Re: Guest Post - How US law pushes car culture on everyone

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It's true there is a general liking for this way of life, especially motivated by the legacy and memory of white flight - and there's an extent to which suburbanization really tracked a general increase in the quality of life - but I would suggest that the system of laws we have serves as a ratchet, forestalling movement away from the system we now have.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 7:32 AM
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People who live in the suburbs like the suburbs
Prices of housing in the city make it likely that this is less true than it looks.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 7:45 AM
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Exactly - path dependence. People move to the suburbs partially because that is where stock is available, and that shapes their aspirations.

There was a short online sketch I can't find again now, but by the same group who did the bitchy resting face video, where a couple chatters about their aspirations for travel, urban lifestyle, etc., then they both go gray-faced and drone in unison to each other, "Let's just move to Orange County."


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 7:55 AM
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Trains have more path dependence than cars.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 8:00 AM
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It's impossible to make the "but they want to drive cars!" argument outside of the very structure this article is talking about. How can you even form a desire for frequent, reliable public transit when it's just not a part of the reality where you live?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 8:13 AM
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Soon most American cities will need giant concentric walls to keep out storm surges and the situation will sort itself right out.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 8:13 AM
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2 is very true.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 8:15 AM
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5 as well, and Blume!


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 8:16 AM
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You can want good transit when you live somewhere with bad, but existing transit. I've seen it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 8:30 AM
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The Bhumjaithai Party - which put the legalization of marijuana at the center of its agenda - took the health, transport and tourism portfolios.
|>


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:12 AM
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I've read literally two entire books about US suburbanization, and remember essentially nothing. At some point I'll try to read the link. All I'll say now is that plywood sucks, and I think the slidewalk will have a future yet.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:16 AM
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I've never even lived in a suburb. I have shopped for houses in one. They have lots of storage space and more toilets than we have asses. But driving and lawn maintenance kept me away.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:26 AM
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11:"the slidewalk"

That sounds like a promising invention!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:27 AM
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I lived in suburbs as a kid. Now I live in a residential neighborhood in a city. It doesn't seem all that drastically different.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:30 AM
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As far as how your local taxes go, it makes I big difference here. Not so big in Ohio.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:32 AM
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There was a Dsquared line about the Iraq war, that genuinely good ideas don't need you to tell lies about them to sell them. I kind of feel the same way about the popularity of suburban living -- while I'm sure there are many people who love it, the fact that it's explicitly illegal to build dense, walkable housing pretty much anywhere it didn't already exist before World War II, and that what dense walkable housing there is is super expensive, suggests that there's a pretty big market for not living in the suburbs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:33 AM
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"Nobody wants to live there, it's too expensive" is the equivalent of saying "Nobody goes there, it's too crowded."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:41 AM
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We just got economically passive-automatoned into farther suburbs, and while there's plenty to like about a bigger place with closets and toilets, I loathe the new driving, would never have gone this far out if there'd been any alternative, and would trade the kid's college fund for closer train service. Lurid made one attempt to take the bus and came away shaking with rage at regional planning failures. My sense is that these are pretty common sentiments in our new neighborhood.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:43 AM
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I've moved four times in the past 20 years, and a short commute has never been realistic for me, but easy access to reliable mass transit has been pretty much my No. 1 priority in deciding where to live.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:47 AM
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I can wake up at 7 and be at my desk by 8 using public transit. My employer pays for the pass. It's very nice.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:52 AM
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Every now and then we visit someone who lives in the suburbs*, and my urban-raised kid often comes back wanting to live in a suburban house. Swimming pool! Basement playroom! Giant yard!

I usually try to quell this by pointing out that in the suburbs you can't walk to the ice cream shop. It does at least give him pause.

* We live in a single-family house, with a yard, which to me is already pretty suburban, since it's not solid townhouses or 5-story Paris-esque apartment buildings or something.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:52 AM
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We have kind of a townhouse. But it's not solid. Once inside, it's mostly hollow.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 9:54 AM
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The closets are solid, because people didn't own things back when it was built.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:04 AM
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There was a Dsquared line about the Iraq war, that genuinely good ideas don't need you to tell lies about them to sell them. I kind of feel the same way about the popularity of suburban living -- while I'm sure there are many people who love it, the fact that it's explicitly illegal to build dense, walkable housing pretty much anywhere it didn't already exist before World War II, and that what dense walkable housing there is is super expensive, suggests that there's a pretty big market for not living in the suburbs.

A term I like that Scott Wiener used was "single-family mandates".


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:04 AM
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. . . what dense walkable housing there is is super expensive, suggests that there's a pretty big market for not living in the suburbs.

I feel like that's not enough to establish the comparison with the lies told about the Iraq war. It is true, but there's another way in which that just says, "people like places that are successful." I feel like any place which is dense, walkable and (unstated) has reasonable economic prospects, is a place in which multiple things have gone right.

If I look at wikipedia's list of new urbanist communities and pick a random place that I haven't heard of it's likely to be more expensive than the neighboring communities (the fact that it's distinctive enough to warrant a wikipedia entry represents some selection bias), but I doubt it will have prices anything like New York -- because it's a much less distinctive city that NY.

That's a knee-jerk reaction on my part (based on living in a smaller city with walkable neighborhoods but without the density that you're picturing, which has above-average real estate prices but is not super expensive), so I'd be happy to be wrong.

This reminds me, however, that I've been curious if there's any interest in a reading group on Richard Florida's recent book (or a better book covering the same ideas). The reviews I've seen have been mixed, but it sounds like the issues that it raises are interesting.

Although Florida's position hasn't fundamentally altered, he has become worried that cities are increasingly implicated in inequality. It's true that they are engines of invention, prosperity and opportunity, and that without them our economies would sink, but they are also engines of privilege and, as a result, a focus of mounting resentment. Florida began writing his book before Brexit and Trump. It seems he was prescient. The movements that produced those results were in revolt against what Trump, Farage and their supporters often refer to as the 'metropolitan elite'.

Florida thinks that most half-successful US cities generate inequality in one way or another. But the processes he describes are best exemplified by global 'superstar' cities like New York, LA, Singapore, Paris and London, or those with particular strengths in academic research and the creative and tech sectors - places like San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Oxford and Cambridge.

...

So why are these cities characterised by 'growing inequality'? First, and most innocently, the highly skilled people who work in these cities produce more value than those who don't. Clever, productive people tend to get jobs in the superstar cities. But it's also the case that people who work in these cities become more creative and more productive, sparking off and competing against one another. Also, as these cities become richer, they can invest more in infrastructure and other qualities that attract yet more talented people and boost productivity. It's a vicious - or for the cities in question, a virtuous - circle. The business districts of San Francisco, New York and London are ludicrously prodigious. The Borough of Westminster produces as much wealth as all of Wales.

Second, over the last few decades those at the top of our economy have become adept at taking ever more for themselves at the expense of customers, employees, shareholders and tax collectors. Florida could have made more of this. Businesses headquartered in New York, London and other capitals have been at the centre of this development, creaming off wealth generated elsewhere.

Perhaps the most important cause of growing city-generated inequality, however, is the property market. As demand on these cities has grown, so has the demand on property. But city property is in short supply, so those who own it see their wealth soar, leaving behind those who don't own property, or own it elsewhere. ...

I was reminded of this recently when I saw links to Will Wilkenson's paper.

Both of those have some connection to The Big Sort and it's possible that they would leave me feeling the same way -- thinking that they raised interesting questions but were ultimately unsatisfying in the answers that they offered. But the question of whether the successes of large urban cities is a driver (or is a consequence) of inequality is an interesting one.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:06 AM
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I feel like any place which is dense, walkable and (unstated) has reasonable economic prospects, is a place in which multiple things have gone right.

Not necessarily - aren't Atlanta and other Southern and Sun Belt cities determined to stay non-dense even as they prosper?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:15 AM
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I am so tired of glosses of Trump and Brexit as "anti-elite" movements. Yes, people rose up against elites by empowering... a different crowd of rich urbanites with rich dads. (This was a flaw in the otherwise excellent Winners Take All as well.) There certainly is anti-elite sentiment out there, and for good reason, but it expresses itself only intermittently.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:17 AM
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Not necessarily - aren't Atlanta and other Southern and Sun Belt cities determined to stay non-dense even as they prosper?

I was thinking of the opposite case as a counter-example. LB is claiming that the correlation of dense & walkable is proof that the laws which prohibit more dense & walkable development are thwarting a sincere desire (and driving up prices in the places which do fit that description). I'm saying that "dense, walkable, and expensive" may be traits which are correlated with other successes of urban development, and that removing the laws around density might not immediately result in lots of smaller, dense, walkable cities which are not as expensive (and thus provide a cheaper solution to the unmet need).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:20 AM
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I am so tired of glosses of Trump and Brexit as "anti-elite" movements.

Agreed, this is a tiresome cliche. I think it's closer to accurate, however, to describe Trump/Brexit as opposed to the sort of elite success which is associated with superstar cities (like NY, London, SF, etc . . . ). Yes, Trump is personally a NYer, but he's also a NYer who stands in opposition to much of what people who love NY appreciate about it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:22 AM
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I think what people who live in suburbs like isn't "the suburbs", exactly. What they like is "having a big house with a garage and a big yard." If they could get that in the city, in a walkable mixed-use neighbourhood with access to excellent transit, then they wouldn't choose to live in a suburb, because except for the big houses suburbs are terrible. The problem is that you can't get that in the city, and not only because of cost; neighbourhoods with lots of big houses with garages and big yards are physically incompatible with walkable mixed-use neighbourhoods with excellent transit.

Some of that can get solved with better zoning and transit and tort/insurance reform and tax reform and road design and parking minimums and city-planning and so on. But not all of it, so long as people continue to want big houses with big yards and 2 toilets per person. We definitely need to make that stuff way more expensive, but in my mid-sized Canadian city mini-McMansions in new build suburbs with big lawns and 2 car garages already cost 50% more than my centrally located 3-bedroom century home on a leafy street with great transit and within easy walking distance of shops, cafes, bars, etc... People are willing to pay a lot for the big house/yard/rec room/garage/number of toilets.


Posted by: MattD | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:27 AM
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We have only .67 toilets per butt, which has been a problem on occasion. Having only one shower is going to be a big problem if everybody wants to shower every morning.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:32 AM
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then they wouldn't choose to live in a suburb, because except for the big houses suburbs are terrible.

People probably do like aspects of the suburbs that are objectively terrible - lack of diversity is a huge plus for some.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:38 AM
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32: yeah, that's true. It makes the problem even tougher to solve, too.


Posted by: MattD | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:41 AM
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I hope this is closely related enough. I cannot believe how the bike/scooter sharing has taken off here. Bike sharing trips in inner Sac now outnumber car sharing trips (first US city!). I've ridden my bike here forever and I cannot believe that all it needed was the boost of electrification to get so many more people out of cars. (It is super fun, I agree. Please don't be boring with curmudgeon complaints about them. We should get cars off the streets and bikes/scooters on them and turn sidewalks back to people, yes yes.) I would never have credited the effect or the speed of the conversion to electric bike/scooter if I didn't see it. Maybe that was the missing piece that I couldn't imagine before. All this works because we're on the part of the grid that was build before cars, so I know it wouldn't be the same out in the suburbs.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:48 AM
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Moby, we're in a two-bed, one-bath and the solution was to add an outdoor shower.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:49 AM
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My neighbors have already expressed their opposition to seeing my penis.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:50 AM
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I would never have credited the effect or the speed of the conversion to electric bike/scooter if I didn't see it. Maybe that was the missing piece that I couldn't imagine before.

My casual theory is that electric bikes/scooters/skateboards accomplish many of the goals of the Segway at a much cheaper price, and that the claims that the Segway people made (about it being a transformative technology) were essentially true, it was just too expensive.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:54 AM
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I could easily commute by electric scooter, but the bus is easier.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:56 AM
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And almost certainly less fatal.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 10:58 AM
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I've ridden my bike here forever and I cannot believe that all it needed was the boost of electrification to get so many more people out of cars.

Normal people could not ride bikes up hills. Now they can.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:06 AM
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36: People are so awful on Nextdoor.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:13 AM
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"I have provided this information to the police."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:17 AM
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I don't know -- the scooters seem pretty popular here, but my sense is they are being used primarily instead of walking, not instead of driving.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:30 AM
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37: Yeah, someone observed elsewhere that it's often not the initial invention that has the transformative impact, but the cheaper later knock-offs.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:32 AM
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This suburbanite finds the article completely unpersuasive.

Are drivers over or undertaxed? Taxes on gasoline and car registration fees pay for a significant part of the cost of highways. These taxes aren't paid at all by non-drivers, but non-drivers get lots of benefit from their existence. Highways bring pretty much everything urban residents consume inot the cities. Take away those driver taxes and those nice roads, everything would be more expensive, and lots of things wodln't exist at alo. It's possible to imagine a nation without decent interstates, but not a nation where inexpensive fresh vegetables--or organ transplants at any price-- are available in urban centers. The roads are also criticial infrastructure for disaster evacuation of urban areas, benefitting non-drivers.

It's kind of ridiculous to complain about the tax deduction for commuter parking and leave out the basically identical tax deduction for mass transit costs. Mass transit systems are always subsidized by taxes on people who don't use them.

"Insufficent insurance requirements" for drivers as an example of discrimination agaisnt non-drivers, when non-drivers don't have to carry any insurance at all, although they can injure people too.



Posted by: Unimaginative | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:35 AM
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43: The scooters here are electric mopeds that are fully road legal. It's annoying that we use the same word as for electrified razor scooters. My guess is their presence has prevent a razor-scooter-type firm from establishing a toe hold here, which is probably for the best.

The people I see using them seem to be going on multi-neighborhood trips.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:37 AM
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If you're using the argument that non-car-users get a benefit from highways because things are delivered from highways, you can't use the argument that non-car-users aren't paying taxes. They're just not paying taxes directly. It's not like shipping firms eat the taxes out of the goodness of their hearts.

Anyway, the fact that we use highways (to the degree we do) for this instead of rail is not an obvious good thing.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:41 AM
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I've very deliberately chosen to live (in a streetcar suburb) near public transit my entire life, and I've had a train+walking commute for my entire 20+ year working life. I take almost all forms of transit extensively (trolley, subway, rail, long-distance rail) and some forms semi-regularly (bus, high-speed light rail). I regularly chain trips together with multiple stops and multiple forms of transportation, not just on the workday but on weekends. My mechanic makes fun of me because I never need emissions testing on my 15-year-old car because I never drive it more than 5,000 miles a year. I've had a monthly-unlimited transit pass for the last 19 years.

Most of all, I like transit. I am a transit geek. I support all kinds of public policies that would boost transit use and reduce unnecessary driving.

So those are my bona fides. But here's the thing. There are two factors that cars IME are genuinely much better at achieving: Privacy/personal safety, and transporting items. (This latter category can include small children, especially if you have more than one of them.)

I have a pretty darn high tolerance for the oddities of public life, but there is absolutely a way I have to be "on" in terms of alert and on guard on transit and (especially) waiting for transit that I never do in a car. Creepy/bad things can happen to you in cars, of course, but overall it is protected space. This is the #1 reason my car-centric sisters cite for not using transit.

And then toting stuff. I carry a semi-heavy bag/briefcase all the time. I often add luggage or shopping on top of that. It works, mostly, because I'm reasonably fit and because I'm not going to places where people will raise their eyebrows if I have to tote in a bunch of unrelated stuff while I attend a business meeting. But it requires pretty elaborate choreography, including building extra time for getting places because I don't want to arrive sweaty or freezing depending on the weather and carrying stuff slows you down.

You could have the most transit-friendly place in the world, and we will still have to deal with people who heavily value the privacy/safety or the toting-stuff aspect of cars, is what I'm trying to say. I would prefer to have that problem rather than our current problem, but I think we have to be real about it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:42 AM
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I absolutely love driving. Capital L love. And the big house and tree-filled yard. I get the author's points about the effective subsidization of that lifestyle and yet, Heebie is correct that "he's being a bit simplistic about car drivers' motivations".


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:46 AM
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Your city is where I did most of my drunk driving. There was no bus near my house and neither Uber or responsibility was invented yet.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:52 AM
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Most of mine as well. The transit system here is woefully underdeveloped for a population this large and the planned light rail project fell apart completely a few months ago. It's going to be a real problem very soon.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 11:57 AM
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But I've only lived there three years.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:04 PM
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49: What do you love about driving? I'm genuinely curious, not trying to snark at all.

I hate driving, so I'm always curious about what people enjoy about it. I mean, I get the fun of driving a nice car on an empty country road; that's a nice thrill. But daily city driving of the kind that's forced on suburb-dwellers? To me, it's a horrible combination of tedious, expensive, planet-destroying, and dread-inducing; I can never entirely escape the lingering sense that it's the thing that's the overwhelmingly most likely to kill me or my children over the next 30-40 years.
This doesn't stop be from driving, of course. I drive almost every day; I've got 2 kids in various sports all around the city, I drive to work more than half of the time, I'm about to drive halfway across the country for family holidays, and driving is by far the best way to get groceries home. But all of that is the frustrating reality of modern life; I don't like any of it!


Posted by: MattD | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:18 PM
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the privacy/safety... aspect of cars

I know people feel this way, but wow do I think it's an exaggerated desire. I'm on public transit about two hours a day, every weekday, and I can't think of the last time I felt unsafe. (Not saying it never happens, but events where I'm thinking that I need to be alert about my personal safety happen at the most every several months. I don't drive much, but I get the impression that someone with a driving commute would run into a situation where, e.g., they needed to hit the brakes to avoid someone else driving unsafely, would happen at least that frequently.) Carrying stuff, sure -- it's definitely a noticeable amount of work that I have to carry all my groceries home on foot. But it is really weird to me that people feel unsafe just because they're out in public on foot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:22 PM
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Driving means never having to apologize when you spit tobacco juice into an empty Natty Light can.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:26 PM
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I wonder what the literal deaths/injuries per mile for cars versus for public transit is, come to think. I'd guess that by that metric, cars would be well less safe, although you probably feel safer until the accident happens.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:27 PM
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This random website says 20-1 in favor of public transit for light rail, 60-1 for the bus (both as opposed to driving): https://blog.lawinfo.com/2018/09/12/public-transportation-is-way-safer-than-driving/ . It is very impressive to me, as someone who's not habituated to driving at all, how safe it makes people feel regardless of the statistics.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:30 PM
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It is really hard to carry heavy stuff on the bus.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:33 PM
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Yeah, I legit go to the grocery store much, much, much more often than people who drive. Pretty much every other day or so. Buying a week's groceries all at once would be too much to carry home.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:37 PM
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Buying beer by the six pack instead of the case is much more expensive.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:39 PM
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I have felt unsafe twice this year on public transport: once because there was a mentally ill man screaming and lashing out at people on my NY tube train, and once on a bus in Scotland which we slowly realised was very slightly on fire. (We moved seats and continued the journey in the less smoky part of the bus.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:40 PM
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54: This gets tricky, because I conflated privacy and safety and of course they're not at all the same thing. On the safety front, I will say that regional rail (where I do most of my commuting) has pretty limited personal safety issues, except if I'm unlucky enough to be in a train car full of rowdy drunks coming home from an event, which happens to me a few times a year. But the bus and subway IME have much more, primarily in terms of really angry, fast-escalating altercations between other passengers but sometimes drug use, sexual harassment/groping, or aggressive police action (which I feel often makes all passengers unsafe). I think my sisters are mistaken about the cost/benefit analysis of transit, but I also wouldn't let my nieces go solo on transit until age 11-12 at LEAST. Probably not nephews either.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:44 PM
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My apologies on behalf of the NY subway system. Come to think, I was on a train with a yelling woman a few weeks back, but not in a particularly unsafe feeling way (that is, the train was full and she didn't seem likely to do anything but yell). But that really is an every-several-months kind of thing, not every week or even every month.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:46 PM
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LB, have you discovered the wonders of Fairway via Instacart Express? For 10 dollars a month, you can order groceries online for no additional fee as often as you like, only needing to tip the shopper/driver. Also a bunch of other stores, but I like Fairway best. The tip to the shopper/driver and the ten dollars a month are easily worth the time you save by not physically going to the store.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:50 PM
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But the bus and subway IME have much more, primarily in terms of really angry, fast-escalating altercations between other passengers but sometimes drug use, sexual harassment/groping, or aggressive police action (which I feel often makes all passengers unsafe).

NYC may just be lower crime/antisocial behavior than Philly. I think I've seen someone get arrested on the subway once in my lifetime? Sexual harassment/groping was pretty bad in the eighties when I was in high school, but there's less of it now. My kids have reported being hassled occasionally, but not frequently at all. And altercations between other passengers are an every-several-months kind of thing, and I can't think of when I last saw anything more than raised voices.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:51 PM
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Has anybody in NYC thrown batteries at Santa Claus?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:52 PM
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Instacart Express is news to me -- I'll look it up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:52 PM
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Not just on the subway.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:53 PM
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Philadelphia is indisputably more violent than NY per crime stats. But we're also a much poorer city overall, with all of the untreated health issues that entails. Plus I would strongly surmise that I take transit in a wider array of neighborhoods than you are in. Eg my out-of-town impression is that some areas of the Bronx are similar to, e.g.., Kensington, but some who lives/works where you do wouldn't tend to travel through there.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:58 PM
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SomeONE. I'm (ironically) in a taxi typing this.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 12:59 PM
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The last two super-upsetting police actions on transit that I saw were in fairly ritzy areas of DC, actually.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 1:01 PM
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Plus I would strongly surmise that I take transit in a wider array of neighborhoods than you are in.
Median income in Kensington is definitely lower than in my neighborhood -- $31K versus $47K. But the existence of rough neighborhoods seems like an insufficient explanation for thinking of transit generally as unsafe. Most people are going to be taking transit, if it's available, between where they live and where they work. And for most people, those neighborhoods are going to be places where they feel fairly safe, right? I mean, I don't know Kensington, but if meaningful violence were breaking out on public transit on a regular basis there, I'd feel uncomfortable living there at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 1:11 PM
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People from Pittsburgh are often afraid of going to Philadelphia. A doctor who made the move from here to Philly said most of his patients in Pittsburgh were afraid he would get shot in Philadelphia.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 1:11 PM
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Ironically, he got shot after moving to Philadelphia.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 1:17 PM
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Jeez, Kensington does look rough. More than three times the annual crime rate of Inwood. I'm trying to find a neighborhood in the Bronx that matches it for crime, and the best I've got is 60% so far.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 1:18 PM
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Except that he didn't get shot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 1:18 PM
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Mott Haven is close to as bad. Not quite, but comparable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 1:19 PM
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He shot Santa Claus.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 1:32 PM
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Trying too hard to fit in.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 1:36 PM
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But I feel as if I derailed the thread speaking up for the relative safety of public transportation. I do recognize that people who are used to driving feel safer in cars than on the bus, whatever the statistics say.

Back to 30: I think what people who live in suburbs like isn't "the suburbs", exactly. What they like is "having a big house with a garage and a big yard." If they could get that in the city, in a walkable mixed-use neighbourhood with access to excellent transit, then they wouldn't choose to live in a suburb, because except for the big houses suburbs are terrible. The problem is that you can't get that in the city, and not only because of cost; neighbourhoods with lots of big houses with garages and big yards are physically incompatible with walkable mixed-use neighbourhoods with excellent transit.

I think this is right. What's maddening, though, is that a neighborhood with big single-family houses with a driveway and a small yard is completely compatible with a walkable mixed-use neighborhood with excellent transit. That's lots of Queens, or Somerville, MA, and it can be super high density, as long as your big houses are multi-story and on small lots, and as long as you don't mind having some multiunit buildings nearby. I think that sort of neighborhood really is desirable for lots of people, but they're legally prohibited by zoning most places. I know this has come up here before, but, e.g., I have been told that the sort of house filling most of a small lot that characterizes Somerville could not be legally built under current Somerville zoning.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 2:17 PM
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That sounds like my neighborhood.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 2:24 PM
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The earthly paradise, I understand. If you don't mind living in a non-cob house.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 2:28 PM
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I think that sort of neighborhood really is desirable for lots of people, but they're legally prohibited by zoning most places.

Embrace the Vienna model" (which includes a much higher proportion of multi-unit housing than what you're describing, but which seems like a functional model of urban planning and affordable housing)

In Vienna a citywide development plan is reviewed and adopted every ten years. Based on this plan--which is subject to broad public participation by residents, district politicians, and other stakeholders--the city organizes competitions for new subsidized estates. These juried competitions evaluate each new project on four criteria--planning and architecture qualities, ecology, costs, and social sustainability--designed to avoid the compromises of market-oriented approaches. The urban development plan pays particular attention to the challenges of infrastructure, since that is crucial when developing urban structure.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 2:28 PM
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I realize that everyone probably already knows this, but in response to 45, it's been shown repeatedly that gas taxes in the US don't cover the cost of road construction or maintenance. They've never done so, and the federal gas tax hasn't been raised since 1994, so it's worse now. And that's without accounting for externalities like climate change, noise pollution, and particulate pollution


Posted by: Ponder Stibbons | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 2:33 PM
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According to this, gas taxes cover about half the cost of road spending. To be fair, the same page shows that transit is more heavily subsidized percentagewise.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 2:46 PM
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81: I was going to say this. It's a very nice system if the laws allow it. I think the single-family-only-zoning craze hasn't affect us as much as other areas (because of white flight, I guess?), but even if it had it wouldn't matter since most of our property is so old.

Awhile ago, some Pittsburgh site posted stereotypes of people from various neighborhoods. Ours was "talks about how great their neighborhood is too much."


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:02 PM
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Yeah, I personally, am a weirdo (I have lived on the eighth floor of one apartment building or another for about 3/4 of my life) who prefers high-rise apartment living. If you packed people in at the density I prefer, you could get the population of the US comfortably into Delaware and leave the other forty-nine states for agriculture and wilderness. But even allowing for a Squirrel Hill/Somerville/Queens level of density, we'd still all fit into Delaware with the addition of Rhode Island or so, and people who wanted them would have big single family houses. (I'm completely making it up about how many states we'd need. But I bet I'm pretty close.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:15 PM
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Oh, never mind. At Somerville density, we all fit into Delaware eight times over, unless I screwed up the math somehow. Rhode Island can be left fallow for the lobsters and shorebirds.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:21 PM
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People (rightfully) blame zoning laws for a lot of ills, but I have found developers insanely frustrating in terms of their myopic echo chamber about what "everybody knows" is profitable and not profitable. You can legalize the Somerville model and brace yourself for the community backlash and then the developers will just refuse to build smallscale apartment complexes because they won't maximize profit.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:33 PM
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Also we cannot overstate how much the conversation about apartment complexes being in neighborhoods is a conversation about racism and classism.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:37 PM
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But even allowing for a Squirrel Hill/Somerville/Queens level of density, we'd still all fit into Delaware with the addition of Rhode Island or so, and people who wanted them would have big single family houses. (I'm completely making it up about how many states we'd need. But I bet I'm pretty close.

That assumes everybody living in one mega-city. It might be more interesting to do the calculation assuming that there's space between cities. Here's a back-of-the-envelope attempt.

According to this, "The average population density of the U.S. is 87 people per square mile. The average population density of metropolitan areas (MSA) is 283 people per square mile" The density of Somerville is 5,189.5 per square mile or ~ 18 1/3 times as much as the average density of a MSA. So that means we could fit 18 times as many people in the existing footprint if every MSA had the density of Somerville.

Looking at states that are closest to the average population density of the US (87/mi^2) here, and trying to find adjacent states that add up to ~1/18th of the US population (this is a rough estimate). it looks like if all of the cities in WI, MN, & IA had the average population density of Somerville they could fit the entire population of the US.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:37 PM
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Wrong Somerville. The one in MA is 18,400 people/square mile.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:41 PM
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Which means that you only need a third as much space as you thought, although I still didn't follow how your calculation worked exactly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:42 PM
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I wonder how much of Squirrel Hill's density is because of graduate students or Orthodox Jews living in tight quarters.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:42 PM
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Which means that you only need a third as much space as you thought, although I still didn't follow how your calculation worked exactly.

I was trying to figure out a way to estimate the space needed if we increased the density of cities but left empty space between cities. It's not a great estimate but, essentially the idea is this:

1) Across the US as a whole we have two numbers, the average population density (which includes empty space) and the average population density within MSA (which includes some empty space but much less).

2) WI has about the same average population density as the US as a whole. If we assume it also has the same ratio of empty space to city space (and the same average city population density as the US as a whole).

3) If we increase the population density of the cities by a factor of 60 (to be as dense as Sommerville MA) the newly densified WI would hold the entire population of the US.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:49 PM
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90: ding! ding! ding! ding!

for years my family thought i was exaggerating & then the kid watched a planning commission hearing in a los angeles area city re a mixed use proj (redevelop of 80's era mall to inter alia add several hundred apts - separately a metro station is being constructed actually next door). no longer am i accused of exaggerating. folks just waltz right up to the microphone & let loose with unfettered racism, classism.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 3:56 PM
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That's how you get a cabinet position.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 4:05 PM
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86.2: It's just very convenient.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 4:16 PM
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Speaking of people not wanting to be in the suburbs, North Point Breeze is just all well-provided-for-looking white people now. I suppose it's been that way for a decade, but I never really noticed until this week.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 4:35 PM
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Not that I have anything against well-provided-for-looking white people. I just expect them to stay put.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 4:42 PM
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Adding to 96,
urbanism twitter has threads covering a recent community hearing about rapid bus transit in Eagle Rock (a nbd in LA) where the NIMBYs just outright asked transit supporters for proof of citizenship


Posted by: Ponder Stibbons | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 4:51 PM
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89:

Different regions have different problems. In booming coastal cities developers are only too happy to build apartment complexes, it's just really hard to do so because of zoning and nimbys (caveat: these seem to be less of a problem in nyc). I imagine they make a lot more money from an apt complex vs a few houses on the same land.


Posted by: Ponder Stibbons | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 4:59 PM
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Everybody in Toronto was either building a mid-rise condominium tower, living in one, or saving up for one.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 5:04 PM
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We have a weird NIMBY thing going on in my neighborhood. It's already quite dense -- midrise apartment buildings -- but there are parts that are zoned industrial that have kind of pointless nonsense: a one-story beverage distributor; parking lots; auto body shops and so on. And it's just been rezoned to allow a lot of that area to be developed, with some other changes. And activisty people in the neighborhood are furious and I can't figure out why. If they were single-family homeowners I'd call them NIMBYs and think they were insincere about all the bad things they envision. But they're not, they're already apartment dwellers, and the ones I know seem sincere to me.

But none of their arguments about why the upzoning is bad make sense to me at all. I'm completely puzzled.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 5:40 PM
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Do they work in auto repair?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 5:47 PM
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Are they afraid new buildings will attract richer white people who will call the cops on kids just standing around?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 5:51 PM
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102: We're building plenty in Boston, but they're luxury apartments only.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 6:13 PM
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||


Speaking of auto repair, my Mini broke down again on the way back from work, probably the same problem - fuel pump. And I'm leaving for the airport to Amsterdam in an hour. 1 long week of conference and followed by a week of leave. And a lot of good beer . I need it, I'm so stressed despite my 5 weeks back in NY that I couldn't pack last night, I put some laundry on, went to sleep around 7 pm and got up at 2 am to pack.

|>


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 6:28 PM
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104: people are sincerely scared of change.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 6:52 PM
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That things will spin out of control in some way they can't necessarily anticipate, or that they can't articulate, or are embarrassed to articulate.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 6:53 PM
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106: That ship has kind of sailed. I mean, I'm rich white people already, and I've lived in the neighborhood twenty years, and there's plenty richer than me here already too. The neighborhood isn't flipping fast, but high income people are moving into the housing that's here now: it's not as if they won't come if there aren't new buildings to live in.

Something like that is the theory, but I don't get in detail how they think building new buildings is going to make things worse for current neighborhood residents than not building new buildings.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 7:01 PM
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Have you seen a lot of cars with Connecticut license plates around?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 7:05 PM
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What part of CHANGEBAD don't you understand?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 7:06 PM
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Because banning cars is less change than building new apartment buildings.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 7:15 PM
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Given 91 &c., and any interest in a reading group on Richard Florida's recent book (or a better book covering the same ideas) -

maybe Geoffrey West's Scale? More numbers and less sociology than Florida AFAIK. Possibly they'd be better together.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 8:06 PM
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Florida's office used to be in Squirrel Hill. Probably.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 8:13 PM
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I am sick of transit not because it's unsafe, but because it has gotten so slow and infrequent that it's barely usable, with most trips lately taking double the usual time. It would be easier to get a job in the suburbs and live within a few miles' drive.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 07-10-19 8:15 PM
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117: this is of course the huge advantage of rail/light rail/underground compared to buses that people miss. Yes, buses are more flexible and they are far cheaper to put in place than rail which requires major investment for years. But when the orcs win power they can cancel the bus services. If you're an orc and you want to screw over poor people, you can cancel a bus service at the stroke of a pen - and they do, especially for the rural poor. But once you've got a Tube station, you've got a Tube station, pretty much forever.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 1:03 AM
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118: I think Kreskin lives in my area. We've had two trolley and subway cars derail in the past couple of months. The trains have been underinvested in for 20 years, and they need massive amounts of investment.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 1:43 AM
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63: I believe you, but I encountered three in a single trip; one on the train and the other two at stations.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 2:05 AM
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119: quite - but if you'd only had a bus service it would probably not exist at all now.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 2:06 AM
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120:. Everybody wants to show the tourists a good time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:05 AM
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I don't know which specific activisty people you're talking about LB, but I see some of the communications of this group and I think their objections are that the rezoning is going to threaten existing apartment residents and that any development plans must include affordable housing. Here's a non-broken FB link, although it doesn't do a great job at including one simple, pinned explainer.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:35 AM
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They say it's going to threaten existing apartment residents, but the mechanism is not clear to me -- and when I say not clear to me, I mean after a lot of reading and talking to people about their stuff. The idea is sort of that allowing new buildings will drive up demand more than it will increase supply, and while anything is possible, that would be weird enough to warrant explanation which I'm not seeing.

And of course current development plans do include and require affordable housing -- they seem to want everything new to consist primarily of housing affordable for very low income people, which seems implausible to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 5:06 AM
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And the people I know are good people -- I am genuinely bothered by the fact that I can't make their positions make sense.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 5:08 AM
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Bothered enough to start yelling on the train?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 5:41 AM
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To be honest, after spending 90 minutes gently steaming in the immigration queue at JFK, I was ready to start yelling on the train myself, and the only reason I didn't is that the other dudes started first and it would have looked like I was bandwagoning.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 5:51 AM
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117, 119. As someone who lives in the suburbs of Derailmenton, I can assure you that "a few miles commute" in the suburbs can take you just as long as it would downtown, or longer, depending on where you are heading. In spite of the general belief that everyone commutes into downtown or near it (Nerdbridge, for example), there is a lot of inter-suburb commuting, and our road network is no more rational than our public transit. My commute features a rotating set of volume-related obstructions and never comes near any large city. In fact, a lot of it is pleasant, leafy-green, unobstructed driving if it happens outside working hours (plus or minus two hours) and construction hours (8pm to 5am). That leaves a fairly narrow window for driving without road rage. If you really want to be "a few miles" from your job, be prepared to pay a large fraction of the cost of a downtown apartment.

107. There's a lot of evidence (I think the Boston Globe has had coverage of it) that a lot of the new luxury units are unoccupied investment properties.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:18 AM
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Have you considered moving to Squirrel Hill?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:24 AM
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People talk about $250,000 for a small house in a close-in neighborhood like it's an affront to the middle class.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:27 AM
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128.1 makes a lot of sense for this area---I was thinking more of moving to a different area altogether.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:36 AM
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"I was thinking of moving to a different area."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:08 AM
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There's a lot of evidence (I think the Boston Globe has had coverage of it) that a lot of the new luxury units are unoccupied investment properties.

I find this sort of thing maddening and baffling.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:13 AM
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It's an entirely more wordy way of writing, altogether.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:19 AM
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133: Supposedly, China has a whole cities full of apartments like that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:33 AM
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My small town has grown about 10% in the decade I've been living here, and will grow another 10% in the next. Population in 2020 may be double that of 1990. 2010 population was double that of 1980 -- at the same time as de-industrialization. Who are these people, why are they coming here? They're largely able to draw their income out of the ether -- either never having to be in a big city for work, or can be in a big city less than 10 days a month* -- and can live anywhere they want. And are happy to come buy a bigger house with a bigger yard, close to nice hiking trails, but are making smaller houses with smaller yards unaffordable to people who make their living off the local economy. Transit, other than to the airport, just isn't as much a driver for those folks. And it's hard to see how it would be: even with population growth, is my 8 minute drive downtown to work (I live at the outer edge of town) going to double?

* I don't think commuting to Seattle by air one week a month is what folks hoping to lessen car dependence are hoping for.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:35 AM
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My small town has grown about 10% in the decade I've been living here, and will grow another 10% in the next. Population in 2020 may be double that of 1990. 2010 population was double that of 1980

The maths on this is making my brain hurt.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:37 AM
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Your neighbors seem to be a different class of problem. While it is necessary to change zoning laws to allow dense housing and to support mass transit, it is also necessary to kill and eat the rich.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:39 AM
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I don't want to waste the turkey sandwich I brought in.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:41 AM
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139: Turkey and rich people! Two great tastes that go great together!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:47 AM
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Median household income is 41k. I'd suppose that the people like me who get most of their money somewhere else make it look pretty bi-modal, but even so, the population explosion is because people with fairly ordinary urban incomes can be sort of relatively rich in what is, I suppose, a kind of a suburb.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:50 AM
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They're largely able to draw their income out of the ether -- either never having to be in a big city for work, or can be in a big city less than 10 days a month* -- and can live anywhere they want... * I don't think commuting to Seattle by air one week a month is what folks hoping to lessen car dependence are hoping for.

That sounds like people who are well on the high side of the bimodal distribution. But generally, sure, people who can afford to live in pretty places and don't have to worry about logistics are going to do what they want unless someone stops them, and that's part of the reason why the planet is on fire. Allowing denser housing where people would want to move into it (for lifestyle, logistical, and ecological reasons) won't stop wealthy people from doing what they want. But it might do some good anyway.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:54 AM
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It sounds to me vaguely as if the Somerville thing you want is something like a low-rise office park, but residential.
Edge City says the economic origins of the low-rise office park is land cost: the land is accessible enough to be developer land, which makes it expensive enough that developers have to densify, but not expensive enough that they have to build high-rise. So if you make all land for residential development expensive enough, the developers should Somervillify the place all by themselves.
The logical way to do that is of course a city wall, but just taxes might work too.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:55 AM
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Quebec is the only city in North America with both a wall and a SAS office.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:00 AM
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There is a necessary preliminary step before worrying if the market will produce dense housing: you have to allow it. Again, you can't build a Somerville style house in Somerville anymore, is my understanding. You need a bigger lot and more parking.

Once it's permitted, then you can worry about whether there's a market for it and if it's profitable. But if it's prohibited, it's not going to get built, profitable or not.

It sounds to me vaguely as if the Somerville thing you want is something like a low-rise office park, but residential.

Not very much like an office park. Here's a google maps link: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Somerville,+MA/@42.3940033,-71.1161797,14.5z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x89e377297bf5e165:0x7a907799d8f97b03!8m2!3d42.3875968!4d-71.0994968 Click on street-view and look around and see if office park feels like a good description.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:00 AM
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Our problem is what I think of as being the balkanization of our region - little towns 15-30 minutes apart, but separate identities and city councils and no illusion of coherence. Heebieville is center-left and our school system and one other's have long been eviscerated due to white flight to the neighboring, wealthier whiter, extremely conservative towns. The state funding formula puts a huge amount of emphasis on daily attendance in their funding formula - a bunch of students stayed home one day this spring, after rumors swelled about kids bringing guns on a particular day - and 1100 kids stayed home and the district lost $25k or something. (The formula has a meager, insufficient provision for whether the kids are high-needs or low-needs, but if you can't keep your UMC kids in your district, you lose big time.)

This was all off-topic now that i've written it out. The point is that planning and collective action gets sabotaged easily when it can be undermined by people who just prefer to move to a conservative UMC town and commute.

It's very similar to what Charlie's describing, and also contributes heavily to my POV writing the OP - that plenty of people just happily prefer to be free riders that undermine collective action solutions, and aren't troubled by it because it never crosses their mind that they're doing something that requires consideration.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:04 AM
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There is a necessary preliminary step before worrying if the market will produce dense housing: you have to allow it. Again, you can't build a Somerville style house in Somerville anymore, is my understanding. You need a bigger lot and more parking.

"New Urban Planners" are already heavily pushing this stuff, to the point where Heebieville's boilerplate code we adopted last year has a zoning that requires much more old-city levels of parking, and lots have to be hidden behind the building in ways that encourage walkability, and so on. It's fairly mainstream for any place that has the political will to care about it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:08 AM
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(I love Somerville being the go-to example, since it's where I live, in fact)
I have a friend who set up a Twitter bot to tweet about every lot in Cambridge, next door, and noting whether or not they conform to existing zoning. Most don't, as discussed. https://twitter.com/everylotcambma

To 146: The planning field is aware that balkanization is a big problem - in fact, the name of my wife's graduate program is "Regional Planning" in explicit reference to this, although it's rare in practice for planning to be regional.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:10 AM
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But yeah, it's not like much of this is unknown, just unimplemented. Parking minimums are another related bugaboo; the hot thing in urban-progressive zoning is parking maximums instead.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:11 AM
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145: Low-rise, well-filled lots, ornamental trees. Totally like an office park. The buildings aren't hideous, but that can be fixed.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:11 AM
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Any tree can be ornamental if you try hard enough.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:13 AM
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What I as thinking while reading 145 is that when regulations stand in the way of profit, they eventually give way. Unless there's something truly compelling, like not having rivers catch fire. Or a mismatch between the distribution of benefits and costs -- like how much of a loss in the value of the asset I'm counting on to fund my old age am I willing to take so that (a) some developer can make some money and (b) a bunch of people tired of commuter traffic in Denver can come drive on my road instead.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:13 AM
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The thing I like about Somerville as an example of super-high density (which it really is), is that it's mostly adorable single-family houses on quiet tree-lined streets. While I personally like grim dystopian apartment blocks, we could rewild the entire country that we don't directly need for agriculture and still let people plant flowers in their yards and grill out back.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:14 AM
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The thing that's the absolute worst is new developments with giant houses that are still on big lots, but using up nearly the whole lot, and no trees anywhere. Just barren, soulsucking development. (Or any price-point, really. But sprawl without trees just seems like an actual hellscape.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:22 AM
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152: Right, it comes down to political power, and so far incumbent homeowners who are afraid of small lots and multi-unit dwellings as neighbors have been generally winning all the battles.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:22 AM
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(I'll add, though, that in the local scene, I am very much on the changegood side of things, although changeinevitable is more politically palatable. We had our city council candidate forum on Tuesday, and while there's plenty of thought about what our small town can do about the climate crisis, everyone understands that what we can do on that is very small, in relation to the problem -- we can go along with collective action -- but the more immediate problem is where are we going to put another 10-15% of the population, and how can we mitigate the impact on the people for whom that change is definitely bad.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:23 AM
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but the more immediate problem is where are we going to put another 10-15% of the population,

May I suggest low/midrise apartment buildings with integrated retail? Accompanied by nearby streets of single-family homes on small lots? That wouldn't drive down property values for the rest of you too much if you, I dunno, put a tarp over that side of town and hoped no one noticed it?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:26 AM
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It comes in waves, but a lot of multi-family has been built in the last 3 years. As in a lot of places, though, there's more money to be made in building expensive housing than in cheap housing.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:31 AM
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Ideally, the assholes could be induced to pay for the city wall themselves, for protection from feral Gautemalans or whatever. Then when they want to fly whitely, oh shit there's a wall in the way. Commute unreasonable distances? Wall. Build golf estates? Wall.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:31 AM
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||

Jammies is taking the Texas math certification exam tomorrow, to teach high school math in Texas. This test is the fucking worst. He's been an engineer for the past twenty years, and can answer any of the questions if he just takes the time to reason it out, but there are 100 questions in 4 hours, and if you don't know their dumb tricks, you won't finish in time. It is completely a test of being able to categorize problems into textbook style and helicopter in with the right quick trick. It is the absolute worst thing to incentivize in future math teachers.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:34 AM
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The implicit argument when new development is equated with gentrification is that it only brings in new people, and with an immigrant-to-new-unit ratio of 1:1 or more, meaning it would never relieve rent pressure. Which is kind of ridiculous when you think about it: the main thing that attracts people places is jobs, not specific developments; a friend wondered to me if it might be like highways where the induced demand phenomenon observed is at that 1:1 ratio, but highway use at the margin is near-costless, so it's a quite different situation.

Gentrification happens just as easily without new development - is worse in fact, because rich newcomers will buy up and renovate existing stock, and the filtering effect (where aging development gets less expensive over time) is lessened or eliminated.

Increasingly I think gentrification is something you can't directly legislate away without instituting something like a hukou system. You need tenant protections to keep existing people where they are and supply policies to give everyone more affordable options as they percolate through different situations.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:34 AM
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Our eastern wall: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Ok3EjR3_oQI/UmsLIlHQW5I/AAAAAAAAC3U/WcvweCI3C6o/s1600/sentinel.jpg


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:35 AM
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161.1 -- There's a thing we call the Bozeman paradox -- build a ton of new houses, and you don't get any drop in prices at all. You do get a whole bunch more people from Southern California (and Denver) and then there's nowhere to park anywhere downtown.

BozAngeles.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:39 AM
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161: I think the only solution to gentrification is decent, attractive, humane, plentiful social housing. There's nothing you're going to do in the market that's going to make it possible for poor people to buy a scarce resource that rich people want to buy at a higher price: if you want places for poor and middle-income people to live where they can get to work and so on, you have to build them and subsidize them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:41 AM
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Or subdivide the mansions of the rich after dinner.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:43 AM
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A funny thing about the sort of development I'm shilling for -- dense and walkable -- is that there isn't much in the way of benefit from it until you get very dense. Kind of dense, but there's still no possibility of doing your errands on foot or by mass transit, is ugly and grim compared to sprawlier development with more grass and trees. Density doesn't get attractive and pleasant until you really get all the way to sidewalks and walkable retail.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:52 AM
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People are so opposed to integrated restaurant and retail in neighborhoods. I truly don't understand. The reason they give is that anything will become a crazy late-night bar for college students. They don't see any upside. It's really bizarre.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 9:05 AM
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People are so opposed to integrated restaurant and retail in neighborhoods. I truly don't understand.

It is really odd. "Close to the shops" is a selling point for houses in the UK, and the big housing estates of the 1960s failed, in part, because their architects made them pure residential, without room for shops, pubs, etc. There are huge efforts in small villages to save the village shop or the village pub or whatever rather than have it turned into a house.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 9:13 AM
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In the US, does it maybe all come down to insane, irrational fear of crime left over from when crime was higher? If there is no reason to be on your street unless you live there, you can freak out and call the cops at every unfamiliar face. If there's a corner store, you can't call the cops on every customer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 9:19 AM
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If you make it possible to live somewhere and shop without a car, people who can't afford one car for each adult can't live there. And people who can't afford an adult to serve as a chauffer can't move there if they have kids.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 9:32 AM
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If you make it impossible....


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 9:33 AM
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In the US, does it maybe all come down to insane, irrational fear of crime left over from when crime was higher?

Racism and classism.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:22 AM
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But in people's heads, they're laundering the racism and classism through fear of crime, plausibly. That's the acceptable reason to not want pedestrians heading for retail near you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:29 AM
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And are happy to come buy a bigger house with a bigger yard, close to nice hiking trails, but are making smaller houses with smaller yards unaffordable to people who make their living off the local economy.

Bigger houses do raise the value of neighboring small ones, but there is another trend you are missing in smallish towns like mine. Buy a ranch or cape built in the 50s or 60s, then tear it down and build the largest house you can fit on the lot*. Sell that new house for a Big Profit. That makes any remaining small homes even less affordable.

I've watched a whole streets of small homes be replaced by much larger single-family homes. In one town (somewhat lower median income**) they are being replaced by side-by-side two family homes that are also pretty huge individually. Developers are starting to run out of small homes and instead of a teardown-rebuild, they are "renovating" medium size homes (2k-4k sq. feet) into McMansions, if the lot size will support it.

* Towns in my area are adding bylaws that limit the size of house on a lot, regulating the height, floor area, setbacks from other lots, etc. On a small lot (.1 or .2 acres) it causes the little ranch or cape to be replaced by a mini-McMansion instead of a maxi-McMansion. Also, many lots are narrow but deep, and combined with the max. height bylaw it gets hard to build a really big house on them, so you settle for a mini-Mac.
** Lower median income means worse schools which means lower home prices. Never underestimate the power of a decent school system to raise property values.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:30 AM
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But in people's heads, they're laundering the racism and classism through fear of crime, plausibly. That's the acceptable reason to not want pedestrians heading for retail near you.

The reasons they tend to give in public hearings and letters to the planning and zoning committee are increased traffic and loss of peace and quiet. Plus it will become a 4 am hangout for drunk college students. This last one is truly the all-purpose bogey man, even when it's easily preventable with quiet hours and non-bar purposes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:36 AM
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Bigger houses do raise the value of neighboring small ones, but there is another trend you are missing in smallish towns like mine. Buy a ranch or cape built in the 50s or 60s, then tear it down and build the largest house you can fit on the lot*. Sell that new house for a Big Profit. That makes any remaining small homes even less affordable.

That's what happened after my mom sold her (our? it was the house we lived in when I was in high school) house in Bethesda. OUr elderly (former) neighbor was so upset, because the new owner cut down the old tree to make more room for this huge ugly house.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:39 AM
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That dynamic sounds as if it makes ugly neighborhoods, but also as if it doesn't affect population density one way or the other, right? Same number of families on the same size lots, just in bigger buildings with smaller yards as a proportion of the plot? Or am I misunderstanding?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:42 AM
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The houses in my area are about 1,500 square feet. There are some larger ones, but not many.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:44 AM
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I should really know the square footage of my apartment, and I don't at all. Somewhere around 1000? Maybe?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:48 AM
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176. Same here. I lived in Bethesda as a kid, in a small house with 2 'rents and 3 kids. It was on quite a small lot, was torn down about 5-10 years ago and replaced by a multi-story house in a very modernist style that nearly filled the lot. Last time I looked most of the other small houses were still there. The replacement for my old house looks like the box one of the others came in.

177. That's right. It does little or nothing to increase density. The side-by-side two-family houses I mentioned might do that in some cases.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:50 AM
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There's a thing we call the Bozeman paradox -- build a ton of new houses, and you don't get any drop in prices at all.

Over what period was this observed to happen? (Not to impute that it has yet stopped.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 11:02 AM
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The idea is sort of that allowing new buildings will drive up demand more than it will increase supply

The business newspaper for Puget Sound assumes that's true. That newspaper is aimed at people making that kind of investment, they're not disinterested, but a lot of developers are betting a lot of money that they aren't about to be caught by the end of the boom.

As I understand West et al., this is to be expected in any healthy city (giant asterisk there for healthy), because West argues that denser conglomerations cause more and more specialized jobs. West also says this is likely to continue until physical limits make the cities too unpleasant to live in.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 11:26 AM
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scraper boxes and density -- Seattle has just mostly passed a law making it much easier to build accessory units, backyard cottages and over-the-garages &c, and simultaneously harder to build single much bigger houses in the same zones. I like the compromise, although if job-centralization is the driving force in our real estate the way I suspect it is I don't think it's going to drop housing prices nearly in proportion to the change in supply. But if my watershed is going to lose trees, and my house's passive solar is going to get blocked, I would much rather it was for many households than fewer.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 11:31 AM
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but a lot of developers are betting a lot of money that they aren't about to be caught by the end of the boom.
Developers can make money even if they're not driving prices up, right? That is, if you build an apartment building and sell it for 5% below what apartments in the area are getting per square foot, that's not a loss to you, because you didn't buy the new building at market rates, you built it. So a developer thinking that they can make a profit on new building is not contingent on that new building driving up the prices of existing buildings.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 11:34 AM
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There's a thing we call the Bozeman paradox -- build a ton of new houses, and you don't get any drop in prices at all. You do get a whole bunch more people from Southern California (and Denver) and then there's nowhere to park anywhere downtown.

To follow on 181, I wonder if you agree with the causation imputed there - that the construction is counterproductive or orthogonal-to-solutions because it inherently attracts migrants. I see looking at Census numbers for Gallatin County that housing units went up by 20% from 2010 to 2018, but population went up by 25%, just like you said. But wouldn't a lot of those rich outsiders have been just as able to to buy out existing stock if new construction was less available an option - have come for the natural beauty and COL and so forth, not because the building presented itself to them as a place to live?

In which counterfactual, you may have seen somewhat less migration, sure, but even more displacement and rent rises. Rather like my county, where over the same period we've had a 10% population increase but only a 5% housing increase; or my city, where (switching to state not Census data) it's population +10%, housing +1.5%.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 11:44 AM
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The West argument, which I would like to read through with a bunch of people, is that yes, increasing above-the-API* employment in a city is likely to disproportionately increase the attractiveness to new migrants. I think he kind of implies a bifurcation of cities, that we'll have rich cities that can't grow fast enough and poor cities that can't pay for maintenance and nothing in between. Which would sound too dynamical-systems-201 to be true, but it's what people describe to me from all over the US.

* My mental terminology, though not original to me. `Creative class' is way, way too flattering and friendly.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 12:00 PM
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Asian/Pacific Islander?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 12:21 PM
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The West argument, which I would like to read through with a bunch of people

I'd still be interested in the idea of a reading group.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 1:44 PM
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Remind me of the book title?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 1:47 PM
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Scale (CLew's recommendation, and probably a better on than Florida's book).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 1:48 PM
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Ooh! I have opinions on this! But I'm just barely back from Germany and owe my business at least some attention, and you people have already written a lot.

For the moment I'll just say that I agree completely with Heebie's take, unless the first 190 comments proved it decisively incorrect, in which I case I shake my head at Heebie's wrong-headedness.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 1:50 PM
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We had a NIMBYfail down the street last year. The area is a string of commercial lots adjacent to residential and went gas station-car dealer-restaurant-gas station/used car dealer-mini strip of 4 retail stores-gas station. Then the restaurant closed and sat empty for years and got run down. Finally a developer proposed making it a condo building with ~20 units and the NIMBYs swung into action with "But the new traffic and mah street parking!" (It included 1 underground garage spot/unit plus car share spots but of course NIMBYs assume everyone will have two cars and park the second on the street.) The developer said fuck it and sold the land and now it's... another used car dealer, with a 15 year lease. And the head NIMBY got elected to the city council. Great work everyone.
The city I'm currently visiting is reported as 400 people/sq mile (total pop ~200k) but I suspect the core is much denser. The development is quite odd, it is high density (5-6 story building with ground level commercial, some taller apartment buildings) but when you get to the edge of the city it immediately stops and becomes farmland, then there are clusters of lower density country houses a few miles out in each direction. The lifestyle in the core is extremely non-car dependent. There is a supermarket every few blocks, plus smaller produce stands, sidewalk cafes every block, and an enormous number of things you wouldn't think you need a lot of (dental offices, eyeglass shops, pharmacies). At home we shop in bulk for the week but the culture here is to run out to the grocery store for each day's meals. I'm not sure if it's regulatory or just the market that supports many smaller similar stores vs mega stores in the US. There is minimal public transit- there's a high speed rail station and intercity bus service- but local transit is just 5 bus lines. This year I've noticed many more people riding electric scooters (razor-type) than in the past, I think they're owned not a share service.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 1:58 PM
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what dense walkable housing there is is super expensive This is what people who live in one of the dozen booming, walkable American cities always say, while the 100 non-booming, walkable American cities look on with one of those Twitter meme blank expressions. My personal city has a fairly limited number of truly walkable neighborhoods; only a few of them were super-expensive until just recently, because the economy wasn't great. This is true all over the country. People may choose walkable neighborhoods--thus driving up prices--when all else is equal, but they sure as fuck choose suburbia in a growing city over walkability in a stagnant one. And I'm not talking Youngstown Rust Belt: Pittsburgh was a stable city where you could make a decent living from the early '90s on, which is why I stayed. But people voted with their feet, and their vote was for suburbs elsewhere over walkable here. Walkable is still vastly cheaper here than in the suburbs of other tech hubs, and yet. And the suburbs of here are growing faster than the city, so even people in the same job market are choosing $350k suburban houses over $250k walkable houses.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:03 PM
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30 is a good take, as is 49. Re the latter, I was already planning on noting that Berlin is super-full of cars, despite the fantastic transit and well-developed bike lane system. I actually found Berlin to be a bit unpleasant because of the combo of cars, bikes, and peds, plus e-scooters (which didn't seem like a big problem per se, but were yet another mode to keep track of). And mind you, my urban baseline is Manhattan--my mental model wasn't sleepy Pittsburgh. It varied by neighborhood and block, of course, but we walked 50-some miles in a half-dozen different neighborhoods, and the pedestrian experience was often unpleasant.

What I'm saying is that Berlin has done most of the things that American urbanists advocate, and the result is not a place that is notably light on cars.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:06 PM
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37 is an interesting angle (although it undersells Segways' fundamental dorkiness). I've recently come around on e-bikes myself, and I just saw something pointing out that e-cars aren't really a climate solution, but e-bikes are. But I don't think e-bikes solve a speed problem, they solve a sweat problem. In enlightened topless Europe, they are astonishingly common already.

On the transit/driving safety thing (the feel, not the literal fact, that's been covered), I think it's a category error to treat stopping short bc some other driver did something wrong the same as watching a fight break out on the same subway car. Driving is an activity that includes keeping track of other drivers, while riding on a bus isn't--or shouldn't be--an activity that involves keeping track of the mental states of strangers. Riding transit should mean reading a book while paying just enough attention not to miss your stop, and in its failure to be that (in some times and places), it's falling short in a way that urban/suburban driving, with its inter-driver interactions, isn't. I'm not sure I'm expressing that well.

Oh, and on the "why do you like driving?" question, while actual stop-and-go highway commuting is absolute hell that I cannot imagine tolerating on a regular basis, I enjoy driving a lot, and don't find urban driving unpleasant at all. I'm engaged, I'm making choices, and sometimes I catch a few lights in a row and get that bit of pleasure.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:10 PM
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80 is almost entirely correct. My only small caveat is that I suspect the line about "it's illegal to build Town X in Town X anymore" is often overstated. 1950s zoning codes absolutely did that, but--as noted by H-G--many/most old cities updated their zoning to allow for contextual development--if you're on a lot on a street full of houses 5' from the sidewalk, you can match that; if your lot is narrow, side setbacks get reduced; if the neighbors are 4 stories, you can be, too. At least some of what typifies old urban housing is illegal not from zoning, but from building code--windows within 3' of property lines, eaves within inches of your neighbors', steep staircases that let you pack a lot of house on a 17' lot, etc. Those latter items aren't huge, but they add up--maybe Somerville used to be able to build three 3-flats on a 60' stretch of street, but now that stretch can only accommodate two. All that said, parking requirements are the primary culprit, and are rightly derided. Radically reduce minimums, tax street parking heavily, and put the $$ towards transit.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:12 PM
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The idea is sort of that allowing new buildings will drive up demand more than it will increase supply, and while anything is possible, that would be weird enough to warrant explanation which I'm not seeing.

FWIW, this is a documented dynamic. I don't think it's what inevitably happens, and there's debate on the topic, but these people aren't delusional. And I think it's easier to envision if you live in a (basically) sleepy backwater like Inwood: the idea is that part of the reason it's still Manhattan-affordable is that there's no buzz, a low profile. But if developers (boo, hiss) start putting in new apartments, with all the attendant amenity-chasing (a private gym in each building!) and advertising, Inwood could see a boom. Like I say, no guarantee, but IMO not delusional.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:13 PM
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Semi-OT: I have been annoyed for the last couple of years by the illegal AirBNB next door, which is often rented to large groups that love to party on weeknights when the rest of the neighborhood is trying to sleep. A new city ordinance cracking down on these things (which are far worse in some neighborhoods than they are in mine) goes into effect next month, so I was searching up information in case I decide to report them to the city before one of my neighbors does. Which of course causes Facebook to serve me ads for the obnoxious AirBNB that I want shut down. Sigh.


Posted by: DaveLHI | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:17 PM
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Rent it and shit in air ducts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:20 PM
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Good thought, but I'm pretty sure the owners can out-obnoxious me, so I don't want to start that war.

Not sure why, but Honolulu really sucks at urbanism. Lousy zoning enforcement enables vacation rentals and hideously ugly quasi-duplexes, not anything that might actually make sense, and our shiny new walkable urban paradise part of town is all bazillion dollar condos that nobody lives in most of the time. But the weather's good and it's kind of pretty, so we've got that going for us.


Posted by: DaveLHI | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:26 PM
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the line about "it's illegal to build Town X in Town X anymore" is often overstated.

Maybe in your areas, but not in the SF Bay. The planning code for the RM-1 zone covering the few blocks around where I live says multifamily housing is prohibited and duplexes are allowed with conditional approval only; max wall height 25 feet; but there's like a dozen 3-to-5-story apartment buildings scattered across in the same area.

For us locally, this downzoning isn't so much a relic of past development patterns as it was an explicit attempt to halt development back in the 70's and 80's - before things were more permissive. (Oh no, "ticky tacky houses", they said! And made sure to grandfather existing construction that was suddenly no longer legal.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:38 PM
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Meanwhile, my baseline objection to this sort of thing is that it handwaves away the fact that, literally, suburbs are as old as cities. Ur had fucking suburbs. Here's a quote from 539 BC:

Our property seems to me the most beautiful in the world. It is so close to Baylon that we enjoy all the advantages of the city, and yet when we come home we are away from all the noise and dust.
I don't think that person was being duped by Big Oil or skewed financial incentives.

That said, I very much agree with the upthread discussion about the level of density required to support walkability, that it needn't be Manhattan-dense*, and that in fact you can accommodate single family housing in a blend with multi-. One of the prettiest streets in Pittsburgh IMO is where I was living when I met AB--a blend of SFHs, rows, and small apartment buildings, tree-lined with small yards, nothing over 3 stories, and a ton of architectural variety. If you put one of those dull-but-economically-efficient 5+1 apartment blocks facing an arterial, back it with an alley, then put a couple blocks like that street behind it, you basically create a 250' x 1000' unit that has ~400 housing units, all within 1/4 mile of the main drag. Density is 90k/sq mi. Now, there's no schools, churches, or parks in that scheme, but you get the idea.

*Most interesting thing about Berlin, from an urban POV? The complete absence of SFH of any size, including rows. Other than former villas converted to multifamily, almost literally all I saw** was ~5 story apartment blocks, even in relatively suburban Charlottenburg. For all that, it's a pretty green city, although I find the Germans are good at that at all scales of urbanism. I actually did not experience Somerville as an especially leafy place--when AB took me on a ~5 mile tour of her old haunts a couple years ago, it struck me as being more like Pittsburgh's old working class neighborhoods--small houses, tightly packed, with a lot of streets with only a few trees. One neighborhood here we liked by location and amenity--the one with the really nice street--was mostly not an option when we were buying, because 2/3 of it is just paved (some of that is weird Italian-American gardening preferences--tomatoes in the back, gravel in the front).

**neighborhoods walked through: Neukölln (where we stayed), Kreuzberg, Friedrichhain, Alt-Treptow, Spandauer Vorstadt, Zentrum, Charlottenburg


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:38 PM
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201: Yeah, the Bay Area is all sorts of fucked for zoning.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:40 PM
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Bloomfield is deeply committed to its own aesthetic.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:42 PM
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Greenfield is deeply committed to something. Either way, both of them have greatly delayed gentrification despite a perfect location by virtue of being just ugly enough to make renovation too costly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 4:44 PM
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Cloverfield is deeply committed to covering up aliens.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:08 PM
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I hear you about the idea that building new buildings could spark a boom. But here? We're in Manhattan. People know the neighborhood is here. People who've moved into my building in the last decade are very well off. The idea that rents will stay low in Inwood if we don't attract attention seems to not reflect reality.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:25 PM
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And on transit feeling unsafe, isn't it all what you're used to? Paying peripheral attention to someone shouting at the other end of a subway car doesn't feel like a safety issue to me, because I've heard a lot of people shout in my life, and none of them have hurt me yet. Stopping short in a car to avoid an accident, on the other hand, gives me a momentary flash of thinking about the possibility of actual death.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:32 PM
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I've certainly crashed into a couple of things in a car and been crashed into a couple of times. Also, I don't know anybody who died on the bus and I know more than a few who have died in a car crash.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:37 PM
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206: No spoiler alert?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:38 PM
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At least some of what typifies old urban housing is illegal not from zoning, but from building code

A chunk of which is either fire safety or accessibility, so only to be reverted very carefully. (One of the rowhouse and apartment layouts I really like has a central stairwell under a big skylight, and transoms into the lightwell from all the doors; but I'm told this is basically unbuildable in the US as a fire hazard. Though we get townhouses with big atrium staircases, surely the same risk.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:42 PM
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What's the fire risk? Somebody will put a big magnifying glass on the skylight?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:44 PM
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It's hard to determine causality in the where developers build and rising prices. My experience from having been a gentrifier in a few neighborhoods is that we and our other gentrifier-neighbors were moving to those neighborhoods because of price pressures, not because there were new apts coming up nearby. In fact, I don't remember any new apts being built in the last two nbds I lived in LA as a gentrifier---probably because zoning and nimbys made them impossible. Certainly, we can't rule out that developers' *marketing* led us to desire those particular neighborhoods, over and above price points. But in general, developers are going to go where the demand is; they're also going to try and generate demand for their products on top of existing demand. Increase in demand is likely to coincide temporally and spatially with developer interest, so disentangling the causality is going to be difficult.

Having lived in a city where 19 people moved into the city for every 1 unit built, though (and not a post-industrial city with lots of empty housing; so yeah homelessness crisis and all that), I think there are some clear-cut situations where more apts are a good thing.


Posted by: Ponder Stibbons | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 6:58 PM
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I should have participated in the gentrification of Lawrenceville, but it seemed like too much work at the time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:27 PM
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Here undergrads have a pretty clearly defined radius that drunk students seldom wander outside of, so once you're outside that radius there's very little risk of commercial development becoming loud student bars. Weirdly they'll live in a bigger radius, but I think that involves shuttle busses run by apartment complexes. All the angst is about student apartment complexes, because students are so much richer than anyone who is not faculty and so all new development is shoddily-constructed luxury student apartment buildings.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:44 PM
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194: Huh, I wonder if this has changed in the last ten years. My memory of Berlin 2007 and 2009 (also based in Neukölln) is that sure, cars were present, and I suppose more so if you were walking along a main artery, but I don't recall traffic being at all oppressive, and certainly not to a degree that would obscure the main amazement of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn being transit systems that were actually fucking functional.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:45 PM
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The main thing I remember out Berlin is all the people selling extremely dubious looking pieces of Der Wall. That paint looked like it was put on the cement right before the hammer hit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 7:51 PM
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Not sure why, but Honolulu really sucks at urbanism.

I used to bike commute from Waikiki to Fort Street Mall back in the late 90's. Kapiolani Blvd was merciless, it was a street dedicated to enabling cars to get across town as quick as possible - no accommodation for bikes whatsoever. its a miracle I never got hit by a car except for that one time.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:12 PM
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Given that "der Wall" means something like "the rampart," those guys might have had a completely different urban planning regime in mind.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 8:58 PM
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I find the car-centrism of the SF Bay Area makes for a sadly not post-apocalyptic hellscape, and obviously I prefer dense environments well-served by transit, but I was thinking earlier reading this thread that every couple of months felt low as an estimate for my experience of people being problematic on transit, and then in fact I got sexually harassed tonight on the train.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 9:16 PM
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210: I've never seen it.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 9:38 PM
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218: Yeah, I basically gave up bicycles when I moved here. It's maybe a little better now, but still bad, and in the 90s it seemed like everyone I knew who rode much had been hurt badly at some point.


Posted by: DaveLHI | Link to this comment | 07-11-19 10:37 PM
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212: It's a giant chimney directly connected to every level and most rooms, while also being the main or only means of egress.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 2:23 AM
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223: this is basically the layout of pretty much every tenement block in Scotland before high-rises came along. Stone construction's safer than wood, though - even the landings and staircase treads and risers were flagstone, and the railings were iron, so there's not much fuel load in the stairwell. (And, I suppose, tenement fires were a common thing.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 2:46 AM
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We just purchased an electric-assist cargo bike so that it's easier to commute with the kids. The electric bike is in fact pretty amazing. And the cargo bike, making it convenient to carry kids or large packages on a bike? Really very nice. They're not cheap (closer to a second-hand car than a "normal" bike) but they solve several problems that keep people from biking. In our house this will cut most of the car trips, and mean that we're all biking to work most days.

The downside remains that even here in Europe, the roads prioritize cars. I had to bike a less-common route the other day and had to share the road with massive delivery trucks, buses etc - that's all terrifying and much more so when you are carrying kids (I wasn't).

There was a study I read about recently where they looked at why more men than women were biking, and the reasons were
- women were bringing kids to school or daycare
- perceived danger
- women feel pressured to dress for work in ways that aren't compatible with biking
- women were more likely to want to take advantage of a trip to run several errands, harder to do on a bike


Posted by: parodie | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 3:00 AM
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224: Similarly Germany, taken advantage of by Bomber Command?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 3:29 AM
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225: Women are probably actually safer on busy roads than men, because drivers tend to give them more space when overtaking. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/5334208.stm


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 3:37 AM
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In terms of groceries and the number of trips you have to make if you're not relying on a car, I wonder how things like Instacart are affecting this. I do like picking out produce for myself, but I'd be thrilled to have a milkman deliver eggs and milk once a week, and I already get paper towels and other bulky dry goods delivered once a month to avoid the trip to Costco. That's more about time saved than an environmental ethic.

We don't have a ton of storage space. In fact, we have a small rented storage locker, but we make it work.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 4:07 AM
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225- we bought one ebike and probably will get another from a company that has oddly low prices compared to all the others I've seen, but I've ridden my long tail ebike 2000 miles since I got it a year ago and the only problem has been brakes wearing out relatively fast. Rad power cycles, don't know if they ship to Europe.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 4:15 AM
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228: it occasionally becomes really obvious that the future of shopping is much like its 19th century middle-class past. You didn't go to the butcher's; you sent an order, and the butcher's boy would deliver.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 5:03 AM
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When I was growing up, milk was delivered and we bought beef by the side, frozen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 5:29 AM
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Eventually we stopped that because there are parts of a side of beef that were a pain to cook.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 5:34 AM
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And the milk delivery people went out of business.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 5:38 AM
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210 to 209.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 5:58 AM
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202: There is a good bit of single-family housing in Berlin, but as far as I know (less familiar with the north side of town) pretty much all of it is well outside the Ringbahn, and thus effectively invisible to short-term visitors. Plenty of people commute in from nearby parts of Brandenburg, too, where there's even more single-family homes.

As for cars, Berlin is more polycentric than other big German cities, so there's not a single urban center that's been pedestrianized and hence more traffic encountered by visitors. Although I was in Frankfurt last week, and except for the very center, there were lots of cars. I think that the main difference in having a functional transit system plus density etc. is that the city is not paralyzed by car traffic, even though you still have plenty of it. Of course, past a certain population that breaks down anyway; Moscow's transit is amazing (pre-1am, at least) and traffic there, even on the monumental boulevards built to Russian scale, is at a standstill.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 6:09 AM
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They say you can't build your way out of traffic congestion.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 6:13 AM
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I'd consider reading Scale, but not Florida.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 6:15 AM
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I'm not reading either, but I'm more not reading Florida. I night go back to my Spanish Civil War book.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 6:30 AM
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I still not to finish an Antarctica book and a Manstein book. This past month or so has been just a dead loss. Literally falling asleep on trains. Ridiculous.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 6:43 AM
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227: The logical conclusion of that article is that bicyclists should wear wigs instead of helmets.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 6:47 AM
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The (a) depressing thing about inadequate mass transit is this -- buses and trains that don't come often enough or go enough places are very much less desirable and less useful, so they get used less, so it never seems on the basis of usage numbers that the system ought to add capacity, and everything goes on sucking forever. Signed, a sad person who covets the trams of Oslo.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 6:49 AM
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As if they're mutually exclusive.


Posted by: Opinionated Centurion | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 6:51 AM
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241: Don't you guys have some newer BRT or something?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 6:55 AM
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A great deal of this modern on-demand delivery infrastructure has been created in the wake of the 2008 crisis and subsequent slow employment recovery; I keep wondering how much it will continue to exist when/if the economy truly heats up.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:09 AM
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I think we should all read Marco d'Eramo's "The Pig and the Skyscraper", because I bought it a year ago during Verso's super sale and haven't read it yet.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:09 AM
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242: Well, of course, you could wear a wig and a helmet, but the research in the article suggests you're safer with just a wig.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:27 AM
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245 I'm avoiding reading anything about the President.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:27 AM
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Speaking of helmets, I landed on mine a while back. Hard enough to get some dirt packed into the vent holes. How serious is the 'you have to buy a new helmet if you crash with it' thing?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:30 AM
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The helmet has already given its life for you. Making it continue to serve as a zombie is just cruel.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:38 AM
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|| Two quick observations from the tpm live blog of the oral argument in the Trump accountant subpoena case: (a) Trump's lawyer says the court shouldn't just look at the stated purposes for the subpoenas, but should also look at stray statements from various members of Congress to see what the real intent of the subpoena is -- I guess they don't believe they won the travel ban case either and (b) Trump lawyer says House memo doesn't say X, judge pulls up copy of memo, reads X -- I've watched this happen to an opponent, and man is there no easier way to lose a case.

Trump's argument about Executive immunity from any and all oversight is pretty frightening. Too much for Roberts, I would bet, if the DC Circuit rules against Trump, and the SC ends up taking the case. |>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:39 AM
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I'm still waiting for someone to hit it big with something resembling electric golf carts or tuktuks for city driving with kids and freight. But with car ownership and VMT going back up, that might not be till another recession or a gas crunch.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:53 AM
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250: Yeah, wow.

"Imagine, in the future, you have the most corrupt president in humankind, openly flaunting it, what law could Congress pass?" Judge Millett asks.
Consovoy: "I think it's very hard to think of one."

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 8:08 AM
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185 very last -- The stats on pop and housing in your city are amazing. I don't regard the country, Gallatin County, or Alameda County as "full" -- but your city does seem pretty well occupied. To the point where a whole lot of buildings have to be knocked down to build a whole lot of housing to keep up with that kind of growth.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 8:10 AM
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Speaking of Berlin trying to reduce car traffic

I'm still waiting for someone to hit it big with something resembling electric golf carts or tuktuks for city driving with kids and freight

You could buy a milk float.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 8:16 AM
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There used to be a small recycling company which collected stuff using converted milk floats. Obviously they were crushed by Veolia.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 8:29 AM
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(sound all American commenters looking up "milk float" in unison)


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 8:37 AM
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I already knew because I'm very cosmopolitan.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 8:46 AM
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I don't know what a milk float is but I recall some stat that CO2 emissions per lb of goods shipped goes truck > rail >> barge so maybe there's an argument for building canals everywhere.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 8:47 AM
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It's like a root beer float if you replaced the glass with a small truck, the ice cream with milk, and the root beer with an electric motor.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 8:51 AM
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There used to be a small recycling company which collected stuff using converted milk floats. Obviously they were crushed by Veolia.

Where did they send them for recycling after being crushed?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:14 AM
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I'm still waiting for someone to hit it big with something resembling electric golf carts or tuktuks for city driving with kids and freight
The local version of this is actually the scooter, electrification of which is under way.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:15 AM
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To the point where a whole lot of buildings have to be knocked down to build a whole lot of housing to keep up with that kind of growth.

I don't completely agree with that. Certainly, one thing we need to do for carbon reduction is take the low-density, high-income areas in the vicinity of transit - Rockridge, North Berkeley - and upzone them aggressively, so yes, that does mean demolishing some housing. But there's also a tremendous amount of criminally underutilized centrally located space - surface parking lots, empty industrial/warehouse/retail, even vacant lots - that can be a big part of the solution. Actually updating tax assessments on commercial property ("split-roll", on the ballot next year) might help realign incentives some in that direction. Further south in the same county, there are 100 acres taken by eminent domain decades ago in anticipation of a highway extension that are only just now being allocated for residential construction.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:17 AM
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I guess you said knocking down buildings, and I named some buildings that need to go, or at least be converted. But a lot of it is either vacant or badly used.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:20 AM
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Canals, being flat, calm and easily delineated, would be ideal routes for small unmanned electric-powered cargo ekranoplans. The locks are the only issue but they could fly down concrete ramps at the sides.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:26 AM
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How small can a vehicle be and still enjoy the ground-effect boost? Could you make one two meters wide so it might fit in Regents Canal?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:31 AM
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Ground effect presumably will be enhanced by the canal walls.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:39 AM
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Canals, being flat, calm and easily delineated, would be ideal routes for small unmanned electric-powered cargo ekranoplans. The locks are the only issue but they could fly down concrete ramps at the sides.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:41 AM
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A problem with deep study of Soviet technology is the unintentional adoption by the student, as if by osmosis, of Soviet habits of communication and response to challenge.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:47 AM
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Cover the canal and you have a rectangular hyperloop.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:52 AM
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Dump salt in the water and you have a third rail.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 9:54 AM
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248: AFAIK, it's pretty serious advice. The one time I had a serious helmet impact (coming home on a brand new bike, as it happened), I returned immediately to the bike store and bought a new one.

Among other things, the impact-protection structure of helmets is impossible to inspect, so it's not as if you can assess, which means erring on the side of safety. And of course you never know if the next time you need protection will be the time you need every bit the helmet can offer. IOW, even a 10% reduction in capacity could be disastrous.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 10:42 AM
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Small ekranoplans are perfectly possible. The ground effect only works less than half a wingspan above the surface. But seabirds use it so a canaloplan is entirely feasible.


Posted by: Ajay | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 10:57 AM
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251: I hadn't realized that Europe now has tiny, one-seat cars. I don't actually know who makes them*, but they essentially look like somebody reduced a Smart ForTwo to a one-seater--tall and narrow, 4 wheels, not just an enclosed motorbike or whatever.

I've been thinking recently that a free cargo e-bike to every household would be one way to radically reduce VMT and enable people to reduce car ownership and reevaluate a lot of lifestyle choices. I don't think it's feasible for my family to eliminate care ownership entirely, but there are definitely weeks that the only car trip taken is shopping in the Strip, which I can't do on a regular touring bike with panniers except on relatively light shopping trips. And even then, it's a bear pulling 25+ lbs of groceries up Liberty Ave.

*I think I saw at least 2 models, and one of them may have been from Seat, the Spanish car company. Or not.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 10:57 AM
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||

Whichever one of you shared the O.L.D.I.E.S. mix, "Gong, Gong - I'm Blue" just popped up on shuffle.

|>


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 11:00 AM
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Yesterday I got so caught up in responding to previous comments that I forgot to get to my initial point of annoyance with the linked article: the bit about the 85% rule. This has evidently become something of a hobbyhorse among anti-car activists, and I find it almost entirely wrongheaded.

In brief, the 85% rule should be celebrated as rule making that is driven by human behavior and informal norms rather than arbitrary standards. The author's bit about how the speed limit could be raised simply by more people exceeding it is absurd twice over: first of all, it's not as if governments are constantly monitoring roads to see if the posted limits match the 85% rule, but more important, the reason the 85% rule works is that people drive predictably and consistently. If a road's design doesn't change, people will drive the same speed on it.

And that gets to why people who rail against the 85% rule are deeply misguided: vehicle speed is determined primarily by road design, not posted limits. Without stringent enforcement, it's all but impossible to make people drive at a speed significantly below the design speed. The posted limit might have an effect*, but it will be marginal. If you put a 35 mph limit on a 2 mile stretch of divided road with wide lanes and no intersections or driveways, people will completely ignore it and go 50 or 60 or whatever. Put that same limit on a 32' wide street with driveways and street parking on both sides, and people will also ignore the limit and go 20 mph or so.

Which is to say that the 85% rule isn't even a little bit to blame for Americans driving too fast. The blame lies almost entirely with road design, with additional blame on driver education and enforcement.

*I'd forgotten two things about driving in Germany: how frequently, and sometimes subtly, speed limits change, and how stringently people obey them. In the States, if a highway limit goes from 65 to 55, people will gradually ease off to reduce speed, but on the Autobahn, most cars are taking active measures to get from 100 to 80 within a couple hundred yards. So if the entire automotive culture is about stringent rule-following, then you can get pretty good results with posted limits. But that's nothing to do with the 85% rule, it's about driver education and enforcement programs.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 11:22 AM
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redfoxtailshrub!

The (a) depressing thing about inadequate mass transit is this -- buses and trains that don't come often enough or go enough places are very much less desirable and less useful, so they get used less, so it never seems on the basis of usage numbers that the system ought to add capacity, and everything goes on sucking forever. Signed, a sad person who covets the trams of Oslo.

Our local government had this problem so a couple years ago they did a huge restructuring of the bus system, eliminating a lot of lower-usage routes to focus on more frequent service in the areas with heaviest bus use. Anecdotally, at least, ridership seems to be way up on the remaining routes, and they're starting to talk about (slowly) expanding service back out again.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 11:25 AM
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275: I was recently in France, and was amazed by the way speed limits closely tracked road design. Within the town I was in, the limits were rarely above 30 km/h (18 mph), and were often 20 km/h (12 mph) on narrower streets. Those streets were very much designed to slow drivers down: narrow lanes, tight turning radii, raised pedestrian crossings, lots of 'furniture' (bump-outs, islands, bollards, etc). But once we got out of the towns onto highways, the speed limits rose almost immediately as the design changed. Anything divided-- even with at grade crossing intersections-- was 110 km/h (68 mph), and full multi-lane divided highways with on- and off-ramps were 130 km/h (80 mph). So the range of limits I would see in a 30 minute drive went from 20 to 130. On comparable Canadian roads, the range is from 50 to 100. Unsurprisingly, far fewer people exceeded the limits. I loved it. Driving was far more enjoyable than it is here.


Posted by: MattD | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 11:52 AM
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vehicle speed is determined primarily by road design, not posted limits.

That reminds me of Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic, which is very light-weight science writing, but quite readable, and a book I'd recommend.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 12:02 PM
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263 -- Yeah, I was thinking of all kinds of buildings. And googled Heskett's Carpet Coliseum to see if it's still there, because the commercials were annoying enough to lead to demolition on those grounds alone, and, hey, there's a whole story from after I left the BA. http://www.sfweekly.com/news/yesterdays-crimes-the-carpet-king-of-crime/


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 12:10 PM
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233: Because driving to the supermarket was so attractive, but it's less attractive when you have 3 full time workers and cut back to one car.

244: NW - I don't do Instant Costco orders. I just get things shipped. I know when I'm going to run out of paper towels and toilet paper and place an order in advance. It's the same as a mail order catalogue.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 12:14 PM
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Late to the thread, this actually interested me but today was a bit rough, sorry, but I wanted to respond to 48.

You could have the most transit-friendly place in the world, and we will still have to deal with people who heavily value the privacy/safety or the toting-stuff aspect of cars, is what I'm trying to say. I would prefer to have that problem rather than our current problem, but I think we have to be real about it.

True, but it's not like it's an either/or, always-cars-or-never-cars thing. Cassandane, Atossa, and I probably are in a car two or three days a month, split roughly evenly between taxis, Car2Gos (rentals by the minute we can park anywhere in DC), and more traditional rentals. The rest of the time we get around by bus, bike, or foot. I'm pretty sure it's the most economical style for us personally, and I'm pretty sure we count as non-car-owners in most ways that matter (greenhouse gas emissions, fitness, shopping habits, school and commute choices, use of the local transit system, etc.).

Traveling long distances is a bigger factor than privacy/safety for us. I'd agree that getting the kid around is a big issue sometimes. Two or three friends have expressed surprise at how we do it, but then, we only have one kid, unlike them. And I'm not saying we'll never get a car. But we've managed to get our safety and toting-stuff needs med without one so far, FWIW.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 1:23 PM
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Two or three friends have expressed surprise at how we do it

On getting kids around, I think it's hard for people who lead car-centric lives to grasp how young you can get kids to be pretty effective pedestrians. It takes a couple of years, but if it's just your normal daily life, you can get a five-year-old walking a couple of miles at an ordinary adult pace as a matter of routine. Atossa is maybe a little young yet to be walking that much, but she's not far off.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 1:32 PM
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I think it's hard for people who lead car-centric lives to grasp how young you can get kids to be pretty effective pedestrians

For many of the truly car-centric it's hard to grasp that adults can be effective pedestrians.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 1:45 PM
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Yeah, I said five because that was around the age when I realized that my visiting inlaws, rather than my kids, were the limiting factor in where we could walk. It's definitely a specific type of fitness -- even young healthy people who exercise and are generally fit get tired walking fast if they don't have occasion to do it a lot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 1:50 PM
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||

I don't know which is funnier, the process itself or that GE made a video to document it (and that the voice actor was able to maintain the "calm, helpful" demeanor throughout.

|>


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 2:02 PM
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285: GE, Good Enough. (We have an absolutely delightful GE engineer I often work with. His boss apparently was not big on oversight because his phone signature is "Sent from my Batphone" and his business card lists him as a "Rocket Surgeon.")


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 3:09 PM
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195, 225: interesting. I find ebikes and scooters really annoying, but if they really make that much of a difference, I'll try to suck it up.

282, 284: Agreed. I'm pretty sure Atossa's attention span is a bigger problem on long walks than her physical stamina.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 3:14 PM
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285: They should call it a 'cheat code' and then nobody would think it odd.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 4:48 PM
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We bought our first house today--a townhome in a suburb, but with a nice, big shopping center within walking distance.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 5:45 PM
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Ah, the days when I schlepped groceries up Liberty Ave on a touring bike. I don't think I'll get good at hills again until I move back to Pgh


Posted by: Ponder Stibbons | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 5:49 PM
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289: Congrats.
290: Large portions of Liberty Avenue are now adjacent to really expensive houses.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:00 PM
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Congrats J. Robot!! It is amazing to have that unconscious pressure of renting removed (and replaced by other pressures, yes, but I think it's a real change). I hope all the other players involved treat you decently (lenders, contractors, HOA, neighbors, whatever).

Hey, how much is too much for a person to pay for a) any new bike, b) a new kinda-sorta-entry-level mountain bike for trail riding? Asking for a friend who doesn't want you to take the question all that seriously. This friend loves luxury goods but is sincerely guilt-ridden and capable of walking away.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:11 PM
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Don't pay more than it costs to buy bolt cutters and a mask.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:13 PM
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It's hard not to arouse suspicion when you keep prowling around cutting bikes loose, test-riding them briefly, and then returning them to the rack, though.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:20 PM
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Go to a dealer and test ride all the models you are likely to find on bike racks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:25 PM
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292: Today was a nightmare because the seller, a few hours before closing, told our lawyer that she actually didn't have enough cash to pay off the past-due HOA fees (which had already been reduced). It looked like the sale wasn't going to happen at all, but the realtors reduced their commissions and the seller found a spare thousand dollars somewhere, and after signing a boatload of paperwork we bought the damn thing. I just home the place is actually in as good shape as the inspector seemed to believe.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:29 PM
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Inspectors usually know what they are doing. But there's always something. Googling home repair instructions has been pretty effective for me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 7:54 PM
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296. Holy! I'm glad it all worked out, but that must have been anxiety provoking.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 10:10 PM
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On getting kids around, I think it's hard for people who lead car-centric lives to grasp how young you can get kids to be pretty effective pedestrians.

I was raised in a non-car environment and absolutely agree. Though when my grandmother was old and complained that I walked too quickly I couldn't help thinking of the times when I was a pre-schoooler and she held my hand while walking and I had to hurry to match her pace.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 07-12-19 10:16 PM
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Can somebody explain to me the rationale behind HOAs?

299. I remember when friends of mine had twin toddlers, and said toddlers were having a major meltdown on the London Underground. Their mother said, "Come on, we're getting off next stop," and they immediately snapped out of it and went through the drill of getting strapped into their buggy without a word of complaint, and their parents got them of the train with no problem at all.

And as soon as they were safely on the platform they reverted to full meltdown mode.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 4:49 AM
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HOAs are effectively local government outsourcing responsibilities to a private organization. The developer of a complex or neighborhood makes a deal with the municipality, where the HOA will handle/pay for some things that are typically municipal responsibilities - sewer lines, road repair, that sort of thing. This makes the development more attractive to the municipality, because those expenses are now off their books.

In practice, you get all of the overbearing nature of local government and none of the protections that typically go with interacting with government (due process, transparency/FOIA, etc).


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 5:49 AM
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I don't know, but I think my HOA may be more typical. It's not doing any ordinarily municipal functions. I live in a development put together in the 90s: we are within the city, barely, and so the city provides roads and sewer. We also have fairly extensive covenants, ie contract provisions written in to the subdivision documents and now included in every deed -- you can't run a business from your house; you had to plant 6 trees in the first 2 years after the house was built (I think those numbers might be right); the development includes fairly extensive common land that can never be developed, but needs basic maintenance (clearing trails in the forest area along the creek bottom, spraying invasive weeds on the hillsides); no boats or RVs in driveways; no more than 2 dogs per household; houses have to be painted certain colors; no fences in the front, limits to type and size of fences in the rear -- that's what I can recall off the top of my head. Anyway, every year we elect a small number of homeowners to the body that has the responsibility of enforcing this stuff (including approving the color you want to paint your house).

Ultimately, these rules are a matter of contract, and would be enforceable by injunction. In practice, people mostly just try to get along, and don't make a big deal about transient violations. Most of the HOA's effort goes into trying the get rid of invasive weeds in the common areas, and exhorting people to comply with the city's rules on not putting out your trash the night before pickup in special bear zones (as we are). They hired a professional logger to thin some of out forest with an eye to limiting wildfire -- this was done well.

Oh, we're limited to single family homes with no ADUs. Probably have to mow the lawn regularly.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 6:24 AM
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For townhouses, the one I lived in when in Durham was responsible for all the exterior stuff. So, the HOA covered your roofing, painting, and that kind of stuff. The debate about whether or not the one guy had deliberately trimmed a shrub to look like a penis or not was handled informally.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 6:26 AM
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I think that made it a town house that was also a condominium.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 6:30 AM
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Topically, it was about a ten minute drive to my office. Google maps says it 75 minutes by bus. I don't know if there was a bus when I was there. I don't recall seeing any in my part of town.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 6:36 AM
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There are city regulations about putting out your trash and not enough people follow them. Maybe if we imported some bears?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 6:43 AM
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Rabid raccoon regulation.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 6:47 AM
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A raccoon, probably, ate my moldy bread after I decided not to eat but the pieces I had already toasted.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 6:55 AM
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Our new HOA is responsible for landscaping, sidewalks, street repair, and snow removal. I'm sure there are rules about paint color, but I haven't gotten around to reading the rules yet. The townhouse is not legally a condominium, so we're still responsible for the roof and siding.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 6:59 AM
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It's always better to have the HOA trim the shrubs to look like penises because they can hire experienced workers more easily.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 7:08 AM
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309 -- They own the streets, sidewalks, and, I guess, the front yards, then?

Our snow removal is governed by city ordinance -- the homeowner has to clear the sidewalk by X a.m. There's a fine if you don't -- they were talking about raising it last winter, but I don't know how that turned out. My street has a sidewalk only on one side - and man do the folks on the sidewalk side resent the hell out of us on the non-sidewalk side, on a whole lot of winter mornings.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 8:01 AM
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It would probably be nice to step across the street and shovel the walk every now and then.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 8:19 AM
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We don't really have front yards as such, but we do have some common green spaces. Our house has a nice big deck I can grow my own planters on, and it appears that a lot of people appropriate roughly five square yards of green space behind their homes to grow vegetables in pots. The whole development is townhomes, though AFAICT there were multiple builders involved.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 8:40 AM
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I tried to grow tomatoes, pumpkins, and eggplants in pots behind my house. The groundhogs ate the tomato plants and the eggplant plants. It turns out that pumpkins can't be grown in pots because they like to spread.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 8:53 AM
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OT: If I got a receipt for an airplane ticket I didn't buy, do I need to worry? I think somebody with the same name as me just gave the wrong email address. The receipt has enough information to see that it wasn't my credit card used to pay.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 10:23 AM
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You could try telling the airline you've lost your ticket and waving the receipt to get a new one. But only if it's to somewhere you want to go.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 10:43 AM
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You're in the first act of a Hitchcock movie. Delete the email and move house.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 10:49 AM
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I guess I wouldn't mind seeing Providence, but the trip starts in Indiana.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 10:55 AM
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Where the old world shadows hang heavy in the air. You can pack your hopes and dream like a refugee.


Posted by: Opinionated Don Henley | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 11:19 AM
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You don't have to dream like a refugee.


Posted by: Opinionated Tom Petty | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 11:20 AM
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Yes. I always dreamed like a jellyfish.


Posted by: Opinionated H.P. Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 11:23 AM
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I also got hotel receipts from Belfast, but I'm pretty sure that's a different person. My name is pretty common.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 3:21 PM
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That reminds me, I was going to bring up Van Morrison in the other thread.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 4:45 PM
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Speaking of music, I feel that somebody should have told me about Florence and the Machine before now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 5:08 PM
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Maybe somebody who shares my name works for Buttigieg?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 7:37 PM
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Florence and the Machine is great. You shouldd try her/it/them.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 8:15 PM
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I thought it was just a Mike and the Mechanics cover band.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 8:20 PM
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||

LNA launched Operation End of Treachery July 1 after a GNA ground offensive
|>


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 07-13-19 8:54 PM
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OT: This is happening. It's a little late in the season, but I was more busier in the spring.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 12:35 PM
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Awesome! Let me know how they come out


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 1:24 PM
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That was me, obvs


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 1:24 PM
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That just didn't work at all. I waited too late in the year I think. The petals didn't soften even when cooked for close to an hour. They were way to hard, so it was like eating cheese-y bread crumbs off a spoon. I have a calendar note to try next April. The filling was good.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 1:26 PM
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Anyway, that was my most ambitious cooking in many years. I should try faslomargo next.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 1:31 PM
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Anyway, thanks for the recipe. I really will try again, but I got close enough that I could remember what I was missing. I won't screw it up next time, at least not in that way.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 2:01 PM
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I'll send the recipe to my mom to check if I got anything wrong or missed a step.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 3:33 PM
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Wait, which one did you make? The fritters or the stuffed one?


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 3:33 PM
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I'm pretty certain about the stuffed artichoke recipe but much less sure about the fritters.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 3:34 PM
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The stuffed one. I'm sure the recipe was right. I've been research artichokes (not soon enough) and the only ones that were on offer here were clearly too old to eat the leaves.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 3:51 PM
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The leaves (petals) were dark green with purple streaks and cracks. Too old, but I didn't think about that until after I started testing them after 40 minutes of cooking.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 3:53 PM
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It's basically the same ingredients my grandma also used to stuff squid. But I didn't have any squid and I used real Parmesan cheese, which wasn't a thing in 1980s rural Nebraska.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 4:01 PM
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Also, unless bought it in Omaha, you weren't getting olive oil either.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 6:47 PM
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You yarn't what you yarn't.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 7:26 PM
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That took me too long to get.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 7:33 PM
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It really wasn't very funny.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 8:13 PM
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That's neither here nor there.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-19 8:43 PM
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