Monday, July 31, 2023


Zoning ordinances are responsible for a lot of the problems in this country. Zoning commissions' realms should be limited to deciding boundaries for commercial, industrial, light industrial, residential, retail, etc. development.

In most cities, around 3/4 of the residential property is designated single family housing. One thing this means is people need a car or cars to live there. The areas are not conducive to public transportation.

Single use zoning can suck. Someone should be able to run a small business out of their house. For example, a mechanic can charge a fraction of what it would cost by working out of his or her garage vs. having his or her own shop somewhere else.

There shouldn't be minimal lot size requirements. A typical residential lot could be broken up into two or three lots for tiny homes. Someone could buy one of these for a fraction of the cost of a typical starter home, build up equity, then move up to a normal house, as opposed to throwing money away on rent.

If a developer develops a chunk of land into residential units, they can do whatever they want with it. Then, it is established that way and there are usually HOAs. If someone wants to build apartments, so what? If someone wants to put in a trailer park, so? And if someone buys a lot they should be able to put whatever kind of housing on it that they wish.

Cities and counties should be planned around diversity. Zoning commissions get in the way of this and cause a lot of problems. A bunch of people shouldn't be able to go into a city or county and turn (buy) it into an exclusionary area.

Micro apartments are getting zoned out. How many people would be off the street or in better and/or safer living situations if there were more of these things.

It used to be normal for all kinds of people to live in boarding houses (SROs). As people migrated to the suburbs, this left the places filled with poor people, so they got zoned out through maximum occupancy limits. Not many of these around anymore.


Saturday, July 29, 2023

Public Transportation


Most cites here aren't really laid out very well for public transportation. So, with bus systems, the organizations running these systems can only do so much even with a generous budget.

However, a lot of these systems could use a lot of improvement. It depends on the city, but they have numerous issues including scheduling, maintenance, strikes, and driver shortages.

I've talked about problems where solutions are possible without government spending or subsidies. If there is one area where subsidies could have a strong impact, this is probably it. 

There's a lot of lower income service and retail workers that work nights and weekends at restaurants and stores such as Walmart and Target and grocery stores. Most bus systems only operate up to a certain time in the evening, and have very limited service on weekends. These workers need this transportation because they don't have money for cars.

Another idea would be to have these businesses (the larger ones at least) that employ these workers during these off hours subsidize these systems. Top executives at these larger chains and box stores make millions and millions of dollars every year. Their pay has increased enormously over the last 40 years. Their workers would be happier if they had transportation opportunities as most of them are scraping by as it is.

Another option would be to have nonprofits run supplemental bus services during these times. Businesses can write-off donations to these nonprofits. 

The primary focus here could be to service routes from areas, or strips (places with a lot of retail and restaurants), to the other sides of town. This would get a lot of people moving.

Most people working non-managerial positions at these types of places are strapped for cash. They don't have money for cars, repairs, gas, and insurance.

An example of the benefits associated with something like this: if a person who doesn't have money for a car has other options, they might be able to afford health insurance which they are lacking, thereby lowering healthcare costs for everyone.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

The Grid

Urban design is a really backward field. Ultimately, streets should be laid out on a grid pattern. Cities have been built on ad hoc designs and city designers' designs which are meant to fit form more than function.

In this day and age, newer developments could be a lot more progressive. Urban design could go though the county or state. Developers plan very large developments all the time, look at some of the planned communities in Florida. Cities should be planned to be about the size of Boise (+/- 50k CITY population). The infrastructure, or some of it, could be laid out in advance, and should center around a grid pattern.

All the central streets should be on a grid layout, with no obstructions to traffic in about any direction (with the exception of necessary large structures such as schools). Bussing should be the primary design objective. Taking a look at historical developments should reveal a lot of backward things when it comes to this.

There's all sorts of things with the the way cities are laid out today. For example, subdivisions which are hard to drive through, thereby displacing traffic and creating traffic patterns. Subdivisions often have cul-de-sacs which make things worse. These places are designed so people are paying to not have traffic on their streets. 

Typical subdivisions don't create much of a community. Access to resources is limited by proximity, thereby requiring the use of transportation to get to distant destinations, as opposed to having local work and shopping options.

If things were designed better, population centers wouldn't have much traffic anyway, and people could get from point A to point B. Side streets can always have slow speed limits and things like speed bumps. If things were designed better, traffic would be minimized, there would be fewer cars (especially on the roads), and traffic would be spread out over the entire area.

This would have an impact on manufacturing jobs. People can buy more domestic autos to offset this.

Better transportation alternatives and design means less parking spaces, which usually aren't used very much anyway. Parking spaces spread things out and make public transportation less practical.

Also, highways don't need to go through a city, especially smaller to medium sized cities. This can be a poor design. A beltway around the outer parts of a city would be sufficient and could tap into other highways.

Large industrial developments and large box stores and warehouses, etc. could go alongside the beltway, thereby minimizing truck traffic through the city.

People who want a really NIMBY lifestyle could live out past the beltway where this wouldn't be causing so many problems.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

New Construction vs. Remodel vs. Addition

With construction in general, and using residential construction as an example, the most efficient form is new construction. Major remodels and additions aren't very efficient. The same principals apply to urban development.

Traditionally, a city starts small and is built up. It's the same thing as a house getting remodeled and expanded. If an urban area is planned, it can be built up once to a certain size. Once it starts to fill up, another one could be getting started. 

I have no idea what the cost difference would be, but it would save a lot of work and money. Then, with an efficient design, the place would be a lot easier to live with and maintain.  

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Urban Landscape

Traditionally, cities have been built around things like rivers, railroads or highways. Or, highways were run through cities in all kinds of directions. This can be very inefficient. These things can impede the flow of traffic through an area and make it hard to navigate. 

Rivers are nice, but it's better not to have them run through the middle of an urban area. A better alternative is to have more urban green spaces. Parks, which vary in design, can have ponds, dog parks, public swimming pools, etc. 

Older cities were usually started around a port or on a river where things could be brought in via waterways. Physical distribution options were limited. Then, inland cities became more common as railroads, and then highways, became prevalent.

Some cities grew very large due to a lack of transportation, communication and physical distribution options, thereby becoming major hubs.  These things aren't issues anymore. Smaller cities are a lot more practical