Portland's Emissions Omission

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In early July, Portland, Oregon, was getting mega-props in the media for reducing its carbon emissions below 1990 levels–the target for reduction set by the Kyoto Protocol–while booming economically. As the NY Times' Nicholas Kristof bloviated:

Officials in Portland insist that the campaign to cut emissions has entailed no significant economic price, and on the contrary has brought the city huge benefits: less tax money spent on energy, more convenient transportation, a greener city and expertise in energy efficiency that is helping local businesses win contracts worldwide….

Portland's experience is so crucial. It confirms the suggestions of some economists that we can take initial steps against global warming without economic disruptions. Then in a decade or two, we can decide whether to proceed with other, costlier steps….

Perhaps eventually we will face hard trade-offs. But for now Portland shows we can help our planet without "wrecking" our economy–indeed, at no significant cost at all.

Whole account here.

Tastes great and less filling? What's not to like? Well, this for starters:

In response to data requests from the Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank, the [Office of Sustainable Development] admitted that a math error resulted in a 2004 carbon dioxide calculation that was 74,561 tons too low. The re-stated total puts Multnomah County above the 1990 levels by more than 68,000 tons.

What's more, Cascade's prez, John Charles, argues that, beyond bad math, there are more basic methodological flaws that lead to an undercounting of transportation-related emissions. "Portland's claim of painlessly reducing carbon dioxide has been repeated over and over by journalists, bloggers, and even some scientists for the past month, without any attempt to verify the accuracy of the OSD's report," he writes. "In fact, actual carbon emissions have been well above the level claimed by Portland, and any regulatory program imposed by the government to lower emissions to pre-1990 levels is going to be costly to consumers, something elected officials apparently don't understand."

Despite acknowledging the flawed data, the OSD has kept the report up at its Web site. No word on when Kristof might revisit the topic.

For the Cascade press release, go here. For its analysis of the OSD report, go here. For the original OSD report, go here.

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  1. Yeah, sure, Portland is such a wonderfully clean place. Care for a swim in the Willamette or Blue Lake?

    And then there’s the wonderful smell of Camas, which I’m inhaling even as I type.

  2. Color me unimpressed. Cascade is throwing up a bunch of stuff to see what will stick – for instance, gasoline sales in neighboring county up a lot != Portland drivers leaving Portland to buy gas there; it’s much more likely due to residential growth in that county.

    And Cascade, for those who don’t know, is essentially a low-rent version of Wendell Cox’s outfit or techcentralstation – they’re liars-for-hire, in other words.

    There’s many ways to draw the line between what’s “Portland’s” emissions and what isn’t, and of course, Cascade takes the most expansive possible view to explain why the current numbers are unreasonably low (even after correction), while refusing to go back and do the same for the baseline numbers being compared against.

    For those of you who tend to take Reason’s word for this stuff, Portland really is renowned for being the star of new urbanism, and yes, people really do ride light rail there, in droves.

  3. Heck, even the canines take a trip from time to time.

  4. it’s much more likely due to residential growth in that county.

    And that residential growth might have something to do with the growth restrictions in Portland.

  5. M1EK,

    That’s a nice, unsubstantiated charge–calling Cascade “liars for hire” when Portland’s own Office of Sustainable Development has admitted a substantial error in its own work.

    Yes, unlike in a lot of cities, light-rail ridership is growing in Portland. So is overall public transit use as a percentage of automobile traffic. According to Randal O’Toole of the Thoreau Institute (yes, M1, go ahead and slag him too), public transit of all kinds (bus and rail) now equal 2.3 percent of the passenger miles of motorized travel. That’s up from 1.8 percent in 1986, when the first light rail lines opened up. The bad news, according to O’Toole? In 1982, the share of public transit miles equaled 2.6 percent of motorized travel.

    More here for those who are interested.

  6. “passenger miles” being the measure the sprawl lobby likes to cite, because it makes the longer automobile commutes imposed by inefficient growth patterns look like evidence that driving is becoming more popular.

  7. I buy that some people find the costs of imposing the regulations tolerable. I don’t buy that there are no costs.

  8. Dammit, not another light rail thread. Pollution! Lets talk about pollution!

  9. Even if I were to buy the “inefficient growth patterns” mantra, wouldn’t the inefficency only apply to rail since the lines are inflexible? Buses can serve such growth areas. So why don’t they?

  10. Russ D, the inefficiency I refer to is in the locaiton of homes, businesses, and public facilities.

    Buses can, physically, serve such areas – they can drive up and down the roads all they want. However, the low densities and long streets make it difficult to do so in an economic manner.

  11. Joe, what the hell are you talking about when you say sprawl lobby? I’m going to guess you’ve never been to Portland before. (The OR one, I mean. Since that’s the one in question.)

    The Max is an interesting study. It’s a nice ride, but it turned some (formerly) clean suburbs in to gangland.

  12. Nick:

    “Yes, unlike in a lot of cities, light-rail ridership is growing in Portland”

    Name “a lot of cities” where light-rail ridership is not growing. Or retract.

    You have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to transit.

  13. And by the way, O’Toole is as much of a “liar for hire” as Cox and apparently Cascade. See recent brouhaha in Denver where he tried to claim that rail was a disaster because rail ridership had dropped (turns out it dropped because of bus bridges routing passengers around construction — construction linked to the expansion of Denver’s rail network recently overwhelmingly approved by Denver voters).

    The willingness of you reason guys to side with liars like O’Toole and Cox is why it’s awfully hard to take you seriously when you claim not to be suburban Republicans who just like to smoke pot.

  14. I guess to expound, over here in Or-uh-Gun, the land use is done by county. But the Portland metro area is made up of three counties, so Portland city planners can’t do a goddamn thing about most of the suburban “sprawl.” Especially since most of the outlining counties are run by people you might term hicks. There are cattle farms 12 miles from the city center. It’s just not that huge of a metropolis.

  15. Calling everyone who disagrees with your view on transit a liar and demanding retractions is probably not going to persuade many people who don’t already agree with you. Believe it or not it is possible to feel that most money spent on lightrail is a colossal waste and not be a “liar for hire” although that is a nice turn of a phrase.

    As to ridership numbers, whether they are going up or down (and quite frankly it is almost impossible for them to go much lower) is largely irrelevant to the bigger question: is building ligh-trail lines is a good deal for taxpayers? You can spend billions on a rail system that is very nice for the tiny minority of all commuters who use it, and that tiny minority will probably love it, and sure, it might even grow a bit. But, it always is and always will be a tiny minority nonetheless. So instead of calling people liars you need to justify forcing other people to pay for your transit by spending vast sums of taxpayer money on something that, relatively speaking, hardly anyone uses.

  16. Dear M1,

    Some cities with declining light rail ridership (in 2003): Buffalo, Philly, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego.

    And btw, do you concede that Portland’s OSD fudged its numbers re: carbon emissions? And if you do, are they liars for hire? Or just mistaken?

    See you on the DC Metro’s Red Line.

  17. Buffalo

    A city whose toniest suburb, Amherst, refused entry to said light rail line because of “gangland” concerns that kmw alluded to above. The line was meant to connect to the State University which was purposely built in the burbs to keep it out of the horrible inner city. Now the suburbs are losing population, too, just like the rest of Buffalo. But at least they kept the “wrong” sorts of people out.

  18. Brian,

    What would you call the crap he pulled in Denver if not “lie for hire”? Are you aware who funds his group?

  19. Nick,

    “Buffalo, Philly, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego.”

    Thought so. Except for San Diego, these are ancient lines in areas whose urban population is declining, not the second generation exemplified by Portland. Nice try.

  20. I can’t understand the fascination with rail. It is expensive to put in and not very flexible.

    It seems to me putting in a dedicated bus lane would accopmplish the same thing as rail faster and cheaper. Put in an overhead power supply and run electic powered buses and you would get the same emission reduction you would with rail. The busses would have a hybrid backup system to get them to and from the overhead power supply.

    Why would this not be a faster, cheaper, more usable, more effective system then light rail?

  21. The problem with buses is that they’re still subject to traffic until you build dedicated lanes. And if you do, it’s then all too tempting for a policitican to open them up during “off-peak” hours, and then to harried voters, and then…well, you know.

    Back when I was living in Boston there was a big to-do about the Silver Line being a bus lane instead of a “real” transit line. Perhaps joe can tell us how that brouhaha turned out.

    I like taking mass transit, even though as a libertarian I’m mostly opposed to it (am I a “second-hander”, or just a sucker for the below-market pricing)? What I’d love to see is the perfection of the “drive by wire” system — I’d gladly drive twice as long if I could pay half as much attention (to operate the dashboard espresso machine and read Hit & Run, of course).

  22. Maybe the reason the OSD isn’t rushing to take down the report is that the 74,651 ton underestimate of CO2 emissions that the Cascade “Institute” is drooling over is pretty small, percentagewise, and that the revised figure still shows essentially flat CO2 emissions in the county. Indeed, if the calculations for the other years are correct, 2004 levels are still lower than 1995 levels.

    74,000 tons sounds like a whole lot of error until you see what the Cascade people left out: that it’s part of an approximately 10 million metric ton total, in other words, roughly 1% error. Factor in population growth in the county, and the per capita figures remain pretty impressive.

    Maybe if the neighboring suburban counties — where the developers who pay for Cascade Institute studies operate — turned their backs on sprawl and instead pushed for more traditional patterns of development, focusing on dense pedestrian-oriented towns and transit lines connecting them to each other, they wouldn’t be seeing the explosion in gasoline consumption that comes with an emphasis on suburban zoning and highway commuting.

  23. M1EK,

    Actually, Buffalo’s is a new line from the 1980’s, but only half of it was built (the suburbs refused it) so it isn’t as effective as it could have been.

    TJIT,

    Rail is not only much more effective in urban environments (remember those?) but can be seen as a kind of “speculative” venture in hopes of bringing vitality and business back to the cities, by trying to reverse the decades of decline brought about by the rush to the suburbs – in other words, the exact same manner in which streetcars and other rail lines were built a century ago. Is it working? Sometimes. Usually not. Cities like Buffalo continue to decline and are now beginning to drag down the suburbs around them. The gross shortage of housing and outrageous rents in Manhattan are proof that many Americans want an urban lifestyle, and that they’re not finding it anywhere else. Overall I’d say most light rail projects are full of good intentions but ill-fated. But they could still prove useful if we don’t come up with a replacement for oil before the Middle East implodes.

  24. Rhywun,

    You say rail is much more effective in urban environments. Please, I am honestly curious tell me how, why, or what does rail do that dedicated bus lanes, with hybrid buses, running on overhead power don’t.

    Then you say rail “can be seen as a kind of ‘speculative’ venture in hopes of bringing vitality and business back to the cities”. This strikes me as kind of a cargo cult idea that if we only build the right kind of totem (a rail line in this case) all of our urban problems will be fixed and the evil suburbanites will be held in check:-)

    It seems to me that rail does one thing, take people from point A and drop them off at point B. If another mass transport system did the same thing, more efficiently, at a cheaper price it should be used instead of rail.

    Transit is just one of the issues that make or break an urban area (really, I remember urban areas, I live in one). If the rest of the support structure is not in place rail will not make a successful city. In fact if rail is used when cheaper alternatives would work as well it will slow progress by taking resources away from other systems that need to be in place to have a thriving urban environment.

  25. Speaking of “liars for hire”, is any one here familiar with Parsons Transportation who will produce a feasibility study complete with optimistic, even completely fictitious ridership numbers to lock in your local politicians’ dreams of a light rail system?

    Note also that the one thing common to those locales that have accepted light rail is a heavily unionized construction workforce.

    In all fairness it needs to be pointed out that there are national engineering firms who will produce feasibility studies complete with optimistic, even completely fictitious drivership numbers to lock in your local politicians’ dreams of highway projects.

  26. Maybe if the neighboring suburban counties — where the developers who pay for Cascade Institute studies operate — turned their backs on sprawl and instead pushed for more traditional patterns of development, focusing on dense pedestrian-oriented towns … [instead of] an emphasis on suburban zoning and highway commuting.

    Well it’s nice that you think people should live in high density pedestrian oriented towns instead of sprawl, but why is it any of your business if people choose to do otherwise? After all those evil sprawl spewing developers aren’t just doing it for the fun of it – suburban living and highway commuiting is apparently what people want. Who are you to deny them just because you prefer a quaint mainstreet?

  27. kmw,

    I’ve been to Portland, and to the absolutely beautiful countryside that can be found immediately outside of that thriving metropolis.

    BTW, something should have gone off in your head when you wrote, “Portland city planners can’t do a goddamn thing about most of the suburban “sprawl: …There are cattle farms 12 miles from the city center.”

  28. “You can spend billions on a rail system that is very nice for the tiny minority of all commuters who use it, and that tiny minority will probably love it, and sure, it might even grow a bit. But, it always is and always will be a tiny minority nonetheless.”

    It is not a “tiny” minority of the trips that matter – peak hour commutes between the suburbs and the urban core. During weekday peak hours, up to 90% of trips into and out of Manhatten are on transit.

    But if you know anything about traffic engineering, you know that congestion is a “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation. At 80% of capacity, the traffic moves just as fast, and just as smooth, as at 10%. At 90%, it starts to slow down. At 92%, it’s crawling. (These numbers are pulled out of thin air, and vary for each situation, but the overall dynamic hold true universally). If you can pull even a “tiny percentage” of those vehicle trips into transit, the efficiency of your road network doubles, triples, or more.

    And that’s just the people-moving benefit. There’s also the pollution concerns, the protection of land from the Urban Highway Beast (Come on, libertoids, give me some of that anti-eminent domain love!), the promotion of economic growth (all transportation spending is a loss leader in this regard, from the street in front of your house to the Coast Guard), and the promotion of desireable patterns of land use.

  29. Brian,

    If you look at the quote you excerpted, you’ll notice the language “more,” “focused,” and “emphasis.”

    Here’s your homework – go to the planning office of a suburban community, look at the zoning map, and ask somebody the following questions:

    1. Where can I build a single family home on an acre of land?

    2. Where can I build a single family home on an eigth of an acre of land?

    3. Where can I build a multifamily home?

    4. Where can I build a storefront with apartments above it?

    Then tell me who is forcing their lifestyle preferenced on whom.

  30. Joe Sez:

    BTW, something should have gone off in your head when you wrote [snip]

    What, are you trying to make an ass out of yourself? I live 12 miles from the Portland city center, I live in a county other than Multnomah, and I can see cattle from my back yard. I don’t care what Portland planners think of the sprawl, and I don’t give a gerbil’s fuck what Multnomah Co. planners think. And I’ve talked to a couple planners from my county, and they don’t really like the attitude of Portland and Mult. Co. planners.

    Listen dumbass, I’m all for your high horse yapping about how things are in your neck of the woods, but don’t tell me how things are where I live. So fuck off.

  31. Furthermore, bunghole, did it ever occur to you that I might have dealt with the planners in my own county before? As a matter of fact, I have, and they’re quite pleasant, easy going and reasonable to deal with. Mostly because you would call them hicks.

    Like I said, there’s a major power struggle between the liberal Portland and Multnomah planners, and the conservative hick planners in my county. It’s a 100% provable fact that the Portland and Multnomah planners can’t do a damn thing about my county, and they hate each other.

    How’s this for a story: I casually talked to my county land use planner about building a utility structure. He said as long as it was 20’x20′ or less, I don’t need permits or anything at all. And I can put plumbing and wiring in it too.

    Next time, I suggest you swallow that lardass pride of yours, and stick to what you’re familiar with. Fuckwad.

  32. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the sound you hear when a punch has landed.

  33. “You say rail is much more effective in urban environments. Please, I am honestly curious tell me how, why, or what does rail do that dedicated bus lanes, with hybrid buses, running on overhead power don’t.”

    See David Rollins’ comment (the lanes never end up being dedicated), and also, even when running in dedicated lines, operating costs for buses are STILL much higher than for trains. (Steel wheels on rails == less friction loss than rubber wheels on pavement; longer vehicles with trains; etc.)

    This can be made up for in some applications with lower capital costs, but there’s always a point at which rail becomes cheaper per-passenger.

  34. “Back when I was living in Boston there was a big to-do about the Silver Line being a bus lane instead of a “real” transit line. Perhaps joe can tell us how that brouhaha turned out.”

    The Silver Line’s a debacle – the dedicated lanes are a joke, the “next bus arrives in N minutes” signs don’t work, etc.

    See here: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A//mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/archives/000126.html&ei=F3_3Que-EZf8sQGDtrGQDg

    There’s been a couple of successful BRT systems in the US, depending on how loosely you define ‘success’. Miami-Dade and Pittsburgh both do OK (there’s no way other vehicles can even GET to where the buses run, so no pressure to open it up to cars), but neither one does anywhere near the traffic of ANY of the recent light-rail starts.

    BRT and its retarded sibling “Rapid Bus” is being pushed by the Feds precisely because they know they can go back and use that infrastructure later for cars.

  35. “Come on, libertoids, give me some of that anti-eminent domain love!”

    The suburban Republican commuters who want to smoke pot don’t mind knocking over inner-city houses to build ‘free’ways, Joe. It’s a true public use, don’t you know, to subsidize the upper middle class exurbanites.

  36. Am I the only one that loves freeways? Freeways mean that people are going places and doing things at high speed. Freeways mean that I can go wherever the fuck I want, whenever I want to. That’s unbridled economic activity all over the place.

    Analogies to Manhattan are simply inappropriate. I love NYC, but as a guy who grew up in Portland, let me be the first to say: Portland ain’t no NYC. In my experience, most of the Portlanders who constantly nag about environmental shit and mass transit and “urban village” silliness are the latte-swilling NW 23rd Avenue types who imagine themselves to secretly be “New York hipsters” who think that their humble little burg could achieve mythical New Yorkness if only the right amount of urban planning was applied. In other words, they are the ultimate rubes–not the hobby farmers and ranchers who live 20mi. away in Newburg or the suburbanites in Beaverton.

    Portland leads the nation in all of the latest urban planning tyranny because it suffers from a perpetual inferiority complex.

  37. ‘free’ways aren’t ‘free’. That’s the problem. Gas taxes, even if they covered the cost of roads (they don’t even come close) are a poor attempt at a user fee.

    As pathetic as the 20% fare recovery ratio of a typical urban mass transit system is, freeways are worse, by far.

  38. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the sound you hear when a punch has landed.

    You’re so full of shit, I can’t even believe it sometimes. Are you the real Joseph Boyle, or is this just a parody secretly written by one of the reason staff to keep the post count high. No one in real life can be that high in their ivory tower, can they?

  39. I didn’t say freeways are ‘free.’ But I would argue that we taxpayers get more bang for our buck on a mile of freeway than we do out of a mile of mass transit, if opportunity costs and other such ‘secondary’ economic factors are taken into account. The higher flexibility and efficiency created by people making individual choices about where to go and when generate a greater level of economic activity than fixed transit options.

    It’s funny, I never see the folks who bitch about subsidized freeways arguing that transit riders should pay the full cost of their fares.

    Just for the record, I take the subway to work here in DC, so I’m hardly a gung-ho ‘pry my cold dead hands off the steering wheel’ kind of guy. Subways work great in getting people to a downtown core, and that’s it. Buses are a good way of getting the car-less around, and that’s about it. There are problems with a car-crazy society, but there are also very good reasons why people chose that lifestyle after WWII and continue to do so today. I see lots of urbanized elites who love to preach the gospel of city apartment living. Fine for them–but to attempt to compel such a lifestyle choice by government fiat is flat-out nonlibertarian. Any lifestyle–any life–is going to have costs. Government decisions should be made with an eye toward enhancing liberty, which forcing mass transit down the throats of the unwilling does not do.

    Portland is pretty much an example of what not to do–as shown by the fact that businesses are leaving in droves. The city is slowing committing suicide.

  40. Portland is pretty much an example of what not to do–as shown by the fact that businesses are leaving in droves. The city is slowing committing suicide.

    Portland is shrinking, but Intel is the biggest employer in the area, and they’re getting all kinds of tax shelters from Beaverton and Washington County. Portland can keep sticking it to the businesses for all I care; pretty soon it won’t be the biggest city in the area.

    I have little concern for what happens either way. I work remotely for a company in another state. I have no commute, so I could care less about the freeways.

    Oh, and Joe, thanks for the compliment on the beauty of the area. I think it’s the best place to live in the U.S. If only you really knew what the politics were like here. (Most of the state is GOP, and Multnomah Co. is a little blue bubble. So they bicker and argue, and no one gets much done.)

  41. kmw, you’re lucky in telecommuting. I don’t know whereabouts you live, but Sunset Highway is a nightmare for westsiders and has been for a long time. Difference is now there really is no more ‘rush hour’–just gridlock 24/7. It doesn’t help much that the highway has hardly been widened in the entire period since my family moved there in 1974, when Washington County was way less populated than now. Back then, “Portland” pretty much ended at 185th Ave.–I’m amazed at the growth everytime I go to visit, and with how much seedier the City has become in comparison. The planners knew the growth was coming, they just chose to do nothing about it–preferring to give whiny lectures about the evils of automobiles.

    I’d say that Portland freeways have the worst traffic per mile compared to any city I’ve visited or lived in.

  42. ChrisO,

    “I never see the folks who bitch about subsidized freeways arguing that transit riders should pay the full cost of their fares”

    When we get highway users UP to the point transit users are already at (typical range of 10-50% user fees at time of boarindg), we’ll talk.

    As for ‘forcing people into apartments’, somebody else already said it: the sum effect of governmental regulation over the last 50 years has been to force single-family-only development on a lot of developers who may not have otherwise chosen it. The market clearly WANTS to provide more urban living; it’s zoning and other regulations which are stopping it (along with punitive tax regimes which highly reward exurbanites for their ‘choice’).

  43. Oh, and

    “Portland is pretty much an example of what not to do–as shown by the fact that businesses are leaving in droves. The city is slowing committing suicide.”

    is really interesting considering that I know somebody who just up and moved to Portland without even having a job waiting for them, because Portland is turning into one of the best places in this country to live.

    All in your perspective, I guess. Manhattan must look like Hell if you can’t conceive of living in an apartment and riding the subway.

  44. M1EK: When we get highway users UP to the point transit users are already at (typical range of 10-50% user fees at time of boarindg), we’ll talk.

    And when we stop diverting 1/3 of federal gas tax revenues for non-highway projects, then we’ll REALLY talk, right?

    Incidentally, here in Pennsylvania, revenue from the state gas tax is used exclusively for roads. The money is used to pay for the state’s share of road projects (with the feds picking up the rest). Mass transit systems are subsidized by revenues from the state income tax.

    Since virtually every Pennsylvanian – except the very poor and retirees – pays the income tax, seems to me that it’s not drivers who are being subsidized. Which means residents of rural Tioga County who may never set foot in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh are paying for the mass transit systems of those metropolises. So who is getting the subsidy?

    M1EK: The market clearly WANTS to provide more urban living; it’s zoning and other regulations which are stopping it (along with punitive tax regimes which highly reward exurbanites for their ‘choice’).

    Here’s a shocking bit of news. If people want “more urban living,” there are places where they can get it. These places are called CITIES.

    People who want urban living should stay in the cities instead of trying to make over the suburbs to suit their fancy. People who want detached, single-family houses on various-sized lots have the suburbs.

    I suppose next the next complaint will be that we can’t build skyscrapers on farmland.

  45. “Here’s a shocking bit of news. If people want “more urban living,” there are places where they can get it. ”

    No, there aren’t. Not any more. In 99% of American towns, it’s now against the law to build urban neighborhoods.

    And you’re not telling the whole story about PA roads. Large swaths of roads there are funded out of local taxes (incl property taxes). ANY non-gas-tax funding of a roadway is a subsidy to drivers, and even gas taxes are a poor model compared to tolls.

  46. M1EK: No, there aren’t. Not any more. In 99% of American towns, it’s now against the law to build urban neighborhoods.

    Not in Pennsylvania. Come to this state and I’ll show you several towns, small cities and large cities that would very happily welcome an “urbanist” development along the lines you advocate.

    Here in Harrisburg, there are several neighborhoods that feature high-density housing and nearby stores. Less than one mile from my office in the Pennsylvania Capitol is a redeveloped neighborhood of brand-new rowhomes.

    There are plenty of vacant lots in the city. If you went to the mayor and told him you wanted to build rowhomes there, or even storefronts with apartments above them, he’d welcome you with open arms. Same with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, York, etc.

    Pittsburgh recently unveiled a new urbanist neighborhood – Liberty Heights – built on a reclaimed factory site.

    The reason most people avoid urban areas is because of lousy school systems, inefficient government, corrupt municipal unions, and – in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – builing trades unions that very quickly jack up the construction cost of a new structure. Since those parties tend to be important to the Democrats’ power base, and most of the “new urbanists” seem to be Democrats, it’s easier to blame suburban zoning, builders and suburbanites for the lack of investment in inner cities.

    There are plenty of areas in Harrisburg and other Pennsylvania cities that would welcome the development you describe. What is driving people away are the factors I cited – along with a desire for a single-family detached home with a yard.

    As for those types of new urbanist neighborhoods being zoned out of new suburban developments – tough. Those developments don’t want rowhomes, townhouses or business traffic. And people who do want them can stay in the cities or even the older, more closed-in suburbs.

    M1EK: And you’re not telling the whole story about PA roads. Large swaths of roads there are funded out of local taxes (incl property taxes).

    I wasn’t the one who forgot about the shifting of gas tax revenues at the federal level to mass transit and other projects AWAY from road projects.

    The “large swaths of roads” funded by local taxes are municipal roads, and the people paying those local taxes are THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THAT AREA AND USE THEM. Even if those people don’t drive, they still benefit, as those roads are used to deliver goods to that area. (And most of those roads, which are located in rural areas, were there before the advent of the automobile. They may not have been paved, but they were used regularly by horse-drawn carriages and wagons.)

    Plus, they are used for paratransit and, in some cases, full-fledged mass transit lines (buses). Which is a good thing, as light rail and regular railroads are not feasible in these areas.

    M1EK: ANY non-gas-tax funding of a roadway is a subsidy to drivers, and even gas taxes are a poor model compared to tolls.

    If ANY funding of a transportation system by nonusers is a “subsidy,” then you certainly won’t be advocating mass transit! As I’ve shown, mass transit systems are receiving funding from gas tax revenues at the federal level. Meanwhile, at the state level, income tax revenues are used to fund mass transit…which means that Tioga County residents who may never set foot in Harrisburg – let alone Philadelphia – are subsidizing mass transit riders.

    State routes and highways are paid for by the state gas tax, vehicle registration fees and driver’s license revenues. Local roads receive tax money paid by the people who live in the area, and benefit directly from those roads. And the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a toll road.

    Sorry, but doesn’t look as though roads are the transportation system receiving the bigger subsidy by non-users. There is a better match with roads – in Pennsylvania anyway – between users and payers than there is between mass transit systems and users.

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