Monthly Archives: December 2006



Thank you Twomanytaxes for your comment on the original BAD, BAD BOYS AND GIRLS posting.

I know from your past posts that there are a number of observations based on your experiences in Fairfax County, the National Capital Subregion and elsewhere that do not seem to fit within our overarching conceptual framework. Hang in there, it may turn out that in fact most do.


Thank you Jim W. for articulating your path. When one does what you suggest really needs to happen, it sounds a lot like our path but may seem to some to be easier.

Also Jim W., thank you for using the S/PI vocabulary to outline your path. I long ago promised Jim B. a glossary based on the LEXICON in The Shape of the Future and on Section IV of HANDBOOK to use in Bacon’s Rebellion but this project has been too often sidetracked. It will be part of TRILO-G.

Here are some additional notes on the original BAD, BAD BOYS AND GIRLS POST:

The BAD, BAD BOYS AND GIRLS posting is a draft. We will refine it based on comments and feedback, both in this blog and off line.

TMT suggested that we recycle the post in the MainStream Media. We long ago gave up trying to get WaPo and other MSM to address human settlement pattern issues beyond “he said, she said.” From personal conversations, I know that some reporters actually understand more than reaches the printed page. Jim B. has more faith than I that this is not a clear reflection of publishers understanding of MSM’s short-term economic self interest.

In their comments on the original post, many of the commentors come back to the same question, how do we get it done?

Jim B. is right, there is no hope in a democracy unless a large number of citizens understand the problem; that the problem is worth solving; and that the problem can be solved.

That complex understanding is the function of PROPERTY DYNAMICS. PROPERTY DYNAMICS is on hold while we complete TRILO-G. (One of the four co-designers of PROPERTY DYNAMICS who had agreed to be responsible for administration and supervision of PROPERTY DYNAMICS decided to run for political office.)

We will push ahead with PROPERTY DYNAMICS once TRILO-G is completed. The roots of PROPERTY DYNAMICS go back to the late 80s so it is not likely to wither away.

Comments and feed back come in many forms and from many sources. They fall into two large categories:

First the supporters:

There are several subsets of the supporter category:

Those who agree in general with the overall goal but wonder how it will happen. We all agree that Fundamental Change in settlement patterns and Fundamental Change in governance structure is a huge, daunting task.

Many have given settlement pattern and related subjects careful consideration and some have a pet short cut – a third political party, a tweaking of the governance agency structure, application of a simple tax regime, packages of transport efficiency and demand reduction ideas, a new technology to inform citizens, rekindling the conservation ethic of the 19th and early 20th century, the list goes on and on. Jim W’s suggestion I the original post, as noted above, is among the most comprehensive. I wish there was a short cut but so far the evidence is to the contrary.

I often remind Jim B. that even discussing things which would be a part of a comprehensive solution only gives those who do not want to face Fundamental Change an excuse to avoid reality. As my father used to say: “You cannot get from Atascadero to Honolulu by planning a trip to Pismo Beach.”

Many of the general supporters become committed to some good work or another because the idea of Fundamental Change is just too big to tackle.

Finally there is a group who agree with specific observations and solutions. They tend to be professionals who say “I agree about ‘X’ but my (supervisor / elected leader, boss, publisher, editor, planning director, etc) would fire me if my support were made public.” A surprising number work at VDOT.

Most of the positive feedback comes in private communications, not in a public fora. That says something about the effectiveness of blogging and other “open” systems to contribute to Fundamental Change.

Second the detractors:

Most detractors who take the time to respond are employees / consultants to / unpaid shills for those who profit from, or hope in the future to profit from dysfunctional human settlement patterns.

There is a second group of detractors who have invested economically and / or psychologically in dysfunction. They either do not want to admit they made a mistake or realize that if a lot of citizens understand their collective mistake, the investment will disappear.

This second group is heavily influenced by advertising, especially for autonomobiles and shelter.

Over the years S/PI has suggested that foundations, good government groups, conservation groups and others take on the assumptions in autonomobile and dwelling advertisements directly. So far to no avail. In a future column we will include some simple, modest consumption advertisement guidelines. Also so see the Backgrounder “New Metric for Citizen Well-Being.”
Lest anyone be distracted by the bombast and rhetoric of some commentors in the original string we will add some footnotes when we edit BAD, BAD BOYS AND GIRLS.

We will point out that the market analysis that supports our positions was carried out over three decades for public agencies, developers, builders and conservation institutions. “Same house, same builder, different location analysis” and “per square foot of comparable space analysis” are the key to finding what people really want. It turns out to be far different than what they tell NAHB sponsored surveys they want or what they tell folks they are pleased with concerning their home purchase after they have moved in. This is especially true if their location decisions are being heavily subsidized whether they know or admit it or not.

Some of this analysis has been confirmed by work of graduate students in our courses at the University of Virginia and elsewhere.

We distilled and generalized this research into five fundamental relationships we call Natural Laws of Human Settlement Pattern. Anyone who wants to can get out a map, a scale, a calculator and a pad and with publicly available information – but not much data from public agencies – can replicate the these natural laws.

Two years after competing The Shape of the Future no one with an understanding of how settlement patterns actually evolve had challenged any of our basic assumptions. At that point we had decided to change venues and to facilitate the move tossed out ten lateral file draws full of individual studies that support the theses and principles articulated in The Shape of the Future.

Our next Backgrounder will try to tie down just why understanding human settlement pattern is so important and why citizens must overcome Geographic Illiteracy and Locational Obliviousness.


The Tofflers on Education

In previous posts, I have recapitulated the thoughts of Alvin and Heidi Toffler in their book “Revolutionary Wealth” about transportation and energy policy. But nowhere is the “wave conflict” — the failure of industrial-wave institutions to keep pace with knowledge-wave institutions — more critical than the arena of education. The situation is dire. As the Tofflers write, “The United States will not maintain its spearhead role in the world wealth revolution, it will not hold onto global power and it will not reduce poverty without replacing — not merely reforming — it’s factory-focused education system.

The mass education system of the industrial revolution represented an advance over the educational system, such as it was, of the agricultural era when only a small percentage of children attended school. Mass education was organized to instil “industrial discipline” on young workers fresh off the farm, teaching them punctuality, frugality, sobriety, orderliness, hard work and inner discipline. Schools mirrored the industrial system as well, studying standardized subjects and marching cohorts of children in lockstep through 12 grades. In the words of Sir Ken Robinson, the keywords are linearity, conformity and standardisation.

Over time, a variety of vested interests grew around the educational establishment. First and foremost are the teacher unions. But public agencies also see compulsory education as a mechanism to keep “millions of high-testosterone teenagers off the streets, improving the public order and reducing crime and the costs of police and prison.” What exists today is “an unbreakable coalition that has preserved the factory-school model — a mass education system that fits neatly into the matrix of mass production, mass media, mass culture, mass sports, mass entertainment and mass politics.”

Needless to say, that system fails to deliver the education required for the knowledge economy, where creativity and innovation are at a premium. The gap is growing between what the schools produce and what the business community needs. The Tofflers quote Bill Gates as follows:

America’s high schools are obsolete. By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded. By obsolete, I mean that our high schools — even when they’re working exactly as designed — cannot teach our kids what they need to know today. … This isn’t an accident or a flaw in the system; it is the system.

Millions of Americans agree. They are hiring tutors to supplement their childrens’ education. Many more are dropping out of the system entirely, turning to home schooling. The Tofflers don’t proffer a laundry list of of solutions. They simply suggest that a new coalition — of “angry parents, frustrated teachers, skill-hungry innovators, online educators, game designers and kids themselves” — will seek to replace the existing system of assembly-line education with new models, content and institutions.

What are the implications for Virginia? For one, Standards of Learning (SOLs) are a relic of assembly-line education. While they may ensure that students advance through their grades with a minimum command of the facts — a basic prerequisite for functioning in the world — there is no assurance that they are learning to think. The Standards of Quality (SOQs) are another relic of assembly-line education, defining educational “quality” by the inputs into the system of money, teachers and resources. The centralized, top-down bureaucracy is another assembly-line relic. Teachers sit at the bottom of a massive bureaucratic structure that absorbs resources, imposes uniformity and squelches experimentation and innovation.

On a more topical note, extending the K-12 educational model to pre-school, as Gov. Timothy M. Kaine proposes to do, is exactly the wrong thing to do. Kaine’s proposal would root out and destroy one of the last places where the assembly-line model does not prevail.

Private schools may not be the answer either. Private schools do have certain advantages: They are far less bureaucratic than public schools, and they have more freedom to experiment. They do a better job of tailoring the scholastic content of their classes to the abilities of their students. But they, too, are based upon an industrial model of standardized subjects and moving cohorts of students through grades. Further, as I have argued previously on this blog, their costs are out of control as they engage in the “country clubification” of their school grounds in order to attract the most desirable students and prestigious parents.

Frankly, I don’t know what a knowledge-wave educational institution should look like. I don’t purport to be an expert. However, I am willing to wager that the institutions of the future are more likely to arise from the ferment of the home-school movement than they are from the established educational system, public or private. The home school movement is innovating and maturing at an unbelievable rate. Indeed, the term “home” school no longer describes the phenomenon in which education is increasingly moving out of the “home,” in which parents are increasingly reaching out, cooperating with one another, and pooling resources and talents.

One last speculation: I predict that we may see more “cognitive development centers” like the “center for the mind” run by kSero Corporation here in Richmond. (Disclaimer: I serve on the kSero board of directors.) kSero recognizes that education and cognitive development take place in a social environment polluted by excessive exposure to electronic stimuli, atrocious nutrition, eratic sleeping patterns and overworked, stressed-out parents. Besides addressing the environmental causes of learning problems, kSero maps children’s cognitive skills and limitations and custom-designs mental exercises that will improve cognitive functions — from short-term memory to pattern recognition — that they need to advance.

A Plug for Plug-Ins

According to R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA and now a champion of energy independence, advanced battery technologies, plug-ins and hybrid cars represent the future of energy and transportation in the United States. If he’s right, the impact on our transportation and energy economies will be profound.

In an op-ed (subscribers only) in the Wall Street Journal today, here’s what he says:

The change is being driven by innovations in the batteries that now power modern electronics. If hybrid gasoline-electric cars are provided with advanced batteries having improved energy and power density — variants of the ones in our computers and cell phones — dozens of vehicle prototypes are now demonstrating that these “plug-in hybrids” can more than double hybrids’ overall (gasoline) mileage. With a plug-in, charging your car overnight from an ordinary 110-volt socket in your garage lets you drive 20 miles or more on the electricity stored in the topped-up battery before the car lapses into its normal hybrid mode. …

During those 20 all-electric miles you will be driving at a cost of between a penny and three cents a mile instead of the current 10-cent-a-mile cost of gasoline.

Not only would the economics of personal mobility be transformed, so would the electric power industry. Writes Woolsey:

Utilities are rapidly becoming quite interested inplug-ins because of the substantial benefit to them of being able to sell off-peak power at night. … Adopting plug-ins will not create a need for new base load electricity generation plants until plug-ins constitute over 84% of the country’s 220 million passenger vehicles. Further, those plug-ins that are left connected to an electrical socket after being fully charged (most U.S. cars are parked over 20 hours a day) can substitute for expensive natural gas by providing electricity from their batteries back to the grid: “spinning” reserves to help deal with power outages and regulation of the grid’s voltage and amperage.

Powering cars with electricity instead of gas has a number of advantages. It creates local economic activity for American utilities and fuel suppliers (whether coal, nuclear or green energy) in place of oil imported from overseas. Additionally, Woolsey notes, “there would be a national average reduction in carbon emissions by about 60% per vehicle when a plug-in hybrid with a 20-mile all-electric range replaces a conventional car.”

Virginia needs to prepare for the electric-hybrid future now. A couple of obvious questions:

  • What changes should we make to our electric regulatory apparatus to encourage and enable electric plug-ins?
  • If Woolsey’s scenario transpires, the gasoline tax is toast. What funding mechanisms should Virginia adopt in its place to build and maintain its roads?

We can see the future coming. We can either let it crash upon us, or we can embrace it to create a stronger, cleaner more vibrant Commonwealth.


The 28 December WaPo headline on the “land use / transportation” issue in Virginia reads:
“Va House Puts Onus on Counties for Road Crisis.”

After 50 years of negligent failure to provide the constitutionally required framework to preserve the health, safety and welfare of the Commonwealth’s citizens, some members of the General Assembly want to cover their tracks by giving the elected and appointed leadership of municipal and County governments a Winter Solstice Holiday lump of coal.

The only thing sillier than this “solution” to the mobility and access crisis is that WaPo follows up its Page One story with an editorial suggesting that what is needed to solve the is more money. Further WaPo says that some of the General Assembly’s Elephant Clan members are villains for withholding the money. (“The Snooker Strategy: Don’t be fooled: Virginia Republicans are the ones starving the state’s transportation network.”)


Let us give all the credit that is due to the drafters of the current House package for finally acknowledging that there is, after all, a relationship between land use and transportation.
Welcome to the party! You are about fifty years late and, sadly, the cake is gone.

During the period from 1958 to 1967 such ideas to relate transport systems and land use pattern travel demand were part of the official strategy for the evolution of the National Capital Subregion’s human settlement patterns. Action on this issue was needed then. Modest proposals would have helped 50 years ago. Now Fundamental Change is necessary.


The crisis is an “access and mobility crisis,” not a “roads crisis.” While the “leadership” dithers, the “access and mobility crisis” is morphing into “an economic prosperity / social stability / environmental sustainability crisis.”


All the “Better late than never” and “This is a first step” rhetoric just excuses past action / inaction and encourages further delay in a general recognition that Fundamental Change in governance structure and Fundamental Change in settlement patterns is a prerequisite to prosperity, stability and sustainability in the Commonwealth and in the US of A.

Beating on the electeds and the appointeds in municipalities and Counties in 2007 is a useless exercise which will not even achieve the “hidden” agenda of putting off any action on reals solutions until after the Fall 2007 elections.

Why is beating on the municipal and County “leadership” a counterproductive idea?

For starters, the mobility and access crisis is a New Urban Region-scale and in some cases a subregional-scale problem, not a municipal / County one. Any effective legislation must include a new, elected subregional and regional governance structure. See “The Shape of Richmond’s Future” at for a step by step sketch of how to start the process.

Using the northern part of Virginia as a point of reference, even if beating on Loudoun and Prince William County has an impact it would only induce these jurisdictions to work harder to displace the location of change and growth. The changes in settlement patterns that should evolve mainly inside R=20 and totally inside R=30 will be forced out beyond R=40.

That means more scattered urban land uses in Clarke, Fauquier, Warren, Rappahannock, Page, Culpeper, Madison, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline, Orange, and – you get the idea. At S/PI we have no problem with new urban development in these places or in the Shenandoah so long as all new urban development evolves into new Balanced (Alpha) Communities whether inside the Clear Edge around New Urban Region Cores or in Balanced (but disaggregated) Communities in the Countryside.

If the General Assembly wants to beat on council members and supervisors, they should start with Arlington County which covers most of the territory of two Beta Communities in the Core of the National Capital Subregion. These Beta Communities are not Balanced (Alpha) Communities because they have a gross imbalance of jobs over housing, services, recreation and amenity.

If the General Assembly really wants to address the problem of dysfunctional human settlement patterns which underlies the mobility and access crisis in the northern part of Virginia, they need to look to Fairfax County. [Similar locational dysfunction can be found in the other two New Urban Regions that fall (all or in part) in the Commonwealth.]

Fairfax County occupies most of the R=6 to R=20 Radius Band in the Virginia portion of the National Capital Subregion. Fairfax County covers part or all of 10 Beta Communities. If the projected 2020 population of Fairfax County were distributed in Balanced (Alpha) Communities there would be 100,000 plus acres of open space in the County.

Further the pattern and density of land use in these Alpha Communities would be exactly what the market demonstrates throughout the First World (including the market in the Commonwealth and in Fairfax County) to be the places which are the most desirable to live, work and play for the full spectrum of citizens.

The reasons why the “the American Dream” / “suburban” landscape is in fact the cumulative American Nightmare is the subject of The Shape of the Future and the forthcoming book TRILO-G. The market documents that only a small percentage of citizens really prefer this settlement pattern if they have a choice. It is also clear that “suburban patterns” (what Jim Bacons calls the home of the Pod People) it would not exist if those who benefit from these patterns were required to pay the full cost of their location decisions.

There was a strategy for creating a sustainable, efficient, functional settlement pattern in the National Capital Subregion in the late 50s and it was still an easily obtainable option in the mid-60s. Functional settlement patterns are still the only viable option for the future but it will cost $ billions more to retrofit human habitation now than it would have cost to do it right in the first place.

Instead of preserving 100,000 acres plus of openspace, Fairfax County has created:

Two large preserves of subsidized, 5 / 10 / 20 acre, pseudo “rural” life-style residential areas,

Vast areas of dysfunctionally scattered urban land uses,

And no Balanced (Alpha) Communities.

Had Arlington and Fairfax created Balanced (Alpha) Communities from 1955 to 2005 there would have been little need for Loudoun and Prince William to approve any “subdivisions.”

These jurisdictions could have focused on helping the private sector evolve six Balanced Communities between R=20 (about the Fairfax County border) and R=30. These new places would have also been great places to live, work and play (aka, Balanced (Alpha) Communities).

The data to support these settlement pattern distributions can be found in “Five Critical Realities That Shape the Future,” a Backgrounder at

Why has the settlement pattern that has evolved over the past 50 years been the antithesis of what was needed and desired if the long-term collective self-interest citizens were understood?
Functional human settlement patterns help everyone in the long term from the perspective of economic prosperity, social stability and environmental sustainability.

Dysfunctional human settlement patterns make a few very rich in the short term and it also causes a large number to fantasize that they will get richer at some point if the current trends continue.

From a broader perspective, very few make small profits from conservation, a great many make a lot of money from consumption and over-consumption.

In a society with short term economic profit in the driver’s seat, it is clear what settlement pattern will evolve without aggressive, effective citizen participation in governance. It is also clear why conservation loses out to over-consumption.

The current political process runs on political contributions. Those who make profit from dysfunction human settlement patterns make sure that politics, parties, governance and conservation does not get in the way of their profit personal and corporate motives.

The best use citizens can make of the current “land use / transportation debate” and of the discussion of the mobility and access issue is to point out the moral and ideological bankruptcy of the current proposals and as, we suggest in our recent columns and Backgrounder, vote all incumbents in both parties out of office come November.

That is the only language that they understand.


At Last, a Real Land Use Debate

The transportation-land use connection is finally getting debated.

Although Gov. Timothy M. Kaine had made transportation/land use an issue in his gubernatorial campaign, it never got more than token coverage by the scribblers in the Mainstream Media who decide how debates are framed and presented to the public. When the House GOP leadership tried raising the issue again in the September special session, their package of land use reforms — arguably the most far-reaching changes to the state governance structure since the 1930s — got about as much ink as a proclamation honoring the ladies’ auxiliary of the Chatham volunteer rescue squad.

This time around, the House initiative is generating headlines. Although much of the attention is predictably negative, at least voters are aware that an alternative does exist to the state-run, tax-and-build policies of the past 70 years.

The most balanced coverage comes courtesy of Corey Byers and Meghann Cotter at the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. That article, which gives equal time to the authors of the House legislation and to local government critics, raises the key issue: Can local governments do a better job of planning for and maintaining local roads than the state can? The Free Lance-Star quotes House Speaker William J. Howell:

We think local governments can probably do as good a job, if not better, maintaining secondary roads. … Answering the problem of transportation is broader than raising taxes and giving the money to VDOT. The prime culprit is increasing sprawl.

Local government officials in the Fredericksburg area responded fairly predictably: The problem isn’t local land use policies — or if it is, it was zoning decisions made years ago. The solution isn’t structural reform, it’s more money from the state.

Agree with whom you want to — at least we’re getting a debate.

As predictable as the reaction of local officials was the negative reaction of pundits at the Roanoke Times and the Washington Post.

The Times editorialist does credit House leaders with raising a legitimate issue even if, in the final analysis, he thinks they are wrong-headed about taxes: “Their proposals to tie local land-use decisions to transportation costs put smart-growth ideas on the state agenda for the first time in a serious way, challenging powerful development lobbies. The shift in priorities is years overdue.”

The Times‘ concern is that the House initiative shifts “blame” for the transportation crisis from where it really belongs — the House refusal to raise more stable, long-term revenues for transportation, or to augment the powers of local governments to block development along the lines that Gov. Kaine has proposed. You can agree or disagree with the Times analysis, but at least the editorial writers are tentatively exploring new ground and not re-hashing the same editorials of the past three years.

Then there’s the Washington Post, which, in a self-parody of knee-jerk, tax-and-spend liberalism, makes the editorial writers at the small-metro Roanoke Times look profound and nuanced by comparison. In a spittle-flecked screed that barely deserves the honorific of “editorial,” the Post devotes some 650 words blasting the House legislation without ever describing what it would do.

“Don’t be fooled,” cautions the WaPo editorial headline, “Virginia Republicans are the ones starving the state’s transportation network.”

Don’t be fooled by what? The Post never says. The closest the editorial comes to summarizing House transportation policy is to note that it would spend half the state’s budget surplus, $500 million, on one-time transportation projects. The Post mentioned not one word –not one word — of House plans to devolve more responsibility for road planning and maintenance to local governments. The editorial is not merely one-sided, it is so one-sided as to be deceptive. Perhaps worse, it is ignorant. The wine-and-brie yokels at the Post are either so close minded or so uninformed that they aren’t aware that alternative viewpoints even exist.

Fortunately, Northern Virginia residents don’t have to rely upon whacko WaPo editorial writers for their information. One way or another, new perspectives on the transportation debate are leaking into the public domain.

The Shrinking Cities Movement Comes to Virginia

The flip side of “smart growth” is “smart shrinkage.”

USA Today examines how the city of Richmond is dealing with its declining population: downsizing gracefully, as it were. Following the lead of hundreds of European cities, where populations are shrinking, many American cities are reinventing themselves as well.

“Everybody’s talking about smart growth, but nobody is talking about smart decline,” says Terry Schwarz, senior planner at Kent State University’s Urban Design Center of Northeast Ohio. The center runs the Shrinking Cities Institute in Cleveland, a city that has lost more than half its population since 1950. “There’s nothing that says that a city that has fewer people in it has to be a bad place.”

It’s a startling admission in a nation that has always equated growth with success. Cities are downsizing by returning abandoned neighborhoods to nature and pulling the plug on expensive services to unpopulated areas. Some have stopped pumping water, running sewer lines and repaving roads in depopulated neighborhoods. They’re turning decimated areas into parks, wildlife refuges or bike trails. They’re tearing down homes no one is living in and concentrating development where people want to move.

The problem of shrinking city populations in the United States is not as acute as in Europe, where fertility rates have plummeted nationally and immigration has been limited. But household sizes are getting smaller in the U.S., meaning that even cities with the same number of households support a population. USA Today portrays the City of Richmond as a city that is handling the transition well.

Money quote from Greg Wingfield with the Greater Richmond Partnership:

The city wants to grow, but it’s not waiting for a population boom, says Greg Wingfield, president and CEO of Greater Richmond Partnership Inc., an economic development marketing group. “We don’t as a region aspire to be the next Atlanta or the next Charlotte,” he says. “It’s about quality. It’s not about growing for the sake of growing.”

The Tofflers on Energy Policy

As Virginia evolves toward a Knowledge-based wealth creation system, we need to take a fresh look at state-level energy policy. As Alvin and Heidi Toffler observe in their book, “Revolutionary Wealth,” America’s energy economy has not adapted as quickly as dynamic sectors of the economy.

Industrial America was built on the back of cheap fossil fuels and an immense infrastructure for distributing energy around the country. Costly and overdependent on imported oil and gas, the American energy-distribution system includes 159,000 miles of electrical-transmission lines and 2 million miles of oil pipelines that, because they are heavy fixed assets, are hard to alter in response to rapid change.

The United States is rushing to build an advanced knowledge-based economy but remains saddled with an industrial-age, legacy energy system politically defended by some of the world’s biggest and most influential corporations against a growing, growling public demand for fundamental change in the system. The conflict is not usually posed in these terms, but it is, in fact, an example of Second Wave vs. Third Wave warfare.

Unfortunately, the Tofflers provide even fewer specifics about a “Third Wave” energy sector than they do about the “Third Wave” transportation sector, so it is not clear what they have in mind. Allow me to hazard a few guesses.

A Third Wave, knowledge-based energy economy would, first and foremost, consume energy far more efficiently than we do today. Secondly, it would be more decentralized than the system we have today.

We would see more “distributed generation,” relying less upon giant power plants connected by gargantuan power transmission lines and more upon local, small-scale power generators and energy sources. We would see more “smart” meters that allow consumers to track their electric consumption minute by minute, not month by month. We would see rate structures that reward consumers for conserving energy or for shifting consumption to off-peak periods of the day and off-peak seasons. Similarly, we would see rate structures that require businesses and homeowners to pay their full locational costs — if it costs more to supply energy to a certain location, they would pay more.

A Third Wave energy economy would support the research of promising new technologies and remove barriers to the use of “green” fuels such as solar, wind and bio-fuels (but it would allow market mechanisms to dictate the pace at which such technologies were adopted).

A Third Wave energy economy would seek not only to develop more gasoline-efficient automobiles but would encourage Virginians to drive less by developing more energy-efficient human settlement patterns — i.e. human settlement patterns that would allow people to fulfill their needs with fewer and shorter automobile trips.

Quotable Quotes Regarding the House Land Use Initiative

I’ve culled these quotes from the articles filed today about the House land use-reform initiative.

From the Washington Post:

Speaking in blunt terms, House leaders said an eagerness by local officials to approve development was “an abdication of responsibility” to plan for the impact on traffic, and that supervisors in growing counties “have done a less-than-stellar job” in planning for the future.

“The easiest job in the world is to be a supervisor approving subdivisions,” said Del. C.L. “Clay” Athey Jr. (R-Warren), who leads the House GOP effort to design land-use legislation. “You can approve it, and as soon as it’s over and done with, you can say any impacts to the roads you don’t have to consider at all and you can just start blaming the state.” …

County supervisors, Democrats and Republicans alike, reacted angrily to the accusation that their planning decisions are why the state’s roads are such a mess.

“It just shows how desperate they are to find somebody to blame rather than themselves,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D), who was singled out by name during the news conference. “This is all yet another attempt to sidetrack the public discussion from their unwillingness to put any new money on the table for transportation infrastructure.” …

Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall said Wednesday that the governor and House Republicans are “generally rowing in the same direction” in regard to the newly proposed legislation. But Hall cautioned that the governor had not seen any specifics.

From the Virginian-Pilot:

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said he welcomed the Republican ideas and would introduce his own growth-control bills during the session. “I think it’s an area where there’s a lot of common ground,” Kaine said. “I think that they’re looking at it in a smart way.”

From the Times-Dispatch:

“We are pleased to know that issues of transportation reform and land-use planning are being recognized as top priorities,” said Lisa Guthrie, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. “Both polling and recent elections show growth management and transportation reform to be critical issues for Virginians.”

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

House Republicans have re-introduced land use-reform legislation they submitted during the ill-fated September special session of the General Assembly. The three-bill package is sure to generate controversy among home builders and local governments, but preliminary indications are that the proposals will have a lot more traction this time around.

Critical differences in the political environment: (1) Gov. Timothy M. Kaine indicated that he approved of the general thrust of the package even though he was planning his own legislative priorities; (2) Representatives of the environmental/conservation community applauded the House leadership for “proposing reforms that advance efforts to adopt successful, long-term solutions to our sprawl and traffic problems”; and (3) the capitol press corps acknowledged the existence of the legislation with full-length feature articles instead of relegating the bills to throw-away paragraphs buried deep in their stories.

The aim of the legislation is to tame “suburban sprawl” — the scattered, disconnected, low-density development patterns implicated in aggravating traffic congestion. As Del. Clifford Athey, R-Front Royal, one of the key architects of the package, put it: “Our existing laws in this area were adopted during the Great Depression. They aren’t just woefully outdated, they’re truly obsolete. For localities dealing with rapid residential growth and sprawl, this comprehensive and forward-looking plan is the most significant advance since zoning became commonplace over 40 years ago.”

The House hand-out summarizing the legislation frames this issue this way:

Transportation cannot be addressed and its challenges cannot be solved if we continue to adhere to the outdated approach of just three elements: Tax. Spend. Build. … Any legislative plan to improve transportation that ignores one of the root causes of clogged roads and highways – Virginia’s 70-plus-year-old government land use policies – is inherently inadequate, shortsighted and flawed.

The legislation has three main parts:

  • Require counties to create urban development areas large enough to accommodate 20 years of population growth. These areas would incorporate principles of New Urbanism design to include “open space, mass transit, walking trails, denser development and a commercially zoned component – reducing the need to use the transportation system.”
  • Invite counties to participate in pilot projects to take over responsibility for secondary roads within urban transportation service districts. As financial inducement, the state would give counties a share of state revenue and allow them to impose impact fees on development.
  • Require the Virginia Department of Transportation to define “neighborhood” roads and then prohibit the state from accepting any more such roads into the state system for maintenance purposes. Either counties or homeowners associations would have to take over responsibility for maintaining the roads.

Bacon’s Rebellion has described the logic behind the original versions of these bills in previous columns. They include:

Seventy-Five Years. Virginia’s system for building and maintaining roads has changed little in three quarters of a century. Some people think it needs more money. Others think it needs an overhaul.

The Devolution Solution. Any meaningful transportation reform would make fast-growth counties responsible for their secondary roads. The trick is coaxing them into going along.

Focused Growth. To tame scattered development and the ills it creates, Frederick County concentrates growth in an Urban Development Area. The idea works so well that House Republicans want to take it statewide.

(Please note: The authors of the three bills may have changed aspects of the legislation since September. My columns do not provide an up-to-date explanation of what the current bills would do. The articles do provide history and background to help you understand what they are designed to accomplish.)

The Tofflers on Transportation

As a follow-up to my previous post, “Virginia, the De-Synchronization of Change and Fundamental Change,” I thought it useful to recapitulate what Alvin and Heidi Toffler have to say about the American transportation system. A vast infrastructure of four million miles of public highways, roads and streets, 23 million commercial trucks and hundreds of millions of automobiles, they write, “was a response to the mass society that grew up with mass production, urbanization and work patterns that required masses of workers to commute back and forth over the same pathways on uniform schedules.”

In 2000, the Tofflers note, some 119 million Americans wasted 24 billion hours getting to and from their jobs. But as mass production gives way to “increasingly customized, de-massified and decentralized knowledge production, large numbers of people no longer work in city cores. Work patterns shift from fixed schedules to anytime, anyplace, including home … altering the way time and space are used.”

The Tofflers look to “intelligent transportation” as a Knowledge-wave solution. The U.S. Department of Transportation concludes that intelligent “freeway management systems” could reduce accidents by 17 percent while permitting highways to handle 22 percent more traffic at greater speeds. Likewise, computerizing traffic signals could decrease travel times by 14 percent and delays by 37 percent.

Here’s where their analysis gets juicy:

But pressure from pour-more-concrete lobbies greatly outmatch the political influence of the nascent information-technology sector. When President Clinton in 1998 signed an act allocating $203 billion for repairing and “building roads, bridges, transit systems and railways,” the amount set aside for intelligent systems was approximately one tenth of 1 percent — this from an administration that touted its support for the “information superhighway.”

The U.S. transportation system, on which most business enterprises directly or indirectly depend, is still gridlocked by a political powerful triad of oil companies, car manufacturers and often corrupted highway-construction firms. … The key elements of America’s infrastructure – and their component subsystems — are de-synchronized and fought over by vested industrial-era interests and breakthrough innovators advancing the knowledge-based wealth system. Wave conflict again.

Virginia, one would think, possesses a IT industry with sufficient mass and political clout to nudge the Commonwealth’s transportation system in the knowledge-intensive direction espoused by the Tofflers. Sadly, Virginia’s tech lobby has functioned as a cheer-leader for the solutions advocated by the “pour-more-concrete lobby,” committing a miniscule amount of its political clout to pushing IT-oriented solutions. “Breakthrough innovators” do exist in Virginia, but they are small, politically powerless and largely unrepresented by the tech lobbies.

Of course, as the Tofflers fail to recognize, even liberal application of cool IT technology cannot, by itself, solve Virginia’s transportation problems. There simply is no way around the need for fundamental change to human settlement patterns, governance structures and transportation funding mechanisms.

Still, the Tofflers do intuit that the changing relationship between work and the workplace re-shapes the demand for transportation capacity — a subject that I am writing about for other publications and will address here on the Bacon’s Rebellion blog when I can. They also describe accurately how vested interests — not only auto companies, oil companies and highway construction firms but real estate developers and land speculators — have mobilized to thwart reform. While “Revolutionary Wealth” hardly offers the definitive treatise on U.S. transportation solutions, the Tofflers provide a useful context for understanding the problem.

Arlington, Fairfax and Traffic Demand Management

In Arlington County, a team of 38 employees is dedicated to encouraging employers and property managers to promote transit, biking and walking. Fairfax County, with about seven times as many residents, has recently appointed a single person to coordinate the county’s Traffic Demand Management policies. So reports Alec MacGillis in the Washington Post today.

Perhaps that helps explain why Arlington, despite its greater densities, experiences less traffic congestion than Fairfax County. In Traffic Demand Management (TDM), property owners use a variety of tools — pricing and availability of parking spaces, flex cars, van pools, coordination with mass transit, streetscape design, a complementary mix of land uses — to reduce automobile traffic. As Arlington has demonstrated, effective TDM programs can ameliorate a lot of congestion.

One reason that TDM works in Arlington and doesn’t in Fairfax, suggests MacGillis is that Arlington invests resources in its TDM program and Fairfax doesn’t. Another reason is that Fairfax has failed to enforce the agreements it has forged with developers in exchange for increased development densities.

As we’ve argued on this blog for a long time, TDM is potentially a very effective strategy for combatting traffic congestion. TDM is basic. Fairfax County needs to get serious about implementing it.

MWAA Agreement Needs Public Scrutiny

The State of Virginia and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority are close to signing an agreement that cedes state control over the Rail-to-Dulles project and toll revenues from the Dulles Toll Road to the authority — and Stewart Schwartz wants details.

Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, argues that the turn-over is so important that “the public should have a right to review and comment on the agreement before it is signed.” The MWAA, governed by appointed directors from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., would become a key player in decisions affecting Virginia transportation and land use decisions.

Said Schwartz: “We have already expressed concern that MWAA might be less likely to support the tunnel for Tysons Corner because their overriding interest is building the connection to the airport as fast as possible. Yet, it is not the airport that will generate the greatest number of riders, but Tysons Corner. The tunnel is the key to both the redesign of this edge city and to achieving the ridership necessary to justify the project.”

Key questions: (1) Will the agreement give MWAA power to direct surplus toll revenues to transportation projects of its choosing? and (2) will the MWAA have control over the granting of air rights development above metro stations?

On the issue of air rights, Schwartz asks: Who will receive revenues from the sale of those air rights? Will local governments and citizens be able to participate in planning for those sites? Will a mechanism exist to consider density transfers to the air rights sectors in return for expanded public spaces?

Schwartz also renewed his call for a competitive bidding of Rail-to-Dulles construction as opposed to a contract negotiated with Dulles Transit Partners, which is associated with engineering-construction giant Bechtel.

(Click here to visit the Coalition’s website. The press release is not yet posted online, but should be shortly.)

Shipley Shines in Coverage of Transportation Debate

Garren Shipley, who covers the General Assembly for the Northern Virginia Daily, demonstrates once again that his dispatches are critical reading, for he covers topics you won’t read in any of the major metro dailies. Today he previews the legislation that the House of Delegates will submit next month to overhaul the relationship between state and local government in the maintenance of and planning for roads. So far, Shipley is the only political reporter to break from the herd and cover transportation as something other than a debate over taxes.

Readers of Bacon’s Rebellion, of course, will find the House proposals familiar. As we wrote earlier this year, the House would (1) mandate urban development areas, (2) create urban transportation service districts, and (3) curtail the admittance of subdivision roads into the state road network.

While my pieces were long and verbose, Shipley provides a quick, readable snapshot of the issues. As Shipley quotes Del. Clay Athey, R-Front Royal, new money for the state’s road system is out of the question unless it comes along with fundamental reform. Said Athey: “Funneling a bunch of additional money into a transportation system that’s broken because of poor local land use policy …. [means] that we’ve wasted our money.”

Virginia, the De-Synchronization of Change and Fundamental Change

In their latest work, “Revolutionary Wealth,” Heidi and Alvin Toffler argue that different institutions evolve at different rates of speed as the economy, society, culture and political system shift from an industrial-wave to a knowledge-wave “wealth-creating system.” Businesses are adapting most rapidly — indeed, they are largely driving the shift — followed closely by nongovernmental grass roots organizations. Lagging behind is the American family, and even farther behind are labor unions, government bureaucracies and regulatory agencies. Bringing up the rear: schools, the governance structure and legal institutions. (Doug Koelemay touches upon mismatch between the “demands of the fast-growing new economy and the inertial institutional structure of the old society” in his column, “Future Still Shocking,” which inspired me to read the book.)

In their discussion of the United States, the Tofflers are relatively optimistic. Not only has our economy and society advanced farther down the path to a knowledge-wave wealth-creation system, Americans are more open to change than either the Europeans or Japanese, and they’re less vulnerable to cataclysmic political turmoil than the Chinese. However, there are several dischordances in our institutional mix that stand out — dischordances, as it happens, that are objects of regular scrutiny on this blog: the transportation infastructure, the energy system and the educational system.

The Tofflers make a number of useful observations about each, as I hope to explicate in future posts. As high-altitude observers, integrating global trends, the Tofflers miss some important details. They have little to say about the importance of human settlement patterns, for instance, in understanding the dysfunction of our transportation and energy systems. But their larger points hold up very well.

The old, industrial-wave wealth-creating system is supported by an array of vested interests. These interests resist meaningful change, seeking to apply familiar, but increasingly ineffective, industrial-wave solutions. In essence, they argue for redoubling our efforts in doing the same old thing. We can see this clearly in Virginia in our approach to roads and education: There’s nothing that spending more money can’t fix.

But industrial-wave solutions will not work. Incremental reforms won’t work. We need to reconceptualize crucial institutions. We need to reinvent them from scratch. In other words, to borrow the idiom of Bacon’s Rebellion, we need Fundamental Change.

Time for a Break

The Bacon family is heading to the once-great state of West Virginia (“once great” in the sense that it once was part of Virginia) for a little R&R at the Showshoe resort. Last year, there was no Wi-Fi access, so I do not anticipate doing any blogging. Which is just as well. While others in our party go skiing, I will be doing the kind of prolonged and thoughtful reading that I have little time for now.

Right now, I’m finishing up Mark Steyn’s book, “America Alone,” a depressing but impossible-to-ignore treatise on the demographic decline of the secular Western World in the face of a resurgent and fertile/virile Islam. Next on my list is the Toffler’s book, “Revolutionary Wealth,” which, from what I can glean, is a tad more optimistic about the future of the world.

To all my friends and readers, I wish you Merry Christmas — unless you’re offended by my cultural chauvenism, in which case I offer my abject apologies and wish you a happy winter solstice.