Jake's blog

Let's talk about why North America's old streetcar systems disappeared.

Let's talk about why North America's old streetcar systems disappeared.

Bottom line, up front: North American streetcar companies, including LA's famed Red Cars, failed due to economics, not because of an automaker conspiracy.A lot of posting on here is to discuss just how much mass transit used to exist before the Second World War.  But what I really want to clarify is *why* the great American streetcar networks disappeared.  In general, there are three reasons: (a) the automobile's increasing popularity made many streetcar lines simply uneconomical to operate; (b) most streetcar companies like the famed Los Angeles Red Cars operated their streetcar systems to promote their real estate developments, and...

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Let's talk about the current reforms that the State of California is doing to fix the housing crisis.

Let's talk about the current reforms that the State of California is doing to fix the housing crisis.

As I've written before, California local governments have proven that they're totally incapable of fixing the housing crisis on their own. It's a pretty toxic stew, because every single one of the 88 petty kingdoms of Los Angeles County, and 101 cities of the Bay Area wants more housing to be built - but nobody wants anything new to be built near them. Because of that, most of the action on housing reform has shifted to Sacramento, where the State has determined to take direct control of local zoning. We're mostly done with this year's legislative cycle in Sacramento, and...

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Let's talk about how the City of LA is the only place in California actually planning to do something about the housing crisis.

Let's talk about how the City of LA is the only place in California actually planning to do something about the housing crisis.

Right now, every city in California has to produce a rezoning plan to meet a quota of new homes, called a Housing Element.* Overall, if things were done in good faith you want to dramatically increase housing production: 1.3 million or so in greater LA over the next eight years. If you don't put together a good faith zoning plan, the State will bring the hammer down on you and void your local zoning until you get your shit together, as I've written in this space previously. Now that we've seen a lot of them, most of these rezoning plans...

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Let's talk about how pirates affected the development of Los Angeles.

Let's talk about how pirates affected the development of Los Angeles.

As a break from my usual posts about housing and transport, this is an essay about pirates.Most coastal cities in America follow a pretty standard pattern. Nearly all of them grew up around a port, so it follows naturally that the metropolitan center of gravity is still there today. Downtown SF is on San Francisco Bay; Manhattan is literally on the Hudson; Philadelphia sits on the Delaware; DC sits on the Potomac. But LA is weird. Unlike every other major coastal city in North America, Downtown LA is a full 20 miles from the Pacific. Pirates are to blame.Wait, what?...

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Let's talk about why American mass transit sucks so much compared to Europe.

Let's talk about why American mass transit sucks so much compared to Europe.

Bottom line, up front: Europe puts more stuff near their train stations, Europeans spend their transit money better, and Europeans didn't demolish their cities to build freeways. To illustrate, I'm going to go compare suburban Millbrae, 15 miles from downtown San Francisco, with suburban Alcala de Henares, 17 miles from the center of Madrid. Let's hop in my teleporter.Reason No. 1: Europe puts more housing and jobs near train stations.We're going to start with the familiar part, since I assume most of my readers are from North America. Stop 1 on the teleporter is Millbrae, California. On the west side...

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