Monthly Archives: August 2006

Cost of Living and Quality of Life

 

 

By Dom Nozzi

 

On the issue of transportation, my rule of thumb is that there is a strong correlation between quality of life and transportation choice. The more one must rely on a car to get around, the more diminished the quality of life is. The more sterile it is. The less of a sense of community or neighborliness one finds. The more one must put up with noise pollution from the constant drone of car traffic.

 

Indeed, this is precisely why it is so unaffordable to find a home in a place rich in transportation choice. A great many people now recognize this locational principal, and there are so few such places remaining, compared to the large and growing demand. For this reason, it is typically a very wise investment to find a home in a neighborhood with transportation choice that is still affordable.

 

In an article I just read, the author compares New York City to Tampa for household costs. Obviously, NYC housing costs are a lot higher than in Tampa. But guess what? When you combine NYC household transportation and housing costs to those costs in Tampa, 56.4 percent of the total household spending goes toward transportation and housing in Tampa vs. 52.2 percent in NYC. That is because in NYC, only 15 percent of household spending goes to transportation. In Tampa, it is 25 percent.

 

The simple (yet unrecognized) fact of the matter is that auto-dependent societies have transferred an enormous financial burden on households when it comes to transportation. In traditionally-designed neighborhoods with transportation choice, only a modest amount of household spending goes toward transportation, because much of it is by walking, transit and bicycling. And the cost of building transit is paid for by the community, not the household. Conversely, an auto-based society transfers all of the transportation costs to individual households (the costs are privatized). Each household must buy its own car. Its own fuel. Its own insurance.

 

In recent years, I have been convinced that these more affordable, center-of-city neighborhoods are such a good investment that I’ve given a fair amount of thought to buying one or two of them for rental income. Given the fact that these neighborhoods have what urban designers call “good bones,” I am confident that buying a home there would be a good investment. And, conversely, that buying in a suburban, drivable location might not be.

 

[Postscript January 2009]

And as the housing bubble deflates, we are seeing precisely this. Walkable neighborhoods are holding their value. More recent, suburban homes are seeing their values plummeting.

 

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Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Economics, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Sprawl, Traffic, Taxes, Quality of Life

 We live in troubled times. Times that require wise, courageous leadership. Here is what I see in our communities, and what I plan to do about it.

By Dom Nozzi

 

Taxation

 

Taxes are high and are constantly rising because new growth is not paying its own way.

All levels of government are financially strapped. Households are struggling to be able to afford the skyrocketing costs of transportation and rising property taxes.

 

Aren’t you tired of high and rising taxes?

 

Transportation

 

Automakers keep producing gas-guzzling cars. There is no quality transit system. We have no transportation choices. Little Billy and little Suzie cannot safely go for a walk or ride a bike in their neighborhoods because traffic is too dangerous.

Our hard-earned money and national wealth is vanishing. Our money is being used to enrich Middle Eastern oil-producing nations—many of which are not our friends.

 

Aren’t you tired of our unhealthy transportation system?

 

The Quality of Our Neighborhoods and Communities

 

Our farms are vanishing because they are being paved over by sprawling subdivisions.

We keep getting dumb growth instead of smart growth. Our neighborhoods are afflicted by rising levels of noise pollution. We’ve lost the tradition of having neighborhood-based schools, which means our kids cannot get to school on their own. We have forgotten that a high quality of life is a powerful economic engine.

 

Aren’t you tired of the sprawl? The ugly, dangerous, costly, “Anywhere USA” strip commercial development that keeps popping up in our communities?

 

My Vision

 

Let’s restore our communities.

 

  • Imagine communities rich in transportation choice. A place where we and our kids can get around safely by car, by transit, by walking and by bicycle. Communities, in other words, where one has the choice to be able to walk to get a loaf of bread, instead of being forced to drive 4 miles to get that loaf.
  • Imagine communities where our property taxes are reasonable and our government is able to afford to build quality public facilities and provide quality public services.
  • Imagine communities where we don’t see our beautiful forests, natural areas and farms bulldozed, acre-by-acre, day-by-day, to build endless, sprawling subdivisions.
  • Imagine communities where streets are not choked by rapidly growing numbers of cars.
  • Imagine communities where we don’t see our roads torn up and widened every year, causing infuriating road construction delays.
  • Imagine communities with pleasant, safe, beautiful, slow-speed shopping streets instead of communities full of 10-lane strip commercial monster roads.
  • Imagine communities with healthy air and water, and neighborhoods that place public parks a short distance from our homes.
  • Imagine communities that provides choices about how to live. Communities where one can happily live an urban, suburban or rural lifestyle.
  • Imagine communities where it is actually legal to build smartly. Traditionally. Sustainably. Where building smartly is the rule, rather than the exception. Local government regulations encourage smart growth, and are not an obstacle to it.  Communities that makes it fast and easy to build smartly, and makes it more difficult and costly to build crud.
  • Imagine communities full of energy-efficient homes and offices.
  • Imagine communities that is quiet. Where one can sleep peacefully each night without being awoken by endless sirens and the roar of traffic.
  • Imagine places with a strong sense of community. Places that are a community, not a crowd.

 

Imagine communities, in other words, that we can be proud of.

 

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Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Politics, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Are New Urbanist Developments Typically Unwalkable?

 
 

 

By Dom Nozzi

 

Are new urbanist housing projects typically unwalkable?

 

America has been aggressively anti-pedestrian for several decades. Not necessarily intentionally, but certainly inevitably. Why?

 

Because for nearly 100 years, we have been compelled to be obsessed about making cars happy. The emergence of the car (and the existence of cheap oil) has led to the inevitable degradation of conditions for all other forms of travel. Economists call this the “barrier effect.”

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Designing for car travel almost inevitably makes all other forms of travel more difficult. And that sets up a powerfully vicious cycle. Cars consume an enormous amount of space, because of their size and the speeds they attain when driven. Motorists therefore have a strong interest in seeing that the community be designed to accommodate their form of travel. Development must be dispersed, low-density, and served by wide roads and large parking lots. Houses must be separated from workplaces, shopping areas, parks, offices and schools.

 

Because this form of community design increases the difficulty of non-car travel, new motorists are continuously recruited (transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists increasingly find that car travel is safer and more convenient). Those new motorists join existing motorists to form an ever-growing army of cheerleaders demanding that conditions be improved for cars.

 

Which, of course, ends up recruiting even more new motorists…

 

New urbanist developers in America must build their projects within such a strongly pro-car environment. In nearly every community, therefore, almost all of the government regulators, political activists, lending institutions, insurance companies, elected officials, citizens, retail establishments, and buyers of new homes have been conditioned to believe that the only reasonable way for 99 percent of the population to travel is by car.

 

Therefore, even though new urbanists are essentially the only group of developers in America who are sincerely seeking to build traditional, walkable communities (and know how to do it), they are almost always faced with a tidal wave of opposition. Regulations, financing, citizens, and elected officials are implicitly shouting: “Walkability is unrealistic. It is illegal to build that way. Babies will die in burning buildings if you design in a compact manner. We will not lend money to you for your project. Quality of life is dependent on free-flowing traffic and lots of parking. What you propose will make our cars unhappy.”

 

As a result, building something truly compact, mixed use and walkable is nearly impossible for mere mortals in America today. When it is (rarely) done, it is usually because it was somehow able to overcome gargantuan obstacles.

 

It should be no surprise, then, that even high-quality new urbanists often end up being compelled to build compromised developments that are not walkable.

 

And the problem grows worse each year, due to the vicious cycle I mention above. Even older, suburban developments can sometimes be more walkable than newer “new urbanist” developments, as we sometimes find in America.

 

While the situation is grim today (even admirable new urbanist plans prepared by Calthorpe are compromised and not very walkable), I am optimistic about the long term. Our car-centric development patterns are not sustainable, and we are reaching the day in which we cannot afford to keep pampering car travel. Even state DOTs are starting to be forced to realize that they can no longer afford to try to build their way out of congestion. It is getting too costly to widen roads. A growing number of people (particularly younger generations) are starting to see the merits and lower costs associated with living in walkable places. The rising oil prices are certainly helpful.

 

In my humble opinion, there will be an enormous growth in jobs that are involved in healing our communities to make them more sustainable and walkable, because rising costs (particularly energy costs) will make such work essential if our unsustainable culture and cities are to avoid extinction and collapse. Roads will need to be put on a diet. Parking lots will need to be redeveloped and activated as buildings. Residential-only neighborhoods will need to start accommodating corner stores and jobs.

 

Tragically, a large percentage of places will be too costly to retrofit in such a way. They will become the white elephants of the future that will be abandoned.

 

“Re-localizing” will be an overwhelmingly important task. I increasingly wonder if our society will be able to adjust to such a world.

 

The future will be more pleasant for those of us that can adapt, as our world will be more walkable and less car-centric. But I fear our transition to such a world will be slow, painful and not possible for a great many.

 

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Peak Oil, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design