It is universally acknowledged in real estate circles that walkable neighbourhoods are worth more than the same houses in unwalkable neighbourhoods. Pity the poor folks in unwalkable neighbourhoods. Many no doubt wanted to live in Westboro or the Glebe, but due to scarcity, were priced out. The cheaper neighbourhoods, alas, are usually not walkable.
And just who designs those unwalkable neighbourhoods? Why people in older city neighbourhoods, of course. After all, people lived in the walkable areas when the unwalkable ones were just cows in a field. So the walkable privileged (or is it privileged walkables?) imposed the new pattern on the suburbs. We forced them to live in separated land use areas rather than mixed use. We insisted that within those separated land use buildings, each one had to be surrounded by the amount of parking required for the annual peak parking day. We forbade traditional main streets. We positioned large super-schools to have catchment areas that were unwalkable by their inmates. We required 20′ setbacks from the curb to their lot lines just so we cheaply dump winter snow on their lawns, and we forced suburbanites to buy multiple cars. And once they had those, we forbade putting groups of kids in one car by requiring big clumsy car seats and individual seat belts, forcing people to invent and suffer through minivans. And don’t forget the greenbelt, forcing people to live miles beyond the real city, increasing their commute. And with Smart Growth, we further limited the amount of land available, forcing people to move to Arnprior and Kemptville and turning those places in unwalkable sprawls too.
And don’t forget bus service. In the old city, bus rides are pleasant 10-20 minute affairs. From Kanata or Barrhaven, a 40-90 minute commute, and then we had the nerve to charge them a premium fare!
How can we fix this?
We need a Walkable Accord.
I think the answer is obvious. We need to put a tax on properties within the walkable neighbourhoods. Say, 10% of your house value, annually (this is the amount recommended by the great popular leftist economist Piketty). And we should raise the urban bus fare to a minimum of $10 and make it free in the suburbs. After all, people in walkable neighbourhoods have had decades of privileged access over the rest of the citizenry. It’s time to give others a fare shake. (And if people stop using the bus in the city, we should use their historic ridership data and charge some other sort of levy to raise the same funds. It is no good trying to escape the guilty consequences of being walkable.)
All the funds raised on the complacent walkables would be given to the suburbanites in the unwalkable areas. Maybe allocated a certain amount to housing from the 50’s, a bit more for 60’s, more yet for the 70’s subdivisions, raising to the highest amounts transferred to the 2000’s and let’s not forget a huge transfer to those who live in rural areas in “estate lots” who simply cannot walk anywhere at all.
What will they do with this windfall of money?
Well, that’s up to them alone to decide. We mustn’t impose our privileged walkable views onto the recipients. Instead, we might invite them every five years to hold a conference to describe their evolution. No measures, no penalties, no preconditions. All voluntary; no need to verify. If they use it to build more roads, well, that’s just their adjustment to their unfortunate condition we imposed on them by our privilege and monopoly of the walkable areas in the first place. Maybe they need another century of land use segregation and automania before they can get walkable.
The reward for signing the Walkable Accord.
Why would politicians sign such a accord? Wouldn’t the residents of the walkable city object? Well, not if we gussy it up in fine words like complete streets, and walkable neighbourhoods, saving the world, and hide the fine print. And don’t forget bribes. Invite all those politicians and their hangers on to a giant signing ceremony, with thousands of suburbanites flown in to witness making the walkables pay for their original sin, for hoarding the walkable neighbourhoods. A nice location, say Paris, Fr. would do nicely. I’m sure spouses would love to go too.
And someone take the photographers. And the main stream media. They’d love Paris too.
Who could possibly object to such a modest proposal for a walkable world?
about the picture heading the story, we will call it “The Expulsion of the Poor and Migrants to the Unwalkable Wilderness”, c1959 edition:
That’s old Wellington St in the picture, with Hintonburg and St Francois church in the upper left. The upper right ring of smokestacks is the CPR Roundhouse, now site of Tom Brown Arena. The line of wooden poles on the left of the road is still there, now it is right on the edge of City Centre’s upramp. The old wooden viaduct, alas, was demolished in 1969. Here’s approximately the same view from Google:
Of course, unseen to the right is the four to six lane replacement road required to handle the driving unwalkables, plus the transitway / $2billion LRT to further expell the unwalkables further out of the more privileged walkable city.