Granola Shotgun

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Ego
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Ego » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:20 pm

@Rigger, yeah, I get that it is not a simple calculation. But there is a simple logic underlying why cities are more efficient... economies of scale.

Rural residents frequently use city service (roads, parks, libraries, waste treatment for their septic system cleanout, etc.) yet despite this, the economies of scale make cities more efficient. Rural residents often require extra special services that are not necessarily factored into their cost. Like ferries, for instance. How much of the cost of the Washington State Ferry system is paid by fares? How much is direct subsidies? What would happen to island dwellers if the state said, "Meh, this is too expensive", and stopped the service?
Last edited by Ego on Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Riggerjack
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:22 pm

@ SWB:
Why would you want to outsource water and septic? What is the advantage of being outside a city on acreage (higher purchase price, higher taxes)?

Everything in our current land of plenty is preferences. If your preferences match that of the crowds, prepare to outbid them to get what you want. When your preferences no longer align with the preferences of the crowd, you have to deal with that.

My strategy has been to avoid the crowds. But I can't say that is the best strategy, just what works for me.

I'm only arguing about this because I have seen the panicked look in the eyes of city folks trying to figure out how anything works without streetlights... Truth be told, I prefer people live where they want, even in cities.

But when the assumed narrative is that one place is obviously the better, sometimes facts help disperse fictions.
Last edited by Riggerjack on Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:38 pm

@ Ego
And city folk won't stay in the cities, hence the 40 miles of backups going back to Seattle from every direction every Sunday afternoon.

The ferry service was siezed from black point, back in the 50's as part of the highway system. It used to be entirely private. Again, used by rural folks all week, and 3 hour lines of tourists on the weekends. I don't know what percentage of cost is covered by fares, varies by run, I'm sure. Again, state ownership jacks up prices.

If the ferry shut down, most residents would throw parties! And then, most who work on the mainland would adapt. We would quickly see a small private system again, like the passenger ferry from Port orchard to Bremerton. He'll, even hat island with population of 32 full time residents can keep a private ferry system going. Property values close to ferries would drop, local government would go into blind flailing panic without tourist taxes and lower property taxes (island county has a free bus system, paid for by higher sales tax).

I do know the Sounder, light rail from Mukilteo to Seattle costs $47/ passenger, if every trip is at capacity, and the fair is $9, if that helps.

Again, if there are any economies of scale to urban areas, it should be perfectly clear in a budget. I ran 3, and it's not like I had to cherry pick to find easy evidence of absence of economy of scale. But 3 is a small sample size.

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by jacob » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:52 pm

@Riggerjack/Ego - Could it be that you guys are arguing whether the energy-dollar price of transportation is fair in the short run vs in the long run? Or are you arguing whether it's fair in the near space or in the far space, given current pricing?

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:01 pm

Hint. If I wanted to prove that cities COULD have an economy of scale, I would look for one on flatland, with minimal bordering water, like a river. Seattle is hills squeezed between water bodies, with creeks and rivers cutting through, so could be overly expensive.

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:10 pm

@jacob
No. I am arguing that the narrative of economies of scale at City level makes intuitive sense, but does not in fact exist.

That population density does not make for efficiency, when the complicating factors of size and logistics come into play.

I have looked at the German countryside by Google maps. (The only way to travel!) The village surrounded by fields seems the best way to capture efficiency of scale. Dense, with a small enough scale to not overly complicate improvements.

I expect when fuel prices go up, that will be our pattern as we settle our wheat farms in the Yukon. :shock:

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by SavingWithBabies » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:12 pm

Riggerjack wrote:
Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:22 pm
@ SWB:
Why would you want to outsource water and septic? What is the advantage of being outside a city on acreage (higher purchase price, higher taxes)?
I think we crossed wires there. I'm saying I'm seeing more why I would not want to do so. In a city, one doesn't have much of a choice. Interestingly, in the areas around here, people sue to get onto city water and sewer. So the city turns around and triples the rate to them. Why do people do that? I don't know but maybe people who want the city water and sewer outside of the city are thinking short term or are trying to sell newly built housing to people who might be scared away by septic and/or wells.

At this point, my ideal housing is to find 5 acres about 10-15 minutes out of the city with electricity and gas but not water or sewer (I'd rather have a well and a septic field).

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Ego
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Ego » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:20 pm

@rigger, Since this is your area of expertise, I'll ask.... Last week AT&T came though the building to prepare for the installation of fiber. More than sixty people will get access to fiber in one fell swoop. To supply fiber to the same number of people in your rural area, how would the costs compare?

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:29 pm

@SWB
City sewer and water allow deeper subdivision of property. This is huge. Buy a old farmhouse on acreage at the edge of town, when utilities pass, bulldoze the house, replace with 4-8 units per acre, sell all the lots, retire.

Works every time, so long as growth continues.

But of course, nothing can be gained without wetting some beaks. This is where your local planning Dept kicks in. For instance, in Marysville, beyond the full platting process, Marysville has added a $30k/per unit "impact fee" to every plat. Nobody knows why housing costs are high, right?

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 7:14 pm

@Ego

Vz's costs per household in overlay was around 3k per unit in residential single family units. That's cost to pass the house. Install costs were under a grand, sending out laborers to trench in a buried drop, and then a tech to install the network interface device.
After we were at it for a few years, we got costs down by almost 30%. Greenfield's (residential new development) dropped install costs by over half, as developers would place conduit for us. This was the lowest hanging fruit, and we worked hard to ensure we got as many as possible.

Existing apartment buildings were a mess. We were forced to get the building OWNER'S signature to do an apartment building. Then a crew would come thru and do the install. We contracted this out, and often the contractor would add a duct system to the exterior of the building to get fiber into the apartments. This was ugly, could interfere with building maintenance (re-siding) and getting access to units was such a problem that costs went up over time, not down. It was more expensive per unit to do an MDU than SFU, and we just stopped doing condominiums altogether. All the complications of apartments, with lots of owners. Complete waste.

However, the take rate, the % of customers divided by customers passed, was much better. Is it "worth it" to do MDUs? This answer changes back and forth depending on bonus structure of the guy making the decision. It goes back and forth. Currently FTR isn't converting any MDUs even the ones we have passed, where we left a coil to do the install. I expect this too will change, eventually.

T is a different animal from VZ. Their original business was the interoffice lines, so their customers were all telecoms. When they started buying up telcos, they basically firewalled the old business from the new. I haven't spoken to many of their telecom folks, but my impression is T is 2 very different companies under one brand. You will be dealing with the telco side, and I just don't know much about them.

My advice would be to make certain that you agree to pathways for cable, and apartment access, before a crew gets on site. Know what equipment is needed and where. Make sure that power is available where needed. Everyone wants this to work, the service really is much better, but not everyone's interests will align. But your life will be easier if you define a path and unit access early.

That's probably more than you wanted to know.

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Ego
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Ego » Mon Oct 23, 2017 7:48 pm

We may have asbestos in the walls and plaster in many places so they are reluctant to punch holes and fish. I don't blame them. It looks like they'll be running clear track from the closets on each floor. Thanks.

Sorry for the derail. Back to normal programming.

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by SavingWithBabies » Wed Oct 25, 2017 10:45 am

Could it be that you two (Ego and Riggerjack) represent two sweet spots of housing costs? I'm thinking of something like this:

Image

On the rural side, we have Riggerjack. This side does require initial outlay for down payment and mortgage payments but the overall cost is lower than most of the spots in between (some utilities self-provided like water/sewer, lower taxes). There are some costs to buying into this lifestyle like having a vehicle and having and spending enough money to make the initial down payment.

On the urban side, we have Ego. This side requires careful planning and/or lifestyle hacking to seek out a situation that minimizes housing costs by trading some time instead of currency for at least part of the cost of housing. There are some "costs" to this lifestyle but they are less monetary and more lifestyle like potentially less space (some might see this as pro) and some concern about long term housing as not owned.

I'm just guessing but it seems like between these two edges, the costs generally trend higher and it's harder to optimize.

We have concrete examples of exceptions though like Jacob buying towards the outskirts of the city in somewhat dense housing in cash for a distressed/below market property. Due to making a good buy, I would guess his acquisition costs are lower than the typical rural option. The monthly costs might be higher due to city-provided utilities and higher taxes (Cook County). But they might not be due to lower purchase price keeping taxes low (at least for a decade, Cook County taxes do go up).

There are lifestyle costs too in both options that might help skew them to be lower if one practices them:

Rural allows having a large garden, growing some of own food, potentially have livestock, etc. These activities do typically take a lot of time and effort but, depending on your ERE hustle (Wheaton scale), can be done frugally in terms of currency.

Urban (dense) puts one close to a lot of economic activity where there is outliers to getting some things more efficiently than the other housing options. For example, affordable produce markets, grocery stores that make too much take out food and regularly put a chunk on discount pricing if you go at the right time, etc. In other words, you can hustle your expenses lower if you connect well with the local economy. Much easier to live car-free.

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Oct 25, 2017 1:11 pm

Well, I think ego and I occupy the extreme and opposing ends of several scales. This is not the most relevant one, I think.

From his writing, I believe ego to be strong, independent, and far more socially adept than I. This is clear from his faith in his fellow man. Even when his wife suffered a random attack from a homeless person, he was able to brush this off as a low probability outlier, something very unlikely to be repeated, and that efforts to eliminate would be a waste of resources. In general he thinks preppers are wasting resources, and allowing fear to rule their lives. I'm not sure he's wrong. In fact, this confidence is something I envy.

However, my experiences with random strangers is considerably less positive. In my experience, people are on average decent folks, but that violent, abusive, obnoxious, and or stupid is the primary adjective for a large minority of people. I reserve the right to be kind to strangers, while never expecting the same.

Ego thinks that in times of troubles, we will all band together. I believe in such times, many will band together, and victimize the few. We can both point to historical and biographical examples.

In short, ego seems to be kinder than I, and better at receiving such kindness from others.

This, and the introversion/extroversion difference I think has a great deal to do with the different preferences we have. Sometimes expressed as city/rural, sometimes as minimalist/tool hoarder and often expressed when we talk politics.

I think it is good that we can disagree here. That he wider the range of experience, expectations, and attitudes we have, the better. It allows people to find something to agree with, and to better evaluate what they don't agree with. I believe that one of the primary problems we face as a society is the way we form bubbles of similar thoughts. This is why I so often write in disagreement in threads. We need to regularly challenge our assumptions.

Such as your assumption that living rural means we need a car. Island county has a fare free bus system. My neighbor uses this for her commute. As a gardening, back to the land hippie, she lives closer to the ERE ideal than most of us here. And on any subject she is far more likely to agree with Ego than with me...

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by SavingWithBabies » Wed Oct 25, 2017 1:19 pm

That makes sense and gives me a lot to mull over (in terms of where I fit in the scale on some of those aspects).

In terms of rural and car, I was definitely projecting my assumptions based on my local situation. There is public transit in the city here but not outside (besides school buses). The artery roads into the city are congested and high speed (45-50+ MPH) with narrow shoulders so bicycling has more risk than I would like. But, as you point out, there are certainly other areas where this is not the case.

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Oct 25, 2017 3:11 pm

Even Jefferson county, has a transit service, including a dial a ride service. And they are rural. Island county is what I call suburban woods. 5-10 acre lots, no wolves, bears or cougar. Just deer, rabbit, and coyotes.

So, look around. I find that city folk have some silly ideas of what they would have to do without, if they lived someplace that actually gets dark at night. We have cops, fire and paramedic services, high speed internet, libraries, and all the rest.

Off the top of my head, I provide my own water and septic, only have one high speed internet provider, and can't call to have a pizza delivered. I'm sure there is some other massive sacrifice I'm making, but I can't think of anything else.

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by George the original one » Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:41 pm

Kind of like Riggerjack, rural isn't as extreme as many think. Clatsop County has a transit system, too. Has connections with other transit systems such that one, in theory, can travel about 120 miles or more. And there's high speed internet.

On the other hand, I'm about 5 miles beyond the edge of wire/fiber services and 8 miles beyond the transit system. With cougar & bear & those funny looking horses known as elk. Emergency services take 15-20 minutes to arrive. Power outages are more frequent than most are used to and they take 2-24 hours for repair.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by SavingWithBabies » Thu Oct 26, 2017 3:00 pm

I might have phrased things poorly. I'm not scared of rural. I spent my entire summers on the farm of a family friend in Wisconsin. That was fairly rural. I'm also fine with having a vehicle for transportation as I like having one and have family fair enough that I want a vehicle to be able to visit them. I think internet is my primary concern due to working from home.

BTW, I respect and admire both Riggerjack and Ego (and of course Jacob and everyone else on this forum). I have a bad habit of sometimes summarizing what I understand and my preconceptions based on scattered reading of your posts can bleed through. No offense was intended and I think both of your choices are very interesting.

I am interested in this topic as I want to buy a place to live. I want to have a vegetable garden, perhaps workshop, and so forth. My farming experience when I was younger was at a biodynamic farm which was interesting and I'd like to roughly practice some of the same things in terms of soil enrichment (the practical things, not the woo-woo) which is long term thinking (thus hard to do in a rental). My fear about buying is it would be easy for us to make a decision that would put our monthly expenses too high. So I'm trying to be careful not to make a mistake.

Riggerjack
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:05 pm

Yeah, power outages. We get those. HSI is getting far more common. The Connect America Fund is filling in at the edges, so even most rural areas are connected in one form or another.
I could catch a bus to the ferry, then the Sounder to downtown Seattle. Or bus to different ferry to Port Townsend. It wouldn't be fast, but public transportation never is, and depending on traffic, it could be faster than driving.
I've never been to the Midwest, and don't know what is available back there. But if you are thinking of buying, now is not a great time to buy residential real estate. However, agricultural commodities are very low this year, so I imagine it could be a good time to buy farmland...

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Solvent » Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:08 am

In one of my previous jobs I came across an interesting piece of analysis on the cost of electricity networks. This suggested that, actually, there didn't seem to be significant economies of scale or diseconomies of scale in the dataset. Rather, costs scaled fairly linearly with population. This was kind of contradictory to most people's assumptions. This analysis was specific to Australia and the data was aggregated to the level of networks. Nevertheless, networks in Victoria deal with population densities far higher than those in Queensland, so I think it still said something about the rural/urban divide. Or lack thereof.

The analysis was done in-house and I don't think it was released, unfortunately.

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Fri Oct 27, 2017 12:21 pm

Well, power has transmission losses. Nearly 40% of electricity generated in America is lost as heat from transmission lines.
So on grid solar has that going for it, it is produced close to where it is used, so less transmission loss.
But we were talking about the assumption of granola shotgun that the shorter spaces of existing systems in urban areas will allow urban areas to continue, when growth is no longer a factor. His theory is that the lower densities of suburbs will cause people to leave there, first.
It's a nice narrative, one fully supported by the central planning industry, but it runs counter to the evidence, and history.
Now, I could be wrong, and when growth stops, we could decide to abandon the suburbs first. But if we do, it won't be because infrastructure is cheaper in cities. Though I do worry that it will be because it is easier to control urban populations.
If you are making your long term choices on where to live, it is important to have an accurate portrayal of the reasons to choose each option. I don't think granola shotgun is painting an accurate picture, though I can appreciate his artistry and the finished product.

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