Brookland NIMBYs Killing The Environment

Here’s a map highlighting the location of 901 Monroe Street NE in Washington, DC:

As you can see, it’s right by a Metro station. Many people, myself included, would like to see America consume less gasoline. One good way to achieve this is for more people to ride mass transit. Unfortunately, building heavy rail mass transit systems is quite expensive. Nonetheless, it’s often worthwhile. But once you invest the vast sums of money needed to build one, the general idea is that you want residences and commercial space to be located near the stations. A reasonable question to ask is, “Should we have as much stuff near stations as the market provides, or should we provide special subsidies to encourage station-adjacent building?” What we do instead in this country is place severe regulatory restrictions on how many people are allowed to live near Metro, and then neighborhood busybodies complain that the restrictions aren’t sufficiently severe:

This kind of thing — a floor or two lopped off here or there — may not seem like a big deal. But there’s some real wisdom in the idea of thinking globally and acting locally. The global consequences of this floor-lopping are several fold. One, it means more car driving in the DC area. Two, it means that investing in rail transportation looks like a worse investment for cities to make, so fewer places will do it in the future. Three, it means that there will be housing shortages near Metro stations, so transit investments will be associated in people’s minds with “gentrification” and people being forced out of their homes rather than with overall amelioration of conditions. On its own, as a single action, it’s not that big of a deal. But repeated over and over again on every desirable patch of urban land in America, the consequences are large and pernicious.