Parking Ticket Data + Registration Data = !

Sometimes this blog is just a place to drop ideas that I think would be fun to do regardless of whether or not they are particularly ‘scholarly.’ Here’s one.

NYC posts data for every parking ticket issued in the entire city. It appears to include license plate number. So. The government also has access to data on where those cars are registered (vehicle registration data). This is the reason why I can drive on the Massachusetts Turnpike for the first time in life without signing up for EZ-Pass, and they manage to get the bill right to my apartment.

Suppose they combine data, and you could see the ZIP code of the vehicle’s registration along with the location of the ticket. What type of relationships would you expect? There is some work linking demographics and parking tickets: Brazil finds that parking tickets are concentrated in neighborhoods with renters and Black residents. But Brazil was just looking at ticket data, and tried to infer that tickets were for non-neighborhood residents based on the time in which the tickets were issued.

If I could get parking ticket data linked with the ZIP code of vehicle registration, I’d want to explore those dynamics in relation to:

  1. Gentrification (are the tickets the gentrifiers, or displaced people trying to get back into town to keep participating in specific institutions, organizations)
  2. Neighborhood succession (ditto above)
  3. Something about suburbanites visiting areas where the streetscape has been transformed in ways those suburbanites might not know how to navigate.

But I imagine it would take some kind of miracle to get these datas linked in anyway.

Franklin Ave. parking space pits hipsters vs. old-timers (er, bikers vs.  drivers) in tale of Crown Heights gentrification - New York Daily News

COVID-19 Transit Bailouts By Country

Can we compare what different countries are doing to keep public transit agencies afloat during COVID-19? How does the USA compare?

In the USA an estimated 7,778,444 people commuted by Public Transit in the 2019 ACS. The government provided $25 billion to transit agencies in CARES and another $14 billion in the latest round of relief: $39 billion total. The equates to $4,885 per transit commuter. Americans made 9.9 billion transit trips in 2019. So the relief so far equates to $3.94 per trip.

In Canada, an estimated 1,968,220 people commuted by Public Transit in the 2016 Census (the closest available). The Canadian federal government and provinces have collectively committed $4.6 billion (CAD) to Public Transit. This translates to $2,337 (CAD) per transit commuter. Canadians made an estimated 1.88 billion transit trips in 2019. So the relief so far equates to $2.45 CAD per trip.

The U.K. national government granted Transport for London £1.095 Billion in May and a second agreement of £905 million in November (I’m not counting the loans). Support for other systems outside of England exceed £700 million. The Scottish government has provided its operators with at least £124.6 million in support (summing announcements here). The Welsh government has provided £140 million to support its buses and Northern Ireland’s Translink got £30 million. Finally, the government has poured over £4 billion into rail as of Nov 27, 2020. This all sums to roughly £7.02 billion, but I might be missing things. Residents of the UK made an estimated 8.3 billion transit trips in 2018/19 (p. 3). This equates to £0.85 per trip.

Ok, so serious readers are going to have problems with this crude comparison, but let’s think about the implications of those criticisms:

-There’s no control here for farebox recovery expectations during normal times. Accounting for this, Canada should be pumping in more because farebox recovery is generally higher there compared to the USA, no?

-We’re not controlling for prior fiscal health of these systems, what kind of reserve funding they had on hand.

-We’re not including municipal, local or regional government support.

Would a rigorous comparison of responses by country be of interest? On paper, the U.S. support appears much stronger, but does this just reflect American transit systems’ greater dependency on government? What lessons could we derive from comparisons to countries that fund transit systems differently (thinking of Paris, here). This ‘sample’ is admittedly limited by my proficiency in only English…

It will be interesting (and likely depressing) to see what different directions cities go in based on the level of support their transit systems receive to weather this crisis.

Snowplow Equity?

A few weeks ago I learned that NYC puts all its snowplow data online–so you could see who got their streets cleared first, etc., and map it onto commute routes and do some kind of equity analysis.

Should I? Should you? It would be so much fun as a data exercise (assuming you didn’t find anything problematic, in which case it would be distressing). But would it be the kind of paper someone would think “that certainly was a high priority piece?”

From a tenure committee standpoint: the answer is probably no. An equity issue with something like this is mostly going to be an optimization problem, so it doesn’t have the quality the ‘wicked problems’ that academics spend their lives on. However, for someone looking for a project to learn postgis with, it could be a great case study.

Community leaders say: we want public plowing – OPSEU SEFPO


Putting Consumer Surplus for Transport in Lay Terms

Hey Blogosphere friends.  Its been a while.

I’m doing some knowledge translation work for Mobilizing Justice, the research program I work for… And to that end am experimenting with plain-language explanations for what Consumer Surplus (aka the log sum) actually is.

Here is a first stab.  Does this do it justice? Is it accurate but also clear?

“Transportation planners use econometric models to predict how residents travel, where they choose to travel to, and the locations they choose live in.  Each of these models uses survey data of these choices to estimate the value that different types of people place on different attributes of transportation and housing.  For example, the model may identify that some travelers, such a women, are more likely to prefer commute modes that offer more safety. These profiles of what different groups of travellers prefer, known to researchers as utility functions, can be used to estimate how those groups of travelers are likely to perceive the value of new infrastructure, and thus whether the new infrastructure will benefit those travellers.  This makes it a comprehensive and rigourous way of calculating the equity of benefits from new transport investments.”

Would appreciate feedback, thanks!


Towards A Statutory Definition of Luxury Housing

It’s Friday and it’s over 38 degrees outside (Over 101 F) so I want to play around with this idea while waiting for some code to run:

If jurisdictions hope to tax luxury development (to discourage it, to limit it, or to redistribute the profits it produces), then they need a definition of luxury housing that will survive legal and political challenges. To that end, I’ve always wanted to brainstorm the criteria around which such a definition needs to be fashioned.  It probably needs to be:

  • Based on or linked to existing definitions in housing policy (consistent with existing policy).
  • Legally defensible, so: non-discriminatory, reasonable (there has to be a rationale, hey, maybe even a Nexus Study 😉
  • Relevant (or capable of staying relevant), so not an arbitrary number that can’t adjust in tandem with the market
  •   There’s a realpolitik element to it: something that doesn’t target to big a chunk of the market, but targets enough where levies on it generate meaningful revenue.
  • May need to have a built form component, or at least dis-aggregated definitions by type of build: detached, attached, apartment, etc.
  • The definition may need to vary between new builds and existing homes.  Should historic homes be exempted?  Expensive may not equal luxury if the housing is 150 years old.

Vancouver’s definition of luxury housing is anything selling for 3 times the market median.  That’s roughly $3 million, last I checked.  Seems a bit high?

Just thinking out loud.  Would love to know the thoughts of others.


Housing Developments at the Ballot Box: Does Enough Inclusionary Make The Difference?

Davis, my favourite “slow growth/de-growth” town, has passed its second YIMBY verdict on a housing development proposal in 2018.  This one concerns a truly peripheral senior housing development with ample on-site inclusionary senior housing and a grab-bag of on-site amenities, including a wellness centre, pool and restaurant.  More importantly, the site has waaaay more inclusionary senior housing than it’s required to.  In fact, it’s at 46% inclusionary, which must mean the developer’s affordable partner anticipates getting a wad of tax credits plus some other subsidy.

Prior to 2018, Davis voters had voted down four housing proposals under the city’s unique development ballot box voting tool, Measure R.  It’s too small a sample to say anything definitively, but I think it’s worth noting that the two measures that passed in 2018 both had very strong inclusionary housing components that probably improved their ballot-box appeal. 

Developer strategies to win at the ballot: A Greenfield Win in Davis?

Davis, California is the “sustainability capitol of the world” according to the terminator-Governor of the state.  The city has some of the strictest growth control laws in California, a growth-control oriented state generally.  Voters must approve any development on open space or agricultural land and so far 1 out of five or six projects have ever been approved at the ballot.

Davis voters will vote on another one this November.  The project is called the West Davis Active Adult Community, a proposed low density senior housing development on the edge of town.  Off the bat, the very title of the project does a few things to assist in its electoral passage:

  • It signals that only neighbors in West Davis need worry about adverse traffic effects (boosting NIMBY sympathy or apathy in the rest of Davis), and
  • It signals that it will not provide student housing ala “Active Adult,” assuaging the fears of West Davis residents that the project could ruin their property values by bringing loud, drunk students into cramped, overhanging apartments in their neighborhood.

This developer has really thought this through and has NIMBY proofed this project in other notable ways.  The senior living project will run a “Davis Based Buyers Program” designed to lure existing Davis home owners into downsizing from their larger suburban tract homes into these smaller and more compact homes.  This accomplishes a few things at once:

  • It shows that the project is catering to existing residents’ housing needs and not “newcomers,” as the developer hopes to limit non-Davis buyers to no more than 10% of purchasers.
  • The campaign doubles as advertising for the development, as the high turnout senior demographic is needed to win in Davis AND constitutes the developer’s target demographic.

I encourage people interested in anti-NIMBY strategies to explore the site for the project (linked above).  This is a developer who knows what he is doing.  We will know whether it’s enough to turn the very NIMBY Davis senior demographic into YIMBYs in a couple of weeks.

Rendering of the West Davis Active Adult Community

Don’t Sell Off Public Land Right Before A Population Boom

The State of Victoria is selling off land around several of its inner-city Public Housing estates to pay for the renewal of 1,100 units on these estates.  They could just rebuild all the buildings with public funds.  My colleagues and I haven’t been given access to the cost data that would be necessary to estimate what a simple rebuild would take, but our back of the envelope estimate puts it at ~$450 million.  The government has already committed $185 million.

In this blog I’m going to illustrate why they should wait to sell off the land (or maybe just never sell it off?)  There’s a strong relationship between land values and population, and that relationship is not linear.  Below I have plotted the relationship between total residential land values in Victoria and population with data from Prosper Australia and PhD Candidate Phillip Soos.  Each point represents a year, and I have replaced the dots for each observation with the year.  What do you see?

Residential Land Value Per Capita Versus Population, State of Victoria.  Data courtesy of Prosper Australia and Phillip Soos

If Victoria’s population rises to 7 million, as planned, the value of residential land will increase greater than proportionally.  So why are we selling off this prime land now?  Why not put it in a trust where it could be kept in reserve for when the land is really needed to house people after a major catastrophe, or sold off to pay for some other major emergency?

Let’s also recall that under the mono-centric urban economics model, land in the core is valued the highest.  So the relationship is going to be more extreme (more logarithmic than linear) if replicated the figure above but just compared inner city land values to the region’s population growth.  This is why the land sell off right before this big population growth spurt is particularly shortsighted.

I could try to pay for the VG to make the data necessary to figure that out.  But it should just be common sense for people working in this area.  What are we doing?

A little bit of transparency around this process and the final deal signed between developers and the government might inspire more trust in this decision.  But that appears, routinely, to be too difficult for DHHS.

Putting Wiener’s Bills Together

On this blog I’ve played around a little bit with how SB 828 might change which California jurisdictions will be required to plan for a significant increase in anticipated housing need.  In this piece I want to link that back to SB 827 and SB 35 and try to envision or imagine, in a broad and big-picture sense, what Wiener’s California might end up looking like.

Senator Scott Wiener advanced SB 35 last year.  The bill basically applies “as of right” approval to most new development proposals in California cities that are not meeting their Regional Housing Needs Allocation/Assessment (RHNA) targets.  The “as of right” or “ministerial approval” only applies to projects that conform to existing zoning requirements on land.  Based on my earlier blog posts on SB 828 (see elsewhere on this website), I think SB 828, as currently written, would make SB 35 ‘as of right’ apply to nearly all jurisdictions in the state.  If my understanding is correct, and SB 828 would overrule the previous statutory guidelines for RHNA (I have yet to confirm if that is true), we will be living in By-Right California. But remember that this only applies to projects conforming to existing zoning.  So cities may respond by rapidly down-zoning as much as they can.

That’s where SB 828 comes in.  The bill up zones all development within walk-able distances to major public transport stations. It basically takes a lot of zoning power out of the hands of locals in these transit rich locations.

So putting all the bills together:

SB 828 and SB 35 inspire a backlash that sees localities massively down-zone across the state except in areas where they cannot per SB 827.  The result?  California’s next 1-2 million new homes concentrate disproportionately, or mostly, in transit rich areas.

If either SB 828 or SB 827 get through the legislature, the next Governor isn’t going to be the defacto state leader on housing, land use, and transport, Scott Wiener will be.  That’s how massive these bills are.

Yeah the Governor’s race is fun to follow. But this guy is the one to really watch in Sacramento right now.