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Fried_out_Kombi

@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world

embedded machine learning research engineer - georgist - urbanist - environmentalist

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Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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Parking minimums are legal requirements on the minimum number of parking spaces businesses and housing are allowed to have. The thing is these laws were developed using shoddy pseudoscience, are extremely arbitrary, and developed with maximum (rather than typical) usage in mind, meaning many developments have oversized parking lots, wasting valuable land. Further, old buildings that predate the parking minimums (and thus don't have legally sufficient parking) can't renovate or change usage without being legally required to build new parking, often by buying up a neighboring building and demolishing it to build a parking lot. This exact thing is why so many dense American and Canadian downtowns got bulldozed and turned into parking lots, like in the images below:

Atlanta
https://lemmy.world/pictrs/image/788f24e9-3b0a-4110-81ad-7ed5e5196ab0.jpeg

Tulsa
https://lemmy.world/pictrs/image/208169b2-90dd-4ecc-a96e-01b958bb6e4e.jpeg

Kansas City
https://lemmy.world/pictrs/image/f7dcab5e-3952-48e3-bb79-05a51f3232da.jpeg

For more in-depth information on the insanity and idiocy that are parking minimums, see this video: https://youtu.be/OUNXFHpUhu8?si=KQbU00UPKw5GeNhQ

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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What's ironic is my city, Montreal, is arguably the biggest cycling city in North America. Even in winter the bike lanes are filled with cyclists. Why? Turns out that all you need is good-quality bike infrastructure that you actually maintain in the winter and people will happily bike year-round.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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Downs-Thompson is inviolable.

The simple truth that a lot of people don't understand. Cars simply require too much space that you can never possibly meet all the latent demand for car trips within a city, as doing so would mean bulldozing the entire city in the process. The only way to meet latent demand for transit is via an array of vastly more space-efficient means, e.g., public transit, walking, and biking.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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Exactly, and I strongly suspect that most in-city accommodation can be done with neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs)

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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They’re not a solution simply because they’re still cars, and therefore take up the same grossly excessive amount of space as non-autonomous cars do.

Yeah, the only things autonomous cars might reduce are:

  1. Parking, but only if we forego our current private ownership model and everyone starts doing self-driving robo-taxis everywhere (unlikely)
  2. Road fatalities, but only if the self-driving tech proves statistically better than human drivers in a wide range of conditions (jury is still out)

It's the same fundamental problem that electric cars have: geometry. Cars -- even if electric and self-driving -- are simply grossly inefficient at moving people for the amount of land they require:

https://lemmy.world/pictrs/image/5cb5ac75-8c9f-4017-b069-96aba1f80c50.png

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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I agree that they're already statistically safer in limited conditions; the key part is when/if they will surpass in a wide range of conditions, including heavy snow or the disorganized and often unmarked roads of developing countries, for instance. For what it's worth, however, I do think the tech will eventually get there.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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In fact, if you only truly need a car a handful of times per year, it's vastly cheaper and less hassle to just rent it

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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I agree that a bike is generally preferable, but an NEV seems a good compromise for people who need to move multiple people at once or more cargo than a cargo bike can carry. Max one of these per household + bike for everyone + walkable, transit-oriented development seems like a suitable compromise that would be a significant improvement over the status quo.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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Exactly. I'm in Canada, and I often ride my electric scooter to work in the winter, and many ride bikes in the winter here, too. The windshield on a glorified golf cart plus proper winter clothing is all you really need, although maybe detachable side flaps to keep out the wind might help, too.

And I wear full coat in a car anyways for the exact reason you mention: I still need to walk between car and final destination.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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In addition to what others have said, parking lots are also an easy and cheap way to keep vacant land for speculative purposes.

Basically, our current property tax system allows you to buy a vacant lot, sit on it for a number of years while paying pennies in taxes (because a vacant lot or a parking lot is very low value, even if the land is very high value), and then resell for a much higher price after the city has grown around it. Basically no work, but tons of free profit.

The remedy? Tax land instead. That way, your tax burden is based on the value of your land, not the value of your improvements, so that this form of land speculation becomes uneconomical, while also strongly incentivizing you to develop something more valuable, e.g., housing, offices, etc.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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Yeah, my worry is they just turn genuine intrinsic motivation into mundane extrinsic motivation. Kids should want to do things out of pure curiosity and interest, not solely because they'll receive prizes for it. It's why I like legos so much as a kid; they're a toy without any external prize or motivator that you play with purely for the desire to create.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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Me, too. I really wish cities had streets where no cars were allows, and where you had wide pedestrian paths, nice bike paths, and grassy tram tracks. Preferably with mature shade trees forming a canopy over the whole space.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
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One big upside is road wear and tear. Damage to roads from vehicle weight is proportional to the axle weight raised to the fourth power, meaning heavy vehicles like trucks do the vaaaaast majority of road wear. Steel tracks can carry much heavier loads.

Another is train boxcars can be unloaded from the side, in parallel, unlike trucks that need to be unloaded from a small opening in the back.

Another is it's easier to electrify, and you don't need rubber tires, so you avoid a lot of emissions (CO2 from fossil fuels and particulate matter from tires).

Finally, you need an asphalt road to support trucks. With cargo trams, you can have non-impervious surfaces like grass that no other cars can drive on, meaning you don't accidentally induce demand for passenger cars when building infrastructure for commercial trucks.

And yeah, a big downside of course is needing way more tramways, but I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing to have. Just makes the switchover longer and costlier.

That said, I think trams make most sense for bigger stores, e.g., grocery stores. For regular Amazon deliveries? Not so much. For those, neighborhood electric vehicles (basically glorified golf carts) are probably more suitable. Most delivery vans run well below cargo capacity most of the time anyways, meaning they don't really benefit that much from the capacity of a larger vehicle.

Fried_out_Kombi ,
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Just today I saw this list of the largest tram networks in history: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_tram_and_light_rail_transit_systems_ever

The largest existing one is Melbourne, at a little over 250 km of tramways. Los Angeles at its peak had over 1700 km of tramways.

Truly insane what we tore up. A crime against humanity.

Fried_out_Kombi ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Similar with Montreal. A whole grid of streetcar lines just got torn up and replaced with buses. We now have a nice metro now at least, but it certainly wasn't made from pre-existing tramways.

Fried_out_Kombi ,
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Wow, even Terre Haute. Almost went there for college (Rose-Hulman), but decided against it in part because the city itself was so small and sprawling. It must've been 1000x livelier back in the streetcar days when things were probably more densely built and less obscenely car-centric.

Also, Trump got elected, so I was like, "Nah, I'm moving to Canada", which is how I ended up in Montreal instead.

Fried_out_Kombi ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Yeah, I certainly don't regret moving to Montreal, as it's where I met my wife and now where I'm working full-time. But yeah, I got the sense that attending Rose-Hulman would have meant being in a college bubble for 4 years and never doing much outside of that bubble.

Fried_out_Kombi ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Land value tax would fix this

And abolishing exclusionary zoning, parking minimums, and other anti-housing land use policies

Fried_out_Kombi ,
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I think part of the problem is that what we refer to as landlording includes two separate roles: landlording and property management. The former isn't a legitimate job, gathering its profits from economic rents borne of land and housing scarcity, while the latter is a legitimate job, earning its profits from the labor of managing and maintaining rental housing.

And so with a sufficiently high LVT, approaching the full rental value of land as Henry George proposed, and a much more YIMBY regulatory environment, I think we would likely see landlords converge towards being mere property managers.

That said, you are fully correct that the non-zero costs of moving would still give landlords a little leeway to rent-seek, and I'm curious what solutions may exist to remedy that.

Regardless of whether it 100% solves landlording, I do think LVT and YIMBYism do largely solve real estate "investment" as the meme talks about. Since LVT and abundant housing stop the "line goes up" phenomenon, and LVT in particular punishes real estate speculation, I think they would largely, if not entirely, eliminate the phenomenon of people buying up land/property just to resell later after appreciation. Because, well, housing wouldn't appreciate under a sufficiently heavy LVT and a strong YIMBY regulatory environment.

Fried_out_Kombi ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Good solution is to tax land. The land value tax cannot be passed on to tenants, both in economic theory and in observed practice.

Plus, it's just a super good tax. Progressive, hard to evade, super efficient, incentivizes density and disincentivizes sprawl. It's so good that economists of all different ideologies agree, from free-market libertarians like Milton Friedman to New Keynesians and social democrats like Joseph Stiglitz.

We should be taxing land, not labor.

Fried_out_Kombi ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

This can probably answer your questions.

A key idea of land value taxes is it's on land value, rather than land area. Urban land is faaaaar more valuable than urban land on a per-acre basis, so someone who owns 1 acre of land in Manhattan will pay vastly more than a farmer who owns 1 acre in rural Nebraska.

As for appraisal, we already sorta do this with property taxes, as property taxes tax the land value + improvement value. With land value taxes, we simply seek to tax just the unimproved land value. Why? Property taxes can disincentivize development and incentivize land-hoarding and speculation. In contrast, even a milquetoast land value tax has been shown to reduce land speculation.

Fried_out_Kombi , (edited )
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Personally, I think our philosophy of taxation should be "tax what you take, not what you make".

Because there's finite land on Earth and nobody has created it, you occupying any parcel of it necessarily denies others from its benefit. Hence, a land value tax in proportion to the value of land you have taken from the rest of society.

Similar for finite natural resources. There are finite mineral deposits, finite oil deposits, finite phosphate deposits, etc., and anyone who extracts them takes something from the rest of society. Hence, we ought to have a severance tax in proportion to the value of the resource you have taken from the rest of society.

And also similar for negative externalities. When you pollute a river or the atmosphere or cause any other negative externality, you are forcing those around you to bear some of your costs, that is you are taking value from them to give to yourself. Hence, we ought to have externality taxes (aka "Pigouvian taxes") in proportion to the amount of harm you have caused to society.

Further, I think taxing along this principle leads to the best overall outcomes, not just from an abstract sense of "fairness", but from pragmatic economic outcomes.

Take land value taxes: economically speaking, LVT is just a great tax with great properties that has seen great empirical success.

Or severance taxes: Norway has used them brilliantly to solve the resource curse.

Or Pigouvian taxes: basically all economists agree carbon tax-and-dividend is the single best climate policy.

But yeah, absolutely everything else should be tax-free. The government shouldn't even be tracking your income, much less taxing you on it. Tax the land hoarders and polluters instead.

Fried_out_Kombi ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

What about Henry George, then?

Henry George (September 2, 1839 – October 29, 1897) was an American political economist and journalist. His writing was immensely popular in 19th-century America and sparked several reform movements of the Progressive Era. He inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism, the belief that people should own the value they produce themselves, but that the economic value of land (including natural resources) should belong equally to all members of society. George famously argued that a single tax on land values would create a more productive and just society.

Fried_out_Kombi ,
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My main issues with vacancy taxes are three-fold:

  1. The cities with the worst housing crises are typically the ones with the lowest vacancy rates. This makes sense, as if vacancy rates are super high, potential tenants have a lot of negotiating power against landlords, so they can demand lower rents. When there are very few vacancies relative to the number of prospective tenants, landlords have all the negotiating power and can demand high rents.
  2. Vacancy tax focuses on shuffling ownership of existing units and doesn't do anything to encourage densification and development. Own a detached single-family home right next to a metro station in the middle of Manhattan? So long as someone lives in it, you pay no vacancy tax, despite the fact it's clearly a massive waste of some of the most valuable land in the world.
  3. It's easier to evade and thornier to implement. For instance, there are a lot of "statistics" thrown about regarding "millions" of vacancies, but many on-paper vacancies aren't what you or I imagine. For example, "vacant" technically includes student apartments where the student lists their parents' address as their permanent address. Getting back to the point, if you can just on-paper claim a unit is occupied, you can evade the tax, which means the government then needs to actually go out and check if someone us actually living there at least 180 days out of the year, which is way harder to enforce.

Altogether, vacancy taxes are a pretty marginal solution, and I think our focus is much better spent on land value taxes and YIMBYism (e.g., zoning reform).

Fried_out_Kombi ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

http://gameofrent.com/content/can-land-be-accurately-assessed

The key downsides of income taxes, though, are it requires tracking everyone's income, and it's very easy to hide income by doing under-the-table work and getting paid in cash. In contrast, it's impossible to hide land.

Fried_out_Kombi Mod ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Especially your last paragraph I think is the key. We can't top-down dictate and micromanage all city planning. Rather, we should strive to implement a tax and zoning system such that things are done or not done according to their true costs. So long as we tax land appropriately, reform our insane land use policies (e.g., parking minimums), and tax externalities correctly (e.g., vehicle weight, congestion pricing, carbon, etc.), we should be able to just let the economy run, and the market will reveal where and when it makes sense to build parking garages and parking lots.

Personally, I suspect what we'll discover in the long run is parking, in all its forms, rarely makes financial sense.

Fried_out_Kombi OP ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Plus, no human created the Earth, so why should we be able to place arbitrary boundaries upon entire regions of it and restrict others from crossing them based solely on their having been born in a different closed-off region of it?

There is no moral or logical argument in favor of anything but moving towards global freedom of movement one day.

YSK: Indeed and other job sites are saturated with scams

For the past two years, legitimate job postings on Indeed and Glassdoor have been replaced by scams. If you're tricked, the scammers aren't satisfied with your contact info in your CV, they reach out via email to request that you connect on an encrypted messenger app where they can privately scam you out of thousands in pre-hire...

Fried_out_Kombi ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Back when I was in my first year of uni, I applied for a part-time job on indeed. Found out it was a scam when they wanted to pre-pay me with a too-big check and have me transfer the difference to some other account. I noped right out of there.

For those who might be unaware, the scam is they send you a fraudulent check, but it might take a few days to be discovered as such by your bank. But in the meantime, the amount shows up in your account and you transfer the money they tell you to (which is a legitimate transfer). Then, when the bank discovers the check was fraudulent, they remove the amount from your account, but you're left high and dry because you can't undo the transfer because the transfer you did was legit.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Well, you would have the “hating suburban sprawl that encroaches endlessly into rural/remote areas” in common with the two bottom panels. But maybe the 5th horseman is people who want dumb and awful drivers off the road?

https://lemmy.world/pictrs/image/a027fc81-2c74-482f-8117-790390e39929.webp

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Personally, I favor a LVT for financing free public transit…

Hell yeah, I wrote a post on reddit about this very topic a while back. I’ll copy it below:

In 1977, Joseph Stiglitz showed that under certain conditions, beneficial investments in public goods will increase aggregate land rents by at least as much as the investments’ cost.[1] This proposition was dubbed the “Henry George theorem”, as it characterizes a situation where Henry George’s ‘single tax’ on land values, is not only efficient, it is also the only tax necessary to finance public expenditures.[2] Henry George had famously advocated for the replacement of all other taxes with a land value tax, arguing that as the location value of land was improved by public works, its economic rent was the most logical source of public revenue.[3] The often cited passage is titled “The unbound Savannah.”

Subsequent studies generalized the principle and found that the theorem holds even after relaxing assumptions.[4] Studies indicate that even existing land prices, which are depressed due to the existing burden of taxation on labor and investment, are great enough to replace taxes at all levels of government.[5][6][7]

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George_theorem

Essentially, the idea is that building things like metro lines and light rail increases neighboring land values. Instead of letting those increased land values be captured by private landholders, we can capture it with a hefty land value tax (which is a terrific tax for a whole host of reasons, particularly for urbanists). And as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and others have shown, a strong enough LVT is capable of funding that public transit entirely. I.e., no fares, no ticketing, just transit paying for itself via its own increase in nearby land values.

It gets even better when you consider that ticketing and fare collection incurs not-insignificant costs for transit systems. It means more labor, more enforcement, and more construction costs. For example, new underground metro lines are very expensive in large part because tunneling is expensive. If you can dig less by not having to build large rooms for ticketing and turnstiles, you can save money on metro construction. Plus, free transit is great for increasing ridership, and it’s doubly great for low-income folks.

Further, LVT heavily disincentivizes parking lots and low-density development on valuable land, so you’d heavily discourage park-and-rides and heavily encourage transit-oriented development.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

I wonder why all governments seem to ignore those well-known economic ideas that have no downside except for not insanely benefiting the ultra-rich. (In fact, they seem to ignore all of those.)

I think about this a lot, too. So many of our current problems we know excellent solutions for. After all, millions and millions of experts around the world have studied these problems and have proposed (and often converged upon) solutions. And yet actually implementing them politically is such an uphill battle.

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

This is how I wanna reclaim that land:

https://lemmy.world/pictrs/image/c27e77a2-9cde-4be6-b734-59925f9a4bd2.png

Either that or a buttload of housing

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Ha, don’t worry about the LVT and Georgism. A lot of the reasoning gets more technical into economics, but probably the most important thing to know is that LVT is simply a really good tax with very desirable properties (especially from an urbanist/YIMBY/anti-car perspective), and it is widely regarded by economists. You definitely don’t even have to be Georgist to support LVT; the mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, is heavily pushing for LVT in Detroit despite not even having heard of Georgism until recently when a journalist with the New York Times pointed it out to him.

But yeah, we’re all anti-car allies here!

Fried_out_Kombi OP Mod ,
@Fried_out_Kombi@lemmy.world avatar

Yup, exactly

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