TooManyTaxes (aka, TMT) posted a number of comments on the Jim Bacons “The Transportation Debate and the Unreported Land Use Revolution” submission below.

TMT is right about the Dillon Rule, wrong about Greater-Warrenton Fauquier and the future of the 9 Beta Communities that fall all or partly in Fairfax County.

Greater-Warrenton Fauquier already has planned urban enclaves with more space than there is a foreseeable market in the next 50 years.

Citizens and the leadership of Greater-Warrenton Fauquier, when presented with the options in an intelligent manner, would like to have Jobs and Services to Balance the population now living in the Beta Community.

Moreover, they would love to have new Jobs and Services to create a real Balance within the Clear Edges around the urban enclaves aka “Service Districts” that are planned.

What they have been getting over the past 50 years is an increasing flood of scattered urban dwellings and orphan subdivisions. Most of these new urban residents with jobs in the Core are here because of the programs, projects, policies and controls of federal and Commonwealth Agencies and especially the municipal Agencies inside the logical location of the Clear Edge around the Core of the Subregion. Fairfax County is a poster child for the causes of Community, Subregional and Regional dysfunction.

In recent times the wrong sized houses in the wrong locations of Greater Warrenton-Fauquier have been joined by a tide of Business-As-Usual chain stores with more on the way. Not to worry. Some of those under construction in the US Route 29 Corridor will never open and / or soon close. They were “planned” based on a continuing flow of “commuting” residents. That will stop for the reasons we spell out in today’s column. “Three Little Words.”

What has happened in Greater Warrenton-Fauquier has happened across the National Capital Subregion. Especially in the Virginia part of the Subregion there are grossly dysfunctional settlement patterns. These patterns and densities of land use are exacerbated by the least-common-denominator actions TMT points out vis a vis The Rule in Dillon’s Case.

If TMT wants to help he could organize his friends to push for the evolution of a Balance of J / H / S / R / A in each METRO station area and most VRE station areas.

He and his friends could push for much higher parking fees for METRO parking lots. They could support the movement from flat rates and general taxes to fee for services.

What most citizens of Fairfax County call “Quality of Life” is based on an inequitable distribution of the costs of location variable goods and services and reflect the policies, programs, projects and controls noted above.

Not to worry, life as TMT and his cohorts have known it is going away for the reasons noted in “Three Little words.”

Instead of suggesting the further spread of dysfunctional human settlement patterns, TMT needs to lead the charge for a Fundamental Transformation in Fairfax County settlement patterns before it is too late.

We will be happy to send along the 11 Strategies for shaping a functional and sustainable future in Greater Warrenton-Fauquier. They are not that much different from the ones needed in Fairfax County and the rest of the Washington-Baltimore New Urban Region.

Good luck.


PS: Getting rid of the Rule in Dillon’s Case will do no more to improve human settlement patterns in Virginia than doing that has done in other states. It takes Fundamental Transformation in governace structure to achieve Fundamental Transformation in human settlement patterns.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “Greater-Warrenton Fauquier already has planned urban enclaves with more space than there is a foreseeable market in the next 50 years.”

    And if someone wants to buy or sell outside the planned area?


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “Citizens and the leadership of Greater-Warrenton Fauquier, when presented with the options in an intelligent manner, would like to have Jobs and Services to Balance the population now living in the Beta Community.”

    Maybe, but I know of several instances where corporations wanted to bring jobs, and they were more or less told, don’t even bother to apply. Only recently do we begin to see letters in the paper, calling for “the leadership” to do more about promoting jobs and commmerce.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    “If TMT wants to help he could organize his friends to push for the evolution of a Balance of J / H / S / R / A in each METRO station area and most VRE station areas.”

    You mean like they did in Warrenton when they converted the tracks to a bike trail and the station to a restaurant? Wasn’t that done to make sure that Warrenton would never become a hub, with shared vehicle service to other hubs?


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    “Instead of suggesting the further spread of dysfunctional human settlement patterns,”

    As far as I know, no one is suggesting the further spread of what you call dysfunctional settlement patterns, but rather dispersion of more settlements that are functional. as you said, “There can be “more places” but every one of these places need to be inside a Clear Edge.”

    To do that in Fairfax, you would need to tear down and move enough stuff to create clear edges around settlements such as Annandale.

    What we are saying is that there is a limit to the size and density of functional patterns: when the benefits of density are overcome by the disbenefits of crowding. When the benefits of compact infrastructure is overcome by congestion, and complexity, not to mention increased energy usage, social costs, and concentration of pollutants.

    If Fairfax is to undo its position as a poster child of regional dysfunction, then the entire region is going to have to play its part in fixing the mess.


  5. Anonymous Avatar

    “Some of those under construction in the US Route 29 Corridor will never open and / or soon close. They were “planned” based on a continuing flow of “commuting” residents. That will stop for the reasons we spell out in today’s column. “Three Little Words.” “

    I imagine the three little words are “Just Go Away”, which, I think is a direct quote from a former Fauquier Supervisor.

    Who was the planning genius that allowed those places to be built if they weren’t planning the customers to support them?

    Why would anyone celebrate the demise of a chain store already constructed? Let’s all celebrate when our “enemies” waste resources.

    Let’s raise the parking fees at metro stations so that auto drivers can support MORE of metros operations, and thereby further prove it cannot stand on its own. While we are at it, lets create huge development fees to raise home prices to the point no one wants to live there. Let’s create and even bigger economic gradient and see how well that saves the countryside.

    Even if you get the perfect JOSHRA balance around all 33 metro stations, it wouldn’t make a dent in what would still be needed.

    Even in Quaint little Middleburgh homes are being super sized. Recently, I was on the street in Middleburgh when a man with a van full of soccer kiddies stopped. he said he was in town for a game and asked me if I could tell him where there was a sandwich restaurant in town.

    I told him he was probably in the wrong town, but he could try the Red Fox Inn: they have excellent sandwiches.

    Maybe Middleburgh needs a little more “balance” since they don’t seem to have what some people want.

    Having eleven startegies for shaping a functional future aren’t going to be much good as long as they violate the laws of physics that drive the economics they depend on.


  6. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR – First, I am honored that you’ve devoted an entire posting to my comments. I certainly don’t get that much response from my teenagers to anything I say! I truly feel complemented.

    The one thing that I think you are missing is that the residents of Fairfax County are under constant attack by out of control development that greatly exceeds the infrastructure. In a time of of attack, the residents of a war zone are less likely to worry about the long-term, but are consumed by survival.

    Frankly, if we can get some traffic relief and protection from even more overuse of our parks, schools, police, etc., for the price of sending development to Warrenton and environs, so be it.

    Life in Fairfax County has become like life in London during the Blitz. Just as the brave souls of London wanted the German aircraft shot down, so too do most residents of Fairfax County want development proposals knocked out of the skies. Man the anti-aircraft guns!


  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I just would add …whether it is Fairfax or Fredericksburg – citizens attitudes about growth are virtually the same.

    Fredericksburg even has a bumper sticker that says “Don’t Fairfax Fredericksburg” … and ironic… our growth is fueled in part by folks who fled from Fairfax.

    But the issues are the same – too much car traffic for the roads…more growth that further degrades services and quality of life.

    EMR must understand – that this issue – is a very potent one that argues against balanced communities that value density as a key element of “balance”.

    No change in governance structures will lead to higher levels of density if the “governance” is elected.

    The only way that fundamental change in governance will occur is in one or more dictator-types issue dictates by fiat.

    Thus – EMR tells TMT to go “advocate” … for things that EMR is opposed to… and TMT represents more than a few folks with similar views, I’m betting.

    So.. fundamental change will not “evolve” unless citizens think it will benefit them….

    that’s basically how Democratic governments work.

    and if you going to convince people to advocate for changes in governance itself -you have to have a model that folks can see..kick the tires…etc… satisfy themselves that maybe this guy EMR has a point… about…

    In fact.. Bill Howell has convened a two year study commission to look at growth and development issues and he sounds as if he “gets it” with regard to sprawl.. so what better opportunity to get into the game?

    I’m sure the Smarter Growth people are going to be in that game…probably already are…

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ….”…Thus – EMR tells TMT to go “advocate” … for things that EMR is opposed to… and TMT”

    WRONG! the older I get the more senile my finger/brain connection gets.

    … EMR tells TMT to advocate for things that


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    “Fairfax or Fredericksburg – citizens attitudes about growth are virtually the same.”

    There are more than 3500 jurisdictions that have some kind of growth control ordinances in place, there are only around 3000 counties. If everybody everywhere has the same attitudes against growth, then someone is going to have to stop growing.

    Who’s gonna be first?


    Larry is right, change will not “evolve” unless citizens think it will benefit them….” It’s hard for me to see how you convince citizens that it is to their advantage to raise the cost of parking at Metro stations. It is hard for me to see how you convince people too buy a “smart” electric meter which will make their life more complicated and less convenient, even if you can convince them that someday it will result in lower overall rates.

    So, what we have is a bunch of special interests trying to sell ideas in such a way that people think it will benefit them, whether or not there is the slightest chance that it ever will.

    What EMR wants is a level of education such that everyone will see things his way, since it is the only way. A benevolent dictator in the guise of education. At which point you can dictate through peer pressure, or move for fundamental change in governance, in which case you can have the real thing.

    Then we will all agree that what we need is fewer people using less stuff – so that we can all be better off, naturally.

    Which is great if you are one of the survivors, but if you are one those who gets “fewered off”, then its a pretty hard sell.

    Change will not “evolve” unless citizens think it will benefit them.


  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well.. here’s what “three little words” did for Germany:

    “…. Europeans who have achieved a high standard of living in spite of very high energy prices — gas in Germany costs more than $8 a gallon — have a lot to teach us about how to deal with that world.

    If Europe’s example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don’t drive them too much.

    Notice that I said that cars should be fuel-efficient — not that people should do without cars altogether. In Germany, as in the United States, the vast majority of families own cars (although German households are less likely than their U.S. counterparts to be multiple-car owners).

    But the average German car uses about a quarter less gas per mile than the average American car. By and large, the Germans don’t drive itsy-bitsy toy cars, but they do drive modest-sized passenger vehicles rather than S.U.V.’s and pickup trucks.

    In the near future I expect we’ll see Americans moving down the same path. “

    from: “Stranded in Suburbia”

    Question: has Fundamental Change occurred in Germany?

    bonus Q: all things equal – who suffers the worst quicker when energy prices skyrocket? the US or Germany?

  11. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    I suspect if we were on a citizen committee and had a specific Community scale project to work with, we could agree on almost everything.

    I did that in the mid-80s with a 54 member citizen committee that had a lot of folks who went in sounding a lot like you do.

    We did a very good plan for Fairfax Center and it was not two months after approval that is started to unravel due to the forces we have identified in “The Role of Municipal Planning in Creating Dysfunctional Human Settlement Patterns” and will revisit in “Roots of the Helter Skelter Crisis.”

    I lived in Fairfax County for 22 years and agree that things are getting worse. In the six years since we left conditions in specific areas with which we are very familia are approaching intolerability.

    Having been on all sides of the debate, I can point out why good plans went bad and enlighted strtegies were hijacked.

    I can also tell you who did it.

    There is a better way, it can be done and costly energy will force some to make different decisions as Larry points out re Germany.

    My friends in Danmark, Sweeden and Norway have make much better decisions when faced with many of the same problems.

    For now all I can do is try to finish TRILO-G. There will be a chapter on a one-on-one learning experience with a Postscript on what one can learn from flying over Europe when they have grasped the fundamentals of functional human settlement patterns.

    Keep up the good work…


  12. Groveton Avatar

    “PS: Getting rid of the Rule in Dillon’s Case will do no more to improve human settlement patterns in Virginia than doing that has done in other states. It takes Fundamental Transformation in governace structure to achieve Fundamental Transformation in human settlement patterns.”.

    This is the epic flaw in EMR’s arguments. There is no place in the US where proper human development patterns can be found at scale. Therefore, no change can matter because it’s being done wrong everywhere. Only if we rewrite the US Constitution, bulldoze the existing structures and implement a radical new tax system will we have a future. Sorry EMR – your approach may be theoretically right but it is almost impossible to imagine it being implemented.

    Meanwhile, I have a fairly simple thought – when two groups are finger pointing you cut off one group’s fingers. The “fingers” being used by local politicians all over the state are the fingers of “limited authority”. From really horrid public schools in some localities (“We don’t get enough money from the state”) to over-development in others (“VDOT won’t build the roads we need”) to a lack of employment opportunities in yet other localities (“globalization should be banned in Virginia”) – the local yokels all cry about the state limiting their authority or failing to take some action. And you know what? They have a point.

    We’ve tried the all powerful centralized nanny state for at least the last 100 years. It doesn’t work. Time to try something else.

    From EMR’s comment on his own article, re: Denmark, Sweden and Norway…

    How about Denmark, Sweden and Norway? Do they have a standoff between local politicians and central politicians? Let’s start with the demographics. What percentage of the citizens of these countries live in the largest metropolitan area of that country?

    Denmark (Copenhagen): 20.3%
    Norway (Oslo): 17.8%
    Sweden (Stockholm): 13.8%

    The weighted average is 16.7%

    So, the three COUNTRIES have as their biggest population centers metro areas with approximately the same population as Fairfax County.

    This would be about the same as the United States having its biggest metropolitan area of 50M people. The New York Metropolitan area has 18.9M people.

    Now, let’s add in the second largest metropolitan areas:

    Demnark (Arhus): 808,000
    Sweden (Gothenburg): 900,000
    Norway (Bergen): 250,000

    What percentage lives in the two largest metropolitan areas?

    Denmark: 35%
    Sweden: 24%
    Norway: 23%

    The weighted average is 26.7%

    That would be the same as the US having 80M people living in its two largest metropolitan areas. The New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas combined have 31.7M people.

    In fact, if you combined America’s 3 most populous metropolitan areas (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) they would have a combined population of 41.2M people or 13.7% of the US population. You could throw in the 6.1M of Dallas (US #4 MSA) – Ft Worth MSA and have 47.3M or 15.8% of the US population.

    So, the single largest metropolitan areas in Denmark, Sweden and Norway average 16.7% of those countries populations. You could combine the four largest MSAs in the United States and still not have the same percentage of Americans living in the largest metropolitan area as live in the most populous areas in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

    This is a pretty absurd comparison.

    Fun facts:

    1. Government revenue (as a % of GDP) is 32% in the US and 59% in Sweden.

    2. Denmark is politically divided as follows: Country, regions, municipalities. This would roughly compare with country, state, county/city in Virginia. Here’s the latest from Denmark:

    Denmark is divided into five regions and 98 municipalities (Danish, kommuner). This was established per an administrative reform, effective January 1, 2007 which replaced the 13 counties (amter) with 5 regions (regioner). The 270 municipalities were consolidated into 98 larger units, most of which have at least 20,000 inhabitants. The reason was to give the new municipalities greater financial and professional sustainability. Many of the responsibilities of the former counties were taken over by the enlarged municipalies.

    In other words, they repealed their version of Dillon’s Rule.

    Sweden is a unitary country. In other words, it maintains the same level of power in the national government (over all entities) as the state of Virginia maintains over counties and cities in Virginia. In the United States it would be an all powerful federal government which could extend and withdraw power from the states at the discretion of the federal government.

    Norway may look closest to the US. There is a country, counties (like states) and municipalities (like counties or cities). Responsibilities are divided with the national government and municipal governments being more powerful than in Virginia and the county (state) government being less powerful. In fact, a Dillon Rule debate on steriods is brewing in Norway:

    “Norway is divided into 19 administrative regions, called counties (Norwegian: singular fylke, plural fylker (Bokmål) / fylke (Nynorsk); until 1918 known as amt, pl. amter / amt). The counties form the primary first-level subdivisions of Norway and are further divided into 431 municipalities (kommune, pl. kommuner / kommunar). The capital Oslo is considered as both a county and a municipality.

    There is some political disagreement on whether counties are a practical, economical or even necessary level of administration.”.

    Maybe get rid of the state level altogether? Norway is on to something here.

    At this time it’s probably worthwhile to summarize:

    1. EMR can find no examples of functional patterns of human settlement at scale in the United States. Therefore, no best practices may be defined since everything is broken everywhere.

    2. Failing to find anywhere in the US that is working at scale, EMR goes international. EMR believes that his friends in Denmark, Sweden and Norway have made good human settlement pattern decisions.

    3. Two of the three countries cited by Mr. Risse have smaller populations than the state of Virginia.

    4. The demographics of all three countries are vastly different than the United States with a much heavier concentration of people in the largest metropolitan area.

    5. At least two of the countries are essentially socialist with very high tax rates and government spending relative to the US. I am not sure about Norway.

    6. One country has a unitary government – the national government calls all the shots. Another has just recently dramatically reduced the power of their middle tier of government (equivalent of a US state), the third is considering eliminating the middle tier (the equivalent of a US state) altogether.

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Groveton makes a strong argument and he backs it up with plausible info.

    I think EMR’s work is important and relevant conceptually but it comes a cropper on practicalities and implementable strategies.

    The price of gasoline will have a much more dramatic impact on settlement patterns in the US than ..the likelihood that fundamental change in governance will – IMHO.

    and that is because – at this point – I don’t think many of us (if any) could make a list of the changes that are needed….much less advocate for said changes…

    and though there are no examples apparently of correct settlement patterns – there must be some better than others.. and then reasons why they are and then the parts of their governance structure that contributes or inhibits more optimized settlement patterns.

    In EMR’s defense, we DO KNOW that there are examples of dysfunctional settlement patterns and so that does imply that there have to be examples of, if nothing else, less dysfunctional settlement patterns – or call them what they are – better functional settlement patterns.

    It’s a worthwhile and important endeavor but as with many academic issues – the jump from conceptual to practical is not trivial.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    gas in Germany costs more than $8 a gallon.

    Actually, no. Gas in Germanny costs about the same as here, but they have a very high gas tax.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    “In the near future I expect we’ll see Americans moving down the same path. “

    You can see it now. Drive around the countryside, even the ritzy parts and you will see heavy vehicles parked out front with for sale signs.


  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: Dillon’s Rule and Settlement Patterns and Governance

    I would think.. that the Dillon Rule model would be a more organized approach to implemented standards for settlement patterns – not withstanding significant disagreement with the way that Dillon rule walks and talks in Virginia and the GA’s less-than-expert legislative process for implementing any congruent policy for growth and development.

    For instance, the development community is not happy with the way that localities in Va handled impact fees and proffers so they want the state to essentially “Dillon-Rule” proffers and impact fees by dictating mandatory uniform standards – statewide.

    I would say there is both opportunity …and peril .. in doing this – especially if the result is Va GA-enabled sprawl but even worse could happen with the VA GAs penchent for making laws with unintended consequences….

    So.. we ask EMR – if Virginia IS going to engage in discussions about settlement patterns and there are citizens who would like to see more functional settlement patterns, what are the specific things that should be advocated for?

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    Most Massachusetts counties currently exist only as geographic regions, and have no county government. All former county functions were assumed by state agencies in the late 1990’s-early 2000. Sheriffs and some other regional officials with specific duties are still elected locally to perform duties within the county region, but there is no county council or commissioner.

    Massachustts government is handled entirely by the sate or at the town level. Part of the reason was that counties had adopted housing policies designed to beggar thy neaighbor.


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    I concur with Groveton. It is impossible to conceive of EMR’s suggestions actually being implemented. There are signs that his plans are being tested: at Metro west parking is being reduced in favor of onsite habitations. Whether that actually reduces traffic or energy consumption remains to be seen.

    But, to get anywhere with them we will need plans that are much more of a win-win strategy than the same old song of everybody gives up something for the public good. Or even worse, “We’ll just punish the “bad guys” to get our money.”

    I think the overall tax rate in Norway is around 60%, but they have among the best social programs anywhere.

    Groveton’s comments on the relative size of the major metropolitan areas was interesting. I count it as one more example that says too much density increases complexity, costs, and energy usage. We need more medium size cities, with vibrant economies, and as EMR points out, good intercity transit.

    But, if I’m correct in saying that cities use more energy overall, because of public energy use, even if they use less per household, then those costs will have to be absorbed somewhere. When you look at a national map of energy use divided by population density, you do not see huge differences where the largest cities are, as some people claim there is.

    This might mean that the mass migration out of the countryside to avoid gas prices will develop several countervailing influences. An increased differential in housing prices being one of them.


  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    without debating the merits of Massachusetts governance and settlement patterns…..

    JUST KNOWING … how it ranks in terms of settlement pattern “goodness” compared to other governance/land use policies would open the window a tad on the differences in governances… with respect to settlement patterns…

    I don’t think a reasoned debate on settlement patterns is feasible until we agree on the characteristics of differing governance models – with respect to settlement patterns.

    For instance.. is a Dillon Rule government model better or worse for functional settlement patterns?

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    for the purposes of discussion…

    is there such a concept in Functional Settlements of being TOO dense?

    This gets to Ray’s idea and TMT’s concern that density does not come “free”.. it has it’s own issues…

    so for example…

    in a dense place like NYC.. you have an old building that is coming down and will be replaced…

    Does it adversely impact that neighborhood if the replacement tower is 20 stories or 120 stories?

    and if there are adverse impacts for too much density – what are they and do they argue for a concept of “optimal” density or if that.. in fact.. an optimal settlement pattern?

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Hate to pile on EMR but

    not that many people are going to pay 300k to live in a condo near metro or 500k in a townhouse near metro or 750+k to live in a single family house near Metro.

    You would have to seriously jack up the price of both gas and the parking fees to convince people to buy these types of housing

    I also agree with TMT. In Fairfax County ANY new development is basically dead on arrival unless you can somehow game the system past the public…. Tysons Task Force

    The Tysons Task Force is the area where you have suggested TMT get involved. I think TMT might even be on the task force or at least he is following it closely. The whole exercise is a farce. Density and development are going to increase without any major road improvements. To assume that all of these people are going to walk or use metro and not have cars is laughable. So in the end we are taking an already congested area in Tysons and increasing the congestion levels… not the smartest thing in my view.


  22. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Interesting discussions taking place here…

    Groveton observes that there are no regions in the United States that meet Ed Risse’s criteria for functional human settlement patterns. That’s true. But not all regions are equally dysfunctional. Some are clearly worse than others. As an intellectual exercise, it might be interesting to survey the top 100 regions and apply some metrics — congestion, commuting times, fiscal stress (or tax levels), housing affordability, cost of living, energy consumption per capita and other criteria reflecting HSP (human settlement pattern) functionality. Then we could examine what kind of land use and transportation policies those regions have in place.

    As for European HSPs, the fact that the Nordic countries have smaller, more urbanized populations than the United States as a whole is not terribly relevant. We simply must be careful to compare apples to apples — compare Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, etc. to cities of like size in the United States.

    I’m not sure how relevant it is whether the Nordic countries are more socialist than the United States. While Ed and I point to European cities as models of how HSPs can be more functional, neither one of us embrace a socialist model for getting there (despite repeated and inaccurate claims that we do). In my opinion, the United States has to find its own path — a path that allows a greater role for free markets, property rights and consumer sovereignty. (Ed and I may differ somewhat on the emphasis given to each.)

    Regarding Larry’s point about the path to functional HSPs in the United States…. While I agree, with Ed that we need to reform governance structures, I also agree with with the observations that reforming governance structures would be such a formidable task. The vested interests are so powerful that it will be a generational struggle, like the government reform movements of the early 20th century. We can’t wait that long. We need to reform HSPs before then.

    The challenge is to describe a political path by which we can reform human settlement patterns before we reach a state of civilizational stagnation (or, as Ed might put it, civilizational collapse).

    That’s why I pay so much attention to the immediate issue of transportation financing. Transportation financing is the big issue on the plate right now here in Virginia. People are focused on it. Change is possible.

    While I am fully aware that a “user pays” system for funding transportation improvements will not by itself bring about more functional human settlement patterns, such a system is a necessary precondition for functional HSPs. Furthermore, a user pays system would induce people to seek alternatives to the expensive and unsustainable one-man-one-car land use regime we have today. In most of Virginia, those alternatives do not exist. But developers, if given more free reign by local boards of supervisors, will begin building more balanced communities designed to reduce the length and frequency of automobile trips.

    As developers seek the latitude to build communities better adapted to the expensive-energy era, we’ll start seeing changes in thinking among local government practitioners as well. That will put us on the correct path, though there will be much more work to do.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t think a reasoned debate on settlement patterns is feasible until we agree on the characteristics of — functional settlement patterns.


  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “That’s why I pay so much attention to the immediate issue of transportation financing. Transportation financing is the big issue on the plate right now here in Virginia. People are focused on it. Change is possible.”

    totally agree.

    I think we are on the cusp of fundamental change. Now whether or not that is the FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE that EMR has advocated as a somewhat fuzzy concept – at least from a governance POV – is another question.

    But there is no question in my mind that $30 daily tolls and $4 gasoline is going to fundamentally change the driving habits of those who commuter 100 miles a day (round trip).

    We’re already seeing he changes … from gasoline…

    and who knows what the price of gasoline will be when HOT lanes come online a few years from now. Is $5 a gallon unreasonable?

    Is Germany’s $8 a gallon “unreasonable” ?

    Stockholm not only has high gasoline prices but they also have hefty tolls….

    is that “unreasonable”?

    re: NNM – proposition that folks will pay MORE for metro-accessible housing…

    I thought the stats did show that there is a pricing premium on such housing?


    One thing is clear about one of the differences between Germany/Europe and us and that is the number of people commuting 100 miles a day to get an “affordable home” with a lawn and a backyard.

    Do people in Germany “value” homes with transit-rich mobilirty options?

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    “Does it adversely impact that neighborhood if the replacement tower is 20 stories or 120 stories?

    and if there are adverse impacts for too much density – what are they and do they argue for a concept of “optimal” density or if that.. in fact.. an optimal settlement pattern?”

    Ooh. Now you are asking hard questions. There is a lot of literature on optimal city size, and no agreement as far as I can tell.


  26. Anonymous Avatar

    “But there is no question in my mind that $30 daily tolls …”

    And what does a $30 daily toll work out to in cents per gallon? enough to make gas here as expensive as in Germany?

    There is a pricing premium on such housing, and that’s why some folks won’t buy it. If city living was eally more efficient, it ought to cost LESS, but it doesn’t cost less because it isn’t more efficient.


  27. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    $30.00 / 100 = 30 cents a mile.
    good enough?

    re: efficiency?

    are you saying Ray, that taking 3-4 hours a day out of your life is more efficient than a higher priced place to live?

  28. Anonymous Avatar


    People will pay more to live near metro but will they pay that much more.

    Thats my point. The land inside the clear edge is extremely expensive to build on. I think EMRs argument is flawed because the law of supply and demand still says why are people going to pay enormous prices to live near metro when other options still exist

    Some people are going to be able to afford 500k plus for a condo in Tysons (law of supply and demand again) but that is not a feasible option for many people. To think that everyone is going to be able to afford to live at a metro or even inside the clear edge is a pretty big stretch in my view. Thats not even looking at the question if everyone or even a majority want to live in high dense areas inside the clear edge in the first place.


  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “People will pay more to live near metro but will they pay that much more.”

    ahhh.. now we are at the issue of location variable costs…

    …that much more than… what?

    than a $300K house that is NOT near a metro station but IS NEAR I-95?

    are $30 tolls and $5 gas for a 300K home …”cheaper” than a 700K home near METRO?

    back of the envelope..scribbling..

    30 years of 5 day a week $30 tolls = $210,000

    loss of 180,000 hours of one’s life

    = $150K in gasoline costs

    so that house “in the country” that is only 1/2 as much as that expensive house near metro is actually more expensive…


    have I got this wrong?

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    What about schools? A key driver for many people making a decision where to purchase or even rent is the quality of local schools. This certainly doesn’t affect everyone, but for those with school-age children, it’s a key driver.


  31. Anonymous Avatar

    Tagging onto TMT

    Thats the main reason why for better or worse more people dont settle in Prince Georges County Washington DC and Alexandria VA if they have children.

    The housing costs are affordable but the schools leave much to be desired.

    The issues are magnified because there are smart students but they predominantly come from wealthier backgrounds and parnets make the decision to send their children to private schools. This further degrades the quality of the public schools.

    Going hand in hand with the school issue is the public safety issue which once again is a big negative for Washington DC, Prince Georges and pockets of many other counties

    EMR the general formula is higher density higher crime rates.


  32. Anonymous Avatar

    If crime is generally higher in urban than in suburban areas, isn’t the proposed urbanization of Tysons Corner going to create a climate for more crime? If not, why not?

    Further the Tysons Task Force is counting on policing Tysons with suburban standards. Won’t that result in even more crime?


  33. Anonymous Avatar

    $30.00 / 100 = 30 cents a mile.
    good enough?

    And 30 cents per mile at 25 mpg is equal to a gas tax of $7.50 cents per gallon.


  34. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Crime and schools are potent factors for many people and if the crime has also gotten into the schools – it’s the kiss of death.

    Most folks who have kids don’t want their kids at risk at school or for that matter when they are away from home in the community.

    But.. NoVa and Southern Md Montgomery score high in the top 100 High Schools in the country .. well above the schools in the outer suburbs..

    would seem to argue that if you’re a parent and you want your kid to get into a top tier college..that you get them in one of those Fairfax/Montgomery county schools.

    I’m blown away when I see the NoVa schools compete on It’s Academic they’re college level… folks..

    and schools from the outer subrubs get slaughtered…

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    have I got this wrong?

    Yes, completely.

    As NMM points out $500 k for a condo is out of reach for some people. Your Outrageous tolls will put the other option out of reach. To the extent that the work they will put the first option out of reach. If substantial numbers of people give up and move inward, outlying home prices will fall, inlying home prices will rise.


    Either more of the same but at higher prices or else People and businesses go someplace else.

    Someplace where government isn’t selling off their options to the highest bidder.


  36. Anonymous Avatar

    “I think EMRs argument is flawed because the law of supply and demand …”

    EMR is going to come back and tell you there is plenty of land. All we have to do is build a mile square concrete platform over the Metro station, and build a multistory city on that.


  37. Anonymous Avatar

    Which will be home to a bunch of yuppies with no kids and no creativity sounds like the perfect description for Tysons Corner :-p

    Where does EMR expect the next generation to raise a family.

    There will definently be plenty of demand. There are some who think Tysons condos are going to go for 1million. Its the supply thats the problem or lack of supply at rates that more people can actually afford.


  38. Anonymous Avatar

    If someone can afford one and wants one, they probably will go for a million. What they won’t go for is $300k.

    Not because someone can’t afford it or doesn’t want it, but because you can’t build it for that.

    So what we do is pretend to allow the developers more density to make up the cost, if only, pretty please will they build some affordable units.

    Guess who pays for the difference?


  39. Anonymous Avatar

    Affordable housing is not coming to Tysons. One of arguments for density at Tysons Corner has been mixed use with more housing, including work force and affordable housing, will reduce traffic to and from Tysons.

    It has been reported by those who attended last night’s that, if there is such housing it must be put into just one section of the area (no ghettos here) and then the landowners can buy down their obligations, thus, moving lower-income housing outside Tysons Corner. Both the land and building costs are just too high to include affordable/workforce housing at Tysons. (BTW, one of my friends has been taping the Task Force meetings to the chagrin of many on the Task Force.)

    The Task Force is a fraud. This is not new urbanism, transit-oriented development, or even Alpha-Beta-Gamma. It’s all about trying to enrich a few landowners on the backs of everyone else. It also proves that, in terms of developer worship, there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans. It’s the state religion, practiced by most everyone holding public office in Virginia.


  40. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Where do folks who work in metro NYC, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, LA, Seattle raise kids and buy affordable homes?

    is it true that commuting to suburbia is primarily a phenomena of the “near” middle class who cannot afford a kid-suitable home environment unless they move 50 miles from where they work?

    We subsidize schools … should we subsidize suburbia “for the kids”?

  41. anonymous Avatar

    re: “People will pay more to live near metro but will they pay that much more.”

    re: “ahhh.. now we are at the issue of location variable costs…”

    Is the theory of “location variable costs” accurate? Are we assuming the close-in suburbs and urban areas are superior to outer suburbs in “location variable costs”?

    Why is is that the DC Metrorail system requires massive subsidies from motorists? When we calculate location variable costs, do we factor in the cost of fares to ride
    Metrorail plus all the huge subsidies? Curitiba, Brazil may have superior location variable costs with its BRT system that gets no subsidies. When you look at the DC MPO data, the suburbs are subsidizing the urban core on transportation.



    When it comes to location variable costs, is a brand new residential detached home lot in Loudoun County that costs 200K with brand new infrastructure superior to a 700K lot in Arlington with 70 year old infrastructure?

    Do the outer suburbs actually have inferior location variable costs?
    Where is it written that a disproportionate number of the jobs in the DC metro area have to be inside the DC Beltway? Why not move 1/2 of the jobs in DC to the outer suburbs where the land is cheaper? Are people in Loudoun County constantly driving to DC and Arlington for the amenities and services they need?


  42. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    good points!

    Let’s move businesses to the outer burbs.

    How do we do that?

    ummm… Let’s start with the Pentagon contractors… send them a letter…

    “Dear trouble-maker

    You have until 2009 to get yur butt out of NoVa and take your outer-suburb commuting workforce with you.

    Thank you for your interest in NoVa.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact us for the name of moving companies.

    signed – your business-friendly committee for NoVa… “

    any better ideas?

  43. Groveton Avatar

    Dear Citizens of Spotsylvanis County:

    Starting immediately we will be implementing a $100 cordon toll for all vehicles entering Fairfax County. This toll will be the same regardless of how many people occupy the vehicle. Receipts will be issued. Residents of Fairfax County will be allowed to write off the tolls against their personal property taxes.

    Please find below the links to several Fairfax County real estate agents.

    Thank you.

    Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

  44. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Dear outer-burb commuter:

    Starting in 2009 we will be implementing a $30 HOT Lane toll for all outer burb commuters to Fairfax County jobs.

    Residents of Fairfax County will be allowed to write off the HOT Lane tolls against their personal property taxes.

    Please find below the links to affordable housing in Fairax:

    the list:

    TBD – until we find some…

    Thank you.

    Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Citizens of Farmville

    Thank you for your passionate proposals to allow our business to locate in your fair town.

    Unfortunaly at this time we cannot accept your offer

    The 100k was nice but Fairfax County has offered a 1 Million dollar reward to locate there

    We like that we would be able to pay our workers much less in Farmville but there is a shortage of engineers in the region

    Finally, Farmville does not have an airport and is nowhere near our client base who we must physically meet and interact with once a week.

    Thank you

    XYZ company

    P.S. these letters hit on three main themes that have been argued here for at least two years. Every solution proposed has flaws. Not even taking into account the reality of a solution actually occuring. Business as usual seems as good as anything else.


  46. Anonymous Avatar

    “Let’s move businesses to the outer burbs.

    How do we do that?”

    First you have to accept it as a legitimate way to reduce congestion, pollution, waste, and tolls.

    Then you have to think seriously about how to accomplish the goal.


  47. Anonymous Avatar

    Let’s move a few businesses out of the central areas, once.

    Lets move a million and a half people and all there homes into the central areas, once.

    Let’s move a million and a half people 30 miles apiece, twice a day.

    Let’s do a little of each, according to what costs the least.

    You want how much for tolls?


  48. Anonymous Avatar

    Probably only three things affect the over-concentration of jobs in Fairfax County.

    Senator Robert Byrd moving some to WVa — but he’s getting pretty old.

    DoD and DHS announcing that the concentration of contractors ringing D.C. was itself a security risk.

    Over time, existing policies will make Fairfax County such an unattractive place in which to work or live that growth occurs elsewhere.


  49. Groveton Avatar

    EMR’s approach provides a strong conceptual framework for human settlement patterns. This is fine. However, the depth of these changes (in aggregate) is beyond the ability of the national government, the state governments and most local governments to implement. So, we need to define a subset of the overall framework that can be implemented and try to implement that subset.

    I again question the possibility of maintaining both the Dillon Rule and EMR’s new strategies for governance. The dooryard, cluster, etc. all depend on being given political power. This power will have to come from the state and (that alone) would be a dillution of Virginia’s strict Dillon Rule construct.

    “As for European HSPs, the fact that the Nordic countries have smaller, more urbanized populations than the United States as a whole is not terribly relevant.”.

    Of course it is. Mass transit only works in more urbanized areas. And political support for mass transit is much stronger where a large percentage of the population lives in urbanized areas.

    “I’m not sure how relevant it is whether the Nordic countries are more socialist than the United States.”.

    Socialist countries have a philosophy that individual rights can often be comprimised for the social good. While these countries respect rights like free speech, free press, etc. they have a much different view on property rights of all sorts. It is considered completely normal to have the national government forbid any additional development in large areas of the country. Farmland stays farmland and cities get more dense. This is accomplished by legal fiat and is considered normal and appropriate by the population. In addition, the socialist philosophy gives workers a great deal of power vis-a-vis their employers. There is a strong safety net. One outcome of these decisions is fewer people are included in the “working poor”. Since people on the lower end of the economic specturm have more money there is less of an issue around affordable housing.

    Demographics and political philosophy make all the difference in the world. That’s what I have been trying to say for the last two years. Mr. Risse’s goals are essentially achieved in some countries. However, they are not achievable under present US law / political philosophy. I think most people on this blog actually understand this. They just can’t bring themselves to say things in plain terms. So, let me give it a whirl. Note: I do not necessarily agree with these ideas, I am just trying to put the ideas into plain English.

    1. Fairness and “user pays” are irrelevant. We do not know which citizens or regions generate a net surplus or deficit in “transportation taxes paid” vs. “transportation costs incurred”.

    2. Social engineering is the goal. Existing legislation/regulation and a growing population have combined to cause growth of mid-density development (i.e. the suburbs). The goal is to prevent further spread of mid-density development. The exact reason for wanting to limit the growth of the suburbs is unclear. There is a general (but unproven) sense that the suburbs are energy inefficient on a per-capita basis (relative to urban and rural areas). There is also a sense that the suburbs are culturally inferior to urban and rural cultures. Finally, the growth of the suburbs has threatened the political strength of Virginia’s “ruling class”. These are the reasons why there is an effort to stop the spread of the suburbs.

    3. There is no free enterprise solution on the table. Free enterprise has, at its heart, open competition among different providers. This competition does not exit in any meaningful way in Virginia transportation and will not exist if roads are sold or leased to private companies. This is acceptable because the goal is not to privatize roads or allocate scarce resources. The goal is to stop the spread of the suburbs. A 75 year contract with a private enterprise is much harder to undo than laws passed by elected officials (which can be re-legislated). These transactions need to be completed before the population growth in the suburbs creates a situation where suburbanites constitute an effective voting bloc.

    4. Political foot dragging facilitates the effort to slow or stop the spread of the suburbs. Simple ideas like raising revenue through an increase in the gas tax would reduce the financial presure on transportation thus allowing continued growth of the suburbs along with the political clout that such growth provides.

    5. In the unlikely event that financial clarity emerges around transportation there is a better than even chance that the contention of a suburban subsidy will be disproven. If this occurs the strategy will be to confuse the relatively simple discussion of transportation funding with an “impossible to resolve” macro discussion of human settlement patterns.

    6. The Achilles Heel of the suburbs is the system of major roadways. If these roads can be made too expensive to use the resulting dislocation will stifle suburban growth and accomplish the social engineering goal outlined above. Therefore, the goal of slowing suburban growth will be accomplished by a conficatory tax on the use of these major roadways disguised as a toll.

    7. It is quite conceivable that the suburban authorities will use the money generated through the confiscatory tax to expand their transportation system. Virginia’s strict adherence to Dillon’s Rule must be preserved. Any surplus funds generated though the confiscatory tax must be siphoned off to pay for things other than suburban transportation.

    8. Marketing messages and “spin” are crucial to the success of this plan. For example, admitting that the plan is intended to preserve existing political power by limiting the growth of the suburbs would be a serious mistake. One key part of the “spin strategy” is to take long term actions immediately while promising guarantees at some time in the future. For example, the suburban roadways need to be sold to private companies now with a promise of a constitutional amendment to use the revenues on suburban transportation “at some time in the future”.

    9. The ends justify the means. Logic is irrelevant. For example, the promise of a constitutional amendment to spend toll revenue on suburban transportation can be made while simultaneously claiming that there is no need to limit Virginia’s strict implementation of Dillon’s Rule. That fact that this constitutional amendment would itself be a dilltuion of Virginia’s Dillon Rule construct is irrelevant. The constitutional amendment is never going to occur.

    Think I’ll go listen to a rock album. Something from Black Sabbath, circa 1972 would go well with this post.

  50. Anonymous Avatar

    The previous post in one sentence

    The Ds lobby for the city (mass transit no roads) the Rs lobby for the rural (problem what problem let the localities handle it) the suburbs get screwed with business as usual.

    Its time to create the Suburban political party but it will never happen. Fairfax is already in the tank for the Ds and the Rs are too stubborn to even slightly modify their position to appeal to the majority of the population and voter base.


  51. Anonymous Avatar

    I always post too fast

    D positions

    Mass Transit, “smart growth” with “affordable housing” component

    R positions

    Do nothing, toll roads, let the localities handle it

    Bacons position (who really knows just a stab)

    some combination of user pays, mileage tax, congestion fee


  52. Anonymous Avatar

    “Mass transit only works in more urbanized areas.”

    And it might only work in small urban areas. When you start talking about 21 butt-numbing stops to the airport, when the biggest masstransit system hsas the longest commute times, then you begin to wonder when the economies of scale wear off.

    The rest of the post as masterful, and dead on. God forbid politicos and special interests of all stripes would ever actually say what they mean and admit WHY they say it.


  53. Groveton Avatar

    Where are the cities that the Ds support? Richmond? Alexandria? Or, do you include places like Arlington County and Fairfax County as “cities”?

    I also think the battle is more fundamental than the politics as usual of D vs. R. I see it more as a battle of those who have ruled Virginia for centuries trying to keep their power.

    There are the “first families” of Virginia who supposedly trace their lineage back to John Rolfe and Pocohontas (not even her real name).

    These are the people who sip gin and tonics at the fanciest country clubs in Richmond.

    These are the people who built their fortunes on the whip scarred backs of slaves.

    These are the people who sold the idea that public schools should be shut down rather than integrated while their own children attended lilly white private schools.

    These are the people who took Virginia from the primier colony/state of the day to the “also ran” it became.

    These people will call themselves Deomcrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals – pretty much anything. Their only real belief system revolves around the thought that God annoited them, their ancestors and their descendants to rule Virginia.

    Nathaniel Bacon understood this. One can only hope that the current rebellion against Virginia’s modern day royalty will not involve violence and will result in a final dethroning of the self-appointed aristocracy.

  54. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    BR, in terms of thoughtful comment puts most of the rest of blogs in Va to shame…

    If Europe does it “right” and “right” is a European version of the Dillon rule…..???

    is that right Groveton?

    re: who pays for commuting?

    when commuters pay 1/4 of the costs of providing the infrastructure that they need – and the “solution” is to raise the gas tax on EVERYONE to generated the necessary 3/4 that is needed….

    what does that mean?

    no discussions of the “benefits” of higher salaries or more jobs or even tax revenues donated to RoVa.

    From a pure – do you pay for what you use? point-of-view…

    Ray says that FHWA says that VMT has tripled while the number of new highway miles has virtually stood still..

    well… give that man a lollipop –

    when the folks who are driving are only paying 1/4 of the costs – you don’t get to build new roads.

    so .. I don’t agree that tolls are a Republican concept at all much less that some folks would consider them less evil than taxes; indeed many in this blog consider tolls to be taxes…

    no matter..what you call them…

    if you drive a bunch of miles on a road and that road needs improvement – then the money to do it has to come from somewhere…

    Some say Europe’s settlement patterns are the result of socialism.

    what about this?

    if you take money away from one group to give to another group for roads – is THAT socialism?

    the “excuse” that such a thing is justified because the folks receiving the monies are more ‘productive” is amusing…

    are they more productive because they have “free” roads?

    If so.. then why is it okay to deny others “free” roads in favor of another group getting “free” roads?

    “free roads” = “socialism”

    Europe’s model = no need for “free” roads because they have decided that true socialism means you don’t take money from one group to give to another for roads.

    so Europe says that “affordable housing” made possible by roads subsidized by everyone, including those who have chosen to not commute long distances is – “anti-social” ergo $6-$7 gasoline.


    question – are the tenets of Dillon more Europe-centric type thinking or more American-centric thinking?

    Are Europe and Dillon – nanny state ideas intended to be have the gentry in charge?

  55. Anonymous Avatar

    re: who pays for commuting?

    When you have a 60% total tax rate, and the commuters pay 15% of what it costs, then what does it matter who pays?

    Everybody pays. But they also get a lot of other goodies, too.

    What they don’t get, much, is F-22 raptors.

  56. Anonymous Avatar

    “Ray says that FHWA says that VMT has tripled while the number of new highway miles has virtually stood still..

    well… give that man a lollipop –

    when the folks who are driving are only paying 1/4 of the costs – you don’t get to build new roads.”

    Oh, give me a break.

    In the 1960’s FHWA points out that we easily paid the costs, but since then we failed to index the fuel tax to the price of fuel.

    The fuel tax was convenient and efficient to collect.

    Had we simply indexed the fuel tax to the price of fuel, we would have had

    a) plenty of money for roads,


    b) less of an increase in VMT.


    c) probably less growth in our overall economy, but that’s outside the scope of this discussion.


  57. Anonymous Avatar

    if you drive a bunch of miles on a road and that road needs improvement – then the money to do it has to come from somewhere…

    so take it from a fuel tax and make sur it is indexed enough to keep up with the maintenance. The fuel tax does every thing we need to have done, and yet people hate it.

    Not because it doesn’t work, but because it works too well. the push for tolls is a push to avoid paying fair shares for use.


  58. Anonymous Avatar

    Europe’s model = let’s see, we already have a 50% tax on income and a 20% VAT on sales. Where else can we get some money to spend on socialism? Oh yeah, the roads!


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