

> But these stats don't capture how many of the 97% hated commuting by car but had to


The important part of that stat:

> 97 percent of our folks were arriving by themselves in a car

Emphasis mine. Cars carrying just one person to and from work every day is a waste.


You seem to be very anxious. Is that so bad in Chicago?

How big is the percent of population in Chicago live so far from the downtown that they need a transport to commute?


The population of the City of Chicago is 2.7 million.

The population of the Chicago metropolitan area i.e. "Chicagoland" is 9.5 million (almost the size of Michigan). So 6.7 million people are technically not in the city.

A significant fraction of them commute to downtown Chicago for work.


6.7 / 9.5 = 0.7.

That's really a lot, 70%! How big of a portion of them are commuting to downtown?


Might be hard to find that, but based on the info I can find, a good many do commute in to the city. You could dig down more into station level numbers to get a more accurate count. For example, if you wanted to exclude stations on the line that are within city limits, but not downtown.

Anecdotally, as someone whose walk to work (from other transit) takes them against the flow of people coming from Union Station: it's a lot of people indeed.

September 2018 Metra ridership report: https://metrarail.com/sites/default/files/assets/planning/ri...

All reports: https://metrarail.com/about-metra/reports-documents/operatio...


I can't find the source now, but I think it's about 600-700k commuters into the city center (Loop, River North, West Loop) every weekday.


That's unexpectedly low, I'd say. In SZ, the daily commuter count approaches at least 2.5-3 million for people living on municipality's border.

Shenzhen has twice as many people as Chicago. So, if we extrapolate, the amount of people commuting will double for Chicago if Chicago were to be turned into Shenzhen.

That tells that much, much, more people in Chicago work outside of urban centre, or the portion of population who is working is simply less.


China is also the largest country in the world by population as well as hyper-urban. That makes the comparison difficult.

The U.S. has 1/4 of China's populations, Chicago is the 3rd largest metro area in the U.S. It has a population comparable to Qingdao, but it's relative influence in the country is similar to Chongqing or Hangzhou.


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