Strong Towns Rebuttal

Note: Mr. Marohn of the Strong Towns blog offers the following response to my post yesterday. My own reply appears below.

I love lobster. A grilled lobster tail with a little bit of butter is the most divine food I can imagine. If I had the option, I would eat lobster every day. So why can’t I, an American living in a country of unequaled prosperity, eat lobster every day?

Well I can, if I am willing to pay for it.

You see, nobody subsidizes my lobster for me. And since I have to pay the full cost, I probably average a meal of lobster tail once a year. For the most part, if I want meat, I eat chicken, pork or beef in the form of hamburger. And I’m good with that. I could eat lobster every day if I really wanted to, but I’d have to cut way back on other things I am not willing to live without. So I make choices.

Yesterday, Mr. O’Toole made the following comment in his posting:

“The automobile would not have led people to move to low-density suburbs if they didn’t want to live in such suburbs in the first place.”

While some people prefer the modern version of an urban lifestyle, many people desire a low-density suburb with their own single-family house. Clearly, preference is a substantial part of this choice.

The real question is not whether this desire is real, but whether it is the product of reality. Are we really paying for our lobster, or have we masked its true cost so that it is not discernable from that of a cheeseburger?

O’Toole indicates that:

“…unlike many local roads, 100 percent of the cost of the interstate system was paid for out of gas taxes and other user fees (tolls plus taxes on autos, trucks, and tires that were created to pay for such roads).”

This may have been true for the initial construction of much of the system (the 90% paid by the federal government), but as the system has aged, we have found user fees to be insufficient. In 2007, only 72% of the cost of construction and maintenance was covered by user fees. The rest were paid by general fund receipts, debt and other taxes and assessments.

Today we are barely treading water on a system in rapid decline. In my home state of Minnesota, Mn/DOT released a 20-year plan detailing $65 billion in needs and just $15 billion in funding. An immediate $1 per gallon increase in the state gas tax is needed to cover this gap – an amount unthinkable, not to mention politically impossible. How can this be if we are actually ready to pay the full cost?

If the automobile were magically replaced with teleport technology that was ubiquitous and cost nothing, there were be an overwhelming demand for large tracts of land that had mountain views, a fresh stream, a clear lake and some beautiful trees. But this isn’t solely a matter of how we would like to live. It is a question of each of us balancing priorities and making choices fully vested in the both the cost and benefit sides of the equation.

Federal spending on highways has shielded us from the cost side of the equation. If we were actually – each and every day – paying the long-term cost of building and maintaining our highway systems, people would inevitably choose a lifestyle that was more efficient, less expensive and higher density that our current pattern of development.

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37 thoughts on “Strong Towns Rebuttal

  1. Mike

    The interstate highway system is justifiable on military grounds alone, with everything else being a bonus. Even 100% loss on those roads are acceptable as long as they function to protect individual rights. User fees, possibly more effectively in the form of tolls than gas taxes but that’s its own sub-issue, are a reasonable way to defray some of the costs of maintaining the interstate highway system.

    None of that applies to commuter highways, which are much more pertinent to the sprawl argument. This is why subsidies on commuter highways should end and they should all be privatized. A commuter highway has no police or military function, and thus should be justified only on the basis of its usage — including forcing its users to make a market decision whether or not to consume it.

  2. John Dewey

    Charles,

    I followed the link you provided, but I had trouble deriving the figure of 72% construction and maintenance coverage you offered. Can you explain which rows you used to get that number?

    You mentioned that debt is used for road construction. The use of bonds to finance infrastructure is certainly nothing new. Are you suggestng that the debt service fees are not being paid by the gasoline tax receipts?

    I did notice that a significant part of gasoline taxes and tolls are used for mass transit and for “non highway purposes”. In Texas where I live, a big chunk of our gasoline taxes are used for education.

    Do you think that one of the reasons a gasoline tax increase is politically difficult just might be that gasoline users are fed up with those taxes being used for other purposes? I know I am.

    Not sure what the situation is in Minnesota, but Texans seem ready and willing to pay for roads when they know the money they pay is going for the road they are using. Our toll roads are certainly being used by motorists.

  3. John Dewey

    Mike: “A commuter highway has no police or military function”

    By “commuter highway”, I assume you are referring to urban principal arterials which are not interstates.

    Urban highways serve other purposes than just commuting. They allow police cars, firetrucks, and ambulances quick access within the city. Such highways enable delivery and service trucks to move freely and quickly. They have also enabled successful mass evacuations, with a few exceptions.

    I agree that commuting is the predominant use for urban highways, but it is not the only use.

  4. John Thacker

    John Dewey–

    He’s using the summary statistic from row 1: “Receipts Available for Distribution” from the category of “DISPOSITION OF HIGHWAY-USER REVENUE BY COLLECTING AGENCIES.”

    It’s the correct line to use for the overall system. It counts all user fees from all sources, and compares it to the total amount of money spent on roads in a year. The only niggling part is that it doesn’t including that portion placed in reserves and rainy day funds, but assume that works out year to year. OTOH, it doesn’t count investment income from those reserves as user fees, either.

    The problem with using other lines is indeed what you point out– about 20% of the highway user fees are siphoned off for other purposes. However, it is then augmented by other funds.

    At the federal level alone, federal monies for roads come only from the gas tax (and a bit of interest/investment income from the gas tax account). People pay more in federal gas tax than is spent by the federal government.

    However, at the state and (especially) local level, gas taxes, tolls, and motor vehicle taxes and fees are substantially augmented by other funds, including general bond issues and property taxes.

  5. John Thacker

    Importantly, though, the biggest problem is with state and (especially) local spending. There’s little that the federal government could do; well, in one sense it could do a lot, require that states use user fees to a certain percentage in order to get federal money.

  6. John Dewey

    John Thacker,

    I do not understand why it is the correct line to use, as you assert.

    Why would you not also include the line “Bond Issue Proceeds”? The disbursement side includes both capital expenditures plus interest payments and bond retirements in deriving its 100%. It doesn’t make sense to use bond financing, to have the users pay the servicing of those bonds, and then argue that they did not pay for the roads because they did not simultaneously fund both the capital and the service fees on those bonds.

    Are you saying that investment income derived from reserves should not be counted as user supplied funding? If those reserves originated from user fees, then any income derived from the user fees should be credited to users as well, right?

  7. John Thacker

    Why would you not also include the line “Bond Issue Proceeds”?

    We care about two things:

    1) How much was obtained in user fees, the numerator of that line.

    2) How much was spent on roads, the denominator.

    The money spent on servicing and retiring the bonds properly appears in the denominator, regardless of where in the revenue the money comes from. (Money is fungible.)

    The line you mention is the revenue from selling the bonds. It’s not a user fee, and not part of the number we’re concerned about. The bonds will be paid off with other revenue eventually; that may or may not be user fee revenue. If it is user fee revenue, then we’ll capture it in the numerator above the year it occurs. If it is not, then it will show up as a smaller percentage on that line.

    Either way, it doesn’t matter if we include it or not. Yes, we make a simplifying assumption that the revenue from selling bonds is relatively stable year-to-year. If not, then our percentage will fluctuate, with extra disbursements one year and fewer disbursements another. But that’s just another way of stating that we assume that the 72% from FY 2007 is relatively stable and reflective of a normal year. (Stimulus years certainly throw it off.)

    Are you saying that investment income derived from reserves should not be counted as user supplied funding? If those reserves originated from user fees, then any income derived from the user fees should be credited to users as well, right?

    I agree that that’s a complication, which is why I specifically mentioned it as the one problem. However, the money paid into the reserves isn’t counted in the denominator (as money spent on roads) for the 72% either, and it should be counted as well by the same accounting standards you’re arguing for. After all, money placed in reserves that will eventually be spent on roads is being spent on roads in that sense.

    Again, if you assume that the money going into and coming out of reserves balances out over a long period of time, it’s right to ignore it both times. It all comes out in the wash.

  8. ws

    Mike:“The interstate highway system is justifiable on military grounds alone…”

    ws:This is an oft-repeated statement by you and others. I suppose throwing money at airports, ports, and railway lines in the name of “defense” is justified too? How about more money for putting missile defense system on the moon, too?

    Tell me why a convoy of materiel needs 15 lanes of freeway, and maybe we’ll agree with you?

  9. ws

    John Dewey:“Do you think that one of the reasons a gasoline tax increase is politically difficult just might be that gasoline users are fed up with those taxes being used for other purposes? I know I am.

    Not sure what the situation is in Minnesota, but Texans seem ready and willing to pay for roads when they know the money they pay is going for the road they are using. Our toll roads are certainly being used by motorists.”

    ws: This link gets recycled a lot in blogs, but if you haven’t heard the news:

    http://www.txdot.gov/KeepTexasMovingNewsletter/11202006.html#Cost

    “Applying this methodology, revealed that no road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees.”

  10. C. P. Zilliacus

    WS asked:

    > Tell me why a convoy of materiel needs 15 lanes of freeway,
    > and maybe we’ll agree with you?

    Why don’t you enumerate all of the roads functionally classified as freeway in the United States with 15 (or more) lanes of capacity?

  11. ws

    CPZ: “Why don’t you enumerate all of the roads functionally classified as freeway in the United States with 15 (or more) lanes of capacity?”

    ws:My point was to illustrate that just because a highway is legitimized for “defense” purposes does not mean it was an even remote consideration regarding its actual design. Commerce and transportation trump that purpose.

    What ROW distance is needed to effectively move the military? That’s my intent of using 15 lanes as an outlier example. A simple two lane road would probably suffice just fine for military purposes, if that was the case.

  12. John Dewey

    John Thacker,

    Just curious, sir. Are you an accountant or do you have training in accounting or finance?

    I have an MBA in Finance from Wharton, and I’ve worked as a controller at a large transportation company. So I know a little bit about accounting and about how to determine whether an entity is breaking even and about how to determine the contribution of various operating units of an enterprise.

    The document linked to by Charles Marohn appears to be a cash flow statement. Cash flow statements are used for many things, but not really to determine whether an enterprise or organization is paying for itself. That’s because capital requirements vary significantly from year to year while revenues are much more stable. When determining the income – or determining whether or not an operation is breaking even – accountants do not include either capital spending or long term debt acquired. Instead, they show as expenses each year the depreciation of the captial asset and the interest paid on the debt.

    The cash flow statement shown does not do this. It includes both capital spending as well as debt service charges. That statement should not be used as a measure of whether or how much the user fees are paying for the highways. It is incorrect to argue that user fees make up 72% of the cost of highways if the denominator includes capital spending. That’s pretty basic accounting.

  13. Mike

    John Dewey,

    Actually, those are municipal arterial streets (as I have heard them denoted) and are required for the effective deployment of a police force, exactly as you state. So I don’t think we disagree here. Those are the other type of roadway that is proper to be built with public funds. The military and police both protect individual rights, and that’s the core function of government.

    When I say “commuter highway” I mean roads like the Sam Houston Tollway or AZ State Route 51. Roads whose overwhelming primary purpose is to speed commuters from home to work and back within the confines of a single metropolitan area. While useful, these roads should be built and maintained privately, because they don’t serve the government’s core purpose of protecting individual rights.

    It’s been a while since I went through this so I’ll go over the breakdown as I understand it, and perhaps it may be that your position is in accord with this:

    Publicly justifiable:
    Interstate highway system (military)
    Municipal arterial streets (police)

    Should be private:
    Commuter highways
    Bypass freeways (“faster routes” overlapping heavily-traveled interstates)
    Neighborhood streets
    Private streets (obviously)

    With Neighborhood streets, obviously this isn’t something that could be done overnight. In a greenfield-to-occupancy scenario, they would be built by the subdivision developer and owned by the HOA, and maintained by the residents. In road terms, these are what the IT industry calls “last-mile connectivity.” Though the links aren’t handy to me at the moment, there are a plethora of private options that could make these essentially free to build and maintain, not the least of which is letting utility providers (power, phone, cable, etc) lease rights-of-way underneath or beside them. This is not entirely different from what’s being done now, except right now it’s all political favors, slush, and corruption, rather than simple commerce. There are a number of options for privatizing existing neighborhood streets, and each would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

  14. Mike

    ws,

    A convoy of materiel needs to be able to get from Casper to Portland. Or from Rockford to New Orleans. I’m not sure that will necessarily require 15 lanes, nor will those stretches of road necessarily contain that many. 🙂

    It’s true that interstate highways have become de facto commuter highways in many cities. User fees would be appropriate to defray the cost of public use, as those fees would fall entirely on users. Right now, truly private commuter road systems are stuck in the theoretical realm because the “free” government roads have crowded out competition. Even with that, “optional” toll roads like the Houston 8 and the 405 in Los Angeles demonstrate that there is demand for premium service even in place of a “free” alternative.

    In answer to your other question, the military builds its own exclusive-use airports and seaports. They’re called “bases.”

  15. t g

    AP, I like the debate format. You should advise your contributing opponents (hopefully there will be more in the future?) to engage more within the comments. This is a really dynamic experiment you have, something akin to Russ Roberts’ EconTalk. Keep it up.

  16. ws

    Mike:“A convoy of materiel needs to be able to get from Casper to Portland. Or from Rockford to New Orleans. I’m not sure that will necessarily require 15 lanes, nor will those stretches of road necessarily contain that many.”

    ws:Then why not ship it by plane or rail? Just curious why it’s just highways for military purposes, especially for long distances like you mentioned. Not to mention there are numerous military bases in the US.

    Mike:“Municipal arterial streets (police)”

    ws:As far as the police protecting the general population, wouldn’t it be best for people to be reasonably concentrated in order for them to provide better, less costly protection?

    What is the affect of sprawl and providing police protection?

    NYC has the same crime rate as Boise, ID.

  17. John Dewey

    ws: “NYC has the same crime rate as Boise, ID.”

    Really? Show us some data to back that up, please.

    From the FBI’s 2008 Uniform Crime Report:

    New York City population: 8,345,075
    New york City violent crimes: 48,430
    New York City violent crimes/10,000 pop: 58

    Boise population: 203,770
    Boise violent crimes: 551
    Boise violent crimes/10,000 pop: 27

    Are you using some other crime statistic? Did you read the FBI’s caution about comparing municipalities?

    “Many entities—news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our Nation—use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.”

  18. Mike

    WS,

    Why not rail: Because trucks are cheaper and more versatile than trains. Because roads are cheaper to build than tracks are to lay. And probably because trains have a spotty history in military application — see also WWI; Germany.

    Why not concentrated: Because it’s not the government’s job to violate individual liberty by telling people where they can live. If people don’t like paying for a police force that is expensive because it has to cover a wide area, they can move to a city that is small and presumably has a cheaper police force. For some consumers, a higher tax burden is worth it in exchange for a low-density suburban home. For others, the trade-off of sardine living will be considered worthwhile.

    (Bear in mind that if the limited government I’ve been describing ever comes into practice, even that tax burden will be a pittance compared to what we spend today. A proper government would not have wealth-redistributive programs, and would not spend infinity dollars fighting a drug war that cannot be won and imprisoning huge chunks of its minority population, and would not spend infinity dollars on “nation building” in the Middle East, etc etc.)

    The effect of sprawl on police protection: Good question. Probably drives up costs and/or reduces response times. As there is police protection even in rural areas, I would suggest that this is an issue whose logistics have already largely been solved in the field. I know from my time working in health care administration that rural ambulances have less stringent response time requirements in most jurisdictions than their urban equivalents, but those time requirements are still very tight (i.e. 99% of all calls within X minutes, proportioned to coverage area distances, while an urban certificate of necessity might require 99% within 10 minutes). Again, people living in the boonies know the score, or are on notice anyway.

  19. John Dewey

    Mike: “The effect of sprawl on police protection: Good question. Probably drives up costs and/or reduces response times.”

    I assume you meant that sprawl increases responses times. But I doubt that’s true. Traffic congestion in the far suburbs is lighter, and streets are generally wider and less cluttered. That’s one reason it is so much easier to drive around Dallas or Phoenix than it is to drive around New York or San Francisco.

    One thing I have noticed about sprawled vs dense cities: fires tend to spread more easily in dense cities. I’ve seen numerous cases where multiple residences were consumed by fire on a block of row houses. I’ve never seen that in sprawled suburbs, other than in the far west where drought-induced wildfires raged out of control.

  20. John Dewey

    Dan: “Nope. The connectivity is poorer, increasing response times.”

    Any facts to support that assertion, Dan?

    I haven’t found any research on suburban response times nationwide. Here’s some statistics from an article on Washington, DC response times:

    “The statistics, contained in the department’s fiscal 2005 budget performance report, show that the average response time for the highest-priority calls — Priority 1 — was 8 minutes, 25 seconds in fiscal 2003 … the Metropolitan Police Department’s average response time puts it among the slowest in the metropolitan region … The response time in Montgomery County was 5 minutes, 20 seconds in the first half of 2003, despite the county’s employing a third fewer officers than the District to patrol an area eight times larger and with a population more than 50 percent larger… The response time in Fairfax County, which is roughly comparable to Montgomery County in size and population, was 6 minutes, 6 seconds during 2003. “

  21. ws

    Mike:“Why not rail: Because trucks are cheaper and more versatile than trains. Because roads are cheaper to build than tracks are to lay. And probably because trains have a spotty history in military application — see also WWI; Germany.”

    ws:I’m not sure if it’s fair to compare trains in WWI to trains of 2010. Even so, I’m talking to some guy on the internet, not General Patton. I’m not going to discuss specific military movement, but I simply know if there’s a need for military rapidly, it will be make little sense to move an entire fleet of troops via trucks across the entire United States via a truck.

    Mike:“Why not concentrated: Because it’s not the government’s job to violate individual liberty by telling people where they can live.”

    ws:No, it’s not their job. I agree. But aren’t there laws that require there be police services/presence for municipalities to serve all citizens? I’m not aware of any opt-out of police protection right that people have. They are obligated to “serve and protect” regardless if you’re 14 miles from a police HQ or 2 miles.

  22. ws

    John Dewey:“I assume you meant that sprawl increases responses times. But I doubt that’s true. Traffic congestion in the far suburbs is lighter, and streets are generally wider and less cluttered. That’s one reason it is so much easier to drive around Dallas or Phoenix than it is to drive around New York or San Francisco.”

    ws:Again, with the limited access roads there is often one way in and one way out to access residential neighborhoods. With a congestion arterial street, emergency response cannot utilize roads that may go around congestion or access roads that can lead to another connectible arterial to their emergency destination.

    A fire house / police station can serve more people in a given area.

    http://www.cnu.org/emergencyresponse
    http://www.cnu.org/sites/www.cnu.org/files/Emergency_Responder_Perspective_Pleasant.pdf

    The last link is a presentation in conjunction with a city transportation office, just in case you’re worried about absolute bias.

    John Dewey:“Are you using some other crime statistic? Did you read the FBI’s caution about comparing municipalities?”

    ws: I agree with those warnings, often times it might show bias for people reporting crimes, etc. Just for the sake of discussion to get an idea of people’s general notion towards “big cities cause crime” mentality. This is not true, and even so, NYC’s violent crime rate is very, very low, even if it is a bit higher than Boise’s.

    My “stats” reflect property crimes too, not just violent crimes. City limits, not metro area data.

    149,989 NYC Total Property Crimes Reported / 8,345,075 = 179.73 per 10,000
    5,874 Boise Total Property Crimes Reported / 203,770 = 288.26 per 10,000

    NYC: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/08aprelim/table_4mt-oh.html
    Boise: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/08aprelim/table_4co-id.html

    Boise does not get “ranked” with the big cities because it has less than 250,000 population, if people ever wondered why it does not show up on many ranking lists.

  23. ws

    John Dewey:“I haven’t found any research on suburban response times nationwide.”

    ws: Let’s take two suburbs that have the exact same density, population, and police force and people are the same distance (as the crow flies) from police/fire services. Everything is the same except:

    1) The first suburb is has completely connected local streets, two arterials and a highway.

    2) The second suburb has a limited access roadway system that serves its residential areas (collector/local street) and is served by two arterials, and a highway.

    Which do you think would be better serve its residential population (actual time response) for police and fire response?

    Data on this subject is very sparse, but not all suburbs fit the category of having a dendritic road system.

  24. the highwayman

    Mike said: With Neighborhood streets, obviously this isn’t something that could be done overnight. In a greenfield-to-occupancy scenario, they would be built by the subdivision developer and owned by the HOA, and maintained by the residents. In road terms, these are what the IT industry calls “last-mile connectivity.” Though the links aren’t handy to me at the moment, there are a plethora of private options that could make these essentially free to build and maintain, not the least of which is letting utility providers (power, phone, cable, etc) lease rights-of-way underneath or beside them. This is not entirely different from what’s being done now, except right now it’s all political favors, slush, and corruption, rather than simple commerce. There are a number of options for privatizing existing neighborhood streets, and each would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    THWM: They already exist, they’re called “gated communities”.

  25. Mike

    ws:

    But aren’t there laws that require there be police services/presence for municipalities to serve all citizens? I’m not aware of any opt-out of police protection right that people have. They are obligated to “serve and protect” regardless if you’re 14 miles from a police HQ or 2 miles.

    I’m not sure what you’re looking for here. If you and yours settle in the middle of nowhere, attract neighbors, and incorporate a town, there still won’t necessarily be a police force. Your town has to either fund one or contract for one, unless an existing political subdivision already provides law enforcement for the jurisdiction in which WSville is situated.

    No doubt you’ve seen examples of all three. Let’s see, anecdata: well, I live in Chandler, which funds a municipal police force, simple enough. Some of the smaller Phoenix suburbs such as Guadalupe have no municipal law enforcement and contract with the county sheriff’s department to provide police protection. And at the higher levels, sparsely-populated counties such as Gila County just to our northeast provide almost all police protection at the county level, as few or no incorporated places within their borders are large enough to brew their own, so the county passes a property tax levy to pay for it. And there’s a state Department of Public Safety that is paid from the general fund, that mostly deals with state highways and government-owned land.

    There are some specific instances where a state has other revenue sources… I’m thinking of Alaska’s oil and Nevada’s gambling here… and those might potentially fund law enforcement in practice rather than necessarily having a property tax or sales tax do it. But to the extent that they do, they’re just another input into a commingled general fund. What that fund is spent on is part of the equation just as much as how it’s collected.

  26. John Dewey

    ws: “NYC’s violent crime rate is very, very low, even if it is a bit higher than Boise’s.”

    It’s not “a bit higher”. It’s twice as high.

    As for the difference in property crimes, it certainly appears New York has a lower rate than does Boise. But that is just the rate of property crimes reported to the police. If New Yorkers – and especially tourists – do not report minor crimes because of the hassle involved or because of the perceived futility of doing so, then the reported property crime rate in New York may be artificially low.

  27. John Thacker

    That’s because capital requirements vary significantly from year to year while revenues are much more stable… It is incorrect to argue that user fees make up 72% of the cost of highways if the denominator includes capital spending. That’s pretty basic accounting.

    Yes, in general. However, capital requirements for the FHWA don’t vary significantly from year to year. There’s too much diversification and too many projects. Along with that, as a governmental agency operating on a cash flow basis (and with smaller units of government receiving money from higher units on a “use it or lose it” basis), they tend to just spend until that year’s allocation is exhausted. Each year’s allocation is based on a formula that’s set at re-authorization of the highway bill based on expected revenues. In recent cases, as the Antiplanner notes, the Congress intentionally authorizes more spending than will be available in order to “create” an emergency. So sadly, this statement has been less true very recently. Also things like the stimulus alter the deal as well.

    That’s why I said that the simplifying assumption using cash flow is probably okay here. Your points are certainly correct for a normal business that has a lot of capital investment in one year, and has most years consist of depreciation. But the highway capital spending is not so volatile, year to year.

  28. John Thacker

    For example, if you look at the Highway Statistics publications for a variety of years, you’ll see that current user fee receipts are always in a very small band for any years under the same highway bills, or those with similar reauthorization formulae.

    Therefore, it’s pretty reasonable to use the 72% number, since almost the same number applies to every year authorized under SAFETEA-LU (2004-now) and almost exactly applies to TEA-21 (1998-2003). (The numbers under TEA-21 were slightly higher, roughly 74%.)

  29. ws

    John Thacker: “If New Yorkers – and especially tourists – do not report minor crimes because of the hassle involved or because of the perceived futility of doing so, then the reported property crime rate in New York may be artificially low.”

    ws: That’s questionable. I’d argue that New Yorkers are more willing to go to the police to report a crime vs. someone in Boise, which would inflate the numbers. I’d also argue that NYC’s high tourist rate would naturally increase crime reports (Boise doesn’t have that many tourists) — even though you point out a tourist would be deterred to report a crime with the police. I’d argue a tourist would be more inclined to report a crime than anything especially if their identity/passport/wallet was stolen in a foreign city, and they would want to be contacted (by filing a report) should their material be used for nefarious reasons or that it might show up randomly.

    NYC’s violent crime rate, when compared to cities over 250,000 people, is very low.

    PS: I only used Boise as an example because it was listed on a wikipedia page about NYC crime. Boise is a nice place. The issue is: Living in density has nothing to do with inducing someone to commit a crime.

    I also feel it’s easier to get away with crime in a less dense city (try having a meth lab in an apartment building vs. a trailer), which might also impact the numbers.

    My personal opinion on crime is it mostly socio-economics.

  30. John Dewey

    Sorry, John, but I still disagree.

    If gasoline tax receipts are increasing – even a small increase – that implies that more dollars in bonds can be serviced in future years than in the current year. That’s one reason cash flows do not to me seem the appropriate measurement.

    If interest rates on bonds have declined, that also implies that more dollars in bonds can be serviced in future years than in the current year. That’s a second reason cash flows to me do not seem the appropriate measure.

    Finally, the cash flows in that exhibit include more than gasoline fuel taxes. Highway toll receipts are also included. A signicant amount of the capital spending must represent construction to be paid for by bonds which will be serviced by future toll receipts. That’s a third reason cash flows to me do not seem the appropriate measure.

  31. clmarohn

    Thank you to Mr. O’Toole for proposing this debate. I think this is a great use of the blog format and I hope we can do this again soon.

    I have been (and remain) on vacation with my family this week and so have not been able to spend the time following up on all of these comments. There is some great stuff here – AP has some intelligent readers. I look forward to engaging with you all in the future.

    And for those from Texas – I left Minnesota to get away from the cold! What is this six inches of snow in Dallas? We left San Antonio this morning and barely made it back. Looking forward to going home to warm up.

    -Chuck

  32. Dan

    Someone needs to develop an RSS macro/bot that pops that PEW page into a Randal/Cox/typical shill comment whenever they make their standard assertions.

    More complicated would be a bot that searches for Rand-toters’ knee-jerks about same, but not an impossible task.

    Nice find, ws.

    DS

  33. Andy

    Wow! Another brilliant comment by Dan. He hates O’Toole so much that he and his friends spend all their writing at least 60% of all the comments on the Antiplanner website. Sounds more like John Hinkley, but Hinkley at least admitted he was in love.

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