Cities

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 …

Stimulating thoughts

Green stimulus: Where can the money go, and how fast?

In his radio address on Sunday, Obama sketched a progressive stimulus spending package that’s kicked up quite a bit of chatter. Some transit advocates were ticked off that roads and bridges got a shout-out but there was no mention of transit. Michael O’Hare goes so far as to say that "Obama has, on the whole, dropped the ball on climate change; he’s not anti-science or anti-environment, but he’s failing a big test here." Ryan Avent says to chill: the road stuff is likely about repairing existing road infrastructure, not laying new roads. I’d add that transit’s been mentioned by Obama’s …

Always

What should be done with the empty big box?

Last month, Circuit City announced that it would close 155 of its stores, most of them big boxes: those 50,000- to almost 300,000-square-foot warehouse-like structures, often built far from city centers. By one estimate, there are almost 3,000 vacant big boxes littering the American landscape, with more to come as major retailers falter. Makes Wal-Mart’s logo, that “Always” emblazoned on their façades, seem ironic: what’s really permanent is the big box as retail grave. The environmental impacts of big box stores are well documented — among other things, they consume green space, encourage driving, and soak up public funds. But …

I looked up 'redundant' in the dictionary and it said: 'see: redundant'

Better Place comes to Hawaii

Hawaii is now a Better Place.

Notable quotable

Supertrain a-comin’

“There’s a reason when you turned on the Olympics to watch them this past summer, you saw mag-lev trains going over 200 miles an hour in supposedly a third world country [i.e., China] in terms of its economy, blowing into town, dealing with environmental problems they have as well as transporting people in a way that we don’t even come close to being able to do. And as Barack has pointed out, and John Corzine knows, I may have a bit of a pro-rail bias. I think of the jobs we can create in both construction and innovation if we …

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