By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
The "Live Near Your Work" program in Washington, D.C. will award up to $12,000 to residents if they move closer to public transit or their workplace. Would you take the money?
Now here's a novel idea: if you want to encourage density in your metro area, bribe people.
Perhaps that's too strong a word. But the "Live Near Your Work" pilot program in Washington, D.C. aims to do just that by soliciting applications (.pdf) from people to receive grants of $12,000 -- $6,000 from their employer, $6,000 from the city -- to help with a down payment or closing costs to move closer to their place of employment or public transit.
The goal is noble: preserve and revitalize neighborhoods in the district through leverage, by tempting folks who use vehicles to commute to give them up. The idea is to reverse some of the auto-driven sprawl seen in some major metropolitan areas that are dense enough to support greater public transit use but, for reasons of history or development or transportation culture of the last 50 years, don't.
For now, the pilot program is designed to award between 30 and 60 area workers the grants. But as a pilot program, it should be able to scale, and that's where you run into problems, writes Lydia DePillis of the Washington City Paper:
You can't knock the intention here. But the method raises questions: Will $12,000 actually convince many people to move closer to their jobs? The map attached to the request for applications makes clear that the eligible areas cover most of D.C., and the grants are available to people at any income level—might this grant just throw free money at people who were planning to move somewhere else anyway? The program, which can help a maximum of 60 people at the minimum grant amount, is supposed to be a pilot, and pilots are supposed to be scalable—does D.C. propose to solve its commuter problem by paying everyone who's willing to relocate near transit or within walking distance of work?
This just doesn't seem to be a very smart way to go about smart growth.
Matt Yglesias adds at Think Progress:
How about this as an alternative: Higher taxes on downtown parking garages, and the revenue reduces residential property taxes? Or if the problem is that affordable housing is scarce near Metro stations, how about rezone for denser building near the stations? Meanwhile, it actually seems to me that Metro is super-crowded at rush hours and that on the Red, Blue, and Orange lines we have very little ability to increase rush hour capacity. We really ought to be thinking about building more Metro lines unless we’re expecting population growth to halt.
What would you do?
Photo: Heather M. Rice/Destination DC
May 6, 2011
For the last 20 years I have lived less than two miles from where i work, and most of the time i walk. I'm actually thinking of moving several miles away. If someone wants to pay me 12,000 to move even closer, it would be great in that i would actually have to move to a better neighborhood. However, my job can easily be done by telecommuting, but my ferengi management won't hear of it. if we're not in our cubicles from 8 to 5, they think we're not working. They are not in the office all that often, but i assume they're working. It just doesn't go both directions. Let me work from home, and you can keep your 12k.
Better idea would be to build up infrastructure like they have in Europe - trams. They cover of course the business districts bit also outlying areas. The stops are generally no further away than a few minutes walk. This is true even for far flung suburbs. Last year I visited my daughter in northern NJ. The closest public transportation was at least a brisk 45 minutes walk. As a matter of fact in her locality there were practically NO SIDEWALKS !!! This I find absolutely ridiculous.
Homes near public mass transit have *not* dropped in value as in other areas. If you live within 25 miles of work, you'd likely be further ahead taking the $7500 or so they'll give you for buying a Chevy Volt... even though its range without running the gasoline generator is stated as 40 miles, if you drive 25 miles there, the batteries should 'recover' enough while you're at work to make it home without running it. A full charge (from the 20% cutoff point) on the Volt takes 8KWh. Depending on how much your utility charges, that should cost between 80 cents and $1.20 (10 cents/KWh to 15 cents/KWh). At $4/gallon, a car getting 100 miles/gallon would still use at least $2 worth of gas driving the same distance. And I'm not aware of any cars that get 100 mpg, anyway.
The two top reasons:  It would take several times $12,000, for me to be able to afford to move anywhere (my house is worth less than what I owe, and it will need upgrades and renovations before I could even sell it -- far more than $12K worth). And I thank our government for putting me in that position, in the first place.  I don't accept hand-outs, especially with strings attached. It's a matter of principle. That $12K per household would be better spent developing bio-fuels that can be used in any gasoline-burning engine (hint: not ethanol), and building the necessary processing capacity to fuel 100M+ vehicles. And that's something that needs to be done, now, regardless. My recommendation would be algae and/or waste paper pulp and/or yard/agricultural waste to n-butanol. Look at what still gets sent to the land-fill and see if it can't be used as feed-stock for bio-fuels. My bet is there's a lot of viable feed-stock that gets thrown away, by the tons, every day. And n-butanol is a drop in replacement for gasoline, that doesn't require a new distribution infrastructure, as it's not corrosive (like ethanol is). Besides, I already live close enough to my job, that it takes less than 15 minutes to get there by car, without racing the clock, and I can leave any time I like, take any route I want, and if I need to run an errand at lunch time, I have that option. All that, and I live in the suburbs.
Get rid of 50% of the white collar government jobs in D.C. That the NHTSA works at all with Ray LaHood at the helm tells me it would work better if his position didn't exist at all. Eliminate all the political lackeys and the real estate market would sort itself out.
Not only NO but no way no; never; not in this or any other life "NO!" I'm a northern Wyoming country Cowboy who feels "crowded in" just going to town. "Town", in this case, is the "big city" with a population of about 3,000 people of a COUNTY of less than 6,000. Moving to be near "rapid transit" means moving to a "big city" big enough to have said "public transportation:. No thank you! I have never liked cities and rarely even drive to Billings, Montana. Besides, there is a certain freedom to being able to drive where ever I want, at my own pace when ever I want.
Not just for fiscal reasons. It always seems that they leave those of us that are farmers out of these equations. Most communities don't allow livestock within city limits. We are also the ones that get left out of the green cars etc. It is kind of hard to haul 30,000 pounds of hay in a Prius.
It wouldn't come close to giving me enough money to move. I would need more than that to move the life I have now to something closer to public transportation. If I wanted a cardboard box or live in a storage unit it might work
Yeah.... I might take them up on the offer. BUT i would also consider something that isn't mentioned. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION TO SHOPPING & GROCERY AREAS & ENTERTAINMENT AREAS [parks, movies, eating, etc, food stores, clothing stores, etc] Since i'm not able to WORK [SSD - Social Security Dissability] the $12,000 would put me in a warmer climate so i don't get severe DIABETIC ARTHERITIS all the time.
Brad Templeton has done a lot of work on robot controlled electric cars. Turns out that order of magnitude cheaper than subway systems and buses. For the cost of a subway line extension, you could either give everyone would be served by extension an electric car or at least heavily subsidize it. real estate is an issue. In order to accommodate the number of people they want to move in, they would need to build 20 to 30 story tall apartment buildings around each subway stop. If you want everyone to live closer to work, that everyone would need to change their living space every time they change their job. Otherwise you just end up with a bunch of people taking public transit when they really don't need to. One way to solve this is to have companies own apartment flats and when you change jobs, you move out of your flat and into a new company owned facility. Companies should also own all retail facility for the benefit of their employees. The circles on the maps are too big for pedestrian range. My mother-in-law could never walk a half mile. She's lucky to walk a 10th of a mile. My partner is disabled and also has similar nobility range. If you want something to work, design for someone 80s years old and in moderate health. I think taxes to reduce urban population levels is a good idea. Cities should tax the residence enough so that many of them will move out and form small cities elsewhere. Large cities are dead loss and only serve as easy to find targets for ICBMs. Failing that, cities should be entirely self-sufficient for water, sewer, food, electronics etc. They should stop leeching off of the surrounding landscape.
Find the homes of people that have the longest commutes and pay an arsonist $1,000 to burn their houses down. It costs less It provides jobs to the building industry It provides practice for firefighters And the idea is equally stupid.
Four questions. 1> Is there enough space "closer" to public transportation to house all the people that wish to move? 2> Does the public transportation have enough excess capacity to handle them? 3> What is the D.C. going to do with the vacant land/buildings? 4> From whom is the D.C taking the $6,000 that they're going to give to select individuals?
The people in the world are only think about self.The only wants money and if he/ she got lot of money than the people don't think about there past so, the words i want say is that money is not all the things for us.
This is a lot of money to someone just starting off in life. Spend 12K on time to buy a second hand car or get 12K to start life off. I would have taken it with joy. At least for those first few yeas when you are trying to get established, come up with a down payment for a house, find a job that makes you not cry to go to each day and so on. Those early years are much more fluid than later years when you know precisely what you want and how you want to get it. By then you can decide, with money in your pocket, if you want to be a city person or a country person.
Why the method may need tweaking it's about time we started to incentivize urbanization over sprawl.
The real question is whether you would want $12,000 in your tax dollars go to pay someone else to move. This is a completely stupid idea.
Available jobs aren't spread out enough evenly between cities, suburbs, rural areas, so if they move, sure they will cut down on traffic and gas consumption and beating away the life of the car, but everyone will be crowded into living space where there is work, and no one would be living where there are fewer jobs. A better idea is to have jobs in all parts of a county, cities, suburbs, rural areas, so that people can just find work more local to themselves.
It reminds me of several of the initiatives tried over the last few years. Consider cash for clunkers and the various housing tax credit concepts. All audits of these programs have shown very little in the way of bang for the buck. The price of gas already is forcing people to make a transition to mass transit. If you want people to move closer to an area you need to make it more attractive to them in the long run. $12000 is nice short term, but not so much long term if the costs incurred are high, the lack of desired amenities missing, or if people feel it is unsafe to move there. I don't live in DC, but where I work has a similar initiative. USC has a nice program which contributes thousands towards home ownership near its two campuses (paid out over several years). The problem is, it costs lots more to live near there in general and the safer areas even more so. Moving closer would have saved me time of travel, but the costs in the terms of social disruption (losing access to friends and places I enjoy) as well as the lowered safety levels and higher overall living costs made me make the logical choice (for me) to not take advantage of the program. Given the collapse of housing prices in recent years it is also fortunate in that regards too.
...one has to consider that most people do not live near where they work because either they do not want to for lifestyle reasons, or because they can't afford to. These days, the price-spread between a nice house in the burbs and a correspondingly nice place in the city is likely to be a few dozen times $12,000. I think that commuting hassle and cost is likely a much bigger motivator than a mere $12k.
If someone would grant me $12,000 I could engage in an intensive, full-time search for meaningful employment closer to where I currently live. That would also reduce individual commuting.
It's dangerous to generalize from 1 example. DC, at least by reputation, is known for bad neighborhoods close to office buildings filled with people who commute long distances. Tax credit & other affordable housing programs are mostly directed at areas with a different problem - it's not as profitable to build housing for poor people as it is to build housing for the middle class & upper income. Regarding cost effectiveness, the programs are designed by people in the real estate industry to maximize their profits, not to provide the most housing for the most people. And it's politically more acceptable to give somebody a $2 tax break than to give them a $1 subsidy.
If you got "meaningful employment" closer to where you currently live, or moved closer to you job, you might be able to rid yourself of an autombile and save your own $12,000. Do you own work, and quit wanting someone to "give" you something that doesn't belong to them in the first place.