Down three posts on this Blog, (“Transportation Snow Job in March”) fellow columnist James Atticus Bowden takes on those daemons (aka, evil doers) who are hell bent on raising taxes to pay for transportation “improvements.”

Almost no one likes to pay taxes but almost all say they want to improved access and mobility.

Some who commented on Mr. Bowden’s post are not sure he has all the facts and relationships straight but everyone would agree that he is stirring up a lot of bile and spilling a lot of ink and bites on the issue of taxes and transport.

There is a way to get beyond this conflict, aggravation and waste of time / resources. To do this citizens must look beyond the “tax issue” and get to the root cause of the mobility and access problem. Instead of fighting over the contentious issue of “taxes for transportation” about which there are many strongly held opinions, Mr. Bowden might focus his efforts on getting across a more focused and generic message. It might go something like the following:

No amount of money, regardless of how it is raised or distributed will alleviate community-scale, subregional-scale or New Urban Region-scale mobility and access dysfunction unless there is Fundamental Change in human settlement patterns so that a balance between vehicular travel demand and transport system capacity can be achieved.

No transportation professional can argue with this position. Even those who have hallucinations about the access and mobility “solution” being to scatter urban land uses across the Countryside cannot argue with the need to achieve a balance between transport system capacity and the travel demand generated by the human settlement pattern.

A sharp point can be put on this issue by checking out Mr. Bowden’s current column at . In “The Truth Shall Set You Free” Mr. Bowden argues that the cause of declining family disposable income is that “government” is collecting too many taxes.

Again his focus on “the tax issue” has pushed him a few clicks off target.

The core issue is that citizens and their governments have evolved a settlement pattern that is very expensive to support. For this reason, “government” is spending huge sums to subsidize imported energy and in an attempt to secure foreign sources of petroleum.

Even more important is that the costs of all location-variable goods and services continues to rise at an increasing rate. Beyond direct mobility and access costs, these expenditures include “public / utility” services such as energy, communications, water supply, waste disposal, education and health care. Citizens demand these services. “Government” has no choice to raise taxes to pay for them. Enterprises and institutions also most raise rates, fees and prices to pay for dysfunctional settlement patterns.

The place to focus on the issue of functional settlement patterns and a fair allocation of location-variable cost is in ones own community and in ones own New Urban Region. Mr. Bowden has chosen to live in a village-scale urban agglomeration called the City of Poquoson. From afar and based on Mr. Bowden’s own descriptions, it appears that Poquoson has the potential to become an Alpha Village. A fair allocation of location-dependent goods and services would greatly benefit Mr. Bowden and his fellow Poquosonians. By shifting to user-fee based charges instead of advalorem, sales or income “taxes” he and his village-mates could take advantage of Poquoson’s more efficient and functional human settlement patterns.

Attacking either party in the current the political duopoly that caused the current governance dysfunction is not likely to change the underlying problems. Attacking these issues at the nation-state, state and municipal levels with a shotgun is not likely to get much attention.

Unless citizens understand the root cause of issues that impact them every day like Regional Rigor Mortis and the Shelter Crisis they will continue to support more taxes to “solve the problem. Until they understand the causes of traffic congestion, the lack of affordable and accessible housing and other indicators of dysfunctional human settlement patterns, they will just pressure governance practitioners to provide services and the costs (aka, taxes) will continue to go up.

PROPERTY DYNAMICS is coming soon to an Alpha Neighborhood near you. It could come to a potential Alpha Village like Poquoson.


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  1. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    EMR: Let’s say you’re right. Even so, there are other factors than the inefficient allocation of settlement patterns, etc. etc. you see that causes government – meaning Republican legislators – to raise our taxes in the Commonwealth.

    In the Army you are taught to shoot the close in targets first, because they will kill you. Today the target is taxes. Tomorrow it may be settlement patterns. Maybe.

    FYI, My neighbors are not Poqusonians, they are called ‘Bull Islanders”.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    JAB, yes, there other factors other than inefficient human settlement patterns driving government spending in Virginia, but that’s no excuse for ignoring the critical role of inefficient human settlement patterns. As I’ve argued repeatedly in my columns, the tax-and-spending issue must be attacked across a broad front: improving government processes, restructuring the way we deliver essential services, and reforming land use patterns. Any philosophy of governance that fails to consider all three is incomplete. Once you make the conceptual leap to understanding that inefficient land use patterns are largely a manifestation of special interests and government regulations interfering with the workings of a free, consumer-driven marketplace, you’ll find Ed’s way of thinking a lot more compatible with your own.

  3. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    “Bull Inslanders!”

    I like that. Has a strong Neural Linguistic Framework. Would make a great name for an Alpha Village.

    I was in the military too. We were taught if there is someone on a far hill with a nuke launcher and those in the nearby hedgerow are throwing rocks, go for the launcer.

    As you know from your own experience there are a lot of folks who just want some relief in mobility and shelter and do no mind paying the tax IF THAT WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Show them that more money will not solve the problem, in fact make it worse, and you will get more allies, faster.

    The two 2002 regional referenda went down because of the voters who did not think more money on the projects listed would solve the problem, not just people who thought raising the sales tax would crimp their ablility to save for their retirement.

    Keep up the good work…


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I thought you guys might be interested in this article.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Anon 12:14:

    Best Anon posting I have seen in a long time!

    Read it and understand why we need to stop tilting at windmills (social wedge issues and related) and focus on the big picture.

    Those guys at VT will write anything to get in the MainStream Media and the MainStream Media will publish anything to get readership. Get rich quick schemes based on creating dysfunctional human settlement patterns are a favorite.


  6. Anonymous Avatar


    What would you suggest these “megapolitans” do in regards to transportation over the next 25 years?

    Also, are you saying the folks at VA Tech are off in their projections?

    I didn’t post the article because I thought the get rich quick schemes were a good idea. I posted the article to highlight the fact that developers are already looking 25 years down the road.

    Sadly, it appears that sprawl is the wave of the future with no end in sight.

    Anon 12:14

  7. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Anon 12:14:

    First the basis of our Enthusiasm about the citation you provided:

    We had seen the Hokie projections but had not seen them wrapped into an advice column. We collect examples of bad advice.

    If citizens understood human settlement patterns as well as they understand human health (and that is not yet nearly as comprehensive as it needs to be to sustain the species if that is what we want to do) this advice in Business 2.0 would be on a par with suggesting the way to get ahead would be to move from Peoria to Richmond and open a Meth Lab.

    Second Vocabulary:

    Those are not “developers” who are betting on the future, those are “speculators:” Both amateur and professional speculators. We outline how much they lost in the REIT (70s) and Savings and Loan (80s) and High Tech (90s) busts in The Shape of the Future in Chapters 7, 19 and 22.

    From Boise Cascade to Toll Brothers every developer that has gotten into “landbanking” for their own use has eventually gone belly up, some more quickly than others. Some become addicted to OPIUM (Other Peoples Money). Most do not understand Internal Rate of Return and Alternative Investment calculations. Some are so dumb they stay the course for decades. Check out the IRR on the Miller investment in Haymount.

    Smart developers have backdoors and short horizons. They do not always work but that is what they try to do.

    Third: Hokie Advise.

    From Boomburgs to, Megapolitan Areas to The Next Metropolis, the Hokie advise is, well, hokie. We can only assume Art and the boys are trying to scare people into considering rational actions but it is not working. As the article you cited shows, their efforts are being turned into an excuse for business-As-Usual.

    The number of jobs and people are in line. Lyndon Johnson cited similar numbers to justify HUD Great Society programs. COG numbers for the next 25 years are also similar.

    What is silly is the per job and per capita land consumption and the fantasy that after 15 or 20 years investors will walk away from investments and build somewhere else. Take a look at Baileys Cross Roads, Seven Corners and Annandale, the future of auto dealers in Tysons Corner, etc. See “Five Critical Realities that Shape the Future” at for the amount of land that is available for reuse.

    Forth: What to do about New Urban Region Transportation over the next 25 years? Citizens have to force governance practitioners to admit that:

    “No amount of money, regardless of how it is raised or distributed will alleviate community-scale, subregional-scale or New Urban Region-scale mobility and access dysfunction unless there is Fundamental Change in human settlement patterns so that a balance between vehicular travel demand and transport system capacity can be achieved.”

    If federal, state, regional and municipal agencies are forced to create a plan for a balanced system then the fuzz will fall off the projections.

    Fifth: How do we get there?

    Fairly allocate location-variable costs of goods and services.


    We would advise not calling dysfunctional human settlement patterns “sprawl.” That word generates confusing Neural Linguistic Frameworks.


  8. Anonymous Avatar


    Thanks for the respone.

    First, I am not advocating what was written in the article. My point in posting the article was to show that it’s still business as usual.

    Second, where are we going to put the 70 million or so new people that will be added to our population over the next 25 years? Or, is that all just a bunch of hype? If it’s hype, why?

    Many people correctly predicted the growth in the DC region starting back in the 70’s. The real irony is that there was also a transportation plan, at least on paper, and it was NEVER built. Now, here we are 30+ years later wondering where we went wrong. We didn’t go wrong, we never completed what we started going all the way back to the Eisenhower era!

    “If federal, state, regional and municipal agencies are forced to create a plan for a balanced system then the fuzz will fall off the projections.” In what way?

    What is the ideal balance of jobs/homes/retail/leisure/schools?

    If there is a formula I’d love to see it.

    Anon 12:14, 1:34

  9. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Anon 12:14 / 1:34 / 6:55

    I did not think you were advocating the advice from the Business 2.0 article.

    I have tried to answer your questions in a new post titled CLARIFICATION on this blog.


  10. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon: ideal balance of jobs/home/retail/leisure/schools? Live on a farm by water. Sell your produce in a stand by the road. Play on your land and water. Home school. Drive or walk to Sunday-go-to-meeting.

  11. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Well, I’ve said before that we will come closer to being sustainable if we all turn Amish, but how do you propose to pay the taxes on that waterfront farm with income from your produce stand?

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