Orange County toll roads’ under review by California

Orange County’s toll roads are unable to pay their own way, leading the state of California to investigate whether their administrative agencies are viable as a going concern.  Obviously the situation is complicated by the fact that there are public highways (I-5 and I-405) that duplicate some of the connectivity of these tollways, but their financial duress would seems to suggest that when people actually have to pay, directly, to use freeways… they’re far less interested in footing the bill than when we socialize the resource, and force everyone to pay.  This isn’t very surprising, but it does get one thinking: just how much of our infrastructure would we have never built if it was transparently priced?  How many hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars have we wasted on a polluting, oil dependent, dangerous, city destroying, obesity inducing means of transportation?  If you’re going to subsidize something at the scale we’ve subsidized automobiles, you better be darned sure that the externalities that come along with it are positive!  Hopefully this will serve as a wake up call to the beltway developers around Denver.

The American suburbs are a giant Ponzi scheme

Suburbia as Ponzi scheme.  We have subsidized suburban growth through debt and taxes, and reaped the short-term financial rewards of that growth, but at the expense of taking on ever larger long-term liabilities in terms of infrastructure maintenance and a very energy intensive transportation system.  I disagree with Strong Towns on the appropriate overall scale of habitation (more people and a much larger fraction of our overall economy live in cities, not towns), but this is (another) good critique of the American Nightmare.

All Transportation Infrastructure is Development

A good post from Fort Worthology on the perils of continuing to build late-20th century sprawling car-centric cities, and the fallacy that transit/bike/pedestrian infrastructure is a “handout for developers” while highways are not.  All public infrastructure — especially transportation infrastructure — has consequences for developers, and economic development, and you get the development you build your transportation systems for.  Who wants to be the next Detroit?  Who wants to continue supporting the petro-dictators?  Not me, thanks.

Links for the week of November 28th, 2009

If you want to follow my shared links in real time instead of as a weekly digest, head over to Delicious. You can search them there easily too.
Continue reading Links for the week of November 28th, 2009

Support AB 1186 for transparent parking costs

Dear Assemblymember Portantino,

I would like to urge you to support AB 1186, an effort to enhance the transparency of parking costs for easing the enforcement of California’s parking cash-out legislation.  This bill has been introduced by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (District 40), and is due for a hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee on May 11th.  The cost of parking is enormous, generally hidden, and heavily subsidized, producing significant distortions in the transportation choices made by Californians.  Making the price of parking transparent, and enabling those who choose not to drive to recoup those costs, removing the hidden subsidies, is in the best interest of business, transit authorities, the citizens, and California in general.  For instance, at my own institution in Pasadena, the California Institute of Technology, we are forced by city regulations to provide what would constitute a vast oversupply of parking were employees and students required to pay the true price of providing those spaces, wasting $3 million each year (approximately $1000 per person on the campus), that could be better spent on our core scientific research and education mission.  While this bill unfortunately would not directly address this waste, it is a step in the right direction, and I strongly encourage you to consider other such steps.


Zane Selvans

Shared Links for Feb 26th

  • Zombie Bank Monster Mash – An animated monster mash, starring our bailed out financial "industry" (or is it just a lobby now?). Sadly Mark Fiore seems unwilling to implicate the current administration in the continuing mess. (tagged: cartoon zombie finance bailout banks economics politics geithner )
  • No, Wait! You Got It Backwards! – Well, so much for any hint of "change" in the administration's policies toward the banking industry. The Treasury's plans to buy convertible preferred shares in the banks is completely backwards – giving a put option to the banks, instead of getting a call option in exchange for the risky investment. Taxpayers are guaranteed to be screwed. (tagged: treasury banks bailout geithner obama economics finance )
  • The Case Against Home Ownership – An infrequently made point in the US: owning is often more expensive, and less convenient, than renting… and that's even before you account for the massive government incentives that have been put in place since WWII to encourage people to buy their own place. People frequently look at me like I'm crazy when I suggest we should just live close to where we work as a way to avoid the expenses of driving, or the inconveniences of (bad) public transit. (tagged: subsidy transportation housing economics suburbia planning taxes )
  • Copenhagen to continue Copenhagenizing – Denmark's take on "economic stimulus": massive investments in public transit and bike infrastructure. In a nation of 5 million, they're committing $16 billion over the next 10 years, which is about $1/day per person (which is less than 1/5 what the average US family spends on their automobiles) Regional rail, intra-city light rail. Bike lanes and paths. Road pricing for drivers. Etc, etc. I'm glad someone is setting a good example. It will be interesting to see how the world responds to Copenhagen later this year, when the next round of climate talks takes place. I can't think of a better city to represent my hopes for the future. (tagged: transportation politics copenhagen bicycle rail denmark stimulus )
  • NYPD fires rookie cop caught on YouTube video bashing bicyclist – Last fall a cyclist was body checked off their bike by a cop in the midst of a Times Square Critical Mass ride. Said event was recorded via cameraphone. Cop perjured himself in official report, claiming cyclist ran into him intentionally. Video viewed on YouTube 2 million times. Cop now unemployed and facing 4 years in prison for assault, falsifying documents. Sometimes we win. Makes me want to record just about everything. (tagged: bicycle police transparency youtube )