Friday, August 13, 2010

I Am a Card Carrying Member

Recently Joel Kotkin wrote an article that accused everyone who likes rail transit's ability to shape communities of being part of the "density lobby". We've heard similar lines before from Randall O'Toole about the light rail cabal in Portland. We never hear about the road building lobby (You know, AASHTO, Highway Users Alliance, et al.) from these folks but what do you expect from the libertarian fun zone.

Also, I really wish these guys would do at least a little research before they write stuff and print it. This quote was pretty funny considering Houston already has a rail line between Downtown and the Medical Center that has 45,000 riders a day.
Some other urban routes--for example between Houston's relatively buoyant downtown and the massive, ever expanding Texas Medical Center--could potentially prove suitable for trains.
But we can have more fun with those guys. I am now a card carrying member of the density lobby. In light of the madness, I decided to go over the edge. Anyone who wants to be a card carrying member of the density lobby, shoot me an email and I'll make you one to display proudly on your site. Of course its a big joke, but so are people that say there is a big UN bike conspiracy or actually believe there is an organized lobby for "big density". If you meet anyone that wants to fund our cabal let us know. I'm sure there is someone out there who is rich and nefarious enough to take over the world with affordable TOD!

Email me at theoverheadwire at gmail | Send your name (real or fake), specific office (ie density integration), and location of choice. I will assign a member number and join date. Also if you just want the illustrator file I can send that along as well.

Even better, if I make you a card and you show it to me at the Rail~Volution blogger meetup in Portland in October, I'll buy you a beer. Cheers to density forever!


Anonymous said...

I don't get it.

I thought libertarians and foes of central planning were in favor of the "free market" and less restrictions on planning and zoning.

Hey guess, what? That would mean more projects from the "density lobby" and the developers which Kotkin seems to be putting forward as a boogie man.


Okay, Joel. Government spending is bad. But, private development is ALSO bad. Bad, bad, bad. Everything sucks in Joel Kotkin's world. Cheer up, sad little camper.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you got a relative!

In regard to the opposition, this guy is even nuttier than O'Toole:

Check him out here:

How do these guys get paid? I could do a better job of advocating for more roads, and I'm a rail supporter. I think these fellows are con men, and they are stealing highway department and lobby money. Says something about the opposition!

BBnet3000 said...

The "density lobby" is also known as "the free market". The irony of people who call themselves conservative or libertarian supporting the massive subsidization of roads and housing is incredible. Well, not that incredible, we know subsidizing the wealthy is their objective in the end.

Alon Levy said...

Anon: yeah, that's Wendell Cox, a certified liar on the payroll of the GM-funded American Highway Users' Alliance.

Pan: what Kotkin is doing is similar to the Rovian tactic of attacking opponents on their strengths, as in the example of the swift boat veterans' attack on Kerry's war record. Kotkin knows damn well that everyone in the highway movement except for him is a paid shill, and he knows equally well that the true shills for density and rail are unknown organizations like Bombardier's outfit, so he preempts the attack by making up a density lobby.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Alon, that second Anonymous post is me, the steam man from West Virginia at CHSR; I'll admit to being lazy about coming up with a user name and a working e-mail address (my service recently changed, and it's still not fully digested).

What I'm curious about is whether this Joel Kotkin is in our "difficult, in-between age." He looks like it to me, but I can't get a confirmation. It's as if he's a woman, and doesn't want to admit his age! And did you check the comments with his article, particularly the one accusing him of nostalgia for the future of the 1950s?

Alon Levy said...

Anon/D. P.: no, I didn't look at the comments... Would it make me pissed at humanity if I did?

At any rate, I'm not sure Kotkin is exactly a retro-futurist. He sometimes talks like one, but a lot of the time he just talks like a resource extraction booster. Note his paeans to energy-industry cities. To me he comes off as an angry conservative who enjoys things that piss off environmentalists.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think you're right Alon. He's attacking the strength. But when he does it with bad facts and we hit him on it, it will slow his rising street cred. Though it might help him get back in the door at forbes and the op-ed page of the WSJ

neroden@gmail said...

What always gets me is that these nuts conflate one form of density (not wasting space between houses and between offices) with a different one (giving each person lots of room within their house/garden, or yard if they want it).

It's become quite clear that most people's ideal is something like a mansion apartment (occupying an entire floor or more of a large apartment building) overlooking something like Central Park, perhaps with their own substantial garden plot nearby, and with the office/workplace across the street. Perhaps also a short train ride to the wilderness where you can go hiking or hunting. Also a garage for your luxury car to go on joyrides, certainly. :-)

Oddly enough there are practically no living opportunities like this anywhere.
It's not because they *can't* be designed, it's because outside parts of Manhattan and London nothing even close has been built. The rarity of these "perfect" areas makes them fantastically expensive, of course.

And, to be fair, it's really rather expensive to build them -- tall apartment buildings, but with relatively small numbers of occupants per building; large parks in prime real estate locations; etc. Still, major market failure; just because it's more profitable to build small apartments or to leave parks out doesn't mean we *should* do that, rather than building tall buildings full of numerous giant apartments next to large parks.

Some attempts to build in a way similar to this have failed, but they failed because they were low-income-housing-only. Fact is you need the better-off people to stabilize a neighborhood; they're generally the ones with the time and energy to bother to stabilize it. :-P