Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Ryan Avent's Posts

Comments

Urban doubt-fitter

What Obama's picks signal for urban policy

The effort to save the American economy is front and center at the moment, but a term is four long years. Beyond the immediate crisis, President-elect Obama -- who hadn't exactly set a modest agenda before the economic collapse -- hopes to transform much of America's political landscape, from foreign policy to energy to health care. It's a daunting to-do list, but urbanists -- planners, economists, and environmentalists seeking a change in the way America builds its cities -- think that Obama's task can be made easier. If we rethink our cities -- the way we build our neighborhoods and …

Read more: Cities, Politics

Comments

The Transit Authority: A study in Charlotte

Funding transit to reshape the Sunbelt

The city of Phoenix celebrated the dawning of the new year by beginning normal, paying service on its shiny new light rail line. The current 20-mile segment runs from north of central Phoenix through the city, past Sky Harbor airport, and into Tempe and Mesa. If current plans are realized, an extension to the line will be completed by 2012, and a full(ish) network will begin to take shape over the following decade. The light rail line is part of a wave of transit construction that's bringing transit systems to a new generation of booming cities. These emergent metropolises often …

Read more: Cities, Politics

Comments

Ray, it ain't so

Will Ray LaHood be our next transportation secretary?

People are saying that Ray LaHood, a downstate Illinois Republican representative, may get the nod for DOT. So far, the things mentioned as being in his favor are -- friendship with the president-elect and his chief of staff, some pro-Amtrak votes, experience managing big projects as a member of the Appropriations committee (?), and his Republican-ness, for some reason. This makes no sense at all to me. As I see it, then, there are three possibilities: Obama doesn't intend the DOT secretary to do the heavy lifting on his transportation policies, Obama doesn't really care about transportation, and It isn't …

Read more: Cities, Politics

Comments

How things changed

The transportation story at the heart of a history-making crisis

There's a remarkable graph that has starred in blog posts and news stories with some regularity over the past year. It shows vehicle miles traveled in America over the last quarter century or so. For most of the period, the line rockets upward, straight and true, preparing to blast off the page. But then the strangest thing happens. In 2004, it starts to level off. And in 2008, it begins to decline. The tale behind that line grows in significance by the day. That rocket-ride upward corresponds fairly directly to the economic story that has culminated in the current crisis. …

Read more: Cities, Politics

Comments

Connect the dots

For stronger cities, build better connections

Infrastructure is a dull business. The guy talking about pipes and wires is not generally the life of the party (to my chagrin). But infrastructure is all the rage these days, with economists calling for broad stimulus, and Barack Obama's transition team planning big investments in the American economy. The excitement seems to be catching. Even staid legislators are feeling energized by the new push to rebuild America. Last week, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) introduced the High-Speed Rail for America Act, a bill that would authorize $23 billion in bond sales to fund rail infrastructure generally, …

Read more: Cities, Politics

Comments

November train

How investing in transit could save Obama’s butt

Nov. 4 was a good day for public transit. Ballot measures around the country performed well -- the state of California even approving a first-in-the-nation plan to create a true high-speed, inter-city rail system. Increased Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will likely clear the way for infrastructure investment with a pronounced lean toward green, equitable transit. And President-elect Obama seems inclined to lead the Congress in that direction. (If nothing else, the replacement of a distinctly anti-transit administration will lead to a much-needed shakeup of the federal transportation bureaucracy, especially the Federal Transit Administration.) Recent dip aside, oil …

Read more: Cities, Politics

Comments

In search of an urban plan

How design must change in a warming, oil-scarce world

This week I was able to attend a conference on urban planning hosted by the Penn Institute for Urban Research and the Rockefeller Foundation. Fifty years ago, the same entities had put together another urban conference, at which gathered names like Jane Jacobs and Lewis Mumford, intellectuals who shaped the design world's thinking about cities at a time when many urban places were facing crisis. Those thinkers faced a world in which the city no longer seemed necessary, and where planners were increasingly tearing downtowns limb from limb to make them safe for the coming car-tropolis. Now, of course, the …

Read more: Cities

Comments

Plan B minus

Some disappointments in Obama’s new energy proposal

Joe Romm isn't off the wagon in calling Barack Obama's latest energy policy outline [PDF], "easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party," particularly given its release during a general campaign targeted at purple state voters. All the same, I found the plan to be ... a little meh. There are good things in there to be sure. I'm particularly happy that climate change features prominently and that he remains committed to cap-and-trade. The goodness of other proposals depends upon exactly how they'd be implemented. And the whole thing suffers from kitchen sinkism, which …

Comments

Costly climate

The Freakonomists weigh in on the effects of warming

Manzian (as in Jim Manzi) climate policy skepticism stems in part from a fairly simple idea: The cost of legislation is unlikely to be justified given likely savings from averted warming effects. In other words, warming, in the short-term, just isn't going to cost that much. But what does that mean? Well, for one thing, it means that near-term bad effects from warming will be overwhelmingly concentrated in poor nations, and luckily for us, making the poor much worse-off doesn't impact global growth all that much. Score! Here's a paper on the subject, courtesy of the Freakonomists: This paper uses …

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Unpacking the Panglossian economy

Is a consumer choice necessarily the best choice?

Jim Manzi, climate change voice of non-denialist conservatives, writes: But consider this at a common-sense level: you are forcing people, through rationing, to use something like 80% less of a substance that they choose to use because they believe that it creates net economic utility (prior to externalities) as compared to any available alternative. There is a respectable (though as I've argued in many articles, incorrect) argument that the negative externalities outweigh all those private benefits, but it's crazy to assert that the private benefits are zero, which is what Klein and Roberts are saying. Call it economic denialism. You …

Read more: Climate & Energy