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Let's build houses for people, not cars (noparkinghere.com)
577 points by dhritzkiv 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 502 comments



I hold no love for parking minimums, and would love to see them abolished, but proposals like "we should turn 10% of all current parking spaces into low-income housing" just make me roll eyes.

That's not an actionable proposal, the closest that gets to an actionable proposal is to demolish existing parking structures and either put public housing projects on top of them or incentivize real estate developers to build actual low-income housing.

Telling real estate developers to build low-income housing in areas where they could easily build high-income housing is, well, let's just say cities promise this all the time and developers never do it.

"Build more housing" is probably the answer to the homeless problem, but the ownership issue needs to be fixed first. The author made all these cute graphics of studio apartments superimposed on parking spaces. Cool, I like density, my condo is 650 sqft, like 3 or 4 spaces without egress.

Are we talking about literally taking parking from existing owners and building housing on the bare pads? Are we talking about building vertically on top of them and leaving the space underneath for cars? I'm not saying these are bad ideas. But can we fully bake them first? So a politician can actually hand it to a bunch of legislators and come up with something he can actually put on his platform?

Sure let's abolish the minimum. But that won't do a darned thing to help congestion and the housing shortage other than make LA more like Atlanta where there's an island of density around a bunch of ugly sprawl with more dense pockets springing up in the periphery. We're still waiting for market conditions to fix the city. And market forces don't care about what we want. Promising low-income housing in desirable real estate markets doesn't work but is the only thing politicians can put on their platforms that people will vote for.


"we should turn 10% of all current parking spaces into low-income housing" wasn't a proposal on the site. It was more of a demonstration that, if we could do that, we would satisfy the entire deficit of low-income renters that currently exists in LA. The actual policy proposals were at the end:

1. No universal parking minimums. Developers choose how much parking the market requires.

2. Parking Maximums in Transit Oriented Communities.

3. All new parking garages must be built with a flat floor and a high enough ceiling to allow future conversion into office, studio, or living space.

4. 20% of parking spaces must include EV charging, with the rest install ready.

5. Garages must include an equivalent number of bicycle/micro-mobility parking spaces.

I would say suggestions 2-5 get progressively worse, but suggestion 1 is really good and backed up by the data presented.


Suggestion 3 is particularly terrible, since the concrete skeleton of a parking garage is really poorly suited for conversion to housing. Utilities will require raised floors and drop ceilings even for arterial needs. The size of the building footprint is unreasonable for general residential division - leaving either large interior space vacuums (which can cause safety issues especially when lacking natural light) or units with no external wall (causing a different set of health issues and probably massive fire code violations). The material to be built on will be contaminated oil soaked concrete (the sort of material they truck out of former gas stations before any other kind of construction can commence). And, lastly, parking garages aren't structured to allow a structural wall free perimeter which means that temperature control within such a building would have to be entirely artificially done - so A/C and heat 24/7.

It is much more cost effective and environmentally friendly to tear down parking garages and replace them with new construction.

For 1 - sure yea, I sorta doubt developers are going to voluntarily go below 1 space/unit in any sort of world because the value of the property takes a steep dive - but removing any commercial unit parking requirements or higher requirements for larger residential units makes sense. I think 2 is great - assuming exceptions are made to support park & ride demand. 4... Eh, EV is going to need to solve this through market forces so I think we can entirely ignore this (though I would love to see a lot more EVs I think this is point is entirely tangential to the main discussion) Lastly for 5 - nope. Every building ever has managed to sort this out naturally without regulation... leave this up to the market.


I've worked in a converted parking garage office before, so it must be at least somewhat economical. It was kind of awkward; you could absolutely tell that it used to be a parking garage. but it was completely functional.


As an employer I'd have liability concerns about embedded gas fumes and long term health effects - but the arrangement of space does work better for office work - since large rooms without natural light are more common place and internal rooms (like conference rooms or staff rooms) wouldn't have locked doors between them and windows in case of a fire.


Almost all our European counterparts have #2. Most cities have parking maximums per building, and it helps limit the amount of vehicles people buy.

LA desperately needs for transit extensions.


Reviewing planning paperwork for the flat I now own in a medium-sized English city, you could see the history of this in the paperwork.

The first application to build this building (replacing a small family home on a relatively large plot) was rejected for having too few parking spaces. Policy at the time assumed housing needs space for cars, if you don't build space for cars they litter the streets so each home must have 1 space or more for larger homes.

But the last application (ie the one they actually built) was only accepted after reducing the number of spaces, because by then policy had changed to dissuade people from owning more cars. They'll park them on the street anyway (and they do) so giving them more spaces just encourages owning even more cars in a congested city.


The problem I see with #5 is that parking your bike outside in an unsecured area is a recipe for getting it stolen (in the US). Bike theft is rampant in America and thieves will steal anything that isn't locked to something immovable, and even then they'll steal parts off of it. Civilized countries don't have this problem, and people happily park their bikes outside, at transit stations, etc. all the time without worrying about this.

Here in DC, we have "bike lockers" at the Metro transit stations so you can park your bike there and take the train into the city. However, these lockers aren't cheap, and there aren't many of them, and they're completely enclosed so they take up a fair amount of space. By contrast, in Germany you'll find many hundreds of bikes just lined up and parked outside the S-bahn station, without people having to pay a hefty rental fee.


parking your bike outside in an unsecured area is a recipe for getting it stolen (in the US)

That´s everywhere. I was told that in Austria the only major petty theft is bike theft (in one of the most secure countries in the world).

I don´t even need to mention how prevalent it is in my country Uruguay (which tries to encourage bike use).


No, it isn't everywhere. Bike theft is extremely rare in Japan, and no one locks bikes to anything there.


Wow. Hats off to Japan then.


What’s the rationale for parking maximums? If people are willing to pay for underground garage space, why not let them?


Let's say I'm building an office building, and roads in the local area can accept 300 more cars during rush hour before becoming unacceptably congested.

In this case, if the government authorises the construction of more than 300 parking spaces, unacceptable congestion will result.


Suggestion 1 is terrible unless it's combined with a limited permit scheme for street parking. Otherwise you end up with a mess where everyone buys a car anyway, then ends up circling the block around and around hunting for a space.


Eventually people learn to not do that anymore, like many do in downtown areas today... Eventually they might reduce the amount of cars they have, because doing that is a pain in the ass. Or they pay for their parking spot vs. freeloading on 'free' parking.


I'm cool with that, maybe they'll learn not to buy a car anyway.

I do think that 1 would need to be tempered with some handicap minimum though.


Yeah, it should be coupled with a requirement to show that you can legally park if you want to register a car. And people moving into flats without a parking space should know that they can't have a car unless they also own a space to park it.


Is that pure speculation or based on data? Most of what I read says the data says otherwise: https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/san-francisco-parking-space...


Eventually they will get tired of it and move to the suburbs


> Telling real estate developers to build low-income housing in areas where they could easily build high-income housing is, well, let's just say cities promise this all the time and developers never do it.

Where I currently live developers are required by law to build. Certain percentage of square meters of social housing for every square meter of higher class housing they build. When my house got build they had to build social housing right next to it.

If I understood it correctly, the city ties this to the building permits. So if you wanna build new stuff you need to show that your plans include these social and affordable flats as well.

A city should in my opinion regulate to maximize the happieness of it’s inhabitants and not it’s developers (to some degree these two overlap anyways).

Certainly you could also try to change things via the market, but unless your city has a lack of developers why should you?


I have heard that, in the long run, these kinds of legislation tend to really kick the housing affordability problem into turbo mode.

What ends up happening is that developers need to raise the rents on the non-subsidized units, because they're the ones that subsidize the subsidized ones. Which creates a constant upward pressure on housing prices that ends up squeezing everybody.

I'm not sure what the solution is, and I'm no economist, but it seems plausible. Looking at it from a 3,000 meter perspective, I would assume that, however well-intentioned San Francisco's housing policies were, we should probably expect that emulating them will yield the same outcomes that San Francisco is currently experiencing.

That's not to say that habitually segregating rich and poor people is a great idea, either. I would also suspect that emulating Detroit would also tend to lead to the sorts of outcomes that Detroit is currently experiencing.


> That's not to say that habitually segregating rich and poor people is a great idea, either.

This isn't something we do, it's something that falls out of a free real estate market. Money either finds itself and accumulates, making prices soar, or it flees the whole area throwing prices through the floor.

There is no magical world where the forces of supply and demand just happen to create income-diverse neighborhoods. We have to force that to happen if we want it.

Ultimately this, like every other problem resulting from income inequality, must be resolved by fixing the inequality, not by forcing people to live next to people they don't want to live next to.


That is something we do. Almost all cities, even very progressive ones, have a long history of redlining, which is still being dismantled today. The biases are racial and on income, which are strongly commingled from even heavier handed discrimination in the past.

The current separation of rich white and poor black/brown absolutely did not and does not fall out of a free market without consistent, long term, and deliberate racial action. Frankly, this is completely ignored by most neoliberal treatments of the housing issue.


The way San Francisco and Seattle run affordable housing is just tossing scrapes to the poor so businesses can retain cheap labor. They do nothing to maintain communities, just token diversity.

Sustainable affordability is achieved at the balance of supply and demand.

Supply can only be increased by building upward and outward: increase density near jobs, and invest in effective regional public transportation to mitigate "Manhattanization" (extreme density) or "Los Angeleization" (car commuting hell).

Demand grows from increased economic prospects, so can be managed with progressive taxes (ideally reinvested in transit/education/job training that equalize economic opportunities).

Subsidized housing makes sense as an interim solution, a buffer as the market adapts, but those subsidies are ultimately unsustainable (requiring prescient central planning).


How can they maintain communities exactly? I have seen many different definitions of that community to the point where I can't see a meangingful goal let alone an achieveable one. A bit like "ruining society" as a charge.


Minimizing emigration due to rapidly rising cost of living.


That is a fair enough goal - especially if done at a whole city level. A complicated balancing act but well so are a lot of things.


I don’t really know it exactly, but AFAIK there is a cost benefit involved for the developers. So it isn’t only additional work, but helps them tax wise.

Was a few years a go since I head to deal with this. However I want to emphasize the positive effects this kind of mixed living has on the social climate. The most mixed up city I ever lived in was Vienna (also due to their munipicial flats called “Gemeindebauwohnung”) and it really creates a better climate. People seem to be less afraid of each other and more in contact across culture and class barriers, it is harder to be in a bubble.

A negative example in Europe would be Paris — there you have strong segregation between different parts of the society. I have met Parisienne art students who never have been out of the city center and have no idea how it is there (except for what they heard about it).


That's only if you do it wrong. If you offer offsets in return for inclusionary zoning, it can work quite well. If you offer no offsets whatsoever like San Francisco, though, then the cost is borne by the community, not the developers: https://www.sightline.org/2016/11/29/inclusionary-zoning-the...


Build more housing. When an area gets overbuilt, units start going vacant, developers start going bankrupt, and vulture capitalists can swoop in, buy the properties for cheap, and rent them for cheap. Or if they don't, squatters move in and just start living in the abandoned buildings for free.

Ironically, this is the one outcome that is bad for both the city and the developer. The developer goes bankrupt, so obviously they and the bank don't like it. The city usually has a problem collecting tax revenue from bankrupt developers, and during the transition period between when the developer goes bankrupt and when another landlord buys the property, they face problems with crime and blight. It's good for enterprising bottom-feeders and for the city's poor, but neither one of them get a seat at the table. So here's a case where the incentives are directly aligned to let the people who make the decisions profit at the expense of the people who don't make the decisions.


> A city should in my opinion regulate to maximize the happieness of it’s inhabitants

Putting rich and poor people together maximize happiness?


Yes, it does. At least in my experience. The cities I lived in which had more mixup were certainly the ones with a better social climate, people talking with each other, helping each other, taking note of each other’s sorrows and doing sth. about it. On the other hand in a segregated city you have districts who get estranged of each other, or outright hate each other. The rich ones never leave their part of town because they are afraid and heard all kind of stories about these districts. And the poor ones go to work in a distric were people don’t even know they exists.


I wouldn't say it maximises happiness but it does serve to mitigate ghettoisation. In the UK they've done a good job of this, you'll often see council housing mixed into upmarket areas. Also all newly built developments are required by law to have 20% allocated as "affordable" and social housing.


Putting all poor people together certainly doesn’t.


Those low income housing requirements are counterproductive in many ways. You end up with low and high income housing, but those policies are terrible for those in the middle. Too "rich" to qualify for low income housing, but unable to afford market rate.


That's not due to inclusionary zoning [1], that's due to the "missing middle" of housing: https://www.sightline.org/2019/02/13/who-would-live-in-missi...

[1]: https://www.sightline.org/2016/11/29/inclusionary-zoning-the...


When I said high income I meant “above a certain threshold” and that threshold is certainly also affordable for the middle class, at least over here.

In my book these requirements work quite well, the developer I talked to also didn’t complain because there are some tax benefits so he has no incentive to make the flats more expensive.


I realize this is a tired trope, but I firmly believe it:

If California got rid of prop 13 and allowed by-right zoning, market forces absolutely would build what we want.


Agree completely. Houston doesn’t have zoning. Houston also doesn’t have a housing affordability crisis. Houston also doesn’t have high developer fees or low income housing mandates. Houston also has a lot of parking. Weird. A city doing almost the exact opposite of what many “housing advocates” prescribe and they don’t have a housing problem.


Houston is also not squeezed at all geographically except for to the south-east by the Gulf. San Francisco on the other hand is constrained on 3 sides by water. Expanding across the Bay is possible but expensive because you have to provide bridges for all the people to get back into jobs in the city otherwise it's not SF housing it's just Oakland housing.


Houston is squeezed in geographically by flood plains and marshes - which developers merrily ignored and developed on. When a hurricane hit, surprise of all surprises, a bunch of houses in these areas were flooded. Thankfully a lack of regulations managed to not solve any traffic or density issues while all also making the city more vulnerable to disasters.


They /should/ have been squeezed, but flood plains and marshes aren't hard barriers to building like water (though you can do reclamation but that's also pretty expensive). They're places you shouldn't (or should be very careful about about) build in but they're not places you can't build in period.


Houston doesn't have official zoning. It does have land use regulations, including off-street parking mandates, which act like de facto zoning.

https://marketurbanism.com/2016/09/19/how-houston-regulates-...

> Here’s the doozy: Houston mandates off-street parking for just about every form of development. This is probably the number one regulation holding back the city’s rapid densification and a major reason that car-dependence remains the norm. By requiring developers to build either parking deserts and garages, this policy encourages developers to bypass exciting infill and downtown opportunities in favor of developing in the suburbs where land is cheap.


You can't compare Texas with literally acres of open space surrounding their cities to real states with actual population densities. Texas literally brags about how big they are and how much land they have. Come talk to me when Texas has less than 20% of it's population as cows unlike the 40% it's at now.


Houston has parking minimums and other car-favored building regulations.


Houston is also the most egregious case of rampant urban sprawl on the planet.


Market forces build things like Uber. Are we actually going to get public transit this way? I really doubt it.


No. Regulations have completely prevented anyone from ever building more public transit. One company, all they did was try to get a few more buses on the road, and they were shut down very swiftly.


Almost certainly that's completely unrelated to zoning and prop 13. I'm not saying all regulation is good but you can't just deregulate randomly and hope for a good outcome.

I mean...there already are private shuttles and buses throughout LA. Tour buses are a tourist staple and I can't imagine there's much regulation there. I can only assume the particular bus you're talking about broke some law that I most likely don't mind is in place.


Google's employee shuttles/buses are a decent example too.


yes. Imagine public shuttles using uber based technology. So the shuttles come pick you up and drop you off at your destination.

They can do transfers to other shuttles or other public transit on fixed routes to optimize the routes.

The govt would never come up with rideshare type algorithms.


Yeah because the single largest logistics system in the world knows nothing about transportation. You free market only people really are blind to reality. The US government is the single best move of people and goods on the planet. We literally run our military on logistics. Show me any real private industry that runs their transportation as efficiently as a government one with the limited resources and requirements for service that public does. You know how the private market makes money? They cut out the poor people and inefficient routes which public industry can't do because their mission is to actual serve the community instead of shareholders.


https://crosscut.com/2019/08/seattles-microtransit-experimen...

Maybe just an exception to the rule, but still worth pointing out.


Who needs ride sharing if you have good public transport?

You go the far distance to a hub which has lots of parking space and switch to subway, tram, bus or foot traffic, or bikes, or the hip electric scooter. And disadvantaged or disabled people get better accessibility. Pity it is hard to retrofit into misdesigned cities.

See EU and how Uber is not making millions here. And taxis are relatively expensive.

Also check South Korea and how relatively cheap normal unsubsidized taxis essentially prevented Uber from getting a foothold...

It does not compete with owned cars at all.


And none of that needs a change in regulations. That could all happen now save for those exact market forces. Haven't you just described Uber pool which already exists? Assuming our prayers will be answered by just deregulating things is silly.


Low income housing is the wrong solution to a simple problem. Zoning laws introduce too many restrictions to keep the market from running efficiently. This is why you see "housing crises" everywhere in the world right now. If the market could solve the problem, it would. The market can't solve it, so the problem persists and aristocrats get to keep watching their land values skyrocket and rent-seek another day.

Zoning isn't a cure-all. Housing is getting pretty expensive in Houston, one of the only large US cities with lax-to-non-existent zoning laws (and also high property taxes). Also, I think most people want some restrictions on what can be built where. I don't think many parents want strip clubs built next to preschools, and I don't think many people want a cement factory to be built across the street from a public park.

I also don't think many people want the zoning laws we have either. They just want to see their land value increase as fast as possible, but that's not really sustainable either.

I thought we might reach a tipping point as we reach a majority renter population. But Europe has been a majority renter society for a long time, and I would argue Europe's housing (to buy) is more unaffordable than US housing. Strangely, the price to earning on real estate makes 0 sense in Europe (even with respect to interest rates), and renting is somehow much more affordable in Europe (even though buying isn't).


> "Build more housing" is probably the answer to the homeless problem, but X needs to be fixed first.

There is always an X to be fixed first, and housing is never built.


Housing is built all the time, to serve the needs of the market it's built to serve.


Housing development is winding down in many places.

> From 2010 to 2015, San Mateo County added 72,800 jobs but only 3,844 homes: that's 19 jobs for every home

https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2019/7/24/approaching-pe...

That's low enough that, as far as the market is concerned, it's effectively stopped.


Bring back street cars. Then not only will there be public transportation for everyone, there won’t be room for the cars anyway


Come to Toronto - they never left! (and have their own set of problems)


There was a cool documentary about the Toronto trolley and other cities trolley systems.

http://www.stephenlow.com/project/the-trolley/


Street cars lose against cars on the open road. I think they end up performing best on otherwise pedestrianized streets - assuming good attention is paid to safety design.


Why not keep the minimums and use the boring company to dig parking belowground? :)


Build all parking spaces underground and ban parking lots.


Absolutely this fetish for getting rid off street parking will just lead to third world traffic jams.

BTW I am a non car driver here


Seems like an inability to store private vehicles for free on public property would reduce cars and traffic.


Without alternatives it will simply reduce commerce in that area which, sure, will reduce traffic.

When these suggestions are made HN seems to forget people still need to live the time between when this pain is enforced and if/when a solution arises.


Street parking doesn't need to be free.


It’s not ‘free’ it’s paid for by property taxes. Just because in certain areas it’s not worth it to actually enforce permits doesn’t mean the city won’t at the request of the homeowners or businesses.


Free here means free at point of use. I pay property taxes and don't own a car. You pay property taxes and do park a car. We both pay the same toward parking, therefore it makes sense to say parking is free.


[flagged]


How would getting rid of street parking mean third world traffic jams where people have to go to the bathroom in their cars?

Are you 100% sure that street parking is the only difference between these two situations?


"Third world" traffic jams are what you get when you have enough population density. And for that, you don't have to go to this "third world" you speak of, look at NY.


While I don't agree with the GP, traffic in NYC is nothing like what it is describing (i.e., significantly better than the "third world").


I am not making a direct comparison. I am using NYC as a case for how population density affects traffic. That does not have much to do with a place being "third world". He/She could as well make points about better infrastructure instead of disparaging places as "third world" countries. The notion of bucketing countries is derogatory, and does not add to the argument.

And just to make my point further, OP's other comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20810496 makes it pretty clear they have every intention to stereotype countries as "third world"


> I am not making a direct comparison. I am using NYC as a case for how population density affects traffic.

Yes, you are. You said:

> "Third world" traffic jams are what you get when you have enough population density.

then proceeded to throw out NYC as a non-"third world" example.

> He/She could as well make points about better infrastructure instead of disparaging places as "third world" countries. The notion of bucketing countries is derogatory, and does not add to the argument.

> And just to make my point further, OP's other comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20810496 makes it pretty clear they have every intention to stereotype countries as "third world"

Yes, it could have, and the use of "third world" as shorthand for "lacking proper transportation infrastructure" was unnecessary and somewhat derogatory. However, your initial response doesn't address that. It just puts the cause of traffic jams as population density, then compares NYC's density (and, implicitly, traffic), to the places being referenced.


I am not sure how you arrived at the conclusion that a lack of street parking is what causes traffic jams rather than a lack of sane traffic infrastructure or public transportation. But, it doesn't make sense from first principles, at least. Could you explain how you came to that conclusion?


Zurich had this problem, the city was built before cars were a thing and thus it is inept of handling much traffic. The authorities decided to disincentivize driving cars by blocking roads and reducing available parking spaces [0] while offering good public transport. Worked well, now only 17% commute by car.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zürich_model


While this is great for Zurich, and I would like to see it applied to a larger American city, but LA and Zurich are incredibly different scales of size. LA (according to Wikipedia) is 1,213.8 squared km, compared to Zurich at 97.8 squared km. I am not an urban planner, but I imagine that size difference would make implementing the Zurich model a completely different challenge.


LA is effectively several different cities tied together under a single government entity. It even has a few holes in it where it completely surrounds several independent cities (Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, for example.) There's no reason a Zurich-sized chunk of LA couldn't implement a Zurich-like system and test how it works out.


Well, yeah, but the pure density isn't there.

All of LA was built assuming car ownership. So there are large 4-lane streets everywhere breaking up the usable land. Not to mention huge freeways cutting a net through the whole area. Plus, much of the zoning has segmented regions. You have a whole area just for housing, and another just for commercial property, and another just to industry. So by necessity you need to travel moderately long distances to reach your needed destinations.

I imagine most European cities that weren't built for cars means they originally were built with much narrower and sparse streets, more mixed-use regions, and thus walking or biking a short distance covers the majority of your needs. The rest can be handled by public transportation. In LA, that isn't feasible because so much extra road space means everything is much more spread out.

NYC and other major cities (Chicago) have higher density by building upwards as well as building their public transport from the beginning.


Rezoning the area would be necessary, you are correct. The freeways which go through the city (instead of around it) are mostly elevated, so I don't think that's as much of a problem. And cutting most of those 4-lane streets down to 2-lane and using the reclaimed space as affordable housing or mixed-use fits in with the author's point.

This obviously isn't an overnight project, or even a ten-year project. It would probably take decades to rebuild a car-centric city for affordable housing and walk-ability. It would be easier to start from scratch, for sure. But existing large metro areas have a housing and congestion problem now, so need to start solving it somehow.


>It would probably take decades to rebuild a car-centric city for affordable housing and walk-ability. It would be easier to start from scratch, for sure.

China is able to build entire, gigantic, "ghost cities" within a few years. And bulldozers and explosives don't take much time to clear land of existing structures. If there were actual political will to change existing cities to be walkable, it could be done in a very short amount of time.


You can start small to increase density and go from there.

Low-income people are often the best people to revitalize and area because they don't really have many other options. So the city could take a few blocks of underdeveloped space and have it redeveloped as cheap housing with no parking at all and maybe some nearby retail/office space. People will figure out ways to get around without a car because they have a huge financial incentive to do so.

We've seen this work before. Often times low-income neighborhoods slowly revitalize as people move in because the cost savings is worth dealing with the negative aspects of the neighborhood.


You are probably right in how that would be best in how it would be done.

My wife recently went to LA, and between the pictures she sent and me looking into it more afterwards, your description of several cities tied together is a very apt description. Even by what I know (Chicago), LA is just massive.


The biggest problem with, say, Santa Monica independently implementing a Zurich like system is that the LA region (and most other mega-regions like the SF Bay Area) are effectively a single housing and job market.


Vancouver pretty much hasn't built any new roads since the 1960s. Accordingly traffic flows in/out of the downtown penninsula remain at 1960s levels even though the amount of people living and working there has massively increased. Vancouver has managed by building public transit and high quality cycling infrastructure as alternative transportation options.


That's well and good, but the sticking point is "the city was built before cars were a thing." The US is already heavy with sprawl and it's a reality that we have to live with. I'm not sure how to put that cat back in the bag.


Block roads and build better public transport.

Just because it's difficult and will require some pain in the short term, it doesn't mean we should do - and therefore improve - nothing.


I live in the city without a car but what you are suggesting is literally infeasible for most of the US, it goes far beyond "short term pain". There is no viable way to build usable, economical public transport for vast, low-density suburban sprawl. Blocking roads does not solve this obvious problem. The topology of most US infrastructure is designed in such a way that this conversion is not possible without demolishing and rebuilding thousands of square kilometers of existing infrastructure. That is a very expensive proposition.

Even if all new construction and city growth is optimized for not needing a car, and a significant fraction of it is, that doesn't change the reality that 300 million people live in areas where a car is an absolute and largely irreplaceable necessity because the existing infrastructure requires it.


Small and medium cities aren't so much an issue. 400k people can easily live in a midwestern car-centric metro area. But once cities grow to from hundreds of thousands to millions, then they need to start being redeveloped with a car-free livestyle in mind.

Greater LA is home to nearly 20 million people. It's entirely feasible to create several car-free neighborhoods, each with more people than Omaha Nebraska. That's plenty enough people for transportation solutions to evolve organically.

Something to keep in mind is the existing suburban infrastructure is also unsustainably expensive. It's quite likely that many American suburbs will decay in the coming decades, a la Detroit, as poor residence can't supply enough tax dollars for maintenance.


> Greater LA is home to nearly 20 million people. It's entirely feasible to create several car-free neighborhoods, each with more people than Omaha Nebraska. That's plenty enough people for transportation solutions to evolve organically

I agree with your goals (car free cities), but I don't see this happening. Imagine a neighborhood goes car free - in LA, probably 75+% of people living in that neighborhood work in some other neighborhood. What are they supposed to do to get to work? Public transportation? It doesn't exist, or takes 4x as long as driving.

So we build public transportation up to allow for the massive increase in people using it in that neighborhood? Well, the neighborhoods they're trying to commute to still all use cars, and there's no room for that kind of increase in public transportation there.

So we need some kind of massive public infrastructure project to create the kind of city-wide transportation that's needed to enable this kind of shift? Well, sure. But that takes decades and billions of dollars. And that's if there's the political will to make this happen at all. I live in LA (and commute to another neighborhood to work via public transportation); honestly I don't see it happening.


If it takes you literally "decades" to build a train line, when the US back in the mid-1800s built railroads across the continent by hand, then maybe you should just give up and admit your country is hopelessly broken. Other countries don't take that long to build a few train lines.


I agree with you! But the estimated time to complete just one of the extensions is running into the late 20s or even 30s!


That's my point. It doesn't have to be that way. Other nations are able to build not just "extensions", but entire train lines, in much less time than that.


So block roads in metro areas. Have park and rides on the outskirts. You can keep using your car to travel around the suburbs, you (and your 700,000 friends) just can't keep bringing it into the city every morning.


I think it pretty much goes without saying that such a transition would need to occur gradually, probably over the course of decades if you ask me.


It's easy:

1) Stop building new roads, and stop improving existing ones. Stop worrying about traffic problems; if people don't like it, they can move somewhere else or start using public transit.

Maybe 1a) Convert some existing highways to toll roads. Use the funds for #2.

2) Use the money saved by not building or widening roads to build and operate more public transit: buses, and especially trains/subways. Give people a way to commute into the city for work without a car.

3) Fix zoning so that higher-density development is allowed, and can't be stopped by NIMBYs. Require mixed-use development where sensible (i.e., retail shops at ground level). Don't require a certain number of parking spaces, perhaps even add a tax for parking (lower for a garage maybe, higher for open lots).

Over time, the area will become denser. People will move closer to the city core, and want to get away from the congestion of the suburbs.

This stuff is perfectly doable, but only if there's the political will to do so. This country simple does not have the political will.


Take the however-many billions of dollars each city is currently spending to build new (or bigger) freeways.

Spend that same money on buses instead.

Instead of millions of cars that carry 1 person to a max of 5, lets have thousands of buses that carry ~40-80 people.

In the years to come when there are less vehicles on the road, we can start closing roads, like Paris does (or did).

Or, you know, do absolutely nothing. Improve nothing. Move forward with nothing. Complain about everything, and every idea to improve stuff.


When the "ideas to improve stuff" stop being hopelessly naive, the critiques will surely lessen.


Let's hear your idea then.

There are an awful lot of people nay-saying ideas to make stuff better and extraordinarily few people coming up with ideas to make stuff better.

What do you think will be the outcome of that?


“We must do something, X is something, therefore we must do X” is a logical fallacy. Doing nothing is better than doing something costly and ineffective (or worse).


Every single one of those ideas have been proven workable in hundreds of cities around the world.

That comment even lists a city where they've been successful: Paris


Are there any cities that are actually building new or wider highways (not just improving interchanges/exits)? Seems like most cities have stopped building new highways.


Yes: DC. They're widening I-66, because too many people moved way out to the exurbs and commute into the city every day, taking 1-2 hours each way. So they're adding lanes on this highway, which will cause even more people to move out to the exurbs, and won't help at all. Meanwhile, they're refusing to extend the subway line out in that direction, even though a single train can carry hundreds of commuters at a time, and they'll all going the exact same direction.


> Block roads and build better public transport.

If you make the city unlivable in the meantime, that should help with affordable housing as people with means go elsewhere.

Sure, drop parking minimums in/near density/transit access. Let the market decide where you can sell residences without parking; although, building a multi unit building without parking in a neighborhood with street parking isn't really appropriate.

Public transport in the LA area is a pretty tough issue -- you've got a ton of people who often live far from where they work, and households with multiple workers rarely have the workers anywhere near each other. It's very hard to have public transit that has the speeds needed for long commutes while also maintaining the flexibility for the varied commutes that are common in the area. That said, almost all of the transit that gets built does get used, to the surprise of everyone -- so the answer for LA is probably just keep building transit until ridership saturates, and make small changes in zoning policy along the way.


I'm on board with sweeping changes, but most US cities aren't built densely enough to take advantage of public transit even if we do build it.

It's not just a matter of building more transit (which we should be doing!). We have to move people back into urban cores and out of sparsely populated suburbs.


Japan, the golden child of public transportation, serves suburban areas as well as urban cores. I am not convinced it's altogether an issue of population density. It seems more a cultural issue. In America, public transportation is seen as being for people who can't afford a car. In Japan, it's just part of how you get places.


Fix our attitude to car parking and the rest will follow. In Japan there's no street parking, thus narrow streets and no need for sidewalks, saving even more space for actual stuff. If you want to own a car, it's your responsibility to pay for space to keep it in (and you're not even allowed to buy one without showing that you've got a space), you don't get to just dump it in some public space.


I don't think people realize how much cars have ruined everything!

The USA wasn't bombed during WWII, but look at pictures of American cities in the 1940 vs. the 1970s; tens of thousands of small towns wiped off the map.


Most Americans have driveways and many have garages. It’s a pretty small minority that park their cars on the street. And most city street parking is certainly not free.


> Most Americans have driveways and many have garages. It’s a pretty small minority that park their cars on the street.

Less so in cities I think? In any case, the streets are still built to parked-cars-on-both-sides width.

> And most city street parking is certainly not free.

Even when there is a charge, it's priced far below what the land is worth.


Well, affording a car in Japan is also very expensive. The cars not so much; the inspections, taxes and parking very much expensive.

So maybe Japan is just the place where almost nobody can afford a car? Thus, the same as the US.


Great point! In Zurich, using public transport is just the way to go for everyone. High-profile banking executives as well as blue-collar workers. Works like a charm


Tokyo suburbia is quite dense. Gmaps should have pretty good coverage.


> I'm on board with sweeping changes, but most US cities aren't built densely enough to take advantage of public transit even if we do build it.

We are not even close to having the densest US cities use public transit well. Sparely populated suburbs are a problem, for sure, and they may require cars for a while, but cities still have too many cars because of poor transit management.


Ironically many people already want this (as reflected by housing prices), but can't afford to do so


But public transport is simply not as good for now; ramming it down people's throats is not a solution. It is crowded, unclean, slow, and noisy. I have to listen to some one else blaring his music, or some fat guy taking two seats. Or some smelly guy who can't be bothered to shower. I suddenly have to plan my schedule around my transportation, rather than my transportation around my schedule. Maybe we should focus on making it a better option.

Also, why would you block existing roads? That's a ridiculous proposition. There's a difference between building something better and just forcing every one onto something worse. The market is stronger and smarter than any government, and will try as hard as it can to circumvent any thing you pass. Why not have the invisible hand do your work for you? Make it a better option, and people will use it.


> Maybe we should focus on making it a better option.

I think everybody agrees with this until it comes time to talk taxes and then everyone with a car says they're happy with their commutes and they don't want to pay for somebody else to take a train, don't want a whole lane for a bus, and so on. So instead you get some meaningless token effort and everybody goes on driving

Making driving "worse" (or at least refusing to invest to make it better) gives transit a competitive advantage. Optimizing for personal cars gives cars a competitive advantage, which is the story of the 20th century

> Also, why would you block existing roads? That's a ridiculous proposition.

It's not even remotely controversial when I've seen it done, like downtown streets in Boston made pedestrian only. The vast majority of people (who are on foot) love it.


Speaking of being happy with their commute. I'm very happy and I'm walking to work everday. Maybe you should rethink the need for cars/trains in the first place? Because I sure am not using trains in my daily life and don't own a car.


Other part of the equation is being be happy with living location. Walking to work is nice, but if that means you've to pay fuckton for a tiny apartment in concrete jungle.. Some people will be happy, some people would be more misery than dealing with long commute.


I live in a nice place with a park in front of my door.


I don't want to move every time I change jobs. I thought no most people share my preference.


Why do you need to change jobs so often?


>It's not even remotely controversial when I've seen it done, like downtown streets in Boston made pedestrian only. The vast majority of people (who are on foot) love it.

Those roads are not anywhere that anyone was formerly commuting through though and were already well served by mass transit (they're basically underneath the intersection of all the main subway lines.

The entire Boston area transit network (including road, light rail and heavy rail) is what you get when you write your master plan on a deck of cards, shuffle it and then flush it down the toilet. They should have stuck with their road and rail plans from the 1940s. 695 should exist (that would solve a lot of the commuter traffic east of I95) though they probably would have buried it by now like they did with the rest of the highway. Orange line should run all the way from 128 in the north to 128 in the south (where there would probably be massive park and rides). The North/South station connector should exist. Etc. etc. If they had just followed their own damn plan they could make the dense parts of Boston/Camb more pedestrian friendly and generally have more freedom to do "good urban transit" type things because you wouldn't have surface roads functioning as major arteries that you can't interrupt.

Boston is an example of good urban transit only so far as it was lucky enough to be a big enough city back in the day when big projects got done that it consequently has a subway. The rest of the region is a dumpster fire of things that were supposed to interconnect but don't.


Why can’t the people that want transit be the ones that pay for it? If public transit were in high demand, it would seem like it shouldn’t be charging a subsidized fare.

Making driving worse does give transit a competitive advantage. However, if transit were so desirable, why would it need to win by simply making everything suck more? That’s not a very strong vote for transit. Transit should win because it’s better, not because we have made all the other options suck more. I suppose we could have snipers shooting at freeway cars if we wanted to increase subway ridership right? However, that doesn’t make the subway intrinsically better. It just means you have a lot more people unhappy.

I don’t understand why people are willing to make the largest number of people unhappy in order to achieve some transit utopian fantasy. The whole debate sounds like Marxism: let’s make everyone’s life suck equally. We don’t actually want anyone to enjoy their car because then they wouldn’t want to take our shitty bus. If your bus wasn’t so shitty (I am in the Bay Area, so I mean that both literally and figuratively,) then maybe people might want to ride your bus. My company has some private bus shuttles that are spectacular. When possible, I prefer to ride those shuttles despite having a great car and an easy drive. But riding the city bus? Heck no! I would need a hepatitis booster shot as well as having to ride in dirty, uncomfortable surroundings with crazy people. Not to mention waiting at a bus stop with those same sorts of people — and stopping every two blocks for someone to get on or off.


Yeah I don't know what to tell you guy, where I live public transit is full of average people who work average jobs.


Cars are heavily subsidized too. For starters, they take up a fortune of free land in urban areas, even when gas taxes pay the bulk of road construction they take the land for free.

I don't know what a fair competition would look like.


That is a complex question with no one right answer.

Transit isn't just a chauffeured limo ride for rich people to ride to their job downtown, while saying they are helping the environment. If that was the only reason for transit it should pay for itself (a small fare increase might be required).

Transit is for the poor: those who can't afford a car, and have no prospect of getting a better job. These are a large number of such people, who really can't move up. Cheap transit means they can just afford rent and food thus meaning society doesn't have to do more to take care of them. Cheap is a matter of pride, it lets them think "I pay my full price for everything", while the real costs are hidden.

Transit is for the disabled. Many of them are poor (see above) - but even the rich ones cannot drive for some reason. A transit system means they have a way to get around and thus causing more work for nurses and the like. It is cheaper to subsidize a bus to the hospital and an ambulance.

Transit is to reduce load from the road network. A bus with just 3 riders is using less road than those riders in a car. thus cars should cheer the bus as it means less traffic for drivers to deal with. As traffic gets worse it is cheaper to shift drivers to transit than to build a road. Thus subsidies to transit can have the same effect as building another road at much less cost, making driving cheaper to everybody.

Transit has strong network effects. One bus/train isn't useful for many people, as you add more lines and service times the transit system becomes more useful to everybody. However this requires expensive upfront investment to get to the level of service required for people to ride. This investment is hard to pay for.

There is lag time between transit existing and people riding. Someone with a car won't bother to try the transit system even if they are the perfect candidate (a direct route from point a to point b that is faster than driving) they are so used to driving they won't look up the route right away. It can be years between opening a system and everybody who would ride actually riding. In the mean time the investment has to be paid for.

Transit allows denser building, which in turn allows higher property taxes. Thus a transit system should be subsidized by the property near where it stops (400m in each direction or some number in that range) as the property owner is benefiting from the transit in the form of increased property values.

Your city needs to fix the transit problems you noted. My city has very nice buses that I ride every day. This will require investment, but once it is paid for I think you will find like me that you will sell the car and use the bus to get around. Counting my taxes to pay for transit, and fares, I break even vs paying for fuel, maintenance, and insurance on my car (which was paid for years ago so I'm not counting costs to buy the car - in some years I will have to replace the car though and then I'm way behind)


Depends where you are I guess - I rather like taking the train into Edinburgh. It's occasionally a bit crowded going home in the evening but 99% of the time getting a seat isn't a problem and my fellow commuters seem a decent bunch and it is faster and cheaper than driving (and I have a decent fairly new car).

Edit: Out of interest, looking at your username is it not possible that you have an ideological objection to public transport?


> The market is stronger and smarter than any government

Then let the market decide how much people should pay for the socialized parking that citizens provide for car owners benefit.


I'd say that it isn't just a matter of comfort, but also one of personal security.

I'd be far more apt to take a local train in Tokyo or Switzerland than I would BART.


> The market is stronger and smarter than any government

If that is the case, the parking minimums should indeed be abolished, because they are mandated by the government, no?


>> It is crowded, unclean, slow, and noisy.

in North America it's also expensive and heavily subsidized by those who don't use it. With no judgement, both of these aspects go directly against the capatalist American zeitgeist


Expensive to run. A big reason North American systems are so heavily subsidized is that they are really cheap to ride. Very few flat-rate systems have good (>=60%) farebox recovery, yet the majority of NA systems are flat-rate.

It's something of chicken-and-egg thing, though. It's hard to charge reasonable prices when a system is inconvenient, but it's hard to build a convenient system without demonstrable demand.


>Expensive to run. A big reason North American systems are so heavily subsidized is that they are really cheap to ride.

Huh? Here in DC, the subway fares are rather high compared to the fares I payed in Germany and Japan. Germany was downright cheap, with multi-day all-you-can-ride passes available for what it costs me to take 3 rides on the DC Metro. The NYC MTA isn't very inexpensive either, though I think it's still cheaper than DC's. But for the money, it's a far, far worse user experience than the systems in Germany and Japan.


>It's something of chicken-and-egg thing, though. It's hard to charge reasonable prices when a system is inconvenient, but it's hard to build a convenient system without demonstrable demand.

Uber/Lyft have done it with their pool/line service. IMHO, the problem is the focus on major infrastructure over less grand services that people actually will use. My city is talking about spending billions to extend commuter rail. Yet when I looked at going to a place in the city center 5 miles away it was 23 minutes by car and an hour and 20 minutes by public transport. I literally could have run there faster than taking the bus.

I did the math and for the system as a whole it comes out to be about ten bucks a ride. It would be cheaper and better for everyone if they just subsidized line/pool.


>> in North America it's also expensive and heavily subsidized by those who don't use it.

That's exactly how I feel about cars

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/01/23/drivers-cover-just-51...


Except you benefit from roads even if you don’t use them: stuff delivered to you or via stores always comes via road. Even if it is transported by train, it still has to get to the shop. Mail service uses the roads, police, fire, ambulance also uses the roads. Firemen and Fedex aren’t doing their jobs taking the train. The refrigerator in your house didn’t arrive on the light rail. So even if you think you don’t use roads — you definitely benefit from them. However, I fail to see how I benefit from light rail I never ride. My electrician never showed up to my house on the light rail. Amazon isn’t shipping packages on BART. Public transit is a luxury, while roads are a necessity for the simple reason that ambulances, fire, police — they all need roads. Deliveries need roads, but they don’t need public transit.


If the only use for roads was the things you mention most roads would be dirt tracts (fedx would either have to invest in 4 wheel drive or not deliver when it rains), with only the busiest upgraded to gravel. The vast majority of traffic is cars not shipping - even in dense cities in Europe or Japan this is the case


I have a hunch that any authority who blocks roads in LA to prevent traffic from flowing won’t have much of a successful career in politics.


It's not possible without essentially destroying the entire city and rebuilding it with more dense buildings. Public transit would be intolerably bad, because the parking lots are too big. The buildings are too far apart, and too far from the roads. You would have to have stops so frequent that it would take too long to get anywhere that was far away, and you would still be dropped off a significant walk from any building.


While the US is no doubt "heavy with sprawl" Los Angeles isn't one of them. I'm from Atlanta—now that's sprawl!

Compared to other major US cities Los Angeles is truly dense (63% of LA is paved!). My favorite demonstrative anecdote—when approaching by air from the east the 'carpet of lights' starts to appear below about fifteen minutes prior to reaching LAX (which is on the Pacific shore). That's fifteen minutes at transport aircraft arrival speed. I go 'wow' every time I come into town at night if the views are clear.

Los Angeles is just massive, meanwhile its 'effective density' [my term] is reduced by the prevalence of quakes and the expense of taller structures¹.

It's a shame more folks cannot find a pattern of transit/cycling that works for them; the weather is so favorable and the topography is bike-friendly, outside of the canyons/SaMo Mtns), but so many people must live where it's more affordable while working where the businesses are (historically high-rent areas). This is an urban planning trope, so nothing new about that but LA is doubling-down on that pattern lately with the genesis of "Silicon Beach" these past few years.

(me: LA transplant (10+ years) here and I use transit/cycle exclusively for the work week & for more than half of my weekend activities.)

¹—I'd expect we have zoning that impedes "increased density + lower parking minimums" but admittedly I cannot speak to that point directly.


It's a myth that LA can't build high rises due to earth quakes. Also things like low rise apartment buildings and fourplexes could still be blanket legalized across LA and create significantly more density if that myth was true.


> It's a shame more folks cannot find a pattern of transit/cycling that works for them

If you want to commute by bike in LA you've got to have the place you live and the place you work (and everywhere in between) be properly managed by the city so that it's safe to bike. In my experience that's very rare: anything resembling a bike lane near me is likely to suddenly end into a line of parked cars, and with poor visibility and high traffic the risks are large.

I know of only one coworker who commuted by bike. He lives much closer than I do. He was also hit by a car in his first year.


Yep, though I am having trouble pulling up a good source and density map, I understand there are pockets of LA County both larger and more dense than San Francisco.

Edit: According to this[0], LA is "the single most densely populated urban area in the United States".

[0]https://la.curbed.com/2012/3/26/10385086/los-angeles-is-the-...


Practically speaking, it’s going to require the destruction of wealth on a vast scale. All that sprawling housing (and the associated businesses) will be physically or practically bulldozed to disincentivize use of private vehicles. GLWT.


it’s going to require the destruction of wealth on a vast scale

I don't see why that's a requirement. What exactly needs to be destroyed, and why?

From my simplistic point of view, all you need to do is to start injecting dense cores in the middle of the sprawl. Those cores can provide both local employment and local shopping coverage, thereby increasing the utility of the local area and raising the land value. Providing local jobs already reduces the need to commute.

Then start connecting the local cores with high-frequency public transport, then add park&ride infrastructure along those same lines to make the old city center private-vehicle free. That further reduces inner-city traffic while keeping the core accessible.

After some 30-odd years or so, the sprawl cores will have matured to mostly-independent city cores themselves, and the need for regular commute is even lower. Then you can dismantle the old park&ride lots and replace them with more efficient use of that space.

I don't see practical problems with that, nor do I see the need for bulldozing existing wealth. The only thing that needs to be bulldozed is the misplaced perception that living in sprawl is a symbol of high status.


>>> all you need to do is to start injecting dense cores in the middle of the sprawl.

It might be better to call it a "destruction of utility", in the sense of economic "utility maximization". Many people are living in the sprawl partly because they DON'T want to live in a "dense core". Injecting a dense core into their neighborhood might be considered a significant loss in quality of life.


So basically you just described LA as it already is: a number of independent city cores that are part of a larger connected sprawling urbanized area, except without the high-speed public transport between independent city cores (though the public transport is now being built).


What sort of high-frequency public transport are you suggesting?

The only thing that can work with the current system is more bus lines. But those are woefully inefficient for longer distances.

Ideally you could have some sort of rail system (either above or underground). But both would be prohibitively expensive and require bulldozing quite a bit of property.

Also, good luck bulldozing the rich folks' regions. Recently there was a proposal to add a freeway in Pasadena to greatly reduce congestion on the freeways. All the lawyers who lived there lined up and said they'd sue, in a queue, holding up the city by at least a decade in legal proceedings.


Same idea. See Barcelona and superblocks for example.


Many American cities have run down and hollowed out cores that are ripe for redevelopment. The challenge is to achieve a critical mass of housing, services and employment options that are accessible without the need for a cars, which requires committed effort.


There are some incentives you could use to move people and jobs back to city centers that don't require much effort. For instances, I believe Portland, has lower property taxes closer to the city center than the outer boroughs to incentivize people/business to move there.


> For instances, I believe Portland, has lower property taxes closer to the city center than the outer boroughs to incentivize people/business to move there.

Unless this was written down in law as guaranteed for a certain number of years, I am not sure I would trust it. In leaner times there will be a lot of pressure on politicians to bring those taxes in parity with other areas; especially if it is a success and property values climb. It's pretty easy to imagine a totally unfair 'pay your fair share' campaign.


Plenty of low-density cities make public transit work, all over the world—Canada would be your closest example. With a bit of public money and political willpower extensive, fast and functional bus systems can be set up even in the sprawliest of American cities.


The problem here is really that public spending has been vilified through decades of propaganda. The general public will vote against any taxation increase to pay for public works, even if those works would, in the end, lead to better lives for themselves.


It's a good idea in theory but what about out of town trips? Where do people park their cars until they need them? You can commute for 42 weeks but then, if you want to drive out to the country, how do you do it? I presume Zurich has some suburbs and houses with garages but I'm wondering if the current parking is enough to account for the need in cars that aren't used strictly for commuting.


Well the train network in all of Switzerland is great. If I want to go skiing, I just hop on a train towards any ski resort and arrive within 1-2h. Wanna go hiking? Take the train. Wanna visit the French or Italian part of Switzerland? Take the train. Works very well and covers most out-of-town trips for me and most people I know. In those rare cases when I do need a car, I just get a rental or use car-sharing (for example when leaving Switzerland). Factoring in the train tickets and the rental car, my transport expenses are still significantly less than they would be if I owned a car.


That does sound quite wonderful. Sadly, it's probably not an option for the USA with all the factors like a lack of train infrastructure and a pretty poor car-sharing culture (that I know of, not a US citizen) combined with the industry at large not really trying to change things because that would eat into their profits. Trains would be a great solution though, even if it would take time to set up the infrastructure proper.


Parking minimums are a big problem. But, it's just a part of a much bigger problem: Regulation is strangling the life out of us. Regulation like zoning and countless other regs prevents market forces from working the way they should.

Have you ever heard of a banana shortage crisis or a jeans shortage crisis in the US? No you haven't. The reason is because market forces are able to adjust to changes in market demand. In housing, those market forces are bottled up and stifled, preventing investments, preventing innovation, preventing progress, preventing better solutions. We really really need to start looking at regulations and find ways to get rid of the ones causing all these problems.

ADDED: We've seen very little actual VC money or Research and development go into improving the cost of creating Shelter (In fact, we haven't made any improvements in this in the last 50 to 100 years adjusted for inflation). Much of this is due to regulations. Other industries can find ways to reduce cost but the mountain of housing regulations prevent any and all progress in these areas. I'd argue Housing is one of the most critical areas that human should be trying to progress in, as it's most important for human survival.



I love it when purely ideological comments run into the messiness of reality. Food production being completely contrary to a free market, they are one of the most heavily subsidized and regulated markets around.

As a pragmatist, one of my favorite phrases I say quite often: "The difference between theory and reality is that in theory there is no difference."

The article is excellent expose of an issue and a solution. I hope they would include specific things we can do to help improve the situation. I'm part of California YIMBY, which promotes legislation that helps ease these issues.


> As a pragmatist, one of my favorite phrases I say quite often: "The difference between theory and reality is that in theory there is no difference."

Hmm, I prefer the phrasing:

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is a difference.


Yours is far more straight forward. Which can be great.

Mine is intentionally convoluted. It works for two things: 1- Easy to spot people who really aren't paying attention to what you say. 2- It takes a second to understand the point, people remember better when they have to 'figure it out' so to speak. 3- I get a smile from some people if they pause, think it, then understand.

I might be wrong in my assumptions though.


Well, it isn't "my" phrase. Its just the commonly attributed phrase.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/practice-and-theory/

This "practice and theory" quote was said by someone, but who exactly said it first was lost to time. Its not going to be possible to find the canonical quote (since the cannon-quote seems to be nonexistant). But its definitely a long-running idiom with some history.


Hehe, you are right.

When I said 'mine'/'yours' I simply meant what we use.

I tend to presume that originality is near impossible with such pithy sentences. For quotes, I only quote things I actually read from the author.


or as Linus says, "Theory and practice sometimes clash. And when that happens, theory loses. Every single time."


Maybe OP meant to be... ironical. If we're being that charitable.


None of this points to free market being at fault.


Which of this easy sampling of wikipedia "banana" entries addresses the topic of excessive regulation?


>Typically, a banana republic has a society of extremely stratified social classes, usually a large impoverished working class and a ruling-class plutocracy

One criticism of "Everything will balance itself out by itself thinking" is that it leads to exploited people. Regulations are one of the tools intended to prevent such things. Nothing is perfect. But the result is we end up arguing about "I pay too much for this" where we would have been arguing about "This guy died making this" if the regulation did not exist.


Thread parent opines that in one particular nation, regulations have particular harmful effects. In no sense is it a meaningful reply to observe that in other nations, there are other problems. "Banana republics" have laws, too, but I doubt most of the populace appreciates them, since they are written by dictators.

You are perfectly correct, that some level of regulation saves lives. I doubt thread parent would disagree. A discussion of which regulations are beneficial and which go too far would be interesting. Unfortunately that discussion was short-circuited by a banal list of wiki entries that could have been generated by a bot.


> "Banana republics" have laws, too, but I doubt most of the populace appreciates them, since they are written by dictators.

Dictators acting in the interests of the giant multinational corporations that support them. Did you look at the links I posted? I think you're imaginging some sort of firewall between "market" and "government" but no such separation exists. Buying politicians, funding armies, and bribing dictators are all simply economic activities with pros and cons that — in the absence of stern regulation prohibiting — corporations are happy to do.


When I click the third link, I only have to skim three paragraphs to discover that "United Fruit" hired not only Central American politicians, but also the famed Dulles brothers. You know, Ike's SecState and the guy who created the CIA. Those two characters overruled dozens of democratic elections, because personal greed. Do you really believe there have ever existed "stern regulations" that would have constrained their actions with respect to the fruit firms? Just as in other nations on whom some Americans enjoy looking down, in this nation too unrestrained corruption dominates regulation. "I think you're imaginging [sic] some sort of firewall..."

Which is not to say that all regulation is bad. No one in this thread has claimed that. Some people have pointed out specific problems with specific regulations related to housing and urban planning. I really wish you would respond to those specifics, rather than posting generalities that require extensive exegesis to even relate to the topic under discussion.


Because in the absence of regulation, companies will be driven by the market to do the "right" thing? This is not a problem in which the solution is likely to be highly profitable (or even profitable at all) so I'm not sure why you suggest that a free and unregulated market would lead to an improvement in this scenario.

You mention zoning laws in particular. Those were designed for specific reasons so what about them would you change? Surely you aren't suggesting just to get rid of them all?


Form Based Zoning Codes are a good step. The goal there is to focus on physical form instead of land use. So as an overly broad example - keep the height and setback restrictions but remove the rules about subdividing a residence or converting a residence to retail or office. This allows market forces to have a stronger influence on the real estate market.


An example is Japanese zoning [1]. Zones are layered - if you can build an apartment, you can also build a single-family home. In the US, they are all distinct - single family only or apartments only - no choice.

1 - https://devonzuegel.com/post/north-american-vs-japanese-zoni...


To a large extent, yes, get rid of them all. The Japanese zoning system (applied at the state level in the US) makes a lot of sense to me.


Nothing like buying a house and having a bus depot opened on the lot next door a year later. #freemarket


I would never advocate for zero zoning. But, allowing easy transition from single-family to duplex/townhome. And allowing light commercial/retail to be mixed with residential.


nothing like never being able to afford a house ever at all. And when you finally are able too, with a humungous mortgage and insane property taxes (due to the high price you paid for it).

No-zoning means housing is much much cheaper, we're talking 100K - 800K difference or more. With all the money you saved, you'd be able to buy another house far away from that bus depot.


No zoning doesn't mean it's cheaper. There's zero evidence to support that prices magically go down because zoning laws go away. The only thing that will decrease cost is more supply or less demand. Zoning laws should be made more sensible to allow for combined work and living spaces. Transit systems should be prioritized, but otherwise if housing is to expensive move further away. I commuted for almost 10 years almost an hour to get a house I could afford. Now that my career is more established we were able to move into a closer house. That's simple arbitrage. City prices are always going to be way more expensive than suburbs. Better punished transportation and slowly removing the parking requirements will solve the problem long term. It's a simple solution.


> With all the money you saved, you'd be able to buy another house far away from that bus depot.

> ... and have another bus depot opened on that lot next door a year later.

and so on.


Is this so common a thing, new bus depots? From "depot" rather than "station" I'm envisioning Greyhound buses. I was under the impression that long-distance bus ridership was stable if not declining...

Besides which, does anyone really deserve to live a certain minimum distance from transportation options? Why would anyone dislike her neighbors that much?


Trees, meet forest. Bus depot, power station, factory, Amazon warehouse, sewage treatment plant. They are interchangeable in the sense that you don't necessarily want to live directly next to one, which is why to an extent zoning exists.


I would get rid of them entirely for at least half the areas/city. Then, you could have the other half of the city with zoning laws and let those people pay through the nose for the so called benefits of "zoning"


I genuinely don't understand how people, out-weigh the benefits of zoning against the million dollar price tagged homes. What is so important, that justifies you go into debt 800K plus extra?

Personally, I'd rather pay 200K for a home, rather than 1 million $ for the same home but with zoning laws. Now, I don't know if it's a 5 to 1 difference in every case. But, we all know 5 to 1 difference in cost is not at all unusual on a per sq ft basis.


Where I am, in Vancouver BC, the price tag for detached houses starts around a million, it's hard to actually find a condo for as little as 200K assuming you'd like decent access to transit or to not live in a sardine can.


Found lots of detached houses in Vancouver for around 150k CAD a few miles away, do you mean that you can't find them in the city center? When people say that they pay a million for a house in the valley what they mean is that they paid a million for a house and still have to commute for an hour per day.


Probably because zoning isn’t the reason for high prices in most cities


Bananas and jeans are inexpensive consumables. Homes comprise over a quarter of non-financial assets in the US while being responsible for 68% of household liabilities [0].

Regulations have undeniably caused harm in California.

Yet, an elephant lurks. Housing is a massive system dependent upon the price of homes/land continuously rising. History has shown that when that doesn't happen, it is disastrous.

Maybe the market disentangles that, but by god would it be destructive.

[0] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2019/06/25/six-facts...


> Regulation like zoning and countless other regs prevents market forces from working the way they should.

On the other hand, so do externalities in the absence of regulation to internalize them. Real markets quite often don't approximate the idealized way markets should work without lots of help.

> Have you ever heard of a banana shortage crisis [...] in the US?

“Yes, we have no bananas today” is actually a reference to such a crisis.


>We've seen very little actual VC money or Research and development go into improving the cost of creating Shelter

"Blokable Closes $23 Million in Series A Financing to Lower the Cost of Developing, Building, and Owning Multi-Family Housing in West Coast Communities"

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/blokable-closes-23-...


When I read news like that, it doesn't really inspire any hope. When VC money is invested in something it seems like the only thing that ultimately matters is a nice exit for the VCs. Low income people needing housing is just another resource to be exploited.


Blokable prefabs look horrible. We don't need cubes/boxes to shove humans into, we need real homes. The housing shortage isn't just about a lack of shelter but about a lack of human spaces.


I will start caring about the second one when we have solved the first, and not before.


I disagree. I think these concepts are fundamentally linked - the architecture around us has a significant impact on the human psyche. Make the place look shit (read: putting people into literal boxes) and the people inside/around the buildings will feel and act the same way. The atomisation of individuals and devaluing of the community is part of what's lead us to this point in the first place.


That's a great recipe for building soul-sapping places that people then have to suffer in for decades/generations.


The problem with legislating middle class comfort as the minimum is that it prices out poor people, since poor people can rarely afford new-build as it is.

(Effectively) banning SROs in many localities did nothing to improve poor living standards, and probably made them worse since choice was now between being on the street or being in illegally subdivided SROs.


I'm not talking about `middle-class comfort`, nor am I a fan of NIMBYs. Having a family home should not be middle class. To work towards that there needs to be extensive de-regulation of the housing zones. I just thing putting people in boxes will make the situation worse.


It's not a right to live in the most desirable area of the country. If you can't afford to live somewhere you desire, your options are: A: Suck it up. B: Increase the amount of money you take in in order to afford the luxury you desire.


You may want to reasses your perception of what many people actually want. Note container-based housing and architecture is actually growing in popularity, not diminishing.

It blows my mind, but I have multiple friends regularly linking me to container-related housing projects ever since I bought land and started building cabins.

I don't personally want anything to do with containers, but there's definitely a housing market for those boxes.


> Regulation is strangling the life out of us.

Specific regulations may have problematic impacts (or positive ones, or some mix).

Statements about "regulation" in abstract are meaningless, except to subtract from the idea that specific insight matters, and add to the idea all one needs to approach any given problem is a general ideological approach.


While I agree with what you’re saying I’m not sure jeans and bananas are in the same category as housing because they’re much cheaper to produce (granted, simple concrete structures are also very cheap to produce, not quite so cheap though.)


The point is, they wouldn't be cheap, if we created regulations around them. For instance, let's say, for environmental reasons you decided that all jeans must use the wool of a canadian sheep that's hard to grow. Now the price of jeans triples needlessly. This sort of thing happens all the time in housing and nobody ever realizes it.


Hold on. Is the price tripling needlessly or for environmental reasons?


The market response to the California housing crisis has generally been to build new housing at the top of the market. A large reason for that is that construction costs are a smaller percentage of housing in California due to high cost of land.

We also need to recognize that trickle down economics doesn't work when it comes to housing just like it doesn't work when it comes other areas of economics. A 1500 square foot high rise 1 bedroom condo with an in-unit washer and dryer is so different from a 200 square foot unit that doesn't even have an in-unit shower that they function as completely separate markets.

Those two things mean we likely need more regulation not less. Although that doesn't mean the regulation we have currently is necessarily good. Removing regulation regarding parking might still be a smart move.


When there's a shortage of luxury units, rich people grudgingly bid up the low-end units because they still have to live somewhere. That's why low-end units here have higher prices than luxury units in other places.


Or they decide to live in a different neighborhood, suburb, city, state, or country. That is the primary flaw with all this discussion of theoretical housing markets. Housing markets are not closed systems. Demand is not fixed. People regularly enter into or exit specific housing markets all the time due to changes in prices which prevent these pricing changes from completely flowing through the entirety of the market. It doesn't matter how expensive housing in California gets, most "rich" people will move away before they spend a few thousand dollars a month on SRO housing.


It's pretty hard to build housing that only rich people would refuse to live in. In practice it's the working poor who end up commuting from Tracy and Morgan Hill because everything else was outbid, and that will continue until we legalize the housing glut the market is crying out for.


The argument is not trickle down economics although, it's wealthy demand traps. Ex:

"If rich people can't buy ferraris, and there is a limit to 100 BMWs and 100 civics, then rich people will boost the price of all the BMWs and Civics and all you can buy is really old broken down chevrolets, if you can buy one at all."

"But I bought my civic when it was an affordable price, and I have a special old person subsidized gas price, why do we need build more civics, ferraris and BMWs for all of these new immigrants?! Why can't they just stay in their own country?"


My point is that housing isn't all easily substitutable Ferraris, BMWs, and Civics. There are also private jets and mopeds. Jets and mopeds might both be forms of transportation, but a drop in the price of jets isn't going to impact moped prices.


Mopeds are illegal to build although (SRO) and the minimum legal house is a civic, and nobody protests the building of local large single family jet mansions. And you haven't seen the used market price of a porsche in a market with a lot of them ;) Berlin 15 years ago is one example of that.

And what people call 'luxury jet housing' is usually really sad 600sqft housing that would be called honda fit housing elsewhere.


The analogy is getting strained at this point. Not being able to build new SRO housing doesn't mean we have to knockdown all the SROs and replace them with high rise luxury condos. That might even increase housing density if a 5 story building is replaced by a 15 story building. That doesn't mean the people displaced by the new construction will benefit in any way.


This is an absolutely horrible argument, housing (namely multifamily housing) doesn't apply the same rules of economies of scale that other consumer durables do both due to natural capital costs and the inability to prefabricate huge parts of the building process (You cannot prefab the giant ditch you need to fill with concrete down to the bedrock that takes 100s of thousands of man hours to build).

The only viable solution to reduce the cost of housing is prefabricated, but moderately sized apartments/multi-family homes. The way you get this is not by unilaterally removing regulation, but by getting rid of local regulation in favor of national regulation.


> We really really need to start looking at regulations and find ways to get rid of the ones causing all these problems.

Yes, I agree, totally. Except where this is impossible.

You can't "free market" the cars out of cities. Nobody wants them gone, and everyone has vested interests in them staying: real estate, construction, parking+traffic violation revenue, car owners, car manufacturers, insurance companies, lawyers... Massive amounts of money flow through the co-existence of cars with cities.

The market's trend is to exacerbate the car problem. How will gutting regulation reverse it all?


We do have examples of cities with loose regulation. Houston is famously lax with building permits. Sure it means people build in flood plains and the entire thing is a giant sprawl that where you have to drive everywhere, but it does grow fast and attract a lot of people.


> I'd argue Housing is one of the most critical areas that human should be trying to progress in, as it's most important for human survival.

I’d argue that that is exactly why we need regulation for housing. It’s just the form of regulation that has to change.


"Have you ever heard of a banana shortage crisis or a jeans shortage crisis in the US?"

No, but I've heard of gruesome conditions for child laborers in sweatshops and I've heard of banana monoculture that has resulted in disease and threatens extinction of the crop.

We should all push for better and more adaptable regulations that aim to minimize the damages caused by capitalism and enhance its benefits. But regulations as a concept is not the problem, only the implementations.


Don't forget the homelessness, mental health and drug crises that are challenging everyone on the West Coast. It's not just about not having enough homes, it's about the culture we create for people to thrive.


There was a banana shortage in Australia. All the banana plantations were too geographically concentrated and were damaged by a cyclone. I remember a peak of AU$16 per kg bananas, circa 2006.


Amusingly you experienced those high prices only because of... regulation! AU gov banned fresh banana imports, so the market couldn't easily sort the problem. Other countries had stock and were ready to step in but were not allowed to do so.

https://www.theage.com.au/national/government-confirms-ban-o...

> Mr Howard told banana growers in north Queensland after the cyclone that he would not allow imports of fresh bananas until the industry got back on its feet.

> But he went further on the sensitive subject of importing fresh product, indicating the Philippines government's long push to export bananas to Australia may never succeed.


I mean, I guess the tradeoff is "keep bananas cheap" vs "keep banana industry alive in Australia".

Unless all those growers had cyclone insurance, in which case, yeah, probably should have let in the foreign bananas, right?


The issue was not of propping up a domestic industry, I believe it was of keeping out disease. So no, I don't think foreign bananas were going to be allowed whatever shape the industry was in.


I’d prefer an argument that mentions the type of regulations you intend to relax/change. Construction? Nope, there’s safety involved. Zoning? Feasible, let’s talk.


You have crisis in anything that people have to have, like housing, medicine, medical care, etc.


Food, clothing, water, air?


There are well known problems with poor food availability in some of the poorest neighborhoods.

Thanks to Walmart, I think clothing at affordable prices is available everywhere in the US. That comes with some nasty externalities, but we are at least clothed.

The US is mostly well supplied with air and water.


We have a looming crisis in air and in some places water.


I've been to part of the world without strong regulations and seen, first hand, what the unregulated capitalist housing market will deliver if you allow it. Dangerous dwellings, that are impractical, bread misery (particularly for families), and an endless race towards that bottom (since that's always the most "efficient" way to "store" people, and therefore most profitable for a developer).

It is very easy to make these glib "just remove regulation and let the problem solve itself" comments, without really addressing what that reality actually looks like. We aren't talking about a city of single family homes, we're talking about family homes largely no longer existing since lawns, property separation, "extra" rooms, "extra" walls, etc are all inefficiencies that will be eliminated by the market sooner or later.

So, sure, run housing like bananas or jeans but don't be surprised when dwellings start to look less like homes and more like a efficient storage medium for human creatures.


Totally agree. We continue to view housing as a physical product when we should consider it to be a financial service instead. Because that's what developers are building - a way for us to consume a financial product called a morgage.


This is all fine and good, but IMHO LA metro map says it all [1]. 6 lines. What a joke. This mega city should have light or heavy rail metro pretty much everywhere. It's even better if there are parking lots in abundance. Park & Ride can be put into place more easily. So, it's obviously a political choice and I am not sure more regulation on parking will have any significant impact on this.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_Metro_Rail


I'm from Germany and visited LA last month. I was riding the rail because we usually use public transportation when visiting other countries. We wanted to visit the walk of fame and it was a much nicer experience than hassling through the traffic in LA. The traffic is borderline insane. The diamond lane was almost empty because apparently everyone is driving in their own car. My wife and I were under the impression that only people who can't afford a car were driving the rail, but we don't know if that's true or not. The rail (and bus) was certainly a much saner choice than the car. I've never seen such a large city with such an underused public transportation. Meanwhile, you have 5 or 6 lanes running through the city, which makes the rail stops unbearably loud.


Based on discussion with my cousin who lives in L.A. (I do not), it's a bit deceptive - public transit is great for few popular (touristy) spots; but it doesn't have a comprehensive enough grid to be that useful for locals living in distributed / random locations, going to places of work :|

I live in Toronto where the subway is extremely limited in terms number of lines/paths, but at least they go to mostly the right places. Public transit is definitely a second-class-citizen, but subways going downtown are full, every day. The go-train also does a semi-passable job of enabling longer commutes... but we still have a LONG way to go. Unfortunately, each successive mayor has a completely different vision,and fights with the province to overturn the previous plan. At this point, had we picked any one option twenty years ago, even if sub-optimal, we would've had something. Ottawa seemed to do a better job with their LRT even though they had to make it through more layers of government (municipal, provincial, and national), but it's just been a lot quieter job. In Toronto, it's each mayor's main campaigning platform so it has to be a sensational proposal of "change" :-/


LA Metro's Expo, Red, and Purple lines are packed for the morning and evening commutes, both ways. These 3 lines also see heavy usage during the day, and the Expo line can be packed going West all day during the summer. (The Expo line in particular is more than 10 years ahead of ridership expectations and Metro is already begun planning for expanding capacity.)

Bus lines going to/from major job centers like K-town, Century City, DTLA, Hollywood, Culver City, and Long Beach are also packed during the commute.


Talk of a grid seems to misunderstand how its usually done. Its normally a hub and spoke model.

It could well be that the city is set up to require a grid type network, but that type of network may well be more expensive and may be the reason why there isn't good transit.


Both kinds of layouts exist. Hub and spoke systems seem to be best suited to moving commuters from residential areas to commercial/employment areas and back, but aren't as good for city dwellers who want to get from one part of the city to another. Washington, DC has this problem in a pretty serious way: the Metro was built for suburban commuters, and lots of common origin/destination pairs within the city that are pretty inconvenient by metro because they involve circuitously passing through downtown. The system just wasn't designed with this use in mind.

Contrast with Manhattan, which has multiple north/south and east/west lines and could reasonably be described as a grid. This is a system that's designed for people who will mostly get around by transit, rather than just doing so at rush hour when their car would get stuck in traffic.


I suspect there's somewhat of a chicken and egg situation going on.

If your city grew up around the car, there was never a need to centralise, so now you need a grid to service that.

Manhattan may well be a special case where the density and numbers would allow anything to work, if you were designing from scratch for mass transit I don't think grid would be the way to go though.


Neither DC nor Manhattan grew up around the car. What was different was the role of the car at the time the transit system was built; DC's was built later, during a period when the car had become dominant and the assumption was that it would remain that way, and now as that role of the car is being questioned, the transit system we have is poorly suited to the transit modeshares we'd like to see.


LA is definitely hub and spoke, except that there's only one hub (downtown LA) and on the spokes far enough out there aren't any ways to get North-South conveniently.

LA is so spread out it really needs a grid.


I'm going to suggest (without living in LA - I might be wrong) that LA needs a mix. A grid on the neighborhood level going to many distributed hubs with express lines to other hubs. Go to the local store or school - the grid works well. Getting across town the grid isn't so nice because there are too many stops.


I am German living in LA. When I lived in Munich and Stuttgart usually travel times with S-Bahn or U-Bahn were pretty competitive and I could get to most places without problems. In LA the network is not dense enough so for a lot of places you have to choose between one hour in the car or 3 hours on 5 different buses. It also doesn't help that the houses are very spread out so distances are much longer compared to Munich for example.

But in the end Americans on average don't believe in spending money on public services in a systematic way. They build a light rail here, a high speed train there, at great expense but without any kind of systems thinking. Then they are surprised that the system doesn't get used which confirms the view that public spending is a waste. I have no idea how to get out of that cycle other than a much more wide spread adoption of remote work maybe. Self driving cars will make things just worse because they make even longer commutes possible and sitting in traffic won't be as stressful for the driver.


>They build a light rail here, a high speed train there, at great expense but without any kind of systems thinking.

This isn't exactly true. It's true if you take the "high speed" out; we don't actually have any high-speed trains in America, not really. We have some pretty lame and slow trains, and that's about it.

But that's a nit-pick; your post is mostly spot-on about Americans.

I've been to Munich, BTW, and the public transit there is fantastic. All the elevated bike lanes are really nice too. Why on earth would you leave such a nice city for LA anyway? If I had to get a new job tomorrow, and I had my choice of working in LA or Munich, I sure as hell wouldn't pick LA!


I don't live in LA but the complaints I've heard from LA people is that the rail there only goes to places useful for tourists (they say it's a political showpiece)


I do live in LA, and the rail goes to places that are useful for locals, especially those who work.

DTLA, K-Town, Long Beach, Hollywood, Universal City, North Hollywood, Culver City, Pasadena, and Santa Monica--i.e., the biggest job centers in the LA area--are all connected by light or heavy rail. Century City is the only major job center not currently connected by rail, but the heavy rail out to there is under construction and should be finished in 5-10 years.

School-wise, USC, Cal State Long Beach, and Santa Monica College are already connected by rail; UCLA is part of the Century City rail expansion.


I recently visited Berlin Germany and was impressed by how literally everyone uses bicycles there.


I once visited Berlin, and the tourist guide (I mean the book, not a person) also talked about how many bicycles there were. Thing is, I didn't think the number of bicycles was all that much different from what I was used to where I live (Antwerp, Belgium) or from visiting other European cities.

Wait till you see Amsterdam or Kopenhagen!


Or Utrecht, for that matter.

In those cities riding the bike actually viable because there are bike lanes or closed down streets just for walking or bikes. It seems to be a cultural thing, most US cities are not that bike friendly.


I was coming from Los Angeles where bicycle usage is a rarity so it was something I wasn't used to seeing!


I visited Berlin this year and was disappointed at how we encountered 0 cycle lanes in the city. I work in Amsterdam so I'm spoiled, but my impression is that even London is better than Berlin for cycling. Maybe this is incorrect though, it's only based on one visit.

The metro in Berlin was pretty decent though.


> The metro in Berlin was pretty decent though.

Crazy expensive compared to the cost of living though. One subway ride costs almost as much as a cheap meal (döner for example) and often more than a pint of beer. Contrast that with Paris where a subway ticket hardly gets you a coffee at the counter.


Ah yeah I didn't notice that coming from the Netherlands where everything is expensive, both transport and meals. That is a shame as I think salaries in Germany aren't exactly mind blowing.


Yes, public transportation is oddly expensive in most German cities I know of. But the network is often very good and you can get special deals for month tickets with your employer.


Among large (northern) European cities, Germany is usually pretty car-friendly given how much of their economy relies on on car production.

Copenhagen and Amsterdam are much more impressive IMHO.


LA has bus lines covering nearly the entire county. With the exception of a few bus lines, usage is not heavy enough to justify the billions it would cost to build light or heavy rail along those lines.

Where bus use is sufficiently heavy, Metro is planning (or is already building) rail lines to be constructed over the next 40 years as funding permits.


Buses are unbelievably slow. Every where I've ever lived, I've looked at the commute difference by car, bike and bus. Buses are universally the slowest option. In the most egregious case I recall, my commute from home to my university (in SoCal, but not LA) was 20-40 minutes by car depending on traffic and ~3 HOURS by bus.


I don't live in a big city like LA, but that's basically in line with my experience - buses go most of the places I want to go, but a 15 minute drive equates to about an hour on the bus. In theory, that 10 mile trip that's $3 by bus, costs over $6 by car, based on the IRS rate, but a lot of the cost of a car is fixed even if I were to ride the bus 90% of the time.


LA has a good rail system on top of a crappy city. You could put the Tube in LA and it wouldn't go where you needed to go because everything in LA is ten times further away than it should be. It's mostly asphalt.


https://imgur.com/a/1PrSPw9 (1985's Seoul metro) https://imgur.com/a/7YHMAZa (2015's Seoul metro)

Compared to 80's Seoul, LA metro's coverage doesn't seem very bad. Give it some time while heavily disincentivizing use of cars. At least, LA has a central public authority on mass transit for 10 millions, which is a much better situation than bay.


Yes. LA has rail that will get you downtown and to Hollywood. As a commuting replacement, its abysmal. To get to work, the rail is never quicker than just driving, even on bad days. Ive lived close and far, and it never made sense from a time or sanity perspective vs just leaving 35 minutes earlier.

Abolishing parking will never happen in LA, because that would force people to get off the roads. It's a car culture here.

Also, its a good idea .. everyone in my building seems to buy their porche or audi and park it in the middle of their allocated two parking spots in the ramp below the apartments.


Culture changes. One day when I was growing up, someone said, "Hey dog owners, pick up your dog's poop." Insane. No is going to wrap their hand around a bag of hot poop. That's just not who we are. It was crazy. It's still crazy.


In case anyone else is interested, I did some quick googling and found this article: http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/the-messy-history-o...

Apparently picking up your dog's poop (at least in New York City) was not a well known concept until the 1970's.


In Munich it was pretty unknown in the 90s.


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