36 votes

The American elevator explains why housing costs have skyrocketed

68 comments

  1. [11]
    skybrian
    Link
    From the article (archive link): ... ... ...

    From the article (archive link):

    A few months later, visiting Bucharest, I rode the elevator in my mother’s five-story building. A developer in a much poorer Eastern European country could afford to include an elevator, but the developer of my luxury five-story building in Brooklyn, built 25 years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, could not? I quit my job in real estate and started a nonprofit focused on building codes and construction policy.

    Through my research on elevators, I got a glimpse into why so little new housing is built in America, and why what is built is often of such low quality and at high cost. The problem with elevators is a microcosm of the challenges of the broader construction industry — from labor to building codes to a sheer lack of political will. These challenges are at the root of a mounting housing crisis that has spread to nearly every part of the country and is damaging our economic productivity and our environment.

    Elevators in North America have become over-engineered, bespoke, handcrafted and expensive pieces of equipment that are unaffordable in all the places where they are most needed. Special interests here have run wild with an outdated, inefficient, overregulated system. Accessibility rules miss the forest for the trees. Our broken immigration system cannot supply the labor that the construction industry desperately needs. Regulators distrust global best practices and our construction rules are so heavily oriented toward single-family housing that we’ve forgotten the basics of how a city should work.

    ...

    Nobody is marveling at American elevators anymore. With around one million of them, the United States is tied for total installed devices with Italy or Spain (the latter of which has one-seventh our population, 6 percent of our gross domestic product, and less than half as many apartments). Switzerland and New York City have roughly the same population, but the lower-rise alpine country has three times as many single-family houses as Gotham — and twice as many passenger elevators.

    In Western Europe, small new apartment buildings of just three stories typically include a small elevator (and sometimes buildings of just two stories as well). These types of buildings have almost never had elevators in America, and developers are planning and building new five- and six-story walk-ups in some cities. When a developer in Philadelphia or Denver comes across a piece of land zoned for a few stories, elevator expenses are often one reason they build townhouses rather than condos — fewer in number and with higher price tags.

    ...

    Behind the dearth of elevators in the country that birthed the skyscraper are eye-watering costs. A basic four-stop elevator costs about $158,000 in New York City, compared with about $36,000 in Switzerland. A six-stop model will set you back more than three times as much in Pennsylvania as in Belgium. Maintenance, repairs and inspections all cost more in America too.

    The first thing to notice about our elevators is that, like many things in America, they are huge. New elevators outside the U.S. are typically sized to accommodate a person in a large wheelchair plus somebody standing behind them. American elevators have ballooned to about twice that size, driven by a drip-drip-drip of regulations, each motivated by a slightly different concern — first accessibility, then accommodation for ambulance stretchers, then even bigger stretchers.

    The United States and Canada have also marooned themselves on a regulatory island for elevator parts and designs. Much of the rest of the world has settled on following European elevator standards, which have been harmonized and refined over generations. Some of these differences between American and global standards result in only minor physical differences, while others add the hassle of a separate certification process without changing the final product.

    ...

    Architects have dreamed of modular construction for decades, where entire rooms are built in factories and then shipped on flatbed trucks to sites, for lower costs and greater precision. But we can’t even put elevators together in factories in America, because the elevator union’s contract forbids even basic forms of pre-assembly and prefabrication that have become standard in elevators in the rest of the world. The union and manufacturers bicker over which holes can be drilled in a factory and which must be drilled (or redrilled) on site. Manufacturers even let elevator and escalator mechanics take some components apart and put them back together on site to preserve work for union members, since it’s easier than making separate, less-assembled versions just for the United States.

    29 votes
    1. [7]
      elight
      Link Parent
      How much of this inflated cost is a consequence of the absence of a functional social safety net in the US? Without that net, in order to keep society functioning, we need high employment. To have...

      How much of this inflated cost is a consequence of the absence of a functional social safety net in the US? Without that net, in order to keep society functioning, we need high employment. To have high employment, we can't retire obsolete fields of work as that would create unemployment. So we legislate reasons to retain obsolete jobs. Inefficiencies accrue. And, ironically, the cost is still socialized but unevenly and arguably unfairly.

      So how about a real social safety net?

      Naaaaaahhh.

      25 votes
      1. [6]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        "We" is doing a lot of work here. If they knew about it (and assuming it's actually true), I think a lot of people might not agree that disassembling elevators in order to assemble them again is...

        "We" is doing a lot of work here. If they knew about it (and assuming it's actually true), I think a lot of people might not agree that disassembling elevators in order to assemble them again is reasonable. It's the sort of thing that gives unions a bad name. (Although, sometimes, they don't care what you think.)

        There are other ways. I think paying some unions to back off might make sense in the long run?

        15 votes
        1. [5]
          elight
          Link Parent
          Your first sentence reads as harsh. Unwelcome.

          Your first sentence reads as harsh. Unwelcome.

          1 vote
          1. [4]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            Sorry, I didn't mean it that way! What I mean is that most of what you talk about isn't up to us. We're not legislators, and we had nothing to do with elevator regulations.

            Sorry, I didn't mean it that way! What I mean is that most of what you talk about isn't up to us. We're not legislators, and we had nothing to do with elevator regulations.

            21 votes
            1. [3]
              elight
              Link Parent
              Thanks for clarifying. To your point, no, we are not legislators. But how much do we (damn, now I can't stop seeing it) participate in that system versus resist it? Perhaps these inefficiencies...

              Thanks for clarifying.

              To your point, no, we are not legislators. But how much do we (damn, now I can't stop seeing it) participate in that system versus resist it?

              Perhaps these inefficiencies are the best possible solution, in terms of tradeoffs. Effectively forcing arbitrary swaths of people to retool/retrain for a different career is not ideal, as options go. The US does (or used to? I'm not current here) offer some limited support there for unemployed people.

              6 votes
              1. [2]
                skybrian
                Link Parent
                The “best possible solution” to any puzzle is always relative to whatever constraints you assume. The constraints set the rules of the game. I don’t think this one article tells us nearly enough...

                The “best possible solution” to any puzzle is always relative to whatever constraints you assume. The constraints set the rules of the game. I don’t think this one article tells us nearly enough about the elevator industry to know what the constraints are.

                But to hand-wave a bit, I think the assumption that we’ve somehow hit on the best possible solution for a typical messy problem is either excessively optimistic (we’ve achieved perfection) or excessively pessimistic (there’s no way to improve it), depending on your point of view.

                7 votes
                1. raze2012
                  Link Parent
                  That's how it works with modern politics, yes. been a lot less compromise this decade, a lot more "impact", regardless of the side effects. That's the big issue with polarization, you lose the...

                  I think the assumption that we’ve somehow hit on the best possible solution for a typical messy problem is either excessively optimistic (we’ve achieved perfection) or excessively pessimistic (there’s no way to improve it), depending on your point of view.

                  That's how it works with modern politics, yes. been a lot less compromise this decade, a lot more "impact", regardless of the side effects.

                  That's the big issue with polarization, you lose the subtlties in between, as they are drowned out by the extreme stances that people focus on.

                  4 votes
    2. [3]
      public
      Link Parent
      Where are the manufacturers willing to sell to the scabs, or is their union a case of government-mandated corruption and the only legal option?

      The union and manufacturers bicker over which holes can be drilled in a factory and which must be drilled (or redrilled) on site. Manufacturers even let elevator and escalator mechanics take some components apart and put them back together on site to preserve work for union members, since it’s easier than making separate, less-assembled versions just for the United States.

      Where are the manufacturers willing to sell to the scabs, or is their union a case of government-mandated corruption and the only legal option?

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        Right? It seems weird that, with how weak unions are in the USA, that there couldn't be a single non-union factory who could outcompete this apparently bloated and inefficient union-controlled...

        Right? It seems weird that, with how weak unions are in the USA, that there couldn't be a single non-union factory who could outcompete this apparently bloated and inefficient union-controlled company.

        8 votes
        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          Rather than dismissing it entirely, I think a better criticism is that it’s vague and more detail would be helpful about what’s going on with the unions. I believe that in construction, unions are...

          Rather than dismissing it entirely, I think a better criticism is that it’s vague and more detail would be helpful about what’s going on with the unions. I believe that in construction, unions are much stronger in some cities (such as New York City) than in other parts of the US?

          (Also, I doubt unions are responsible for building codes not being more uniform.)

          3 votes
  2. [4]
    Sodliddesu
    Link
    So, Overly simplifying the opinion I basically see "regulation bad" and "more migrants to do the work for wages that'll reduce the cost more" and from that point of view, sure, he's got a point....

    So, Overly simplifying the opinion

    Elevators in North America have become over-engineered, bespoke, handcrafted and expensive pieces of equipment that are unaffordable in all the places where they are most needed. Special interests here have run wild with an outdated, inefficient, overregulated system. Accessibility rules miss the forest for the trees. Our broken immigration system cannot supply the labor that the construction industry desperately needs.

    I basically see "regulation bad" and "more migrants to do the work for wages that'll reduce the cost more" and from that point of view, sure, he's got a point. Are elevators really more expensive than square footage? With the spiraling cost of everything, we'll likely reach the break even eventually.

    But, from his own research which he linked in the piece...

    High-income countries with strong labor movements and high safety standards from South Korea to Switzerland have found
    ways to install wheelchair-accessible elevators in mid-rise apartment buildings for around $50,000 each, even after adjusting for America’s typically higher general price levels. In the United States and Canada, on the other hand, these installations start at around $150,000 in even
    low-cost areas.

    He points out that American crews take twice as long to do the job as well, increasing costs. So, open your elevator firm and undercut the competition! He's done the whole paper, he opened the non-profit to study this, he's just gotta pull the trigger! Yeah, he points out valid problems with the ADA but just make the IKEA of elevators already.

    I wasn't feeling the article but reading his paper felt like the Snyder cut of the article.

    19 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      It seems like this comparison is missing an important detail: what the regulations actually are. Maybe South Korean safety standards are compatible with European regulations? If US regulations...

      It seems like this comparison is missing an important detail: what the regulations actually are. Maybe South Korean safety standards are compatible with European regulations? If US regulations don't allow US companies to do what the South Korean companies do, then starting a new company wouldn't help that much.

      Or maybe it would? But without digging into the details, I don't think we can write the business plan for that startup.

      Does the paper go into that level of detail about the regulations?

      15 votes
    2. [2]
      KapteinB
      Link Parent
      The IKEA of elevators would have to satisfy the rules of all the different jurisdictions in the US.

      Not only do we have our own elevator code, but individual U.S. jurisdictions modify it further. More accurate and efficient electronic testing practices, for example, are still mostly viewed with suspicion by the nearly 100 separate boards and jurisdictions that regulate elevator safety in North America (the exact number in the regulatory patchwork is hard to nail down exactly).

      The IKEA of elevators would have to satisfy the rules of all the different jurisdictions in the US.

      11 votes
      1. ThrowdoBaggins
        Link Parent
        I can imagine that if an option could be compliant with (let’s say) 80% of the US market, and become as cheap as the comparisons listed, then that might encourage regulators to tweak their...

        The IKEA of elevators would have to satisfy the rules of all the different jurisdictions in the US

        I can imagine that if an option could be compliant with (let’s say) 80% of the US market, and become as cheap as the comparisons listed, then that might encourage regulators to tweak their regulations to match (assuming they still view them as safe?)

  3. [10]
    EgoEimi
    Link
    An aside, since this article is more broadly about inefficiencies of the building industry and onerous building regulations chasing marginal returns in safety: Just this past 4th of July, I went...

    An aside, since this article is more broadly about inefficiencies of the building industry and onerous building regulations chasing marginal returns in safety:

    Just this past 4th of July, I went to a BBQ pool party at one of San Francisco's glitzy apartment complexes in Mission Bay.

    When I left the building, I took the fire escape stairwell. It was huge, literally twice the width of a standard stairwell. You could evacuate a high school through it. When I got to the bottom, I noticed a single-width door that didn't lead outside, because I could see the double doors leading outside. When I opened it, I dscovered that it was a standard stairwell, right next to the XL stairwell.

    So, this compound stairwell was effectively 3x the width of a standard stairwell.

    Something really weird and wasteful is going on in the building codes here.

    16 votes
    1. [9]
      MimicSquid
      Link Parent
      How big was the apartment building? How many people per floor? If every single one of those people had to bail out of that building simultaneously, would that fire escape still be too big?...

      How big was the apartment building? How many people per floor? If every single one of those people had to bail out of that building simultaneously, would that fire escape still be too big?

      Practically, the fire codes are what they are because people used to die en masse in structure fires. Maybe we've gone too far towards safety, and maybe someone should bite the bullet and say that the human lives involved aren't worth enough to have mandated emergency stairways that big. Would you like to be the engineer to make that argument? Lives do have a price point. But it's a political third rail. Who would be brave enough to take that stance and say that it would be better for a few more people to die in order to save on construction costs?

      15 votes
      1. [8]
        vord
        Link Parent
        Exactly, to copy tech nomenclature, fire escapes have to be engineered for peak capacity, not average capacity. Doesn't matter if they're idle 99% of the time, because you can't just spin them up...

        Exactly, to copy tech nomenclature, fire escapes have to be engineered for peak capacity, not average capacity. Doesn't matter if they're idle 99% of the time, because you can't just spin them up in 30 seconds when load increases.

        Say you've got a small, 4-story apartment building with 6 apartments per stairwell. Everyone evacuates at the same time the fire alarms go off. Say 3 people per apartment, that's 72 people trying to get out those double-doors ASAP. And despite all of our elementary school 'single file' training, that's not how panicing humans react in the face of a real fire. Especially if there's a slowdown because somebody is carrying some valuables out with them, or there's kids.

        My middle school, newly built in the 90s, was incredibly well-architected in that vein, as the normal stairwells were the fire escapes, each half of the stairwell almost as wide as the hallways feeding into it (picture a square mushroom), with 4 double-doors heading out directly from the stairwell on the ground floor.

        11 votes
        1. chocobean
          Link Parent
          Exactly thank-you. Imagine a small child crying inconsolably while a single parent is already holding a baby. Or someone with an extremely stressed dog digging in and crying not going down the...

          Exactly thank-you.

          Imagine a small child crying inconsolably while a single parent is already holding a baby. Or someone with an extremely stressed dog digging in and crying not going down the stairs. An elderly man with a cane, or a young lady with a leg cast: they're evacuating, just slowly.

          What would a single wide line of people, their own kids and dogs in hand, waiting behind them with flames edging closer by the second, be suddenly tempted to do?

          7 votes
        2. [6]
          tibpoe
          Link Parent
          This isn't right either. The procedure for a fire in a high-rise is often to stay in one place. The buildings are designed to let a unit burn out without risk to the other inhabitants. Even when...

          This isn't right either. The procedure for a fire in a high-rise is often to stay in one place. The buildings are designed to let a unit burn out without risk to the other inhabitants. Even when evacuating, the stairwells are designed to survive fires up to 3 hours[1]! Disabled people do not need to slowly go down the stairs, they can simply wait at the landings for help.

          The designers of the fire safety system for the building have control over the required peak capacity. They can make the alarms go off floor-by-floor or block-by-block to avoid overwhelming the staircases.

          I've lived in many apartment buildings and experienced many fire alarms. There's also never any rush to evacuate. Even when I lived in a dorm where evacuation was mandatory in case of an alarm there was no rush to evacuate.

          [1]: in the video you can't even tell the other side of the door was exposed to fire from the stairwell side... I expect the doors to easily do much more than 3 hours.

          5 votes
          1. [5]
            DefinitelyNotAFae
            Link Parent
            Working in residence life, the rush to evacuate vastly varies when people can smell smoke. Most dorm fire alarms are not actually dangerous situations, such as smoke from a microwave left too...

            Working in residence life, the rush to evacuate vastly varies when people can smell smoke. Most dorm fire alarms are not actually dangerous situations, such as smoke from a microwave left too long, someone smoking in their room, etc., but despite the sprinklers and the fact that our doors are fire doors, etc. (Shut doors save lives) an actual fire can cause a panic. Yes, our disabled folks are encouraged to stay put on a safe landing and notify our desks. However, in practice, the number of people who come down the stairs on crutches or the like because they fear an actual fire is high, especially with temporary injuries. And regular apartment buildings don't have anyone training/facilitating or setting those guidelines. Who tells the older gentleman not to leave the building when the alarm goes off? We at least run drills and train them on what to do. (And given the state of some of the disabled housing high-rises I've seen, I probably wouldn't trust their fire safety either, if the elevator's been broken and there are bed bugs everywhere, I'm not convinced they're up to fire code.)

            7 votes
            1. [4]
              tibpoe
              Link Parent
              I wonder if there's a generational component to it. They lived during a time were a time when fire safety wasn't taken seriously, fire codes were weaker, and people were smoking everywhere....

              I wonder if there's a generational component to it. They lived during a time were a time when fire safety wasn't taken seriously, fire codes were weaker, and people were smoking everywhere. Meanwhile, I (and potentially other younger folks) tend to trust the systems in place to protect from fire, since my whole life I've seen them taken very seriously, with consequences when they are not followed.

              3 votes
              1. [3]
                DefinitelyNotAFae
                Link Parent
                Not sure which population you're referring to in the sense of who's doing what? My college students leave, mostly, because they're told to. Some don't, because they think it's not real. (It's...

                Not sure which population you're referring to in the sense of who's doing what? My college students leave, mostly, because they're told to. Some don't, because they think it's not real. (It's rarely a drill but it's also rarely a real fire). Even then the crutches happen. But when we've had a few real fires, the panic does happen. Not among most, they're used to the practice and all, drills doing their job, but some. And they're being guided and have been told explicitly what to do (staff at stairwell doorways and exits).

                If I moved into a highrise, who's telling me not to evacuate? Maybe it's experience living in those buildings?

                5 votes
                1. [2]
                  tibpoe
                  Link Parent
                  I misunderstood your comment as you working in an old folks home. In a high-rise, it'd be the zoned alarms, and potentially if it's bad enough, the fire trucks with their megaphones. But yes,...

                  I misunderstood your comment as you working in an old folks home.

                  In a high-rise, it'd be the zoned alarms, and potentially if it's bad enough, the fire trucks with their megaphones. But yes, point taken there.

                  1. DefinitelyNotAFae
                    Link Parent
                    Gotcha, yeah, no, all that was 18-20 year olds. But as someone that never lived in an actual highrise, I'd have no idea that the alarms are different.

                    Gotcha, yeah, no, all that was 18-20 year olds.

                    But as someone that never lived in an actual highrise, I'd have no idea that the alarms are different.

                    2 votes
  4. [43]
    MimicSquid
    Link
    Sooo... the NYT likes minimal regulation, as much immigration as possible so as to have cheap labor, and hates accessibility if it costs extra? I mean, I know they're the mouthpiece of the...

    Sooo... the NYT likes minimal regulation, as much immigration as possible so as to have cheap labor, and hates accessibility if it costs extra? I mean, I know they're the mouthpiece of the capitalists, but they really aren't hiding it at all, are they?

    25 votes
    1. [11]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      It's an opinion piece, not an editorial. The New York Times has an editoral slant, but it's not a monolith and they can publish interesting opinions that some people there probably disagree with....

      It's an opinion piece, not an editorial. The New York Times has an editoral slant, but it's not a monolith and they can publish interesting opinions that some people there probably disagree with. (And I think the same should be the true of posting links on Tildes.)

      If you think you know something about elevators, you could explain how they got it wrong, and I'd be interested in reading what you have to say.

      If you don't know anything in particular about elevators, it seems like you're objecting based on shallow anti-capitalist heuristics? We all use heuristics to decide what's worth reading, but it's not a great way to decide whether an article got the facts right.

      34 votes
      1. [8]
        MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        I've addressed the opinion piece thing elsewhere in the thread, suffice it to say I don't think a newspaper is free from responsibility for the contents of a piece just because they paid someone...

        I've addressed the opinion piece thing elsewhere in the thread, suffice it to say I don't think a newspaper is free from responsibility for the contents of a piece just because they paid someone outside the outlet for the piece instead of having it done in-house.

        Regarding the article itself, let's take a couple of points:

        The complaint about "how big" American elevators are, large enough to fit two whole wheelchairs. if you're mostly putting elevators in taller buildings, you need faster elevators or more capacity. And he specifically calls out the lack of elevators in shorter buildings in the US, so his complaints about elevator size ring hollow in the face of a larger footprint being desirable.

        And his statistics regarding housing and elevators make little sense, as he's comparing number of elevator installs with numbers of houses, and without clarifying on the kinds of elevators involved. When he says that Spain has as many elevators with a seventh of the US populator and half as many apartments, that could actually mean that there's twice as many apartments in the US that have elevator access.

        From my perspective he's tossing around anecdotes and statistics that don't actually argue for what he says they do, while hitting all of the big industry talking points in a single article. Yay cheap labor! Boo unions! Boo regulation! It doesn't match my experience of the situation, and the encapsulated talking points are pretty blatant.

        13 votes
        1. [2]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          It seems like you've overlooked some of the article because of the parts you don't like. For example, they argued in favor of elevators in shorter buildings, too. If they were cheaper, maybe that...

          It seems like you've overlooked some of the article because of the parts you don't like. For example, they argued in favor of elevators in shorter buildings, too. If they were cheaper, maybe that would happen more often?

          A problem I have with most opinion pieces is that they don't have the depth that we see in a scientific paper, a long article in a magazine, or a blog post by a good writer. The space constraints are often pretty severe, probably left over from when newspapers published articles on paper.

          But I see them as pointing out possible problems, and a curious person might follow up by reading more.

          I'm curious about some of the facts in this article. Are elevators actually much cheaper in Europe? If so, that's news to me. But I'm only mildly curious, so I post them and see if anyone has any actual knowledge.

          15 votes
          1. raze2012
            Link Parent
            Given the author's arguments for "making it cheaper", I'm not sure that has good long term ramifications. long term changes to standardize to EU may or may not pay off, the novel designs proposed...

            If they were cheaper, maybe that would happen more often?

            Given the author's arguments for "making it cheaper", I'm not sure that has good long term ramifications. long term changes to standardize to EU may or may not pay off, the novel designs proposed are just that, and immigration is already a thorny issue as is without the current economic downfall Americans are experiencing in 2023/4.

            we can’t even put elevators together in factories in America, because the elevator union’s contract forbids even basic forms of pre-assembly and prefabrication that have become standard in elevators in the rest of the world.

            This is the one potentially interesting point, but I lack the knowledge of the union contracts and their reasonings to properly understand the subtleties here.

            6 votes
        2. [5]
          sparksbet
          Link Parent
          I'm plenty skeptical of opinion pieces in the NYT generally, but I cannot figure out how you arrive at this conclusion from reading those sentences. I won't ignore the possibility that the stats...

          When he says that Spain has as many elevators with a seventh of the US populator and half as many apartments, that could actually mean that there's twice as many apartments in the US that have elevator access.

          I'm plenty skeptical of opinion pieces in the NYT generally, but I cannot figure out how you arrive at this conclusion from reading those sentences. I won't ignore the possibility that the stats aren't represented perfectly in this piece, but from the sentences written it seems like the claim is obviously that Spain and the US have an equal quantity of elevators (and thus equal numbers of buildings with elevator access) despite Spain having half as many apartments, meaning that Spain has proportionally twice as many apartments with elevators. I haven't dug deeper to see how accurately this reflects the actual statistics, but I certainly can't see how to arrive at the conclusion you mention from how this is described in the piece.

          6 votes
          1. [4]
            MimicSquid
            Link Parent
            You're right. I read that backward. However, without data regarding the relative height of the elevators and apartment buildings in question, the statistics he stated don't actually let us come to...

            You're right. I read that backward. However, without data regarding the relative height of the elevators and apartment buildings in question, the statistics he stated don't actually let us come to an answer. If US apartment buildings with elevator access are, on average, 6 stories, and the Spanish ones on average 3 stories, you still wouldn't be able to tell, unless you're assuming identical numbers of apartments per floor in US and Spanish apartment blocks. My frustration with the piece in general is the way he tosses off these pieces of the puzzle and claims they mean what he wants them to mean, but doesn't actually back up his claims in any useful way.

            1. [3]
              sparksbet
              Link Parent
              I don't think it reflects well on the US either way. If US apartments are generally larger than Spain's, that only magnifies the proportion of elevator-less apartments in the US relative to Spain.

              If US apartment buildings with elevator access are, on average, 6 stories, and the Spanish ones on average 3 stories, you still wouldn't be able to tell, unless you're assuming identical numbers of apartments per floor in US and Spanish apartment blocks.

              I don't think it reflects well on the US either way. If US apartments are generally larger than Spain's, that only magnifies the proportion of elevator-less apartments in the US relative to Spain.

              5 votes
              1. [2]
                MimicSquid
                Link Parent
                But it doesn't say anything about the number of apartments that need elevators, either. If 95% of US apartments were in buildings of one or two stories, it wouldn't mostly matter that they didn't...

                But it doesn't say anything about the number of apartments that need elevators, either. If 95% of US apartments were in buildings of one or two stories, it wouldn't mostly matter that they didn't have elevators. The data just isn't there to say.

                1. sparksbet
                  Link Parent
                  I'm not sure I'm really convinced that's the case in practice, though. I agree the data isn't really there, but I think the snapshot given (assuming it isn't straight-up inaccurate) is reasonable...

                  I'm not sure I'm really convinced that's the case in practice, though. I agree the data isn't really there, but I think the snapshot given (assuming it isn't straight-up inaccurate) is reasonable to give a general impression of the situation without being statistically rigorous.

      2. [2]
        Cycloneblaze
        Link Parent
        The ideological slant of an opinion piece is just as important, if not more so, than the facts deployed to support its ideology. The piece is weaker if it gets its facts wrong, but I can object to...

        The ideological slant of an opinion piece is just as important, if not more so, than the facts deployed to support its ideology. The piece is weaker if it gets its facts wrong, but I can object to the conclusions it's pointing at even if it gets its facts right. For one thing, you can be correct in the micro about the cost of accessibility features in construction (though I'm not saying he is or isn't) and go on to make much broader claims about the regulation of the construction industry which aren't really supported by the facts you did use - which should be determined by many other factors alongside cost.

        6 votes
        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          While it's nice if the whole article is good, I think the facts are much more important. If I disagree with the broader claims or conclusions of an article, I can still learn from it. (In this...

          While it's nice if the whole article is good, I think the facts are much more important. If I disagree with the broader claims or conclusions of an article, I can still learn from it. (In this case, specifically about elevators, leaving the broader claims aside.)

          It does require good faith in reporting the facts, but that's not something you can necessarily tell from the author's ideology.

          For untrusted sources, there is also the "hint generator" way to look at it. You can sometimes learn things from a somewhat inaccurate source of hints, provided that you have another way of verifying them.

          In this case, since I'm only mildly curious about elevators, I'm not going to follow up, but in theory, someone could. (This shouldn't be seen as assigning homework.)

          4 votes
    2. [23]
      smores
      Link Parent
      I’m literally the first person to call out how ridiculous the NYT continued defense of publishing truly bad and often vile takes in their opinion section over and over is, but this is a guest...

      I’m literally the first person to call out how ridiculous the NYT continued defense of publishing truly bad and often vile takes in their opinion section over and over is, but this is a guest essay in the opinion section, not something from the editorial board or actual journalists at the Times. The Times publishes quite a lot of content that represents the actual perspectives of very few, if any, actual employees or decision makers of the Times. This practice is itself pretty indefensible in 2024, if you ask me, but I don’t think it makes sense to read this as a stance that represents actual NYT journalists.

      19 votes
      1. [22]
        MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        If they're letting someone post under their masthead, they're endorsing the opinion. If I walked around espousing one thing while privately holding different beliefs, how much does it matter what...

        If they're letting someone post under their masthead, they're endorsing the opinion. If I walked around espousing one thing while privately holding different beliefs, how much does it matter what I privately think?

        15 votes
        1. [17]
          Johz
          Link Parent
          It is a reasonable (and arguably important) part of the role of a newspaper to publish a variety of opinions. When I was younger and still read physical newspapers, there would really be guest...

          It is a reasonable (and arguably important) part of the role of a newspaper to publish a variety of opinions. When I was younger and still read physical newspapers, there would really be guest columns from controversial figures, different columnists who actively disagreed with each other, "for and against" debates, and so on. Newspapers still had a clear editorial voice, but it was seen as a bit gauche if you didn't have a broad spectrum of opinions in addition to that.

          I am surprised that people here seem to be opposed to this idea, because it seems very important to me. As a newspaper, you disseminate news and expert opinion. This is certainly an expert opinion - it comes from someone who has spent a lot of time exploring this industry and researching its problems. It's also a relevant discussion to have right now - building efficient cities will involve multiple occupancy housing, and understanding why that sort of housing is hard to build is important. There was a similar article recently about the issue of requiring two exits even for relatively small residential buildings.

          I don't necessarily agree with the author's conclusions, and I am not well-informed enough about the parts that seem reasonable to me. But I'm glad I've read this, and very glad that the NYT has published this as part of the broader discussion on the cost of houses. I'm very surprised to see people criticising the NYT for this as if it were some sort of fascist propaganda, especially given that it's saying a lot of things that leftists have been discussing for years.

          26 votes
          1. [16]
            MimicSquid
            Link Parent
            While I agree that newspapers should offer a variety of opinions, why should be absolved from any responsibility for the opinions they choose to be published? The newspaper sets the boundaries of...

            While I agree that newspapers should offer a variety of opinions, why should be absolved from any responsibility for the opinions they choose to be published? The newspaper sets the boundaries of the voices they choose to amplify, right? They have editorial control, if not over the specific contents of the piece, over which pieces get published. Those opinions are then broadcast to millions of people in a way they wouldn't have if the newspaper hadn't chosen to publish them. Is that not the newspaper actively working to broadcast that opinion? Can they not then be considered responsible for the rhetoric they're supporting?

            I'm absolutely interested in a diversity of opinion, but I find it fascinating that some people think an organization could be held entirely free of responsibility for what they choose to publish.

            8 votes
            1. [3]
              Eji1700
              Link Parent
              Because there's plenty of very important opinions that were not popular during their time, and keeping that tradition seems like an important part of free speech. It's literally why we have...

              While I agree that newspapers should offer a variety of opinions, why should be absolved from any responsibility for the opinions they choose to be published?

              Because there's plenty of very important opinions that were not popular during their time, and keeping that tradition seems like an important part of free speech. It's literally why we have guardrails for things like inciting violence, but what exact responsibility do you think they should bear for this article?

              11 votes
              1. MimicSquid
                Link Parent
                I mean, I think the extent of the responsibility is to be viewed as the kind of outlet that would support the dissemination of the piece. Not, like, taken to court or anything. But if they're...

                I mean, I think the extent of the responsibility is to be viewed as the kind of outlet that would support the dissemination of the piece. Not, like, taken to court or anything. But if they're going to publish pieces that are thinly veiled shilling for lessened building regulations, weakened unions, etc. then they should stand behind that as their stance and not have people just say "oh, but they don't actually believe that, so it's fine."

                6 votes
              2. Akir
                Link Parent
                But a newspaper is not a forum for public speech anymore. If a newspaper refuses to print something, there are many other places where these ideas can be published for the public to see. The only...

                But a newspaper is not a forum for public speech anymore. If a newspaper refuses to print something, there are many other places where these ideas can be published for the public to see. The only remaining advantage running an opinion with a news organization is to borrow their clout and legitimacy, which is precisely why said organizations should be very selective about what they choose to publish.

                6 votes
            2. [12]
              Johz
              Link Parent
              I agree that you have responsibility for what you publish, but I'm not really sure what the objection to publishing this is. It would be one thing if the article were calling for insurrection or...

              I agree that you have responsibility for what you publish, but I'm not really sure what the objection to publishing this is. It would be one thing if the article were calling for insurrection or murder, but this is not that.

              It might be that we're taking cross-purposes, but my impression of the previous comments is that the NYT should not have published this because the conclusions it draws (less regulation, smaller unions, more immigration) are objectionable. But I don't agree with that - I disagree to a certain extent with some of the conclusions, but I don't find them in any way objectionable. They are completely valid opinions that I disagree with.

              2 votes
              1. [11]
                MimicSquid
                Link Parent
                I think we might have been talking past each other a bit, then. The thing I was arguing against was the claim that, since the individuals working at the NYT held different beliefs the paper as an...

                I think we might have been talking past each other a bit, then. The thing I was arguing against was the claim that, since the individuals working at the NYT held different beliefs the paper as an organization couldn't be tarred with the same brush as the article.

                You know the phrase "When someone tells you who they are, believe them."? To me, the articles published are who they say they are. It doesn't matter if every worker there is a dyed in the wool Communist in their heart of hearts; if this is what they're publishing, that's what we need to believe.

                5 votes
                1. [3]
                  Johz
                  Link Parent
                  But I post articles here or on other sites that I don't necessarily agree with, but think are interesting or thought-provoking. I'll even upvote articles that I actively disagree with, if I think...

                  But I post articles here or on other sites that I don't necessarily agree with, but think are interesting or thought-provoking. I'll even upvote articles that I actively disagree with, if I think they are still worth discussing. Are you saying that I'm the sum of those articles, that in doing so, I'm "telling you who I am"?

                  Like, I get what you mean, in the sense that I can't see Socialist Worker posting this opinion piece. The viewpoint of the author clearly aligns enough with the viewpoint of the NYT that they're happy to publish it. But I don't think that needs to represent wholehearted support of the article's content, and I would be deeply concerned if people expected that to be the case. I don't want to read papers that just confirm my own beliefs, and if I subscribe to a paper, I would expect it to present me with a wide range of contradictory opinions from interesting and informed sources.

                  5 votes
                  1. [2]
                    MimicSquid
                    Link Parent
                    I think there's a difference between you submitting something here, where the context is one of discussion, and a newspaper doing it, where they hold some putative level of claim to "truth". Or...

                    I think there's a difference between you submitting something here, where the context is one of discussion, and a newspaper doing it, where they hold some putative level of claim to "truth". Or maybe I'm wrong, and should view the NYT and 4chan as being at about equal levels of trustworthiness? Do our major newspapers shitpost for the lulz/clicks?

                    1. Johz
                      Link Parent
                      I would hope most newspapers put more thought into what they put out than 4chan, but I think it's a closer analogy than the one you were using, where we should expect a newspaper to have a single...

                      I would hope most newspapers put more thought into what they put out than 4chan, but I think it's a closer analogy than the one you were using, where we should expect a newspaper to have a single coherent voice and opinion.

                      But I really think we're both expecting different things from opinion sections in newspaper. When you talk about a newspaper claiming to give you "the truth", that implies to me that the editors have vetted every single column and should either wholeheartedly agree with every word, or shouldn't publish it.

                      My view is that newspapers don't claim a monopoly on "the truth", but rather "some truths". That is, they try and offer a number of perspectives that they think are reasonable, and worth reading, and are considered true by some people, but those perspectives don't necessarily all need to match up with each other. Person A can argue that we need better safety regulations, person B can argue that we need to deregulate, and as long as both reasonably argue their case, they can both appear in the same newspaper.

                      4 votes
                2. [7]
                  skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  I imagine that if some future historian had only one article from the New York Times to study, they would come to quite different conclusions depending on which one it was. Fortunately our...

                  I imagine that if some future historian had only one article from the New York Times to study, they would come to quite different conclusions depending on which one it was. Fortunately our evidence isn’t so limited.

                  (Also, I don’t like that slogan at all. Maybe in its original context, it made sense, but when used as a general-purpose catch phrase, It seems like it encourages jumping to overconfident conclusions about strangers.)

                  3 votes
                  1. [6]
                    MimicSquid
                    Link Parent
                    Is your stance, then, that the series of choices that led to the publishing of this piece don't actually act as any form of endorsement of the topic matter by the newspaper? The fact that they...

                    Is your stance, then, that the series of choices that led to the publishing of this piece don't actually act as any form of endorsement of the topic matter by the newspaper? The fact that they paid someone for the writing and put it on their website is entirely free of any explicit or implicit endorsement of the ideas that they put under their masthead? I'm not saying that this is, alone, the whole story. I'm just baffled by the number of people in this thread who think it's meaningless. Some rando posting bullshit on the internet is nearly meaningless. I had thought we held our presumed flagship news outlets to higher standards.

                    4 votes
                    1. [5]
                      skybrian
                      Link Parent
                      Although you do soften it a bit, I think you’re still setting up a false dichotomy with the idea that either a publisher endorses a piece or it’s not publishable. Publishers commonly have...

                      Although you do soften it a bit, I think you’re still setting up a false dichotomy with the idea that either a publisher endorses a piece or it’s not publishable. Publishers commonly have publication standards that are lower than endorsement, which doesn’t mean they have no standards at all. (Possibly it means you’re using “endorse” in a rather loose way to mean “publishable” but that’s not how people normally use that term.)

                      Publishing opinions that you don’t endorse is common and traditional for newspapers. It’s common boilerplate for a newspaper to say that they don’t endorse the opinions of guest writers. A guest article is intermediate between a letter to the editor and the articles that are written by the newspaper’s own staff. It’s an outside writer’s opinion and is meant to be read that way.

                      Another question is whether you value a high level of ideological consistency or prefer to read articles from a variety of viewpoints. It sounds like you only want to read articles that take a pro-labor point of view? There are publications like that, but I don’t think the New York Times is trying to be that kind of publication? (Some of its staff might disagree, though.)

                      It would be a fair conclusion from the article that the New York Times isn’t consistently pro-labor, which is different from knowing what mix of articles it normally publishes.

                      Zooming out like this (from whether one article is good or bad to whether the entire publication is good or bad) is a way of raising the rhetorical stakes. It isn’t necessary to do that to criticize one article, and I think it makes for a less focused and less interesting discussion, since we aren’t really talking about the article anymore.

                      5 votes
                      1. [4]
                        MimicSquid
                        Link Parent
                        A) You've responded to me a lot for a discussion you're not interested in. B) Whatever the historical context of opinion pieces, I feel like at this point publishing something that you don't...

                        A) You've responded to me a lot for a discussion you're not interested in.

                        B) Whatever the historical context of opinion pieces, I feel like at this point publishing something that you don't believe in the name of "diversity of viewpoints" is one tiny step away from the people on the Internet who go around "just asking questions." They don't believe that Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country, certainly not, but maybe we should spend the day talking about that viewpoint in great detail to confirm or deny it?

                        Whatever the original usefulness, it's just another cheap rhetorical trick to avoid claiming a stance. And for the best reason; to remain respectable in front of the most possible subscribers/ad purchasing companies.

                        1 vote
                        1. [3]
                          skybrian
                          (edited )
                          Link Parent
                          Well, yes, revealed preference is that I’m not entirely uninterested in high-level discussions like this. :) I value more strictly on-topic discussion more, though. In the forum software that...

                          Well, yes, revealed preference is that I’m not entirely uninterested in high-level discussions like this. :) I value more strictly on-topic discussion more, though. In the forum software that maybe someday I’ll finish, I plan to have a “Topic Drift” section that goes under the on-topic comments, and move any drifty comments there. For a topic like this one, the main comment section might be empty and the “Drift” section full of interesting tangents, but if any elevator expert shows up, their comment goes first.

                          I think some questions can safely be ignored by most people and often attract bad comments. (For example, “Was the pandemic started by a lab leak?”) This doesn’t mean they can’t be discussed in a meaningful way, but good contributions are rare. It’s not inherently a waste of time for someone to write an explainer for such claims, though, given how many people are interested. Even a question about Obama’s birth can be answered factually, and the best approach would be to post a good link and move on.

                          But even that is sometimes too much to bother with. I support anyone’s decision to ignore articles or comments that they don’t like.

                          Why might you publish (or link) to something you don’t believe in? One reason is that you don’t actually know the answer. It’s doubtful that the New York Times has any elevator experts. Someone knowledgeable might see it and respond? If the New York Times attracts more discussion about elevators, maybe that’s good?

                          They could also call elevator experts themselves, and that’s what a reporter would do. Not for opinion pieces, though.

                          Any five-year-old can show that it’s possible to ask questions in an annoying way just by asking “Why?” a lot, but that doesn’t mean all questions are bad, and it’s possible to be too suspicious. Trolling is possible too, but not every attempt to start a discussion is a troll.

                          (Also, there are worse things than asking questions. Posting confident claims when you have no reason to be that confident is worse. There are a lot of comments that would be improved by turning them into a question.)

                          Sometimes I’ve wondered if I should explicitly ask people to tell me what’s wrong with articles I post.

                          4 votes
                          1. [2]
                            MimicSquid
                            Link Parent
                            I think that my top level post was noise/offtopic'd enough to serve as the "topic drift" section, though having it explicitly called out would be a setting I wouldn't mind seeing. ;) Honestly, I...

                            I think that my top level post was noise/offtopic'd enough to serve as the "topic drift" section, though having it explicitly called out would be a setting I wouldn't mind seeing. ;)

                            Honestly, I think there's a huge number of interesting conversations that could come out of a writing prompt that asks for a refutation of whatever article is posted. In hindsight, I regret opening with the most flippant version of my critique; it didn't really serve the discussion about the article. Though it did help me get to my wariness about media in general. It's possible I'm too cynical about media and the narratives they choose to push or not push, but at the same time I feel like there's a lot of residual goodwill that people have towards these news outlets that they don't actually deserve anymore.

                            But all of that is really an entirely different concern from the article posted, and is justifiably offtopic.

                            2 votes
                            1. skybrian
                              Link Parent
                              Thanks for the interesting discussion:)

                              Thanks for the interesting discussion:)

                              2 votes
        2. [4]
          DrStone
          Link Parent
          I think you’ll find a lot of disagreement whether publishing an opinion piece - excluding staff editorials - implies endorsement by the publisher. Plenty of outlets will feature opinions that vary...

          I think you’ll find a lot of disagreement whether publishing an opinion piece - excluding staff editorials - implies endorsement by the publisher. Plenty of outlets will feature opinions that vary significantly across the spectrum of a given topic over time.

          5 votes
          1. [3]
            MimicSquid
            Link Parent
            If they published everything, I'd think they weren't endorsing any of it. That they choose what to publish inherently implies an endorsement of the things they do publish. A reverse Section 230, yeah?

            If they published everything, I'd think they weren't endorsing any of it. That they choose what to publish inherently implies an endorsement of the things they do publish. A reverse Section 230, yeah?

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              DrStone
              Link Parent
              I don’t see it that way, no, based on what I know about the concept of opinion pieces/columns in newspapers and what I’ve seen historically in various papers and publications

              I don’t see it that way, no, based on what I know about the concept of opinion pieces/columns in newspapers and what I’ve seen historically in various papers and publications

              7 votes
              1. raze2012
                Link Parent
                history changes fast. I'd agree with you a decade ago, but I've only seen more and more editorials being refused under ideaological reasonings as opposed to the writing quality. The overton...

                history changes fast. I'd agree with you a decade ago, but I've only seen more and more editorials being refused under ideaological reasonings as opposed to the writing quality. The overton curtain has shifted drastically.

                In short, it's not like papers were ever truly impatial. But they aren't even pretending to be now. This has ups and downsides to it, but the biggest downside is indeed that implicit endorsement of everything on their site.

                3 votes
    3. [7]
      babypuncher
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I wouldn't say they like minimal regulation. The EU and South Korea aren't exactly known for being lax on regulations. If anything, the fact that our regulations on elevators are so much more...

      I wouldn't say they like minimal regulation. The EU and South Korea aren't exactly known for being lax on regulations. If anything, the fact that our regulations on elevators are so much more stringent than those of the EU or South Korea should highlight how overboard they probably are. The fact that building an elevator is so expensive that most mid-rise apartments just don't even bother seems like the regulations backfiring. Elevators are supposed to improve accessibility, and they can't do that if nobody wants to build them in the first place. Maybe smaller buildings that serve fewer people don't need giant elevators.

      7 votes
      1. MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        The EU is actually, starting in 2025, implementing a bloc-wide set of regulations regarding accessibility; they're remarkably behind the USA in this regard. Until 2019 when the rules were...

        The EU is actually, starting in 2025, implementing a bloc-wide set of regulations regarding accessibility; they're remarkably behind the USA in this regard. Until 2019 when the rules were finalized, it was up to each member state to set their own accessibility laws. So comparing US elevators to EU elevators vis a vis new installs might look very different in a couple of years.

        2 votes
      2. [5]
        MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        Here are the specific ADA requirements regarding elevators. There's pictures, but the key point is: So the smallest an elevator can be is large enough for someone in a wheelchair to turn around,...

        Here are the specific ADA requirements regarding elevators. There's pictures, but the key point is:

        Alternative configurations that provide unobstructed wheelchair turning space (60″ diameter circle or T-turn) with the doors closed are permitted.

        So the smallest an elevator can be is large enough for someone in a wheelchair to turn around, which seems like a fairly minimal requirement. Otherwise they'd either need to back in or back out; either way makes the process of boarding or decamping from the elevator slower and less safe.

        Is this an unreasonable standard?

        1. [4]
          babypuncher
          Link Parent
          I don't think the problem is actually the ADA. The article mentioned elevator sizes increasing to accommodate large stretchers, which sounds like it falls under a different set of safety laws. The...

          I don't think the problem is actually the ADA. The article mentioned elevator sizes increasing to accommodate large stretchers, which sounds like it falls under a different set of safety laws.

          The main purpose of elevators in a mid-rise building is accessibility, so I agree that it wouldn't make sense to have one if it cannot accommodate people in wheelchairs.

          4 votes
          1. [3]
            MimicSquid
            Link Parent
            I did some searching, and can't find any regulations regarding requiring elevators large enough to take a stretcher, in the US or EU, though I did find a few scant references to EU wheelchair...

            I did some searching, and can't find any regulations regarding requiring elevators large enough to take a stretcher, in the US or EU, though I did find a few scant references to EU wheelchair access elevators as being a minimum of 1100 mm by 1400 mm, which is much smaller than the US version. An electric wheelchair would probably fit into that alone, but it would be a tight fit to be sure.

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              Malle
              Link Parent
              I found section 3002.4 of the International Building Code, the IBC being according to Wikipedia US-based and "adopted for use as a base code standard by most jurisdictions in the United States".

              I found section 3002.4 of the International Building Code, the IBC being according to Wikipedia US-based and "adopted for use as a base code standard by most jurisdictions in the United States".

              Where elevators are provided in buildings four or more stories above, or four or more stories below, grade plane, not fewer than one elevator shall be provided for fire department emergency access to all floors. The elevator car shall be of such a size and arrangement to accommodate an ambulance stretcher 24-inches by 84-inches (610 mm by 2134 mm) with not less than 5-inch (127 mm) radius corners, in the horizontal, open position [...]

              6 votes
              1. MimicSquid
                Link Parent
                Awesome! Thanks for finding that. That is a good bit bigger than the 60 inch circle for wheelchairs. I wonder if the EU elevators being cheaper is partly a matter of them being more often in...

                Awesome! Thanks for finding that. That is a good bit bigger than the 60 inch circle for wheelchairs. I wonder if the EU elevators being cheaper is partly a matter of them being more often in shorter buildings? If the US is mostly putting in tall elevators that accept that no EMT will carry a patient down 6 flights of stairs, and the EU is putting in elevators for one or two stories where the assumption is that they would be able to get the patient to the ground floor without an elevator, that could also significantly contribute to the cost.

                1 vote
    4. elight
      Link Parent
      Huh! I usually attribute those attributes to the Wall Street Journal!

      Huh! I usually attribute those attributes to the Wall Street Journal!

      1 vote