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