Re: My Other Car is a Bright Green City

Alex Steffen lays out the main arguments for denser cities and/or reducing car dependence very succinctly and clearly. See

Unfortunately, I was unable to comment as the comments turn off after 14 days. This is what I wanted to say, but was prevented from:

There is one glaring omission I feel, one that as far as I could tell was also not addressed by the commentators. This is the power of land tax.
Land taxation is a frighteningly simple and effective method to encourage dense settlements, and quickly recoup the cost of mass transit investment. It is frightening as it threatens the FIRE economy and homeowner fantasies of extorting money from later generations when they sell.
The basic idea is to take today’s “property” tax and eliminate the portion of it that falls on the building’s value, and shift it to the part that falls on the value of the land under the building. Once this has happened, the land tax can be increased to capture a significant portion of land value increases.
The reason for its effectiveness is that it removes an enormous disincentive to intensifying land-use (as it would not affect your tax bill). Conversely, it creates a stronger disincentive to under-utilizing land, as a vacant lot next to a lot containing an apartment building is taxed similarly. Use it or lose it.
Land taxes also recapture land value increases due to transit and other public infrastructural improvements. This means that transit investments become much more affordable, as the increased tax revenue will significantly offset capital expenditures.
The final advantage gained from land taxation is the subtlest. Once the land tax recaptures a significant part of land value appreciation, property values will mostly reflect the building itself, rather than the land. This may reduce landowner/homeowner resistance to intensification, as “undesirable” land uses nearby like apartments or commercial development will not affect their property value much. In my experience, homeowners are the greatest obstacle to intensification efforts – vehemently opposing any zoning changes to allow greater density. This in turn drives up the price of any land that does get zoned for intensification, which is passed on to renters or purchasers of housing on that land.

The saddest city in the midwest…

This is just about the saddest collection of pictures you can see. Overwhelming sometimes – how people can waste such riches: The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit

I was asked recently by someone returning (shell-shocked) from Detroit – what would I change? …I think Detroit presents a whole series of reinforcing problems (these are my opinions, some of which can be found elsewhere on this blog): (more…)

Published in: on March 21, 2007 at 5:36 pm  Comments (1)  

Transit Users’ Co-op?

I lay unable to sleep (how often to blog entries begin thus?), brooding on how tedious and soul-destroying taking the TTC can be; on how frustrating it is that mass-transit is rarely given a fighting chance; on how most transit plans (including recent) pander to voters who don’t use it. Then it struck me: we need an organization similar to the CAA for transit users! Not (merely) an advocacy or industry group, but a “Member-driven organization that delivers quality transit, [travel, insurance and advocacy] services providing peace of mind, safety and value.” (adapted from CAA, 2007) (more…)

Published in: on March 20, 2007 at 4:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Sorry…and a bit about JJ and HG

Hey, I know, I should be writing more, but school has taken over so much time that I feel unable to do much for the blog.

I did run across something weird in Jane Jacobs’ work – her only reference to Henry George. Here are my thoughts:

Jacobs was aware of George’s work – in The Economy of Cities (1969), she directly referrers to him (she rarely referenced anyone) when discussing capital for city economic development. Here is the reference:“Henry George, reasoning from the premise that land is basic capital and basic wealth, asserted that all profits made in cities derive from the value of city land.” She continues, (more…)

Published in: on February 5, 2007 at 1:32 am  Comments (2)  

H.G. + J.J. (One Love)

This post is a follow up to the post about Henry George vs. Jane Jacobs (and to Wyn’s excellent comment). I want to make sure that we all understand that a LOT of Jacobs’ work and ideas meshes very well with George’s.

In Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” she argues (convincingly) that diversity is the key to (more…)

Published in: on September 23, 2006 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Someone Stole My Manifesto!

Well, actually, David Greusel wrote it, and two years ago. I found out about it through the AMAZING blog “Raise the Hammer” about Hamilton (hometown!). The document is a ‘manifesto’ on ChangeThis. Here’s the link to his Legalize Neighborhoods Again! manifesto. To my credit I must say that I was thinking those exact things back then. But he wrote it, and wrote it well. He points out the two big evils of the past half century of city building (zoning and traffic planning). (more…)

Published in: on September 11, 2006 at 12:58 pm  Comments (1)  

Henry George Vs. Jane Jacobs

 Henry George - Lookin' Good!VS. Jane Jacobs - Cool Annexonian

I want to post something I’ve been thinking about since reading Progress and Poverty. Wyn from Wealth and Want has been in touch with me, and has graciously offered to put this blog on a listserve for Georgists. So I thought I should add a bit more on Henry George. (more…)

Published in: on September 7, 2006 at 4:43 pm  Comments (5)  

Why Gentrification is Funny

As usual, the Onion has hit this nail on the head. A hilarious parody of the travails of a would-be gentrifier. Read this

“I mean, I don’t want the people here to leave. I just want them to stay inside more. Especially if they’re not going to do anything to bring this community to life. But they’re always out on their stoops, just playing dominoes or talking. I like talking, but I do it inside, where it was meant to be done. It makes me uncomfortable to have people watching me all the time. Not that I think they’d do anything, but I just like to be a little more private. “

Published in: on September 5, 2006 at 3:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Why is the Globe’s Toronto Section SO Bad?

Published in: on September 5, 2006 at 1:11 am  Leave a Comment  

What Economists Say About It

Conventional economic wisdom cites such factors as infrastructure, education, crime rates, labour mobility and lack of corruption being determinants of economic success. By these criteria, all medium sized Canadian cities would score very high, in fact much higher than large cities. Yet, these cities are not growing… (more…)

Published in: on September 5, 2006 at 12:55 am  Leave a Comment