mindstalk: (Default)
Powerful new intervention study causally linking lead and crime http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/06/powerful-study-lead-crime-hypothesis/

Story told by cat DNA https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/cat-domination/530685/

murky story told by dog DNA https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/the-origin-of-dogs/484976/

Social power causes brain damage https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/power-causes-brain-damage/528711/

America's rising class society https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/06/the-hoarding-of-the-american-dream/530481/?utm_source=atlfb

Tattooine's future moisture farms https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/new-solar-powered-device-can-pull-water-straight-desert-air

India cuts back on new coal, solar is eating its lunch: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/world/asia/india-coal-green-energy-climate.html?_r=0

Comparative advertising in the Middle East: http://www.boredpanda.com/saudi-arabia-middle-east-censorship/

The Dutch approach to global warming https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/15/world/europe/climate-change-rotterdam.html?_r=0

Growing YIMBY movements in SF http://www.beyondchron.org/rising-rents-green-activism-spur-pro-housing-movement/ and Toronto http://torontoist.com/2017/06/yimby-movement-taking-off/

Southern Baptists embrace a gender-neutral bible https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/southern-baptists-embrace-gender-inclusive-language-in-the-bible/529935/
mindstalk: (Default)
2011 link: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/06/how-germany-achieved-stable-and-affordable-housing.html

Germany has a rental dominated housing market, with stable prices. Features:

* constitution protects right-to-build: if there's not an explicit rule against, you can build, no need for permission.
* local gov't gets grants based on # of inhabitants, so they have an incentive to encourage development.
* strong tenant protections, including what sounds like rent control, constrained rent increases. Between that and the majority doing it, renting is seen as a first-class choice.
* tight mortgage financing.

Article contrasts with the UK, with lots of fiddling restriction on building, deregulate and landlord-favoring market so renting is second-class choice, easy mortgage credit. Tight supply, easy credit, propensity to panic buying. So basically a factory for making market bubbles.
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
So there are various ways government policy could try to make housing cheaper, but one that I see a lot of people pushing now is a form of inclusionary zoning. Specifically, especially from what I've been told by Cambridge/Somerville politicos, requiring that a percentage (10-30%) of new units (of large developments) be rentable at low price. Not because they're smaller or more cheaply built, but just at a lower price. As Wikipedia says, "Many jurisdictions require that inclusionary housing units be indistinguishable from market-rate units"

(I don't know how that applies to a building that was planned to have diverse housing anyway. I suppose a percentage of each housing class?)

Developers[1] push back on this, and I've seen it described as a tax on them. Is that a fair description? Time for a simple thought experiment: imagine a building of 100 units, planned price of $1000/month, total revenue of $100,000/month. Then the city passes a new law during construction, requiring 30% be offered at $800. That's 30 units getting a $200 discount, $6000/month, which yes, you can think of as taxing the developer 6% and giving that back to the lucky tenants.

6%, not of profit, but of gross revenue. That's a lot! If the developer was anticipating profit of 5%, it is no longer worth building. Even if they anticipated 8%, that's now 2%; you might as well quit and invest in 30 year federal bonds. Or build hotels or condos that won't be hit by IZ, or just go build somewhere else.

And it can be worse. 30% requirement is high, but 20% subsidy might be low; 15% at $500/month would mean $7500, or a tax of 7.5%.

What's the alternative? Say the city instead decided to attach an explicit public subsidy to some of the new units. The $6000/month, $72,000/year cost would be spread among the whole population and tax base, not one developer. For a 77,000 person city like Somerville, that's under $1/person.

That's not quite fair though: that's just one development, and IZ applies to all of them, so we should look at that. Then again, there aren't many big developments in Somerville, which has "ambitious" plans to barely keep up with population growth at about 1% a year, and historically has done far less than that (3% total over some 20-30 year period I now forget, when Boston and MA did 12% and the country grew 24%). If we're adding units at 1% a year, and 30% of those are subsidized, then the subsidy of a new unit is spread over 300 existing ones. At a simplifying assumption of one person per unit, $2400/year ($200*12) is spread over 300 people, so $8/year.

(Most of what I've heard about recently is about a proposed 500 unit development in Union Square; assuming Somerville's 77,000 people live in 30,000 units, that's over 1% right there. But it'll take a few years.)

Of course, this is supposed to apply to all new housing, so after 30 years the subsidy support will have climbed to $240/year. This is pretty significant, especially compared to municipal taxes and revenue; probably talking about raising those up to 10% of existing levels. Also, affordable (or subsidized) units will be almost 10% of the housing stock.

But then someone might reasonably say "why should we dick around with only subsidizing new units? Why not just go ahead and subsidize 10% of all units, right now? The math's the same." And all the economists nod in agreement, and all the politicians blanch in terror...

Personal conclusion: yes, it is a tax on developers, and as with unfunded mandates[2] in general, it's an unfair tax, pushing a requirement onto a small subset of society, instead of funding it honestly out of general taxes and expenditure.

Of course, I feel that we shouldn't be trying to subsidize our way to cheap housing, which won't even address the real problem of more people wanting to live in cities now; we should enable building *more housing*, by removing the massive artificial restrictions on urban supply imposed by local governments. But that's another topic.

[1] 'Developer' has gotten a bad rep somehow; what if we called them builders, instead? It's not even a euphemism, more like an anti-euphemism: they are literally building new buildings and housing. Especially for the projects that get hit by IZ; you could argue that converting a house into apartments isn't real building (though it is real construction work, and more 'real' than hedge fund finance, say), but IZ applies to big projects, which are mostly new buildings.

But then it sounds worse: what kind of asshole opposes building new housing? (People who already have housing and don't want more neighbors, that's who.) Much easier to intone against "developers" and "profit" (as if homeowners don't hope to profit from growth in their home values, not to mention from their jobs.)

[2] Also see EMTALA, requiring ERs to stabilize anyone regardless of ability to pay; it's great that they do that, not so great that government didn't both reliably compensating them for it, so the costs were driven into other medical prices. Or landowners sometimes winning the anti-lottery of discovering there's an endangered species on their land and now they can't use it; protecting the environment is cool, but it would be fairer to compensate people for unexpected loss. And yes, strictly speaking minimum wage is an unfunded mandate on employers, and a price floor on labor, both nominally bad ideas, though that issue gets complicated by data and macroeconomics.
mindstalk: (Default)
One possible categorization of train stations:

* You emerge, and are immediately in a business district or otherwise interesting area. Examples: Central, Harvard, Porter, and Davis Squares on the Boston Red Line, along with Charles/MGH and Quincy Center; Kimball on the Chicago Brown Line; almost any downtown station, at least in a healthy downtown during the workday; Maverick, Orient Heights, and Beachmont on the Boston Blue Line.

* You emerge, in a parking lot or bus station or other thing that involves a fair bit more walking, but at least can see where to go toward something interesting. Examples: Fields Corner on the Boston Red Line, where you're at a long bus stop but can spy businesses; Assembly on the Boston Orange Line, where I think you'll have to walk a block but you can see the TOD from the station; maybe Wellington, where IIRC you have to walk through a big parking garage to the TOD, but there might be signs telling you to go.

* You emerge, and see no reason not to turn around and catch another train somewhere else. Examples: some Jamaica Plain Boston Orange Line stops, where you come out to a bridge surrounded by traffic; some stops on the south branch of Chicago's Blue Line, where the train runs in a freeway median, and you come out onto an overpass, and there's nothing around; Braintree on Boston's Red Line, where after two minutes on a ramp I still hadn't even left the station yet, and couldn't see anything but giant boxy buildings; I suspect Malden Center on Boston Orange, where you're not far from Malden's center but I'm not sure you'd see it; likewise Sullivan Square on Boston Orange, where the most interesting part I know of is hidden over a rise.

Note that can include "there is stuff but you don't see it" and "there's pretty much nothing around, for real."
mindstalk: (angry sky)
Between Charles/MGH and the West End BPL, I passed an odd parking lots with cars on platforms above other cars. At first I thought of some car sales lot, because it made me think of car transport trucks, but I eventually guessed and confirmed that it was a valet parking lot. If your car is on a lift and you want to get out, the valet moves the car underneath, lowers your car, and off you go. Cost unknown, I was told it was hospital only, I'm guessing for employees.

It's right next to a huge six story garage, which itself is right next to *another* huge six story garage, both for "patients and visitors only". These do have prices. For patients, $9 for the first hour, then scaling up a bit to $14/day. For "visitors"/"public" (do they have a way of confirming you're visiting a patient?) it's $12/hour, capping at $48/day.

The city meters on the exact same block are Boston's usual $1.25/hour, 2 hour max. Almost exactly 1/10th the price.

I say "MGH" in the subject, but I assume the garage prices are vaguely in line with supply and demand, combined with some deliberate subsidy for patients (priced to mean "we'd prefer you not drive at all, but if you must then we recognize you probably need to and aren't going anywhere for a while") and a lack of choice relative to e.g. Chinatown garages (when you have to go to the hospital you have to go... though if you're a visitor, you do have choices of the T or taxis.) I think they're a bit higher than e.g. Chinatown prices but not hugely so.

But the meter price? Goddamn.

Abstract housing

2016-Oct-13, Thursday 15:16
mindstalk: (Default)
I was thinking about supply/demand curves and housing again. A standard picture: imagine a demand curve sloping down (-45 degree line, maybe), and a vertical line on the left, reflect legally capped housing. Equilibrium is low quantity, high price. Now, imagine that there's a small loosening -- Somerville allows another 5000 units on top of the existing 70,000 people, say; the vertical line moves right a bit, the equilibrium quantity increases, and price decreases -- but is still pretty high compared to a hypothetical 45 degree supply line.

I've seen a lot of people claim that housing somehow isn't affected by supply and demand, that developers only build luxury housing, but if you can follow my mental picture, you see that's what we'd expect from only small increases. Worse, if demand is itself increasing -- the demand curve moving to the right -- then price can increase anyway. It'd increase even more if the supply line hadn't shifted right.

But there's a complication. Such graphs are ideally about some identical commodity, which housing is not: it varies in size, price, location, amenities. But, I think we can think about not the price of units, but the price per square foot (or meter). A specific unit can be expensive because it costs a lot, or because it costs less but gives little space; both are expensive compared to renting a Rust Belt mansion for less than a Boston 1BR. Even more abstractly, there are other amenities: a tight (expensive) market will likely have year-to-year leases, deep deposits, and hostility to pets; a cheap one will be more month-month and loose about things.

That said, okay, increasing the supply slightly only decreases the price per area slightly. We could still expect big expensive and smaller cheaper units to be built; the claim is that that's not true. I don't know how true that is... but I do know that one end of the tradeoff curve, cheap apartments that are very small ("microapartments", "SRO") and have no parking space, is outright illegal to build in almost all the US. And a friend argued that simply building a 600 square foot box in Boston already puts you into "luxury" price ranges, that's just how expensive it is here. (I know that a couple of Back Bay parking spaces, probably consuming an area of about 660 square feet, sold for $600,000 -- that's not even an actual box, let alone a habitable one with plumbing and wiring.)

Meanwhile we do have current evidence that supply and demand works: some luxury markets have gotten saturated, with units not renting out, or being discounted, and Japanese housing prices haven't soared the way US ones have; it's much easier to build there.
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
For those who haven't seen it, I'd like to shill last year's urban density post. Data and Fermi estimates, tasty!

A highlight of it is that you don't need that much height to get high density. Manhattan has 26,000 people per km2, but Paris has 22,000, with basically nothing over 8 stories. Brooklyn is at 14,000, twice as dense as San Francisco or Somerville, and my personal impression of it was that it wasn't that high, maybe wall to wall four story buildings.

Well, I finally went looking at random spots of Brooklyn in Google Streetview, and now I'm confused: I seem to have greatly overestimated the average form. Brooklyn Heights, right across from Manhattan, has a bunch of 12 story buildings (possibly office). I do see some wall to wall 4-5 elsewhere, also wall to wall 2-3. But also a lot of detached homes, even 1-2 story. It's not really obviously different from SF or Somerville (at least the parts I'm familiar with), yet has 2x the density.

Maybe it's a change in distribution? SF does have the Sunset, a district of 1 story homes on top of garages. Or in how many people are living per unit.

Or, hmm, back yards. I just switched to the Google Earth view of the last spot I'd checked, and there are none, just lots of smaller buildings in the back. Though I'm not sure if they're housing or garages. By contrast, in SF I lived in a 3 story Victorian, wall to wall, but half or even 2/3 of the lots were back yards, not that you could tell from the sidewalk.

Well, that was one spot; in a second, I do see back yards, some with swimming pools even, but they're 1/3 of the lot length.

OTOH I'm looking at Somerville now, and it doesn't look more generous with back space, though there's maybe more space between the buildings (mostly driveways.)

OTOH again, I just checked San Francisco, and it's what I remember. There's variation, but backyards in the Richmond are commonly half the lot, sometimes less, sometimes more. Ditto for the Sunset, something I never appreciated. Both have a layout where if you walk around the block you'll see nothing but building, but half the block is a contiguous (but property-divided, not communal) greenish-interior.

So compared to SF, I can see why Brooklyn is twice as dense: similar buildings but less yard space. Now I'm wondering why Somerville isn't denser, though... it doesn't even have major parks! But looking again, I think the spaces between buildings, plus greater yard space I now see elsewhere, may explain that.

As for Paris, I was partly wrong: there is a lot of green space, but largely enclosed by buildings like Brooklyn or San Francisco -- often enclosed by what looks like *one* building, in a private courtyard. I was basically right about the height, I haven't seen anything shorter than 4 stories, usually 5-8, though I did see something as high as 12.

I still wonder about my Fermi models; they generally predict more people than we find. I might be overestimating land use, or underestimating non-residential use, or how much area is taken up by walls vs. the internal usable area. E.g., consider a "Main Street" model: 30% streets, 70% lots, half of a lot built up, ground story businesses, two residential stories on top. 700,000 m2 of residential area (700,000 * 1/2 lot use * 2 stories); at a rather generous 100 m2 per person, that's 7000 people per km2. Hmm, that's not far off from SF or Somerville, though my impression is that Somerville is short on local businesses and jobs, and neither has ubiquitous businesses like that. And 100 m2 is high... at 50, say, that'd be 14,000 people, more like Brooklyn, with entirely 3 story buildings and 50% open space (not counting streets.)


2016-Oct-01, Saturday 22:46
mindstalk: (Default)
Perspective of an ex-neo-Confederate.

Weekly church attendance by state.

Barcelona's plans for superblocks.  And Barcelona transit: crazy trains but hyperrational bus grid, with lines labeled as H2 or V5 ,for Horizontal or Vertical.

Paris turns the bus stop into major transit infrastructure.

Save a biker, use the Dutch reach in opening car doors.

Not sure if this is correct or just plausible, but words on why Europe, or cold climates in general, doesn't have many venomous animals.

The mythology of "Irish slavery".

On cul-de-sacs

2016-Aug-18, Thursday 23:11
mindstalk: (Default)
problems of cul-de-sacs
From the 1950s until the late 1980s, there were almost no new housing developments in the U.S. built on a simple grid.

networks that have 45 intersections per square mile (like Salt Lake City) and others that have as many as 550 (Portland, Ore).

In their California study, Garrick and Marshall eventually realized the safest cities had an element in common: They were all incorporated before 1930.
These cities were built the old way: along those monotonous grids. In general, they didn’t have fewer accidents overall, but they had far fewer deadly ones. Marshall and Garrick figured that cars (and cars with bikes) must be colliding at lower speeds on these types of street networks.

foreclosure hotspots tend to be focused in places with the least location efficiency – in spread-out subdivisions

On the other hand, there's the problem of having to drive your car almost everywhere. Or, in Speck's words, the uneasy feeling that "your car is no longer an instrument of freedom but a prosthetic device."

cul-de-sac communities turn out to have some of the highest rates of traffic accidents involving young children.
"The actual research about injuries and deaths to small children under five is that the main cause of death is being backed over, not being driven over forward," he says. "And it would be expected that the main people doing the backing over would in fact be family members, usually the parents."

making walkable cul-de-sacs

Bit more history, and a schematic diagram of changing patterns: https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/4yfhx9/eli5_why_arent_neighbourhoods_built_gridstyle/d6ngpp4
mindstalk: (Default)
Discussion of urban taxes, which introduces me to the idea of frontage taxes. My new love, along with land tax. http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/2016/07/city-taxes-as-urban-growth-policies.html?m=1

GE drops annual employee ratings

Massachusetts bans employers asking for salary history

Evolution of urban animals is rapid

evolution of Europeans and white skin

Some friends got really excited by this: library furniture maker http://www.wcheller.com/index.html

convention bumps may be due to changing willingness to talk to pollsters, rather than actual changing opinion. Though I wonder if this year is an exception. http://www.vox.com/2016/8/1/12341802/polling-clinton-trump-winning

Advocacy of backing into perpendicular parking spaces http://www.vox.com/2016/8/1/11926596/safer-back-into-parking-spaces

Feynman wrong about Faraday cages?

(PDF) 21 page article on Greek voting, acclamation vs. counting: https://melissaschwartzberg.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/schwartzberg_shoutsmurmurs.pdf
mindstalk: (Default)
A 2013 Sightline article: http://www.sightline.org/2013/08/22/apartment-blockers/

"Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has modeled a typical affordable housing development and concluded that including one parking space per dwelling raises the cost of each rental unit by 12.5 percent; adding a second parking space doubles that to 25 percent."

"Parking quotas constrain the supply of dwelling units, particularly of modest, economical ones, which causes their price to rise. (Dr. Kasper affirms: “Supply and demand, not cost . . .”) You may end up building only 25 apartments, rather than 50. The same goes for every other builder in the city. Fewer new apartments mean more competition for all apartments. Rents go up."

"Developers cannot convert vacant warehouses into lofts, or aging office blocks into condos, unless they somehow shoehorn floors of parking into the historic structures. " (This might have a bigger impact on limiting the flexibility of businesses to change what they do.)

[LA] " When parking requirements are removed, developers provide more housing and less parking, and also . . . developers provide different types of housing: housing in older buildings, in previously disinvested areas, and housing marketed toward non-drivers. This latter category of housing tends to sell for less than housing with parking spaces."

"Quickly, the deregulation of parking yielded more than 6,000 new apartments and condominiums, some of them in previously dilapidated historic office buildings that dated from the Art Deco era."
mindstalk: (Earth)
Recent thought about equilibrium effects on housing:

If many people actually *prefer* denser areas, or the amenities that result from them, then shifting the supply curve right (by loosening zoning codes) leads to more housing and lower rates, but may be followed by the demand curve shifting right because the area is more desirable due to higher density, leading to more housing and higher rates. And then shifting again, until the demand curve stops shifting or you run into a steeper part of the supply curve (whether due to looser but still extant legal limits, or sheer physical capacity) so that price increases outweigh increased amenities in desirability. (Or you simply run out of ability to add people.)

So it's true that free market housing won't necessarily lower prices for good; OTOH, it does allow more people to live in a place they'd prefer, which is still good.
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
(simply copying a comment I made elsewhere:)

So, according to Google's convenient graph, Somerville's population was 76,295 in 1990, and 78,804 in 2013. That's 3% growth stretched over 23 years. Boston has grown 13% in the same period. Cambridge, 12%. Massachusetts, 12%. The US as a whole, 28%. If population increase had been distributed evenly, there should be over 97,000 people in Somerville now. Or 85,000, at only the state's level of growth.

In reality there's been migration to warmer (or cheaper) states; OTOH, there's also been migration back into dense cities, as many people who grew up in suburbs don't want to live there. Except hardly anyone's building dense cities anymore -- it's usually illegal[1] -- so the price of the old stuff gets bid up way high. 97,000 people wanting to live in the space of 78,000 people will explain a lot of the housing price increase even without bringing in tech or "have no kids"[2] money.

(And I think it's fair to use the higher number -- after all, Boston and Cambridge rents have been going up a lot too, indicating people want to move here faster than housing can be built for them.)

[1] A friend claimed that 99% of Somerville is non-conforming to the current zoning code. If the city burned down, it wouldn't allow itself to be rebuilt as it is.

[2] Or "have no car" money, what with relying on bikes and the Red Line.
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
(Forward links: street land use and Google Street View browsing).

Back in college, I found a newspaper article talking about the decline of US cities (or not, of a few) and it gave population densities. Having read Jane Jacobs and turned into a wee amateur urbanist, I memorized the numbers. I still know them. But of course they were all in people/sq. mile. Since I'm on a one person campaign to get more comfortable with the units used by 96% of the human race, I thought I'd type up the numbers in /km2, for my better retention, with a lot more places, significant to me or friends, added. And then I'll do various botec/Fermi modeling, to try to show what's going on on the ground.

People/square km
(cities proper unless otherwise indicated)
(source: generally Wikipedia's stated density)
(searchable numbers vary by about 10%. Wikipedia's population density numbers don't even precisely match its population and land area numbers. So assume the real value is within 10% of the numbers listed.)
(caveat: cities can include a lot of green space, whether park, greenbelt, or simple undeveloped area; Sendai seems an extreme case. So some of the low numbers may hide denser realities.)
(caveat: people moving into a city for jobs can increase the weekday density and population able to support public transit, so again, practical density might be higher than numbers indicate.)
(OTOH I can't think of any reason why a real density would be lower than the official numbers.)
(a few neighborhoods marked with ** under their cities)
(PWD=population weighted density; 2010 data)
grouped roughly in factors of 2

San Francisco Chinatown: 29,000
Manhattan 26,000
** Upper West Side 42,000
Paris 22,000
** Paris 11th arrondissement: 42,000
Barcelona 16,000

Tokyo 23 wards: 14,500
Brooklyn 14,000
Bronx 13,000
Osaka 12,000
Boston Chinatown: 11,000
NYC 10,000
Lyon 10,000
Santiago de Chile 8500
Queens 8200

Somerville 7300
San Francisco 6900
Sendai practical 6900
Copenhagen 6800
Lisbon 6500
Cambridge 6300
Mexico City 6000
Tokyo 6000
(Greater) London 5500
Madrid 5400
Boston 5200
Vancouver 5200
US metro areas >5 million people: 5100
Amsterdam 4900
Chicago 4900
** Lakeview 11,600
Moscow 4600
Montreal 4500
Berkeley 4100
DC 4100
Toronto 4100
Berlin 4000

Glasgow 3300
Los Angeles 3200
Staten Island 3200
Baltimore 3000
Seattle 3000
Oakland 2900
US metros PWD 2400
Mountain View 2300
Pasadena 2300
US PWD 2100
Cleveland 2000
Detroit 2000
San Jose 2000
81 million Americans (26%) live in MetroSAs of PWD 2000+

Edinburgh 1800
Portland OR: 1700
Houston 1550
Columbus OH 1400
Dallas 1400
Spokane 1400
Austin 1300
Calgary 1300
Sendai official 1300
San Marino CA 1300
50% of Americans live at PWD 1200 or higher
Atlanta 1200
Edmonton 1200
Dayton OH 1000
Palo Alto 1000
175 million Americans (56%) live in MetroSAs of PWD 1000+

La Serena 100 [one hundred, sic; having been there, this is definitely a case where the official boundary contains lots of empty land -- the part I'd think of as La Serena must be at least LA density, if not more.]

Read more... )
mindstalk: (Default)
Do you want more people to able to afford to live here? Then we need more housing.
Who builds housing? Developers.
Therefore, developers are our friends and we should make their lives easier.

If you don't like the conclusion, then your avenues of attack are "someone besides developers builds housing" or "we don't actually want more housing."

Often people say developers just build high-rent housing. But if businesses are limited in how much they can do, naturally they'll go for the highest *profit* activity first, which apparently means high-rent housing. But it's not like developers are averse to building cheaper housing: the US is littered with cookie-cutter subdivisions whose properties may include many soul-sucking aesthetic flaws but also cheapness. Unfettered businesses will in general explore all the avenues of profit to them, not just the high ones.

But building in desirable cities is usually massively fettered, and not to the benefit of anyone at the low end. Parking requirements, minimum apartment size, height limits, setback requirements...
mindstalk: (Default)
http://www.vox.com/2015/4/29/8513699/future-of-commuting has all the links.

Some notes:
* building more roads just induces more traffic (old news, but still.) Building transit may not reduce congestion either -- suck commuters into transit, more people drive to fill up the road. No substitute for congestion charges.

* Bike share users are whiter, wealthier.

* Drivers are less happy, less healthy (well, more obese) than other commuters. Pretty much anything else is correlated with being healthier; walking, biking, and intercity (commuter?) rail dominate in happiness.

* In the 1920s there were 27,000 km (17,000 miles) of streetcars in the US. The "GM conspiracy" doesn't explain their disappearance. Neither does simple commuter choice of driving in a vaccum. Cars caused gridlock and poor service, and legally low fares hurt the companies' ability to maintain roads that were being damaged by cars.
mindstalk: (science)
In my last post on urban densities I mentioned some research I didn't bother giving links for. In honor of a cool conversation two nights ago, let me get back to that!

Two related links on %age of city land devoted to streets and parking:

Chart in the first has columns for "built or buildable land", "streets and sidewalks" (so not just asphalt), "parks and plazas". Housing projects can be really low in built use, 10-27%; Cabrini Green had 44% streets and 29% parks. Actual cities listed start at 51% buildable and 44% rights of way, for both Savannah and Boston's Back Bay! Given Commonwealth boulevard, the latter isn't that surprising. Portland's at 47% streets, with almost no parkland. You actually get lower numbers with Phoenix -- I suspect wide streets but long blocks, whereas Chicago has decent sized streets and shorter blocks. NYC is 2/3 buildable, Paris 74% with 25% streets, and Tokyo 80% buildable with 20% streets (and no parks? wow.) Buenos Aires goes even further with 15% streets, but I've never been there.

So my model last time of 20% streets, 75% buildable, 5% parks seems like a nice place. And many US cities, even or especially the relatively pedestrian/transit ones, could in theory use only half the land they do for roads. The change to buildability is a smaller proportion but still significant, 40% to 60% more land use.

The second link has the blogger trying to estimate rights of way *plus* off-street parking; the first link was just "land devoted to roads", the second is "land devoted to cars." We start with 65% for Houston. DC is 44%... I guess almost all the parking in his sample area is curbside or underground? Anyway, it's just a few sample points, but at least some US cities put over 20% of their land to off-street parking. http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu/Environment/E_Casestudy/E_casestudy2.htm provides some more numbers: 59% iin 1960 LA, 50% in 1953 Detroit.


Shoup talked about how parking requirements are based on imaginary numbers. Apparently the professional recommendations for how much land to put to roads is equally airy: http://www.citylab.com/cityfixer/2014/12/a-widely-used-planning-manual-tends-to-recommend-building-far-more-roads-than-needed/383759/

"Take an average school. Whereas the ITE manual predicts it will generate about 41 million trips a year, the 2009 household travel survey suggests the real trip number is closer to 13.7 million—overestimating traffic by 198 percent."


Cute picture of road chasms: http://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/11/18/7236471/cars-pedestrians-roads


Arguments for 20 mph speed limits

The deadliest US cities for pedestrians: http://www.vox.com/2014/4/18/5621388/pedestrian-and-biker-deaths


Bike lanes in NYC improved biker safety a lot and didn't slow down traffic: http://www.vox.com/2014/9/8/6121129/bike-lanes-traffic-new-york/in/5579561

Costs of sprawl

2015-Mar-06, Friday 13:28
mindstalk: (Default)
Putting numbers on the obvious: sprawl costs taxpayers more. Canadian study, but ratio matters more than the precise numbers. http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/03/05/sprawl-costs-the-public-more-than-twice-as-much-as-compact-development/
I'm amused that their low-density urban is near the high end of US cities -- Chicago, Boston -- while the "mid-density" is higher than anything I know of besides NYC. Certainly denser than San Francisco or Somerville.
mindstalk: (angry sky)
"If the federal government was requiring bureaucratic agencies to build acres of offices that would never or almost never be used, conservatives would rightly point to that policy as being emblematic of out-of-touch government, disconnected from the discipline of the market and the needs of the people. Ted Cruz would quip about it on talk radio, and John Boehner would drone in perfunctory tones about a needless example of government waste. Because this particular government mandate is carried out by private actors acting in compliance with received zoning ordinances, however, conservatives often mistake commercial conformity for a product of free markets. And we have lived under the minimum-parking regime for so many years that we have come to be comfortable with oceans of empty lots as the seemingly natural pattern of retail life."


Seas of empty parking, even on the peak day of the year.

Photos: http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2014/12/10/blackfridayparking-follow-up

Auto-oriented development is a bad deal for cities: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/urbs/traditional-development-is-a-municipal-gold-mine/
"Unfortunately, the math doesn’t justify that belief. The new taco joint has a total value of $618,500. Two blocks over, using the same amount of land and having the same amount of public infrastructure, the collection of old and blighted structures has a total value of $1,104,500. The block the city is trying to have torn down is, in its dilapidated state, providing them 79 percent more tax base and property tax revenue than its shiny, new, auto-oriented replacement."
"Taxpayers get far greater returns when places are scaled to people instead of cars."
"but there is one thing that must be clearly understood: recreating that old and blighted block and all of its financial productivity is illegal today. The local zoning codes, which–mandated or inspired by state and federal guidelines–require setbacks, coverage limits, greenspace, excessive parking and minimum floor/area ratios, prohibit building in the time-tested, traditional building pattern. Even if people wanted to build something that was more financially productive–and many people do–it can’t be done."
"Through regulations that reinforce false notions on how wealth is created, American cities have mandated their own financial demise."

Removing urban freeways
mindstalk: (atheist)
Apparently there's been a big yet unheralded decline in homelessness in the US, despite the economy, and both Bush and Obama can take credit: the former for a housing-first policy that aimed at providing permanent housing before treatment, the latter for the stimulus. Also, multiple studies show that between arrests and ER visits, homeless people cost $30-45,000 a year, when it'd be $10-16,000 to house them with case worker support.

Residents of Moore Place collectively visited the emergency room, an
expensive but not uncommon way homeless people access health care, 447
fewer times in the year after getting housing, the study discovered.
Similarly, they spent far less time running afoul of the law, with the
number of arrests dropping 78 percent.
An average permanent supportive housing unit in Osceola County costs
$9,602 per year, which includes $8,244 for rent and utility subsidies
and $1,358 for a case manager (with a case load of 30 clients). In other
words, each supported housing unit costs the county 40 percent less than
what they’re currently paying to put homeless residents in jail.

Power law problems when instead of a bell curve of normality, you have a
few outliers who are most of your problem -- a few really bad LAPD cops,
a few chronically homeless people who cost tens if not hundreds of
thousands of dollars, a few highly smoggy cars. managing the middle
doesn't help: most of the cops don't need mild training, and it doesn't
help the hard cases; you need to just get rid of them. It's cheaper to
simply house the hardcase homeless people and give them case workers.
Annual smog tests are mostly not needed or cheatable, vs. on-road