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We vs us Mar 12, 2021 4:50 PM

Hard not to get steamed at the treatment of the burbs sometimes. There's a huge misconception amongst urbanists (IMO) that people who live away from city centers are making affirmative choices -- that there's a solid preference for wide open spaces and strip malls and cul de sacs. But especially in cities like Austin with ongoing COL explosions, the burbs are the only things that many of us can afford. I'd LOVE to be closer in, but am literally looking at the outskirts of Georgetown (!!) for affordable houses to buy. In aggregate a toll road is doing the right thing -- putting costs where they belong, on folks who use the roads. But on an individual level it's a solution to a problem that I didn't cause, can't fix, and am economically locked into.

(And fwiw, it's worth rethinking what the burbs signify in your personal iconography; they're much more diverse and complicated than they used to be.)

StoOgE Mar 12, 2021 5:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by We vs us (Post 9215952)
Hard not to get steamed at the treatment of the burbs sometimes. There's a huge misconception amongst urbanists (IMO) that people who live away from city centers are making affirmative choices -- that there's a solid preference for wide open spaces and strip malls and cul de sacs. But especially in cities like Austin with ongoing COL explosions, the burbs are the only things that many of us can afford. I'd LOVE to be closer in, but am literally looking at the outskirts of Georgetown (!!) for affordable houses to buy. In aggregate a toll road is doing the right thing -- putting costs where they belong, on folks who use the roads. But on an individual level it's a solution to a problem that I didn't cause, can't fix, and am economically locked into.

(And fwiw, it's worth rethinking what the burbs signify in your personal iconography; they're much more diverse and complicated than they used to be.)

While I don't disagree with this, what I will disagree with is there is still a 1 person 1 car mentality that exists in most of the burbs in the United States outside of the Northeast and maybe Chicago.

The issue isn't people seeking lower cost of living, its that everyone wants to drive into a city with their car and park it to go to work. New York has lots of people who live in Long Island or NJ to save money (and also, because they want more space than living in NYC affords), but they drive a mile or two to a train station and then link-up with transport. Part of this issue is infrastructure changes. Some of it is economic. But a non zero portion of it is human behavior that has to adjust. But the go-to solution for sprawl shouldn't be to just build a massive highway artery that dumps into a city that is land-locked and calling it a day. Its why the entire Western United States are an absolute congestion nightmare.

atxsnail Mar 12, 2021 5:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by We vs us (Post 9215952)
Hard not to get steamed at the treatment of the burbs sometimes. There's a huge misconception amongst urbanists (IMO) that people who live away from city centers are making affirmative choices -- that there's a solid preference for wide open spaces and strip malls and cul de sacs. But especially in cities like Austin with ongoing COL explosions, the burbs are the only things that many of us can afford. I'd LOVE to be closer in, but am literally looking at the outskirts of Georgetown (!!) for affordable houses to buy. In aggregate a toll road is doing the right thing -- putting costs where they belong, on folks who use the roads. But on an individual level it's a solution to a problem that I didn't cause, can't fix, and am economically locked into.

(And fwiw, it's worth rethinking what the burbs signify in your personal iconography; they're much more diverse and complicated than they used to be.)

Actually I think one of the main points of the urbanist community is that people are getting forced to move further away and into suburbs due to a lack of housing options being built in the core. There is definitely an attitude that people who self-select into the suburban lifestyle deserve the associated traffic and other headaches that come with it, but there is absolutely sympathy for those who are forced into this due to affordability concerns. This is particularly true when it comes to discussion of families who might have preferred to stay in traditionally minority neighborhoods like East Austin but have been priced out. I see it all over urbanist forums and twitter.

At the very least there is widespread acknowledgement among Austin urbanists that you deserve a choice between a house in the burbs or townhomes/condos within Austin as an affordable option. If there were lots of mid- and entry-priced housing types available and you chose a house anyway then I could see there would be less sympathy. However we're nowhere near that level of missing middle inventory.

StoOgE Mar 12, 2021 5:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by atxsnail (Post 9215996)
Actually I think one of the main points of the urbanist community is that people are getting forced to move further away and into suburbs due to a lack of housing options being built in the core. There is definitely an attitude that people who self-select into the suburban lifestyle deserve the associated traffic and other headaches that come with it, but there is absolutely sympathy for those who are forced into this due to affordability concerns. This is particularly true when it comes to discussion of families who might have preferred to stay in traditionally minority neighborhoods like East Austin but have been priced out. I see it all over urbanist forums and twitter.

At the very least there is widespread acknowledgement among Austin urbanists that you deserve a choice between a house in the burbs or townhomes/condos within Austin as an affordable option. If there were lots of mid- and entry-priced housing types available and you chose a house anyway then I could see there would be less sympathy. However we're nowhere near that level of missing middle inventory.

All of this. But of course, when the city tried to build a train-line on the East side that would run to Manor all the NIMBYs called it a 'train to nowhere'.

DoubleC Mar 14, 2021 8:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tyrone Shoes (Post 9214726)
Since we're on the subject of toll roads, I am so very shocked that the 290/71 interchange isn't gonna be tolled.

Thanks heavens, and at the same time I think it counts as an existing service, so it can't be rebuilt and then tolled.

You can tell the tolling of the 290/183 interchange drives me nuts! 50 cents for a bridge and then paying twice if I already paid the toll road? No thanks! I must take the 290W-183N ramp or I will rot at the Cameron Road traffic light.

texastarkus Mar 14, 2021 9:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DoubleC (Post 9217654)
Thanks heavens, and at the same time I think it counts as an existing service, so it can't be rebuilt and then tolled.

You can tell the tolling of the 290/183 interchange drives me nuts! 50 cents for a bridge and then paying twice if I already paid the toll road? No thanks! I must take the 290W-183N ramp or I will rot at the Cameron Road traffic light.

TX Dot has just released a new 71/290 interchange drawing. Seems a little scaled down from the original....

https://i.postimg.cc/JzgZNm3H/71-290...n-Oak-Hill.jpg

drummer Mar 15, 2021 2:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by texastarkus (Post 9217666)
TX Dot has just released a new 71/290 interchange drawing. Seems a little scaled down from the original....

https://i.postimg.cc/JzgZNm3H/71-290...n-Oak-Hill.jpg

Wild! While not in China, a lot of the ones in the Himalayan foothills look similar due to topography. It's pretty crazy how it all works somehow.

llamaorama Mar 15, 2021 11:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by We vs us (Post 9215952)
Hard not to get steamed at the treatment of the burbs sometimes. There's a huge misconception amongst urbanists (IMO) that people who live away from city centers are making affirmative choices -- that there's a solid preference for wide open spaces and strip malls and cul de sacs. But especially in cities like Austin with ongoing COL explosions, the burbs are the only things that many of us can afford. I'd LOVE to be closer in, but am literally looking at the outskirts of Georgetown (!!) for affordable houses to buy. In aggregate a toll road is doing the right thing -- putting costs where they belong, on folks who use the roads. But on an individual level it's a solution to a problem that I didn't cause, can't fix, and am economically locked into.

(And fwiw, it's worth rethinking what the burbs signify in your personal iconography; they're much more diverse and complicated than they used to be.)

This is a great take, and something I've thought of a lot too.

IMO, I think the 1990s-2000s urban revival Jane Jacobs urbanism philosophy is kind of outdated. It just isn't compatible with this new reality where the internet has made it hard for neighborhood-scale storefront commerce to exist on a large scale, and where the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth acts like a multiplier on housing costs and overwhelms the normal trickle-down effect of aging housing. And the concept of concentrating office jobs in a city center doesn't really work in a future where some of those jobs are done remotely. I think Jacobs lived in an era when downtown offices weren't just for white-collar educated workers either, I am pretty sure there used to be a lot more data entry, typing pool, mail room, envelope stuffers, call centers, etc back in the day and I imagine a lot of these people rode buses or trains back to their cheap apartments in the dense city. But because of information technology these jobs are going away, so I wonder how a change to that mix of folks occupying skyscraper offices downtown affects things like transit usage, etc.

I like old style brick buildings and I like zero lot line, "street wall" main streets and every city should many places like this. But not every street can be like this, unless we had ridiculous hong kong density. Instead every neighborhood and suburb should have a little pocket of it when it can.

I have some unorthodox ideas for what cities might look like in the future and what an ideal city then might look like. We need to find a way to integrate residential and clean, low nuisance light industry and warehouses because delivery traffic between the two is only going to increase. It would be ironic if we spent a lot of money to build transit nobody uses because nobody commutes to offices anymore but then have a wasteful city-suburb flow of Amazon vans. There's other activities and land uses we don't consider often that I think will be employment drivers. Small medical clinics and assisted living centers and things like gyms, etc represent good anchors in lieu of big box retail for mixed use developments. Not necessarily fun places to go, but people who go to work then may go eat lunch, they may run other errands, etc. Any activity can be good in an organic urban setting.

On a large scale, urban redevelopment and density in a few pockets of big cities won't be enough to yield a good supply of housing either. And not everyone wants to live in a place like this. Nor would this be practical for people who work outside the city. There needs to be more innovation in building typologies that can be sold to large scale developers - bring down the costs of construction by normalizing duplexes or semi-detached suburban homes for example. On the legal side, invent some kind of covenant or association that's like a condo but only deals with the firewalls between structures, etc. And maybe regulate/require apartment complexes to be more family friendly.

Also, while its politically hard to imagine now, I think that there needs to be an effort to bring better civic services and amenities to the suburbs and beyond. Here in Houston the city proper provides services even in impoverished, historically neglected areas because starting in the 1980s a series of strong mayors representing these areas have tended to dominate local politics. But then once you get out in unincorporated Harris County, there is extreme inequality where you have affluent master planned communities like The Woodlands and then you have borderline third world slums like Porter and Aldine.

I would like for that to change by having some kind of "Metro Government" where counties over a certain population size get more powers and maybe dissolve into them the hundreds of random, three-letter special districts like ESD's and MUDS's and whatever. The economies of scale from integrating these things would save money unlock revenue for other purposes.

This is anathema to what Republicans want though, so we would have to either somehow flip the state blue, or suggest a different state try this.

We vs us Mar 16, 2021 2:33 AM

Lots of good things there, llamaorama — especially your critique of Jacobs. You’re right — there’s a difference between what the turn of the century revivalists wanted, and what we’re seeing now. I’ve seen both, and it’s been a struggle to put into words what the urbanism of today is and can accomplish, given our levels of inequality and now whatever remote work does to the central city. Things have changed, but I don’t think movement urbanists are actually putting their finger yet on the core challenges. Sorry to say that, all you movement urbanists out there, but something’s not right in how we’re imagining cities, and our overreliance on Jacobs (who is a product of her time and technology and economy) is part of it.

Anyway, maybe I’ll come up with a rant on an appropriate thread some other time... this is pretty far afield from transportation proper.

TexasPlaya Mar 17, 2021 9:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by llamaorama (Post 9218934)
This is a great take, and something I've thought of a lot too.

IMO, I think the 1990s-2000s urban revival Jane Jacobs urbanism philosophy is kind of outdated. It just isn't compatible with this new reality where the internet has made it hard for neighborhood-scale storefront commerce to exist on a large scale, and where the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth acts like a multiplier on housing costs and overwhelms the normal trickle-down effect of aging housing. And the concept of concentrating office jobs in a city center doesn't really work in a future where some of those jobs are done remotely. I think Jacobs lived in an era when downtown offices weren't just for white-collar educated workers either, I am pretty sure there used to be a lot more data entry, typing pool, mail room, envelope stuffers, call centers, etc back in the day and I imagine a lot of these people rode buses or trains back to their cheap apartments in the dense city. But because of information technology these jobs are going away, so I wonder how a change to that mix of folks occupying skyscraper offices downtown affects things like transit usage, etc.

I like old style brick buildings and I like zero lot line, "street wall" main streets and every city should many places like this. But not every street can be like this, unless we had ridiculous hong kong density. Instead every neighborhood and suburb should have a little pocket of it when it can.

I have some unorthodox ideas for what cities might look like in the future and what an ideal city then might look like. We need to find a way to integrate residential and clean, low nuisance light industry and warehouses because delivery traffic between the two is only going to increase. It would be ironic if we spent a lot of money to build transit nobody uses because nobody commutes to offices anymore but then have a wasteful city-suburb flow of Amazon vans. There's other activities and land uses we don't consider often that I think will be employment drivers. Small medical clinics and assisted living centers and things like gyms, etc represent good anchors in lieu of big box retail for mixed use developments. Not necessarily fun places to go, but people who go to work then may go eat lunch, they may run other errands, etc. Any activity can be good in an organic urban setting.

On a large scale, urban redevelopment and density in a few pockets of big cities won't be enough to yield a good supply of housing either. And not everyone wants to live in a place like this. Nor would this be practical for people who work outside the city. There needs to be more innovation in building typologies that can be sold to large scale developers - bring down the costs of construction by normalizing duplexes or semi-detached suburban homes for example. On the legal side, invent some kind of covenant or association that's like a condo but only deals with the firewalls between structures, etc. And maybe regulate/require apartment complexes to be more family friendly.

Also, while its politically hard to imagine now, I think that there needs to be an effort to bring better civic services and amenities to the suburbs and beyond. Here in Houston the city proper provides services even in impoverished, historically neglected areas because starting in the 1980s a series of strong mayors representing these areas have tended to dominate local politics. But then once you get out in unincorporated Harris County, there is extreme inequality where you have affluent master planned communities like The Woodlands and then you have borderline third world slums like Porter and Aldine.

I would like for that to change by having some kind of "Metro Government" where counties over a certain population size get more powers and maybe dissolve into them the hundreds of random, three-letter special districts like ESD's and MUDS's and whatever. The economies of scale from integrating these things would save money unlock revenue for other purposes.

This is anathema to what Republicans want though, so we would have to either somehow flip the state blue, or suggest a different state try this.

Well said. Often times we tend to romanticize the urban past a bit much, which I think is the case with the "new urbanism" movement in the early 2000s and onward. We keep trying to fit a round peg into a square hole with our love of big employment centers being the sun in which the metro revolves around.

The bolded is what really stood out since I feel mostly the same. While a lot of this applies to Austin and many different metros, Houston really stands out. As a quasi- Houstonian, it's a truly strange city with a large middle class, lots of wealth, and large swaths of almost third world level poverty/development in between. I think counties forming the basis of a regional system is the way to go.

Back to big picture, we just keep adding government on top of each other through different eras of US development. We just seem paralyzed as a country.

Novacek Mar 26, 2021 8:23 PM

The meeting packet is up for CapMetro's Monday meeting. A little bit of an update on the Red Line, not much.

http://capmetrotx.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx

They do mention "Schedule Optimization work is moving forward with the goal of transitioning to Regional Rail from a Commuter Rail model"
and "Improve frequency to better serve the corridor (goal is 15-minute Frequency or better)"

IMO it's good that they're still looking to do that, even though larger improvements were pushed out from Project Connect.

electricron Mar 27, 2021 1:08 PM

What I find surprising is why urbanists can not understand why providing ever more city services, for instance more transportation options, causes rent to rise so much that it pushes the poor out? The fact remains that more city services that need subsidies require higher taxes to pay for them, which in turn cause higher rents all the way down to the lowest levels.

atxsnail Mar 29, 2021 1:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by electricron (Post 9230618)
What I find surprising is why urbanists can not understand why providing ever more city services, for instance more transportation options, causes rent to rise so much that it pushes the poor out? The fact remains that more city services that need subsidies require higher taxes to pay for them, which in turn cause higher rents all the way down to the lowest levels.

you're touching on a few different issues here and you're kind missing them both - at least from the urbanist perspective. first, urbanists understand that providing more city services costs money. that's why they dislike sprawl, because low density residential forces cities to absorb upkeep of many additional miles of road, utility, and other infrastructure and safety costs while not providing enough tax base to support it. many small towns in texas are locked into a desperate race to expand forever as the small tax gain from building a new subdivision is not enough to pay the public cost of repairs and replacements necessary after a decade or two.

providing more housing at higher densities and closer to the city center allows for reducing the per capita expense of the city for providing these services. it costs a lot less to hire a few more firefighters than it does to build and maintain new stations at the outskirts of town. similar idea goes for police, streets, water pipes, etc.

the transportation part you're bringing up is complex but the basic urbanist perspective is that by providing high quality transit options, like the Project Connect plan, allows for households to reduce car dependence and, by extension, their transportation expenses. could it have been done for cheaper, using just buses? maybe. also building closer together happens to make transit way more effective and reduces per capita costs. that both happen to be better for the environment is a happy bonus.

the idea that city services are the driving factor for our increases in rent is just not in line with how things work. landlords will charge what people are willing to pay and not a penny less. as we happen to live in a very desirable city, people seem to be willing to pay a lot. better city services do contribute to that desirability, so I agree there is some upward pressure there - project connect even concedes that it can happen at a micro level with that money set aside for affordability near transit. but rent has been going up for a long time and I don't remember many improvements in city services being the cause. taxes add to affordability but they are not the deciding factor in increased rent.

electricron Mar 30, 2021 6:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by atxsnail (Post 9232061)
you're touching on a few different issues here and you're kind missing them both - at least from the urbanist perspective. first, urbanists understand that providing more city services costs money. that's why they dislike sprawl, because low density residential forces cities to absorb upkeep of many additional miles of road, utility, and other infrastructure and safety costs while not providing enough tax base to support it. many small towns in texas are locked into a desperate race to expand forever as the small tax gain from building a new subdivision is not enough to pay the public cost of repairs and replacements necessary after a decade or two.

providing more housing at higher densities and closer to the city center allows for reducing the per capita expense of the city for providing these services. it costs a lot less to hire a few more firefighters than it does to build and maintain new stations at the outskirts of town. similar idea goes for police, streets, water pipes, etc.

the transportation part you're bringing up is complex but the basic urbanist perspective is that by providing high quality transit options, like the Project Connect plan, allows for households to reduce car dependence and, by extension, their transportation expenses. could it have been done for cheaper, using just buses? maybe. also building closer together happens to make transit way more effective and reduces per capita costs. that both happen to be better for the environment is a happy bonus.

the idea that city services are the driving factor for our increases in rent is just not in line with how things work. landlords will charge what people are willing to pay and not a penny less. as we happen to live in a very desirable city, people seem to be willing to pay a lot. better city services do contribute to that desirability, so I agree there is some upward pressure there - project connect even concedes that it can happen at a micro level with that money set aside for affordability near transit. but rent has been going up for a long time and I don't remember many improvements in city services being the cause. taxes add to affordability but they are not the deciding factor in increased rent.

You made many valid points, except for one that is pretty huge. Cities are not forced into providing services out to the stix, they do not have to annex them, they do not have to build roads, sewers, waterlines, libraries, parks, or anything else if they refuse to annex and make their city larger in size.

But it is difficult for cities not to annex the retail stores and industries that pop up beyond the city limits. The first mistake is with extraterritorial jurisdistrict planning and zoning, where cities set standards outside their city limits trying to control how much and the type of growth, which puts them into the trap of eventually annexing them and having to provide those services. Stop doing that and you will not have to provide those services.

How many potential homeowners are going to be willing to move into a neighborhood without city services? Some will, and some will not. The costs of digging a private well, and installing a septic system, then maintaining them is not cheap.

Novacek Mar 30, 2021 1:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by electricron (Post 9233121)
You made many valid points, except for one that is pretty huge. Cities are not forced into providing services out to the stix, they do not have to annex them, they do not have to build roads, sewers, waterlines, libraries, parks, or anything else if they refuse to annex and make their city larger in size.

But it is difficult for cities not to annex the retail stores and industries that pop up beyond the city limits. The first mistake is with extraterritorial jurisdistrict planning and zoning, where cities set standards outside their city limits trying to control how much and the type of growth, which puts them into the trap of eventually annexing them and having to provide those services. Stop doing that and you will not have to provide those services.

Refusing to annex doesn't mean the city doesn't pay for those areas. It means the city subsidizes them without _any_ corresponding tax revenues.

Sprawl outside city limits still uses city roads. They still use city police, fire, and EMS (something like 90% of fire department calls are for traffic accidents). They still use city parks. They still benefit from city economic development efforts (there's a reason they move to unincorporated Travis or Williamson and not unincorporated Milam or Burnet). They outsource social services to the city (caring for the homeless and uninsured).

Often times, they still use Austin Water and Power, except at a discount.

And any services they receive from the county are subsidized by city residents and businesses (who make up like 90% or more of county tax revenues, but get shortchanged on county expenditures).

For the city, it's not a question of subsidizing or not. It's how much subsidizing they're going to do. Annexing those areas will still lose money, but usually less money than supporting those areas with $0 revenues.


Quote:

Originally Posted by electricron (Post 9233121)
How many potential homeowners are going to be willing to move into a neighborhood without city services? Some will, and some will not. The costs of digging a private well, and installing a septic system, then maintaining them is not cheap.

It's not like everything outside a city is 50 acre plots with wells and septic tanks. Most of the people living in the ETJ are in subdivisions that look exactly like what's in city limits. They get water from the city, or the LCRA, or another entity. Not from a well per house.

kingkirbythe.... Mar 31, 2021 8:57 PM

South Congress Could Relax Its Obnoxious Residential Parking Rules

https://austin.towers.net/south-cong...parking-rules/

Nobody wants to talk about parking until they specifically can’t find any, and by now you might know our thoughts on the subject. There’s too much of it in the wrong places, it shouldn’t be free, and it’s bad for cities and architecture — not to mention the planet, but we’ll stay local —

Sigaven Mar 31, 2021 9:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kingkirbythe.... (Post 9234827)
South Congress Could Relax Its Obnoxious Residential Parking Rules

https://austin.towers.net/south-cong...parking-rules/

Nobody wants to talk about parking until they specifically can’t find any, and by now you might know our thoughts on the subject. There’s too much of it in the wrong places, it shouldn’t be free, and it’s bad for cities and architecture — not to mention the planet, but we’ll stay local —

how do you decide where to cut off your quoted snippets

StoOgE Mar 31, 2021 10:25 PM

Ah, the RPP.

I live on one of the only streets near Blacksheep lodge *without* an RPP. And on big games our street is filled with cars and it turns out. It doesn't ruin my life in any measurable way.

The only case for the RPP is some neighborhoods that lack driveways for local residents *and* parking is limited. I have friends that live in RPP neighborhoods and visiting their house is a pain in the ass. They have like one visitors sticker, and they have to meet you on the street to give it to you. Is annoying.

I am in favor of shutting down areas near large events (ACL, etc) where the neighborhood streets are just not designed for the amount of congestion that would be foisted upon them on those weekends. I do think residents need to reasonably be able to move in and out of their homes during major events.

Unrelated note: I do wish more people going to/from blacksheep didn't DRIVE to blacksheep because my real issue is at midnight when it files out and people who can't stand are stumbling to their cars, but that is unrelated to RPPs.

kingkirbythe.... Mar 31, 2021 11:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sigaven (Post 9234878)
how do you decide where to cut off your quoted snippets

I start at the first word and flick my finger down. Then I post whatever the blue copy box has captured. So basically random. :)

Skyscraperpage used to be very particular about not being able to post an entire article or only a link. That seems to have changed. People now are just posting links to articles, maps and photos without any context. I will alway post the article headline, the link and a snippet of the beginning of the article. I know it is a pain in the ass to not be able to post a photo directly on skyscraperpage, but come on! Links with nothing else is fucking annoying. :hell:

kingkirbythe.... Mar 31, 2021 11:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by StoOgE (Post 9234934)
Ah, the RPP.

I live on one of the only streets near Blacksheep lodge *without* an RPP. And on big games our street is filled with cars and it turns out. It doesn't ruin my life in any measurable way.

I agree. Before RPP, I used to live on Eva between Milton and Monroe. It had no affect at all on my life. So there are cars parked along the street and in front of every house, big whoop. You live in the city. Suck it up. You don’t own the street in front of your property.


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