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SmarTrip gets cheaper: There are only 350,000 of the current model SmarTrip cards left, and the manu­fac­turer stopped making them. This is a good thing, because this fall WMATA will switch to a cheaper card and charge riders less. (Examiner)

Teaching goes online: Kramer Middle School will shift about half of its coursework online this coming year, allowing for student-guided teaching and giving teachers a chance to work with students where they're struggling individually. (Examiner)

Less gravelly?: NPS may adjust the Mount Vernon Trail near Gravelly Point to make its route less circuitous and add a pedestrian path to Roaches Run. (WashCycle)

House lien sold without notice?: A few homeowners say they never got notices when DC's Office of Tax and Revenue put liens on their homes or foreclosed or sold those liens. But officials insist everyone gets 2 final notices in the mail. (Post)

C'mon, exercise! Everyone's doing it!: Peer pressure does not have to be bad; it can actually encourage children to exercise more. A study found that kids' friends had the strongest effect on how much they exercised. (TIME)

Density resembles transit: There is a strong correlation between residential density and transit mode share, stronger even than job density in a city's central business district, but that may not be the whole story. (Old Urbanist)

What was zoning for?: Urbanists, especially the libertarian ones, tend to criticize zoning for the way it artificially restricts urban development, but the original arguments in favor of zoning codes were concerned with many of the issues urbanists would raise today: development externalities, squatting on a vacant parcel, and safety. (SCC)

How cars took over: At first, people thought pedestrians had the right to use the road. That changed thanks to public campaigns by car companies, AAA, and corporate-sponsored media. (Scientific American)

Walkable is expensive: Renting in a walkable community near Metro can cost as much as $1500 more a month compared to car-dependent neighbor­hoods. (Atlantic Cities)

A few stories we've linked to in the past have come around in the press again and we've seen again in the tips, so we've included a few of these important stories for those readers who missed them or want to discuss them some more.

Speaking of tips, since we are starting to get some new links editors up to speed, it would be especially helpful to hear from all of you about what you'd like to see in the links. Please submit your suggestions on the tip form!

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 
David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast living in Mount Vernon Square. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin
Christopher Honey is a political consultant and a progressive labor activist. He and his fiancée live on Capitol Hill, where she is a vendor at Eastern Market. 

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While the DC tax auction system is a mess--bad for both the homeowners and the purchaser of the tax lien--the squib above is misleading:

The houses aren't "sold" without notice. The article is referring to the sale/auction of a tax lien, which is only the beginning of the process that lasts at least 18 months and includes a 1-year period from when the purchaser of the tax lien commences a lawsuit, with proof of actual service of the owner, to obtain title for non-payment to the point when a court gives a final order transferring title. As the article notes, 97% of houses with tax liens are still retained by the owner before the end of this process.

by ah on May 29, 2012 9:10 am • linkreport

I'm delighted to know pedestrians owned the road before cars. I wonder how they dealt with horse shit.

by charlie on May 29, 2012 9:13 am • linkreport

Re: Cars took over roads
There was a fascinating exhibit at Nat'l Building Museum a year ago on parking that addressed how the road was for pedestrians and it took decades of public policy, campaigns, and just plain old heavy-handedness by city planners to get the road to be owned by cars. People weren't happy about cars at first but city planners wanted cars to replace horses because it was very expensive to clean up after horses and to feed them, etc. Horses were big polluters of the city. Believe it or not, the car was seen as the healthy alternative to the horse...now a century later it's the cars that are the big polluters and we're trying to figure out how to get them off the road.

by dc denizen on May 29, 2012 9:57 am • linkreport

Hopefully the new SmarTrip cards will be a little more robust/durable, as well. But if they're going to be cheaper, why did WMATA "stockpile[] as many as they could?"

by Ted on May 29, 2012 10:00 am • linkreport

Thanks for the article. Libertarians scholars documented how much zoning was originated and continues to function for racist reasons. A more appropriate alternative people are now using are area agreements and designed community.

For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization @ http://​www.Libertarian-International.org ...

by ralph on May 29, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

@charlie, in dense urban settings street manure removal was actually a fairly epic undertaking. I recommend Luc Sante's http://books.google.com/books?id=_mARS2YDetsC&pg=PA48&lpg=PA48&dq=manure+low+life+luc+sante&source=bl&ots=Vwxibl-DhO&sig=UEjZS21ddgO8N7SUqjynG809uqI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-dbET9biJ6XJ6gHlg7XJCg&ved=0CFAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false">Low Life for its account of George E. Waring's Manhattan street cleaning campaign of 1895.

by cminus on May 29, 2012 10:05 am • linkreport

Stupid malformed html tag.

by cminus on May 29, 2012 10:09 am • linkreport

Waste from horses is one of the big reasons streetcar companies (horse-drawn on rails originally) went to cable car or electric operation - cities forced them to.

by MLD on May 29, 2012 10:15 am • linkreport

SmarTrip getting cheaper doesn't fix the problem of people throwing out the cards once they have a negative balance. If the cost of the cards goes down to $2.50, then anyone with a negative balance larger than that would just as likely get a new card.

by Adam L on May 29, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

@ cminus/MLD:Waste from horses

That's why in places like Charleston and Savannah, where there are still plenty of horse carriages around, horses carry a bag to dump in. Also, if they wee at their stops, it gets washed away.

Manageable at a small scale, probably not on a massive scale.

by Jasper on May 29, 2012 10:21 am • linkreport

@dcdenizen "now a century later it's the cars that are the big polluters and we're trying to figure out how to get them off the road."

You're probably thinking of the cars of the '50s or '60s. With today's catalytic converters (and cleaner fuel) the exhaust of your typical automobile is cleaner than the ambient air into which it is released. And I don't think anyone other than the so-called smartgrowthers are trying 'to get rid of cars'. Most people know better.

by Lance on May 29, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

"the exhaust of your typical automobile is cleaner than the ambient air into which it is released" Whoot?
"so-called smartgrowthers are trying 'to get rid of cars"
Do you work for the Onion magazine?

by Thayer-D on May 29, 2012 10:37 am • linkreport

the exhaust of your typical automobile is cleaner than the ambient air into which it is released.

wow. just wow.

by wd on May 29, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport

@Lance

Walk along Massachusetts Avenue like I do everyday to work and smell the not-so-sweet scent of "cleaner than ambient" air. Last time I checked, the emissions coming from a vehicle are still toxic. But if you'd like to suck on a tailpipe to prove your point, be my guest.

by Adam L on May 29, 2012 10:39 am • linkreport

@Lance
In DC cars are the primary source of pollution and congestion and everyone sits in traffic for hours - it's not good for the people in the cars, on the street, and everywhere. You may not want to get rid of cars but there are a lot of people who don't want to breathe in exhaust regardless of catalytic converters. I think you're mistaken, it's the other way around. Everyone is trying to reduce their own and others' car use, but a few old timers are still around trying to trumpet cars as the best solution. Maybe in the country it still is, but definately not cities.

by dc denizen on May 29, 2012 10:42 am • linkreport

@Adam L +1
It's funny how smoking is seen as such a detriment to health but everyday we're forced to walk along cars billowing the equivalent of it into our lungs. I can only imagine what the lungs of the person sitting in that traffic looks like.

by dc denizen on May 29, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

Considering OTR flat out told me they never sent me a property tax bill -- only the late notice -- I have my doubts about the veracity of their work.

by bayma on May 29, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

RE: house liens. The key sentence is almost at the end: "To void the tax sale, the Bollechs paid off roughly $22,000 in taxes and fees in December, days after learning about the sale."

In other words, these "innocent" deadbeats would never have paid their back taxes if their house was never at stake. Most DC adult citizens pay their taxes like they're supposed to. Tax deadbeats don't. Deadbeats expect to beat the system and have their neighbors be the suckers who pick up the bill. Deadbeats certainly don't expect to get sympathetic articles written about them.

by crin on May 29, 2012 10:49 am • linkreport

@dc denizen

It does reminds me of old cigarette advertisements:

The rest: 40 Gorgeous Vintage Tobacco Advertisements

by Adam L on May 29, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

@Lance
the exhaust of your typical automobile is cleaner than the ambient air into which it is released.

Ahh yes, another one of your "facts" that is all over the internet but nobody actually seems to have any studies, experiments, or data that back it up!

Cars ARE way cleaner than they were 50 years ago. But I don't know that I would call nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and high concentrations of carbon monoxide "cleaner than air." Feel free to find a reliable scientific source that says so however!

by MLD on May 29, 2012 10:59 am • linkreport

@ Lance:With today's catalytic converters (and cleaner fuel) the exhaust of your typical automobile is cleaner than the ambient air into which it is released.

Modern cars still emit about a pound of CO2 per mile (or less when stuck in DC traffic).

Anybody can verify this with a simple back of the envelop calculation. Or, you can check the EPA:
http://www.epa.gov/oms/consumer/f00013.htm

That is only clean if you compare it to standing next to a truck, or downwind from a plane at Gravelly Point.

As a comparison, a person takes about 11 hours to emit a pound of CO2...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide

by Jasper on May 29, 2012 11:05 am • linkreport

from today's post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/auto-sales-are-propping-up-the-us-economy/2012/05/24/gJQAOInrnU_blog.html?hpid=z10

Lance is both right and wrong. It is better to phrase it as cars are much cleaner than 30 years ago. The "ambient air' means when a car is stuck in traffic. One car is very clean; a million cars not so much.

The introduction of direct injection to meet CAFE requirements is going to bring a lot more pollution into our enviornment. Getting more diesels off the streets would also help.

by charlie on May 29, 2012 11:06 am • linkreport

RE: house liens:
In addition to the two final bills and a final notice of sale before the auction, the OTR publishes a list of tax-sale properties in the Washington Times, the Washington Informer and the Current Newspapers.

Really, those are the three publications you choose to print in? How about publishing the list online in a conspicuous place? This is not hard, and I am not surprised that DC government manages to screw it up.

by MLD on May 29, 2012 11:14 am • linkreport

@MLD " "cleaner than air."

NO ... they're cleaner than the ambient air into which they are expelled. i.e., the air around us (particularly in urban areas) is already far more polluted (from other sources) than this scrubbed air released from car engines.

by Lance on May 29, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

@Crin, Did you read the entire article? I remember reading where it wasn't that they were deadbeats but rather that they were contesting the city's attempt to take away their homestead exemption status ... and that in the end THEY won and the city reclassified it as exempt. This is like when you contest a parking ticket. You shouldn't be considered a deadbeat for something it's not sure you owe yet. Now, did they not pay any of their tax bill? Or just the part that was due to their not receiving the homestead exemption (which it appears that they had gotten in the past) ... that could make a difference.

by Lance on May 29, 2012 11:23 am • linkreport

"The introduction of direct injection to meet CAFE requirements is going to bring a lot more pollution into our envi[ro]nment."

Please explain. This is the first I've heard this, and I can't find any documentation of it. I assume you're referring to gasoline engines, since most current diesel engines use direct injection.

by Frank IBC on May 29, 2012 11:26 am • linkreport

@Lance
they're cleaner than the ambient air into which they are expelled. i.e., the air around us (particularly in urban areas) is already far more polluted (from other sources) than this scrubbed air released from car engines.

I understand that that's what you meant; I still have yet to find or see posted here any source that says that this is the case. I do see plenty of people around the internet claiming this like you do with no actual evidence.

by MLD on May 29, 2012 11:26 am • linkreport

@FrankIBC; basic summary:

http://climatetechwiki.org/technology/ice_improvements

The basic issue is there is a massive difference between testing engines and emission controls in the lab, and in the real world.

DI will probably reduce CO2, but will increase particulate matter. And when you consider how cars are used and maintained (how many people are driving around with a bad 02 sensor for 8 months) it gets worse.

DI is being drive by CAFE requirements, not by clean air requirements.

by charlie on May 29, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Jasper on May 29, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

Renting in a walkable community near Metro can cost as much as $1500 more a month...

...which would easily cover the expense of owning a car, twice over.

What this tells us is what most already know: city living is trending toward the well-to-do, and the exurbs toward the less-well-off.

by goldfish on May 29, 2012 11:51 am • linkreport

The cleaner than ambient air may be true 20 years in the future when we try to get people out of their polluting mass transit and into individual electric cars, but for now...

by Tom Coumaris on May 29, 2012 12:00 pm • linkreport

Who needs an air purifier when they can just pipe car exhaust into their home!

by MM on May 29, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

Re: Cars took over roads

Anyone interested in a further treatment of this history should read Peter Norton's "Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age In The American City". Surprisingly entertaining read.

by oboe on May 29, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

Urm.....my car (when I had a car payment on it) cost $350 a month. $150 a month in gas and $60 a month in insurance. Toss in $100 a month in average maintentance burden and taxes.

That means my car cost $660 a month or less over $800 a less than living in the city...

by Frylock on May 29, 2012 12:13 pm • linkreport

Goldfish,

What this tells us is what most already know: city living is trending toward the well-to-do, and the exurbs toward the less-well-off.

Which has nothing to do with 'city living' exactly, except for our ridiculous restrictions on supply of city living that drive up the prices of modestly desirable urban places.

by Alex B. on May 29, 2012 12:36 pm • linkreport

Alex B: ...our ridiculous restrictions on supply of city living that drive up the prices of modestly desirable urban places.

Not housing, schools.

There are lots of very inexpensive places to live EotR, which also has a very quick and easy commute to downtown. The reason people are not taking advantage of this is the schools.

by goldfish on May 29, 2012 12:45 pm • linkreport

@goldfish

Not housing, schools.

Re-read what I wrote: desirable places, not just housing. Places include schools.

Arlington County is ridiculously expensive, too. And they also have lots of restrictions on development.

My point is this: I think your conclusion is wrong. There's nothing that dictates that city living will only be affordable to the rich and well-to-do. This is because a) city living is a very broad thing - a walkable 'urban' place can be anything from a suburban town center to Downtown and all parts in between; and b) we've artificially restricted the supply of these places.

Remove the artificial restrictions on supply, and we'll see those quality places slowly become more affordable over time.

by Alex B. on May 29, 2012 1:04 pm • linkreport

Alex B: There's nothing that dictates that city living will only be affordable to the rich and well-to-do.

It is the logical conclusion to the goal of improving the city: it becomes more desirable, and therefore, more expensive. Or do you think we can eliminate the poor?

by goldfish on May 29, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

It is the logical conclusion to the goal of improving the city: it becomes more desirable, and therefore, more expensive. Or do you think we can eliminate the poor?

No, that is not the logical conclusion. If you expand supply, then more people get to participate in that value. That's how cities work.

And I have no idea what that last sentence is supposed to mean, or is in reference to.

by Alex B. on May 29, 2012 1:21 pm • linkreport

Remove the artificial restrictions on supply, and we'll see those quality places slowly become more affordable over time.

I often read similar rationales about the "artificial restrictions. As someone totally ignorant to such discussions, is there a city that meets the desire to have affordable/laxed restriction on supply often discussed here and other places.

by HogWash on May 29, 2012 1:25 pm • linkreport

I don't know how you read "eliminating the poor" out of "we need to increase the amount of walkable places". Urban planning and place making aren't a panacea but they can help improve things on the margins which will benefit rich and poor alike.

"Improving the city" can be a nebulous term as well and does sound ominous if you frame it as "finding ways to banish poor people"

by X on May 29, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

With today's catalytic converters (and cleaner fuel) the exhaust of your typical automobile is cleaner than the ambient air into which it is released.

Just piling on. Every year there are dozens (hundreds?) of people who commit suicide (or kill themselves accidentally) by sitting in their car and running it while the garage door is closed. The carbon monoxide WILL kill you within about 30 mins.

by Falls Church on May 29, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

And Hogwash,

Chicago is a fairly good example (plenty of reasons on why its not perfect and not strictly analogous to DC, Geography/political boundaries being a big one)

But there is a large supply of every type of housing in Chicago, there are dense urban neighborhoods and large single family subdivisions. Moreover the closer you are to downtown the denser you are going to be. It's certainly affordable to live near the Loop because there is a lot of housing there and more being built and that eases pressure on people who want to live a little less densely and don't mind being further away from the core.

Again, its not a strict comparison and there are tons of confounding variables but chicago is a city that seems to be on the right path in that regard.

by X on May 29, 2012 1:33 pm • linkreport

@HogWash

I often read similar rationales about the "artificial restrictions. As someone totally ignorant to such discussions, is there a city that meets the desire to have affordable/laxed restriction on supply often discussed here and other places.

Many of the sunbelt cities achieve the necessary growth, but they're not providing great places.

A good case study in a more established city would be Chicago. The city doesn't have the same kind of intense demand that DC does, but the city does allow a great deal of construction, and as such has seen a great deal of development and therefore housing prices in very nice walkable, transit-accessible neighborhoods are very affordable. Chicago has done it by increasing the supply capacity in those areas, allowing for more development.

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/a-conversation-with-edward-l-glaeser/

by Alex B. on May 29, 2012 1:36 pm • linkreport

Alex B:If you expand supply, then more people get to participate in that value. That's how cities work.

Cities have limitations to their size, provided by geography, transportation, and economics. Mexico City and NYC have found their maximums; DC is not close to it, because of all of the underused land EotR. That is one of the things that offend me about this blog: how overlooked and neglected this part of the city is, particularly when somebody suggests that the housing supply is limited and so, for example, that the height limits should be loosened, or that some project should be build larger, to provide more housing supply. This is lie that serves to perpetuate this injustice.

Within every metropolis there will be a distribution of wealth. By definition improving the central part of the city makes it more desirable, which means that people want to live there. This demand may be measured by the increase in housing costs, driving out those that cannot afford it. So the success of a this effort may be measured by how rich it is -- as you have pointed out with regard to schools. The poor, as always, get the leftovers and move to the less desirable areas. Matthew 26:11: There will always be poor.

by goldfish on May 29, 2012 1:46 pm • linkreport

@X and Alex B

Good friends just moved to Chicago. The amenities they have access to for the price are astounding. Nice, walkable neighborhoods, a variety of housing stock, and relatively affordable. I don't like the winters, but a great place nonetheless.

by Adam L on May 29, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Lance on May 29, 2012 1:49 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church (and others) "The carbon monoxide WILL kill you within about 30 mins."

Carbon monoxide is a natural element. It is not a polutant. There's lots of it all around us. The problem with breathing it is that your lungs will mistake it for oxygen when inhaled in the absence of oxygen.

You gotta luv how so many people take what they hear for granted without thinking it through.

by Lance on May 29, 2012 1:54 pm • linkreport

Yes, this blog never talks about EOTR neighborhoods. And its simply the schools, not the crime, condition of the buildings, worse street connections, lack of pedestrian/bike facilities across the potomac that also hamper it becoming the next hip neighborhood. Despite the fact that change is happening in neighborhoods EOTR and has been documented on here.

Also the presence of a cheaper apartment in one area automatically negates the demand for an apartment in another. That's science.

by X on May 29, 2012 1:55 pm • linkreport

@ Lance:Isn't this kind of shit supposed to be banned on GGW?

Why? You think it's a bad idea? I thought you said:With today's catalytic converters (and cleaner fuel) the exhaust of your typical automobile is cleaner than the ambient air into which it is released.

by Jasper on May 29, 2012 1:55 pm • linkreport

Goldfish,

Mexico City and NYC have found their maximums;

I'm only vaguely familiar with Mexico DF's geography, but New York most certainly has not found its maximum.

DC is not close to it, because of all of the underused land EotR.

No, DC is not (artificial restrictions aside), but that has little to do with underutilized land east of the river. EotR areas don't have the amenities of other areas, but they're not exactly lying fallow. Lots of people live there.

That is one of the things that offend me about this blog: how overlooked and neglected this part of the city is, particularly when somebody suggests that the housing supply is limited and so, for example, that the height limits should be loosened, or that some project should be build larger, to provide more housing supply

That's a bit of a non-sequitir there. The housing supply is limited. Do you disagree? It's not a lie, nor does it perpetuate the injustice you see.

Demand is not uniform. Nobody wants to live in a crappy house in a crappy neighborhood. The whole point about adding supply in good neighborhoods a) makes those places better, and b) allows more people to take advantage of those amenities.

This then can spill over to adjacent areas (and yes, the spillovers can and do happen without the supply restrictions).

Within every metropolis there will be a distribution of wealth. By definition improving the central part of the city makes it more desirable, which means that people want to live there. This demand may be measured by the increase in housing costs, driving out those that cannot afford it.

Again, you keep ignoring supply. No, the demand need not be measured solely by rising housing costs. If you add supply in the face of demand, the costs will remain affordable. As mentioned above, see the case of Chicago for an example.

So, if the costs don't rise tremendously, that's not driving people out, is it?

The poor, as always, get the leftovers and move to the less desirable areas.

Your assumption that the poor must be forced out is wrong, as I noted above.

Also, you should read Ed Glaeser's Triumph of the City - he makes a great point about cities and poor people: Cities attract poor people because cities are uniquely suited to offer opportunities for poor people that just aren't available in other places. It's not the presence of poor people that's a problem, it's the concentration of poor people in one place - and that's directly tied to a lack of decent housing supply.

by Alex B. on May 29, 2012 1:59 pm • linkreport

@Adam L "Good friends just moved to Chicago. The amenities they have access to for the price are astounding. Nice, walkable neighborhoods, a variety of housing stock, and relatively affordable. I don't like the winters, but a great place nonetheless.

So why don't you move there? I think economists have a name for what you're doing ... i.e., saying one thing but doing another. When the rubber hits the road, you're not moving there ... saying it's the weather ... but chances are is much more ... For example, you probably couldn't get a job there that paid as much as the job you have here. I know when I visit family in Va. Beach and think how cheap it is to live there (with great 4 bedroom houses for under $400K) I think the same thing ... but then realize the average salary down there is far less than here. And even if I had the same type of work there as here, I would make for less. Then there's the people. People in DC are international and INTERESTING. They're worldly, and smart, and have a variety of experiences. There's never a dull moment here. Go go to a place in middle America like Chicago, and once you run out of all your sports talk, it starts to get boring. Mind you, not boring if that's all you've ever known. But if you've ever lived in a place like DC, or NYC, or LA, or some foreign capital, you'll be bored shitless after a few weeks of listening to your neighbors. Is it worth it to pay a bit more to live in one of the few enlighted, international cities on this continent? You bet it is.

by Lance on May 29, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

@Lance - why would that kind of suggestion be banned? I thought car exhaust was healthier than the normal air we breathe.

The Atlantic Cities piece is a bit hyperbolic, just because there are many less expensive and still amenity-loaded walkable places in DC that aren't Dupont Circle or Georgetown. Putting the least expensive suburb against the most expensive urban neighborhood will probably give you a larger delta than reality, given that many people will align somewhere in the middle. That's why it's the middle! Good read, though.

by worthing on May 29, 2012 2:04 pm • linkreport

@X and Alex, Thanks!

The only city I thought of prior to posting was Chicago. I love the city. Really do and it is def more affordable in nicer places than in DC. I've only been on CTA a few times but thought it was great. The fact that you can take it all the way to midway was a huge boost.

Isn't this kind of shit supposed to be banned on GGW?

I don't know. But I imagine the rationale is that it was really just "tongue and cheek."

by HogWash on May 29, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

A couple of points.

First, Lance is right, cars today are cleaner than ever. It's more efficient and better for the environment to take a car by yourself than to use public transit, which often wastes energy since nobody uses it. And because it takes a circuitous instead of a direct route to get places.

Second, it's clear that urban living is something for well-off DINKs and not for middle-class families. Millions of Americans have made their choice, and their choice is Suburbia. It was the market the lead us there.

The amount of money you save by not having a car is offset by the higher rent/mortgage prices, higher and more taxes, less space for your hard-earned buck, not to mention the intangibles like less safety, more noise, more crime, less privacy, crappy schools, and less freedom.

Urban living, in the U.S. anyway, has a future for well-to-do childless individuals and couples. Beyond that, look to the 'burbs for the real growth and economic engine of the future.

by JamesG on May 29, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

oh and outside of the winters, I really love the place.

by HogWash on May 29, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

DC is interesting and that's what makes it expensive?

Therefore we should keep it expensive to keep out the boring people?

This makes perfect sense.

by X on May 29, 2012 2:07 pm • linkreport

@Lance

Carbon Monoxide is regulated pollutant under the clean air act.
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/co/s_co_index.html

by SK on May 29, 2012 2:10 pm • linkreport

Also, you should read Ed Glaeser's Triumph of the City - he makes a great point about cities and poor people: Cities attract poor people because cities are uniquely suited to offer opportunities for poor people that just aren't available in other places. It's not the presence of poor people that's a problem, it's the concentration of poor people in one place - and that's directly tied to a lack of decent housing supply.

------------------------------

Don't tell that to teh City of Alexandria which has made a concerted effort to shut out the poor and move them to the far west edges of the city...

by Frylock on May 29, 2012 2:23 pm • linkreport

@ JamesG:First, Lance is right, cars today are cleaner than ever.

I don't think that's the part that is contested. The part that is contested is: "With today's catalytic converters (and cleaner fuel) the exhaust of your typical automobile is cleaner than the ambient air into which it is released."

That is simply not true. The facts have been posted and linked to above. Presented with that overwhelming evidence, Lance went booboo.

by Jasper on May 29, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

Demand is not uniform. Nobody wants to live in a crappy house in a crappy neighborhood. The whole point about adding supply in good neighborhoods a) makes those places better, and b) allows more people to take advantage of those amenities.

The point of supply and demand is that is how finite resources are allocated. Just because people want something does not mean that rules should be changed provide "desirable" housing to those that otherwise would not be able to afford -- that is one of the primary injustices of rent control, renters sitting on property that they would be outbid from. And the "desirability signal" of a given neighborhood is something that the city and its developers can recognize and respond to, by investing and making desirable other nearby areas -- like EotR.

by goldfish on May 29, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

@ JamesG

The amount of money you save by not having a car is offset by the higher rent/mortgage prices, My mortgage in Petworth on my rowhouse is similar in cost to what I would pay in Chantilly or even further suburbs higher and more taxes, Taxes are really quite similar. DC has higher income taxes, but no personal property taxes, do the reasearch, they are VERY similar less space for your hard-earned buck, meh, I don't want to mow the grass anyways, instead I use a weed-wacker and it takes 10 minutes for the front and back of my rowhouse. Anyways, I have 1900 square feet, MORE THAN ENOUGH for a family not to mention the intangibles like less safety, deadbolt more noise, meh more crime, deadbolt less privacy, meh crappy schools, improving, but your only real point and less freedom how the heck does this even make sense? If sitting in gridlock on 66 and 495 all day is freedom... you can have it..

by Kyle W on May 29, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

Could we please tone down the dropping of the S-bomb today?

by spookiness on May 29, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

Too bad rent control isn't the primary factor at play here. Nor are we talking about subsidized housing. We're talking about stuff that people pay the full price for. Guess what, its still expensive!

Nor does your assertion claim that what you're talking about isn't already happening or will soon happen EOTR.

by X on May 29, 2012 2:47 pm • linkreport

The amount of money you save by not having a car is offset by the higher rent/mortgage prices, higher and more taxes, less space for your hard-earned buck, not to mention the intangibles like less safety, more noise, more crime, less privacy, crappy schools, and less freedom.

I'm calling bingo here.

by Miriam on May 29, 2012 2:57 pm • linkreport

Goldfish,

The point of supply and demand is that is how finite resources are allocated. Just because people want something does not mean that rules should be changed provide "desirable" housing to those that otherwise would not be able to afford

The resources are only finite because supply is artificially constrained.

And if you don't think the rules should be changed, you at least must acknowledge the consequences of those actions - which brings us back full circle: there's nothing inherent about cities that makes them expensive, unaffordable places. That is a consequence of the policies we've chosen.

And the "desirability signal" of a given neighborhood is something that the city and its developers can recognize and respond to, by investing and making desirable other nearby areas -- like EotR.

Sure it is - but limiting supply in the in-demand areas won't suddenly make crappy neighborhoods more inviting.

by Alex B. on May 29, 2012 3:00 pm • linkreport

@Lance

you troll this site with almost every comment you make, then get upset when someone throws it back in your face?

U MAD BRO?

by Matthew B on May 29, 2012 3:06 pm • linkreport

KyleW was on a nearly-believeable rebuttal roll until he hit the "improving" schools bit. Imrpoving? I'd bwe willing to bet that nearly every high school in FCPS has better testing scores and academic profiles than the best school (Banneker) in DCPS.

When you hear about a family moving into DC for the public schools, let us know....

by Frylock on May 29, 2012 3:13 pm • linkreport

@FallsChurch; I'm pretty sure with a modern cat converter, you're not going to kill yourself in the garage. Left running for 10-15 hours with no air circulation, maybe. The amount produced today isn't enough given that their are air leaks.

by charlie on May 29, 2012 3:21 pm • linkreport

When you hear about a family moving into DC for the public schools, let us know....

Out of boundary illegitimate school enrollment is a pervasive problem in many of DC's good schools. I.e., people who live in MD and VA using their grandparents/friends/etc address to enroll their child in a DC school.

by Tina on May 29, 2012 3:22 pm • linkreport

you troll this site with almost every comment you make, then get upset when someone throws it back in your face?

I imagine that Lance's larger point is that someone was able to have thoughts posted questioning whether Lance would invite them over to watch him essentially die...since that what inhaling carbon monoxide leads to.

Lance's minority positions shouldn't make it ok for him to be subjected to such. Unfortunately, the thoughts of those in the minority are often handled as callously.

I don't think anticipating Lance's death is the same as Lance having a contrary view. Not when it's pretty obvious that he, at no point, suggested that car exhaust is healthy.

And people knew exactly what he meant. Clean coal?

by HogWash on May 29, 2012 3:22 pm • linkreport

@HogWash

The problem isn't the "minority positions", it's the seemingly willful lack of reading comprehension/common sense he exhibits when he comments.

It's like he's always insisting that 2+2=5, or answering the question of "What color is the sky?" with "panacea". Reading his comments and his subsequent voracious defense just makes my head hurt.

by Matthew B on May 29, 2012 3:34 pm • linkreport

@ HogWash:I imagine that Lance's larger point is that someone was able to have thoughts posted questioning whether Lance would invite them over to watch him essentially die...since that what inhaling carbon monoxide leads to.

Lance's minority positions shouldn't make it ok for him to be subjected to such.

I (that someone) don't want Lance to die. I just want him to be willing to take the consequences of his own statements. The fact that he went booboo proves that his minority position is bogus. If his minority position would hold up to truth, he'd be sucking on that exhaust pipe, and prove that I am wrong. I will not apologize for holding on to the scientific way of finding the truth: (thought) experiments.

The way you pose this as being about minority views and majority views is as if we're debating what color is the most beautiful. In that debate there is no end, because it's based on personal opinion.

However, Lance's statement is factually wrong, period. It is not wrong to point out the consequences of someone's statements. You focus on Lance potentially dying, but fact of the matter is that many people are actually dying and getting ill due to car exhaust, smog and poor air quality. Why is it fair that Lance ignores their fate, while it is not fair game to ask him to walk his talk?

[I tried to minimize the use of poster's name in this post, but could not reduce it more]

by Jasper on May 29, 2012 3:58 pm • linkreport

@Lance
Carbon monoxide is a natural element. It is not a polutant. There's lots of it all around us. The problem with breathing it is that your lungs will mistake it for oxygen when inhaled in the absence of oxygen.

Actually, the CO binds to hemoglobin much more strongly than oxygen does, so it's not the absence of oxygen, but rather the presence of CO that's that problem

by DCAKen on May 29, 2012 4:06 pm • linkreport

...many people are actually dying and getting ill due to car exhaust, smog and poor air quality.

+1 @Jasper.

by Tina on May 29, 2012 4:08 pm • linkreport

Alex B: resources are only finite because supply is artificially constrained.

That is a glib way to describe the zoning, building safety, and historical preservation requirements that have been deliberately and painfully developed over the past 140 years to address problems where the market fails, over many boom-and-bust market cycles. It would be a mistake to cast these laws aside.

The tight market we are in today is partly because of commuter friction -- it takes so long to get to cheaper property. Some think the solution is building more roads and more transport -- very expensive, destroys neighborhoods -- while others (like you) advocate building more housing -- added density upsets existing residents for many different reasons (e.g., detracts for their own property value, changes the character of neighborhood they invested in, etc.), and thus they seek to limit it. I say the smarter growth is to take advantage of the nearby underused areas that lie within the metro footprint. Let the rich parts of town alone, they are doing well enough as it is. You can be assured that the current boom in DC will ebb at some point, and its housing will get comparably cheaper. This will be a soft landing if the laws you think "constrain the supply" are still in force and the city remains livable.

And if you don't think the rules should be changed, you at least must acknowledge the consequences of those actions - which brings us back full circle: there's nothing inherent about cities that makes them expensive, unaffordable places. That is a consequence of the policies we've chosen.

You can't have it both ways. If you want to improve the city, you must acknowledge that such improvements will attract the well-to-do and therefore drive away those that cannot afford them. It is naive to suggest otherwise -- what beautiful, world class city is NOT expensive? This is indeed the ONLY logical consequence of such policies.

by goldfish on May 29, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport

@charlie

You're correct, I'm wrong. Found this on wikipedia:

"In the past, before air-quality regulations and catalytic converters, suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning would often be achieved by running a car's engine in a closed space such as a garage, or by redirecting a running car's exhaust back inside the cabin with a hose. Motor car exhaust may have contained up to 25% carbon monoxide. However, catalytic converters found on all modern automobiles eliminate over 99% of carbon monoxide produced.[49] As a further complication, the amount of unburned gasoline in emissions can make exhaust unbearable to breathe well before losing consciousness."

by Falls Church on May 29, 2012 4:35 pm • linkreport

Yes, world class cities are expensive. But they don't have to be as expensive as they are, or they could be even more expensive.

It's not absolute, and its glib to say that arguing for more housing supply necessitates ignoring building safety codes. Or preservation, or zoning at large. At most people have suggested changing how we approach both zoning and preservation rather than elminating them wholesale.

by X on May 29, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

You focus on Lance potentially dying, but fact of the matter is that many people are actually dying and getting ill due to car exhaust, smog and poor air quality.

No I focused on the tone of the person who asked to be invited just to watch Lance die.

Again, whatever position Lance (or any others for that matter) takes or however factually incorrect he might be, he shouldn't be subjected to "jokes" about death nor attacks.

All of those defending the tone have yet to justify "why" it's ok. This is even more troubling since at no point (as evidenced by his post) did he ever intimate that it was safe. The attacks are based on something he really, really never said. Yet, people are rationalize their tone as appropriate because...well you said it...because it's Lance.

by HogWash on May 29, 2012 4:37 pm • linkreport

Millions of Americans have made their choice, and their choice is Suburbia. It was the market the lead us there.

And it's the market that's now leading us to a greater balance between urban and suburban living options. Talk to any developer and they will likely tell you that urban style mixed use, transit oriented development is very hot. Money talks and most folks investing money in real estate know about this trend and are investing accordingly.

by Falls Church on May 29, 2012 4:39 pm • linkreport

Reading his comments and his subsequent voracious defense just makes my head hurt.

Maybe it does. So in essence, Lance gets whatever he deserves. Well ok. At least you guys are consistent.

by HogWash on May 29, 2012 4:40 pm • linkreport

@HogWash

You know this is the internet, right? Twisting his own stupid words around to make a point is like the least bad insult I've ever seen online. That doesn't mean it's good, but c'mon, lay off the victimization for once.

You're only defending him this much because you know you're a troll too, and quite frankly some of your past posts regarding gentrification and the suite of topics associated with that were borderline inappropriate in a class/race way, which is way worse - too me at least - than calling out a troll.

In an ideal world, I'd ban both of you so that the comment threads weren't filled with metaphorical potholes that prevent the discussion from moving forward in a smooth and comfortable manner.

by Matthew B on May 29, 2012 4:54 pm • linkreport

@Frylock

I will take that bet. What are we putting on the line? Not a good bet for you, Banneker beats Falls Church, Mount Vernon, and ties with Stuart. Then Banneker is within 30 points of schools like Hayfield, Annandale, and Lee. Granted not the cream of the crop in FFX, but still.

Fairfax County is definitely superior, I simply said the DCPS is improving. Which I think everyone can agree on.

by Kyle W on May 29, 2012 5:02 pm • linkreport

but c'mon, lay off the victimization for once.

For once? That's an interesting choice of words because I (obviously) have never thought I presented myself as a victim. Or maybe you consider anyone who respectfully voices their opinions are mere victims.

You're only defending him this much because you know you're a troll too,

By your own made up definition, I imagine so.

quite frankly some of your past posts regarding gentrification and the suite of topics associated with that were borderline inappropriate in a class/race way,

You know this is the internet right? If you felt aggrieved by anything I've said, you could have easily responded offering your own perspective. That's the point of having a discussion. So don't cry for me Argentina.

In an ideal world, I'd ban both of you so that the comment threads weren't filled with metaphorical potholes that prevent the discussion from moving forward in a smooth and comfortable manner.

In other words, you'd ban us because we often take minority positions. That says more about you and the disinviting atmosphere you and others support than it does about us. Hence, the ridiculous misuse of the word TROLL.

by HogWash on May 29, 2012 5:16 pm • linkreport

@Goldfish:

That is a glib way to describe the zoning, building safety, and historical preservation requirements that have been deliberately and painfully developed over the past 140 years to address problems where the market fails...

Strawmen. Where did I mention the building code? Also - what market failure is historic preservation correcting?

It would be a mistake to cast these laws aside.

Sure - I'm not suggesting throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Chicago has a zoning code, too. They have historic preservation. These things can function if the zoning code is updated to allow the housing market to function healthily. The status quo is not healthy.

added density upsets existing residents for many different reasons (e.g., detracts for their own property value, changes the character of neighborhood they invested in, etc.), and thus they seek to limit it.

There's no doubt that infill density upsets a lot of people; however, the assertion that their fears are automatically true is completely false. Home owners are loss averse, that doesn't mean they are right. Furthermore, there is the well-being of the greater city at stake. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.

I say the smarter growth is to take advantage of the nearby underused areas that lie within the metro footprint. Let the rich parts of town alone, they are doing well enough as it is.

I agree with the first part, disagree with the second. And it's not about how well those areas are doing, it's about allowing more people to take advantage of those areas. That spreads the prosperity to a wider swath of society.

You can't have it both ways. If you want to improve the city, you must acknowledge that such improvements will attract the well-to-do and therefore drive away those that cannot afford them.

You keep committing the same fallacy - improvements to the city will not price out the lower and middle classes if we add more supply. I fail to see how this is 'having it both ways.'

It is naive to suggest otherwise -- what beautiful, world class city is NOT expensive?

As mentioned above: Chicago.

This is indeed the ONLY logical consequence of such policies.

What policies? If you mean restrictive zoning, then yes. If you mean nice places, then no.

I was just in Chicago. Care to explain how my cousin the Med student can afford a nice, cheap apartment two blocks off of Michigan Ave, next door to Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co, and Neiman Marcus? I'll posit a hypothesis: the city has allowed supply to expand so that housing, even in very desirable neighborhoods (if not in the fancy buildings) is affordable at multiple price points.

by Alex B. on May 29, 2012 5:19 pm • linkreport

...two blocks off of Michigan Ave, next door to Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co, and Neiman Marcus...

If that's where I think it is, you forgot to mention "3 blocks from Oak St. beach"! The most important amenity in Chicago (imho) -- Lake Michigan!

by Tina on May 29, 2012 5:27 pm • linkreport

AlexB,

The resources are only finite because supply is artificially constrained.

No, the resources are finite, period. And if by "artificially constrained" you mean constrained by law, that is true of the supply of all goods and services. You just don't like certain laws constraining the supply of housing in certain places. But those laws were created, and are sustained, by the political process. They serve important purposes. They enhance the quality of life. Laws that constrain housing supply in the interests of limiting costs such as noise, crowding, congestion, pollution, litter, loss of privacy, and so on probably aren't going to go away.

there's nothing inherent about cities that makes them expensive, unaffordable places. That is a consequence of the policies we've chosen.

Cities tend to be more expensive than suburbs because they are denser. Higher density tends to mean higher land prices, because more people are competing for each square foot. Higher demand per unit of supply means a higher unit price. And higher density also tends to mean higher construction costs. It costs more to build vertically than horizontally. In addition, "mixed-use development", where housing is mixed in with commercial development, tends to be more common in cities. This also raises housing prices, because homeowners have to compete for land with commercial businesses who can afford to pay more, since they're using the land to generate income.

by Bertie on May 29, 2012 5:48 pm • linkreport

Alex B: Strawmen. Where did I mention the building code? Also - what market failure is historic preservation correcting?

Well then, spell it out for us: what is constricting the supply, if it not the historic preservation, building code, and zoning laws?

You keep committing the same fallacy - improvements to the city will not price out the lower and middle classes if we add more supply. I fail to see how this is 'having it both ways.'

Its never been done -- beautiful cities are beautiful because the supply is constricted by geography and/or historic preservation, and thus the investment is concentrated.

As mentioned above: Chicago. Wrong! Chicago has some of the most expensive real estate in the country, and as a whole, is 3-10x far more costly the other nearby midwestern cities. Houses in Rockford IL cost $100k; in Chicago, $500k.

by goldfish on May 29, 2012 5:50 pm • linkreport

Care to explain how my cousin the Med student can afford a nice, cheap apartment two blocks off of Michigan Ave, next door to Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co, and Neiman Marcus?

Perhaps one reason is that people are leaving the city in droves. Chicago's population declined by 200,000 over the past 10 years. By the way, how big is your cousin's apartment, and how much is he paying for it? I'll bet a bigger and nicer apartment in the suburbs is considerably cheaper.

by Bertie on May 29, 2012 5:56 pm • linkreport

Well then, spell it out for us: what is constricting the supply, if it not the historic preservation, building code, and zoning laws?

The building code isn't constraining supply. It just isn't. I'm not sure how else to put that. The codes are fairly standard.

Historic preservation need not be a huge constraint, as it is only one piece of the regulatory puzzle.

Zoning is the big one. But it's not the mere presence of zoning in the abstract (which lots of cities have), but what's allowed under zoning, and via what processes.

Its never been done -- beautiful cities are beautiful because the supply is constricted by geography and/or historic preservation, and thus the investment is concentrated.

You've made an unproveable assertion here. I think you have very little evidence to support this assertion, but that's beside the point. The onus is on you to prove the causality, but you've set up a non-falsifiable scenario.

Wrong! Chicago has some of the most expensive real estate in the country, and as a whole, is 3-10x far more costly the other nearby midwestern cities. Houses in Rockford IL cost $100k; in Chicago, $500k.

I don't think you understood the point. All else being equal, you'll earn more money working in Chicago than you will in Rockford. Rockford is not a relevant comparison - New York is.

Likewise, the presence of expensive homes doesn't disprove my point, either - because those expensive homes are often located very close to cheaper condos and cheaper-yet apartments.

by Alex B. on May 29, 2012 5:59 pm • linkreport

I'll bet a bigger and nicer apartment in the suburbs is considerably cheaper.

Of course it is, because it's not actually near anything. Cities are more expensive because there is more demand for a limited space because there is more stuff that people want to be around. Once you get out to cookie-cutter suburbialand you are not proximate to anything special, so any place is as good as the next, and therefore you have less demand for any specific single place.

by MLD on May 29, 2012 6:01 pm • linkreport

To add to what MLD and others have said above:

Also, it's cheaper because many of the costs of suburban living are externalized. Suburban dwellers don't pay more than urban dwellers for those freeways and all that wasteful suburban infrastructure, and they aren't paying for the environmental damage they're doing in the process.

Not paying for all of those externalities sure does keep prices down, though.

by Gray on May 29, 2012 6:06 pm • linkreport

Alex B

Also - what market failure is historic preservation correcting?

The failure of the market to adequately value buildings and other things of historical significance. Just like the failure of the market to adequately value parks and certain natural spaces. That's why we have laws that protect those things from the market, too.

by Bertie on May 29, 2012 6:08 pm • linkreport

Of course it is, because it's not actually near anything. Cities are more expensive because there is more demand for a limited space because there is more stuff that people want to be around.

No, cities are more expensive for the reasons I explained. If people valued being "near things," we'd have built new cities like Houston and Phoenix, and suburbs and exurbs, at high density. We didn't. The high density of old cities like Chicago is largely a legacy of their age. They were mostly laid out before motorized transportation, especially cars. They had to be dense so that people could get to things on foot or by horse-drawn vehicles in a reasonable amount of time. Newer cities, and suburbs, don't have that restriction. That's why they're much less dense.

by Bertie on May 29, 2012 6:17 pm • linkreport

So much to comment on, so little time.

Once you get out to cookie-cutter suburbialand you are not proximate to anything special, so any place is as good as the next, and therefore you have less demand for any specific single place.

Well any realtor who sells houses in the suburbs would disagree with you. The number one factor is quality of school districts, followed by access to all sorts of things like highways, transit, jobs (most of which are in the suburbs, by the way), friends/family, etc. Suburbs or city, the adage holds true...location, location, location.

Suburban dwellers don't pay more than urban dwellers for those freeways and all that wasteful suburban infrastructure, and they aren't paying for the environmental damage they're doing in the process.

Suburban drivers pay more for the road system through the gas tax and tolls.

I am not sure what makes infrastructure "wasteful?" You do realize that the highway system does more than just get people in and out of the central cities. It is part of a network that allows you to drive easily nearly anywhere in the country and allows for goods to be shipped quickly and cheaply, and allows city dwellers to take advantage of things outside of the city (like all those well paying jobs in Northern Virginia, or Dulles Airport, or Shenandoah National Park..).

Other than increased miles driven (in cars that are becoming more efficient every year), what "environmental damage" is caused by the suburbs? Is it the open space mandated in most new housing developments? The open space in people's backyards? New homes that are more energy efficient

Do you really think that the quality of the air and water in DC is better than in say Loudon County?

by dcdriver on May 29, 2012 6:18 pm • linkreport

Also, it's cheaper because many of the costs of suburban living are externalized.

So are many of the costs of urban living. Massive public subsidies for urban amenities such as public transit, sports stadiums, theaters, arts centers, concert halls, libraries, convention centers, civic centers, public housing projects, and the big concentration of government buildings and government workers.

Suburban dwellers don't pay more than urban dwellers for those freeways and all that wasteful suburban infrastructure,

How do you know suburban dwellers don't pay more? And how is suburban infrastructure "wasteful?"

by Bertie on May 29, 2012 6:28 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver:

Suburban drivers pay more for the road system through the gas tax and tolls.

While they may pay more for their use of the road system, they don't pay significantly more to build it than urban residents.

Other than increased miles driven (in cars that are becoming more efficient every year), what "environmental damage" is caused by the suburbs? Is it the open space mandated in most new housing developments? The open space in people's backyards?

Do you believe that greenfield development is good for the environment, so long as part of the land is left open between the SFHs, strip malls, and roads?

Do you really think that the quality of the air and water in DC is better than in say Loudon County?

No, I don't, but I never made that claim. Do you really think that all of those miles driven in Loudoun county have a positive or neutral effect on air and water quality in DC?

by Gray on May 29, 2012 6:42 pm • linkreport

@ Hogwash:No I focused on the tone of the person who asked to be invited just to watch Lance die.

The problem is that our test dummy would not die in this (thought) experiment is his statement were true. So, there is a choice here:

Option 1: Test dummy sucks on car exhaust in (thought) experiment and survives. That means Lance is right. Me and others look like fools for coming out blazing at him.

Option 2: Test dummy sucks on car exhaust in (thought) experiment and dies. That means me and others are right. Lance is dead wrong.

Again, whatever position Lance (or any others for that matter) takes or however factually incorrect he might be, he shouldn't be subjected to "jokes" about death nor attacks.

Again, the test dummy only dies in this (thought) experiment if Lance is dead wrong. Furthermore, real people die because of car exhaust. That is indeed nothing to joke about. It's dead serious. Perhaps you do not know people who can't go outside on days like today because of asthma caused (partially) by car exhaust. It is not funny.

All of those defending the tone have yet to justify "why" it's ok.

It is not about tone. It is about denying facts that kill people. No joking matter.

This is even more troubling since at no point (as evidenced by his post) did he ever intimate that it was safe. The attacks are based on something he really, really never said.

Really? Lance said: With today's catalytic converters (and cleaner fuel) the exhaust of your typical automobile is cleaner than the ambient air into which it is released.

How is that not suggesting that it's safe to inhale car exhaust? How is that not dismissing the very real health and death problems of many people?

Yet, people are rationalize their tone as appropriate because...well you said it...because it's Lance.

I don't. I can't take responsibility for what others said. The only thing that I proposed is a (thought) experiment. An experiment to point out the gross lie that Lance was promoting. It is exactly because people believe that car exhaust is safe that people keep driving their cars, and oppose more transit and dens urban living. This is killing actual people. No joking matter. Real tragedy.

In other words, you'd ban us because we often take minority positions.

I would not ban you. Plus, I can't. This is not my website.

I will keep pointing out facts. You seem to be missing the difference between facts and opinions. Opinions are thoughts on favorite color or historic value.

Facts are not subject to opinion. They are what they are. Regardless of your opinion. Just because you opine that 1+1=3, does not make it so. Nor does it make a valid opinion. It just makes for bogus.

by Jasper on May 29, 2012 8:13 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Lance on May 29, 2012 8:21 pm • linkreport

"Once you get out to cookie-cutter suburbialand you are not proximate to anything special, so any place is as good as the next, and therefore you have less demand for any specific single place."

This of course explains why a .75 acre lot and home in Great Falls, VA costs $1,250,000......

by Frylock on May 29, 2012 8:57 pm • linkreport

Do you believe that greenfield development is good for the environment, so long as part of the land is left open between the SFHs, strip malls, and roads?

All urban development consumes land and other natural resources. The mere fact that low-density development consumes more land than high-density development does not mean that high-density development is better. Our goal is to maximize our standard of living, not minimize our consumption of land and other resources. Only about 3% of the land area of the United States is urbanized at all. The remaining 97% is rural. It's not as if we're running out of land. We have huge amounts of land. Urban development has become less dense because people value having more space. They value having bigger housing. They value having yards and garages and driveways. They value having more space between themselves and their neighbors, so there is less noise and more privacy. They value the greenery and light and air of a leafy suburb, instead of living in the concrete jungle of a dense city. They value the speed, comfort, and convenience of car travel, which means space is needed for roads and parking. YOU may not value these things, but people in general value them very much.

by Bertie on May 29, 2012 9:41 pm • linkreport

"Once you get out to cookie-cutter suburbialand you are not proximate to anything special, so any place is as good as the next, and therefore you have less demand for any specific single place."
-----

Nearly all of the buidlings in DC - residential, government, and commercial - look alike.

Take a look around you - block after block of look-alike row houses, identical government buildings, and banal, look-alike, same-height boxes for office buildings.

By no means do the the surburbs in this region have a lock on the "cookie cutter" effect.

by ceefer66 on May 29, 2012 10:15 pm • linkreport

@Bertle

The problem is, we as a species are consuming more than we are able to sustainably produce. Further, our consumption is continuing to have a negative impact on our environment. Without a healthy planet, it won't matter what our quality of life might be, because we as a species won't be around to enjoy it.

So, we can either continue as we have for the past 80 or so years, or, we can take steps now to begin to minimize our impacts and extend the resources we have in a manner that will enable our species to co-exist on the planet.

The choices we make in how we live, how we travel, how we use our resources impact the ability to have a healthy planet. If we continue to maximize our standard of living in a manner that consumes our arable land, degrades our air and contaminates our water, what are we left with?

by William on May 29, 2012 10:40 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Lance on May 29, 2012 10:47 pm • linkreport

I want to hear Lance expound further on his comment that Chicago is a hick town full of midwestern rubes. That should make for good comedy.

Berlin is even cheaper than Chicago, and probably has the lowest cost of living of any developed-country capital. It is also generally considered the most culturally vibrant city in the world at the moment. Not a coincidence.

by Phil on May 29, 2012 10:48 pm • linkreport

@Phil, Chicago is a wonderful city. And it's got a lot going for it. But I wouldn't call it an international city. Nothing wrong with that.

Berlin may be cheap now, but I'd suspect it won't always be. Remember that song from the Height Ashbury days about moving to San Francisco 'where the living is easy and cheap' ... Popular cultural places tend to attract people who end up improving it AND making it more expensive in the end. You might say that's what's happened with places like Dupont Circle on a more local level.

by Lance on May 29, 2012 11:13 pm • linkreport

The problem is, we as a species are consuming more than we are able to sustainably produce. Further, our consumption is continuing to have a negative impact on our environment. So, we can either continue as we have for the past 80 or so years, or, we can take steps now to begin to minimize our impacts and extend the resources we have in a manner that will enable our species to co-exist on the planet. The choices we make in how we live, how we travel, how we use our resources impact the ability to have a healthy planet. If we continue to maximize our standard of living in a manner that consumes our arable land, degrades our air and contaminates our water, what are we left with?

No one has shown that high-density urban lifestyles are "sustainable" and low-density suburban lifestyles are not. "Sustainable" is just one of those vacuous noise-words that proponents of urbanism like to throw around but that doesn't seem to have any clear meaning. As for "having a negative impact on our environment," our very existence necessarily does that. We must consume land, plants, animals and other natural resources in order to live. The mere fact that one kind of lifestyle consumes less of these resources than another doesn't mean it's better. If minimizing our negative impact on the environment were our paramount concern, we'd give up urbanism completely and go back to pre-industrial ways of living. No one except a few eccentrics seriously wants to do that.

by Bertie on May 29, 2012 11:17 pm • linkreport

Alex B: Zoning is the big one. But it's not the mere presence of zoning in the abstract (which lots of cities have), but what's allowed under zoning, and via what processes.

That is not an answer. You can suggest a solution only after you have identified the problem. Specifically, what is it that you contend is constraining the housing supply? The economists among us want to know.

beautiful cities are beautiful because the supply is constricted by geography ...You've made an unproveable assertion here. I think you have very little evidence to support this assertion, but that's beside the point. The onus is on you to prove the causality, but you've set up a non-falsifiable scenario.

The point here is to have fun arguing about urban policy, and I am not required to prove anything to anybody. But I recognize that others are following along, and for their benefit alone I offer up the Eurocentric examples of beautiful cities and how expensive they are -- Paris, London, Copenhagen, Venice, Rome and by comparison, what world class cities are not expensive? (Your Chicago example is dealt with below).

There are counterexamples of cities that are inexpensive to live in, compared to the surroundings. They tend to be either environmental disasters or in communist countries. You make something nice, the poor are forced out. It is that simple. Sorry about offending egalitarian sensibilities.

All else being equal, you'll earn more money working in Chicago than you will in Rockford. Rockford is not a relevant comparison - New York is.

No, New York is not a relevant comparison to Chicago because all other factors -- namely the cost of nearby land -- are NOT equal. You should normalize the expense of a place by the cost of nearby unimproved property. NYC lies within the Eastern seaboard Boston-Washington megalopolis, with far higher population density and 75-100 miles to the nearest open land. Chicago, otoh, has uninhabited prairies on its metropolitan borders. When one decides where to settle somewhere around Chicago, the low cost of property on its outskirt will always temper the costs at the core. By that measure, Chicago is MORE expensive than NYC.

by goldfish on May 29, 2012 11:32 pm • linkreport

Very amusing thread. I grew up in Chicago and have now lived longer in Washington than there. I like them both, but compared to Chicago, DC is mild and definitely provincial.

I've lived in Paris, New York and Los Angeles. The first two are a little more cosmopolitan than Chicago, the third equally so or a little less -- and DC isn't even in that league. Those four are world cities. DC isn't a world city, despite being the capital of a large and powerful country. Similarly, Bonn was never a world city, despite being the capital of another large and (at least economically) powerful country for many decades. Istanbul is a world city; Ankara is not. The list goes on: Melbourne and Sydney versus Canberra; Toronto and Montreal and perhaps even Vancouver versus Ottowa; Amsterdam (a capital in name only) versus the Hague (a capital in fact).

I believe Washington shines both as a specialized capital city and as a large American city that isn't a world city. Both roles would tend to make it an expensive place, perhaps even more expensive than genuine world cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles.

by A Streeter on May 30, 2012 1:36 am • linkreport

Lance is showing us the way, folks. Please, think about it. If people desired living in dense cities, suburbia and the car would never had become king. They are the future, cities are not. Very, very few people actually want to live in cities. The want the big house in the 'burbs, with privacy, freedom, safety, cleanliness, and peace and quiet.

Once self-driving cars become widespread (probably in the next 10 years) the push toward low-density living and away from the cities will actually intensify. Public transportation can finally be abandoned, and we can keep living the lifestyle we're accustomed to as Americans. Please read Joel Kotkin and Randal O'Toole's work on this subject and see how the low-desnity, auto-centric suburb is going to be the mode of urbanization for the next 100 years, and why we'll all be better off.

by JamesG on May 30, 2012 8:07 am • linkreport

Washington is almost a perfect city. It has a great economy, people from all over the world, it dosen't choke the sun out, and there's high culture and low culture in buckets. It has a stunning natural park and 200 years worth of beautiful architecture. The food is world class (finally), it's public transportation is wonderful, and it has all four glorious seasons. Those are just some of the reasons it's so expensive to live here. The living is good.

by Thayer-D on May 30, 2012 8:10 am • linkreport

Lance is showing us the way, folks. Please, think about it. If people desired living in dense cities, suburbia and the car would never had become king. They are the future, cities are not. Very, very few people actually want to live in cities.

Ahh yes. Very few people actually want to live in cities! That's why housing in cities is so cheap, and why housing in the burbs is so much more expensive! Oh wait.

Once self-driving cars become widespread (probably in the next 10 years) the push toward low-density living and away from the cities will actually intensify.

If in 10 years there even exists a commercially available self-driving car that requires as little user input as these fantasies require (basically the work of setting a destination on your GPS) I will be shocked. To assume that this tech will be "widespread" in the next decade is ridiculous.

Joel Kotkin and Randal O'Toole

While you're at it, complete your collection of transportation dinosaurs with some fine readings from Ron Utt. Thanks for the laugh. In case you haven't noticed, VMT per capita has been declining since 2004. We literally cannot afford to build as much highway infrastructure as we did in the 1950s and 60s. All of the easy open space connections have been made already. So really continuing to grow for the next 100 years like we did for the past 60 is going to be way more expensive than it has been.

by MLD on May 30, 2012 8:36 am • linkreport

Man, it's too early for the self-driving cars/Randal O'Toole/real Amurrica drinking game to start.

by worthing on May 30, 2012 8:51 am • linkreport

@ Bertie:No one has shown that high-density urban lifestyles are "sustainable" and low-density suburban lifestyles are not.

Let me google that for you:
http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=high-density+urban+lifestyles+are+%22sustainable%22+and+low-density+suburban+lifestyles+are+not.

Oh look, they have!

by Jasper on May 30, 2012 9:48 am • linkreport

The problem is that our test dummy would not die in this (thought) experiment is his statement were true. Regardless of your opinion. Just because you opine that 1+1=3, does not make it so. Nor does it make a valid opinion. It just makes for bogus.

In other words, Lance deserves what he gets for being a troll and stupid.

How is that different from what I initially said? These discussions usually take the angle of attacking minority positions...most of which Lance has. This is why you all are able to spin the wheel and continually justify why your method of "encouraging discourse" is appropriate.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by HogWash on May 30, 2012 10:19 am • linkreport

@Hogwash -no one claimed that being hit by a car is more healthful than not being hit by a car. That is the parallel to L's claim: car exhaust is cleaner than the ambient air, thus breathing car exhaust is better than breathing the ambient air; car exhaust is more healthful than breathing the ambient air.

by Tina on May 30, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

Ahh yes. Very few people actually want to live in cities!

The evidence indicates that only a small proportion of the population prefers to live in a dense, walkable, transit-oriented urban environment. Mostly, certain single, childless young adults. That probably isn't going to change.

That's why housing in cities is so cheap, and why housing in the burbs is so much more expensive! Oh wait.

I explained above why dense urban housing tends to be more expensive. It costs more to supply. This has absolutely nothing to do with aggregate demand.

by Bertie on May 30, 2012 11:56 am • linkreport

no one claimed that being hit by a car is more healthful than not being hit by a car.

When did Lance say that sucking on an exhaust pipe was healthier than breathing the air outside? He went on to say that,
the air around us (particularly in urban areas) is already far more polluted (from other sources) than this scrubbed air released from car engines.

There, Lance already explained his "distorted" view on car exhaust vs. ambient air. Yet, people were still making the parallel between that AND him sucking on a pipe..which IMO are two different things.

I liken it to Lance saying that eating puffer fish isn't necessarily deadly...then you respond, "well, I'd like to come watch you eat it's skin or eyes and see what happens."

Fact: eating puffer fish isn't necessarily deadly...as long as you're not eating the eyes and skin or organs.

Car exhaust released into ambient air vs. sucking on a pipe.

Two different things!

by HogWash on May 30, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

Oh look, they have!

Apparently, you can think you can demonstrate that a claim is true simply by getting some hits when you type it into the Google search box.

If you seriously think there are serious scientific studies showing that high-density urban lifestyles are "sustainable" and low-density suburban ones are not, produce them.

by Bertie on May 30, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

Lance is showing us the way, folks. Please, think about it. If people desired living in dense cities, suburbia and the car would never had become king.

If childhood diseases weren't so popular, we wouldn't need all these vaccinations!

by oboe on May 30, 2012 12:11 pm • linkreport

This has absolutely nothing to do with aggregate demand.

It absolutely does. That's why cities were cheaper for decades when they were undesirable, and why undesirable neighborhoods in cities are still cheaper than the rest of the city. Because there isn't demand in those neighborhoods.

Price has nothing to do with demand! You heard it here first people!

by MLD on May 30, 2012 12:14 pm • linkreport

"Sustainable" is just one of those vacuous noise-words that proponents of urbanism like to throw around but that doesn't seem to have any clear meaning.

Umm. Not so much...

http://www.strongtowns.org/the-growth-ponzi-scheme/

Meanwhile, folks on the O'Toole/Bertie axis argue that sprawl is sustainable because people want sprawl. I suppose no one's ever going to lack for gainful employment if your job is telling people what they want to hear.

by oboe on May 30, 2012 12:20 pm • linkreport

@MLD,

I explained above why dense urban housing tends to be more expensive. It costs more to supply. This has absolutely nothing to do with aggregate demand.

Now of course we get to hear *why* it costs more to supply dense urban housing: because urban *land* is massively more expensive than far-flung undesirable places. Which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with aggregate demand. Somehow.

by oboe on May 30, 2012 12:23 pm • linkreport

@ Bertie:If you seriously think there are serious scientific studies showing that high-density urban lifestyles are "sustainable" and low-density suburban ones are not, produce them.

I did. It's as easy as googling. I am not there to do your google searches and filtering. That's what google is for.

The fact that you haven't seen a study because you did not look for it, does not mean it does not exist.

by Jasper on May 30, 2012 12:24 pm • linkreport

We literally cannot afford to build as much highway infrastructure as we did in the 1950s and 60s. All of the easy open space connections have been made already. So really continuing to grow for the next 100 years like we did for the past 60 is going to be way more expensive than it has been.

Bah! You'll never make a living as a professional pro-sprawl thinker with that attitude. We can--and will! Why? Because we want to!

Type up a thousand words or so on how desire equals plausibility and you'll have a NHBA-funded position with Cato before you can say "autonomous personal vehicle".

:)

by oboe on May 30, 2012 12:28 pm • linkreport

Hey! Great news James, that no one takes public transit! Is this a new thing? I do very much hope so, as I'd like to get a seat on the Metro one of these mornings....

by Catherine on May 30, 2012 4:31 pm • linkreport

@Frylock

You said:
Don't tell that to teh City of Alexandria which has made a concerted effort to shut out the poor and move them to the far west edges of the city..."

But the original poster said:

"It's not the presence of poor people that's a problem, it's the concentration of poor people in one place - and that's directly tied to a lack of decent housing supply. "

Until this new program, which you're somehow framing as moving all the poor people to the far west end, 90% of all public housing stock in the entire city was concentrated in one zip code. That's a "concentration" and it's bad for everyone involved, including and especially the poor people who live there. Public/affordable housing units are now being moved and spread out throughout the city (notably: none in the zip code that the majority of the Councilmembers live in ). Lots, a majority even, still remain just where they were.

by Catherine on May 30, 2012 4:37 pm • linkreport

Hogwash is right - no one deserves to die for being stupid.

Children who play with guns do not deserve to die by gunshot,

Drunks who wander into traffic do not deserve to die in a collision.

And people who honestly believe that auto exhaust is cleaner than ambient air, still do not deserve to suffocate on auto fumes. Though they will, IF they ever try to test their theory in the way suggested. Lets all hope they don't. Lets further hope that they realize, that their belief is false.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 30, 2012 4:40 pm • linkreport

jasper,

I did. It's as easy as googling. I am not there to do your google searches and filtering

No, you didn't. You just typed some words into the Google search box. If you seriously think there are serious scientific studies showing that high-density urban lifestyles are "sustainable" and low-density suburban ones are not, produce them. Give us links to these alleged studies. It's not my job to look for evidence supporting your claims. That's your job. If you cannot produce any such studies, just admit it.

by Bertie on May 30, 2012 4:42 pm • linkreport

MLD,
It absolutely does.

No, it absolutely does not. What determines the price is the ratio of supply to demand, not simply the total demand. If there is 10 ten times as much demand to live in the suburbs as in the city, but 20 times as much land in the suburbs as in the city, then land will be cheaper in the suburbs, despite the much higher total demand for the suburbs. This is why your claim that "higher price = more total demand" is completely and utterly wrong. I still don't know why you can't understand this basic economic principle.

by Bertie on May 30, 2012 4:53 pm • linkreport

Good lord, of course it has to do with the ratio of demand to supply. But your argument has been that it has little to nothing to do with supply and demand, and only has to do with the fact that it costs more to build in urban areas.

You are correct that there are more total people looking for suburban housing. I guess I was under the impression that it was understood that we're talking about demand in relation to supply. Anything else is stupid. Like I AND YOU said, suburban housing is cheaper because there is more supply in relation to the demand; many places in the suburbs are similar, making for more supply.

That doesn't discount the fact that there IS demand for urban living. And I would not call it a "very small" portion of people. If prices are so much higher in the city, and prices rely on the supply/demand relationship, then the demand for urban living must be higher than the current ratio of urban to suburban population.

by MLD on May 30, 2012 5:07 pm • linkreport

Good lord, of course it has to do with the ratio of demand to supply.

Then stop pretending that the higher price of dense urban housing means there's more demand for it. There isn't. There's less demand. Much less. That's why we've been suburbanizing and sprawling for so long. Even central cities have experienced a massive decrease in density.

You are correct that there are more total people looking for suburban housing. I guess I was under the impression that it was understood that we're talking about demand in relation to supply.

Higher density by definition means that there are more people competing for a given area of land. Hence, higher density tends to mean higher land prices. It's inherent in the meaning of "density" and the economic relationship between supply, demand and prices. Add in a zoning policy of "mixed-use development," where homeowners have to compete for land with commercial businesses that intend to use the land to generate income, and land prices rise even more. Which creates a big incentive to use less land. Which tends to mean smaller housing and/or taller buildings. Taller buildings cost more to construct than shorter buildings. Construction costs per square foot for a high-rise condo are about three times as high as construction costs for a single-family home. Which is another reason why dense housing is more expensive.

If prices are so much higher in the city, and prices rely on the supply/demand relationship, then the demand for urban living must be higher than the current ratio of urban to suburban population.

I have no idea what the statement "the demand for urban living must be higher than the current ratio of urban to suburban population" is supposed to mean. A demand for a lifestyle is higher than a ratio of population? Incomprehensible.

by Bertie on May 30, 2012 6:00 pm • linkreport

Suffice it to say the argument from your ilk is that "nobody" or "very few" people want to live in the city. The fact that demand for urban living outstrips supply to the point where prices are high belies that. If the urban areas currently house 1/8 of the population, and prices are higher than elsewhere, clearly more than 1/8 of the population would like to live there.

by MLD on May 30, 2012 6:11 pm • linkreport

@MLD, But prices aren't necessarially higher in the city. There are urban hoods east of the river where prices are considerably lower than any burbs in the area. Ie Were it just supply and demand, the supply of urban housing in DC likely exceeds the demand for it.

by Lance on May 30, 2012 7:54 pm • linkreport

The fact that demand for urban living outstrips supply to the point where prices are high belies that.

Another baffling statement. What is "demand for urban living outstrips supply" supposed to mean? There isn't a fixed amount of demand. It varies with price. Demand tends to rise when prices are lower and fall when prices are higher. This is true of ANY product -- dense housing, suburban housing, iPads, oranges, or whatever. The price of urban housing is "high" because urban housing has a "high" cost of supply, for the reasons I explained -- high land costs and high construction costs. Suppliers cannot reduce prices below the cost of supply without losing money (and ultimately going bankrupt). So the price of dense urban housing will always be "high" compared to the price of low-density suburban housing. This doesn't mean that "demand for urban living outstrips supply." It's simply a consequence of the fact that dense urban housing has a high cost of supply.

by Bertie on May 30, 2012 8:48 pm • linkreport

If the urban areas currently house 1/8 of the population, and prices are higher than elsewhere, clearly more than 1/8 of the population would like to live there.

No, it doesn't mean that. Or, rather, it doesn't mean that more than 1/8 of the population would be willing to pay the higher prices that suppliers of dense urban housing must charge in order to cover the higher costs of supply.

You seem to think that if Product A has a higher price than Product B, then Product A must be undersupplied. But it does NOT mean that. You might as well claim, on the grounds that McMansions have higher prices than average houses, that demand for McMansions "outstrips supply" and that we should therefore be building more McMansions. And you'd be just as wrong.

by Bertie on May 30, 2012 9:20 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Jasper on May 31, 2012 10:08 am • linkreport

Very, very few people actually want to live in cities.

The evidence indicates that only a small proportion of the population prefers to live in a dense, walkable, transit-oriented urban environment. Mostly, certain single, childless young adults.

According to surveys, about 1/3 of people say they prefer to live in cities.

I explained above why dense urban housing tends to be more expensive.

Your explanation was wrong. Of course it is about demand.

This is why your claim that "higher price = more total demand" is completely and utterly wrong.

Well, let's define terms.

MLD is saying that the average piece of urban land is desired by more people than the average piece of rural or suburban land and that's why price is higher. This is correct.

Bertie is arguing that there are more people who want to live in the suburbs than in the city, but there is also more land in the suburbs, which keeps prices low. This is only part right. Surveys show that the number of people who want to live in the suburbs is about the same as the city. So it is more accurate to say that there are the same number of people who want land in the suburbs as want land in the city (Demand is equal) but there is less supply in the city. Which is why prices are higher.

But Bertie is wrong when he claims that it has nothing to do with demand.

A demand for a lifestyle is higher than a ratio of population?

What he means is that more people live in the suburbs than want to, and fewer people live in the city than want to. Because we've done a bad job of creating supply in the city. If we really want people to be happier, we should help more people live where they want, which means helping people who don't live in the city to do so.

by David C on May 31, 2012 3:39 pm • linkreport

According to surveys, about 1/3 of people say they prefer to live in cities.

"Cities" are not the same thing as dense urbanism. Most areas of most cities are not dense, not walkable, not transit-oriented. They are low-density and car-oriented. The only form of transit they have is low-frequency buses. This is especially true of the newer cities in the south and west like Houston and Atlanta and Phoenix. So the number of people that prefer to live in "cities" (which, you claim, is only 1/3 of people anyway) doesn't tell us anything meaningful about the level of demand for dense urbanism. Decade after decade of growing sprawl and suburbanization, and the dramatic reduction in density of the nation's central cities over the past 50 years (from about 7,500 people per square mile on average in 1950, to about 2,700 people in 2000), shows us that demand for dense urbanism is low.

Your explanation was wrong. Of course it is about demand.

No, my explanation is correct. Prices alone tell us absolutely nothing about aggregate demand.

What he means is that more people live in the suburbs than want to, and fewer people live in the city than want to.

If that's what he means, he's wrong about that too. The mere fact that one type of housing tends to have a higher price than another type of housing tells us precisely nothing about how many people want to live in each type of housing. You don't seem to understand this point either.

by Bertie on May 31, 2012 4:05 pm • linkreport

could you dudes PLEASE stop saying "Aggregate demand"? Its a term of art in macroeconomics, the total demand for ALL goods and services in an economy, and your use of it for total demand for a type of housing is annoying.

by MacroEconGuy on May 31, 2012 4:10 pm • linkreport

actually the oft quoted 1/3 figure is precisely for walkable communities. That the number living in suburbs grew from 1950 to 1980 is hardly surprising - its overdetermed. prior to 1950 far less than 2/3 of folks lived in autocentric low density, despite at least that many (at the time) wanting it. Add to that the coincidental association of center city living (esp but not only dense walkable center city living) with issues of race, crime, and education - and you don't even need to touch on policy issues (though I think there were policy issues that pushed the change as well)

At some point we had spent so long not building walkable, even throwing substantial obstacles in the way of building walkable, we had far too little walkable to meet demand.

Right now we have somewhere close to 1/3 who want walkable urbanism (heck discount SOME of those folks who want it but won't pay any realistic premium for it)and say its 30% who want it. How many have it now? Probably hardly 10%. That explains the surge in demand for it, and the need to accommodate that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 31, 2012 4:17 pm • linkreport

Decade after decade of growing sprawl and suburbanization, and the dramatic reduction in density of the nation's central cities over the past 50 years shows us that demand for dense urbanism is low.

No it doesn't. Not any more than the fact that most people buy coach tickets instead of flying first class shows us that their is greater demand for coach tickets.

And I understated it. About 56% of people want to live in dense, walkable communities.

http://urbanland.uli.org/Articles/2011/June/SpivakWalkable

by David C on May 31, 2012 4:35 pm • linkreport

No it doesn't. Not any more than the fact that most people buy coach tickets instead of flying first class shows us that their is greater demand for coach tickets.

On the contrary, that's exactly what it shows. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] It's not a matter of how many people "want" the product. It's a matter of how many people are willing and able to buy the product at a given price. Dense urban housing costs much more to supply than low-density suburban housing. So suppliers of dense urban housing have to charge a high price to cover the high cost of supply. Only a relatively small number of people are willing and able to pay that price. The market for such housing is small, so suppliers don't build very much of it.

by Bertie on May 31, 2012 9:10 pm • linkreport

It's not a matter of how many people "want" the product.

Except that we are talking explicitly about how many people "want" the product. It is your premise that few people want to live in the city.

But surveys show that about 1/3 of people want to live in the city, about the same amount as want to live in suburbs or rural areas. Now you've somehow decided that people will say they want to live in the city, but they actually want to live in the suburbs. But I'm going to take people at their word.

By the way, you might as well define dense now so that we don't get wrapped around the axle on it. How many people per sq. mile makes an area "dense" as you're using the term?

by David C on May 31, 2012 10:46 pm • linkreport

Except that we are talking explicitly about how many people "want" the product.

No we're not. We're talking about demand for different types of housing. Demand depends on price, and price depends on the cost of supply. Dense urban housing has a high cost of supply, and hence a high price. That's one reason why demand for dense urban housing is so limited.

But surveys show that about 1/3 of people want to live in the city

I've already explained that "city" is not remotely equivalent to "dense urbanism." A survey that asks people what they "want" doesn't tell us anything about what they're willing and able to pay for. And surveys aren't reliable indicators of real-world preferences anyway. What matters is what people choose when they're faced with actual real-world choices ("revealed preferences," as economists call them), not what they tell a pollster. For decade after decade, people have overwhelmingly been choosing low-density, car-oriented lifestyles over dense urban lifestyles.

By the way, you might as well define dense now so that we don't get wrapped around the axle on it. How many people per sq. mile makes an area "dense" as you're using the term?

There is no single number. But the kind of urban form generally promoted by the "urbanist" community typically involves densities of at least 10,000 people per square mile -- far higher than the densities at which most people live today.

by Bertie on May 31, 2012 11:35 pm • linkreport

At some point we had spent so long not building walkable, even throwing substantial obstacles in the way of building walkable, we had far too little walkable to meet demand.

There's no evidence that there's "too little walkable to meet demand." The purported evidence for this assertion -- the high price of "walkable" -- isn't evidence at all. It's simply a consequence of the fact that "walkable" has a high cost of supply. High land costs and high construction costs.

by Bertie on May 31, 2012 11:52 pm • linkreport

No we're not.

Maybe you aren't, but everyone else is. Perhaps you'd like to join us.

Demand depends on price, and price depends on the cost of supply.

I think you have it backwards. Price depends on demand. That's why housing prices have fluctuated so wildly. That's why a house can be bid up to ever higher prices. Cost plays a part in profit, but not in the price. Sometimes housing is even sold at below cost. Of course a developer won't build something if they don't think the price will be worth the cost, but that's still the opposite of what you said.

What matters is what people choose when they're faced with actual real-world choices

Well I think what we're talking about it what people would do if cost were not a factor, so real world behavior doesn't reflect that because cost is a factor. At least, that's what I'm talking about. So then a survey is relevant.

But the kind of urban form generally promoted by the "urbanist" community typically involves densities of at least 10,000 people per square mile

Really, which urbanists use that threshold? Can you show me where? That would limit it to only parts of 16 cities in the whole US. I've never heard of anyone using such a high limit. I consider myself an urbanist, and when I talk of dense, urban neighborhoods I'm thinking more like 1000 people per sq. mile.

by David C on Jun 1, 2012 12:01 am • linkreport

It's simply a consequence of the fact that "walkable" has a high cost of supply.

No. Once again, cost does not drive price. Demand - or how buyer's value something - drives price. And buyer's value walkable more than they do not walkable, which is why the price is higher.

by David C on Jun 1, 2012 12:24 am • linkreport

demand and quantity demanded are not the same thing - this is an elementary econ 101 mistake. Qty demanded depends on price, demand (which is the curve of qty demanded at all prices) does not.

33% express a desire for "walkable urbanism" and a willingness to pay some premium for it. Probably less than what it would cost. but a significant number (10% or more?) currently purchase urbanism even at prices that are well above the incremental construction cost of supply (as shown by high land prices) (whether that is due to market lags or "artificial" barriers is not important in this context, I think). Exactly what % would buy at equilibrium is hard to say for sure, but I think its over 20%. And I think with more people learning the advantages of urban living, that may well shift higher even IF improved MPG offsets rising gasoline prices and other tangible issues do not cause increased demand for urbanism.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 1, 2012 10:08 am • linkreport

Maybe you aren't, but everyone else is.

No, only you seem to be.

I think you have it backwards. Price depends on demand.

No, I don't have it backwards. Yes, price depends on demand, but demand also depends on price. Higher prices generally cause lower demand. The cost of supply sets a floor on the equilibrium price. Suppliers cannot sell their products below cost without losing money, and ultimately going bankprupt. Dense urban housing has a high cost of supply and hence a high equilibrium price.

Well I think what we're talking about it what people would do if cost were not a factor,

You seem to be talking about that, but I have no idea why. I thought you were interested in what's going on in the real world, not in some impossible imaginary world where costs don't matter.

Really, which urbanists use that threshold? Can you show me where? That would limit it to only parts of 16 cities in the whole US.

There are probably more than 16 cities that have some neighborhoods where the density exceeds 10,000 people per square mile. But the point is that such density is rare. Only a small fraction of the population lives in places that are sufficiently dense for "walkable, transit-oriented" urban lifestyles.

I've never heard of anyone using such a high limit. I consider myself an urbanist, and when I talk of dense, urban neighborhoods I'm thinking more like 1000 people per sq. mile.

Then by "dense, urban neighborhoods" you apparently mean neighborhoods that are not remotely walkable or transit-oriented, where the housing stock consists mostly of single-family homes and low-rise apartment or condo buildings, and where the overwhelmingly dominant mode of transportation is the automobile. Even classic sprawl cities like Houston and Phoenix are several times more dense than your 1,000 people per square mile figure.

by Bertie on Jun 1, 2012 6:37 pm • linkreport

Bertie, I'm afraid you indeed are confusing "demand" and "quantity demanded" as AWITC mentioned.

"Demand" is a function representing the amount of a good people would pay for any given price. Supply is the function representing how much would be produced for any given price.

"Quantity demanded" is the output of that function for an input. If you set a certain price, then the demand function gives you a quantity; that's the quantity demanded.

In the classic supply-demand model for a good where nobody has market power, where the supply and demand curves intersect is the equilibrium price. At that price, the quantity demanded would equal the quantity supplied, and therefore each unit produced gets purchased.

In the airline analogy, the quantity of coach tickets demanded is higher than the quantity of first class tickets demanded. But if you looked at the supply curves for each, if the price were the same then the quantity demanded for first class would probably be greater. In fact, likely at any set price the quantity demanded for first class would be somewhat higher than the quantity demanded for coach, since if they cost the same, people would prefer first class.

Therefore, the demand (curve) for first class tickets is higher than the demand (curve) for coach tickets, but the quantity demanded is lower because the price is higher.

by David Alpert on Jun 1, 2012 6:43 pm • linkreport

No. Once again, cost does not drive price.

Huh? Of course cost drives price. The price must be at least as high as the cost of supply, or the supplier will lose money. If the supplier misjudges the market and builds more product than he can sell at a profit, he will reduce supply until supply and demand are in balance. Or, in extreme cases, he'll go into bankruptcy. That is what happened to many downtown condo developers in the wake of the housing bubble.

by Bertie on Jun 1, 2012 6:49 pm • linkreport

Bertie: This last comment needs to say "he will reduce quantity supplied [not supply] until quantity supplied and quantity demanded are in balance."

And cost drives price to some extent, but above the cost of creating that good, it doesn't particularly.

by David Alpert on Jun 1, 2012 7:04 pm • linkreport

Bertie: This last comment needs to say "he will reduce quantity supplied [not supply] until quantity supplied and quantity demanded are in balance."

Yes, that's what I mean by "supply." Quantity supplied.

And cost drives price to some extent, but above the cost of creating that good, it doesn't particularly.

The point is that the cost of supply sets the minimum price the supplier must charge to avoid losing money on the sale. Housing that has a high cost of supply (such as high-rise downtown condos) therefore has a high price.

by Bertie on Jun 1, 2012 7:15 pm • linkreport

Bertie: Okay, it's just very important to use the correct term because when other people were saying "demand for a is greater than b" and you said "it's less," I think what was going on is they were arguing that "demand (curve) for a is greater than b" and you were saying "quantity supplied is less than for b." Both can be true, since they're not the same thing. So it's just important to get the terms clear.

Housing that has a high cost of supply has a higher minimum price, but its actual price could be higher or lower than that of something else with a different cost of supply. The floors might not be the same, but if you're above the floors, then all bets are off.

by David Alpert on Jun 1, 2012 7:39 pm • linkreport

David,

I think I am using the terms correctly. Here is the meaning of "demand" as used in economics:

Demand is not just about measuring what people want; for economists, it refers to the amount of a good or service that people are both willing and able to buy.
The "function representing the amount of a good people would pay for any given price" is not called "demand," but "demand curve."

by Bertie on Jun 1, 2012 8:28 pm • linkreport

Bertie: Keep reading there for more of an explanation of what David Alpert is getting at.

When demand changes, economists explain this in one of two ways. A movement along the demand curve occurs when a price change alters the quantity demanded; but if the price were to go back to where it was before, so would the amount demanded. A shift in the demand curve occurs when the amount demanded would be different from what it was previously at any chosen price, for example, if there is no change in the market price, but demand rises or falls.

I don't think this is the clearest possible explanation of it (I like to think I was clearer to my introductory microeconomics students), but it'll do.

by Gray on Jun 1, 2012 8:44 pm • linkreport

No, I don't have it backwards. Yes, price depends on demand, but demand also depends on price.

True, but that isn't what you said before. Before you said "price depends on the cost of supply" and that simply isn't true.

Suppliers cannot sell their products below cost without losing money, and ultimately going bankprupt.

Suppliers constantly sell their products below cost. Many of them do go bankrupt. Which means that cost doesn't drive price. Usually the cost is incurred first - making it sunk - and then the price is established. But whether you paid a $1,000,000 for your condo or $100, it won't really change what someone else is willing to pay for it. Ask people who bought homes during the boom how much the cost of their home drives the price people will pay for it.

There is a feedback element at work though that goes something like this.

1. Condo developers try to determine perceived future demand based on prices paid now and other trends.
2. Developers attempt to estimate cost based on experienceto produce more supply.
3. If estimated cost is far less than the perceived future price they can sell it at, then they build. If not, they don't.
4. The building is built and the true cost is determined
5. The units are sold and the true price is known.

So it is far more complicated than you make it sound. But the price will be what the price is, regardless of what the cost is.

If I buy a new fridge at full price and you buy an identical fridge on sale, and we try to sell them to the same buyer, I won't get paid more because my cost was higher.

I thought you were interested in what's going on in the real world, not in some impossible imaginary world where costs don't matter.

Like I said, I'm talking about what people want, not what they choose because of price constraints. If you aren't interested in talking about that, then you should just stop engaging me.

There are probably more than 16 cities that have some neighborhoods where the density exceeds 10,000 people per square mile.

Not according to the census bureau.

And you still haven't shown me which urbanists use that threshold for density. You said that is what urbanists are talking about when they talk of density. How do you know that? Where did you get that number from? If you can produce it, then do so.

by David C on Jun 1, 2012 11:01 pm • linkreport

There are tons of places in this country with a density greater than 10,000 people per square mile.

Here's a map with census tracts marked that I put together:
http://goo.gl/UTRuJ

David, that wiki list only has incorporated places, and neighborhoods are not incorporated places.

by MLD on Jun 4, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

MLD, Thanks. Is there anyway to determine how many people live in all of those places?

by David C on Jun 4, 2012 12:38 pm • linkreport

If you click on a dot it brings up the table attributes, and Population is one of those attributes.

Most of the small towns/cities with census tracts at 10,000 people per square mile are reflecting college populations.

You can also look at the table here:
http://goo.gl/LLDnc

by MLD on Jun 4, 2012 1:01 pm • linkreport

OK, so about 33 million people, or 1 out 10 people live in an area with 10,000 people per square mile. I still say that is a very high threshold. But even at that, it undermines the claim that very few people want to live in cities.

by David C on Jun 4, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

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