Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Value Per Acre

While researching park sizes for Terramagne, I stumbled across a cogent analysis of why T-American towns have so much more money to spend on awesome facilities and services when compared to those in local-America. It's the value per acre.

1) T-America never went as far as L-America in embracing the car. This means their neighborhoods remain more walkable, and less space gets gobbled up by roads, parking lots, and so forth. They make use of underground and mega-garage parking. Biking is popular and well supported. They also have an extensive mass-transit system variously including buses, subways, local and long-distance trains, etc. which are cheap to use and go pretty much everywhere, so people use them a lot.

How do they make that work? And where does that space go?

2) T-America has retained a denser building structure, closer to traditional blocks. They also favor mixed-use neighborhoods and multipurpose buildings. Most residential blocks include a range of housing sizes from apartments to big homes suitable for large families or sharehouses, which makes them mixed-income neighborhoods. This raises the average population density when compared to suburban sprawl. They also include a few small businesses -- crafts, consultation offices, garage shops, and houses repurposed as hair salons or antique stores. That means people don't have to drive clear across town for every little thing. Live-work buildings are very popular. Downtowns often include a lot of half-and-half buildings with retail or office space below and apartments above. Midrise and highrise buildings can include underground parking, one or two retail floors, one or more business floors, an amenity floor, and several residential floors of apartments or condominiums. It's not rare for a good-sized apartment building or business to own its own shuttlebus, like Skylark does in Onion City. Live-work arrangements cut the commute time almost down to zero. That time can then be spent on work, rest, or leisure. So a great deal of population, activity, and infrastructure tends to cluster in a smaller space, which means that the infrastructure costs less than sprawl and the overall travel is more efficient. By packing in lots of things to do, it improves the quality of the community overall.

Meanwhile, the value per acre is much greater, which means a town can easily rake in loads of tax revenue without having to set local property taxes high enough to be onerous. They simply have more people sharing the space, making more money, so the burden is less noticeable.

3) They have some suburbs and subdivisions with larger yards, for people who want to live in or near town but not right on top of each other. These often use cohousing design principles to cluster houses and leave a large common area. But mostly what they have more of are parks. A typical T-American city has one giant city park, several community parks, a generous number of neighborhood parks, and scads of pocket parks; plus one or more "specialty" facilities such as a golf course, skating rink, theme park, etc. Here's a comparison of park sizes. All that extra greenspace accomplishes several fantastic things. It encourages people to stay more active, which improves their health. It gives them lots of fun things to do, which improves their quality of life. It facilitates interaction, which improves their social ties. It makes the city more beautiful, which makes it more peaceful. And all of those factors run up the property values, thus generating even more tax revenue.

So if you want to make your hometown more like T-America, watch for ways to match up the infrastructure. Support higher density uses of available acreage, mixed-use neighborhoods, multipurpose buildings, mixed-income neighborhoods, live-work buildings, public transportation, walkability, biking, and greenspace. Undermine divisive laws that make zoning a nightmare and forbid consenting adults from living together. These things come up in town meetings and on ballots, or you might see flyers for them around town. Use your folding vote and your ballot vote. Create the world you want to live in.
Tags: community, fantasy, how to, reading

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