Monday, June 28, 2010

Why You Should Care About Taxing Services

Since I'm from California, I have the unique delight of watching my liberal dreams (e.g. adequate university subsidies and well-funded public transportation) dashed by the distressing budgets that come out of Sacramento. I've talked about this before, particularly the Golden State's egregious 2/3 vote requirement to raise a tax. But I'm not here to talk to you about that.

I'm here to tell you why you should care about an esoteric tax reform effort: applying the sales tax to services. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

"Most states could improve their sales taxes and their tax systems in general with some expansion of the tax base to include services. Levying sales taxes on services makes state tax systems fairer, more stable, more economically neutral, and easier to administer. Moreover, because state sales taxes are a major source of funding for schools, universities, health care, public safety, and other functions of state and local government, adding services to state sales tax bases can help states maintain their support for those functions, for instance during an economic downturn when state revenues are declining."

Think about where things stand now. Local governments are addicted to sales tax revenue from big-ticket physical items. One of the biggest-ticket items of all is the automobile. There it is, the same local governments that have so much control over our land use regulations and transportation policy, who have the power to usher us into walkable neighborhoods or entomb us in vehicles, are dependent on cars for revenue.

We should tax services. We could do it in a revenue-neutral way (i.e. expand the tax base and lower existing tax rates). Our economy is based on services anyway, it would reduce perverse incentives on local governments, and it would stabilize state finances somewhat to pay for critical services like transit.

Autobuses de tamaño correcto

Autobuses pequeños puden tener un impacto grande en rendimiento
Fuente: Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board


Fomento el uso de transporte público, pero el transporte público tiene que hacer más para hacerse mejor para el medio ambiente, más cómodo, y más útil.

En lugares con baja densidad de población, como suburbia, a menudo hay rutas de autobús con falta de servicio frequente y muchos asientos vacíos. ¿Pero que pasaría si el autobús fuera más pequeño en estas rutas?

Si el autobús fuera más pequeño, tendría mejor rendimiento de combustible, ahorrando dinera para la agencia de transporte público, bajando la contaminacion, y no causando una falta de espacio (por el número bajo de clientes). Estes ahorros se pueden usar para pagar servico más frequente, así reduciendo un poco la cosa principal que impide al tranporte público: tener que esperar para siempre entre autobuses.

Claro, hablo en un nivel muy general aquí. No sé cuanto dinero se puede ahorrar por hacer esto, y involucraría costos capitales de una vez (comprando autobuses nuevos).

Sin embargo, parece que vale la pena investigar. Las agencias de transporte público tienen recursos muy limitados y necesitan atacar el despercicio como puedan si quieren atraer a nuevos clientes. Autobuses pequeños en rutas con pocos clientes pueden ser una herramienta poderosa para salvar recursos para servicio mejor, y para mejorar el impacto ambiental del transporte público.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Getting Bus Size Right

Small buses could have a big impact on efficiency
Source: Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board


I encourage people to ride transit, but transit needs to do more to green itself and to operate more efficiently, comfortably and conveniently.

In places with low population density, like suburbia, there are often bus routes with infrequent service and many empty seats. But what if the bus were smaller on these routes?

If the bus were smaller, it would likely have better fuel economy, saving the transit agency money and reducing pollution, without causing crowding (because of the low ridership). These savings could be taken to pay for more frequent service, thus reducing to some extent the main thing that holds suburban transit back: having to wait forever between buses.

I'm speaking at a really general level here of course. I don't know how much money could be saved by doing this, and it would involve one-time capital costs (buying smaller buses).

However, it seems worth looking into. Transit agencies have very limited resources, and they need to root out waste wherever possible if they hope to offer service that can attract new riders. Small buses on routes with low ridership could be a powerful tool to free up resources for more convenient service, and to bolster the green credentials of transit.

El rincón de Chewie

Chewie debe llevar un casco :)
Fuente: cycleicious


Quise notar que hize una dirección de correo electrónico para este blog:

straight.outta.suburbia@gmail.com

Si tienes preguntas o comentarios que no quieres compartir públicamente, o si quieres mandar un ensayo de huésped para consideración, hazlo. La dirección también se puede encontrar debajo del enlace de mi perfil en la columna derecha del blog.

Decidí mantener un seudónimo hasta que me siento como es un mundo mejor para las ideas progresivas de planeación urbana, así que no debes preguntarme sobre eso.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chewie's Corner

Chewie should we wearing a helmet :)
Source: cycleicious


I just wanted to point out that I set up an email address for this blog:

straight.outta.suburbia@gmail.com

If you have questions or comments that you want addressed without having to post a comment publicly, or if you want to submit a guest post for consideration, go for it. The address can also be found under my profile in the blog's right column.

I've decided to maintain a pseudonym until I feel like the world is a less shitty place for progressive urban planning ideas, so don't waste your time asking about that.

Bolsas de comestibles en los manillares

Pues, escribí hace un rato que mi falta de seguro médico me causaba no usar la bicicleta. Esto feliz reportar que esto ya no está pasando (aunque todavía busco seguro médico). Creo que estaba en un humor de quejas :)

A pesar de mi ubicación en suburbia tengo la suerte de estar solamente 2.1 km de mi supermercado favorito. Eso me cuesta 22 minutos caminando, pero es mucho más rápido en una bicicleta, y tengo una ruta buena. Hay una calle pequeña, de casas, en línea paralela directamente al lado de y una calle grande. Es casi como tener un carril de bici separado físicamente. Mira algo así:

Fuente: Mapas Google vista de calle

No hay estacionamiento formal de bicicletas allá, pero la gente que va por bici improvisan por usar los letreros de calle. No tengo una canasta en la bici pero tengo mañas en balancear dos bolsas de comestibles en los manillares. He considerado tomar transporte público, pero dado la falta de servico frequente en mi vecindario, usualmente es más rápido caminar.

Por tanto, la bici gana. Ejercicio gratis, no gasolina necersaria, y divertido.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grocery Bags on Handlebars

Well, I wrote a while back that my lack of health insurance was keeping me off my bike. I'm happy to report that this is no longer the case (although I'm still working on the insurance). I think I was just in a whiny mood :)

Despite my suburban location I am lucky enough to be a mere 2.1 km (1.3 miles) away from my favorite supermarket. That takes me about 22 minutes to walk, but it's much faster on a bike, and I have a good route. There is a minor, residential street directly parallel and adjacent to an arterial street. It's kind of like having a physically separated bike lane. It looks something like this:

Source: Google Maps street view

There's no formal bike parking at the spot, but the people who bike there improvise by using street signs. I don't have a basket on my bike or anything, but I have gotten good at balancing two grocery bags, one on each handlebar. I've considered taking transit, but the service is so infrequent out here that it's usually faster to walk.

So, the bike wins. Free exercise, no gasoline required, and good fun.

"Excepto una violación pequeña de tráfico"

¿Recuerdas pedir empleo? Frequentemente hay una pregunta sobre historia criminal que lee algo como "¿ha Ud. sido condenado por alguna violacion criminal excepto una violación pequeña de tráfico?"

He decidido que odio la premisa de esta pregunta. ¿Qué es una "pequeña" violación de tráfico? Tengo una premisa nueva. Si estás en el tráfico, no hay violaciones pequeñas. Los vehiculos de motor tienen la capacidad de lisiar y matar. Por tanto, debemos tener una actitud sin humor sobre las leyes de seguridad que aplican a ellos.

Cambiando el asunto un poquito, ¿sabías que las ciudades estadounidenses suelen mandar estacionamiento fuera de la calle para cantinas? Para tomar un ejemplo fortuito, la ciudad de Long Beach, CA requiere 20 espacios para cada 1,000 pies quadrados de área de suelo bruto (1 pie cuadrado = .09 metro cuadrado) para cantinas. No sé que piensa la ciudad sobre lo que hace la gente en las cantinas pero puedo decirles con confianza que es tomar.

Esto es que tan loca nuestra mentalidad es. Aun cantinas, negocios cuyo propósito entero es vender alcohol para el consumo dentro del edificio, "necesitan" estacionamiento fuera de la calle. A pesar de que sabemos que la gente maneja a ellos, toma, y maneja a casa. Tomar y manejar. Sí, esa gente necesita mucho estacionamiento gratis.

Al fin y al cabo, no nos importa las violaciones pequeñas de tráfico.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Except for a Minor Traffic Violation"

Remember applying for jobs? There's often a question about criminal history that will read something like "have you ever been convicted of a crime except for a minor traffic violation?"

I've decided I really hate the premise of this question. What is a "minor" traffic violation? I've got a new premise. If you're in traffic, there are no minor violations. Motor vehicles have the power to maim and kill. Accordingly, we should have a humorless attitude about the safety laws that apply to them.

Switching gears a bit, did you know that American cities usually require off-street parking at bars? To take a random example, the city of Long Beach, CA requires 20 parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of gross floor area for "taverns". I don't know what the city thinks people are doing at these bars, but I assure you it's drinking.

This is how insane our mentality is. Even bars, businesses whose sole purpose is to sell alcohol for on-site consumption, "need" off-street parking. Even though we know that people drive to them, drink, and drive home. Drink and drive. Yeah, lets make sure these people have plenty of free parking.

After all, we don't care about minor traffic violations.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Estacionar y montar: mejorando las cosas pequeñas

Vehículos estacionados cerca de la estación Wardlow del Blue Line
Fuente: Google Maps vista de calle


Para mí estando en suburbia de nuevo causa viajes de largas distancias. Dado mi amor por el transporte público, no iba hacer todo eso por coche, pero, dado el tiempo y distancia involucrado decidí llegar a un arreglo y manejar a la estación de tren. Me ahorra 30 minutos en cada dirección en comparación con un autobús, principalmente por la falta de servico frequente de autobús donde vivo. La distancia a la estación (más que ocho kilómetros ((cinco millas)) también sería dificil cruzar por bicicleta, y además no sé ninguna ruta buena.

Mi enfoque aquí es donde los coches se estacionan en la estación Wardlow del Blue Line. El aparcamiento mayoría gratis llena rápidamente y los coches se estacionan al lado de Pacific Pl. justo al norte, donde no hay veredas, solamente bordillos y tierra.

No quiero parecer esnob, pero aceras son buenas. Las hacen más fácil caminar para los descapacitados. Las hacen la vida más fácil para los que tienen que llevar zapatos formales. Sin aceras, la gente quiere caminar en la calle.

Quizás parece algo pequeño, pero la calidad de la experiencia de montar transporte público es una suma de cosas pequeñas. Suman a una impresión. En este caso la ciudad de Long Beach y Metro deben trabajar juntos para mejorar esa impresión.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Park and Ride: Improving the Little Things

Parked vehicles near the Blue Line Wardlow station
Source: Google Maps street view


For me being back in suburbia means long distance commuting. Given my love for transit, I wasn't about to do that all by car, but given the time and distance involved I decided to compromise and drive to the train station. It saves me at least 30 minutes each way compared to the bus, which is testament mostly to how infrequent the service is where I live. The distance to the station (over 5 miles) would also be hard for me to bike, and there's no route that I would call good besides.

My focus here is where cars park at the Blue Line's Wardlow Station. The mostly free parking lot usually fills up quickly and cars park along a stretch of Pacific Pl., just to the north, where there are no sidewalks, just raised curbs and dirt.

I'm not trying to come off as a snob, but sidewalks are nice. They make it easier for the disabled to walk. The make it easier on people who have to wear leather shoes or heels to work. They're just a good idea. Without them, people are tempted to walk in the street.

It might seem like a little thing, but the quality of the transit riding experience is a sum of little things. They add up to an overall impression. In this case, the City of Long Beach and Metro should work together to make that impression better.

Adopta una actitud ULI

El LA Times reporta que el Instituto de Tierra Urbana (ULI en Inglés) tiene la siguiente opinión de una ley de crecimiento inteligente llamado SB 375 (traducido):
"Planes generales que fomentan reurbanización dentro del centro de una ciudad y que ponen más casas en solares más pequeños son una parte importante del proyecto de ley del Senado 375, que fue promulgado en 2008 para ayudar el estado alcanzar sus metas de reducción de gases del efecto invernadero, segun el informe difundido en la parte temprana de este mes."
Bueno. Estoy completamente de acuerdo. Gracias ULI. Pero al final resbalan un poco y hacen una reverencia a suburbia diciendo que la urbanización "infill"/llenar (traducido) "no se puede almacenar todo el crecimiento que viene a California". No estoy de acuerdo. Si fueras suficientemente agresivo, podrías fácilmente, desde una perspectiva técnica, construir vecindarios más altos en que se puede caminar, y evitar la necesidad de consumir más tierra. Esto es a menudo difícil políticamente, y me parece que el ULI quere ser no amenazador.

Aquí está lo malo de ser no amenazador. Imagina Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. haciendo un discurso sobre la necesidad de parar la discriminación en el empleo. Da argumentos brillantes en contra de la discriminación, sacude la muchedumbre con su retórica, y verdaderamente las convence que la discriminación es mala y necesita parar. Luego dice algo como "pero sabes que, esto será difícil, así que tenemos que decir que unos negocios todavía deben ser permitidos practicar la discriminación".

¿Qué es eso? Eso es sacar toda la fuerza moral de lo que dices. Creo que la gente no piensan sobre el crecimiento inteligente porque nadie tiene las agallas hacer un argumento moral sobre la necesidad de reemplazar suburbia con algo que se puede sostener. Suburbia merece la critica moral por su destrucción del medio ambiente y hasta que tenemos líderes que quieren atraer atención y enojar a la gente . . .

Continuará como la regla en vez de la excepción, y nadie pensará en el hecho de que HAY UNA ALTERNATIVA.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Take a Stand ULI

The LA Times reports that the Urban Land Institute (ULI) has the following opinion of a state smart growth law called SB 375:
"General plans that encourage redevelopment within a city's core and squeeze more residences onto smaller lots are an important component of Senate Bill 375, which was enacted in 2008 to help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals, according to the report released earlier this month."
Great. I agree completely. Thank you ULI. But at the end they slip a little and bow down to suburbia saying that infill development "can't accommodate all of the growth that is coming to California". I disagree. If you were aggressive enough, you could easily, from a technical standpoint, build taller, walkable neighborhoods, and avoid the need to consume more land. This is often politically difficult, and I get the feeling the ULI wants to be non-threatening.

Here's what's wrong with being non-threatening. Imagine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving a speech about the need to end hiring discrimination. He gives brilliant arguments against the discrimination, rouses the crowd with his rhetoric, and truly convinces them that this discrimination is wrong and must end. Then he says something like "but you know, this is going to be difficult, so we have to acknowledge that some businesses should still be allowed to discriminate".

What the hell is that? That's taking all of the force and moral conviction out of what you're saying. I think people don't think about smart growth because nobody has the guts to make a moral argument about the need to replace suburbia with something more sustainable. Suburbia deserves to be criticized on moral terms for its destruction of the environment and until we have leaders who are willing to turn heads and piss people off . . .

It will continue to be the rule rather than the exception, and nobody will even think about the fact that THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Peripecia de transporte público en el OC

Como mencioné, he regresado a las afueras, así que recientemente intente ir al condado de Orange por los autobuses OCTA. Funcionó bien: asientos cómodos, tarifa razonable, bonitas vistas de playa, con la excepción de una cosa. En los domingos, en la ruta que usé (#1), hay que esperar una hora entre autobuses.

Esto no fue un problema yiendo allí. Cuando la frequencia de servicio es tan malo, debes buscar el horario. El problema ocurrió regresando. Acabé de perder un autobús, sabiendo bien cuando lo vi tan cerca que sería una hora hasta el próximo. Lo peor fue que probablemente habría alcanzadolo si el cruce permitió que los peatones crucen en dos direciones en cada esquina.

Afortunadamente tuve un plan. Había anticipado tal desastre, y sacé un libro que había traido. Lo leí en la parada que, gracias a Dios, tuvo un asiento y sombra.

Si uso tales rutas OCTA a menudo, estoy seguro que podré ganar un titulo universitario de Inglés en mi tiempo libre.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Transit Adventure in the OC

As I mentioned, I'm back in the boondocks, so I recently tried to venture into Orange County on the OCTA bus fleet. It worked out great: comfy seats, reasonable fare, beautiful beach views, except for one thing. On Sundays, on the route I took (line #1), it's an hour between buses.

This wasn't an issue on the way there. When transit service frequency is that crappy, you should look up a timetable. The problem hit me on the way back. I just missed a bus, knowing full well as I saw it tantalizingly close it would be an hour before the next one came. To add insult to injury, I probably would have made it if the intersection had been configured to allow pedestrians to cross in two directions at every corner.

Luckily I had a plan. Having anticipated just such a catastrophe, I busted out a book I had brought and got my read on at a bus stop which mercifully had both a bench and shade.

If I made a habit of riding OCTA routes like these, I'm sure I could get an English degree in my spare time.

Los Ángeles recorta horas de biblioteca, despide a 101 trabajadores

Fuente: Job Searching Blog. "Despedido. Perder el empleo resulta en sentimientos de ira, pánico, y depresión."

Primero, ¿por qué cubre este blog un recorte en las horas de biblioteca? Porque es una síntoma de la crisis del presupuesto de los gobiernos locales. Estes son los mismos gobiernos locales que hacen las decisiones de uso de tierra que determinan la forma urbana, así que vale la pena intentar entender sus problemas.

Pues el LA Times reporta que las horas de biblioteca serán reducidas a cinco días cada semana y 101 trabajardores serán despedidos, un ejemplo de como cuando se trata de tomar dinero prestado para ayudar a la economía o poner en balance el presupesto por recortes de servicios, Los Ángeles ha escogido enfatizar el segundo. Puedes aprender más sobre la polémica más reciente del presupesto de Los Ángeles (en Inglés) aquí.

¿Y qué harán estos 101 trabajadores ahora? ¿Qué harán los negocios que necesitan su patrocinio?

¿Qué harán los padres que podían mandar sus hijos a estas bibliotecas? ¿Gastar más en el cuidado de niños? ¿Pagar más en transporte para ir a una biblioteca más lejos?

Subir los impuestos no es la única cosa que puede causar dolor económico. Recortar los servicos causa dolor también. A menudo daña a la gente que menos puede incorporarlo.

Buena suerte a los trabajadores despedidos.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Los Angeles Cuts Library Hours, Fires 101 Workers

Source: Job Searching Blog

First of all, why is this blog covering a reduction in library hours? Because it is a symptom of the crisis in local government finance. These are the same local governments make the land use decisions that determine our urban form, so it is worth trying to understand their problems.

So, the LA Times reports that LA City libraries will be reduced to five days per week and 101 workers will be laid off, an example of how when it comes to borrowing money to help the economy or balancing the budget with service cuts, Los Angeles has chosen to emphasize the latter. You can find out more about the city's latest budget controversy here.

And what do these 101 workers do now? What do the businesses that depend on their patronage do?

What do the parents who could send their children to these libraries do? Pay for extra child care? Spend more on transportation to find a more distant library?

Raising taxes isn't the only thing that can hurt economically. Service cuts hurt too. Often they hurt the people least able to absorb the damage.

Good luck to all the laid off workers.

#&@^! esta recesión


Me di cuenta receientemente que Google puede hacer estes gráficos bonitos de la miseria humana. No tengo nada que decir con la excepción de que esta situación no se puede aceptar. La gente necesita trabajo y ojala que estemos en la punta de esa montaña de desempleo.

El único consuelo en las líneas es que puedes ver que no estás solo. Por alguna parte en este pais, este estado, este condado, hay alguien desempleado, buscando trabajo, sueños no todavía muertos.

Esa es la cosa con estar derribado. Solamente estás derribado si dejas de intentar ponerse a pie. Y les deciré esto hermanos y hermanas:

Superaremos.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

#@^! This Recession


I just found out Google can make these pretty graphs of human misery. I don't have anything to say really except that this situation is totally unacceptable. People need work and I hope we're at the peak of that unemployment mountain.

The one comfort of the lines is that you can see you're not alone. Somewhere in this country, this state, this county, there's somebody else unemployed, looking for work, dreams not quite dead yet.

That's the thing about getting knocked down. You're only really down if you stop trying to get back up. And I'll tell you this brothers and sisters:

We shall overcome.

Resultados de la elección / Election Results

Aquí está un resumen de uno de los resultados / results de la elección en California ayer:

Prop 13: Sí / Yes
Prop 14: Sí / Yes
Prop 15: No
Prop 16: No
Prop 17: No

También hay que notar que Meg Whitman ganó (won) el derecho de llevar la bandera republicana en la elección que viene para gobernador (the Republican gubernatorial nomination). La última vez la critiqé por no creer en el cambio climatico, aunque los científicos ya saben que el calentamiento global está pasando y es causado esta vez principalmente por la activiad humana.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Poizner and Whitman Need a Science Lesson

Two Republican candidates for governor of California, Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman, in responding to a debate question about whether they believed in human-caused climate change, both refused to state the truth that climate change is currently being caused by human activity.

You can watch the debate video here. Check it out starting at 36:30. They also both support delaying AB 32, California's pioneering climate change prevention law, until the state's unemployment rate has dropped significantly.

I cannot even begin to express my disgust at this blatant pandering. Whatever your political ideology, educated people have an obligation to help society come to an understanding of basic scientific facts. If you're wondering why America hasn't gotten its act together on basic environmental stewardship, look no further than the video above, and please vote for someone besides these two.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Californians Vote Tuesday June 8th! My Opinion of the Five Propositions

Californians go to the polls Tuesday, June 8th for a primary election and to decide the fate of five new propositions and several minor offices. Click here to see the CA Secretary of State's Voter Information Guide.

I'm telling you my opinions on the propositions not as a substitute for your own obligation to think about this and decide for yourself, but instead as a way to raise awareness that there is an election and to hopefully start a discussion. If you're not registered to vote already, it's too late for this election, but you can and should register now for the next one.

How I plan to vote:
13 - YES
14 - NO
15 - YES
16 - NO
17 - NO

Proposition 13 - I'm voting YES

"A YES vote on this measure means: Earthquake safety improvements made to unreinforced masonry (such as brick) buildings would not result in higher property taxes until the building is sold."

"A NO vote on this measure means: Earthquake safety improvements made to unreinforced masonry buildings would continue to be excluded from property taxes but for only up to 15 years."

This passed unanimously out of the State Legislature and appears to have no organized opposition. It seems to make the law more consistent and remove a disincentive to make old brick buildings safer with only a minor loss in tax revenue. If this were the Prop 13 from 1978 which I always talk about, I'd definitely be voting NO :)


Proposition 14 - I'm voting NO

"A YES vote on this measure means: All voters would receive the same primary election ballot for most state and federal offices. Only the two candidates with the most votes—regardless of political party identification—would advance to the general election ballot."

"A NO vote on this measure means: Voters would continue to receive primary election ballots based on their political party. The candidate with the most votes from each political party would continue to advance to the general election ballot."

As a member of the Green Party, which opposes this measure, I've decided I don't like it. The predictable result would be to exclude all non-Democrats/Republicans from the general election ballot, and that doesn't sit well with me, since I figure California needs more out of the box thinking, not less.


Proposition 15 - I'm voting YES

"A YES vote on this measure means: The state ban on public funding for political campaigns for elected offices would be lifted. For the 2014 and 2018 elections, candidates for the office of Secretary of State could choose to receive public funds to pay for the costs of campaigns if they met certain requirements. Charges related to lobbyists would be increased to pay for these costs."

"A NO vote on this measure means: The state ban on public funding for political campaigns for elected offices would continue. Candidates for the office of Secretary of State would continue to pay for their campaigns with private funds subject to current rules. Existing charges related to lobbyists would not change."

I like that this removes a ban on publicly funding campaigns and creates a pilot program that's financed by taxes on lobbyists. Sounds like it'll make government cleaner.


Proposition 16 - I'm voting NO

"A YES vote on this measure means: Local governments would generally be required to receive two-thirds voter approval before they could start up electricity services or expand electricity service into a new territory."

"A NO vote on this measure means: Local governments generally could continue to implement proposals involving the start-up or expansion of electricity service either through approval by a majority of voters or actions by governing boards."

This one stinks. First of all, I'm VERY skeptical of anything that sets up the requirement for a 2/3 vote. Second, this is obviously sponsored by a private utility company (PG&E) in order to make it harder for publicly owned utilities to operate. This is a definite NO for me, and a prime example of the garbage that can come out of California's initiative process.


Proposition 17 - I'm voting NO

"A YES vote on this measure means: Insurance companies could offer new customers a discount on their automobile insurance premiums based on the length of time the customer had maintained bodily injury liability coverage with another insurer."

"A NO vote on this measure means: Insurers could provide discounts to their long-term automobile insurance customers, but would continue to be prohibited from providing such discounts to new customers switching from other insurers."

This is another industry-funded one. This time, by Mercury Insurance. It would basically mean you would have to maintain continuous car insurance coverage or else probably be charged extra if you try to start up again after a gap in coverage. On the other hand you might get a discount for continuous coverage. I don't think people should feel obligated to maintain car-related insurance if they aren't driving, so I'll be voting NO.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Un cuento de dos notas de caminar

Como mencioné la última vez, acabo de tener que regresar a suburbia. Como adiviné, mi nota de caminar bajó.

En mi vecindario viejo la nota fue 97/100, o "paraíso de peatones" por la cantidad y variedad de destinos cercanos. En este vecindario es mas bajo: 62/100, o "más o menos fácil de caminar". Tengo suerte que no bajó más. Por casualidad estoy cerca de unos galerías comerciales strip. Mucha gente en mi vecindario no tiene tal suerte.

Quiero hacer completamente claro lo que está pasando. Negocios de menudeo necesitan cierto número de clientes para sobrevivir. En suburbia, el número de gente dentro de una distancia cómoda de caminar de cierto negocio es más bajo que sería en una ciudad, que es parte de la causa de la falta de negocios, si hay algunos, cerca de cualquiera casa en suburbia. Los negocios dependen más de sus aparcamientos para atraer a los clientes.

¿Qué significa todo esto? Es más difícil caminar aquí, y cuando caminas a cosas, hay que caminar más para llegar a menos. No es una manera muy eficaz de fomenar paseos.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Walk Scores

As I mentioned last time, I was just forced to move back to suburbia. As I expected, my walk score took a hit.

In my old neighborhood it was 97/100, or "walker's paradise" because of the amount and variety of nearby destinations. Now it's been downgraded to 62/100 in the "somewhat walkable" range. I'm lucky it didn't fall more. I happen to be close to a couple of strip malls. A lot of people in my neighborhood aren't so lucky.

I just want to make it perfectly clear what's going on. Retail businesses need a certain number of customers to survive. In suburbia, the number of people within a comfortable walking radius of a given business is lower than it would be in a city, which is part of the reason why there are fewer businesses, if any, near any given suburban house and the businesses rely more on parking lots to attract customers.

What does it all mean? It's harder to walk to things here, and when you do walk to things, you have to walk farther to get to less. Not a great way to encourage walking.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Regresando a las afueras . . . por ahora


Hoy quizás no es el día mejor para mí. He tenido que salir de mi departamento pequeño y cerca del tren subterráneo en LA. Hay que entender que el lugar tuvo sus problemas, pero voy a echar de menos el departamento y el vecindario.

He regresado a donde pasé mi juventud, algún lugar en la suburbia del Condado de Los Ángeles, no viviendo en la calle por la gracia de mis padres, cuya ayuda en mi tiempo de necesidad agradezco mucho.

Este blog probablemente cambiará su enfoque un poquito porque mis alrededores han cambiado. Estoy de nuevo en el vecindario que formó la primera parte de lo que es suburbia y por que es problemático. Será más difícil caminar y usar el transporte público aquí, y más importante montar la bicicleta (y por tanto resolver esa situación de seguro médico, y simplemente hacerlo sin embargo, que parece cada vez más probable).

He caido, pero no estoy derrotado. Un día tendré empleo que puede pagar las cuentas y escaparé suburbia de nuevo para un vecindario en que se puede caminar y que tiene transporte público bueno. Ninguna recesión dura para siempre, y dado el estado en que las cosas están ahora, yo diría que no hay lugar que ir, menos arriba.