SYNERGY/Planning, Inc. did not dispatch any vehicles near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge last weekend. A lot of other people did not drive there and so the massive tie-up did not occur.

This brings to mind the result of the past education programs: The 1984 Olympics in Los Angles, the 1976 Centennial celebration in the Federal District of Columbia. There are many other examples.

Here is a modest proposal: Instead of spending $40-Billion over the next 10 years condemning rights-of-way, grading and laying asphalt, lets spend $.5-Billion over the next five so citizens will understand the root causes of traffic congestion. A comprehensive program for elementary, high school and adult education/community college programs plus intensive governance practitioner re-training would cost that much but “think of all the money we would save…”

If citizens understood that “we cannot build our way out of congestion” and that it is unrealistic to expect government to provide mobility with dysfunctional human settlement patterns a lot of the problem would go away. If citizens understood the Private Vehicle Mobility Myth, the Big Yard Myth and the Skycar Myth, Virginians would see results of more intelligent location decisions in less time that it would take to start building the roads and rails that only make settlement patterns more dysfunctional and congestion worse.

For a summary of the basis for a comprehensive curriculum see “Interstate Crime,” 28 February 2005, “The Commuting Problem,” 17 January 2005 and “From Myth to Law,” 29 November 2004 and the material cited in these three columns at db4.dev.baconsrebellion.com.


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  1. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    The root cause of congestion is too many people in the same place. It should not cost a half billion dollars to understand that, except for widely disseminated and well financed disinformation campaigns to the contrary.

    It is only true that we cannot build our way out of congestion if we insist on all building in the same place.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, Who’s insisting on “all building in the same place?” Is that the way you characterize the philosophy of allowing people to meet market demand by building at greater densities as opposed to prohibiting them from doing so?

    Is that the way you characterize the philosophy of promoting the in-fill development of the empty spaces in between the hop-scotch development that already exists? Or the re-development of worn-out, half-empty shopping centers or the recycling of worn-out, run-down subdivisions?

    Your line of argument implies that there is someone out there who wants to coerce people into living in ways they want to. Yes, there are people like that, but they’re not the reformers. They’re the people who defend a status quo built upon obsolete zoning codes, comprehensive plans and other regulations enforced by the police power of the state.

    The body of thought propounded by Ed Risse, some smart growthers and myself would provide alternative models for development, giving people more choices about what kind of communities to live in. Do you have a problem with allowing people to freely choose between Ed Risse’s “balanced communities” and the status quo of scattered, disconnected, low density development tied together by auto-centric transportation system supported by higher taxes?

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I don’t have a problem with allowing development standards which permit greater densities.

    I have a problem with say, taxing land only in one place and land and development in another. I have a problem with saying those that live in rural areas should pay 10X taxes, or even 3X as the case is now. I have a problem with people in Oregon paying Metro taxes to support the profits of some Tyson’s corner developer, unless we can somehow demonstrate that these promotional or redistribution taxes are actually fair.

    If we decide democratically that we are going to promote something, and we are willing to raise taxes to do so, well OK. But if someone wants to do something or not with their vacant lot, it should be up to them to decide if the inducements are sufficient.

    If we are going to allow people to build at greater densities to meet demand, then we can’t very well complain when people build 4000 sq ft houses on large lots to meet demand.

    I too am offended by the status quo defenders who want nothing to change ever.

    I don’t have a problem with the philosophy of in-fill, I just extend it to in-filling open space. It is the build nothing anywhere clan I realy have a problem with. See the story on Montgomery County Growth in WaPo.

  4. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Readers of BaconsRebellion and Bacons Rebellion Blog:

    You will be happy to know that none of the “I have a problem with…” statements above have anything to do with what Jim Bacon and EMR have been advocating for years.

    Those and the other statements in the last posting are flailing at windmills and fighting with Virginia’s polar bears. They result from misreading or misunderstanding our columns and the positions.


  5. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    How do you reconcile allowing people to meet market demand with the new proposed aesthetic regulations in Fauquier county?

    I would never consider building something out of character with the neighborhood, and there are manor-house monstrosities around me that I simply don’t understand.

    But here is a proposal that is truly a bad idea. It only applies to certain roads. According to the Fauquier Democrat it may require certain colors, materials, window space, and gutters.

    Aren’t we right now fighting a global war against people who disagree with the way we choose to live?

    What was it you were saying about people who want to coerce you into living a certain way?

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, Why do you assume that I agree with the proposed aesthetic regulations in Fauquier County? Have I ever so much as hinted that I do? I don’t know where you get such an idea.

    I don’t know what the regulations stipulate, so I couldn’t comment on them one way or the other. I don’t have a problem with limited regulation of signage, or in historic districts, but I’m very suspicious of any rules and regulations that would be all encompassing.

    If Fauquier wants to improve the appearance of its roadways, I would suggest that it focus on maintaining standards on its own public property and streetscapes. The county could develop “best practices” and encourage its property owners and citizenry to abide by them. And throw in some signage regulation. That’s about all that I would be likely to support.

  7. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I’m not suggesting that you support the plan, sorry it sounded that way. Still, there has to be some balance between “anything goes” and “you can do only what we allow”. There seems to be a lot of pressure for the latter, which sounds a lot like coercion and not much for the former, which sounds like free market.

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I’m glad you meantioned that business of signage. It seems to me that there is no benefit in ever more garish signage in an effort to get attention, instead there is only increasing costs, confusion, and danger.

    Martha’s Vineyard has very rational and modest sign standards. One result is that signage limited in size and lighting has become an art form.

    One hot dog stand didn’t get the message. He put up an ugly and garish chinese red sign which met the letter but not the intent of the regulations.

    It wasn’t long before he couldn’t give a hot dog away.

  9. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    On reflection, your argument about allowing people to meet market demand cuts both ways. There are locations where single family homes would be sold in an instant in favor of more compact development: that is what happened at Vienna Metro, but in most places it is not allowed. Think of the area around Harvard.

    By the same token thousands of Centreville residents would move to Fauquier overnight if much of it was not restricted to home in the $7 to $15 million dollar range.

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