Aussie Urban Myths


Urban planning in Australia is lost in a dense fog of presumption and theory. What’s needed is to toss out the hype and to illuminate some of the common planning myths for what they really are: impediments to progress.

An example of planning hype occurred not long ago when ten urban academics loudly criticised the Victorian government’s decision to develop about 40,000 hectares of new land on Melbourne's fringe, calling the decision short-sighted and unsustainable.  read more »

Decade of the Telecommute


The rise in telecommuting is the unmistakable message of the just released 2009 American Community Survey data. The technical term is working at home, however the strong growth in this market is likely driven by telecommuting, as people use information technology and communications technology to perform jobs that used to require being in the office.  read more »

Portland Metro's Competitiveness Problem


Portland Metro's president, David Bragdon, recently resigned to take a position with New York’s Bloomberg administration. Bragdon was nearing the end of his second elected term and ineligible for another term. Metro is the three county (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties) planning agency that oversees Portland's land use planning and transportation policies, among the most stringent and pro-transit in the nation.  read more »

California’s New Grassroots Movement: High-Speed Rail on the Peninsula


In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A to allocate $9.95 billion of the state’s money to a high-speed rail system. Just two years later, many of these same voters are yelling and screaming at the High-Speed Rail Authority to revise their plans. Why have Californians turned against this project so quickly?  read more »

Light Rail & Left Turns

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Imagine that you own a service station that supplies fuel to the surrounding community, and you specialize in automotive repair. You're proud that your reputation for service attracts vintage Corvette owners. You worked hard all of your life, and your shop is your equity for retirement. Your business is entirely dependent on customers who enter via a left turn from Boone Avenue, a low traffic street, because drivers cannot get direct access to you from Highway 55, just south of your business.

One fateful day, a traffic engineer decides that the street serving as access to your station  read more »

A Mass Transit New England Ramble

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To escape the summer crowds in the Hamptons, I rode the S92 bus (fare $1.50) for almost three hours, as it cruised the south and north forks of Long Island, before leaving me at the ferry that connects Orient Point to New London, Connecticut.

I might end up late to some meetings, but this way I could monitor the progress of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, at least as it pertains to the more than $8 billion earmarked for high-speed trains, if not buses and ferries.

Not many Hampton People leave on a local bus, which in this case was filled with Latino day laborers, giving it the air of a John Steinbeck novel. I was headed to New England, and I wanted to see if I could make a circuit to Providence, Boston, Amherst, and Keene entirely on public transportation.

Conclusion: Mass transit works better as a White House sound bite than as a way to get around New England.  read more »

What’s Behind China’s Big Traffic Jam


The world press has been fixated on the "Beijing" traffic jam that lasted for nearly two weeks. There is a potential lesson here for the United States, which is that if traffic is allowed to far exceed roadway capacity, unprecedented traffic jams can occur.

The Inner Mongolia Traffic Jam: First we need to understand that this was not a "Beijing" traffic jam at all,or even on the outskirts of Beijing. The traffic jam came no closer to Beijing than 150 miles (250 kilometers) away, beyond the border of the city/province of Beijing, through the province of Hebei and nearly to the border of Inner Mongolia.  read more »

Mass Transit: The Great Train Robbery


Last month promoters of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Los Angeles rail projects, both past and future, held a party to celebrate their "success." Although this may well have been justified for transit-builders and urban land speculators, there may be far less call for celebration among L.A.'s beleaguered commuters.

Despite promises that the $8 billion invested in rail lines over the past two decades would lessen L.A.'s traffic congestion and reshape how Angelenos get to work, the sad reality is that there has been no increase in MTA transit ridership since before the rail expansion began in 1985.  read more »

Going Underground in Australia


Just over a decade ago, governments in Australia were immune to calls for accelerated infrastructure investment in our major urban centres. Plans for strategic reinvestment were rare. Much has changed in that time, maybe too much. It seems that enthusiasm for major urban infrastructure now runs ahead of impartial assessment of the cost, versus the claimed benefits. A proposed $8.2 billion underground rail loop for Brisbane, along with a new underground station for its busy downtown, provides one example of an over exuberant propensity to spend.  read more »

Driving and Transit in America: Myths from Down Under


I nearly fell off my bicycle when I read that driving had declined 43% in the United States and transit use had increased 65%. Australia's The Fifth Estate attributes these figures to Professor Peter Newman of Sydney's Curtin University at an event at the Hassell architectural and urban planning firm offices in Sydney. In speaking about a declining driving trend in Australia, The Fifth Estate reports Professor Newman as saying that:*  read more »