Walkable Urbanism Is Still on a Roll

The Clarendon area of Arlington is a good example of suburban "WalkUP" development.
The Clarendon area of Arlington is a good example of suburban “WalkUP” development.

by James A. Bacon

Skeptics of a sustained urban revival have pointed with some glee to the fact that most commercial and residential development in the United States continues to take place in “suburban” jurisdictions rather than central “city” jurisdictions. Yeah, they say, there’s been an urban revival in the past decade, but the broader development trends haven’t changed very much.

That line of reasoning is profoundly misleading because it is based on an underlying assumption that the growth in “suburban” jurisdictions is comparable to the scattered, disconnected, low-density development that dominated growth and development between World War II and the Great Recession of 2008.

The fact is that much growth and development in suburban counties consists of walkable urban spaces, or what smart growth theorist Christopher Leinberger calls “WalksUPs.” In a newly published report underwritten by Smart Growth America, “Foot Traffic Ahead,” Leinberger and Michael Rodriguez found that WalkUPs, walkable areas of mixed-use development, gained market share compared to traditional suburban areas in every one of the 30 largest metropolitan regions in the country between 2010 and 2015.

Metropolitan Washington is an exemplar of the larger trend. Renowned for its sprawling Northern Virginia suburbs, the Washington region in fact has the second highest ranking under Leinberger’s methodology. It has 44 WalkUPs accounting for 53% of all office space, 20% of retail, and 23% of multi-family housing in the region. In contrast to the New York metro, where 94% of WalkUP space is located in New York City proper, Washington, D.C., accounts for only 53%of metro Washington WalkUP space — the rest is found in Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda, Md., and other communities outside the core city.

The data presented in this report suggests [a] structural shift is now taking place; walkable urban development has returned, occurring in some metros more quickly and in some more slowly. Our analysis shows that walkable urbanism has gained market share in the office, retail, and multi-family rental product types over drivable sub-urban, possibly for the first time in 60 to 70 years.

Richmond was not on the list of cities analyzed, but anecdotal evidence suggests the same dynamic is occurring in midsized cities, too. The City of Richmond proper is redeveloping rapidly, adding more new residential than it has seen in decades. But “suburban” counties are urbanizing, too. Some of the biggest real estate projects underway in Henrico County where I live are re-developing land as mixed use projects at higher density, and even the new stuff tends to incorporate mixed-use elements.

Remarkably, the return to urbanism appears to be persisting in the face of the lowest gasoline prices (adjusted for inflation) in history. The move back to walkable urbanism appears to represent a fundamental and long-lasting societal shift.

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43 responses to “Walkable Urbanism Is Still on a Roll”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    I have to question if “Walkable Urbanism” is a Conservative idea since of late, Mr. Bacon has pretty much made it clear with most of his latest blog posts that he clearly aligns as a Conservative on most issues.

    Nothing wrong with that in particular except it’s totally out of kilter with urban mobility and in fact the way that urban areas in general operate with regard to societal/public services and infrastructure whether it be sidewalks, bike trails or public transit.

    Walkable Urbanism and the concept of urban mobility in general, is a big govt concept both in philosophy and execution.

    Most urban areas basically by – big govt regulation forces sidewalks on streets and strives to provide walkable/bikeable parks and corridors but as soon as you move beyond the urban areas to the suburban areas – the entire mobility concept reverses with opposition and hostility from Conservative elected government that usually does NOT require sidewalks in residential areas NOR do they support trails that extend beyond specific developments that are usually off limits to anyone but residents of that development – actually an amenity for that development only.

    If you take the Conservative elected government in a lot of suburban places in Va and put them in charge of mobility at the city level – what would happen if they governed per their conservative philosophies about taxation for services and infrastructure created and operated by govt and not the private sector?

    My guess is that concept and motivation for walkability in the urbanized areas would just go away – if those elected could stay in office at election times. They’d allow bikes on streets but at their own peril as the streets would be primarily for cars and trucks .

    So we perhaps when we talk about walkability and mobility and tax-funded infrastructure to support mobility beyond that for personal motorized vehicles, we ought to admit that such things are fundamentally liberal big government ideas – that most Conservatives would not support.

    I’d actually like to see a post about how Conservatives would do urban mobility if they were in charge.

    Would we be more like Asia and Africa than Europe or what?

    Surely if Conservatives were in charge – it would be different.

    right? So in what ways? Would cities become more like the suburbs with less public infrastructure ?

    how about it?

    1. Larry said, “I’d actually like to see a post about how Conservatives would do urban mobility if they were in charge.”

      I can do better than “a post.” I spent an entire year writing about “smart growth for conservatives” on this very blog under a Smart Growth America sponsorship. You were a regular reader back then. I’d advise you to browse here to refresh yourself.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Oh you did – but I found it to be a totally false narrative because you totally ignored governments direct role in the issue – that such mobility is the province, indeed the signature behavior of “big govt liberal”.

        What I’m tweaking you about is how you try to straddle your clearly right views these days with things like this … which by all measures is not something most Conservatives would support and would, in fact, find it to be a direct violation of their Conservative “principles”

        you say you don’t want to “sacrifice” your principles…

        well geeze – it looks like a bit of a conundrum to me.. so how about explaining how your conservative principles do not include the standard anti-big-govt nanny-state idea of “walkability”..

        I bet I could search a gazillion Conservative blogs and not once find support for govt-provided “walkability”.

        fess up Jim Bacon.. explain yourself..


  2. Walkability is absolutely in vogue. Where Jim runs off the tracks is when he demands that walkability be combined with urbanism. One of my favorite places is a small town on the Chesapeake Bay called Oxford, MD. Population of about 800. Compact little town. Great food at the Oxford Inn, cold beer at a dive called Schooner’s. You can walk or bike from anywhere to anywhere. Is it walkable? Absolutely. Is it urban? Absolutely not.

    As for LarrytheG’s point – it’s well taken. Bacon loves walkable communities. Bacon is a conservative. Unfortunately for Jim – the walkable communities he loves are almost all liberal enclaves. Reston? Clarendon? Even little Oxford has more than its share of liberals (by Maryland’s Eastern Shore standards anyway).

    Conservatives in general and the Republican Party in particular are lost. The imbeciles screech about so-called “welfare mothers” but happily sluice rivers of money from Northern Virginia to rural Virginia in order to buy votes. The empty suited buffoons dance the property rights jig but excuse polluters who destroy the property rights of others.

    1. I haven’t gone off the tracks at all. Walkability is entirely compatible with rural lifestyles. In Europe, the word for walkable ruralism is “village.” I’m a huge advocate of villages, I have blogged about them, and I think they could be a component of a rural renaissance.

      As for walkable communities being liberal enclaves, so what? Am I supposed to sacrifice my principles for political convenience?

      1. Your post is entitled “Walkable urbanism is on a roll”. The picture of Clarendon you chose has a declaration of WalkUP suburbanism. You’re all over the place.

        “Walkability is on a roll”. That would have been a better title.

        You’re knee deep in the claptrap of the new urbanists. Those purveyors of pap will tell you ad nauseum that urban is good and suburban is bad. They will then spend the next hour proving that they can’t differentiate one from the other.

        The population density of Clarendon is 19,594 per sq mi. The population density of the so-called city of Richmond is 3,625 per sq mi.

        I give up – which one is urban and which one is suburban?

        New urbanism will corrode your mind Jim.

        As for liberal enclaves … they are walkable because they are liberal. Conservatism, as practiced in Virginia, is utter hogwash. It’s corporatism not conservatism. The so-called conservatives in Virginia are hand puppets of the land developers. The liberals are willing to rein the developers in. So, liberal communities are walkable while conservative (corporatist) communities are mis-managed tributes to land developers.

        1. “The population density of Clarendon is 19,594 per sq mi. The population density of the so-called city of Richmond is 3,625 per sq mi.”

          Nice trick, comparing one of the most dense neighborhoods of Arlington with the entire city of Richmond. If you’re in the mood for cherry picking data, I can assure you that downtown Richmond has greater density than Clarendon.

          As for New Urbanists and what they believe, Don, I have to say frankly that you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re in the same league as LarryG when it comes to making s*** up regarding what other people believe. New Urbanists have different design concepts for different levels of density. Acquaint yourself with the New Urbanism concept of the “transect” here.


          1. I didn’t post the picture of Clarendon, you did. Then you described Clarendon as “suburban”. From your transect diagram I note that “suburban” is predominately low-density, low-rise buildings on large blocks. Do you think that accurately describes Clarendon? So, you claim to be among the anointed high priests of New Urbanism while you describe an area with a population density of almost 20,000 per sq mile as low-density. I’m sorry – who doesn’t know what they’re talking about? You then compound the confusion by using a picture of a place you consider suburban as an example of urbanism.

            Didn’t you learn anything from Ed Risse’s Core Confusing Words?

            Here’s New Urbanism in a nutshell:

            1. Cities are good, suburbs are bad. Note: Since most New Urbanists have never been to the countryside they don’t know what to say about rural areas although they know that cows have to live somewhere so maybe rural is OK. The main point is that suburbs are bad.

            2. Northern Virginia is one big suburb, therefore Northern Virginia is bad.

            3. Anything named “city” is de-facto good so the City of Richmond is good.

            4. The bad people living in the bad suburbs are stealing from the good people who live in the good cities because the suburbanites don’t pay all their location variable costs. Never once is there any attempt to actually add up all of the taxes paid by residents of the so-called suburbs and compare that to the amount spent by all forms of government in the suburbs because that would disintegrate the argument.

            5. The right answer is to starve the suburbs of funding for expansion, particularly on transportation. Don’t just refuse to build roads. Take existing roads and turn them into hyper-expensive tollways to punish the bad people living in the bad suburbs for trying to go to work. They’ll eventually react by moving out of the bad suburbs and into the good cities.

            6. Take the money being raked out of the suburbs and absolutely pour the money into the cities as Martin O’Mallethead did with Baltimore. I think we can all agree that O’Mallethead’s eight years of pouring money into the (good) city of Baltimore is “mission accomplished”. Charm City has never worked better.

            Numbers, Bacon, numbers. There is no suburban, general urban, urban centre (why do New Urbanists like European spelling conventions?). There are places and those places have population densities. Some places (like Reston) have high population densities despite being right smack in the middle of the “endless suburban sprawl” of Northern Virginia. Other places (like some parts of the so-called city of Richmond apparently) have relatively low population densities despite being within so-called cities.

            Isn’t the real goal to have more high density places and more low density places? It doesn’t really matter what political jurisdictions house these places. New Metro stations will create the high density places. What will create the low density places? I’ll give you a hint – governmental regulation.

          2. You’re conflating New Urbanism with Smart Growth. There is overlap but they are not the same. It is not part of New Urbanism to be “anti suburban” — they are anti-poorly designed suburbs. Even Smart Growth covers a wide spectrum of views. Not all Smart Growthers subscribe to the positions that you enumerate.

        2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          “The liberals are willing to rein the developers in.” Funniest thing I’ve read in months. Gerry Connolly, while a SAIC VP and Chairman of the Fairfax County BoS, added a $50 M plus Silver Line station in front of SAIC’s HQ building in Tysons.

          Tim Kaine, while Governor, gave revenue from the DTR to MWAA to pay for a rail line that did not meet federal standards for funding in order to allow developers to make hundreds of millions in redeveloping Tysons.

          The current Democrat-controlled BoS will soon be considering giving Tysons-like density to areas not served by rail to developers despite the fact they adopted a policy that prohibits such development where there is no rail.

          1. One vote by one guy on one matter?

            In the end building the new Metro lines will be a positive for increasing population density and walkability.

            At least the Democrat-controlled BoS adopted a policy on density. A Republican-controlled BoS would never do that. They’d just wrap themselves in the (Gadsen) flag, let any developer build anything anywhere and in any way they wanted while promising to lower taxes despite the crushing gridlock.

            As far as your statement that the BoS “will soon be considering” exceptions to their density policies … that’s about as weak a statement as I’ve read. Soon? Considering? That’s right up there with Jimmy Carter’s sin of “lusting in his heart”. Call me when they vote.

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      I tend to agree. Walkability is not urbanism. It’s sidewalks and trails that connect places. I’ve lived in McLean for almost 29 years. For the first 20, our neighborhood was essentially landlocked. Lots of places to go, but they all kept one in the subdivision. For the last 8 plus, we can walk to downtown McLean.

      Urbanizing an area requires large tax subsidies. For example, Tysons redevelopment was enabled by the Silver Line, which, in turn, was built and is being built on the backs of DTR drivers. Also, Fairfax County’s Commercial and Industrial property tax for transportation will all be devoted to Tysons transportation projects for a number of years. But for these huge tax subsidies, would urbanism exist in Tysons?

      We are seeing growth in Tysons and an increase in land values, most especially by the four rail stations. But even that did not stop average real estate taxes from increasing by c. 4.6% this coming year. When will increases tax revenues from Tysons pay the added costs incurred by the County and also generate sufficient revenue to hold down residential real estate taxes?

      Tysons will most likely succeed. It will, over time, become a very nice and very expensive place to live, work or run a business. But by and large, it should best be known for a shining example of crony capitalism that transferred billions of dollars from ordinary people to the well connected.

      1. Hold the presses!

        Cats and dogs living together!

        Peace in the Middle East!

        TMT writes, “Tysons will most likely succeed. It will, over time, become a very nice and very expensive place to live, work or run a business.”

        Virginia is the most corrupt state in the union. The only way that will change is to throw out the buffoon-fest in Richmond and re-write the state constitution to prevent a re-aggregation of buffoonery in Richmond. Moving the state capital to Charlottesville would be a good move too.

        Until then, the only way to get progress in Virginia is through corrupt political activities. Payola is the only reason the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond does anything.

        Crony capitalism and corruption is the price you pay in Virginia for any progress whatsoever.

      2. I just love the tax subsidy argument. Add up all the taxes and fees paid by all the residents of Fairfax County over any 10 year period. Now, add up all the direct government spending on things like schools, welfare, roads, rail, police, etc. Which of the two numbers do think would be bigger?

        Tell me again – who is subsidizing who?

        The majority of people in Fairfax County want the county repaired by having more high density places and more low density places. I know you don’t want that but you’re in the minority.

    3. Cville Resident Avatar
      Cville Resident

      Here is an interesting quote:

      “Bringing entrepreneurs together outside of downtown will not work, Miano said.

      “It must be located within the context of urban density,” he said. “If people cannot walk or bike to a coffee shop and to a bookstore, and to an ice cream parlor, and to their innovation-sector job, it is a non-starter.”

      It comes from this series of articles about entrepreneurship (which are very good):


      I’m with you DonR. When I go to Austin or the Bay Area and observe the hottest areas in America for this type of living or just talk to local kids in Charlottesville…it’s all about wanting to live in a place with urban density. That’s what is attractive to 20/30 somethings.

      And yes, LarrytheG, such communities are the product of government. Almost all of the hottest “walkable” places full of entrepreneurs are the product of local governments establishing a vision through their comp plans and zoning ordinances and economic development arms. Then they deploy their resources and also work heavily with private sector developers (oh no, crony capitalism!) to create these areas. Everything about these processes is the antithesis of what “conservatives” or “libertarians” desire in policy.

      1. CR – you need to run for office. Seriously. You absolutely get it. Get you name on a ballot in front of me and you’ll have at least one vote.

  3. Gotta love it. First you flay me for being “conservative.” Then, when I depart from conservative orthodoxy, you flog me for departing from conservative orthodoxy. I have better luck arguing with my 18-year-old son than with you guys!

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      “I have better luck arguing with my 18-year-old son than with you guys!”

      My thoughts exactly.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      I “Flay” you for playing “conservative” on most all issues then pretending there is a “conservative” approach to urban mobility which is just plain bogus.

      there is no “conservative” approach to urban mobility that I’ve ever heard – other than to oppose any/all govt-sanctioned approaches and not advocating for any clear Conservative alternative.

      Where is that book on private sector free market urban mobility?

      no sidewalks built with money stolen from hard working folks disguised as taxes….

      no stinking METROs infested with union workers…

      and gawd help us – no gas tax money squandered on bike lanes and bike trails.

      where is that Conservative vision of urbanization?

      Let me guess.. Cairo. Mogadishu, Timbuktu – right?


      1. That book your looking for…you can start with ‘The Voluntary City: Choice, Community & Civil Society”

    3. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

      Conservatives have better thinking around macro-economics. Liberals have better thinking around land use.

      If you should be flayed for anything it should be for foolish consistency.

      As for arguing with your 18 year old son … you should do more of that. You are seeing (hearing) the future every time you engage him. Whether you agree with him or not, he is the future.

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I suspect that Walkable Urbanism today holds the potential for great positive impact on America’s future whether that future be urban, suburban, small city, town, village, or rural.

    But like so much of life, success or failure (or something in between) is almost always between the lip and cup. Within that space, and the time it takes to move through it, there are many many ways for us or others to get many things mostly wrong. And/or for many other things to go wrong on their own volition, despite our best intentions or even our best efforts. Or even for things to go right by their own natural volition if only we give them to space to be what they naturally want to be.

    Another words at many junctures along the way to Walkable Urbanism many well intended people need to get the hell out of the way. And those folks who are always around to oppose change and/or convert it to their own private advantage at the expense of everything and everyone else need to be forcible overcome by wits and hard work of others.

    All this requires wisdom, luck, grit, and resources in the right mix properly applied in the right places. At the right times. How does that come about? Only the future will tell. This is not done by rote, formula, or ideology. Nothing is foreordained. Or certain. Or likely. There is no secret sauce. Or silver bullet. No one has all the answers, skills, talents, or ability to make this happen. It its rather a huge exercise of many random events somehow given the space and chance to happen in a special magically way.

    Walkable urban today can be hard getting things right simple because those things don’t want to happen the way that we intent they happen, and so there many known and unknown things can thwart us for years only to defeat us finally. And finally reward those people who are lucky enough to come along years later by chance or insight and pick up our broken pieces, reap the great benefits produced by those including us who labored and lost on the way to somebody’s later gain.

    The reasons here for all this are many. The happening of unintended consequence, fortuitous events, bad luck and timing, good luck and timing, intervening acts of God, not to mention human failings and if course most likely of all, a maddeningly combination of all the above.

    So typically this work requires decades of struggle, loss, trial and error, the hard work of many, the contribution of a few geniuses or tough obstinate SOBs who often come out of nowhere to over time subjugate certain kinds of events and personality types who surprisingly often with great skill and determination ruin most everything they touch, or try too. Here for walkable urban success they need to fail by reason acts by mostly a few.

    So why I find reason to hope for many of the conclusions of this report, such of its reasoning is alien to my experience in the field as occurred in Washington DC region from roughly 1960 to 2000, and my understanding of the historical events in the Washington DC region that lead up to those events that occurred over the the last 40 years before 2000.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Ran out of edit time. Here is edit of last TWO paragraphs.

      “So typically this work requires decades of struggle, loss, trial and error, including the hard work of many, and the contribution of a few geniuses or tough obstinate SOBs who often come out of nowhere to over time subjugate certain kinds of events and personality types who surprisingly often with great skill and determination ruin most everything they touch, or try too. Here for walkable urban success these events and types need to fail by reason of acts by mostly a few.

      So while I find reason to hope for many of the conclusions of this report, much of its reasoning is alien to my experience in the field as occurred in Washington DC region from roughly 1960 to 2000, and also alien to my understanding of the historical events in the Washington DC region that led up to those events that occurred here in Washington DC over the last 40 years before 2000.”

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    The question is – is this a Govt-led activity? Is the govt the lead agency in doing urban mobility and does it expend tax dollars in acquiring land and rights of ways and building the infrastructure?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      At least in Tysons, but for Fairfax County’s 20+ year effort to urbanize Tysons, nothing as large would be planned or constructed. Some of the infrastructure is being paid at least in part by proffers. For example, a new fire station will be built in a new building at the cost of the builder. Of course, any equipment, etc., will be paid by taxpayers.

      For transportation outside the Silver Line, needed road improvements outside the Tysons boundary will be paid 90% by taxpayers and 10% by landowners. For road improvements inside Tysons, the shares are reversed. All non-rail transit costs will be born by taxpayers.

      While Tysons is not the only area in the U.S. undergoing urbanization, it’s the biggest such project anywhere in the world. It is being watched and studied worldwide.

    2. Government – led? Yes. Government – exclusive? No.

      1. Cville Resident Avatar
        Cville Resident

        Absolutely. Government should not be the sole mover. Successful places see government create infrastructure in cooperation with developers and entrepreneurs. But government has to take the lead through comp plans, zoning regulations, and economic development coordination.

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        I suggest that a strong, efficient, highly competent, but lean and wise, local government is critical to success in most typical situations. The hard part is figuring out the ingredients of such a local government in land use matters. So we are back to the same problem – it’s all between the lip and the cup – and the interplay of highly complex events and skills to get to success.

        Perhaps a better understanding these questions can be gained thought the rigorous, independent, and imaginative study of actual cases of outstanding successes and failures. The rigorous study of the histories of particular living neighborhoods, how thet grew and transitioned over generations. What worked? Why did it work. Why did it later fail. How was it resurrected? What roll did local government play, and not play, to mix culture, economics, location, timing, personalities, and all else relevant into success or failure. To do the hard work necessary to find real on the ground actions, attitudes, maneuvers, and wisdom that created within a defined location the magic environment that allowed and helped the best community to grow and thrive in that place and time.

        One could do such studies on every neighborhood and community in the Washington DC region. And those doing that work would come to some startling conclusions and insights, and learning. One could start with Georgetown DC in the 1730 and track its many iterations over nearly 3 centuries, all of which are applicable to today. One could chart all the forces that played into Georgetown remarkable ups and downs.

        Similarly one could get enormous insights into Private Public Partnerships, how they worked to develop and destroy and screw up or do the otherwise impossible in building communities throughout the region. Here again one will reach starling and surprising conclusions, ones that quite contrary to all the mythologies, shallow arguments, and conventional ideologies and theories that are so plentiful today. For we today are inventing little, place building is man’s oldest game.

        I found a lack to this sort of background, analysis, and appreciation of these aspects to be a major weakness the the study that is the subject of Jim Bacon.s article here.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Again – the question is – is it the Govt responsibility to plan the mobility and insure it is executed per govt specs or the private sector?

    Philosophically – is mobility the job of the government to insure , specify, accomplish?

    I ask this because in this blog – Govt is over and over accused of being incompetent, corrupt, wasteful and in general the less of it the better.


    true for urban mobility ?

    we should get govt out of this business and let the private sector do it?

  7. OK, Larry, I’ll go over this one more time, but this is really the last time, because we’ve gone over this same point over and over, and you never remember the answer.

    As a practical matter, government and only government can be in charge of urban streets, roads, sidewalks, bike paths, rail lines and other public infrastructure and public space. Except when a private developer owns enough land to design and build the entire community, such functions are a monopoly best left to government. How is it a monopoly? Because in 99% of America, government owns the streets, owns the sidewalks, writes the rules and regulations, and is in charge of designing the public space. In theory there might be a better way than relying upon government. But we are subject to path dependence. We are where we are, we do it how we do it, there is no practicable way to change, and we have to make the best of it.

    Now it’s true that government often does a crappy job at urban design. But sometimes it does a good job. As citizens, we have to press government to do the best it can.

    There is no ideological inconsistency here except in your mind. You create a laissez-faire straw man argument that no one in the real world actually espouses.

    1. The worst designed places are run by consistently conservative (Republican) local government. The best designed places are run by consistently liberal (Democratic) local governments.

      Austin is the most liberal city in Texas. It’s also the most livable city in Texas.

      While Fairfax County was a Republican place it spiraled out of control. Once the Democrats took control it began to heal.

      The Dems are just better at land use.

      1. Cville Resident Avatar
        Cville Resident


        You are correct. Only a fool votes GOP at the local or state level if you live in Virginia and want to see the state prosper. The Dems understand land use and transportation much better than the GOP. And they aren’t quite as bad at Robin Hood redistribution of taking from the rich (Urban Crescent) and giving to the poor (rural Virginia).

        I voted for Romney in ’12. I think the GOP typically does a better job at the federal level (except on the environment). But I’ll be damned if I’d ever vote for Trump.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    Nice try but no dice. How do you explain the difference between urban areas approach to mobility and non-urban areas approach to mobility and why can’t urban areas adopt the same approach that non-urban area govt has adopted – i.e. they do not use govt to do mobility – it’s not provided.

    why can’t urban areas adopt the same non-urban Conservative philosophy “govt doesn’t do this? approach?

    Aren’t you essentially choosing the liberal approach that say Govt should do it rather than the Conservative approach that govt (other than VDOT) won’t do it and won’t require developers to do it – either?

    surely you know this – when you answer that ONLY govt can do it. Govt CAN CHOOSE to NOT do it.

  9. Cville Resident Avatar
    Cville Resident

    I’d love to hear from the GOPers on this:

    Think about all the Tobacco Commission and Governor’s “Opportunity” money that’s gone outside of the Urban Crescent in the past decade. Either failed or one-off projects all over the countryside.

    Now…imagine we took those 10s of millions of state dollars and invested them in Richmond and Norfolk. Imagine that we had transformed them into denser, walkable places with plenty of Class A and shared office space with all of the amenities that start-ups are desiring. Both Richmond and Norfolk have the bones to appeal to 20/30 somethings. Heck, Norfolk has the Bay which, if planned right through a land use perspective, could be amazing for the entrepreneurs and ventures that produce real wealth in the 21st century. I was in Norfolk in May and I find it appalling that the state has not worked with the locality and developers to turn that into what could be a very attractive space.

    And then wake up and realize that no….we’re not really pursuing economic growth through state policies and resources. Instead, let’s throw millions to get a few hundred manufacturing jobs paying $10.00-$15.00 an hour in the middle of Southside/SWVA where the money will have absolutely zero ripple effect and is going towards no-growth industries. That’s what voting GOP at the state level gets you.

    1. Cville, For the record, My 14 years of publishing the Bacon’s Rebellion blog has been a prolonged rant against “business as usual” economic development built on the triad of corporate recruitment, tourism and business assistance as enshrined in Virginia’s bureaucratic structure and a cry to pay more attention to the recruitment/retention of human capital and fostering the conditions of entrepreneurial activity — of which place making is a part. In my experience, every Virginia governor including Democrats Warner, Kaine and McAuliffe have supported the status quo approach to economic development, with minor variations (Gilmore and Warner promoted Tech. McDonnell promoted roads).

      This problem is not a Democrat vs. Republican problem, and it doesn’t accomplish much to frame it that way.

      1. Cville Resident Avatar
        Cville Resident

        I respectfully disagree. Power in Virginia resides in the legislature. Take a look at Urban Crescent attempts to change the Composite Index (hint: they all die in the GOP House). It was the General Assembly with Governor Gilmore that literally took 100s of millions of dollars from the Tobacco Settlement and simply locked it into “the Tobacco Region.”

        I guarantee that if you had a Democratic General Assembly and Democratic Governor, you’d see major policy changes including some of the policy changes that this blog advocates! I know Delegate Toscano pretty well, and he’s pretty forward thinking. I’d imagine he’d support economic development policies that create entrepreneurial infrastructure rather than the dreaded “grants.”

        But keep telling yourself that Bill Howell and the rural Republicans aren’t the problem. They will never allow tobacco settlement money to go to a Roanoke or a Norfolk or a Richmond. They will never simply “give” the “crooks” in Norfolk or Roanoke or Richmond “hand outs” to create spaces conducive to 21st century economic growth. Go talk to your average GOP legislator in Richmond and your average Dem legislator in Richmond. The Dems “get it”. They understand that resources and money should be going to places like Arlington or Richmond to create space-centered economic development and that 21st century economic growth will come from superior brainpower and the states/localities that can attract it. I’m not even sure the average GOP legislator would understand the concept, and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t support it.

        The GOP is absolutely the problem at the state level.

        In this week’s Economist, there is a great Bagehot column in which he talks about how the Brexit would be laughable in a decade. Here is a quote that describes the Brexit forces and the Virginia GOP to a T:

        “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.”

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          The LCI was established during the 1970s when the Democratic Party controlled both houses of the GA. Why didn’t it properly address the higher costs of running schools in urban/suburban areas? The rural robber barons were all Democrats then.

          And Fairfax County Democrats provided the winning votes for Mark Warner’s tax increases and education spending changes that siphoned more NoVA money to rural areas.

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        “This problem is not a Democrat vs. Republican problem, and it doesn’t accomplish much to frame it that way.”

        Jim Bacon’s quote is correct. These issues here run far deeper than Democratic. V. Republican, conservative v. progressive.

        With regard to land use issues, we need to escape these superficial labels. They may help to give some of us a very firm sense of certainty and indeed reward us with unearned righteousness, having separated the world neatly into the good people versus the bad, but these labels are crutches that lead not to solutions but to dead ends instead.

        We need go far deeper into what is really going on underneath these issue if we are to have any chance of dealing with those issues in ways that achieve positive results.

        Follow the example being set by TooManyTaxes instead. He is grabbing hold of reality and shaking it apart with insights.

      3. On economic development you are right. It’s a goat rodeo no matter who is in charge. They all want quick fixes – pay a company to move here, build a road there. There are no sustained structural efforts. Hot and cold running crony capitalism.

        Our disagreement comes as you want less government and I want better government.

        I used to visit Nashville in the early 80s as part of my job at the time. I didn’t go back for 30 years. Two years ago my oldest son moved to Nashville and I started visiting him in Nashville. Oh my God! Those crazy rednecks have knocked the ball out of the park! It took a steady series of concerted actions by both private and public enterprises but they did it.

        Imagine if the knuckleheads in the General Assembly would have concentrated all of the tobacco indemnification money on Charlottesville or even Richmond for that matter.

        Brooklyn, The East Village, Nashville, Louisville, Austin – the places that are achieving your stated goals are doing so with a double dollop of government action.

        Sitting on the porch drinking bourbon and branch water while wishing for a small government isn’t going to get ” the recruitment/retention of human capital and fostering the conditions of entrepreneurial activity”.

        You know what needs to be done. You just don’t know how to do it.

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      I like urban places as choices. But the idea the 20/30 somethings will be wed to urban areas seems false to me. McLean is full of 30 somethings (a few 40 somethings) that left urban areas, including the District and the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, for suburban McLean because of their kids, schools and open space. Kids trump the hipster life.

      What’s wrong with having multiple options for people? We don’t need to turn Fairfax County urban to redevelop Tysons or complete the Reston Towne Center. I lived for 33 years within the city limits of St. Paul, Omaha and Des Moines, but only 4 years in an apartment. I despised apartments. It’s like living in a cattle car. I lived in Arlington for 3 years and McLean ever since.

      Let people choose where they want to live based on their desires and economic wherewithal.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Excellent point.

        Much ideology behind the Walkable Urban Movement is designed to create in practical affect anti-family environments. Paradoxically this aspect of their ideology marries up with much of the intent of Fairfax County’s Oligarchy’s land use regime, including their Dynamic Toll ideas.

        These Crony Capitalist’s business interests consider middle class families very bad for business from a land use angle as its compromises their taxable base versus cost calculations. Hence worker class families are for them highly inefficient.

        So Dynamic Tolls will be used these drive these inefficient middle income families out of Fairfax County, and replace them with single millennials and wealthy couples who comprised the Oligarchy while everyone is forced out into the hinterlands where they struggling daily to get back into work and thus they can be MILKED daily by the Dynamic Tolls so as keep the Oligarchy living high off the Fat of Land in Fairfax County, paid for by those middle class folks they have run out of town.

      2. I prefer rural and small town areas but I can’t make any money living there so I suck it up and live in the despicable, rotten, endless strip mall called Great Falls.

        But even in small towns I like walkability. As we run the old farts in Great Falls off to Florida we might even achieve some level of walkability in Great Falls. If I hear the term semi-rural character one more time to argue against sidewalks I think I’ll scream. Maybe if you grew up in Calcutta Great Falls would look semi-rural (whatever semi-rural means). There are sidewalks and bike trails on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and guess what – that’s real rural.

        You know how much the property values in Great Falls would rise if we put in sidewalks and bike trails and went for “nice suburban” instead of the “semi-rural” hallucination?

        Agh! people are crazy.

  10. Cville Resident Avatar
    Cville Resident

    I want to make something clear about my views. I am not opposed to truly rural places. They are beautiful. But…a truly rural place is like Bath or Highland County with almost no residents except those to provide necessary services.

    And make no mistake, I find Chatham and Abingdon Virginia to be 2 of the most walkable and beautiful little towns in Virginia. So it’s not like I’m NoVa centric in my view of walkability.

    What I object to is economic development/Tobacco Commission dollars going to small cities. Places like South Hill, South Boston, Danville, Martinsville, Galax, etc. These aren’t “small towns”. Rather, they are small cities. And the General Assembly Republicans have been trying to prop these places up against all economic rationality. They have poured tens of millions into these places and in nearly 20 years (Tobacco payments started in 1999) all we’ve seen is population and economic decline despite all that money. Let them die. It’s ridiculous to keep trying to make them “cities”. If anyone on this board (TMT, Reed, DonR, Mr. Bacon, LarrytheG) had that money, I guarantee they could have made much better investment decisions with those tens (probably hundreds) of millions of economic development dollars.

    It has always amazed me that this state would pump countless millions into Danville Virginia when that same money could have created a tech zone in Norfolk or the Fan or perhaps found a way to make a super fast transportation connection between Roanoke and Blacksburg. Any of those 3 options would have given us 10s if not 100s of times ROI on the dollars compared to trying to keep Danville or Martinsville “cities” by doling out grants to manufacturers and phantom companies that simply want cheap labor and free tax dollars.

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