Urbanists Need to Face the Full Implications of Peak Car


As traffic levels decline nationally in defiance of the usual state DOT forecasts projecting major increases, a number of commentators have claimed that we’ve reached “peak car” – the point at which the seemingly inexorable rise in vehicle miles traveled in America finally comes to an end.   But while this has been celebrated, with some justification in the urbanist world as vitiating plans for more roads, the implications for public policy haven’t been fully faced up to.  read more »

Los Angeles: Rail for Others


A few years ago, the satirical publication, The Onion ran an article under the headline "98 Percent of US Commuters Favor Public Transit for Others." The spoof cited a mythical press release by the American Public Transit Association (APTA), in which Lance Holland of Anaheim, California said "Expanding mass transit isn't just a good idea, it's a necessity," Holland said. "My drive to work is unbelievable.  read more »

Real Economic Payoff from Infrastructure


With the Obama proposal to get some money for infrastructure, it is time to revisit the payoff from investments in transportation. Investments that improve the performance of transportation in the US will pay for themselves in 17 years through increased economic activity and the resulting gains in federal tax revenue. The rate of return for national investments in transportation is 7%, significantly more than the cost of borrowing. Recently released research verbalizes a theory of why the performance of infrastructure matters for the economy.  read more »

Should the Gas Tax Go Local?

highway construction; Bedford TX.jpg

After approving yet another general budget stopgap for highway construction in July, legislators across the country are acknowledging the obvious: The Federal Highway Trust Fund, the primary pot of federal roadway dollars, is nearly out of gas.  read more »

California Bad to its Bones


Any serious student of California knows that the state’s emergence in the past century reflected a triumph of engineering. From the water systems, the dredged harbors, the power stations and the freeway system, California overcame geographical limits of water, power and its often-unmanageable coastline to create a beacon of growth and opportunity.

That was then, but certainly not the case today. Indeed, since the halcyon postwar days of infrastructure-building under Gov. Pat Brown, roughly one-in-five dollars of state spending went to building roads, bridges, water systems and the like. Today, this investment amounts to less than 5 percent.  read more »

New Commuting Data Shows Gain by Individual Modes


The newly released American Community Survey data for 2013 indicates little change in commuting patterns since 2010, a result that is to be expected in a period as short as three years. Among the 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population), driving alone increased to 73.6% of commuting (including all travel modes and working at home). The one mode that experienced the largest drop was carpools, where the share of commuting dropped from 9.6% in 2010 to 9.0% in 2013. Doubtless most of the carpool losses represented gains in driving alone and transit.  read more »

Paving Over Hunan? The Portland Model for China


For two centuries, people have crowded into urban areas, seeking higher standards of living than prevail in the rural areas they abandoned. Nowhere is this truer than in China. In just four decades, it has risen from 17.4 percent to 55.6 percent urban, adding nearly 600 million city residents. This has been accomplished while lifting an unprecedented number of people out of poverty.  read more »

Traffic Congestion in the World: 10 Worst and Best Cities


The continuing improvement in international traffic congestion data makes comparisons between different cities globally far easier. Annual reports (2013) by Tom Tom have been expanded to include China, adding the world’s second largest economy to previously produced array of reports on the Americas, Europe, South Africa and Australia/New Zealand. A total of 160 cities are now rated in these Tom Tom Traffic Index Reports.  read more »

Why Do We Care About Transportation Mode Share?


The New York Times ran an op-ed piece that helpfully demonstrated the pitfalls of lifestyle arguments in favor of urbanism, namely that they are annoying to everyone but the people making the argument.  read more »

Germany Also Having Big Problems Building Infrastructure


Der Spiegel had an interesting article recently called “Angry Germans: Big Projects Face Growing Resistance.” The article (linked version is English) talks about how it is increasingly difficult to get infrastructure projects built in Germany.

Wherever ambitious construction ventures loom on the horizon in Germany — from the cities to the countryside, from the coastlines in the north to the Black Forest in the south — opponents are taking to the streets….  read more »