Road Subsidies, Challenging Parking Minimums, and Wage Growth

A few smaller items to close out this week before some holiday travel. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

Wage growth in major U.S. metros

“All Texans should be able to start their own business without jumping through hoops that serve no purpose. This minimum parking ordinance isn’t just harmful to small business owners; it also violates the Texas Constitution.”

“There may be a few cases where sidewalks can increase the level with which one engages with local communal amenities. But at large, sidewalks hardly impact community connectedness, a drastic departure from common thinking, which has long seen sidewalks as critical public infrastructure connecting the private world directly with the public. These data are particularly noteworthy for they were collected during the COVID-19 pandemic when outdoor life has dramatically increased. Even though the pandemic has driven social life for many from dining, to strolling and making outdoor displays, and increased opportunities for chance encounters, the presence of sidewalks is not changing perceptions about community social capital whatsoever.

While no one is suggesting sidewalks be eliminated, urban theorists, scholars, and planners must acknowledge that sidewalk life may not be as powerful and vibrant as the various ethnographic stories make them out to be. There may be other factors — like homeownership, tenure of residents, or the presence of families — that may also play a role.”

  • Road subsidies: “According to the 2015 report, the average U.S. household spends around $1,100 a year to “subsidize” drivers’ road use — that’s on top of what individuals already pay in gas taxes and tolls.” False. It’s not a subsidy. Your property is plugged into a road network that gets you and your stuff (and emergency services) to and from your property whether or not you own a car, so it’s perfectly reasonable for property taxes to pay for access to that network. It’s not optional.
  • Continuing on transportation subsidies, here are some interesting stats from the Reason Surface Transportation newsletter:

“In fact, a recent update of a U.S. DOT study estimating the actual federal subsidy by mode (federal spending minus the mode’s user taxes) found the following:

Amtrak $204/passenger-mile
Transit $142/passenger-mile
Air travel $3.62/passenger-mile
Highways -$0.79/passenger-mile”

Finally, an amusing quote from Neal Stephenson’s newest techno-thriller on geoengineering vs climate change, Termination Shock.  About half the book takes place in Texas – very highly recommended.

“Her internal GPS, calibrated for the Low Countries, told her that they were driving from Amsterdam to Antwerp or Rotterdam, but of course nothing of the sort was happening – they were just moving around between different parts of Houston, a metro the size of Belgium.”

This piece first appeared on Houston Strategies.

Tory Gattis is a Founding Senior Fellow with the Urban Reform Institute (formerly Center for Opportunity Urbanism) and co-authored the original study with noted urbanist Joel Kotkin and others, creating a city philosophy around upward social mobility for all citizens as an alternative to the popular smart growth, new urbanism, and creative class movements. He is also an editor of the Houston Strategies blog.