The Antiplanner’s Library: Ideal City & Compact City

I once wrote an article about Halle Neustadt a high-density, soviet-built city in East Germany that some urban planners once rated “the most sustainable city in the world.” As the article pointed out, it was only “sustainable” (that is, people didn’t drive much) before German reunification. Soon after the Berlin Wall fell and the country reunified, Halle Neustadt residents went out and bought cars, and soon after that about a third of them moved out to low-density suburbs. Today, many of Halle Neustadt’s high rises have been demolished.

My article pointed out that Halle Neustadt was based on urban planning ideals of the era as described in a book titled The Ideal Communist City. Much of the rhetoric in this book sounded very familiar: suburbs were evil, driving was evil, and government-imposed density was the solution. In a conclusion that drives smart-growth advocates nuts, I showed that the only significant differences between smart growth and the ideal communist city were that the former emphasizes mid-rise apartments of varying sizes while the latter emphasizes high-rise apartments that would be considered tiny by American standards.

One writer in particular freaked out at my article: Jason Myers, a political scientist at the Stanislaus campus of the University of California. “The New Urbanism was nothing short of a communist plot,” he claimed I said, “and its outcome would be just as grim and foreboding as the gray world once enclosed within the Iron Curtain.” In fact, I specifically said that it wasn’t a communist plot: “We have enough central planners in our own midst that we don’t have to look for them elsewhere.”

Myers used my article as an opportunity to sing the praises of socialist planning. He suggested we should be amazed at the “bold socialist utopianism driving the book’s vision,” the planners’ “concern with social equality,” and their “their vision of public parks, recreational facilities, and club venues.” The book proves, says Myers, that socialism is far better than its critics claim and, on grounds of social equality at least, better than capitalism.

Myers is obviously guilty of that sin so often mentioned before in this blog: that of judging plans by their intentions rather than their results. In fact, the “scientific socialist tradition” that guided the authors of The Ideal Communist City produced results that could be considered comical if you didn’t have to live in them.

For example, the planners figured that the ideal family size was two adults and two children, and that they would easily fit in a two-bedroom apartment. So the planners proposed to build entire cities consisting mainly of high-rise buildings full of 600-square foot, two-bedroom apartments (which is exactly what happened). The fact that some families might have more than two children was dismissed by the planners, who imagined that the children would mostly be off at boarding school anyway in order to avoid the influences of “bad parents.”

Myers praises the planners for their concern for “kinship and family life” and says the careful design of the apartments demonstrates the planners’ “concern to provide for privacy and solitude.” But it is hard to imagine members of a family of four, much less five or six, finding privacy and solitude in such tiny apartments. And what kind of privacy would siblings of the opposite sex have in sharing one tiny bedroom?

Though Myers considers the ideal communist city “utopian,” I strongly suspect that he doesn’t live in a 600-square foot apartment. The residents of Halle Neustadt, who derisively referred to their city as “H-Neu” (pronounced Hanoi in German) to indicate its bombed-out nature, hardly felt they were in utopia, and many left as soon as they could. Far from social equality (has Myers ever heard of nomenklatura?), the ruling principle behind ideal communist city wasn’t social equality but poverty.

In retrospect, it is not surprising that the soviets would give their stamp of approval to The Ideal Communist City, as its main source of inspiration was Le Corbusier‘s Radiant City. In Cities of Tomorrow, planning historian Peter Hall calls Le Corbusier “the Rasputin of the tale” of urban planning, both because Radiant City proved unlivable and because of his authoritarian approach to planning, “the evil consequences of which are ever with us.” Such authoritarianism would naturally appeal to the soviets who didn’t dare allow their people freedom for fear they might do something that wasn’t in a five-year plan.

Though I don’t think smart growth is a communist plot, my Halle Neustadt article confessed that it is “creepy” that The Ideal Communist City was translated into English and published just two years before publication of another book, Compact City. This book is full of the same utopian calculations about how people would be much happier if only they lived in high-rise apartment buildings crammed into a small area.

For the most part, Compact City is also inspired by Radiant City, which also inspired American housing projects such as Pruitt-Igoe. Ironically, even as the authors of Compact City were penning their work, Pruitt-Igoe was being imploded after a mere 17 years of existence had proved it to be unlivable, and since then nearly all Radiant-City-like housing projects in the U.S. (outside of New York City) have similarly been demolished.

When I wrote the Halle Neustadt article, I was relying on notes taken from a library copy of Compact City, but recently decided I needed a copy of my own. When it arrived, I decided to see if the authors had read The Ideal Communist City. Yes: they cite it on page 230, — along with Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities, Frank Lloyd Wright’s The Living City, and Paolo Solari’s Arcology — as examples of “new cities.” The fact that The Ideal Communist City is the only one of these that comes close to their conception of a compact city doesn’t prove that they were particularly influenced by the Russian book, only that both were influenced by Rasputin Le Corbusier.

In fact, Compact City represents a transition between Radiant City and the New Urbanism. While most of the book describes a Radiant City that, in retrospect, seems about as delightful as Blade Runner’s Los Angeles or the Dark Knight’s Gotham City, it devotes one chapter to an “alternative” to Radiant City based on Jane Jacobs’ “vibrant neighborhoods.” Within a few years, such vibrant neighborhoods would replace Radiant City as the urban planning ideal. Of course, the main difference between these neighborhoods and Radiant City was that Jacobs lived in a neighborhood of mid-rise apartments with ground-floor shops, not in a high-rise apartment separated from shops by a greenway.

Yet the results are the same. Both Radiant City and smart growth require authoritarian planners who think they know how people should live. The smart-growth planners claim the communities they design have a more “human scale,” yet they praise the high rises that stud Vancouver and Toronto, and are beginning to appear in Portland. In the end, what counts for the planners is not the results but only their intentions — and that they have the power to carry out those intentions.

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45 thoughts on “The Antiplanner’s Library: Ideal City & Compact City

  1. JimKarlock

    yet they praise the high rises that stud Vancouver and Toronto, and are beginning to appear in Portland.

    JK: They don’t like to talk about the cost of those high rises. I attended a talk by a Vancouver BC city council person who spent, probably, an hour telling how wonderful life was in the high density mecca. Not a word about cost, so I asked:

    http://blip.tv/file/791876

    Thanks
    JK

  2. the highwayman

    JK: They don’t like to talk about the cost of those high rises. I attended a talk by a Vancouver BC city council person who spent, probably, an hour telling how wonderful life was in the high density mecca.

    THWM: http://canadapics.1337hax0r.com/d/465-1/Vancouver_+BC_+Aerial+view.jpg

    It’s a tight space, they are in a river valley, with mountains to the north, sea to the west & the USA 10 miles to the south. Most what makes up suburbs for the Vancouver area are to the east such as Langley, Abbotsford & etc.

  3. Scott

    “It’s the architecture, the nice artsy look, that makes smart growth attractive & livable.” is one one of the claims on this coercive density is supposed to work.

    One of my profs even said that the problem with Pruitt-Igoe was the design.
    (skip-stop elevators were ridiculous & inconvenient)
    So, the problem with the projects wasn’t cramming all these lazy, drug using, high school dropouts, without any sense of pride or ownership.
    Well, that’s a side-note not that applicable. However, after HOPE the criminals dispersed into other neighborhoods.

    And many TODs now, are subsidized.

    With less than 3% of the US being urbanized, we sure need more high density, because there’s only so much space.

    Hey, Salazer & the “National Resource Council against humans” is making the CA central valley unsuitable for farming (2″ fish are more important), so housing can be built there. Desalinated water is cheap enough for personal use (not industry or farming).

    Should we really densify? Well, BO wants to spread the misery around.
    Gov doesn’t create wealth, just redistributes it.
    If all the people in the US lived in cities at the density of SF (16,000/sq.mi.), they would occupy an area the size of San Bernardino County, 20,000 sq.mi.
    Yep, then we could look like a third world country (aka LDC).

    Or, since the most widespread transit (by use) is in Hong Kong, to live at that density (80,000), all 307,000,000 would fit in an area about the size of the Chicago urban area, 3,800 sq,mi. Yeaaah.

  4. RJ

    All the teabaggers …

    Here is a good way to speed up reading comments on internet discussion boards. As soon as you see peaceful political demonstraters characterized with the term for a perverted sexual act, you can stop reading. Nothing that follows can possibly be of any value.

  5. C. P. Zilliacus

    RJ wrote:

    > Here is a good way to speed up reading comments on
    > internet discussion boards. As soon as you see peaceful
    > political demonstraters characterized with the term for a
    > perverted sexual act, you can stop reading. Nothing that
    > follows can possibly be of any value.

    Being (in spite of what some readers of this forum think) a liberal Democrat, I do not agree with much of what the “Teabag” crowd has to say.

    But as long as those folks are reasonably peaceful and respectful of the properties owned by others (including the U.S. taxpayers), they have an absolute right to demonstrate in the District of Columbia.

  6. C. P. Zilliacus

    The Antiplanner wrote:

    > I once wrote an article about Halle Neustadt a high-density,
    > soviet-built city in East Germany that some urban planners
    > once rated “the most sustainable city in the world.” As the
    > article pointed out, it was only “sustainable” (that is,
    > people didn’t drive much) before German reunification. Soon
    > after the Berlin Wall fell and the country reunified,
    > Halle Neustadt residents went out and bought cars, and
    > soon after that about a third of them moved out to
    > low-density suburbs. Today, many of Halle Neustadt’s high
    > rises have been demolished.

    Even though Sweden has never been ruled by Communists, there are residential developments in several of that nation’s urban areas that resemble Halle Neustadt and have become (effectively) suburban slums. They were designed by stridently anti-auto and anti-highway planners and architects in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s with many of the same goals as H-N.

    Consider the Stockholm suburbs of Rinkeby and Tensta. Even though they are in separate administrative boroughs of Stockholm, they are adjacent to each other and have adjacent stops on the Blue Line of the Stockholm subway (tunnelbana).

    Very few native-born Swedes want to live in these places.

  7. msetty

    The Antiplanner:
    Consider the Stockholm suburbs of Rinkeby and Tensta…

    The photos in one of these articles look like a mediocre U.S. mall from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Of course The Antiplanner has failed to point out that most New Urbanists also abhor the work of Corbu and others of his ilk, despite this I think unsuccessful attempt to tie together Commie Planning(tm) and New Urbanists.

  8. ws

    Of course those big cement boxes look terrible. A lot of public housing – criticized by NUs, Jacobs, etc. – crammed people into huge buildings of the same socio-economic status.

    http://ti.org/vaupdate53.html

    Love the pictures of the nice European “suburbs”, btw. Funny, how they are actually very dense, have minimal setback from the street, narrow streets, smaller lots, and probably served by transit and pedestrian amenities. Those suburbs/villages are more New Urbanist than American Dallas “specials” you champion! But hey, it’s a communist plot; even though building a suburban European village like that would be within the guidelines of smart growth. You’re off your rocker, man.

    It would be funny to see the walking and biking rates of these villages. Probably pretty high! Sure, they have big box stores…but they also have other building typologies for commercial areas.

    Density and urbanity is not communist, like you’re trying to insinuate. It’s a completely capitalist market reaction in pretty much 99.9% of the world. And let’s not conflate suburbia with European villages, kind of like street car suburbs are not McMansions suburbs.

  9. ws

    Here’s the “crazy” NU and Jane Jacobs criticizing Corbusier’s urban planning:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Corbusier

    But yeah, smart growth soooo wants to slam people in super high density concrete buildings against their will. Yeah, and urban planning makes mistakes, so what? — you learn, move on and adapt with changing times and conditions. Hopefully the processes of the planning are democratic in nature, and not completely top-down like they were in Communist countries.

  10. Dan

    I like it that there are who people compare something they don’t like to socialism, to communism, fascism, whaddevah. You can immediately dismiss their arguments and move on. What could be easier?

    DS

  11. JimKarlock

    ws said: But yeah, smart growth soooo wants to slam people in super high density concrete buildings against their will.
    JK: Congratulations, you finally got something right – planners do want to get people into Halle Nevstadts all over the country. It perfectly meets most of the typical planner’s goals.

    Action speaks louder than words: just look at the garbage being built all over Perfectly Planned Portland: Hawthorne, Division, Belmont & that masterpiece – The Center Commons. 98% of our land that is not urbanized, and to the planner, it is too valuable to waste on people, when a rat or snail needs it.

    ws said: Yeah, and urban planning makes mistakes, so what? — you learn, move on and adapt with changing times and conditions.
    JK: Since when do city planners learn anything? They just follow their mantra:
    density good, family sized homes bad;
    transit good, cars bad.
    They are totally ignorant of even the most basic facts, like:
    cars are more energy, cost and time efficient than transit.
    High density costs more than family sized homes.
    Portland planning has doubled our home cost.

    ws said: Hopefully the processes of the planning are democratic in nature, and not completely top-down like they were in Communist countries.
    JK: Portland planing IS “completely top-down like they were in Communist countries.”. Public input is just for show (or the most minor of details), while the outcome has been determined in back rooms. Here is what a local paper said (the “he” is politically favored developer, Homer Williams.”):

    He says he learned from his experiences with the Pearl District and South Waterfront that he had to have agreements in place on specific pieces of developments before his plans went public.

    With South Waterfront, he says, he secured commitments from Mayor Vera Katz and from Oregon Health & Science University on its investment in a campus that would be connected to its main campus by the tram. And those two weren’t the only ones with whom bargains were made.

    “We got everybody around the table every Monday for months, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” Williams says. “PDOT, OHSU, PDC (the Portland Development Commission), (the) planning (bureau). We said, ‘OK, let’s make an agreement.’ ” (Bold added, peter korn, The Portland Tribune, Apr 29, 2008 ) http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=120940993606676700

    Quit trying to fool us.

    Thanks
    JK

  12. Dan

    Yes, Andy, sorry for you, but most people with a few firing brain cells tune out the message as soon as they hear the widdle fear phrases. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how it goes. We see the public dialogue polluted by such fear today. It’ll go away.

    DS

  13. ws

    JK:“Since when do city planners learn anything? They just follow their mantra: density good, family sized homes bad; transit good, cars bad. They are totally ignorant of even the most basic facts, like: cars are more energy, cost and time efficient than transit. High density costs more than family sized homes. Portland planning has doubled our home cost.”

    ws: Density is natural for any expanding city. The link you gave me just shows that the private developers want to develop densely, but can’t get their vision across because of NIMBY neighbors. Thanks for proving my point that density has nothing to do with planners. It’s a market reaction, as the owners of the site WANT density, and if anything planning codes are restricting them.

    Um, yeah they made deals and worked out the kinks with all stakeholders for SoWA before showing idiot people who don’t understand development, urban design, etc. could derail the project just because it created some element of change from their mundane life. I agree with people being able to voice their opinions, so as long as they are cogent arguments. Not wanting your view to change really is not a reasonable argument – everyone’s view changes for any development from single family homes, apartments, etc.

    Hmmm… let’s see mostly vacant industrial zone and no access to the waterfront or a blocked view of Mount Hood? I’ll take a blocked view of Mt. Hood, which is fine because you can’t see it anymore because of all of the smog!

    Now, if we’re talking about serious character change of a neighborhood like a new 8 lane freeway ripping through your backyard that destroyed every last amenity of your neighborhood – then you might have a damn argument, Jim.

  14. ws

    JK:98% of our land that is not urbanized, and to the planner, it is too valuable to waste on people, when a rat or snail needs it.

    ws:Great statistics, now let’s calculate actual livable land served by water, subtract land that is already converted to farmland, land needed for natural resource extraction, and subtract percentage of land needed to maintain ecological and environmental functions of the planet (you know, those functions that make life possible).

    Not to mention land needed to give people natural open space…unless you think natural “open space” is a nice green water consuming lawn. I suppose your vision of open space is destroying it…yep let’s turn the Columbia River Gorge into a strip mall and low-density subdivision…it just might be that someday if we develop at your desired density levels and assume 2 million more people living in Portland metro area by 2060.

  15. JimKarlock

    ws: ws: Density is natural for any expanding city.
    JK: Then why does Portland subsidize it?
    See: http://www.portlandfacts.com/developersubsidies.htm

    ws: The link you gave me just shows that the private developers want to develop densely, but can’t get their vision across because of NIMBY neighbors.
    JK:You forgot that the projects discussed in the quotes were taxpayer subsidized.

    ANd you also conveniently forget that the North Macadam district is NOT what the owners of the property wanted. They even had a city approved plan for medium density that would have been free market. Portland changed its mind and implemented planning that was “top-down like they were in Communist countries”. I’ll give you that they didn’t actually dictate floor plans, they just dictated something the owners didn’t want to build. And it turned out to be yet another planner blunder. Or are you going to try to claim that the project is a success?

    See:http://www.portlandfacts.com/failure/fail-sowhat.htm
    See: http://www.brainstormnw.com/archive/mar02_feature.html

    BTW, which city agency or favored developer do you work for?

    Thanks
    JK

  16. Andy

    Dan, I am sorry everybody tunes you out when you try to take away their cars. That tends to happen in a democracy. I am sure you Planners pine for the good old days of communist urban planning in Eastern Europe.

    Here is a suggestion. Why don’t you explain why Urban Planners’ latest idea for rearranging society is not as flawed as the last seven or eight decades of ideas?

    And to stretch your brain, what sort of city should we build when all cars are non-carbon electric cars?

  17. ws

    JK:“ANd you also conveniently forget that the North Macadam district is NOT what the owners of the property wanted. They even had a city approved plan for medium density that would have been free market. Portland changed its mind and implemented planning that was “top-down like they were in Communist countries”. I’ll give you that they didn’t actually dictate floor plans, they just dictated something the owners didn’t want to build. And it turned out to be yet another planner blunder. Or are you going to try to claim that the project is a success?”

    ws:Hey, if there was a medium density plan w/o TIF I’d support that over SoWA. But once again, that just shows designs that planners evince such as a dense urban grid is completely a market function like I’m insinuating.

    I have no issues criticizing urban planners, they’re wrong all the time. Market based development is completely fine with me.

  18. ws

    Andy:

    I have never heard a planner that wants to rid the earth of the automobile. If a planner believes so, they are a dumb dumb. I think “carless” neighborhoods are boring and dystopia. Rearranging society? We did that when PLANNERS made way for the automobile in urban areas. Highways were supposed to go AROUND the cities, you idiots! Planners and leaders who question the point of a family needing four cars so mom, dad, 17 year old Billy, and 16 year old ‘lil sis can stay reasonably mobile are probably doing their job. Yeah, planning developments so people can have access to transit, pedestrian scaled neighborhoods and logically based developments (that work in concert with one another) is just downright communist red.

    You’d be silly to think that we can build a city with only auto transportation. Sorry Andy, that’s not feasible. Cities need to be multi-modal; there’s not enough real estate to make way for parking, road capacity for cars. Real estate = money, and when a nearby surface parking lot does not have to pay the same amount of property taxes as a nearby commercial building; then there’s something wrong with the market.

    Market based solutions are the only way, and that includes stopping ridiculous parking requirements for developments. I’ve heard of upwards of 20k dollars can be added onto units just for the cost of providing a parking space (underground, usually)!

    PS: Let’s not completely forget about the traffic planners who build highways and use eminent domain to build their “utopia”. Let’s be fair in our criticism here, planners made the modern day suburbia landscape.

  19. ws

    JK:“BTW, which city agency or favored developer do you work for?”

    ws:I don’t have a job, and I am a recent grad. Unfortunately, I am a victim of idiot banks lending money to outrageous housing developments and people trying to own things they shouldn’t. Yeah, lots of blame to go around (which some blame needs to go to those visionary condo developers, no doubt). But those places will be more marketable in due time, moreso than the abandoned subdivisions I’ve seen around my area for at least two years.

  20. JimKarlock

    ws: I don’t have a job, and I am a recent grad. Unfortunately, I am a victim of idiot banks lending money to outrageous housing developments and people trying to own things they shouldn’t.
    JK: Mostly wrong as usual. But you did get the idiot part right – idiot planners. Lets start with Nobel prize winner in economics, Paul Krugman:
    a combination of high population density and land-use restrictions – hence “zoned” – makes it hard to build new houses. So when people become willing to spend more on houses, say because of a fall in mortgage rates, some houses get built, but the prices of existing houses also go up. And if people think that prices will continue to rise, they become willing to spend even more, driving prices still higher, and so on. In other words, the Zoned Zone is prone to housing bubbles. August 8, 2005, PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/08/opinion/08krugman.html

    More references to planners causing unaffordable housing: http://www.portlandfacts.com/housing.html

    ws: But those places will be more marketable in due time, more so than the abandoned subdivisions I’ve seen around my area for at least two years.
    JK: Where might that be?

    we: You’d be silly to think that we can build a city with only auto transportation. Sorry Andy, that’s not feasible. Cities need to be multi-modal; there’s not enough real estate to make way for parking, road capacity for cars.
    JK: Most cities do just fine without mass transit. Even in the bigger cities, except the very biggest, transit DOES NOT reduce the need for roads and parking. And it probably would save money to just provide taxi vouchers for the low income unable to drive, instead of providing almost free transportation to the middle class.

    we: Real estate = money, and when a nearby surface parking lot does not have to pay the same amount of property taxes as a nearby commercial building; then there’s something wrong with the market.
    JK: Parking lots tend to NOT cost multi-millions of dollars, that’s why the taxes are lower in many places.

    we: Market based solutions are the only way, and that includes stopping ridiculous parking requirements for developments.
    JK: Those requirements are to reduce the problem of businesses externalizing their cost of parking onto the nearby streets.

    JK: As to your not having a job, here is some advise:
    1. Learn that much of what you learned in planner school are outright lies. You can start here: http://www.portlandfacts.com/smart/smartgrowthlies.html
    2. Learn basic econimics.
    3. Recognize that people have desires and wants other then what planners think is best for them. Go with the people.
    4. Learn to look up the facts before making a fool of yourself as you do time after time on these blogs.

    I hope you noticed that I actually look up data and facts before opening my mouth (most of the time!). Try it some time.

    Thanks
    JK

  21. Francis King

    “4. Learn to look up the facts before making a fool of yourself as you do time after time on these blogs.”

    It’s nice to see that Jim is as courteous as ever. Regrettably, he is also as wrong as ever, too.

    Halle Neustadt is in Europe, and so as a European I guess I’m in a better place to comment than he is. Most of these new developments were built as a utopian response to appalling living conditions, with housing that was rotten, filthy (we’re talking human lice, not last night’s cooking) and a lack of modern sanitation. Germany, and to a lesser extent the UK, was a pile of rubble. A lot of housing in the UK was built in a similar way to Halle Neustadt, and the UK has never had a communist government. The new housing had neat features like a garbage chute which served all of the floors, so people could just pop their garbage sacks down without having to go to street level – and inevitably the chutes jammed. Most of the new development was tower blocks set in oasis of green. When the lifts broke down, people at the top were trapped in their apartments. The green space, unlit, was unusable after dark. Walkways provided a ‘community in the skies’ – but was in practice a good escape route for criminals, as were the double-scissors stairs. After the money ran out, they started putting up cheaper tower blocks – one was so badly built that the entire corner section fell off it.

    These days, most of the tower blocks have been demolished, and have been replaced by terraced housing. The density is still as high as before, since the tower blocks couldn’t be built too close together. And so far, the sky hasn’t fallen on anyone’s head, despite Jim’s warnings of doom. It comes down to quality of design and construction. The narrow houses in Amsterdam are worth a small fortune each, partly because they overlook the old canals. The way Jim talks, the housing overlooking the freeways should be worth the most. After all, don’t people want to live right next to cars?

    ws is right in saying that cities cannot be built just for the car. Cars are too big, and feasible roads are too narrow, for the whole thing to work. Hence the need for the appropriate provision of transit. Countries like Dubai, for so long utterly car-dependent are now investing in transit, as it is the only way for them to get the traffic moving properly. I guess they are also “idiot planners”. As a good example of just how much Jim knows, as opposed to how much he think he knows, is his telling phrase – “And it probably would save money to just provide taxi vouchers for the low income unable to drive, instead of providing almost free transportation to the middle class.” What about anyone who objects to driving into the back of a traffic jam every day? In Jim’s congestion-encrusted car-driving utopia, in it’s own way as ridiculous as Halle Neustadt, do these people get a look in, or what?

    “As to your not having a job, here is some advise [sic]:”

    My advice is as follows:

    1) Creatively ignore anyone who accuses people they have never met of lying.

    2) Take advantage of every opportunity that you get. Volunteer for everything – why not get someone else to pay you to get ahead? I moved from the civil service to the transport planning profession as a result of volunteering for a committee. That’s transport planning – as in, “idiot planners”.

    “Thanks”

    You’re welcome, I’m sure.

  22. ws

    JK:“Parking lots tend to NOT cost multi-millions of dollars, that’s why the taxes are lower in many places.”

    ws:We should not be assessing taxes off of arbitrary value of a building, but off of the land it sits on, or land value tax. If parking lots are needed, they can be built and stacked. The cost to park in that parking unit will reflect the cost of the land.

    Though, the city owned parking lots in Portland are kind of nice, where they keep rates very, very low.

    JK:“Most cities do just fine without mass transit. Even in the bigger cities, except the very biggest, transit DOES NOT reduce the need for roads and parking. And it probably would save money to just provide taxi vouchers for the low income unable to drive, instead of providing almost free transportation to the middle class.”

    ws:I never said without mass transit – I said cities cannot rely solely on automobile movement only…trains, planes, auto, walking, biking are needed. Please define “big” city. Transit does reduce the need for parking, Jim. Even if one drives to a transit hub, it reduces the need in congested areas. Don’t be stupid.

  23. Dan

    …when you try to take away their cars…I am sure you Planners pine for the good old days of communist urban planning in Eastern Europe.

    What was it I wrote above…oh, yes:

    I like it that there are who people compare something they don’t like to socialism, to communism, fascism, whaddevah. You can immediately dismiss their arguments and move on. What could be easier?

    Huh. I forgot ‘infantile’ before ‘arguments’.

    DS

  24. prk166

    “Even if one drives to a transit hub, it reduces the need in congested areas. Don’t be stupid.” — WS

    WS, from my conversations with traffic engineers, long haul traffic is the least of their worries. The real trick for them is handling short haul trips. The model present in many cities of people driving a few miles to the light rail station or express bus stop and taking those 10-15 miles to downtown doesn’t help them. It adds the short, local trips, the toughest ones to address, and only reduces the long haul auto portion (the easiest to address).

  25. ws

    prk166:

    My comments were not in reference to congestion (traffic), but to parking. Someone parking at a park and ride lot in the suburbs and taking transit into the city is going to reduce the parking demand of parking “congested” areas.

    I agree with short haul trips. Unfortunately, the idiot developers of suburbia did not make connected streets for their neighborhoods, so even if a transit stop were in proximity to someone’s house, by foot that transit stop might as well be miles away – you can’t even get to it in the first place.

  26. JimKarlock

    we: Unfortunately, the idiot developers of suburbia did not make connected streets for their neighborhoods,
    JK: You haven’t learned anything have you?

    Those unconnected streets are more desirable because:
    1. They discourage crime
    2. Are low traffic
    3. Provide play space since they are low traffic.
    In short they prevent most of the alleged ill effects that cars allegedly have on neighborhoods. One can only wonder why smart growth zealots are against them, unless there is an ulterior motive.

    For instance here is what happened when one cul-de-sac was opened up:
    “During the next six months, a neighborhood that had been virtually crime-free saw its burglary rate rise to 14 times the national rate, with matching increases in overall crime, including arson, assault, and antisocial behavior” Crime-Friendly Neighborhoods, How “New Urbanist” planners sacrifice safety in the name of “openness” and “accessibility”, Stephen Town and Randal O’Toole | February 2005
    http://www.reason.com/news/show/36489.html

    Thanks
    JK

  27. the highwayman

    It’s sounds strange WS, though what Karlock pushing is type of traffic calming, then pretty much what you just need are pedestrian/bike links between cul-de-sac’s.

  28. ws

    JK:

    1) There is no empirical evidence/data that shows cul-de-sacs reduce crime rates. I’d like to see numbers in the US (where data can be checked) of case studies and hard data. Notice how there was no hard data in your link other than “14% increase”? I’d like to see those numbers contrasted to any socio-economic changes of the neighborhood. Furthermore, this article advocates for a pedestrian bike path designed system to compensate for disconnected streets. Oddly, it’s on the ADC website:

    http://www.americandreamcoalition.org/landuse/cul-de-sac.pdf

    I don’t know what to believe. Randal and you are yappin’ about ped/bike paths in neighborhoods creating crime (untrue) but these guys are advocating for them because they create connectivity! Boy, at least the New Urbanists are mostly united in their movement.

    2) Disconnected streets increase congestion concentration onto collector/arterial, creating traffic on them

    3) Limit connectivity ultimately resulting in auto-dependency

    4) Backing up in your car is a very dangerous activity. Most suburbia homes do that activity.

    Cul-de-sac aleternative:

    http://www.cyburbia.org/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/19483/size/big/cat/

    If people want their traditional (long) cul-de-sac non-connective developments, they should pay more for fire/police stations being built to keep up with standards and more for congestion relief of their land-use – in proportion to the externalities they are creating.

    Virginia gets it:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/21/AR2009032102248_2.html?hpid=topnews

    “Recently, the Census Bureau reported that the longest average commute in the country was in suburban Washington: subdivisions off Linton Hall Road in Prince William, where the Goffs live. Many of those communities were built using the cul-de-sac template, and traffic for all purposes is fed onto Linton Hall Road. Soon, the road was jammed day and night. Because of the state’s dire financial straits, the county had to pick up the cost of widening Linton Hall to four lanes. And it is still jammed during peak times, with many trips just to get a gallon of milk or drop off children at school.

  29. ws

    highwayman:“It’s sounds strange WS, though what Karlock pushing is type of traffic calming, then pretty much what you just need are pedestrian/bike links between cul-de-sac’s.”

    ws: I know! I’m advocating to remove the impediments and improve auto traffic circulation, if anything. And I absolutely *hate* speed bumps. They always go in after a new, highly engineered road is designed. But hey, the sign says 30 mph! Engineers are smart people, but they are dumb when it comes to observations not based off of numbers.

  30. the highwayman

    ws said: highwayman:“It’s sounds strange WS, though what Karlock is pushing is a type of traffic calming, then pretty much what you just need are pedestrian/bike links between cul-de-sac’s.”

    ws: I know! I’m advocating to remove the impediments and improve auto traffic circulation, if anything. And I absolutely *hate* speed bumps. They always go in after a new, highly engineered road is designed. But hey, the sign says 30 mph! Engineers are smart people, but they are dumb when it comes to observations not based off of numbers.

    THWM: Like with what Mr.Karlock wrote:”Are low traffic & provide play space since they are low traffic.”

    It’s about taming the automobile, not being anti-automobile.

  31. Dan

    It is well-known in most circles and realities that culs-de-sac and road networks with low connectivity actually increase congestion. IIRC some time ago I laid all this out here with the relevant research.

    DS

  32. ws

    JK:“Hey, ws, we are still waiting to hear where you live.”

    ws:What do you mean “waiting”, did you ask where I lived somewhere? My living situation is not ideal, so it’s an irrelevant point.

    Funny thing about cul-de-sacs, I remember as a kid, it was a no-no to use another neighbors’ cul-de-sac if you did not live next to the cul-de-sac (unless you were invited). Children don’t understand property lines, but it goes to show the inclusive nature of cul-de-sacs with the rest of the development.

    Hmmm, maybe use that wasted space for parks instead? I wonder if people were given an option between asphalt and a green park, what would they choose, especially for their children?

  33. mattb02

    I don’t understand the basic argument that says coercion is required to give people what they really want. If these utopian ideals really are utopian then shouldn’t private markets have delivered them long ago?

    What is the planners’ response to this? An argument from externalities? If so, what externalities? Or is it that people are too stupid to know what they really want? If that’s the argument then enough said.

  34. ws

    mattbo2:

    Stop distorting the word coercion. There are no free markets for development in most places. I’ve lived in cul-de-sac suburbia my entire (short) life. There isn’t anything resembling coercion out of your automobile – it’s actually coercion into the automobile by a slough of indirect decisions. Walking is about as difficult as a trek through the Tetons. You don’t know what people prefer when there’s so few options and the costs are distorted.

    People aren’t too stupid to know what they want – they’re just too stupid and selfish to realize that their lifestyle is having an unfair impact on other entities besides themselves. Point in case, cut-off / dead-end streets without reason create an unfair traffic burden on collector/arterial roads, increase fire and police infrastructure needs, and extend school transportation costs. These people on cul-de-sacs want privacy and limited traffic, but would be last in line to help pay for new road expansions and other related infrastructure costs due to their lifestyle decisions.

    It’s kind of like tax issues. A certain class of people is all too willing to vote or create tax hikes for a class of people above themselves just because it does not directly impact their budget (though in reality there’s a trickle effect). I think that’s wrong – it should be about fairness.

  35. the highwayman

    mattb02, there’s no such thing as a free lunch or a free market.

    O’Toole & Cox make bullshit reports favoring automobiles, because that’s what they are paid to do!

  36. prk166

    “These people on cul-de-sacs want privacy and limited traffic, but would be last in line to help pay for new road expansions and other related infrastructure costs due to their lifestyle decisions.” – WS

    a) That’s a pretty big claim to say that people on cul-de-sacs not only shirk paying for new road expansions and other related infrastructure costs. Do you have anything to back it?

    b) There are no lines to pay for these things. They’re paid with by taxes. Everyone is more or less equally paying for them. That is assuming all assessments are equal. But if higher valued homes tend more often than not to be on cul de sacs, then they would most likely be paying more.

  37. ws

    prk166:

    1) Maybe try a campaign to make cul-de-sacs pay more for infrastructure and see what happens. I don’t have data, but when you raise taxes on a select group – even if they make sense – people get mad.

    2) Higher market values on cul-de-sac adjacent homes mean they are paying for an amenity; that being privacy. Some homes are priced higher because they are next to a protected woodland (which is an amenity) – that’s just market forces at play. Why should both people have to pay higher property taxes than average home, where only one housing typology (cul-de-sac) gets the “amenity” that actually costs everyone in the community collectively? Then the average home or a home that pays more for a non-externalized amenity
    picks up the tab. Obviously, this is not meant to castigate cul-de-sac homes at all, the homebuyers aren’t aware of this at all.

    Meanwhile, a modest home on a connected street gets all the traffic that’s generated from the adjacent cul-de-sac communities. It has happened all the time, especially where there are existing older homes where surrounding newly built communities place their traffic burdens on “their” slice of road (not really owned by them, obviously).

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