Head for the Hills: Bacon’s Rebellion is Here

The Aug. 23, 2005, edition of Bacon’s Rebellion is now online.


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  1. Not Larry Sabato Avatar
    Not Larry Sabato

    I’m hoping the next VA Pundit Watch will note the large uprising in the blogosphere demanding that I co-moderate the Governor’s debate with Larry Sabato.

  2. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    There are some things I can’t do for America.

  3. Not Larry Sabato Avatar
    Not Larry Sabato

    I believe every major blog has written at least once calling for me to be included in this debate.

  4. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Bacon’s Rebellion often tacks against the prevailing wind.

  5. Not Larry Sabato Avatar
    Not Larry Sabato

    I’m willing to namedrop you in a state employee question…

  6. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I’m usually not susceptible to bribes.

  7. Not Larry Sabato Avatar
    Not Larry Sabato

    Maybe we could co-moderate and just bump Larry Sabato off the job.

  8. Not Larry Sabato Avatar
    Not Larry Sabato

    This would give you much needed name ID for your own Govs race in 2053.

  9. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Will, tacking into the wind is perfectly acceptable. Sailors have profited from this for thousands of years, and may do so again if gas prices rise high enough.

    It’s peeing into the wind that is frowned on.

  10. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Ray Hyde said…
    “Does not compute” makes compelling arguments and then makes an ideological leap to the wrong conclusion.

    I have previously argued here that many of the features which have caused our current traffic situation are new sociological functions which may or may not have anything to do with settlement patterns: women entering the workforce and just-in-time deliveries, to name two. At the same time telecommuting and higher gas may further reduce our needs for new roads ( and raise money for the ones we do need).

    The Virginia estimates ARE wildly over stated. On the other hand, we still have 20 years of catch up road work to do. It is pretty clear that 22 lanes of beltway is excessive and a really bad idea, to begin with. But that means we don’t have the justification for for $30 billion in rail improvements, which even if we get, won’t relieve traffic congestion any more than building new roads will, and for exactly the same reasons. It’s worse for rail even, because congestion is a prerequisite for them to exist, they’re slow create a wasteful need for mode shifts, they don’t go where we want, and when they do they are half empty.

    But if your argument (same as mine) is correct that VMT will level off due to gas prices and other effects, and commuter age workers will decline, then what happens to your (previous) argument that we can’t build our way out of our traffic problems? Clearly your argument suggests that we can eventually fix our problems, especially if we don’t spend $30 billion on rail that doesn’t go where we want.

    Instead of reaching that conclusion you commit intellectual suicide by suggesting that more, mixed use, and denser development will eventually (20 to 40 years) make a dent in our traffic problem by making it possible for people to resort to fewer and shorter trips.

    Just because it is possible doesn’t mean that people will do it. It is possible to shop and eat at the local convenience store, but most people will drive to Gluttony Gilbert’s in order to get a better price or selection.

    Not only is there no evidence anywhere that such a plan will actually reduce VMT, auto trip number, congestion, pollution, or taxes; but such a contention has nothing whatever to do with your own preceding arguments. No one can explain how the congestion we already have on account of settlemt patterns is going to be reduced by adding more density on top of existing patterns which aren’t likely to change soon, if ever.

    Promoting mixed uses in the aging suburbs suggests exactly what I have been saying: we need to move jobs out of the city, yet EMR’s post and argument is based on the fundamental premise that the jobs will be urban-centered for the forseeable future.

    Your argument says the facts show the utter futility of spending our way out of traffic problems by spending $5 billion a year, but your own argument says we don’t need to spend anything like that, so, maybe, business as usual is the right answer after all.

    To me, it sure sounds better than waiting 20 to forty years to discover New Urbanism is not the Big Rock Candy Mountain. As EMR points out “few ideas are as old as the planned new community”. We are still waiting.

    In fact, he notes that balanced communities cost a lot of money, so there must be a core role for public (money) in creating these communities. Again, this agrees with what I have said(urban development is complex, expensive and energy inefficient), and it is perfectly OK with me, as long as they pay their own share for their locational choices, including the cost of rail and Metro.

    Then he goes on to say that if a product is too expensive, then the answer is to build more of it: presumably with more public money and in spite of the fact that the neigbors don’t want it. This is how the general public prevails over private greed, I suppose. Or, if roads are too expensive we could reduce their price by building more of them, and get something that people actually want.

    We can’t very well claim, as EMR does that it will take a lot of public money to build these places and then turn around and claim, as EMR does, that the high prices for such places show that this is what people want (while the neighbors are fighting more denswity), and at the same time they are really cheaper in terms of energy (not true), and provided services.

    Huh??? How’s that again???

    If EMR wants to relieve the pressure on the use of new land, we need to have LOWER prices at transit friendly locations, not higher ones. The prices aren’t really lower if it takes public money to get them. If that is the cost of not building new roads, then the roads aren’t any cheaper either.

    And remember, all those 40 years we are waiting the waste clock as computed by the Texas Transportation Institute is still running. If we take the public money out of building more congested areas, and take the money out of useless rail and $20 million/mile bike trails, and throw in the money we save from the transportation waste clock, then do you suppose we could afford to build the few paltry roads you now claim we need?

    Despite Jim’s contention that empty nesters are changing their living habits, not one of my twelve nearest neighbors have children, they live in enormous homes on even more enourmous lots, far beyond the reach of high speed internet. No one I know is seriously considering depleting their nest egg by buying a more expensive home with higher taxes closer to town. That is what their childless children and grandchildren do because they work such hideous hours that they have no time to commute and have no life anyway, so a bunk-house is all they need.

    I agree, there are some forces that will drive us towards the New Urbanist goals. We will however never reach those goals because equally powerful forces drive us away from those goals. When those forces are unfettered and equal we have a balanced community.

    Anything else just doesn’t compute, and the arguments in these articles are primary examples.

  11. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, I don’t have the time to address every point in your post, so I’ll focus on just one, your statement suggesting that it’s better to build more roads rather than “waiting 20 to forty years to discover New Urbanism is not the Big Rock Candy Mountain.”

    First, you often conflate the views of Ed Risse and myself. I wish you would stop doing that. Yes, Ed and I agree probably agree on 90 percent of what the other writes, but we also disagree on some things, too. One of those issues is the value of New Urbanism. Ed stresses that a New Urbanism project in the wrong location is a bad thing. While recognizing that specific projects often have their flaws, I regard the spread of New Urbanism design standards as a good thing: Even a New Urbanism project in a poor location is less bad than conventional development in a poor location.

    But more to the point of your post: We don’t have to wait 40 years to see positive results from the right kind of development (whether New Urbanist, Balanced Communities or some other label). Let’s say the fast-growing Northern Virginia region is increasing its population at the rate of 50,000 people a year (I pick that out of a hat for purposes of illustration). We don’t have to solve the problem for the entire 1.7 million-person Northern Virginia region. If we can develop and re-develop compact, connected and pedestrian friendly communities for 60,000 people a year, we’d be making, it could make incremental progress in dealing with traffic congestion — while still leaving room for those, like you and your neighbors, who want to live on farms and farmettes.

  12. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I’m glad to see we are gradually coming to incremental agreements. I’m sorry to see you still agree with 90% of what EMR says, and I regard as totally unsupported nonsense. Even when he and I agree on the factual basis of argumentation we wildly disagree on the conclusions: even more than you and I.

    At least you have not referred to me as geolographically challenged.

    I’ll concede my previous post was way over the top, or as Subpatre (whose arguments I admire) would say “rant mode on”.

    Here is my problem with this blog. Clearly we have some articulate and thoughtful people here. Clearly we have wildly differing views on many subjects. Clearly, each of us, even EMR and I have individual facts we can agree on.

    You and I have agreed on parts of some topics. Will Vehrs and I have agreed on parts of some topics. Subpatre and I have agreed on parts of some topics.

    The point of my previous post is that we agree on more than we disagree on, except for the conclusions.

    Now, you have developed a forum, which I believe carries considerable political clout, for whatever reason.

    Its primary weakness as, as I see it, is our inability to argue to an intellectual conclusion, (I’m not Catholic, but let me say)Jesuit style. What puzzles me is this inability to do so, despite our many agreements.

    It seeems to me, that by focusing on our agreements, we ought eventually to come to more agreements, and finally to conclusions. Those conclusions might be argued by those who have not chosen to take the time to participate, but that is a matter for another forum.

    What I suggest is that we form yet another Blog (or something). The purpose of that blog would be to post ideas on which we can agree, as opposed to this one where we disagree.

    After we have enough of them (and I do not suggest in even the slightes way that this will be easy) that we make a collection of them and forward them to some collection of government officials (Gov, AG, Senate, House) and simply tell them that this is the collective considered opinion of a group of concerned citizens, even if that means without attribution to Bacon’s Rebellion, based on x thousands of hours of debate.

    (Don’t ask me how we will decide when we agree, or under what conditions: I haven’t got that far yet.) Assuming we can do that, it ought to carry some weight.

    We can sit here and issue opinions with little effect, forever. But if we can muster the intellectual honesty to segregate our opinons from ideas we can agree on, and if we forward those ideas to our government as a unified body, rather than an unending stream of conflicting opinions, then we can help partially steer the government ( to more socially concious, rational, and cost efficient ideas).

    The point of my post was not to conflate your ideas with EMR’s, but to point out the areas where the three of us agree: in spite of differing conclusions.

    This is not an easy task, but if we can nail the ideas where we agree to the carpet, and if we continue that process, then eventually we will have no disagreements.

    Your post reveals one place we disagree. I figure that the built environment as it exists will persist for fifty to a hundred years, simply based on the longevity of buildings. (That idea may be temperrd by the fact that I have lived most of my life in buildings that were more than two hudred years old, on average). Be that as it may, what we have is what we will have for a long time unless we are willing to raze it and start over.

    Lets say I agree with your argument. The metropolitan area is 3.5 million people. If we redevelop 60,000 people a year according to the Big Rock Candy Mountain theory, and if we can convince people to live in smaller houses with smaller gardens, and if we can convince them that paying more for smaller accomodations is a good thing, and if we can convince them to pay higher taxes for all the services they get, and if we can rebuild existing structures at twice the historical rate, then it will only take 3.5 million divided by 60,000 = 58 years to achieve the goals you think are necessary.

    Can we agree on that? As it happens, I think your number of 60,000 is to high because many people are buying(and maintaining) existing homes, the rebuild accoring to New Urbanism ides is far smaller. I’ll take 58 years for a starter. Remember, this is your argument.

    My life horizon is 15 years, so a 58 year plan is of little interest to me after the first fifteen years. Even if I accept that your ideas will pan out, eventually, I figure the on the ground results won’t make much difference until more than half the area has been redeveloped – after I’m dead.

    I can’t generate a lot of enthusiasm for a plan that does me no good. EMR would call me a short term profiteer.

    I apologize for mixing and matching your ideas with EMR’s, Since you pointed that out to me I realize I have a habit of throwing all the bad ideas into one trash can, and then attributing them indiscriminately when I pull them out for examination (or ridicule if I’m in a bad mood, or the idea belongs to EMR.)

    I’ll agree not to do that again.

    As for wanting to live here, I have little practical choice: this is my wife’s home, and has been all of her life, and for the life of her ancestors for over two hundred years. Aside from that, I’m prohibited from selling it off at market value (sprawl), or even using it profitably for farm-related business. My effective choices are two: I can sell it off at far below market rates to someone wealthy enough to afford to lose money hand over fist and write the “farm losses” off of their regular income (at your expense), or I can give away its value in the form of a conservation easement, in which case I can stop farming it and let the land return to jungle.

    Maybe, I’d like to see someone like myself have the opportunities I have had to work my tail off preserving the environment. That guy can’t afford this place.

    If I don’t go broke with health care before we have to give this place up, I would give it to Habitatat for Humanity, and place a deed restriction on it that says it may not be used for anything other than high density, low income housing. Sicie Habitat is a non-profit, and exempt from taxes, the county would then be in the sam condition I’m in – no positive cash flow use for the property.

    I suspect that if that happened, Habitat would be allowed to develop the property, whereas I am not allowed to.

    Obviously my neighbors want to live here: they are all relative necomers. But let’s be ralistic, except for my closest friends, they would be the first to oppose me in a public meeting if they thought I was planning something that would be different from their interests. They would far prefer that I be forced out in favor of someone more like themselves.

    Waht we see is that newcomers are changing the rules in favor of themselves, at the expense of those who have been most successful at saving the land the logest.

    Don’t put me in the same category as them, and i won’t put you in the same category as EMR.

    As for pedestrian friendly communities: I’m in favor of that up to a point. That point has to do with how much we will spend to promote a form of transport that is good for at most a mile in any direction. (When was the last time you carried your groceries a mile?)

    You brought up the point of social ROI, which I refer to as Gross National Happiness. This by the way is national policy in some Buddhist Southeast Asian country whose name I don’t recall: it is not my idea.

    At most pedestrians account for a few percent of trips (I’ll leave the number open) and mass transit for a few more. Even if we buy your argument about pedestrian friendly development, by your own argument concerning social ROI we can only afford to augment pedestrian (and transit) traffic considerations by a few percent and keep the social ROI in balance.

    That means the 58 years stretches out into the future even farther.

    My question to you comes in two parts:1) based on your own arguments, how far into the future are you willing to send the results of your ideas before you recognize they have no current net present value?

    2) How much would you suggest we spend on our current highway needs in the meantime and how much will we have to raise taxes to do that?

  13. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, you have an interesting idea: Why not focus, for a change, on what we can all agree upon, and then build from there? Are you familiar with Wikipedia? I haven’t studied it that closely, but it’s an online encyclopedia compiled by the public. Entries on individual topics represent consensus views emerging from diverse perspectives. I don’t know how it’s done. But it might provide an interesting model for developing a consensus on public policy issues.

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, as for the other questions you addressed to me, I think they’re based on a misunderstanding of my point of view. Yes, I do think that reforming land use is an absolutely critical part of improving the effectiveness of our transportation system. But it’s not the only thing. I don’t think that land use reform, by itself, will get us to where we want to be.

    I’m a big fan of traffic light sequencing and other Intelligent Transportation Systems. I’m a big believer in the “distributed workforce” — not just tele-commuting from home, but mobile work in all its forms. I haven’t studied it closely, but I suspect we should reconsider the monopoly franchises of our municipal bus systems and our taxi cab services, and encourage new categories of shared-vehicle services such as jitneys, which are common in many other countries. I’m also a believer in HOT lanes and toll-financed projects.

    After we’ve explored all these other alternatives to building more roads, we may need to raise taxes. But raising taxes and building more roads should not be the default policy alternative that it is today. It should be a last resort.

  15. Ray Hyde Avatar

    See, we’ve found more things we can agree on.

    I know little about wikipedia, but I understand one of it’s shortcomings is that there is almost no discrimination.

    Here, we would have to invent some way of deciding what constitutes a consensus, while avoiding the problems of stuffing the ballot box.

    I’m stumped on how to manage that, unless you let the wikipedia, every-idea-is-valid assumption rule.

    For example, on another thread Subpatre and I got into it on the relative safety of living in rural vs urban areas. I think we eventually agreed that, given that one’s previous living conditions were safe, moving to an equally safe place farther away increases te risk due to traffic accidents. That is different from simply saying urban areas are safer.

    That conversation involved just three of us, others have yet to weigh in, so I can’t say that agreement was reached.

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