Review: Strong Towns Blog

I’ve been following this site recently, and have found it more practical and current than city journal. Without ado, here is my review, good and bad.

The good.
THis site focuses a lot on infrastructure cost, the posts with numbers are eye opening. Infrastructure has increased enormously without a lot of benefit Part of the problem is centralized infrastructure leads to public cost, private gain.
It discusses what to do with old buildings. Part of me is bothered by seeing old unused building.
Another eye-opener is the problem with retail taxes. Two cities next to each other are in competition to attract retailers (to tax) and tax their combined pool of consumers. End result is retailers dictate terms to the two cities for their own benefit. THis is similar to the internet sales tax problem. A redistributed VAT tax would probably solve it.
I also enjoy their discussion of how public policy has tried to outlaw the poor, which makes life that much more difficult for them. The unmentioned elephant here is that people want to create/live in like-minded and self-policing communities but have no mechanism to do so and so resort to inefficient and costly means that harm the poor. They need to read The Big Sort and Steve Sailer.
They are in favor of land value tax, which I’ve long supported.
They like density. That’s not my preference but I agree on them that there are too many wasteful parking spaces in most places-that stretch out road and other infrastructure requirements.
They highlight conference centers and other redevelopment bondoogles which warm the money loving cockles of my heart.
I enjoy their discussion of mixed use small streets with low speed limits. Their idea is to put cars, pedestrians, bikes all together, like a parking lot. I’m not entirely sold but it is an interesting idea.

The Bad.
They have a vendetta against what they call stroads – which are roads with speed limits of 30-50 MPH, stop lights, a buffer and marked lanes. They want to do away with them but there needs to be some intermediary between streets and highways – branches between the leaves and trunks. These will naturally be a prime place for businesses. There is a reason there are so many stroads after all, they are filling a natural function.
People do want to go places that are not withing walking distances, to have more choices than what their local neighborhood can support – something niche or something with large crowds for example. I think they present enough evidence of problems that stroads clearly do need to be rethought which I will address in a future post.
The other is their blithe self assurance that the self driving cars will lead to a future parking lotless walkable paradise. It seems to me that the opposite will occur. People will travel in cars more since the costs of doing so is less. Since car use is highest during rush hour, many workers will still find it convenient to own at least one car. And parking lots will still be needed, preferably close to customers and arterial roads to save miles. One can hope they will be more efficient, but I don’t think you need self driving cars to accomplish that.

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