Thursday, May 30, 2024

Mayor Whitmire's HPD opportunity, Chicago's debt warning for Houston, Strong Towns takedown, 15-min city economics don't work, and more

 Backlog of smaller items this week:

"The economics of the 15-minute city don’t really work...

What hasn’t been said is that the economics of 15-minute city planning go against foundational principles of how urban markets function.... 

Employment markets are even less localized. The very raison d’etre of cities is as a vehicle for labor pooling and sharing — this cannot happen effectively at the neighborhood scale. Setting up an expectation where people live within 15 minutes of their place of work will at best result in bad matches between workers and jobs, and at worst no matches." 

  • Bill King: Over 90% Of U.S. Population Growth Last Year Occurred Outside Of Largest Cities
  • Arpit Gupta's "Contra Strong Towns" critique focuses on challenging the Strong Towns movement's assertion that suburban growth operates as a "Ponzi scheme." Gupta argues that the evidence does not support the claim that suburban development is inherently financially unsustainable. He emphasizes the need for rigorous accounting and empirical data to substantiate such arguments, which he finds lacking in Strong Towns' narrative. Hat tip to Zoabe.
  • Antiplanner: "But today’s density policies depress fertility rates and the anti-immigration movement make it more difficult to compensate for those policies. Fortunately, some are getting the message that “maybe we should rethink” YIMBYism."
    • Twitter: "There's a growing consensus on YIMBY Twitter that we need to build a lot of new high density housing in the biggest cities. Maybe we should rethink that idea." Or go with the Houston free-market model: allow lots of high-density housing in the core for those that want it (typically non-families) as well as plenty of low-density suburban housing for those that prefer that (typically families). Best of both worlds. 

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Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Why Do Democrats Support Transit?

 Some good excerpts, bold highlights mine:

“What drives Republican opposition to transit?” asks Governing magazine. I’ve often wondered the reverse of this question: Why do Democrats support transit?


It doesn’t seem to occur to Governing that some people may have legitimate reasons to oppose current or increased subsidies to transit, such as that subsidies are way out of proportion to the benefits they provide and that in many cases increased transit subsidies have resulted in decreased transit ridership. Against all experience, for example, Los Angeles insists on building more light rail even though the more it builds the more riders it loses and it only recovered riders when it stopped building rail for ten years.

Democrats claim to care about low-income people. Yet less than 5.5 percent of urban residents who earn under $25,000 a year took transit to work in 2022. Urban workers in this income class were actually more likely to drive alone to work than urbanites who earn more than $75,000 a year. Since the taxes used to support transit tend to be far more regressive than taxes used to support highways, people who care about low-income workers should oppose, for example, dedicating general-purpose street lanes to bus-rapid transit, which is an issue raised in the Governing story.

Democrats also claim to care about the environment and greenhouse gas emissions. Yet in 2022 transit emitted more greenhouse gases per passenger-mile than the average SUV, and much more than the average car, in every urban area except New York. Even before the pandemic, driving was greener than transit in all but a handful of urban areas.


So why do so many Democrats continue to support transit? The answer differs from person to person, of course, but for many Democrats the answer includes strong union support. The Amalgamated Transit Union represents more than 200,000 transit workers and the union contributes more than $1.6 million per election cycle to political campaigns, most of which no doubt goes to Democrats.

Support from the unions and environmental groups are really only political cover for many Democrats who get even more contributions from rail transit contractors. Engineering firms such as HDR, railcar manufacturers such as Siemens and Alstom, and construction companies such as Balfour Beatty collectively spend millions of dollars a year on lobbying and campaign contributions.

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