Shoal Creek Summed Up

The ongoing brouhaha with Lyndon reminded me to start collecting these in one place. First in a series of at least three.
Advocates of light rail through central Austin (including myself, seek sanitary of course) were encouraged to vote for this commuter rail plan, pharm and get “light rail later”. Dave Dobbs took me to lunch and tried real hard to get me to fall into line on this, as a matter of fact. This strategy extended to electioneering by Capital Metro itself, who originally stated in Rapid Bus materials that the one proposed route was a “possible placeholder for light rail”. One example here. After getting the pro-transit forces to ease up (except me, of course), they dropped this language from their materials. Since then, Capital Metro has never mentioned running rail on the 2000 light rail route past such minor destinations as the center of downtown, the Capitol, the University of Texas, high-density residential development in West Campus and points north, and the Triangle.
From Jeff Wood’s thesis, the following:

Robin Rather, who also attended the meeting, asked the hard questions. “What is the best system and what does the Central City get out of all this?” She had a point. Bus Rapid Transit would not sit well with people who had voted overwhelmingly for light rail in 2000. “With the stroke of a pen, I could wipe out this whole proposal at the ballot box,” she said “So why should we support this if we are not getting anything out of it?”

Fast-forward to 2006. Capital Metro has eliminated any talk of reserved-guideway rail on the 2000 light rail route; and the “circulator” service being hashed out is leaning heavily towards buses (although still keeping streetcars on the list until the bitter end as is typical). Where’s it going to run? Through downtown and by the capitol; but then veering east past the south edge of UT and out to the old airport; avoiding all of the residential density which exists now or in the near future. In other words, this amazing “center-city circulator” which was supposed to make commuter rail provide some benefits to the people who pay essentially all of Capital Metro’s tax dollars has morphed into “The Bus People Living At Mueller Will Take To Get To Their Job If They’re Members Of The Small Group That Have To Pay A Lot To Park”. (Need a catchy slogan for this vehicle! Ideas gladly stolen^H^H^H^H^H^Haccepted!)
Feel good so far about falling for this snow-job, folks?

Sadly, help just as I was becoming comfortable with using Consumer Reports’ data to defend against hybrid FUD, find the most recent issue contains an article as bad as any of it out there.
Nearly every assumption they make in the article is flawed (not backed up by real-world data). Odograph has already covered the unfairness of comparing the Prius to the much smaller Corolla without at least mentioning the fact that unlike all of the other comparisons they did, web they aren’t really anything close to the same car. I noted in his comments that CR was also inconsistent about depreciation – their table charges a huge “extra depreciation” fee to the Prius, but their own statistics later in the issue show the Prius’ depreciation to be “much better than average” while the Corolla is merely “average”.
Additional points they got wrong are the infamous “battery life” scare tactic (hint: they will probably outlive your car). I’ve posted two tables below, comparing the Prius (more fairly) to the Corolla, as well as to the Camry (which is the car in the same size class as the Prius as well as its much more credible gas-only competitor), and showing their original comparison vs. the Corolla.
(scroll wayyyy down – I don’t know why Movable Type hates table tags so much, but it does; it’s down there eventually I promise).

Cost Item Prius vs. Corolla
CR’s version
Prius vs. Corolla
Fair version
Prius vs. Camry
Purchase-price premium $5700 $5700 $3001
Extra sales tax $400 $400 $201
Savings from hybrid tax credit $(3150) $(3150) $(3150)
Fuel savings $(2300) $(2300) $(3060)2
Extra insurance cost (or savings) $300 $3003 $03
Extra maintenance cost (or savings) $300 $04 $04
Extra depreciation cost $3200 $(1000)5 $(2000)5
Extra financing cost $5250 $5250 $2806
Total extra cost (savings) $5250 $750 $(7610)

Notes:

  1. Purchase price estimated from midpoint of range published in CR.
  2. Using estimated combined MPG of 24 in CR’s tests. Don’t yet know figures for new Camry.
  3. This is probably correct, but has to do with the higher purchase price more than anything else. Estimated same insurance for Camry for that reason.
  4. Previous-gen Prius broke down less than Corolla and required less scheduled maintenance (brake pads and such). Higher cost of having to go to dealer instead of independent sometimes makes up for this.
  5. Prius has depreciated less than essentially any car out there – in fact we still get offers from our dealer to buy it back for about what we paid for it 2 years ago. I’m being conservative here in favor of the Corolla and Camry, believe it or not.
  6. Proportional adjustment from extra cost to Corolla – this is probably slightly off since it’s not quite that simple, but close enough for our purposes.

    Updating yesterday’s entry, cost CR has now admitted a methodology flaw in their hybrid comparison – (which, cough admittedly, click I even carried over into my own table – I assumed their error was in data rather than in methodology). They haven’t acknowledged the inconsistency in their depreciation figures (still claiming even in the revised article that the Prius depreciates worse than the Corolla; and simultaneously claiming in their data in the car tables later in the same issue that the Corolla depreciates much worse than the Prius), but they have noted that simply adding together purchase price difference plus depreciation difference plus financing is effectively double-counting depreciation.
    Their modified figures show the Prius winning by a small amount over the Corolla. Oh, and by the way, they also haven’t addressed the fact that the Prius is a lot bigger than the Corolla – not a fair head-to-head comparison without at least mentioning that the Prius is in between the Corolla and Camry in size.
    Of course, the damage is already done. The hybrid FUDders are gleefully cackling; and the American consumer now ‘knows’ that hybrids ‘don’t save any money’. Good job, CR.

    I’ve plugged my own, pills more consistent, drugs data into CR’s corrected formula and applied them below.
    Conclusions: With the full tax credit, the Prius beats the pants off even the Corolla. Without any of the tax credit (which will eventually happen this year, since it gradually expires as more Toyota hybrids are sold), the Prius doesn’t beat the smaller Corolla (if you use accurate data) but still beats the pants off the Camry.

    Cost Item Prius vs. Corolla
    CR’s version
    Prius vs. Corolla
    Fair version
    Prius vs. Camry
    Purchase-price premium $5700 $5700 $3001
    Extra sales tax $400 $400 $201
    Extra financing cost $792 $792 $426
    Savings from hybrid tax credit $(3150) $(3150) $(3150)
    Fuel savings $(2300) $(2300) $(3060)2
    Extra insurance cost (or savings) $300 $3003 $03
    Extra maintenance cost (or savings) $300 $04 $04
    5-year resale price differential7 $(2494) $(4000)5,8 $(1000)5,8
    Total extra cost (savings) with/without tax credit $(406)
    $2744
    $(2258)
    $892
    $(6848)
    $(3698)

    Notes:

    1. Purchase price estimated from midpoint of range published in CR.
    2. Using estimated combined MPG of 24 in CR’s tests. Don’t yet know figures for new Camry.
    3. This is probably correct, but has to do with the higher purchase price more than anything else. Estimated same insurance for Camry for that reason.
    4. Previous-gen Prius broke down less than Corolla and required less scheduled maintenance (brake pads and such). Higher cost of having to go to dealer instead of independent sometimes makes up for this.
    5. Prius has depreciated less than essentially any car out there – in fact we still get offers from our dealer to buy it back for about what we paid for it 2 years ago. I’m being conservative here in favor of the Corolla and Camry, believe it or not.
    6. Proportional adjustment from extra cost to Corolla – this is probably slightly off since it’s not quite that simple, but close enough for our purposes.
    7. This is how they fixed their methodology. Negative numbers (in parentheses) indicate higher resale value for Prius.
    8. I’ve estimated higher sales price after 5 years for Prius vs. Corolla and Prius vs. Camry based on CR’s own depreciation ratings from later in the issue (see note 5).

    Disappointing one of my three loyal readers who has been bugging me for Part II of Capital Metro’s Broken Promises, approved I thought I should call attention to the bulletin board being used to hash out permanent version(s) of the McMansion Ordinance.
    Specifically, pilule I noticed that on the Task Force, the three representatives closest to my area have one guy with whom I don’t have much problem with in general, but also two people who I most certainly have: one from Hyde Park and one from NUNA.
    I did a little sleuthing on zillow.com, since I can’t yet walk as far as Hyde Park thanks to the still-mostly-unresponsive-to-treatment-arthritis. The representative from Hyde Park’s home is friggin’ huge compared to its neighbors and the typical Hyde Park bungalow.
    I did make it by the representative’s house in NUNA, which, despite not being as huge, was arguably even more incompatible with its neighbors, having the cardinal sin of “looming over its neighbor’s backyards” which is an oft-heard complaint against McMansions.
    I’d also like to call attention to an excellent thread started by Chris Cosart, who has commented here in the past.
    I’ll close with those quote from another thread on that very board:

    As I’ve pointed out with the two examples from the task force, though, this boils down to “I got mine; now you can’t have yours”. Both 111 Laurel and 4315 Avenue C are incompatible with their neighbors. Why should they be allowed to tell me how compatible I must be with mine?

    (Bet you thought I was going to address the debt issue, youth health since the Statesman wrote a scathing editorial today. That’s Part Two, prostate but it’s coming later.)
    Following up on Part One, Capital Metro has put up a survey trying to narrow down road choices for the infamous “circulator service” which represents the sum total of the ‘additions’ which were promised to transit-loving central Austinites who observed that All Systems Go doesn’t go anywhere people want to go; nor does it go near people who might want to ride.

    Notice from the picture: it doesn’t go through residential central Austin in any way, shape, or form. This service, when implemented, is just a bus (maybe a streetcar) from Mueller to UT or downtown; it does NOT do anything to make up for the slap in the face to central Austin.
    Note where it doesn’t go. It doesn’t go up Guadalupe, where tens of thousands of people live within a short walk of the 2000 light rail route. It doesn’t go next to the Triangle, a transit-oriented development which is actually BUILT, not just a twinkle in somebody’s eye. It doesn’t go by high-density residential development presently under construction in West Campus. It doesn’t reward the central Austinites who pay essentially all of Capital Metro’s bills with any transit improvements at all (and no, Rapid Bus isn’t worth shit).
    And also remember that Capital Metro has already ruled out reserved-guideway-transit for this route. This means, essentially, that whether the vehicle has rubber tires (bus) or steel wheels (streetcar), it’s still going to be stuck behind other peoples’ cars in traffic.
    Still feel good about falling for this snowjob, folks?

    Michael Bluejay made an outstanding presentation (Quicktime slides with audio) which everybody needs to read. (He presented this before the City Council right before they approved the cyclist-endangering Option III).

    Again, cialis 40mg I can’t recommend this video enough. It’s the best quick summary of this issue, with pictures, that I’ve ever seen. Watch it now.

Shoal Creek Attractive Nuisance Boulevard

(just posted to the austin transportational cycling list)
As I’ve tried to point out before but obviously not succeeded, dosage discount the danger for SCB is that it becomes an ‘attractive nuisance’ – i.e., if you stripe a ‘bike lane’ or a ‘shoulder’ or even a ‘shared use area’, you are making an implied recommendation that this is where cyclists should be riding. (Well-established in both legal and traffic engineering circles).

Thus, the facility to which you’re ‘attracting’ the cyclists to had better meet some basic, bare minimum, safety guidelines such as AASHTO. As many have pointed out, AASHTO standards for bike lanes next to parking are still not great – a good chunk of the bike lane would be in the door space, but the Gandy design would have had all of the bike lane within the door zone, and the ‘space’ shrinking to perhaps a foot when being passed by a motorist while you yourself were passing a parked truck – i.e., you would get brushed even if the parked vehicle never opened its door. The 10-foot shared space has this same exact problem; the absence of the stripe separating ‘bike lane’ from ‘parking lane’ makes no difference.

I get the sense that many people still haven’t looked at these pictures, which tell the story far better than my words possibly could.
Take a look. That’s not “normal bike lane bad” where the door would extend part of the way into the bike lane when it’s open. That’s “guaranteed collision bad” where the cyclist fundamentally doesn’t have enough space to travel even when the truck’s door is closed.
Some people (who must not have looked at that picture) drastically underestimate how bad a facility this is – thinking that they (good rider) would just get into the travel lane to pass the parked car. This forgets that:

  1. Most inexperienced riders don’t know to do this, and will thus ‘swerve’ at the last moment, or maybe not even go out into the lane at all,
  2. Experienced riders will take the lane well in advance of the parked car, and will (in my, and Lane’s experience at least) get honked at, or possibly someday worse.

A facility which encourages inexperienced cyclists to perform unsafe manuevers and which causes conflict with other road users when experienced cyclists do what they’re supposed to do has no place on our roadways. It doesn’t matter how the other roads in the city are designed – if this one fails some basic minimum safety standards, it’s a horrible, horrible design and needs to be rethought. If this means removing SCB from the city’s bicycle route system, so be it.

That’s the bottom line here – the city is basically signing up for a huge potential liability lawsuit, and if it ever happens, I’ll be glad to testify that they were warned early and often.

Fifty-Fifty Journalistic Balance Sucks

The past position of essentially all central-Austin neighborhoods (and, impotent stomach unfortunately, current position of many, including my current one and the last one) regarding high-density development was “none, never”.
Now, there appears to be, in some of the more enlightened neighborhoods, a position which they believe to be sufficient which is certainly BETTER than the old “none, never”, but still has some problems. I call it “stick ’em in high-rises downtown”, and it goes something like this:
“Preserve our single-family character by banning all apartments in and near our houses – instead, support more density downtown. Apartment dwellers want to be where the action is, anyway, don’t they?”
Unfortunately, in my response to a thread along these lines in one neighborhood’s yahoo group, I completely forgot the economic argument – namely that condos like my unit in Clarksville are affordable, but neither the high-rise downtown nor the single-family house in Rosedale ever will be.
Here’s what I wrote in that last response to that group. (I’ve paraphrased the quotes I responded to in parenthetical double-quotes below).

(“Central Austin is still desirable because most people want to live central in houses”)
I prefer to live on Congress Avenue in a mansion. There appears to
only be one way to do that, though, and as Tony Sanchez can tell you,
being rich doesn’t necessarily cut it.
There is a lot of unfilled demand to live central. When all other
things are equal, the majority of people would prefer to live in close
proximity to their job or other frequent non-home activity center.
When all other things are equal, the majority of people would prefer
to live in single-family housing on big lots. Where things get
interesting is where we are now, when those two forces come into
conflict (i.e., there is no possible way to satisfy both to their
fullest degree).
(“The multi-family building, not the tenants, being the problem” – part of this discussion centered on renters being bad neighbors, to which I responded with my theory about rental houses being much worse for neighbors than apartments or condos)
With all due respect, I do not think this is a strawman argument at
all, given how many people in this very discussion have complained
about the behavior of renters (usually packed into HOUSES). It’s
fairly obvious to me that if you restrict the development of
multifamily buildings in the central city, you will get more people
living together in rental houses, and that those tenants are more
difficult to control when they are renting from one landlord each
without the oversight of a HOA (as in a condo building). What about
this is difficult to agree with?
(“Center-city neighborhoods restrict multi-family housing; leads to downtown becoming like Vancouver; and I’m OK with that”, implication being that this satisfies the ‘problem’).
This leaves no room for moderate-density housing, which, for most of
US history, was the development style which the market provided for
most people. The fact that, before zoning restrictions and many of the
governmental economic activity that affects housing development today,
the market tended to provide mostly townhouses, rowhouses, etc. shows
to me that this style of moderate-density housing IS the sweet spot
where the demand for central living and the demand for space are best
compromised.
For instance, the condo unit I lived in for 6 years (and still own) is
one of 14 on Waterston Avenue (Clarksville) which takes up the space
of about 3 single-family houses. I slept with my windows open at
night. Can’t do that in one of those high-rises. On the other hand, I
can’t walk to the grocery store from my single-family house. Frankly,
if we had rowhouses here in Austin in a walkable neighborhood, that’s
where I’d be. We don’t have them, not because there’s no demand, but
because neighborhoods have forcibly kept them out.
To say that there’s no place for anything between (single-family
house) and (high-rise) seems to me to be not much better than saying
that everybody must live single-family.

If I forget, I’m counting on my three devoted readers to please remind me to expand on the rental house vs. apartment/condo issue in the future. OK THANKS BYE.

With the call to build it somewhere pretty or where they can build it bigger is:
The people who most need and use the library currently are quite likely to get there on the bus. Yes, viagra 40mg the bus you think nobody uses; although if you stand outside the current library and look at those buses go by, you’ll quickly be disabused of that particular brand of suburban idiocy.
The current library works well because it’s on one of the two most heavily bus-travelled corridors downtown (Guadalupe). A location on Cesar Chavez too far from Congress, on the other hand, won’t be an easy trip for many of the current patrons.
Look at the map (zoom in on the lower-right inset). Notice how many buses go right next to the thing. Most of the rest of the buses are three blocks away on Congress. So, a huge chunk of routes don’t require any walk at all, and most of the rest require a 3-block walk at most.
Now, consider the proposed new site at what’s now the water treatment plant. Going by current routes, two come fairly close, but the big conglomeration coming down Guadalupe/Lavaca will be about two blocks away; and the Congress routes about five blocks away.
This doesn’t sound like much to walk, and it wouldn’t be for most of us. However, as somebody who hasn’t been able to walk well for quite a while now and used to serve on a commission where we were often taking up issues important to those who are mobility-impaired, I have more appreciation than most for what a pain in the ass this is going to be. Oh, and don’t forget, unlike most of the people involved with this decision, I’ve been to this library many times – and I can tell you that at any given time, a huge number, possibly even the majority of the patrons arrived on the bus, and a large fraction of those are either elderly or in wheelchairs or both. For THOSE people, two more blocks is a lot to ask.
Don’t move somewhere which makes the library less accessible to those who need it most just for the sake of being pretty. Please say no to moving the central library off the main bus lines.
Update: Several commenters have commented along these lines (paraphrased, with my response):
“Isn’t commuter rail going to a transit hub at Seaholm anyways?” – please do yourself a favor and read this category archive and start with this post, OK? Short summary: It ain’t going to Seaholm for decades, if then. And Seaholm is still a couple-blocks’-walk from this site.
The buses will just be moved to go by the library – this isn’t going to happen either, folks. Long-haul bus routes don’t make two-block jogs just for the hell of it (people already complain about how supposedly indirect these things are). Each one of those bus routes might deliver a dozen passengers a day to the existing library – enough to make it a valuable part of the demand for the current route, but not enough to justify hauling a long, heavy, bus around a bunch of tight corners.

A pseudonymous trogolyde in this well-commented thread on Metroblogging Austin has just invoked the second component the “Austin no-growther duo”, viagra approved the first being “It’s all the Californian’s fault”.

M1EK if you are so in love with density. And the idea of quaint neighborhoods with small houses is too much to take move the fuck out of Austin. Move to fucking Houston. Developers have less restrictions. You can tear down houses and build condos and no bats an eye.

The charm, viagra 60mg it just oozes off the screen.
It’s probably a good time to repoint readers to this article on Houston in which the author alleges a similar, perhaps even greater, interference by the government there in the processes which would otherwise create density, despite the oft-celebrated lack of zoning. One example, in case you don’t want to wade through the PDF,

Until 1998, [FN37] Houston’s city code provided that the minimum lot size for detached [FN38]
single-family dwellings was 5000 square feet. [FN39] And until 1998, [FN40] Houston’s
government made it virtually impossible for developers to build large numbers of non-detached
single-family homes such as townhouses, [FN41] by requiring townhouses to sit on at least 2250
square feet of land. [FN42] As Siegan admits, this law “tend(ed) to preclude the erection of
lower cost townhouses” [FN43] and thus effectively meant that townhouses “cannot be built for
the lower and lower middle income groups.” [FN44] Houston’s townhouse regulations, unlike its
regulations governing detached houses, [FN45] were significantly more restrictive than those of
other North American cities. For example, town houses may be as small as 647 square feet of
land in Dallas, [FN46] 560 square feet in Phoenix, [FN47] and 390 square feet in Toronto,
Canada. [FN48]
Houston’s anti-townhouse policy, combined with its minimum lot size requirement for detached
houses, effectively meant that almost all single-family development in Houston had to be on a lot
of at least 5000 square feet [FN49] (which means that single-family areas in Houston could have
no more than 8.7 houses per acre).

There’s a lot more. Again, I highly recommend you read this if you’ve ever heard that “Houston has no zoning”.

A pseudonymous trogolyde in this well-commented thread on Metroblogging Austin has just invoked the second component the “Austin no-growther duo”, viagra approved the first being “It’s all the Californian’s fault”.

M1EK if you are so in love with density. And the idea of quaint neighborhoods with small houses is too much to take move the fuck out of Austin. Move to fucking Houston. Developers have less restrictions. You can tear down houses and build condos and no bats an eye.

The charm, viagra 60mg it just oozes off the screen.
It’s probably a good time to repoint readers to this article on Houston in which the author alleges a similar, perhaps even greater, interference by the government there in the processes which would otherwise create density, despite the oft-celebrated lack of zoning. One example, in case you don’t want to wade through the PDF,

Until 1998, [FN37] Houston’s city code provided that the minimum lot size for detached [FN38]
single-family dwellings was 5000 square feet. [FN39] And until 1998, [FN40] Houston’s
government made it virtually impossible for developers to build large numbers of non-detached
single-family homes such as townhouses, [FN41] by requiring townhouses to sit on at least 2250
square feet of land. [FN42] As Siegan admits, this law “tend(ed) to preclude the erection of
lower cost townhouses” [FN43] and thus effectively meant that townhouses “cannot be built for
the lower and lower middle income groups.” [FN44] Houston’s townhouse regulations, unlike its
regulations governing detached houses, [FN45] were significantly more restrictive than those of
other North American cities. For example, town houses may be as small as 647 square feet of
land in Dallas, [FN46] 560 square feet in Phoenix, [FN47] and 390 square feet in Toronto,
Canada. [FN48]
Houston’s anti-townhouse policy, combined with its minimum lot size requirement for detached
houses, effectively meant that almost all single-family development in Houston had to be on a lot
of at least 5000 square feet [FN49] (which means that single-family areas in Houston could have
no more than 8.7 houses per acre).

There’s a lot more. Again, I highly recommend you read this if you’ve ever heard that “Houston has no zoning”.

This Shoal Creek decision is a shameful abrogation of the responsiblity to ensure safe and reliable travel for all road users. When the TTI reported to the subcommitte that other cities unanimously recommended against variants of “Option III”, drugs
that should have relegated it to the scrap heap, here
even if the neighborhood were unanimously in favor of it.
As it stood, all the Council had to do was stand with a large minority of neighborhood residents and do the right thing.
I have never been more ashamed of our city than I am today. I hope you can live with yourselves when a kid riding his bike to Northwest Park gets run over when he “swerves into traffic” to get around a parked car.
Disgustedly yours,
Michael E. Dahmus
mdahmus@io.com

Whether it’s in science (usually global warming or evolution) or local politics, contagion journalists addicted to “he-said she-said” should turn in their press pass. If that’s all we needed, pestilence simple links to a couple of ideological websites would suffice.

With global warming, you effectively have an overwhelming scientific consensus and a couple of skeptics – bought and paid for by oil companies (and, of course, a college dropout Bush appointee trying to censor one of this country’s most experienced climatologists). The media usually covers this as “he-said, she-said”, which is OK when there truly IS no consensus, but we passed that point ten years ago.

In the Shoal Creek debacle instance, the Chronicle didn’t bother to tell you that the TTI, hired by the City Council in an obvious attempt to provide at least some political cover for choosing “Option 3”, reported back to them that the peer cities fairly unanimously recommended “Option 2”, and that all of them recommended very strongly against “Option 3”. Paraphrased, the response was, essentially, “why don’t you idiots just restrict parking on one side of the street?”.

Did the Chronicle mention this, either at the time or now that the council subcommittee ignored everybody who knows diddly-squat about traffic safety and ordered Option 3? Of course not. It’s “car-free bike lane guys say X. On the other hand, neighborhood people say Y”. No mention of which position might be more credible. No mention of the fact that the experts the city hired to consult were firmly on one of the two sides.

Fifty-fifty balance sucks. A chimp could collate two press releases together and turn them into an article. Chronicle, have another banana.

On bicycle lanes, and dense areas

So the end-result of the Parlor problem appears to be that the neighborhood isn’t going to budge on the parking variance, cardiologist check which means that another local business is in danger of going under unless the notoriously neighborhood-friendly Board of Adjustment suddenly becomes more responsible.
The end of the thread on the hydeparkaustin mailing list occurred when a member of the “Circle C in downtown Austin” party commented that a plan (in the works now for a long time and seemingly not close to fruition) to arrange for parking at the State Hospital (across Guadalupe) to be used for employees of businesses on Guadalupe would be the only way out of this mess.
I replied that it was unlikely that any customer or employee of those businesses would find it attractive to park at the state hospital, thumb rx walk out to Guadalupe, psychiatrist wait a long time for the light at 41st and Guadalupe to change, walk very quickly across the street, and then and only then arrive at their destination (as compared to parking on a side street or Avenue A).
The person replied (and was supported by the moderator, who then ended the discussion with the attached unpublished rebuttal in hand) that “the boss can make the employee park whereever they say”. This may be true in an abstract sense, I replied, but it’s unlikely that any such boss would want to spend the energy enforcing a rule which prevented employees from parking in PUBLIC spaces such as on Avenue A, even if they did want to keep employees out of their own private lot.
This goes back to thinking of a type which is unfortunately prevalent here in Austin and among many other progressive cities – that being that people will do things that are good, as long as we provide opportunities to do them. IE, build it and they will come. What you build, given this thinking, doesn’t have to be attractive compared to the pre-existing or forthcoming alternatives; its mere existence will suffice.
For instance, in this circumstance, they think that simply providing available parking in an inconvenient and unpleasant location will get people to park there who would otherwise park on neighborhood streets. Likewise, Capital Metro thinks simply providing any rail will get people to use it, even if the individual incentives are pretty awful, given the shuttle bus transfers.
I have a whole blog category analyzing ‘use cases’ which I think is a far more useful way to look at the problem. In this case, for instance, put yourself in the shoes of that potential parking consumer a few paragraphs back and remember that your boss probably (a) isn’t going to be able to stop you from parking on Avenue A, and (b) probably couldn’t catch you even if he tried.
But like with the naive pro-transit suckers that bought the MikeKrusee ScrewAustin Express, it’s unlikely that it’s possible to get through to these people. And so, the consequence is that another local business which probably would have improved Guadalupe as a place we actually want to be is thwarted. Good work, geniuses.
This is not to say that we should never build transit or highways. What it does mean is that somebody ought to spend at least a few minutes figuring out whether the thing you’re going to expect people to use is actually attractive enough for them to choose to use it. By that metric, light rail in 2000 was a slam dunk, despite the lies spread by Skaggs and Daugherty. But in this parking case and with this commuter rail line, nobody seems to have bothered to put themselves in the shoes of the prospective user.
my sadly now never-to-be-published response (remember, this is to somebody who said “But the Heart Hospital doesn’t let their employees park in their lot!” follows.

Those cases have some clear and obvious differences to the one
we’re talking about here — one being that the employees are being prohibited from parking in a private lot (which is still difficult to enforce, but at least defensible). You’re asking that these business’ employees not only refrain from parking in the business’ lot (private) but ALSO from the public spaces on Guadalupe and the street space on Avenue A. And nobody’s ‘requiring’ those state employees to park in Siberia – if they could find an open metered space somewhere else, for instance, they’re free to take it. Likewise, the Heart Hospital can’t force its employees to mark at the MHMR pool.
So it’s easy to prohibit people from parking in a given private lot. Unless you’re going to turn Avenue A into RPPP as part of this, though, they’d still park there instead of across Guadalupe. And any boss who tried to force them otherwise would probably be experiencing the fun world of employee turnover.

I’ve been on an HSA for about six months now (only choice at current job). Ironically, angina the primary reason I had to leave the last job, pestilence which I liked a lot, ophthalmologist was a benefits cut that hit our family very hard, with no accompanying increase in salary. They (previous company) left us with choosing between a “high” plan which was ALMOST as good as the previous-years’ plan, except a couple hundred bucks more a month; a “medium” plan for a few bucks more in which all copays were nontrivially hiked and coinsurance cut; and a “low” plan which was basically a HSA, too.
The HSA works pretty much like an FSA (which we were already using), except a bigger pain in the butt, since the years’ money isn’t all available on day one, like in an FSA. (In fact, I ‘bounced’ payments-by-mail twice because I mailed in the bill response without double-checking to see how much had flowed in, each time with a delightful $20 charge tacked on). You also get to enjoy looking like a deadbeat to doctors’ offices as you quite frequently fall into the “31-60 days overdue” bill categories since they first have to file with insurance, then insurance tells them what they’re supposed to charge you, and then you get sent a bill. The tax savings are no greater than with an FSA, which is to say that they depend on your marginal tax rate, which for most of the people who were having trouble with health care before isn’t likely to be high enough to be worth the difficulty of setting aside this money in the first place.
Now, for us, it still makes sense (even though unlike most people on HSA’s, we actually hit our deductible last year; i.e., we actually use health care). And it makes a hell of a lot of sense for a high-earning person that doesn’t use health care. But it doesn’t do squat to help out people who are unable to afford insurance today – the benefits disproportionately accrue to those with the highest marginal tax rates, not the poor. The poor, sadly, probably remain better off going to the emergency room than using this thing.
Even libertarians who have been exposed to single-payer or socialized medicine seem to finally get it, as I got it a few years ago. Medicine is not a case where the market works like it does in computers or groceries or whatever else; nor will it ever be. It’s more like providing a police force and firefighters.
And no, switching to an HSA has not given us any incentive to reduce our usage of medical care at all, because, like pretty much everybody who works for a living, I only go to the doctor when I need to because it’s such a pain in the ass. The theory that we can save money on healthcare with this “ownership society” crap rests on the questionable premise that most money is being spent by people who can use HSAs, when, in fact, most money is spent on the elderly, the premature, and other heroic interventions.
This is really becoming an issue in which the center is ready to move, and only the far, far, far right balks. There’s just no sensible reason not to pick the best socialized system (appears to be France or maybe Germany) and just get it over with.

from that liberal rag “The Economist”, information pills an article on our health care dilemna, more about including this tidbit on why HSA’s won’t do squat to control costs:

To an administration that believes the answer to every problem is lower taxes, the appeal of these ideas is obvious. Many health experts, however, are deeply sceptical, both about whether the shift to higher-deductible plans will actually reduce health-care inflation and, even if it does, whether the government should encourage this trend with more tax cuts.
The logic of consumer-driven health care assumes that unnecessary doctor visits and procedures lie at the heart of America’s health-care inflation. And it assumes that individual patients can become discerning consumers of health care. Both are questionable. Most American health-care spending is on people with chronic diseases, such as diabetics, whose health care costs many thousands of dollars a year, easily exceeding even high deductibles.
Instead, critics worry that greater cost-consciousness will deter people, particularly poor people, from essential preventive medical care, a trend that could even raise long-term costs. A classic study by the Rand Corporation in the 1970s showed that higher cost-sharing reduced both necessary and unnecessary medical spending in about equal proportion.

In other words, somebody who already has diabetes isn’t going to save you any money when you stick him on an HSA, but somebody who might GET diabetes without preventative care will be even less likely to get that care, since now he’s got to pay for 100% of the cost himself.
This backs up what I said yesterday – that the people who think HSAs will make people spend less on health care are fooling themselves. People who can get HSAs are primarily the employed, and those with a fair amount of money. None of those people are likely to go get unnecessary medical treatments – most of the money we spend in this country is on heroic interventions and on inefficient health care provided to the poor at emergency rooms. We clearly aren’t going to stop spending so much on the elderly, and they clearly still have plenty of time to sit in doctors’ offices anyways. The poor who clog up emergency rooms either aren’t going to be able to get insurance at all (just like today), or won’t be able to afford to contribute anything into the attached HSA anyways. No change, except that the wealthy employed get a bigger tax break.

Continuing my oddball string of non-transportation rants, cialis there’s an analogy which has been bugging me for a while now, ed and I just finally figured out why it’s so crappy.
There’s a lot of folks out there who argue that old-style health insurance really isn’t ‘insurance’ because it pays first-dollar stuff (i.e. you get coinsured on essentially everything after you meet a small annual deductible). Car insurance and home insurance, these people say, don’t pay for oil-changes and gutter-cleaning. They only cover catastrophic conditions. Fair enough. (Google on “health insurance” and “oil changes” to see how widespread this meme has become).
But then you take a look at their proposed solution – HSA’s (paired with high deductible plans). You have to meet a large annual deductible, and then most stuff is covered. Sounds like a better match, right?
Except for this little problem: in both car and home insurance, the deductible is per-event, not per-year. By that metric, traditional insurance actually maps better to car and home insurance!. Hint: the ‘copay’ is sort-of a per-event deductible. If you visit the doctor and it costs a hundred bucks, and your copay is $20, then your insurance covers $80 (although unlike car and home insurance, it probably doesn’t cover 100% of that $80). Likewise, if my roof needs a $2000 repair, and my deductible is $1000, you could call that my co-pay.
Maybe a table is a better way to present this. I’m using what I remember of my old PPO, my current HSA, and my automobile insurance as examples here.

Plan Per-event deductible Annual deductible Coinsurance after reached
PPO $25 $250 80%
HSA / high-deductible plan NONE $4000 Almost 100%
Auto $1000 NONE 100%
Home $1000 NONE 100%

Clearly the high-deductible plan isn’t any more like “insurance” if you define it as “how homes and autos are covered”, despite the rhetoric you hear. A PPO isn’t perfect either, due to coinsurance rarely being 100%, but one could imagine a similar auto/home policy being floated and still being called “insurance”. On the other hand, I have yet to see an automobile insurance company ever offer a policy where you had to meet an “annual deductible” in addition to a “per-event deductible”.

I just made this comment to this post on Jamie’s site which made my morning bright. I rhyme! Thought it deserved its own entry, check to at least put some transportation back at the top.

Wow, nurse thanks for the endorsement! That made my morning!
Kyle, pill
I’ve spent a lot of time in Seattle for work and for a wedding, and my wife lived there for about 7 years. One thing’s for certain: Austin has much higher speed roadways in general than Seattle does – or, put it another way, the part of Austin where the roads are like “all of Seattle” only extends out from 6th/Congress about a mile and a half. And in that part of town, I usually advocate against bike lanes (one of my fellow commissioners at the time pushed for bike lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca downtown, for instance; I pushed against).
There are other reasons to support bike lanes even on roads with slower traffic. For instance, the primary bicycle arteries heading to UT are a block and three blocks away from my house (Speedway and Duval). Each has so many cyclists that without the bike lanes, the road would probably not be able to function for motorists – in that sense, the bike lanes help manage high levels of bicycle traffic. Likewise, the whole Shoal Creek debacle is a mess because the bike lanes are needed due to both high volumes of cyclists and high volumes of child cyclists (for whom the speed differential rises to the normal ‘justifies bike lanes’ levels, I think).

and my second comment once I realized I hadn’t read his closely enough:

Kyle,
Upon reading my comment it seems to be responding to an implication which wasn’t there in your comment. I’m way too tired this morning, so please treat mine as an expansion of yours rather than as an attempt to refute, since it’s obvious upon further reading that you weren’t saying Austin’s level of bike lanes were too high, but rather that our area of town where bike lanes aren’t needed is too small. Couldn’t agree more.
Things are glacially improving on that pace, set back by bad neighborhoods who prefer suburban parking codes. And there are a lot of cyclists heading down Speedway and Duval each day, at least.

More on Yesterday’s Whiff

Yet more proof from yet another city that panhandlers aren’t the ones who need the help, pulmonologist sale yet it’s like pulling teeth around here to get an ordinance that the cops can enforce against the bums that infest the Drag and downtown Austin. The homeless that deserve help are, web for the most part, phlebologist getting it from charities. These bums on street corners, on the other hand, just don’t want to work.
The same type of expose ran on one of the stations in Miami about fifteen years ago with similar results – except even more appalling; they GAVE food to one of the “Will Work For Food” guys, and he threw it away. Then they came back and gave him money and watched where he went – which, of course, was the liquor store.
I remember one time when I was walking down 6th Street from my condo to a show and was accosted by a bum for money. I ignored him; and he started following me and yelling at me. At that time, even I was rethinking my decision to be on the sidewalk at night instead of in my car, and those who know me know that doesn’t happen easily.
One of the biggest obstacles to restoring downtown Austin into a place where people want to live, work, and play is these obnoxious bums. I can’t believe that any executive thinking of moving a company’s offices downtown is going to enjoy running the gauntlet of beggars that render certain corridors stinky and barely navigable. This hurts our city’s economy as companies stay away from the center-city, where the infrastructure to support them already exists, and stay out in the burbs or leave Austin’s city limits entirely. A weak economy means less money available for the groups that really DO help the homeless.
There’s nothing noble about begging; and those who try the hardest to help the homeless actually discourage the public from donating at streetcorners; but this doesn’t stop professional protestors like Richard Troxell. I don’t know how this can be solved until people who want to help the homeless can stand up and distinguish between those who want help, and those who just want a hand-out.

This was going to be a comment at infobong to his entry about another local business biting it on the Drag, this web but I realized it was getting way too long and probably way too wonkish for that venue.
It’s a simple but sadly misunderstood formula:
# of potential customers in area has been going up (more students; more residents).
Amount of retail space has been staying the same (stupidly limited by zoning regulations which effectively prevented any redevelopment along the drag which has way too much single-story car-oriented retail and even surface parking.
Result? Higher demand (from customers); stagnant supply; more demand (from businesses) for static space = higher rents = more national chains
Solution? No parking requirements and very very very generous height limits along the Drag. But even the recent West Campus rezoning didn’t go far enough down that path – there’s still way too much emphasis on parking minimums. Properties right along Guadalupe as far north as 38th and possibly 45th should have NO required parking, online in my opinion. If you think this gives them too much of a leg up (even given the much higher rent they’ll pay than their suburban competitors), consider having them pay an “in-lieu parking fee” dedicated to mass transit and pedestrian improvements along the corridor.
That’s another piece of the formula of course, which ends up leading to a few big tenants being healthy because they can lock up access to a lot or a garage; while the little individual (usually local) tenants blight out – like what’s happening up on Guadalupe between 29th and 45th. Properties can’t redevelop because change of use between one type of commercial business and another make the grandfathered variance go away, which means they’re suddenly subject to suburban-style parking requirements.

About 3/4 of the way through the subcommittee meeting and it looks like the 3 council members are falling back into a “let’s get a consensus plan together which meets all stakeholder interests” mode which, remedy in case anybody’s forgetting, is what ended up giving us this abomination and all of the nightmare since then.
This is not a situation where compromise works. This is a situation where the Council has to CHOOSE between:
1. Parking on both sides of the street, and the elimination of Shoal Creek Boulevard as a safe and useful link in the bicycle route system for Austin (no alternates exist which come close to the length and right-of-way advantages of SCB).
2. Bicycle lanes on both sides with no parking (in the bike lanes); and on-street parking restricted to one side of the street (also known as “Option 2”).
But instead, it sure as heck looks like they’re ignoring the advice of the TTI (which was absolutely clear about what other cities do in cases like this – they do #2) in favor of kow-towing to the neighborhood yet again; inevitably ending up with some stupid combination of Option 3 and the Gandy debacle.
The worst part is Brewster’s gang of “stakeholders” which includes nobody credible from the transportation bicycling community (no, the ACA doesn’t represent these folks) and has come up with a plan to try a BUNCH of different things on the road, all but one of which (option 2) are heartily discouraged by modern roadway designers.
This is so depressing…

Councilmember McCracken wrote me back, diagnosis defending his successful attempt to draw this out further, viagra order by claiming that there was “no data about any of the options”. This is true, generic if you restrict the question to “what are the motor vehicle speeds on a roadway with bike lanes and on-street parking on one or both sides with various treatments”. However, as I noted above, the TTI was quite clear about the safety recommendation from peer cities – that being, do option 2 and do it now.
The other things McCracken wanted to put on the road in test sections, if I’m remembering correctly, were:

  • Current design (with curb extensions) – there’s really no point in doing this, unless your ONLY goal is to measure motor vehicle speeds – it’s a well-known safety hazard for all road users.
  • Painted bike lane (presumably this is in the original Gandy 10-4-6 configuration which doesn’t provide enough space for a driver to pass a cyclist who is passing a parked car)
  • Bike lane with raised markings next to either parking lane, driving lane, or both (I’m unclear whether this treatment would include parking on both sides or on one side only – the raised markings would take up enough space that it would seem to rule out the Gandy configuration, but at this point who knows).

As you can see from the linked items above, to imply that these facilities haven’t been studied isn’t particularly accurate – they have, and substantial safety problems have been noted. It’s true that nobody bothered to measure motor vehicle speed next to these various bicycle facilities – frankly because nobody cared – the speed of a car when it hits you on one of these roads isn’t particularly important – whether that car is going 25 or 35 when it runs over you because you slipped on a raised curb marking, for instance, isn’t very relevant.

Council Whiffs Again On Shoal Creek

Yet more proof from yet another city that panhandlers aren’t the ones who need the help, pulmonologist sale yet it’s like pulling teeth around here to get an ordinance that the cops can enforce against the bums that infest the Drag and downtown Austin. The homeless that deserve help are, web for the most part, phlebologist getting it from charities. These bums on street corners, on the other hand, just don’t want to work.
The same type of expose ran on one of the stations in Miami about fifteen years ago with similar results – except even more appalling; they GAVE food to one of the “Will Work For Food” guys, and he threw it away. Then they came back and gave him money and watched where he went – which, of course, was the liquor store.
I remember one time when I was walking down 6th Street from my condo to a show and was accosted by a bum for money. I ignored him; and he started following me and yelling at me. At that time, even I was rethinking my decision to be on the sidewalk at night instead of in my car, and those who know me know that doesn’t happen easily.
One of the biggest obstacles to restoring downtown Austin into a place where people want to live, work, and play is these obnoxious bums. I can’t believe that any executive thinking of moving a company’s offices downtown is going to enjoy running the gauntlet of beggars that render certain corridors stinky and barely navigable. This hurts our city’s economy as companies stay away from the center-city, where the infrastructure to support them already exists, and stay out in the burbs or leave Austin’s city limits entirely. A weak economy means less money available for the groups that really DO help the homeless.
There’s nothing noble about begging; and those who try the hardest to help the homeless actually discourage the public from donating at streetcorners; but this doesn’t stop professional protestors like Richard Troxell. I don’t know how this can be solved until people who want to help the homeless can stand up and distinguish between those who want help, and those who just want a hand-out.

This was going to be a comment at infobong to his entry about another local business biting it on the Drag, this web but I realized it was getting way too long and probably way too wonkish for that venue.
It’s a simple but sadly misunderstood formula:
# of potential customers in area has been going up (more students; more residents).
Amount of retail space has been staying the same (stupidly limited by zoning regulations which effectively prevented any redevelopment along the drag which has way too much single-story car-oriented retail and even surface parking.
Result? Higher demand (from customers); stagnant supply; more demand (from businesses) for static space = higher rents = more national chains
Solution? No parking requirements and very very very generous height limits along the Drag. But even the recent West Campus rezoning didn’t go far enough down that path – there’s still way too much emphasis on parking minimums. Properties right along Guadalupe as far north as 38th and possibly 45th should have NO required parking, online in my opinion. If you think this gives them too much of a leg up (even given the much higher rent they’ll pay than their suburban competitors), consider having them pay an “in-lieu parking fee” dedicated to mass transit and pedestrian improvements along the corridor.
That’s another piece of the formula of course, which ends up leading to a few big tenants being healthy because they can lock up access to a lot or a garage; while the little individual (usually local) tenants blight out – like what’s happening up on Guadalupe between 29th and 45th. Properties can’t redevelop because change of use between one type of commercial business and another make the grandfathered variance go away, which means they’re suddenly subject to suburban-style parking requirements.

About 3/4 of the way through the subcommittee meeting and it looks like the 3 council members are falling back into a “let’s get a consensus plan together which meets all stakeholder interests” mode which, remedy in case anybody’s forgetting, is what ended up giving us this abomination and all of the nightmare since then.
This is not a situation where compromise works. This is a situation where the Council has to CHOOSE between:
1. Parking on both sides of the street, and the elimination of Shoal Creek Boulevard as a safe and useful link in the bicycle route system for Austin (no alternates exist which come close to the length and right-of-way advantages of SCB).
2. Bicycle lanes on both sides with no parking (in the bike lanes); and on-street parking restricted to one side of the street (also known as “Option 2”).
But instead, it sure as heck looks like they’re ignoring the advice of the TTI (which was absolutely clear about what other cities do in cases like this – they do #2) in favor of kow-towing to the neighborhood yet again; inevitably ending up with some stupid combination of Option 3 and the Gandy debacle.
The worst part is Brewster’s gang of “stakeholders” which includes nobody credible from the transportation bicycling community (no, the ACA doesn’t represent these folks) and has come up with a plan to try a BUNCH of different things on the road, all but one of which (option 2) are heartily discouraged by modern roadway designers.
This is so depressing…

SCB: Speed Is Not The Problem

Even though he turned out to be the best possible president for that period in time (he and the Congress restrained each others’ worst impulses): drug law hypocrisy.

I can’t stress the point of this editorial enough. In issues from global climate change to evolution education, viagra 100mg the Republicans are abusing the “report both sides” mentality of the media to present crackpot crap on an equal footing with real science, and it needs to stop. Now.

Steve Casburn is finally online in Portland and is telling a familiar story – the bad bicyclist tale of woe. What I hear on the libertarian sites that I spend an unhealthy amount of time on is that Portland is a hellhole on the verge of collapse. Hopefully Steve, sales (who somehow got deluded by the liberal media into moving there without even having a job in advance) will survive the post-apocalyptic urban-planning wasteland. At least there’s fewer fat people there.

Continuing my recent theme of pointing to other works that explain my thinking, pharm here’s a quite good explanation of why suburban sprawl isn’t natural; isn’t the result of consumer ‘choice’; and isn’t healthy. Highly recommended. The only thing I’d add is the role of irresponsible inner city neighborhoods in preventing cities from doing responsible things to promote infill.
The idea that suburban sprawl is just a natural ‘choice’ ignores the reality that without the massive subsidies and regulatory restrictions which prevent anything ELSE from being built, more about a large minority of current suburbanites would actually live in neighborhoods like mine. All you need to do is see how cities developed before WWII, i.e., before the advent of both zoning and automobile subsidies (when there were plenty of cars, just not massive subsidies for their use by suburbanites).
I promise I’ll get to my Pfluger Bridge stuff next week.

Kevin Drum likes CAFE. He believes that gas taxes are highly regressive. He’s wrong. But which one ‘works’ better? His argument rests on the last 5 years of generally rising fuel prices versus vehicle sales.
The problem is that the rise in fuel prices recently has been seen by most Americans as the result of gouging, read more or the result of storms, infection or hippie environmentalists or <insert other crazy reason>. Key here is that all of those things are temporary. Now, if you’re one of the few people who follows the real oil situation you know that we’re probably in for a period of ever-higher spikes and plateaus (with intervening drops due to recessions, perhaps), but most people don’t know this stuff.
If you think the last couple of years are an anomaly, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a fuel-efficient car. Therefore, using that period as an example of how higher fuel prices don’t affect vehicle choice as much as CAFE did is foolish. Better to look at Europe, where CAFE-like standards don’t really exist; but at the time of vehicle purchase, it is understood that gas taxes are very high and likely to stay that way.
Anyways, CAFE doesn’t work half as well as a high baseline for gas prices does. The real reason? Once you buy your car, if gas prices/taxes are low, there’s no real incentive to leave it in the driveway on any given day. With higher gas prices/taxes, however, there is an incentive to leave it at home and take the bus, or carpool, or whatever.
Addressed as a quickie since so many people around the interweb keep repeating this canard.

For all the Grover “drown it in a bathtub” Norquists of the world; for all the self-identified libertarians (except when it comes to paying to drive); for all the suburbanites who think they pay too much in taxes as they itemize their McMansion’s mortgage deductions;
These last few days show clearly why we have, cheapest and need, medical a Federal Government. Local and state resources are clearly not enough, and the Feds are failing to do their job. Draw whatever conclusion you will, but Norquist deserves special scorn.

(at least, advice not regressive across the spectrum) – as I’ve argued here and here, sale the gas tax doesn’t hit the poor that hard; it mostly hits the exurban parts of the middle class and leaves the rich alone. From my original article on the subject:

The supposed regressive nature of the gas tax is a fallacy – in fact, poor people spend far less proportionally on gasoline than do the upper-middle-class.
The gas tax isn’t purely progressive; though; the very rich actually spend less proportionally than do the upper-middle-class, due to their tendency to be either in the few healthy downtowns, or less need to drive overall.

Here’s another link I found today which asserts the same:


“A subsidy to new vehicles would be regressive. A tax on
gasoline is not regressive across the lowest incomes but is regressive from middle to high
incomes.”

Note that the internet is replete with sites which say that the gas tax is regressive, but the only articles or studies which actually include any supporting arguments are the few that claim that it isn’t regressive. This leads me to believe that the gas tax ISN’T regressive, for the reasons previously discussed, and that the ‘conventional wisdom’ is wrong here.
This is timely because of a current thread on Environmental Economics on this very subject. Amazingly, I’ve now provided THREE links which are credible and contain supporting evidence for the claim that the gas tax isn’t regressive across-the-board; for the most part blind assertion is still the only support for the ‘regressive’ position. Moral: Conventional Wisdom is hard to fight, even when it’s wrong.

Been posting to the blog Hammer of Judgement in comments, decease but thought I ought to excerpt the last comment here too:

#1: It doesn’t matter WHY they drive less, if you’re just measuring the regressivity of the gas tax. Whether it’s because they don’t have to, don’t want to, or CAN’T is irrelevant.
#2: Texas “highway system” comprises only roads with route shields on them, and even then, substantial donations in the form of property and sales taxes are required these days to get anything built. In addition, in Texas, most major arterials inside cities are NOT part of the state highway system, and thus get ZERO gas tax dollars.
This is not something you want to dispute me on, it’s the closest thing to a specialty I have. Here’s some starter links for you:
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000173.html
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000164.html
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000122.html
pictures:
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000117.html
entire category:
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/cat_funding_of_transportation.html
#3: On anectdotes – the studies I cited aren’t available in their full form on the web (to me or you), but they go WAY beyond anectdotal data, since there are real studies behind those quotes, unlike most of the people who assert the gas tax’ regressivity.
#4: I don’t know where the 15% figure comes from; but even if true, the STATED REASON most people harp on the supposed regressivity of the gas tax is concern for the poorest people, not the middle class. Thus, showing that it’s regressive across middle and high incomes but NOT low incomes serves to refute the essential point.

Note that I cover the topic of roadway funding extensively in this category, including “what roads get gas taxes and what don’t”, “how do we pay for major roads”, “why does the state effectively subsidize the suburbs through the gas tax”, etc.

A subcommittee of the City Council is getting some kind of an update on the Shoal Creek Debacle. I just sent this email to them.


Dear Mayor and councilmembers:
My name is Mike Dahmus, viagra buy and I served on the Urban Transportation Commission from 2000 through 2005. I cast the lone vote in opposition to the plan which (with modifications) ended up being constructed on Shoal Creek Boulevard. During my terms on the UTC, doctor I served as the lone member who utilized both an automobile and a bicycle to commute to work — i.e., bronchi I’m not a pure cyclist, and I’m not a pure driver. I used Shoal Creek Boulevard as part of my bicycle commute for years and occasionally drove it as well.
I understand you’re going to address this issue in a subcommittee meeting this week, and I thought I should comment.
For those of you who don’t bicycle; Shoal Creek Boulevard is, without hyperbole, the most important route in the city for bicycle commuters. (It has a lot of recreational traffic as well, of course). It forms the spine of the route between northwest Austin and central Austin – alternate routes either are far too hilly for normal use (to the west) or do not connect with routes which can get cyclists across the Mopac/183/360 barrier.
Years back, Shoal Creek’s turn came up in the “let’s do what every other city does and put up no-parking signs in our bike lanes” process. Since the bike program staff at the time knew that Shoal Creek had long blocks and (some) short driveways, they offered a compromise plan which would have allowed parking on one side of the road, with smaller-than-typical bike lanes on both sides. This plan was opposed by the neighborhoods, for whom on-street parking was the priority over through cyclist travel.
Years ago, thanks to neighborhood pressure, Shoal Creek Boulevard was reclassified from a minor arterial to a residential collector (an inappropriately low classification by engineering standards). This allowed the neighborhood to then push back against that eminently reasonable plan to allow parking only on one side of the street (neighborhood partisans could declare that SCB was a ‘residential street’ and that therefore parking was more important than through traffic). The bike program plan was rejected thanks to a few neighbors who valued both-sides on-street parking more than cyclist safety.
At this point, as I’m sure many of you remember, the neighborhoods got Councilmember Goodman’s approval to start a planning process which ended with the absurd plan by Charles Gandy which none of your engineers would sign their name to, and which made Austin a laughingstock in other cities around the country. The modified version of that plan (removing the stripe between the ‘bike lane’ and the parking area) is nearly as ludicrous, but since it’s not marked as a ‘bike lane’ is nominally acceptable to engineers, I suppose.
The Shoal Creek Boulevard plan as implemented is a liability problem for the city of Austin (although not as bad as the original Gandy “10-4-6” plan would have been, since city engineers were smart enough to remove the “bike lane” designation). Sufficient space does not exist for a cyclist to safely pass parked cars and remain in the bike lane, yet drivers in the through traffic lane expect them to do so. This is a textbook example of bad traffic engineering (when one street user performs a safe and legal manuever, another street user should not be caught by surprise).
This isn’t about the curb islands, by the way. The safety obstacle for cyclists is parked cars. The curb islands must be passed in a fairly narrow space, but there’s zero chance that one of them is going to open their door while you’re passing it.
But what the curb islands and striping HAVE done is encourage more people to park on the street; increasing the frequency of the street user conflict which will eventually result in a serious injury – a car passing a cyclist while the cyclist is passing a parked car.
This entire process was nothing more than an abrogation of responsibility by the City Council. Your job is to make decisions, not to encourage a make-believe consensus when none can be found. There simply is no way to reconcile both-sides on-street parking with car-free bike lanes (and, by the way, the rest of the world views parking in bike lanes as an oxymoron). A decision either way would have been better than the mess you left us with — and cyclists are getting hurt already as a result.
I urge you to learn from this horrible mistake, and remember that your job is to make the tough decisions. Shoal Creek Boulevard has already been ruined for bicycling commuters – please don’t take this precedent anywhere else.
Regards,
Michael E. Dahmus



So I spend a lot of time on this blog which is a stunning waste of time, online since the commenters are disproportionately the simplistic wing of the libertarian party, anabolics with a handful of SwiftBoat types trolling from the Republicans. A brou-ha-ha there completely unrelated to markets (for once) reminded me that I meant to write this article, so here you go.
I’ve always been interested in, but not really affiliated with, libertarianism. Unlike the leftists that most of the suburban Republicans at my last job think I’m one of, I believe in the market. When things don’t work out, I usually look for market distortions first, rather than simply believing that capitalism is evil or that the market doesn’t ‘work’. The market is a tool, like a really good computer; it produces optimal outcomes if it has very good information, but sometimes doesn’t do as well with inaccurate or incomplete data. Most ills in our society, I think, can be fixed by improving those inputs, rather than through more onerous regulation.
Personally, I find looking at the imperfections of markets a very interesting thing, and am disappointed at how often self-identified libertarians fall back into an eighth-grade “market didn’t do X therefore no demand for X” philosophy. Essentially, they either don’t believe in or haven’t even HEARD of externalities, network effects, the “race to the bottom”, etc.
This applies especially to the various smoking bans being passed all over the country. (Pretend I’m talking about restaurants here rather than bars; I’m uncomfortable with a total ban on smoking in bars, but was very happy to ban it in restaurants). Short summary: the market didn’t provide any non-smoking airlines before the government made them go non-smoking; in most cities non-smoking restaurants were trivial embarassments until smoking bans passed. The simplistic view is to say that people didn’t value (non-smoking) more than (eating-out-at-all) or (flying), and this is technically true. But is it useful when you’re staring down the barrel of a referendum that you’re about to lose? Probably not – which is when it would be helpful, I think, to study the issue and find out WHY so few businesses made the switch before being forced, even given apparent overwhelming customer preference.
And then there’s the ‘remedy’ – again, the simplistic view is to say ‘do nothing’, but the voters in that referendum are going to ‘do something’ for you if you keep messing around. For a brief time, Julian Sanchez at least was willing to explore alternative ways to, in DC, provide more non-smoking venues, but he’s in the minority among the “Ban the Ban” types. To me, using the government’s incentive power to encourage movement towards what appears to be a huge consumer preference anyways is a legitimate use of power – the market is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Why don’t more people think of “how can I encourage the market to solve this problem” instead of “oh well, the market doesn’t want it”?
In reference to Austin’s bar smoking ban, I’d much rather have used the market to gently push a greater portion of live music venues and other bars towards non-smoking and still have some smoking bars available for the portion of the population that wants to smoke and drink; but the ban-the-ban-ers weren’t willing to listen to the “hey, a hell of a lot of people want to see music and not breathe smoke; why isn’t the market providing any of these kinds of venues” arguments, so they got a full-on ban.
In other words, with reference to the bar ban in Austin, I’d be most satisfied if substantial chunks of real live music venues existed in BOTH smoking and non-smoking camps. I’m not happy that there will be essentially zero smoking bars; this is heavy-handed regulation. But to say that the only other alternative was the status quo, i.e., NO non-smoking music venues or bars, is basically handing the referendum a guaranteed victory.
Economists study this stuff; I would think that libertarians, who believe in the market, would want to do it as well. It remains a mystery to me why so few are interested in figuring this stuff out.

Largely as expected – council members want to remove the islands, visit this site and then were going to talk some more about what to do. Some indications that they’re either not willing to admit or not capable of understanding that a compromise solution is impossible for this roadway. Neighborhood people largely against the curb extensions but still adamant that parking on both sides must be preserved — which means that we’re back to bike lanes with parking in them, tablets which pretty much the entire rest of the world views as an oxymoron.
Here’s the letter I just sent to the three council members on the subcommittee:

Councilmembers:
I watched most of the meeting today while working at my desk, this site and had a couple of comments:
1. 2-way on-street bike lanes are not accepted in traffic engineering circles and have not for quite some time. They will not be an option for Shoal Creek Boulevard unless you want to override your staff.
2. Bike lanes down the median – same story.
3. A reminder: We already know there is no way to reconcile “parking on both sides” with “car-free bike lanes” on this street. There is insufficient width. Either one or more bike lanes must be abandoned, or one or more sides of parking must be abandoned.
Comments that you made in regards to #3 were especially disappointing – the failure of the previous council was in attempting to avoid this painful choice, which MUST be made. EITHER car-free bike lanes OR parking on both sides – you cannot have both. I would argue that the correct choice is to preserve on-street parking on ONE side of Shoal Creek Boulevard – this is not an unreasonable imposition on residents (my own neighborhood has highly restricted on-street parking; many streets allow it on one side and a few not at all).
Regards,
Mike Dahmus
mdahmus@io.com

A lot of folks (especially Stuart Werbner and Preston Tyree, angina who normally do a lot of good work for the cycling community) fell hard for the position that “the problem on Shoal Creek Boulevard isn’t the bike lanes, prothesis it’s the traffic speed”. Since this position continues to rear its ugly head in discussions before and after yesterday’s meeting, viagra here I thought I’d address it here.
The key is that all other things being equal, higher car speeds do indeed result in less safety for nearby cyclists and pedestrians. This is unquestionably true.
The problem is that all things aren’t equal. This picture shows a cyclist trying to pass a parked vehicle at the same time he is being passed by a moving vehicle. It doesn’t matter if the passing vehicle is going 45 or 25; if the cyclist veers out unexpectedly into the through lane and is hit, they’re in bad, bad, BAD shape. (Note: you have to imagine that the stripe between the 4-foot ‘bike lane’ and 6-foot ‘parking lane’ isn’t there to match the current conditions on SCB).
Likewise, this infamous accident happened despite the fact that the conflicting vehicle’s speed was 0 MPH and the vehicle which ended up killing her wasn’t going very fast either.
On the other hand, hundreds of cyclists use Loop 360 every day with no conflicts with motorists. Automobile speed in the through lanes of that roadway is typically around 60 MPH.
What can we conclude? Traffic engineering seeks to avoid presenting users with unexpected conflicts; and having a cyclist veer out into the travel lane when the motorist in that lane thinks they’re not going to have to is the very definition of unexpected. A safe pass by a car going 40 is far preferrable to a collision with a car going 30.
How does this apply to Shoal Creek Boulevard? It’s clear to me at least that the original city plan probably wouldn’t have reduced automobile speeds much, but definitely would have resulted in fewer conflicts with cyclists who need to leave the bike lane to get around obstructions. As on Loop 360, if you rarely need to leave the bicycle facility, you don’t need to worry as much about the speed of the cars in the lane next to you.
Another thing Preston in particular got wrong was the theory that riding on Shoal Creek is ‘easy’ once you ‘learn’ how to pass. Even for an experienced cyclist like myself, the conflict with motorists during a pass is irritating (the motorists don’t understand why I go into the travel lane and are sometimes aggressive in expressing their displeasure). For a novice cyclist, it’s likely to be so intimidating that they will (unwisely) stay in the far-too-narrow space between the white stripe and the parked car, and someday soon somebody’s going to get killed that way.
Finally, of critical importance to the City of Austin is the following paragraph, excerpted from a detailed analysis of the Laird case in Boston:

The City might be held negligent for creating what is called in legal language an “attractive nuisance” — that is, a baited trap. Ample evidence exists that the City of Cambridge had been notified of the hazards of bike lanes in the “door zone” before the Massachusetts Avenue lane was striped, yet the City continued to stripe them.

This is basically why Shoal Creek Boulevard doesn’t have bike lanes today, it has a “multipurpose shoulder”. Unknown whether this will do enough to shield Austin from liability in the event of an accident, but cyclists ought to think about this when you decide to ride on this facility.

Shoal Creek Meeting Is Done

Even though he turned out to be the best possible president for that period in time (he and the Congress restrained each others’ worst impulses): drug law hypocrisy.

I can’t stress the point of this editorial enough. In issues from global climate change to evolution education, viagra 100mg the Republicans are abusing the “report both sides” mentality of the media to present crackpot crap on an equal footing with real science, and it needs to stop. Now.

Steve Casburn is finally online in Portland and is telling a familiar story – the bad bicyclist tale of woe. What I hear on the libertarian sites that I spend an unhealthy amount of time on is that Portland is a hellhole on the verge of collapse. Hopefully Steve, sales (who somehow got deluded by the liberal media into moving there without even having a job in advance) will survive the post-apocalyptic urban-planning wasteland. At least there’s fewer fat people there.

Continuing my recent theme of pointing to other works that explain my thinking, pharm here’s a quite good explanation of why suburban sprawl isn’t natural; isn’t the result of consumer ‘choice’; and isn’t healthy. Highly recommended. The only thing I’d add is the role of irresponsible inner city neighborhoods in preventing cities from doing responsible things to promote infill.
The idea that suburban sprawl is just a natural ‘choice’ ignores the reality that without the massive subsidies and regulatory restrictions which prevent anything ELSE from being built, more about a large minority of current suburbanites would actually live in neighborhoods like mine. All you need to do is see how cities developed before WWII, i.e., before the advent of both zoning and automobile subsidies (when there were plenty of cars, just not massive subsidies for their use by suburbanites).
I promise I’ll get to my Pfluger Bridge stuff next week.

Kevin Drum likes CAFE. He believes that gas taxes are highly regressive. He’s wrong. But which one ‘works’ better? His argument rests on the last 5 years of generally rising fuel prices versus vehicle sales.
The problem is that the rise in fuel prices recently has been seen by most Americans as the result of gouging, read more or the result of storms, infection or hippie environmentalists or <insert other crazy reason>. Key here is that all of those things are temporary. Now, if you’re one of the few people who follows the real oil situation you know that we’re probably in for a period of ever-higher spikes and plateaus (with intervening drops due to recessions, perhaps), but most people don’t know this stuff.
If you think the last couple of years are an anomaly, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a fuel-efficient car. Therefore, using that period as an example of how higher fuel prices don’t affect vehicle choice as much as CAFE did is foolish. Better to look at Europe, where CAFE-like standards don’t really exist; but at the time of vehicle purchase, it is understood that gas taxes are very high and likely to stay that way.
Anyways, CAFE doesn’t work half as well as a high baseline for gas prices does. The real reason? Once you buy your car, if gas prices/taxes are low, there’s no real incentive to leave it in the driveway on any given day. With higher gas prices/taxes, however, there is an incentive to leave it at home and take the bus, or carpool, or whatever.
Addressed as a quickie since so many people around the interweb keep repeating this canard.

For all the Grover “drown it in a bathtub” Norquists of the world; for all the self-identified libertarians (except when it comes to paying to drive); for all the suburbanites who think they pay too much in taxes as they itemize their McMansion’s mortgage deductions;
These last few days show clearly why we have, cheapest and need, medical a Federal Government. Local and state resources are clearly not enough, and the Feds are failing to do their job. Draw whatever conclusion you will, but Norquist deserves special scorn.

(at least, advice not regressive across the spectrum) – as I’ve argued here and here, sale the gas tax doesn’t hit the poor that hard; it mostly hits the exurban parts of the middle class and leaves the rich alone. From my original article on the subject:

The supposed regressive nature of the gas tax is a fallacy – in fact, poor people spend far less proportionally on gasoline than do the upper-middle-class.
The gas tax isn’t purely progressive; though; the very rich actually spend less proportionally than do the upper-middle-class, due to their tendency to be either in the few healthy downtowns, or less need to drive overall.

Here’s another link I found today which asserts the same:


“A subsidy to new vehicles would be regressive. A tax on
gasoline is not regressive across the lowest incomes but is regressive from middle to high
incomes.”

Note that the internet is replete with sites which say that the gas tax is regressive, but the only articles or studies which actually include any supporting arguments are the few that claim that it isn’t regressive. This leads me to believe that the gas tax ISN’T regressive, for the reasons previously discussed, and that the ‘conventional wisdom’ is wrong here.
This is timely because of a current thread on Environmental Economics on this very subject. Amazingly, I’ve now provided THREE links which are credible and contain supporting evidence for the claim that the gas tax isn’t regressive across-the-board; for the most part blind assertion is still the only support for the ‘regressive’ position. Moral: Conventional Wisdom is hard to fight, even when it’s wrong.

Been posting to the blog Hammer of Judgement in comments, decease but thought I ought to excerpt the last comment here too:

#1: It doesn’t matter WHY they drive less, if you’re just measuring the regressivity of the gas tax. Whether it’s because they don’t have to, don’t want to, or CAN’T is irrelevant.
#2: Texas “highway system” comprises only roads with route shields on them, and even then, substantial donations in the form of property and sales taxes are required these days to get anything built. In addition, in Texas, most major arterials inside cities are NOT part of the state highway system, and thus get ZERO gas tax dollars.
This is not something you want to dispute me on, it’s the closest thing to a specialty I have. Here’s some starter links for you:
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000173.html
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000164.html
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000122.html
pictures:
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000117.html
entire category:
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/cat_funding_of_transportation.html
#3: On anectdotes – the studies I cited aren’t available in their full form on the web (to me or you), but they go WAY beyond anectdotal data, since there are real studies behind those quotes, unlike most of the people who assert the gas tax’ regressivity.
#4: I don’t know where the 15% figure comes from; but even if true, the STATED REASON most people harp on the supposed regressivity of the gas tax is concern for the poorest people, not the middle class. Thus, showing that it’s regressive across middle and high incomes but NOT low incomes serves to refute the essential point.

Note that I cover the topic of roadway funding extensively in this category, including “what roads get gas taxes and what don’t”, “how do we pay for major roads”, “why does the state effectively subsidize the suburbs through the gas tax”, etc.

A subcommittee of the City Council is getting some kind of an update on the Shoal Creek Debacle. I just sent this email to them.


Dear Mayor and councilmembers:
My name is Mike Dahmus, viagra buy and I served on the Urban Transportation Commission from 2000 through 2005. I cast the lone vote in opposition to the plan which (with modifications) ended up being constructed on Shoal Creek Boulevard. During my terms on the UTC, doctor I served as the lone member who utilized both an automobile and a bicycle to commute to work — i.e., bronchi I’m not a pure cyclist, and I’m not a pure driver. I used Shoal Creek Boulevard as part of my bicycle commute for years and occasionally drove it as well.
I understand you’re going to address this issue in a subcommittee meeting this week, and I thought I should comment.
For those of you who don’t bicycle; Shoal Creek Boulevard is, without hyperbole, the most important route in the city for bicycle commuters. (It has a lot of recreational traffic as well, of course). It forms the spine of the route between northwest Austin and central Austin – alternate routes either are far too hilly for normal use (to the west) or do not connect with routes which can get cyclists across the Mopac/183/360 barrier.
Years back, Shoal Creek’s turn came up in the “let’s do what every other city does and put up no-parking signs in our bike lanes” process. Since the bike program staff at the time knew that Shoal Creek had long blocks and (some) short driveways, they offered a compromise plan which would have allowed parking on one side of the road, with smaller-than-typical bike lanes on both sides. This plan was opposed by the neighborhoods, for whom on-street parking was the priority over through cyclist travel.
Years ago, thanks to neighborhood pressure, Shoal Creek Boulevard was reclassified from a minor arterial to a residential collector (an inappropriately low classification by engineering standards). This allowed the neighborhood to then push back against that eminently reasonable plan to allow parking only on one side of the street (neighborhood partisans could declare that SCB was a ‘residential street’ and that therefore parking was more important than through traffic). The bike program plan was rejected thanks to a few neighbors who valued both-sides on-street parking more than cyclist safety.
At this point, as I’m sure many of you remember, the neighborhoods got Councilmember Goodman’s approval to start a planning process which ended with the absurd plan by Charles Gandy which none of your engineers would sign their name to, and which made Austin a laughingstock in other cities around the country. The modified version of that plan (removing the stripe between the ‘bike lane’ and the parking area) is nearly as ludicrous, but since it’s not marked as a ‘bike lane’ is nominally acceptable to engineers, I suppose.
The Shoal Creek Boulevard plan as implemented is a liability problem for the city of Austin (although not as bad as the original Gandy “10-4-6” plan would have been, since city engineers were smart enough to remove the “bike lane” designation). Sufficient space does not exist for a cyclist to safely pass parked cars and remain in the bike lane, yet drivers in the through traffic lane expect them to do so. This is a textbook example of bad traffic engineering (when one street user performs a safe and legal manuever, another street user should not be caught by surprise).
This isn’t about the curb islands, by the way. The safety obstacle for cyclists is parked cars. The curb islands must be passed in a fairly narrow space, but there’s zero chance that one of them is going to open their door while you’re passing it.
But what the curb islands and striping HAVE done is encourage more people to park on the street; increasing the frequency of the street user conflict which will eventually result in a serious injury – a car passing a cyclist while the cyclist is passing a parked car.
This entire process was nothing more than an abrogation of responsibility by the City Council. Your job is to make decisions, not to encourage a make-believe consensus when none can be found. There simply is no way to reconcile both-sides on-street parking with car-free bike lanes (and, by the way, the rest of the world views parking in bike lanes as an oxymoron). A decision either way would have been better than the mess you left us with — and cyclists are getting hurt already as a result.
I urge you to learn from this horrible mistake, and remember that your job is to make the tough decisions. Shoal Creek Boulevard has already been ruined for bicycling commuters – please don’t take this precedent anywhere else.
Regards,
Michael E. Dahmus



So I spend a lot of time on this blog which is a stunning waste of time, online since the commenters are disproportionately the simplistic wing of the libertarian party, anabolics with a handful of SwiftBoat types trolling from the Republicans. A brou-ha-ha there completely unrelated to markets (for once) reminded me that I meant to write this article, so here you go.
I’ve always been interested in, but not really affiliated with, libertarianism. Unlike the leftists that most of the suburban Republicans at my last job think I’m one of, I believe in the market. When things don’t work out, I usually look for market distortions first, rather than simply believing that capitalism is evil or that the market doesn’t ‘work’. The market is a tool, like a really good computer; it produces optimal outcomes if it has very good information, but sometimes doesn’t do as well with inaccurate or incomplete data. Most ills in our society, I think, can be fixed by improving those inputs, rather than through more onerous regulation.
Personally, I find looking at the imperfections of markets a very interesting thing, and am disappointed at how often self-identified libertarians fall back into an eighth-grade “market didn’t do X therefore no demand for X” philosophy. Essentially, they either don’t believe in or haven’t even HEARD of externalities, network effects, the “race to the bottom”, etc.
This applies especially to the various smoking bans being passed all over the country. (Pretend I’m talking about restaurants here rather than bars; I’m uncomfortable with a total ban on smoking in bars, but was very happy to ban it in restaurants). Short summary: the market didn’t provide any non-smoking airlines before the government made them go non-smoking; in most cities non-smoking restaurants were trivial embarassments until smoking bans passed. The simplistic view is to say that people didn’t value (non-smoking) more than (eating-out-at-all) or (flying), and this is technically true. But is it useful when you’re staring down the barrel of a referendum that you’re about to lose? Probably not – which is when it would be helpful, I think, to study the issue and find out WHY so few businesses made the switch before being forced, even given apparent overwhelming customer preference.
And then there’s the ‘remedy’ – again, the simplistic view is to say ‘do nothing’, but the voters in that referendum are going to ‘do something’ for you if you keep messing around. For a brief time, Julian Sanchez at least was willing to explore alternative ways to, in DC, provide more non-smoking venues, but he’s in the minority among the “Ban the Ban” types. To me, using the government’s incentive power to encourage movement towards what appears to be a huge consumer preference anyways is a legitimate use of power – the market is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Why don’t more people think of “how can I encourage the market to solve this problem” instead of “oh well, the market doesn’t want it”?
In reference to Austin’s bar smoking ban, I’d much rather have used the market to gently push a greater portion of live music venues and other bars towards non-smoking and still have some smoking bars available for the portion of the population that wants to smoke and drink; but the ban-the-ban-ers weren’t willing to listen to the “hey, a hell of a lot of people want to see music and not breathe smoke; why isn’t the market providing any of these kinds of venues” arguments, so they got a full-on ban.
In other words, with reference to the bar ban in Austin, I’d be most satisfied if substantial chunks of real live music venues existed in BOTH smoking and non-smoking camps. I’m not happy that there will be essentially zero smoking bars; this is heavy-handed regulation. But to say that the only other alternative was the status quo, i.e., NO non-smoking music venues or bars, is basically handing the referendum a guaranteed victory.
Economists study this stuff; I would think that libertarians, who believe in the market, would want to do it as well. It remains a mystery to me why so few are interested in figuring this stuff out.

Largely as expected – council members want to remove the islands, visit this site and then were going to talk some more about what to do. Some indications that they’re either not willing to admit or not capable of understanding that a compromise solution is impossible for this roadway. Neighborhood people largely against the curb extensions but still adamant that parking on both sides must be preserved — which means that we’re back to bike lanes with parking in them, tablets which pretty much the entire rest of the world views as an oxymoron.
Here’s the letter I just sent to the three council members on the subcommittee:

Councilmembers:
I watched most of the meeting today while working at my desk, this site and had a couple of comments:
1. 2-way on-street bike lanes are not accepted in traffic engineering circles and have not for quite some time. They will not be an option for Shoal Creek Boulevard unless you want to override your staff.
2. Bike lanes down the median – same story.
3. A reminder: We already know there is no way to reconcile “parking on both sides” with “car-free bike lanes” on this street. There is insufficient width. Either one or more bike lanes must be abandoned, or one or more sides of parking must be abandoned.
Comments that you made in regards to #3 were especially disappointing – the failure of the previous council was in attempting to avoid this painful choice, which MUST be made. EITHER car-free bike lanes OR parking on both sides – you cannot have both. I would argue that the correct choice is to preserve on-street parking on ONE side of Shoal Creek Boulevard – this is not an unreasonable imposition on residents (my own neighborhood has highly restricted on-street parking; many streets allow it on one side and a few not at all).
Regards,
Mike Dahmus
mdahmus@io.com

Letter to Council on Shoal Creek Debacle

Even though he turned out to be the best possible president for that period in time (he and the Congress restrained each others’ worst impulses): drug law hypocrisy.

I can’t stress the point of this editorial enough. In issues from global climate change to evolution education, viagra 100mg the Republicans are abusing the “report both sides” mentality of the media to present crackpot crap on an equal footing with real science, and it needs to stop. Now.

Steve Casburn is finally online in Portland and is telling a familiar story – the bad bicyclist tale of woe. What I hear on the libertarian sites that I spend an unhealthy amount of time on is that Portland is a hellhole on the verge of collapse. Hopefully Steve, sales (who somehow got deluded by the liberal media into moving there without even having a job in advance) will survive the post-apocalyptic urban-planning wasteland. At least there’s fewer fat people there.

Continuing my recent theme of pointing to other works that explain my thinking, pharm here’s a quite good explanation of why suburban sprawl isn’t natural; isn’t the result of consumer ‘choice’; and isn’t healthy. Highly recommended. The only thing I’d add is the role of irresponsible inner city neighborhoods in preventing cities from doing responsible things to promote infill.
The idea that suburban sprawl is just a natural ‘choice’ ignores the reality that without the massive subsidies and regulatory restrictions which prevent anything ELSE from being built, more about a large minority of current suburbanites would actually live in neighborhoods like mine. All you need to do is see how cities developed before WWII, i.e., before the advent of both zoning and automobile subsidies (when there were plenty of cars, just not massive subsidies for their use by suburbanites).
I promise I’ll get to my Pfluger Bridge stuff next week.

Kevin Drum likes CAFE. He believes that gas taxes are highly regressive. He’s wrong. But which one ‘works’ better? His argument rests on the last 5 years of generally rising fuel prices versus vehicle sales.
The problem is that the rise in fuel prices recently has been seen by most Americans as the result of gouging, read more or the result of storms, infection or hippie environmentalists or <insert other crazy reason>. Key here is that all of those things are temporary. Now, if you’re one of the few people who follows the real oil situation you know that we’re probably in for a period of ever-higher spikes and plateaus (with intervening drops due to recessions, perhaps), but most people don’t know this stuff.
If you think the last couple of years are an anomaly, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a fuel-efficient car. Therefore, using that period as an example of how higher fuel prices don’t affect vehicle choice as much as CAFE did is foolish. Better to look at Europe, where CAFE-like standards don’t really exist; but at the time of vehicle purchase, it is understood that gas taxes are very high and likely to stay that way.
Anyways, CAFE doesn’t work half as well as a high baseline for gas prices does. The real reason? Once you buy your car, if gas prices/taxes are low, there’s no real incentive to leave it in the driveway on any given day. With higher gas prices/taxes, however, there is an incentive to leave it at home and take the bus, or carpool, or whatever.
Addressed as a quickie since so many people around the interweb keep repeating this canard.

For all the Grover “drown it in a bathtub” Norquists of the world; for all the self-identified libertarians (except when it comes to paying to drive); for all the suburbanites who think they pay too much in taxes as they itemize their McMansion’s mortgage deductions;
These last few days show clearly why we have, cheapest and need, medical a Federal Government. Local and state resources are clearly not enough, and the Feds are failing to do their job. Draw whatever conclusion you will, but Norquist deserves special scorn.

(at least, advice not regressive across the spectrum) – as I’ve argued here and here, sale the gas tax doesn’t hit the poor that hard; it mostly hits the exurban parts of the middle class and leaves the rich alone. From my original article on the subject:

The supposed regressive nature of the gas tax is a fallacy – in fact, poor people spend far less proportionally on gasoline than do the upper-middle-class.
The gas tax isn’t purely progressive; though; the very rich actually spend less proportionally than do the upper-middle-class, due to their tendency to be either in the few healthy downtowns, or less need to drive overall.

Here’s another link I found today which asserts the same:


“A subsidy to new vehicles would be regressive. A tax on
gasoline is not regressive across the lowest incomes but is regressive from middle to high
incomes.”

Note that the internet is replete with sites which say that the gas tax is regressive, but the only articles or studies which actually include any supporting arguments are the few that claim that it isn’t regressive. This leads me to believe that the gas tax ISN’T regressive, for the reasons previously discussed, and that the ‘conventional wisdom’ is wrong here.
This is timely because of a current thread on Environmental Economics on this very subject. Amazingly, I’ve now provided THREE links which are credible and contain supporting evidence for the claim that the gas tax isn’t regressive across-the-board; for the most part blind assertion is still the only support for the ‘regressive’ position. Moral: Conventional Wisdom is hard to fight, even when it’s wrong.

Been posting to the blog Hammer of Judgement in comments, decease but thought I ought to excerpt the last comment here too:

#1: It doesn’t matter WHY they drive less, if you’re just measuring the regressivity of the gas tax. Whether it’s because they don’t have to, don’t want to, or CAN’T is irrelevant.
#2: Texas “highway system” comprises only roads with route shields on them, and even then, substantial donations in the form of property and sales taxes are required these days to get anything built. In addition, in Texas, most major arterials inside cities are NOT part of the state highway system, and thus get ZERO gas tax dollars.
This is not something you want to dispute me on, it’s the closest thing to a specialty I have. Here’s some starter links for you:
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000173.html
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000164.html
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000122.html
pictures:
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000117.html
entire category:
http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/cat_funding_of_transportation.html
#3: On anectdotes – the studies I cited aren’t available in their full form on the web (to me or you), but they go WAY beyond anectdotal data, since there are real studies behind those quotes, unlike most of the people who assert the gas tax’ regressivity.
#4: I don’t know where the 15% figure comes from; but even if true, the STATED REASON most people harp on the supposed regressivity of the gas tax is concern for the poorest people, not the middle class. Thus, showing that it’s regressive across middle and high incomes but NOT low incomes serves to refute the essential point.

Note that I cover the topic of roadway funding extensively in this category, including “what roads get gas taxes and what don’t”, “how do we pay for major roads”, “why does the state effectively subsidize the suburbs through the gas tax”, etc.

A subcommittee of the City Council is getting some kind of an update on the Shoal Creek Debacle. I just sent this email to them.


Dear Mayor and councilmembers:
My name is Mike Dahmus, viagra buy and I served on the Urban Transportation Commission from 2000 through 2005. I cast the lone vote in opposition to the plan which (with modifications) ended up being constructed on Shoal Creek Boulevard. During my terms on the UTC, doctor I served as the lone member who utilized both an automobile and a bicycle to commute to work — i.e., bronchi I’m not a pure cyclist, and I’m not a pure driver. I used Shoal Creek Boulevard as part of my bicycle commute for years and occasionally drove it as well.
I understand you’re going to address this issue in a subcommittee meeting this week, and I thought I should comment.
For those of you who don’t bicycle; Shoal Creek Boulevard is, without hyperbole, the most important route in the city for bicycle commuters. (It has a lot of recreational traffic as well, of course). It forms the spine of the route between northwest Austin and central Austin – alternate routes either are far too hilly for normal use (to the west) or do not connect with routes which can get cyclists across the Mopac/183/360 barrier.
Years back, Shoal Creek’s turn came up in the “let’s do what every other city does and put up no-parking signs in our bike lanes” process. Since the bike program staff at the time knew that Shoal Creek had long blocks and (some) short driveways, they offered a compromise plan which would have allowed parking on one side of the road, with smaller-than-typical bike lanes on both sides. This plan was opposed by the neighborhoods, for whom on-street parking was the priority over through cyclist travel.
Years ago, thanks to neighborhood pressure, Shoal Creek Boulevard was reclassified from a minor arterial to a residential collector (an inappropriately low classification by engineering standards). This allowed the neighborhood to then push back against that eminently reasonable plan to allow parking only on one side of the street (neighborhood partisans could declare that SCB was a ‘residential street’ and that therefore parking was more important than through traffic). The bike program plan was rejected thanks to a few neighbors who valued both-sides on-street parking more than cyclist safety.
At this point, as I’m sure many of you remember, the neighborhoods got Councilmember Goodman’s approval to start a planning process which ended with the absurd plan by Charles Gandy which none of your engineers would sign their name to, and which made Austin a laughingstock in other cities around the country. The modified version of that plan (removing the stripe between the ‘bike lane’ and the parking area) is nearly as ludicrous, but since it’s not marked as a ‘bike lane’ is nominally acceptable to engineers, I suppose.
The Shoal Creek Boulevard plan as implemented is a liability problem for the city of Austin (although not as bad as the original Gandy “10-4-6” plan would have been, since city engineers were smart enough to remove the “bike lane” designation). Sufficient space does not exist for a cyclist to safely pass parked cars and remain in the bike lane, yet drivers in the through traffic lane expect them to do so. This is a textbook example of bad traffic engineering (when one street user performs a safe and legal manuever, another street user should not be caught by surprise).
This isn’t about the curb islands, by the way. The safety obstacle for cyclists is parked cars. The curb islands must be passed in a fairly narrow space, but there’s zero chance that one of them is going to open their door while you’re passing it.
But what the curb islands and striping HAVE done is encourage more people to park on the street; increasing the frequency of the street user conflict which will eventually result in a serious injury – a car passing a cyclist while the cyclist is passing a parked car.
This entire process was nothing more than an abrogation of responsibility by the City Council. Your job is to make decisions, not to encourage a make-believe consensus when none can be found. There simply is no way to reconcile both-sides on-street parking with car-free bike lanes (and, by the way, the rest of the world views parking in bike lanes as an oxymoron). A decision either way would have been better than the mess you left us with — and cyclists are getting hurt already as a result.
I urge you to learn from this horrible mistake, and remember that your job is to make the tough decisions. Shoal Creek Boulevard has already been ruined for bicycling commuters – please don’t take this precedent anywhere else.
Regards,
Michael E. Dahmus



Shoal Creek Update – May 17, 2005

I biked home from work on Tuesday (Too bad it’s Bike To Work Week, Not Bike From Work Week!) and went down Shoal Creek from Anderson to 41st. Report at the end.

The Chronicle has covered the recent brou-ha-ha, and kudos on the title. I have submitted a crackpot letter (check in a couple of days) which attempts to correct the misinterpretation of Lane’s excellent soundbite (the obstructions he refers to are the parked cars, not the curb extensions).

The ride home was pretty good, actually. About five passing manuevers were necessary, and on two of them I had a motorist stuck behind me; and neither one showed evidence that they were perturbed. Definitely above par for the new striping. I wish I could believe that the motorists are getting the message about the necessity to take the lane to get around parked cars, but the comments from the neighbors at that meeting lead me to believe that I was just lucky to get a couple of reasonable motorists this time.