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)
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.
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.
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.
That's not the kind of question civil engineering answers. That's more urban planning.
PS: Simply from the overall US population growth rate the metro area should expect to add ~27,000 people every year.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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 . 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 . 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.
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.
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.
Those numbers don’t seem very realistic?
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.
heat their homes with renewable wood
> The new residents
Surely it's not their sole responsibility. New residents boost the local economy, so the old residents benefit.
That I'd what property taxes are for. To pay for stuff like this.
paying the same property taxes as everyone else
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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  into more of this  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/....
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.
Also, as long as population increases, housing stock will have to increase more.
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 do blame the city for being willing to look the other way and enabling it.
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.
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.
Bit of a vicious circle when there are complaints about lack of infrastructure and then objections to building more transport links
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.
This is built into the system. More housing units means more property taxes which goes directly to schools.
renters don't organize and vote to advance their own interests
I'm not sure I understand this train of thought, can you clarify how rent control disenfranchises people?
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.
- 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 
... 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 ?
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 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.
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.
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
With respect to Caltrain, it's not the case at all.
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!
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 up to at least 365 feet, and sometimes higher depending on jurisdiction.
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.
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.
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.
(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.)
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.
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.
If learning how to socialize and form bonds with people is a major goal, then being uprooted is good practice.
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.
If 101 were as free flowing as it was in the mid 90s ...
context clues are strong today
arteries like 280, 101 in the SF bay area... are perennially clogged
Go back to 4 all-purpose lanes and 1 true carpool lane (2+ licensed drivers) and throughput would be way better.
It doesn't really take me 20 minutes to go 22 miles in the heart of Silicon Valley at rush hour?
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.
eastbound bridge traffic being wide open in the mornings
There is definitely a reverse commute.
The chokepoints being by some bridges and particular exits
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 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.
believe the speeds we manage
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 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.
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.
Are you considering the $.50 average cost per mile from car travel -- gasoline, maintenance, insurance?
How is that different from "talent wants transit"?
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.
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'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.
"“Millennials have a lower rate of car ownership than previous generations at their age.” 
"We find that today's young adults do own fewer cars than previous generations did when they were young." 
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
They will almost all get licenses when they get to a point in their life where the cost/benefit makes sense.
Its unlikely the gaslighting would ever work in, for example, rural Ohio.
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.
 Insurance: ~$1,200
 Depreciation: ~$1,000
 Registration: ~$300
 Parking spot: $1,800
 Tolls: ~$1,400
 Gas: ~$400
 Maintenance: ~$200
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.
> 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.
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".
But, as a homeowner, I get that it's not so easy to pack up and move every time your job changes addresses.
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.
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.
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)
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 :)
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.
We feel the same about you. :)
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.
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.
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!
The car is fine in snow. There are numerous modern alternatives to the old-style heavy chains, which of course are still available.
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)
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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".
- Someone watching a video on YouTube while driving
- Someone on their phone, with headphones on, while driving
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.
With subtitles, no less. In moderate traffic (which is the worst kind for distracted driving).
Anywhere in the world.
Moving a cup of scaldingly hot coffee around while driving is not very sensible.
I like coffee as much as anyone, but christ, I can wait until I get where I'm going!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Even the Bay Bridge is seldom 100% out. It has multiple lanes, unlike a typical rail line.
> 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.
See: LA Gold Line for the nth time that a Big Rig smashes through the center divider and rests on the tracks.
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.
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.
Telecommuting fits this as well, if the job allows for it.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
If we funneled as much money to mass transit as we do to vehicle infrastructure, there'd be no competition.
See how that feels?
> live in Manhattan
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" . In New York City, the "average one-way commute [is] almost 36 minutes" , with "a major gap" being in the realm of "12 minutes of delay" . Compared to mean American traffic delays, New York at its worst is many other cities on a good day.
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.
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.
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.
> But these stats don't capture how many of the 97% hated commuting by car but had to
> 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.
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 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.
That's really a lot, 70%! How big of a portion of them are commuting to 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...
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.
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.