Thank you for the data on school performance on the DISSAPOINTMENT CUBED string.

I wonder what the scores are for Dale City and Bristow profiled in ANATOMY OF A BAD COMMUTE where citizens have the highest average commutes so their children have the benefit of “good” schools?

Think how much better South Lakes SATs would be if it were one of two high schools managed by a Reston Community Board of Education instead of the educational administrator dominated “consolidated” Fairfax County Board serving over 1,000,000 citizens. (EMR’s father was an elected school board member of a small pyramid in the 40s and fought consolidation…)

Think how great it would be if all highschool pyramids were coterminous with a Beta Village and every Neighborhood had its own school and every Cluster had a preschool program to match its needs. That was advocated by many in the 60s and quashed by the educational “professionals” in the name of “efficiency” and big travel budgets – See today’s WaPo.

Think how great it would be if every Zip Code was coterminous with a Beta Neighborhood so that there was data to guide citizens in their decisions concerning Balance and moving components from Beta to Alpha status.

Think how great it would be if every Cluster was a Census Block (and every Neighborhood as Block Group) so there would be data to guide citizens in their decisions….

Small is Beautiful and in the long term sustainable.

EMR wonders if Adolfo Carrion Jr.(new director of White House Office of Urban Affairs), or Derek Douglas or anyone else Carrion hires to help him or to whom he listens would understand how great it would be…

EMR is also concerned that there will ever again be the resources to implement this evolution — Yes, the Resources that have been burned up to create the Wealth Gap.


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50 responses to “THANK YOU GROVETON”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Isn’t the mean score for all SAT’s around 1000, by design?

    So isn’t each school a sample of the overall population?

    And doesn’t the mean of the samples average out to the mean of the population?

    What is the point of comparing a school with an avarage score of 1025 with one with an averag score of 1035?

    Unless they consistently turn in higher or lower scores year after year, such small variations wouldn’t seem to mean much, expecially not compared tot the long term happiness and success of the students.

    Even if they are consistent, we don;t know if it is the school, the kids, the teachers, the socioeconomic environment, or the parents that are responsible.

    Stikes me as a dumb way to evaluate schools. And even if you could isolate a facto that makesa difference and you were able to replicate it, you would just increase the level of average, and the schools would stillbe different from each other by samll amounts.

    Grades and scores are put there for the parents to gloat over: they don;t do a single thing to make the kids smarter or happier or more likely to succeed.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “…any time you have a quantity which is bumped around by a large number of random processes, you end up with a bell curve distribution for that quantity. And it really doesn’t matter what those random processes are. They themselves don’t have to follow the Gaussian distribution. So long as there’s lots of them and they’re small, the overall effect is Gaussian.”

    There are a huge number of variables in how people live and how schools perform. EMR thinks there will be a big transformation in how we live, but there are so many variables the end result will stillbe gaussian and some people will live in ways that he does not approve of, some schools will be better and some worse, all for no apparent reason.

    Unless you want Dr. Risse in control of all the variables.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Frist, I recall you promised to just go away and do something else.

    Second, if you insist on hounding Professor Risse, you need to read what he has written.

    In a lecture long ago he discussed the very issue you raise. In considering human settlement patterns and traffic models he looked to the the natural sicence.

    Take the random movements of molecules of gas that result in “pressure.”

    Instead of chasing every molecule (trip) he decided there must be a Boyles Law for settlement patterns.

    He identified many candidates and choose five that are sufficient to describe fundction vs dysfunction.

    You make a fool of yourself by continual flapping about.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    That wasn’t me, that was NMM.

    the points I mase about low fossil fuel prices making renewable projects less economical are correct. It is a fact that has nothing to do with attacking EMR: it is just a data point that anyone can accept or reject or verify if they like.

    If EMR wants to disagree with a fact, he can do so.

    All I’m saying here is that SAT’s are designed to provide relative scores among students. To extrapolate groups of scores to evaluate schools is probably not sufficient, and not a good metric anyway.

    It is hard to see how school location affects how the students perform on a test, at least not any more than dozens of other variables, like whether the school has AC.

    EMR can agree or disagree, it’s OK with me for him to believe whatever he likes.


  5. Anonymous Avatar

    At 2/3/09 11:28 AM, Anonymous said…

    No offense intended … but this blog is losing its steam. The fact that this posting produced a dozen-plus RH comments, with little reax from anyone else, supports that observation…

    …When you make a bunch of entries and nobody else does, it’s called a diary, not a blog…

    At 2/3/09 11:37 AM, Anonymous (RH) said…

    I agree … Time to close up and move on.


    So move on as promised.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, let’s not leave Ray alone and lonesome.

    The Emperor is Bare A$$ Naked Department.

    Last evening, the consultant and the county staff revealed results from the traffic study for Tysons Corner, which admittedly, neither EMR nor I like.

    The study assumed the existence of virtually every traffic improvement proposed by the Tysons Land Use Task Force was in place — even though most are unaffordable. (The only proposed improvements not included were the grade changes at International Drive and Rte. 123 and International Drive and Rte. 7, because the staff believed they would likely be more of a detriment than a help.)

    With all of these highway improvements in place, the studies still demonstrated the road network in and around Tysons would reach saturation in the year 2030 with the addition of only 10 million more square feet of space were added to the existing approved 1994 Comp Plan. That would have permitted 73 million square feet with the arrival of rail and many road improvements. Thus, the traffic study shows Tysons dies at 83 million square feet.

    Now, keep in mind that the Task Force’s Vision would, if all density bonuses were to be granted would permit Tysons to grow to 220 million square feet.

    While there would be no more expressways or tollways built (where would you put them), there would be numerous additional entrances to the Beltway and the Dulles Toll Road.

    Building to 83 million square feet would generate 1,000,000 total trips per day in the area of which 50% would be to and from Tysons and 50% passing through. Tysons simply dies of gridlock. And that’s with Dulles Rail operating!

    County staff estimated that, with the exception of locations right at the four Metrorail stations, 80% of all trips would be by single occupant vehicle.

    What a farce! How many millions of dollars were spent by Fairfax County to appease the big Tysons landowners? Unfortunately, we are not through. The farce will continue as the Task Force argues magic will happen and waves their fistfulls of dollar bills.

    And then remember that we will pay billions to construct Dulles Rail to carry 20% of the trips to and from Tysons, plus a higher percentage for those located at, or going to, buildings right at the stations.

    Res ipsa loquitur!


  7. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    So now we know. EMR has developed his own version of Boyle’s Law for settlement patterns. Other than the hot air we see daily on these pages, EMR might just be on to something.

    The pressure of increased cost of living has pressed on the citizens of the urban core, resulting in lower population volume as people flood the countryside to escape the constant drivel of inept or corrupt politicians.

    EMR needs to Google for a new formula.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Whoever owns the blog can close it. I don’t have that authority. If I’m the onely one making entries, I don’t see why it should be a problem to anyone else.


    “He identified many candidates and choose five that are sufficient to describe fundction vs dysfunction.”

    OK, and was one of them what schools average on SATs?

    I didn’t even say anything about school location, all I said was that SAT’s were a lousy way to evaluate schools. Tying to do that is denying the fact of regression to the mean.


    Actually,he did not identify five metrics that identify function vs dysfunction. What he did was define dysfunction as he pleased and then invented five metrics to prove it.

    There was nothing scientific about it and it was a complete violation of the scientific method.


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Boyles law doesn’t say anything about what a particular molecule is doing, what size it is, or where it is. Whether it is greed driven or seeking short term profit, or has ulterior motives.

    All it tells you is that as you increase the amount of activity in a confined space you increase the pressure to expand outward.

    Boyles Law might not have been the best example for EMR to choose to exemplify his theories.


  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Yeah, and the Oama adminsitration has come out and said that taxing autos by the mile is not on their agenda, so don’t look for the money there.

    Maybe we raise the gas tax, after all.


  11. RH:

    I don’t get your SAT point about regressing to the mean. Some schools have consistently higher SATs than other schools. I guess all people regress to the mean when it comes to running speed. But if I raced Darrell Green I’d lose 100 out of 100 races. So, it’s safe to say that Darrell is faster than I am. Side note – Darrell Green is a retired Hall of Fame Washington Redskin cornerback who routinely won the “NFL’s fastest man” contest.

    Are SAT’s a good way to measure the relative performance of schools. Probably not. For one, they only measure the performance of the students who elect to take the tests (presumably with college ambitions). Unfortunatley, there aren’t many other ways to look at relative academic capability. GPA is a joke. In Fairfax County you get an “A” for either 93% or 94% – 100%. In almost everywhere else, it’s 90% – 100%. Beats me why.

    My point on SATs was in response to NMM’s valid point that South Lakes High School is considered “undesireable”. I wanted to look at whether South Lakes really underpeformed academically. SAT’s are standard and they are published by all public high schools in Virginia (at least all that I looked at). In my opinion, South Lakes is not “undesireable” although NMM is right in stating that many people think that. I used the SATs as a point of comparison.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Hey there Groveton

    Its true for the majority that SouthLakes is not undesireable but it is undesirable for the people of Fairfax because they have such high standards to begin with. This phenomonom is already apparent due to the fact that property values within South Lakes are less than the surrounding area.

    So based on this and what I think was your original point. Why would someone go all the way to Dale City or Bristow when they could settle in South Lakes.

    Now we are looking at truly ugly factors such as racial and ethnic makeup. These same factors IMHO prevent the buildup of Prince Georges County MD which is close to the core, has cheaper housing prices, does contain sections that are relatively safe and I would even suspect has areas with very good school districts.

    I will say before the bubble burst in real estate South Lakes was still very expensive. Its small comfort when instead of paying 650k for a single family home you can find bargins at 500k (those are just example numbers)

    On that vain, when I threw out my keys to success of low crime, good schools, adequate space, and affordable housing thats just back of the napkin stuff. Unlike EMR I am well aware its all theory based and the reason why I blog is to here different points of view. Also its not specific enough to define. Maybe I will get a doctorate in planning at somepoint and use it as a thesis but for now I am just a young whippersnapper.


  13. Anonymous Avatar

    “I don’t get your SAT point about regressing to the mean. Some schools have consistently higher SATs than other schools.”

    That is precisely the problem. If it was JUST a matter od SAT scores, then you would EXPECT that the mean of the means of all the schools would regress to the mean of the population, which in the case of SATs is 1000. Likewise you would expect that a single school would regress to the mean over time.

    Therefore the fact that some schools consistently do better on SATS than others must suggest taht either the SATs are not measuring correctly (they have been accused of being slnated against the poor and non-white) or else something else is at play. (That school consistently gets a different sample than the general polualtion.) If something else is at play then THAT is what you should be measuring. The fact that the SAT’s create a faint echo of the true facts SHOULD be your tip off to look elsewhere, because if they are working properly, that would NOT be the case.

    I can’t see any reason to even begin to think that SAT’s should be used to rank schools, when there are so many other factors involved in the performance of students at those schools.

    I’m no more an educator than I am an urbn planner, but I have been trained to look for and identify nonense.

    I doubt if 5 points is worth worrying about in any case, but suppose you identify a shcool that consistently produces scores that are 200 points higher. That’s about 3/4 of one sigma, and now you are starting to see a real difference in performance.

    Now, thane tha schoool, lock stock and barrel, teachers administrtion, budget and all and plunck it down in an area that is presently negative 3/4 of one sigma.

    Does anyone believe you would get +400 points in less than ten years? Ever? No, of course not, therefore the answer and the proper metric must lie someplace else.

    Even worse, suppose this experiment worked and you magically could create schools that averaged 1200 points. The new average would be 1200, and none of those parents would have anything to brag about. It would be a social disaster, because no one understands that tests and grades are not about kids.

    I once had a quiz with a hundred questions on it. I answered 91 questions and turned it in. I had 91 right and should have gotten an A. What I got was unending grief from the teacher because she couldn’t understand why I could care less about her quiz. Sudenly it wasn’t a quiz, but a power play.

    She knew I knew the answers to the other nine, and so did I, but SHE didn’t have any proof. I never sweated anther exam again. Ever. Because I had learned something that even most teachers don’t know.

    The good part would be tht the new mean woudl be 200 points higher (Until they re-write the SAT’s). The bad part would be that now all the schools would regress to the mean). Parents and adminstrators would have nothing to brag about. They’d have nothing to pu on their resumes (even if the difference was really due to the parents income, more than anything the school did).

    It is a huge joke, and a fraud, just like EMR trying to measure “functionality” with five metrics.


    “I wanted to look at whether South Lakes really underpeformed academically.”

    Well then maybe SAT’s are valid, as long as academically is you point of comparison. As you point out, the tests are elective (I think in my high school they were not elective, but I could be wrong. One reason they did that was to identify the freak shows – kids who got average grades and then maxed out or did very well the SATs. Go figure.)

    But why is academic performance the right metric? I sure know now that there were a lot of things my school never taught me that I wish they had.

    The goal ought to be well adjusted, happpy kids that can deal rationally and productively to the problem at hand, the ones life throws at them whether they earn four figures or six.

    If we use a metric for just academics to rank (and ultimately budget) our schools we are making a huge mistake.


  14. Anonymous Avatar

    “This phenomonom is already apparent due to the fact that property values within South Lakes are less than the surrounding area.”

    Is this the tail wagging the dog, or a self fulfilling prophesy?


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Re: Boyles Law and SATs.

    Chaos is where all the basic rules apply, but outcomes are difficult to anticipate because of the complexity of the interactions involved.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    I have a question for Professor Risse:

    Are the five parameters that Anon 3:25 mentioned,

    B = aJ + bH + cS + dR + eA

    Where B is Balance and J is Jobs etc.

    or the Five Natural Laws?

    And is not each of the Five Natural Laws akin to Boyles Law in that it measures the result of millions of actions?

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    is not each of the Five Natural Laws akin to Boyles Law


    Boyles law is testable and verifiable. None of Risse’s “Five Natural Laws are, so far as I can tell.


  18. E M Risse Avatar

    Some Notes:


    Re your post of 5:53 PM:

    The results of the Tysons analysis should not surprise you and reinforces what EMR has been saying all along (See “All Aboard” and other columns):

    If there is going to be expenditure of public funds on a shared-vehicle system (in this case METRO) to support Balanced, functional, pedestrian-friendly settlement patterns then the LAST thing one wants to do is build a lot of Autonomobile facilities (aka, “traffic improvements.”)

    That is a smart as building a Billion dollar horse track and then only allowing horses to run with hobbles. It is like building an concert hall with “perfect” acustics and then surrounding every seat with a cubicle and requiring the audience to wear sound deadening headphones.

    In answer to you prior point (8:28 PM Beltway Burden) that functional patterns and uses in station areas that support share-vehicle system ridership would result in “more automobile traffic,” EMR said that could be solved by making Autonomobile use less attractive and more expensive.

    That is NOT because EMR HATES CARS, it is because shared-vehicle system station areas (and the patterns and densities of land use that support shared-vehicle systems) are INCOMPATIBLE with extensive use of Autonomobiles for the reasons spelled out in THE PROBLEM WITH CARS. It is physics not preference.

    There are plenty of places where cars make sense if you can afford to drive one but shared-vehicle station areas are NOT those places.


    Getting a doctorate in “planning” is not a useful way to come to understand human settlement patterns. Most of the holders of planning doctorates have never built anything, much less a Cluster, Neighborhood or Village. And they have never had to sell the Units in the places they designed and built.

    Your point concerning race and ethnicity are right on re South Lakes. These facts reflect bad judgements by the developer as well as by the school system and other Agencies. Groveton is right, however, perceptions aside the data show South Lakes is not that bad and is surrounded by settlement patterns that are far superior to Bristow or Dale City.

    By the way, your comment on ‘density’ is such a quintessential example of conventional wisdom that I will try to get a response together soon.

    ANON 5:11 PM


    and Yes.


  19. Anonymous Avatar

    There is a new study out tht uses cell phone signals to determine the usual “radius of gyration” or usual travel patterns of drivers.

    Similar studies could and probably will be used to test theories similar to EMR’s.

    The first study shows the probability of a user trveling 50 miles is around 5% and the probability of traveling 10 miles is around 68%, as I understand the study.

    Soon we will be able to determine what settlement patterns generate the most travel, where they travel to, and whether the differences are significant.


  20. Anonymous Avatar

    “If there is going to be expenditure of public funds on a shared-vehicle system (in this case METRO) to support Balanced, functional, pedestrian-friendly settlement patterns then the LAST thing one wants to do is build a lot of Autonomobile facilities “

    So, you don’t believe there should be a mix of transportation options?

    Or you don’t believe there should be an expenditure of funds on a shared vehicle system?

    It seems to me that Metro and automobiles are going to have to coexist, along with other modes, since we are going to have a trolley in Baileys crosroad and light rail on the purple line.

    Surely there is a way to achieve balance among them.


  21. Anonymous Avatar

    “EMR said that could be solved by making Autonomobile use less attractive and more expensive.”

    Which will do NOTHING to make shared vehicle systems, fster, offer more access, or make them more comfortable, or less expensive.

    THAT is the real problem we need to solve.


  22. Anonymous Avatar

    Life without autos. I’ve subsequently learned that the Fairfax County staff indicated the only way to permit Tysons to grow larger than 83 million square feet without creating a total transportation meltdown would be effectively to bar automobiles from the added development. How would you like to be the rental or sales agent for those buildings?

    Moreover, just to get to the 83 million square feet, there would also need to be extensive and intensive traffic demand management. “This job comes with a parking space, from which the daily $100 charge will be deducted from your paycheck.”


  23. just to continue my contrarian, devils advocate tradition….

    NYC and places like it seem to defy the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to a denser, more NYC-like Tysons.

    I’m not arguing in favor or opposition – only asking about the apparent contradiction with regard to the fact that in it’s early history, NYC might have looked a lot like a Tysons….

    And way back when.. if someone had proposed a denser NYC, would the automobile traffic issue be the same ?

  24. Anonymous Avatar

    “NYC and places like it seem to defy …”

    There are only a handful of places like NYC, and they only SEEM to defy the obstacles to density.

    Consider that New York has the longest commutes in the nation, for example. Consider that in spite of having an excelant mass trnsit system, it still only hndles 10% of trafic. consider that New York controls the use of hundreds of thousands of acres of propertyoutside its boundary, just to protect its water supply.

    And way back when,the problems and pollution associated with autos were not yet discovered, and to the extent they were understood they were assumed to be far better than the tons of “mud” produced by horses. In fact, it wasn;t long before horses were banished from the city in the same way that production of kepone was banished.


  25. Anonymous Avatar

    What TMT is pointing out is that the costs of making autos less desireable and more expensive will be transferred to the property in the areas in which they are restricted. Both the expense of supporting mass transit and the costs of losing most of the auto traffic.

    The result will be that other places will become more attractive. This is a similar result to that which would occour if you had a congestion cap and trade system in place.


  26. I think it is safe to say that there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of cities across the globe that have city grids with skyscrapers …. and very limited street capacity – as compared to sprawling places like Tysons.

    And those cities do not atrophy …dry up and blow away – economically because of gridlock strangulation.

    It’s not about what one thinks about transit either – either pro or con nor about commuting – intensity nor distance.

    Clearly, most cities – thrive – regardless of the mix of autos and transit…

    NYC is but one example.

    Show me one example of a city that was strangled economically because it had limited automobile capacity.

    Again.. I’m not arguing pro or con here – but I am asking for some honest perspectives instead of subjective personal agendas.

    What are the facts with regard to cities and automobiles and economic harm resulting from a congestion or LOS F road conditions – of which virtually every street in NYC would qualify.

    And I’m not asking if NYC could be even better if it had more capacity.

    I’m asking instead.. if the lack of road capacity is the issue – why and how do places like NYC seem to thrive?

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    “that have city grids with skyscrapers …. and very limited street capacity -“

    You mean like Houston, where the downtown street grid occupies 75% of the area?

    About 20% of the global population lives in cities with populations over 5 million. There are a lot more cities that look like Charlottesville than look like New York.

    Obviously, the urban popluation around the world is going to grow and grow substantially. So will the number of urban spaces. What we need to do is figure out what makes a sustainable city – including its support regions, and make plans accordingly.

    I serioulsy doubt that if we built Boston or New York over again today, that they would look anything like what they do as an accident of history.


  28. Anonymous Avatar

    “…why and how do places like NYC seem to thrive?”

    There is that “seem” word again.

    If we figured out the economic harm from congestion and LOS F road conditions, we might conclude that New York is more bumbling along than it is thriving.

    If we agree that New York has LOS F conditions, congestion, and the longest commutes in the nation, then what do you think the right answer must be?

    I think it must be some combination of more transit, a lot better transit, more roadways, and fewer jobs in concentrated areas.


  29. Anonymous Avatar

    “Clearly, most cities – thrive – regardless of the mix of autos and transit…”

    How do we know they are “thriving”, and if they are, why do we worry so much about transportation?

  30. re: ” How do we know they are “thriving”, and if they are, why do we worry so much about transportation?”

    “The economy of New York City is the largest regional economy in the United States and the second largest city economy in the world after Tokyo.”

    The conventional wisdom expressed by you is that transit is a loser and that automobile congestion is an economy-killing threat in urbanized areas.

    Neither is true from the facts.

    The folks who want a denser Tysons – right, wrong or indifferent – have a vision of it becoming more city-like comparable to denser urban areas like NYC that are economically vibrant despite minimal automobile capacity – albeit in the context of an auto-centric world.

    All I advocate in the dialog about land-use and settlement patterns and transportation is that we not ignore plain facts about existing settlement patterns.

    Here’s is what I see:

    TMT cannot see how a denser Tysons will not bring even more autos and further degrade the Tysons that is his home.

    That is understandable.

    But we know – for a fact – that places like NYC (and dozens, hundreds of other places) started out as suburbs and grew more dense – not without the loss of values prized by folks who did not see increased density as something they liked.

    None-the-less, we do know that super dense places like NYC – Do not strangle from auto congestion and, in fact, THRIVE as shown by the Wiki words.

    RH – a self-avowed property rights guru – who believes that property owners are entitled to develop their properties – when responding to TMT’s concerns – advocates “more places” – a VERY anti-property-right concept if there ever was one!

    EMR – an advocate of urban-scale densities – as a sustainable settlement pattern idea – has stated that it is “too late” for Tysons to evolve to an optimized urban enclave.

    I’m …totally in awe of how we arrive at this paradoxically perspective.

    Did NYC follow a different path than Tysons is apparently following?

    If so.. what would be the key differences that allowed NYC to become what it is and prevents Tysons from achieving the same end product?

    and then … would we say that NYC (and the dozens/hundreds of other urbanized settlement patterns) achieved their status via a “more places” mindset?

    Again.. I’m not advocating that Tysons become what the advocates are espousing but I am asking what is it about the Tysons proposal that spells doom – IN THE CONTEXT – of ALL of these other urban enclave examples that apparently started out like Tysons and evolved… further…

    explain what it is about Tysons that makes it so different…such that it is simple not possible for it to evolve similarly

    bonus homework – what would have to be changed for Tysons to evolve to a more successful, more sustainable – more dense area that would .. if nothing else… be sustainable on the same basis as NYC?

  31. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, You raise a very interesting point. If NYC could evolve functional human settlement patterns (well, some might say semi-functional) at very high densities. Why can’t Tysons Corner?

    A couple of reasons: (1) NYC was smart enough to build a grid street system, (2) NYC built a massive subway system that served all parts of the city (at least Manhattan, I don’t know the rest of the city at all) and provided mobility for people who chose not to own a car, and (3) completed the basic foundation for its urban growth back before World War II in an era when it was possible for all-powerful movers and shakers to ramroad projects through citizen opposition.

    None of those apply in Tysons. There is no grid street system. There is no subway, and even if Metro were extended all the way to Dulles, it would function only as a means to connect people to other far-flung parts of the D.C. metro area, and not to get around Tysons itself. And its the 21st century — no one has the power to ramroad anything anywhere without arousing pitched resistance.

    Oh, I’d add one more thing. Back when NYC became the world’s greatest city (for a time), it had access to endless supplies of capital. Tysons does not have endless supplies of capital.

    I am not optimistic that Tysons can ever reinvent itself. I think it might have reached a urban-evolutionary dead end.

  32. Point 3 is valid and a true impediment in some ways but points 1 & 2 are still conceptually possible… I would think.

    But a bigger question with regard to many/most dysfunctional places potential ability to evolve towards more functional settlement patterns.

    Are the problems in Tysons uniquely more difficult and intractable than other dysfunctional places that need to also evolve?

    It's interesting that you gave the 3 .. of which it appears that none of the 3 is … an impossibility… all within the realm of the possible…

    but that's a whole lot better answer IMHO than – "nothing can be done… Tysons is a lost cause".

    These answers are important in the context of evolving settlement patterns – nationally and regionally.. whether it be Tysons or Short Pump or the suburbs of Atlanta or Houston….


  33. re: “I am not optimistic that Tysons can ever reinvent itself. I think it might have reached a urban-evolutionary dead end.”

    this is a profound statement.

    does it not imply that all other places like Tysons also cannot evolve?

    and then.. how do we recognize the places that are like Tysons and not salvageable and ones that still have potential and thus worth attempting?

  34. The anti-Tyson’s rabble is nonsense. TMT may be right about the current expansion plan but Tyson’s funeral is far from certain. Lots of succssful urban areas (areas inside the clear edge) lack grid streets. Boston, for example. Getting aroun inside Tyson’s is a simple as running some shuttle buses and building some sidewalks. If you want shelter from the elements then the walkways can be enclosed and built above ground – like Minneapolis.

    I swear – we all need to drop the “can’t be done”, “it’s impossible”, “doom and gloom” rhetoric. In normal times that rhetoric would be as harmless as, say, talking about conspiracy theories. But, in these times, all Americans need to move from building inventories of why things can’t be done to building inventories of how things can be done. For my part, I’ll stop slinging mud at the General Assembly and will only provide comments that include a course of action that would allow the General Assembly to act to solve problems. It would be very nice if the people who bash Tyson’s for a living would join me in this new approach.

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    “The economy of New York City is the largest regional economy in the United States and the second largest city economy in the world after Tokyo.”

    So what? I have a huge Oak tree, but it is dying, not thriving. Size is an inappropriate measurement for whether it is thriving.

    And you have to consider that it “thrives” by drawing people from as far a Philadelphia and water and power from as far as Canada. It thrives on a huge support system of highways and automobiles as much as it thrives because of transit.

    Even if we agree it is “thriving” the question is whether we could thrive more with a different allocation of resources.

    In recent years it has been thriving because we allowed it to become the financial wild west.

    Not to sound like EMR but sometimes you do have to define your terms.


    “…congestion is an economy-killing threat in urbanized areas.”the estimate is that congestion costs every metro area resident $1000 a year. That isn’t killing us, but it isn’t making us thrive either. This is a tax imposed on us just like any other tax you are opposed to.


  36. Anonymous Avatar

    Let’s go over proerty rights once more, so Larry get’s it.

    I’m entitled to the right to life. In order to live I have to work to produce things I can sell. That is my property and I have the right to sell it. In order to protect my right to life, government has an obligation to protect my property.

    (And not incidentally, no matter what I do, it will cause some pollution and have some impact on others. They have the right to have their proerty protected ONLY to the amount of impact.)

    We have entered a new era in which new property rights are being invented and claimed by the public because they are said to be in the public interest. Some of these are valid and some are not. Some of them have been claimed by impinging on existing property rights and some are truly new and unique.

    However else you feel about property rights, the environment, or anything else, you cannot support a concept of property rights based on mob rule or tribal ownership: at least not if you want your proerty and hence your life to be safe.

    The problem we have isn’t with the property rights guru’s it is with the proerty rights idiots. it is with the people who don’t understand that we don’t have anywhere near ENOUGH property rights.

    By that I mean not stronger rights for the property we have, but the possibility of rights to more kinds of property. This might even be the same kind of rights the public is now claiming to own for free.

    Why wouldn’t we expect the most valuable property to be best protected when it is privately owned and can be bought and sold?

    Isn’t this exactly what happened withthe HOT lanes? Transurban decided they were more valuable than the state was willing to pay. We had valuable community property, and we basically sold it to private eneterprise because we thought they coud do a better job of managing it.

    Only problem is the state sold “our property” (remember that “my taxes” argument?) and WE got nothing for it.

    We can claim ownership over congestion (pollution) in river flows and air flows (nonattainment areas) river streambeds and anything else that affects us negatively like a $1000/ year in congestion costs. We can have eminent domain.

    What we cannot do is take existing property (as currently understood) without paying for it and then claim “it was for the public good”. The Constitution says so, but we have elected to ignore that, in favor of mob rule over property.

    Granted, there are some misunderstandings in what is currently understood as property rights. Therefore we need to have MORE property rights and have them BETTER defined, and better protected, not less. It is one reason we went to Iraq: Saddam Hussein had claimed essentially all proerty rights as his personally.

    I don’t have any problem with the current cap and trade debate (for example). it is an attempt to define new property rights and rules for trading them. But I hate to see CO2 permits given to the big traders and polluters for free, while I get none. It is my air, too.

    There is no reason to assume that we cannot come up with some kind of property rights framework which protects the property rights of Tyson’s landowners (as currently understood) while protecting the rights of Viennal property owners.

    But here is the problem. if we do define new rights and figure ways to trade them the we might very well discover that other people who we have previously trampled on (way back in the dark ages before we were enlightened about property rights) ALSO have new rights, or that they have a valid claim for payments we never made.

    This is pretty simple, Larry. You can never expect to be safe if you insist on stealing from others.

    Now stop putting words in my mouth.


  37. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m with Groveton

    Tysons can be improved,and the benefits can be shared fairly.

    I just don’t think that New york should e the model for success or vitality or thriving or cleanliness or sustainability, or economic balance, anything else.

    We can do a lot better with Tysons or any place else we rehab from scratch. The main problem is that we all have to stop thinking that we each hold a veto, as Bacon points out.

  38. Anonymous Avatar

    ” advocates “more places” – a VERY anti-property-right concept if there ever was one!”

    How do you figure that? First of all it would mean that all those other places would have the right to develop. That is something they do not have now, and that amounts to a huge subsidy for places like Tysons.

  39. Anonymous Avatar

    “… be sustainable on the same basis as NYC?”

    You are joking, right?

    New York is sustained by a massive infusion of energy and people from outside, and by the use of huge tracts of land outside its boundaries to obtain water and dispose of garbage and bodies.


  40. Anonymous Avatar

    “It would be very nice if the people who bash Tyson’s for a living would join me in this new approach.”

    I’ll be happy to. As long as you don’t use any of “my” tax money, or allow anything to change which might disturb my quality of life.


  41. Anonymous Avatar

    Remember the free bicycle scheme in Paris? It failed and shut down because no one had real “ownership” of the bicycles.

    They were lost, stolen, broken or smashed up in BMX stunts in droves.


  42. Anonymous Avatar

    Tysons as a lost cause — if the goal is to make incremental progress, Tysons can probably still be improved. Ir does not need to be a lost cause.

    While I would not put Dulles Rail through Tysons, it will happen. Therefore, put increased density at, and only at, the four stations. Tie that with strict Traffic Demand Management practices for those locations and with realistic triggers that ensure a matching of infrastructure improvements with the increased density. If this were done, Tysons might be a better place tomorrow than it is today.

    But the idea that we can somehow plunk down 200,000 more workers and 100,000 residents (or more)without destroying both Tysons and the surrounding communities is absurd. No one can afford the infrastructure to hold that many people in about 1700 square acres. And allowing huge increases in population without adequate public facilities is simply civic and economic suicide.

    The Tysons Land Use Task Force should have taken the 94 Plan and said: How can we make this better in ways that would generate consensus among the various stakeholders? But those improvements would be incremental. And windfalls from giveaways of massive FAR increases are incompatible with incremental improvements.

    The Task Force is still working with the bubble-creating paradigm. “We can make lots of money selling $700,000 houses to people who make $30,000 a year.” It’s time to go back to sensible thinking and making incremental improvements that can benefit everyone.

    Let’s hope the Fairfax supervisors understand this.


  43. It seems to me that the Tyson’s Land USe Task Force lacked quantitative analysis support. I think their ideas were developed honestly. However, even honest ideas need to be supported by a grinding mathmatical analysis of the ideas – at least as far as human settlement patterns go. The Tysons Land Use Task Force had to face a problem – Fairfax County is caught between being a county and being a city (sorry EMR). Basically, I think they intuitively understood EMR’s philosophy – there should be high density mixed use areas with clear edges around them. They figured that Tyson’s Corner was already half way there so they’d propose completing the process. Generally, I think they are right. Purists will argue that Tyson’s is beyond redemption because there is too little access into and out of the place. Of course, the same could have been said of London every year since 1800. Theoretically, the English should have abandoned London and let it decay while they built a new shining city on the hill somewhere in Wales. Kind of like Brazil and Brasilia. Hmmmm….

    For better or worse, Tyson’s Corner is where it is. For better or worse, it has an enormous stock of office space that just won’t go away. For better or worse, it will have to expand to meet the growth in Fairfax County. I agree with TMT that the expansion should be more evolution than revolution. But I’ve seem many cities where there is no practical personal auto access into and out of the high density cores. People take public trasnportation. Go to New York. The bond traders on Wall St take the subway, the janitor in the office building takes the subway. On a sad note, I used to work in the World Trade Center. Virtually nobody drove to work there. I took the subway along with about a bazillion other people. Build tall buildings above the metro stops in Tyson’s. And I mean really tall – like 70 stories. Nobody will drive – they’ll take the subway. Just like in Manhattan.

  44. Anonymous Avatar

    “But I’ve seem many cities where there is no practical personal auto access into and out of the high density cores. “


    Even in New York the subway only carries 10% of the traffic.


  45. RH:

    “New York” is a big place. Much bigger than Tyson’s Corner will ever be. Look at the financial district centered around Wall St. Lower Manhattan. And you have to count the buses and trains as well as the subway. You have to count the people who walk to work. All forms of public transport. 90% of the people working on Wall St do not drive themselves to work. In Queens or Brooklyn, things may be different. Certainly Staten Island is an entity onto itself. As for the Bronx – go to a Yankees game. The vasy majority get there via public transportation. The Census Designated Place called Tyson’s Corner is 4.9 sq. miles. Manhattan (one borough) is five times that size. New York City has a land area (not counting water that is part of NYC) of 305 sq. mi.

  46. Anonymous Avatar


    Well put, but when someone has as bad a case of geographic illiteracy as badly as RH’s it may help to provide numbers for him but it may be better to just ignor his ranting.

  47. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton – this isn’t New York. The new traffic studies for Tysons includes data on the mode of transportation used at very locations in the area.

    Bethesda, which is generally regarded as successful, is 70% single occupancy vehicles. Rosslyn-Balston is about 58% SOV. Even K Street in Washington is about 35%.

    For Tysons, the George Mason University high growth study would be at 65% SOV. Even the fantasyland TLUTF preferred option is around 65% SOV.

    That is the reality that is on the table. Certainly rail will take some sizable numbers of people in and out of Tysons. No doubt about it. But if one makes the base so big that the gains from transit are swamped by the added traffic from the new workers and residents. With rail, more roads than we can afford to build and very aggressive TDM, Tysons dies of traffic meltdown well before it can double in size.

    This is not a new discovery. The Task Force knew this years ago. But the goal was to manipulate the system to get huge increases in FAR to flip the land to the next sucker. That’s plan greed on one side and foolish inattention on the other side.


  48. but what is fundamentally different about Tysons in this evolution from other places that also evolved from suburbs to city?

    If you take TMT’s complaints about what will happen to Tysons and change the name to NYC… what would be different?

    There is a LOT of LATENT auto traffic in NYC.. but as Groveton points out – the facilities for autos are limited and people are forced into other modes to accomplish travel.

    Transportation planners call these “choices”.

    Sure.. you can actually drive an auto to a NYC job but what’s the point of it?

    It will take longer and cost more than other modes and 90% of folks won’t drive solo to/from work.

    It is safe to say, I think – that someone who drives every day to/from work in Tysons – does so – because they can.

    What if – they can’t?

    Here’s an example.

    Years ago.. I had occasion to attend meetings in Crystal City.

    It became “crystal” clear to me that unless I had a reserved parking spot – that I’d not be doing that trick every day.

    Way too expensive for paid spots and virtually no place to park all day for free..

    Why not make Tysons “work” like Crystal City does?

  49. Anonymous Avatar

    The Tysons dilemma is not unlike what Fairfax County Public Schools are trying to do with school start times. After years of stonewalling parents who complained about the early high school start time’s negative affects on students, FCPS developed a minimal transportation cost solution to alter all school starting times. But the proposal also causes problems for those parents who have adjusted to the current starting times. The latter have begun to organize to fight the schedule changes.

    Tysons could adopt very strict restrictions on auto traffic (high parking fees; limited parking spaces) that would promote an urban Tysons Corner. But the very same restrictions would hurt those Tysons’ businesses that depend on automobiles and would also, IMO, drive some tenants to move to other auto-friendly locations in Fairfax County.

    Who wins? Who loses?

    But these results can be expected when the goal of the TLUTF was not to improve Tysons Corner, but rather, to manipulate the political process to gain windfalls from real estate holdings without actually having to invest in improvements.


  50. “but what is fundamentally different about Tysons in this evolution from other places that also evolved from suburbs to city?”

    Nothing. Once upon a time there were single family mansions in New York City – on Park Avenue for example. I imagine that the people living in those mansions felt the same way as the people living in McLean and Vienna feel now. Urbanization threatens their way of living and so it must be resisted. Of course, if Tyson’s falls into stagnant decay these people will be in worse shape than if it urbanizes.

    “Why not make Tysons “work” like Crystal City does?”.

    No reason. However, the people who lived around Crystal City were not the rich people that live around Tyson’s. They saw economic development as a way to enhance their standard of living – not to ruin it. And they are better off with the development of Crystal City than they were when much of the area was a deleict railway switching yard and scattered auto painting and repair shops.

    Fauquier County has no monopoly on NIMBYs. There are plenty in Fairfax County too – in McLean, Great Falls, Vienna, etc. “Put the high density in Reston”, these NIMBYs cry. “The roads can’t take it”, they say. “Keep the city away from my nice suburban home”, they pray. “We can’t have sidewalks or Great Falls won’t be rural anymore”, they hallucinate.

    Like all species of NIMBY Nimbyius Fairfaxium will go extinct. In my mind, the sooner the better.

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