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Decongestant prescription

Putting a price on a city’s streets

Streetfilms has dropped the latest in its "Moving Beyond the Automobile" series, this time explaining the economics behind congestion pricing for automobiles. The idea behind congestion pricing for automobiles is really pretty simple: "One of the most precious resources in a city is space, and that space needs to be priced." That's how New York traffic expert Sam Schwartz explains the concept, which was first floated by Nobel prize-winning economist William Vickrey back in the 1950s. Singapore has been charging drivers a fee to enter a city's central business district during peak hours for 35 years. Stockholm does it. In …


not in my subaru outback

Liberal NIMBYism: the most despicable form of hypocrisy?

Prospect Park's new bike lane is worse than airborne weaponized AIDSPhoto: shannonvsimmsIn staunchly liberal enclaves all over the country, citizens who profess to progressive environmentalism in the abstract are thwarting local efforts to increase the sustainability of their immediate environment. Whether it's suing over bike lanes in Park Slope, Brooklyn, or blocking a bus rapid transit system in Berkeley, Calif., the children of the summer of love appear to have grown up, grown old, and grown immune to the needs of their descendants. Ryan Avent, online economics editor for The Economist, says that there is something even more damaging to the environment …


File under: strange bedfellows

Edward Glaeser: Tea Party-style libertarianism could be good for our cities

Cities: Land of the free, home of the brave.Photo: Thomas HawkWhen I talked with economist Edward Glaeser last month about his new book Triumph of the City, he touched briefly on the idea that Tea Party activists, rather than being natural adversaries of city-dwellers, are actually natural allies -- if only unwittingly. Here's what he said then: To those Republicans, to those Tea Party activists who believe in the home mortgage interest deduction: Shouldn't the U.S. government stop engaging in social engineering? Shouldn't the U.S. government stop engaging in those policies that artificially push people out of the homes that …


bank for america

John Kerry takes infrastructure to the bank

John Kerry is willing to bank on infrastructure building. He and Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) are introducing a bipartisan bill to create a bank for funding infrastructure projects -- which includes roads (good way to get Republicans and John Cassidy on board) but also rail. The bank would issue loans to help finance projects -- no more than 50 percent of the cost. It would cost about $10 billion for startup, and is projected to invest $600 billion over time, but would eventually move from being federally funded to being self-sustaining. Read more: "Kerry to introduce infrastructure bank …


On their own two wheels

In post-quake Tokyo, bicycle transport is newly popular

A new bike commuter? Maybe.Photo: Byron KiddIn the aftermath of Friday's earthquake, which disrupted public transit, residents of Tokyo are turning to bicycles to make the trip to and from work. That's the word from Byron Kidd, who blogs at Tokyo by Bike. I had seen him tweeting after the quake about an increase in bicyclists and a lot of activity at bike stores, so I got in touch with him to ask him to tell me more. (He's also been tweeting pictures of riders he's seen, like the one here. Click on it to see more.) Here's what he …


How we roll

Tearing down urban freeways to make room for a new bicycle economy

This is the second column in a series focusing on the economics of bicycling. Here's one way to fund bicycle infrastructure: Stop building freeways in cities. Better yet, tear down the ones we already have. Cities are starting to catch on that becoming bicycle friendly is one of the best investments they can make. Cities are also starting to realize that removing freeways makes more economic sense than maintaining or expanding them. In the last year, with the help of federal and state funding, cities like Baltimore and New Haven have been demolishing the "highways to nowhere" that have divided …


Country cousins and city cousins

It’s the ‘burbs, stupid: on the Ezra Klein/Tom Vilsack dustup

Carried away: Ezra Klein and Tom Vilsack ride an imaginary "raft of subsidies." This week, an interesting -- and, I think, bizarre -- argument broke out between Washington Post political blogger Ezra Klein and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The topic was whether rural residents deserve what Klein called a "raft of subsidies," when in fact, "we still need cities." Klein's contributions to the debate were widely hailed as "brilliant" and Vilsack's were widely deplored (see here and here); but I was left wondering what precisely the two were arguing about -- and whether either one of them actually knew what …


Lane change

Opposing bike lanes is bad politics and bad policy, says Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)Photo: Thomas Le NgoGiven the inflamed debate that's going on in New York right now over bike lanes in general and one bike lane in particular -- on Brooklyn's Prospect Park West -- I wanted to get some perspective from the eminently reasonable Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). Founder and cochair of the Congressional Bike Caucus, Blumenauer is a dedicated bike commuter who has been working for years to improve bike infrastructure in his hometown of Portland. "It's all about choice," said Blumenauer by phone this morning. "In too many communities, people have to burn a gallon of …


All aboard

‘Mad Men’ star Vincent Kartheiser wants to sell the country on high-speed rail [VIDEO]

Mad Men's Vincent Kartheiser is really, really excited about high-speed rail. "I'm just amped up about it, you can tell," he told me yesterday. "I'm going a million miles an hour. I'm going as fast as high-speed rail." Kartheiser was on the phone with me to talk about the new video he and fellow Mad Men actor Rich Sommer made for the advocacy group U.S. PIRG to promote super-fast trains in the United States. High-speed rail is a central initiative of the Obama administration that has met with strong resistance from some Republicans. In it, Kartheiser -- in character as …


you can't own property, man

How to not buy anything ever again

Photo: Toban BlackNeither a borrower nor a lender be? Stuff it, old man. Shareable has collected a primer on "collaborative consumption," i.e. the fine art of consensual mooching. At the risk of sounding like a dangerous commie: It turns out there's basically no reason to be the sole owner of anything ever again. Among the things Shareable shows you how to go splitsies on: Housing. If you can handle a housemate, sharing living quarters reduces your rent and can make your utilities usage more efficient. Our favorite: The cohousing directory, which helps you find communities with cooperative home ownership. Food …