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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

Back in April, Hope Yen was on the Huffington Post with Sprawling Suburbs Growth Falls To Historic Low Amid High Gas Prices  

All across the U.S., residential exurbs that sprouted on the edge of metropolitan areas are seeing their growth fizzle, according to new 2011 census estimates released Thursday.
"The heyday of exurbs may well be behind us," Yale University economist Robert J. Shiller said. Shiller, co-creator of a Standard & Poor's housing index, is perhaps best known for identifying the risks of a U.S. housing bubble before it actually burst in 2006-2007. Examining the current market, he believes America is now at a turning point, shifting away from faraway suburbs to cities amid persistently high gasoline prices.
"Suburban housing prices may not recover in our lifetime," Shiller said, calling the development of suburbs since 1950 "unusual," enabled only by the rise of the automobile and the nation's highway system.
As it was originally designed, Outer Suburbia and Exurbia was designed to fail in an era where increasing energy efficiency will be a fundamental platform for ongoing growth. However, its possible to retrofit Outer Suburbia and Exurbia to a more sustainable design.

The Design of Exurbia and Outer Suburbia

I'm not going to distinguish between Exurbs and Outer Suburbs here. Exurbs are "residential areas outside of an urban area and beyond suburbia", like the small three street exurb in which I grew up ... and that's what I automatically think of when I say Exurb, a mix of small residential developments, with farmland on several sides, and housing along state and county highways, with farmland sitting in the middle.

But after I left, Suburban Columbus spilled over the Franklin County / Licking County border, and now it is entirely arbitrary whether you wish to call the place I grew up Outer Suburban or Exurban. The sharp and clear formal distinction between an incorporated suburb and suburban housing in an unincorporated township is a difference that is harder to see on the ground, a the population of a rural township becomes dominated by suburban residential voters.

The common feature of the two is the average length of the drives. The length of the drive to get to the supermarket. The length of the drive to get to school. The length of the drive to get to the Mall. The length of the drive to get to work and school. The length of the drive to get ... just about "anywhere".

Outer Suburbia and Exurbia is the twin processes of zoning for single use and "drive until you can afford the housing" taken to their extremes. Exurbia proper may not always be single use, but when the alternative nearby use is corn and soybean fields, or a quarry, or some other rural primary resource extraction, its not an alternative nearby use that you have much reason to visit.

Writing from the Exurban area surrounding the Research Triangle, real estate agent Lynn Hayes says,

I can verify this idea that cheap gasoline made the exurbs possible.  When gas prices first shot up in 2004 the market for homes in Chatham County and western Orange County dropped significantly despite the fact that elsewhere the housing boom was still raging unabated.  Clients who previously were looking in these areas decided to buy homes closer to their work because of high gas prices.


It’s difficult to imagine that gas prices will drop, so unless the dream of public transportation in the Triangle becomes a reality the market for homes in the exurbs is likely to continue to be a challenge.  There will always be people (like me) that crave the peace and solitude of wooded seclusion and who will be willing to drive a bit more and pay a bit more for that privilege.  The lower property taxes of the rural areas offsets the higher gas costs anyway.

But as the market for rural housing shrinks, as long as the supply continues to expand with new developments home prices in these areas will languish and expectations of home sellers will need to comply with the new market realities.
Exurbs are where the effect is most dramatic, because the vehicle miles that you need to drive in Exurbia for so many different tasks are so dramatic, but the effect is felt across outer suburbia. And its not just transport, but also a demographic shift in the "younger generation" that are currently teenagers and Twenty-Somethings. Earlier this month, Steve Yoder wrote, for the Fiscal Times:
Also driving down demand for houses in the outer suburbs are demographic trends. Recent college graduates and young professionals are making the place they live a priority – 77 percent of them say they plan to live in an urban core even if it’s more expensive, according to a February 2010 study by real estate consultancy RCLCO. The study’s author found that more Gen-Y’ers than Gen-X’ers are willing to live in a smaller space if it means they can walk to work or shops. At the other end of the age spectrum, baby boomers are now selling their houses as they retire and are looking to live nearer urban amenities.

Property Values and Slums

However, over the past thirty years, we built a whole lot of residences in the outer suburbs and the exurbs. Are we going to allow them to become slums?

Remember that slums are not an intrinisically urban phenomenon. Our association of slums with the inner urban areas of large cities is a historical consequence of the same shift to the suburbs that seems to have come to an end with the end of cheap gas and the collapse of the housing bubble. However, what makes an area a slum is quite general: you get a slum when the value of the properties fall below the replacement cost.

That is the silent threat looming over Outer Suburban and Exurban properties. If property values drop below replacement cost, then the rational financial response is to find the activity with the best positive cash flow, and to extra value from the property while allowing the property to run down. Which is to say, when property values drop below replacement cost, the financially sensible thing to do for the property owner is to act as a slumlord. Of course, no every property owner wishes to become a slumlord, but as properties in an area are allowed to run down, further eroding the value of all properties in that area, there is a growing incentive to sell out to someone who is willing to be a slumlord.

Suburban Retrofit: Redesign In Place

If values are sliding because of the cost of travel per mile in an area that requires a lot of miles of travel to get things done, there are two responses that can boost value:

  • Reduce the numbers of miles that need to be traveled to get things done, and
  • Reduce the cost of transport per mile

Both of these goals may be pursued with the same policy response.

(1) Suppose that you had a small, multi-use "suburban village" that was in relatively easy travel distances.

(2) Suppose that the suburban village was connected by lower cost transport to additional suburban villages as well as to one or more larger urban multi-use areas.

Why, if you could manage that, you would have redesigned the transport experience of the residents of that Outer Suburban or Exurban area. Instead of a long drive to location A over here, another long drive to location B over there, and another long drive to location C out yonder, they would have a short drive to location A, to get one or several things done there, and then a lower cost trip from location A to location B or C.

Which brings up the "unless" brought up by the real estate agent on her blog: "so unless the dream of public transportation in the Triangle becomes a reality". If you have a large area of Outer Suburban and Exurban homes, with their value under pressure because of the high cost of driving, then you do not need to find a Suburban Village location: they can be created around the stops of some common carrier transport corridor.

This is something that does not need to wait upon a change in policy in Washington DC. A state can establish a policy that encourages the establishment of suburban villages around transport corridors. What is required is an easement from zoning regulations allowing for three or four story multi-use development an eighth of a mile around a designated transport service stop, and three story multi-residence development a quarter of a mile around a designated transport stop. The multi-use zone should allow for both ground level retail and ground and/or second story professional uses, with townhouse residences above. The easement should also include a maximum allowed parking minimum, with allowance to include pooled parking in the zone to meeting parking minimums.

Since local zoning is a power derived from state powers, a state has the power to override local zoning rules. In localities where zoning rules are enforced by "owners agreements", the easements represent a temptation to allow an exception to be granted to the owners agreement, especially as there is a clear boundary line for the exception.

It would only take a couple of successful redevelopments of mixed use Suburban Villages before property developers in other states start to lobby for similar easements to be provided for in their states.

The Transport Corridor Backbone

There is a great deal of flexibility in what transport corridor is used as the core of this system. A conventional "commuter rail" system could be electrified and upgraded to allow for higher frequency of service. Improvements to support a 110mph "Rapid Rail" corridor could be used to also support a regional rail service into an urban area. A streetcar system in an urban area could be extended out into a "Rapid Streetcar" system, running on a dedicated corridor to more widely separated stops in the outer suburbs and exurbia. A expressway median could be converted into an express busway, supporting multiple express bus routes that leave the expressway on the Outer Suburban / Exurban side to the express stops in their service area.

Advocates of sustainable transport should push for transport corridors to rely on electric power rather than fossil fuels ~ but the key point is to establish a dedicated transport corridor. Once a dedicated transport corridor is provided, circumstances will push us toward electrification of those services.

The Suburban Villages depend upon the Transport Corridor that they share, but the Transport Corridor also depends, in part, on the Suburban Villages. The flip side of the Suburban Village easement is a capital levy on newly developed property permitted by the easement, to contribute to capital costs of the transport corridor, and an Incremental Property Tax levy of 1/5 of the property tax on property permitted by the easement for operations of transport on the corridor serving the Suburban Village.

Support Strategies

The above is the core of the Suburban Village Transport-Oriented Development strategy. There are also a number of support strategies that can be pursued to support the reorientation of Outer Suburbs and Exurbs to their own central place that is a launch pad to car-independent regional transport.

While the Suburban Village is sized to be a walkable neighborhood, there are people who will walk well over a quarter mile to get to a local store or to get to regional transport. Sidewalks and safe pedestrian crossing for a radius of a mile or more around the stop would leverage the value of proximity to the Suburban Village, and a mile radius around the suburban village has four times the area of the suburban area itself.

Shared cycle signage and some means for cyclists to trip "automatic" lights can extend the cycle accessibility of the Suburban Village to a radius of three to five miles, depending on terrain, so the territory in cycle reach of the Suburban Village may be 36 to 100 times the area of the Suburban Village itself. While reliance on the existing "national cycleways" of our existing public rights of way gives a universal grid, only a brave minority will venture to use 55mph to 65mph State and National Highways for transport cycling, so upgrading roads in the cycle over 45mph in the areas to include rideable shoulders will fill in what would otherwise be a hole in the cycle transport hinterland of the Suburban Village.

In Outer Suburbia and Exurbia, the reach of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles is more often limited by regulation than by their speed and battery capacity. In many states, neighborhood electric vehicles are limited to roads with speed limits of 30mph, 35mph or 40mph speed limits, and qualifying areas are suburban developments or small towns that have been swallowed by Outer Suburbia, forming Neighbor Electric Vehicle islands accessible only by National, State, County and/or Township highways with speed limits that put them off limit to Neighborhood Electric Vehicles. A Neighborhood Electric Vehicle access network plan can identify a grid of secondary roads, rideable shoulders and access lanes to give access to the Suburban Village for a radius of three to five miles, with the same 36 to 100 time leverage as with cycle transport.

Suburban VIllagers

So, everyone should yearn to become a suburban villager ... Oh, wait, no, that's not it.

Ah, now I remember. Urban downtowns and inner suburbs have their appeal. But it takes all kinds to make up the world, and treating that as the only and sole approach to sustainable development is putting all of our eggs into a single basket. We are better off working out sustainable urban ways of living, sustainable suburban ways of living, and sustainable rural ways of living, so that different people can find a sustainable way of life that they are most comfortable with.

There is, in addition, a political dividend to working on ways to use sustainable development to rescue outer suburban and exurban areas from a downward spiral into slums and abandoned properties. This bridges the stereotype that transport corridors other than expressways are an "urban" concern and funding transport other than cars is a concession to "urban" interests. Addressing a real need of suburbanites to cut back on their driving miles, without cutting back on the things that they can do, is something that energy-progressives can do that Big Oil, the roadworks lobby, and their well-funded cronies in the Republican, and at times Democratic, parties cannot offer. They are all-in on automobile transport, and cannot rescue property values in Outer Suburbia and Exurbia from the impact of energy prices without betraying their vested interest.

Midnight Oil ~ Dreamworld

The Breakfast Creek Hotel is up for sale
The last square mile of terra firma gavelled in the mail
So farewell to the Norfolk Island pines
No amount of make believe can help this heart of mine

End - your dreamworld is just about to end
Fall - your dreamworld is just about to fall
Your dreamworld will fall

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  BART to the East Bay (15+ / 0-)

    is beginning to create these kinds of neighborhoods. Check out Dublin CA. The demand for BART is huge -- often the parking lots around the newest stop are filled by 8 am.

    One big problem: no one is buying the condos. They all still want to buy homes further away from the BART stations.

    Second big problem: there's a lot of opposition to extending BART.

    •  What kind of mixed use development is at the ... (7+ / 0-)

      ... street level in the eighth-mile radius around the BART station, between the BART and the parking?

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:39:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I can't say what is there in Dublin but, (6+ / 0-)

        Fremont, Hayward is typical downtown/strip mall use, car lots, that sort of thing.

      •  Zero (5+ / 0-)

        It's giant parking lots, on both sides. Plus, the bus stops are gratuitously far from the station. The whole thing precludes any kind of urbanization. Granted, the station is on the median of I-580, a gigantic freeway.

        Cool serpentine station roof, though.

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 11:52:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There you go ... (7+ / 0-)

          ... two strikes against it, but its not a game a baseball, and one strike of that size and you're out:

          (1) You can't build a suburban village in the middle of an Expressway ... that's why its preferable when building local transport in a expressway Right of Way to build on the edge instead of the median, and swing the station out to where it can have development around it. And expressway alignments are better used for intercity rail transport than for local rail transport.

          (2) All day parking lots should not be right next to the station. Right next to the station should be a small kiss and ride drop-off, but there should be space between the station and the park and ride lot, so that people are walking past opportunities for development. Pushing the nearest point of all-day parking lots away from the station entrance allows valuable infill development opportunities around the station, and allows the same space to be devoted to parking without a parking space sea.

          So this would be a station access retrofit challenge, before it can be turned into a location that is suitable for a suburban retrofit. One side or the other needs conversion into a transit oriented development. It may well be that getting that done against the entrenched habits of thinking of BART likely requires the Suburban Village development to be proven in some smaller states in order to get enough property developers in California pushing the state to lean on BART.

          One advantage that the Bay Area has is that it is cheaper to retrofit station access than it is to build an all-new transport corridor. So if this were to get rolling, it would likely be self-financing from the capital levy on development permitted by the easement beyond local zoning restrictions.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:07:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Bart and DC Metro (16+ / 0-)

    I am always interested to hear about BART because it is a kind of sister system to Washington's METRO, built at about the same time with similar design concepts. Here in Metro-land, the demand for condos & pats near Metro stations is intense, and real estate values for DC and the inner suburbs (best served by Metro) are back to where they were before the Crash of 2007. DC itself is gentrifying at an astonishing rate.
         On the other hand, development around the stations in Prince George's County has lagged, and Fairfax County is only just now grasping the importance of high-density and multi-use near stations. Arlington County has really become a national model for the way it used Metro deliberately to pull a dying suburb into a cutting-edge place that people are dying to live in. They ran Metro not in the median of I-66, which would have been cheap, but under Wilson Blvd, an old retail/strip mall street, and then let developers know the sky was the limit near the multiple stations Arlington paid for. The result is like pearls on a necklace, and Arlington's soaring tax revenues have more than justified its original decision.
         What went wrong with BART?

    Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it’s hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed. Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

    by Reston history guy on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:48:41 PM PDT

    •  This I don't know ... (7+ / 0-)

      ... I've never lived on a coast in the Northern Hemisphere, and have never been in the Bay Area.

      I do know that Livermore is insisting that a BART extension to Livermore not be in the middle of the town, but instead be a park and drive station on the edge of town by the expressway. Ditto with an ACE upgrade to a Rapid Rail corridor as part of the "California HSR Altamont Commuter Overlay".

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:57:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Downtown Livermore is very walkable (4+ / 0-)

        so this is unfortunate...

        In Livermore, I think it's intentional that no one street goes straight through town, and everything is 25 or 35 MPH near downtown. The new downtown development is great, though the older streets a block or two away have lost out a bit.

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 11:56:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, and the current ACE station is in the ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, Judge Moonbox

          ... middle of town. The ACE corridor upgrade should be planned in stages, with the final alignment selection through Livermore deferred until after the the western end upgrade has been completed. "Temporary" upgrades to improve capacity along the corridor and faster and more frequent service to the east bay on ACE would grow the constituency for keeping the station in a downtown location.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:14:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Just one line with 4 branches. (12+ / 0-)

      When they first planned BART in the early 1960s, San Mateo County feared that a line paralleling the SP (now CalTrain) commuter service would cannibalize the line without improving service, so they pulled out. Marin County was then worried that they and San Francisco would not be able to pay for the truncated North-South line, so they too pulled out. Soon after that, engineering studies found that the plan to put the tracks on a second (lower) deck on the Golden Gate Bridge would cause too much vibration damage; and even if the North-South line was still being pursued, the technology to build an immersed tube tunnel couldn't take the pressure of a 500 foot depth.

      I feel that if they had adjusted the plans to reassure San Mateo County that BART would not cannibalize the SP line and they used sequestered bus ramps at either end of the Golden Gate Bridge to take a shuttle bus across the gap until either the bridge could be stabilized or a tunnel built, they would have gotten many more riders.

      One pleasant surprise that WMATA planners hadn't counted on that worked to Metro's benefit was that they connected a lot of office buildings to a restaurant district in Farragut Square, so people would take Metro during lunch hour. While I doubt that workers in the Embarcadero or other Market Street offices had as few choices back then, I do think that taking a BART North-South Line to Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf would have increased traffic substantially.

      Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

      by Judge Moonbox on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 06:38:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Arlington real estate (5+ / 0-)

      One unfortunate consequence was that, in the years between when the Arlington Metro plans were finalized and when the stations opened, the landlords stopped maintaining the buildings, and things were rough for tenants. Then, as the stations were opening, the landlords sold the properties for redevelopment at a huge profit.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:04:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  An excellent question, "What went wrong with BART" (5+ / 0-)

    They probably should have consulted the seismic maps before building it for one. the Richmond-Fremont line runs along the Hayward fault line.

  •  And then there's roads reverting... (14+ / 0-) gravel and dirt because the small localities can no longer afford to maintain tertiary and increasingly now portions of secondary roads.

    I know I read a couple of diaries in the past year or so about how the "savings" of reduced government road maintenance would result in net collective loss of disposable income by residents who have to drive on those roads due to increased repair costs (more frequent alignments, suspension system repairs, etc.), but has someone been able to quantify that cost shift given that it's now been several years and many communities impacted?


    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:54:36 PM PDT

    •  I don't know that I've seen anything .... (7+ / 0-)

      ... on that subject, and from experience with gravel roads in my childhood, some of that may be people traveling above the posted speed limit. Certainly, from my experience in Grenada right after the Revo, if you have enough money to maintain a gravel road and do not have enough money to maintain an asphalt road, the asphalt road is going to do more damage to your suspension.

      Gravel roads are harder work for cycling, but at the speed of normal transport cyclists, flying gravel cause by the bike is not an issue ~ its more flying gravel caused by passing cars.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 06:00:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Turn them into farming villages. (9+ / 0-)

    One of the things you notice in Europe is that the farmers all live together in a village, and commute to the fields. That's because in the Middle Ages they had to fortify their homes, as opposed to America, where so many of the farms started on plots that were literally a square mile in size.

    Exurbs can become European style farming villages. I see no other way out for them.

    •  They can become what we used to call ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... streetcar suburbs. That would entail infill development, but with the absurdly large set-asides in a lot of exurban development zoning, there'd be lots of room for infill development in the exurban areas lucky enough to be within three to five miles of stop/station on an electric transport corridor.

      Only 6% of the US population live in exurbs as such (probably less than 2% back when I grew up in an exurb), and with infill development in the urban cores of existing large metropolitan area, we can find room to resettle 6% of the US population ... but that's just the tip of the iceberg. As I noted, the impact of the effects that are depressing values of exurban properties do not magically stop just because an outer suburb happens to have been incorporated: these impacts are going to threaten substantially more than just those areas that are officially "exurban".

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 06:45:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for writing a dairy (13+ / 0-)

    about a topic that sorely needs discussion.

    I believe the organization of physical living and working space is basic to human social well-being. I mean specifically public space. The first criterion of healthy public space is ease of getting around without a car. Of course there is political disincentive to discuss this or take it seriously, since the oil industry would far rather you drove everywhere. They've had their tentacles all over government at every level since WWII.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 07:00:46 PM PDT

    •  But on thing is ... (12+ / 0-)

      ... it wasn't just the oil industry. It was also property developers, since sprawl development was how they made their money.

      Since that bubble has burst, there may be an opening to drive a wedge between property developers and the oil industry.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 07:09:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have lived in a fairly tony Bay Area (8+ / 0-)

        suburb (as a renter) and I have lived in an urban core, where I'm much happier. I have shopping, cafés, a large public library, and a popular network of city parks within easy walking distance. It was all laid-out before cars became widespread. As far as I'm concerned, that's why it's live-able.

        Yes, real-estate developers, as well as oil barons, peddle lies. To unsuspecting masses, they sell the lie of "unlimited space." They push the lie of "rustic quiet," and they keep people hooked on the utter falsehood of "safety." Suburbia is sick, because it's founded on lies.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 07:26:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not suggesting that ... (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          karmsy, Aunt Pat, kyril, BYw, madhaus, Judge Moonbox

          ... property developers would do it out of the goodness hidden in the depths of their hearts ... it would be greed driving them.

          But that same greed would mean appeals from Big Oil to avoid doing anything to undermine a long time political ally would fall on deaf ears. If they recognize that their bread is buttered on a different side, they are flipping their slice of bread, "long time political ally" be damned.

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          by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 07:39:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oil isn't the same industry it once was (0+ / 0-)

            No matter what happens in this regard in the US, global (and US) demand for oil will remain robust. Oil companies aren't going to bother opposing new urban development.

            Car companies might, I guess, but even that I think is a stretch.

            The biggest opponents (IMO) are going to be regular suburbanites/exurbanites who don't want to change and who think they are entitled to that lifestyle.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 09:24:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The actvities of the ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... think tanks they fund include a strong focus on opposing HSR, opposing transit spending, and supporting mandatory parking minimums (the last is a kind of a red flag that its an interest of those paying the bills, because most of these think tanks pretend to be libertarian).

              Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

              by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:12:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  They are hoping to transition from gasoline (0+ / 0-)

                to some other fuel at Big Oil can control.

                •  If they can, but they are ... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  peregrine kate

                  ... also hoping to have as big a windfall gain from the long term declining physical volume of petroleum production as possible.

                  The greater the price inelasticity of demand for gasoline, diesel and etc, the greater the windfall gains from price increases in the face of declining production. And the fewer alternatives to the use of gasoline, diesel and etc., the greater the price inelasticity of demand.

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                  by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:16:10 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  National Car Company (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, peregrine kate

        Near the end of World War II, a consortium of General Motors an oil company and a tire company bought up a lot of streetcar companies around the country, including Baltimore and Los Angeles. (I've heard that Ford had a similar deal going) Their goal was to replace streetcars with buses and ultimately abandon the services altogether if they could.

        The Baltimore Transit Company had set aside plenty of wartime profits for repairs once the war was over, but the NCC simply gave it to themselves once the paperwork was complete.

        A couple of years ago, the Washington Post had surveyed some voices around the nation about how they felt about DC. An official from the City of Detroit blamed the Institution of Washington for the city's not having a rapid transit system. I thought it was ironic because Washington the City could blame Detroit the Institution for a Metro that was less than they could have supported--and many other cities could blame Detroit for a lack of rail transit.

        Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

        by Judge Moonbox on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:40:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  So if I have a hybrid or electric vehicle the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Odysseus, ManhattanMan

    problem goes away?  There is a substantial segment that likes the semi-rural lifestyle and is willing to pay something to have it.  Unless the economics really become impossible we will continue to see exurban development.  New houses are going up in my exurb right now.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 07:25:14 PM PDT

    •  There is a substantial segment ... (13+ / 0-)

      ... that likes the semi-rural lifestyle and is willing to pay something to have it.

      People can have a desire, but effective demand comes out of actual incomes, and being affordable for a smaller proportion of the population is a hit on total effective demand. And its the numbers willing to pay what is required to have it versus the numbers of properties that have already been developed are what determines real estate supply and demand. If Exurban development is overbuilt for $3+/gallon gas, $6/gallon will drain demand still further.

      As far as individual areas ... this is a national trend, but there is always variations around a trendline. From the first link in the essay:

      In all, 99 of the 100 fastest-growing exurbs and outer suburbs saw slower or no growth in 2011 compared with the mid-decade housing peak – the exception being Spotsylvania County, Va., located south of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, which has boomed even in the downturn. Nearly three-fourths of the top 100 outer suburban areas also saw slower growth compared with 2010, hurt by $3-a-gallon gasoline last year that has since climbed higher.
      "slower or no growth" is not the same as no growth at all, buts a substantial break in the trend, and that break in the trend hits at well under $6/gallon gas.

      As far as an electric car or hybrid cutting down total cost ~ that's a trade-off of higher purchase price for lower operating cost, and a trade-off well worth making at typical exurban vehicle miles driven, but its still a net increase in transport cost.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 07:36:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The economics... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peregrine kate

      ...already are impossible.

      The gas prices that allow those new houses are the result of huge subsidies paid by Americans who live in cities.

      When calculating the size of these subsidies, don't forget the cost of having to fight a war every ten years to secure our oil supply.

  •  Great Post! (6+ / 0-)

    Thanks for sharing this with us. It pairs up really nicely with the piece featured in the Open Thread for Night Owls. What you describe strikes me as similar to the current situation in Germany, where tiny rural villages that have been around for many centuries are connected by bus to larger villages, and the larger villages are connected by bus or rail to one another and to cities.

    Since there are no school buses here in Germany (where I've lived since 1995), pretty much everybody everywhere has some bus connection so the kids in rural areas can get to school. By making the (subsidized) bus network open to everyone and offering a flexible schedule to accommodate school children as well as the transport needs of small village dwellers, you make rural villages viable and accessible for folks without cars. One critical factor in making the German system work aside from great public transit is the multi-use zoning you referred to.  

    Maybe just maybe our foremothers and our forefathers came to this land in different ships. But we're all in the same boat now. - John Lewis

    by bluesheep on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 02:14:34 AM PDT

  •  Reforming Settlement Pattern is ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madhaus, BruceMcF

    the Convenient Remedy to the Inconvenient Truth. In West Europe they use about half the energy/capita as the US. Most of the difference is explained by walking/transiting more and driving less. The Koch brothers'/GOP goal is maximum energy burn/unit of output. That's why they hate transit, biking and walking and pay groups like the "Reason" Foundation to push against transit and urban street networks and for big highways. Resist the Carbon Fascists and walk, bike and ride transit.

    Cities are good for the environment

    by citydem on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:57:49 AM PDT

  •  Great post. But don't ignore SCHOOLS. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madhaus, Mr MadAsHell

    The growth in suburbs isn't just because people like trees and flowers. It's because they don't like inner-city schools.

    (The reasons why inner-city schools are bad are hotly debated. I won't go into that here!)

    But I do see a pattern emerging -- one caused by our harebrained system of locally financing schools.

    1) Young families with kids move into a community.

    2) They vote for better schools, and pay for these schools with long-term bond issues.

    3) Their kids attend the good schools, grow up, and move away.

    4) The (now childless) families don't need 3 bedrooms anymore so they move away...taking the tax base with them.

    5) The community is left with interest payments on all the bonds issued in better times for the benefit of families who are long-gone.

    This cycle can be broken if new families with kids move into the neighborhood. But what if that doesn't happen?

    Why should a young family move to the inner city where they will be forced to pay off debts run up by the Yuppie Generation? Isn't it smarter to move to a new exurb...and run up debt that benefits your kids?

  •  Older Suburbs west of Chicago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    are going through this transition again. Originally started as villages at convenient train stops, the auto era fragmented many and along with the sprawl these towns became unrecognizable. Over the last decade many villages are re-inventing a core that utilizies what your speak of here, capitalizing on transportation corridors. However, revitalization brings new problems, retail locations carry a premium rent and thus push out many of the businesses and services that serve to create a sense of place. What makes a place effective and likeable is a walkability and diversity.
        Thanks for the article. Average people need to get more involved in their place, otherwise monied interests and politicans will decide or why endless suburbs and exurbs came into existance in the first place.
       Chicago city is also undergoing a re-settlement. Vast amounts of real estate is being redeveloped as high-rises and townhouses, however I notice as absence of place from many of unconnected bulidings.

  •  I grew up in Fayette County, PA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a very rural area, southeast of Pittsburgh, potmarked by a few city/towns and dozens of villages. To serve a coal mining region running 12 miles wide and 30 miles long, a trolley service wsa established around 1900 that ran throughout the countryside and served all the coal mining patches (villages). Abandon in the early 50's, because the mining was gone and the auto had arrived, the decaying infrastructure was a source of fascination to a young kid.  

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