Making Bulgaria look good

James Howard Kunstler, oft derided as seeking to return America to a pre-industrial state, actually wants to return the country to the glory years of the industrial era, when the major components of our industrial infrastructure were in place and flourishing while Progressive Era reforms were making cities more habitable and humane. This allowed us to build great cities while ameliorating problems that had overwhelmed earlier cities, such as hypercrowded tenements, which were relieved greatly by the streetcar suburbs, which allowed people of modest means to escape. The cities "sprawled" a bit, but on the whole remained quite dense and …

Detroit goes green

If the automakers won’t, the city leaders will

Introducing the Detroit Office of Energy and Sustainability. Who woulda thunk it?

Fighting congestion, RAND-style

Study finds that tolls and parking charges are key to ease traffic

Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, put out a report on how to get traffic moving faster. They considered lots of the standard solutions — improving signal timing, clearing accidents quickly, encouraging telecommuting, and so forth — and found that many of them could, in fact, provide some temporary congestion relief. But here’s the rub: RAND found that over the long haul, these kinds of solutions simply don’t have much effect on congestion. They can briefly get traffic moving faster, but just about every improvement in travel time results in … more people taking to the …

Radiant Cities: What's old is green

Reintroducing regionalism to green building

Ever since green building was wrested from the hands of hippies and tucked safely in the technology sector — there are probably more articles about it in Wired than Mother Earth News these days — we’ve been under the impression that the greenest buildings are the newest buildings. Those nifty, skin-thin photovoltaic panels and that high-tech engineered mold-free sheetrock will surely edge you closer to LEED Platinum than some drafty old house with its oil heat and mahogany doors … right? Not necessarily. In fact, some of our oldest houses are the greenest houses, and Steve Mouzon, the architect who …

Fast v. green

The infrastructure tightrope Obama will have to walk

As I noted the other day, there’s something of a tension between the infrastructure investments that can be circulated into the economy quickly and those that are green — particularly when it comes to public transit. A Washington Post piece on Sunday addressed the issue: Most of the infrastructure spending being proposed for the massive stimulus package that Obama and congressional Democrats are readying, however, is not exactly the stuff of history, but destined for routine projects that have been on the to-do lists of state highway departments for years. Oklahoma wants to repave stretches of Interstates 35 and 40 …

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 …

Transition talk: The urban team

Who will guide Obama’s placemaking policy?

Sources say that Obama is going to tap Adolfo Carrión Jr. to serve as director of the newly created White House Office of Urban Policy. Carrión is the current president of the Bronx Borough, and was formerly a specialist in the New York City Department of City Planning as well as a member of the New York City Council. Obama has said the new post is needed “to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs.” Also, over the weekend, Obama announced in his weekly address that New York City housing commissioner …

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. …

Come on ride the train ... hey ride it

Transit ridership up; everyone agrees it should be funded

This week the Washington Post reported that mass transit ridership is rocketing upward — "the largest quarterly increase in public transportation ridership in 25 years" — even in the face of falling gas prices. This correction that now sits atop the story is amusing: This article about an increase in mass-transit ridership incorrectly said transit officials estimate that 40,000 jobs would be created by 736 transit projects nationwide if federal money were made available. The correct number is 340,000 jobs. Yes, Virginia, public investment does create jobs. Despite growing demand, the budget crunch has many transit agencies cutting service. The …

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