All the news that’s fit for you(V)

23 11 2009

Will Austin vote for urban rail in November 2010?:

“The incomplete roadway ramps on MoPac just south of Hwy. 290 will no longer lead to nowhere…The design for the project is mostly complete, with construction set to begin in fiscal year 2011. The completed project should be open to traffic during FY 2012. Cost of the project is estimated to total approximately $13 million. The City of Austin will finance the entire project upfront, with TxDOT paying the city 80 percent of the project’s cost back over a 10 to 15 year period”:

“In 1949, President Harry Truman convinced Congress to break with the past and inject the federal government into process of developing cities and financing housing. The 1949 Housing Act expanded the availability of federal insurance for home mortgages, igniting the growth of new suburbs farther and farther from the centers of our cities. Together with federal highway funds that came a few years later, the 1949 law started what we now describe as ‘suburban sprawl.’ The two initiatives put Americans on the path of long commutes, heavy traffic, air pollution, water shortages, and a long-term increase in carbon dioxide emissions, which fuel global warming…The time has come to declare that the ‘General Motors model’ of urban planning is officially bankrupt. We must reinvest in existing urban centers, because reusing the infrastructure and restoring underutilized real estate is far more environmentally efficient than new construction, no matter how green that construction is. It’s also time to change local land use laws to promote more compact development around transit and the availability of affordable housing close to jobs and services. A reversal of the ill effects of sprawl will take committed local officials who are willing to change land use policy and zoning even in the face of resistance. Architects, real estate developers, bankers, and city planners must collaborate to create vibrant urban spaces that meet consumers’ needs”:

“We’re trundling along in the infrastructure equivalent of a jalopy, with bridges rotting and falling down, while other nations, our competitors in the global economy, are building efficient, high-speed, high-performance infrastructure platforms to power their 21st-century economies.  We used to be so much smarter about this stuff. A recent publication from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution reminds us that: ‘Since the beginning of our republic, transportation and infrastructure have played a central role in advancing the American economy — from the canals of upstate New York to the railroads that linked the heartland to industrial centers and finally the interstate highway system that ultimately connected all regions of the nation. In each of those periods, there was a sharp focus on how infrastructure investments could be used as catalysts for economic expansion and evolution.’ Policy makers all but gave up on that kind of thinking years ago. America’s infrastructure, once the finest in the world, has been neglected for decades, and it shows. Felix Rohatyn’s book on the subject, ‘Bold Endeavors,’ opens with: ‘The nation is falling apart — literally'”:

“The recession and housing collapse have halted four decades of double-digit growth for nearly half of the nation’s biggest rapidly expanding suburbs.Twenty-four of the 53 cities of 100,000 or more that grew by at least 10% every decade since 1970 lost population in the last two years. Fifteen are likely to end the decade with less than a 10% gain in population, largely because of recent losses…Bedroom communities now must rethink their future and become ‘a little less sprawly, a little more village-like with clustered development, denser housing,’ Lang says. ‘The irony is that if they want to keep growing, they must grow as cities, which is diametrically opposite of how they got so big in the first place’…The 2010 Census will reveal whether new bedroom communities are emerging at the far edges of metropolitan areas or if growth will occur in older boomburbs that transform into more urbanized centers”:

Zombie subdivisions:

“Commercial real estate loans are typically provided on terms of five to seven years. That means that in the next two years a billions of dollars worth investments in construction will need to be repaid just as the current value for those properties has plummeted. About $500 billion will come due in 2010 alone and an equal amount every year through at least 2012, according to the Federal Reserve. Many banks…are facing huge numbers of possible defaults by builders who erected thousands of office towers, condominiums and shopping centers with the easy credit available five years ago. With few tenants, those developments are turning into what industry insiders call zombie buildings. Next year ‘looks like an unavoidable bloodbath for a multitude of ‘zombie’ borrowers, investors and lenders”:

“The strategy outlook at JP Morgan is little changed over the last week despite some sobering news out of the labor department last Friday. The bad news on jobs is no longer a surprise to investors and history has shown that past jobless recoveries were dealt with fine by most major asset classes. Although the jobless recovery creates some greater headwinds than most recoveries it is not an immediate headwind as JP Morgan analysts continue to see a flight into equities as portfolio managers chase performance in to year-end. While many investors (including your truly) have expressed their dislike for the Fed’s liquidity induced ‘recovery’ JP Morgan sees no issues with it. In fact, they see it as a normalization of the allocation of capital in the markets”: (except of course for those who are jobless)




2 responses

28 11 2009

I think you’re mixing apples and oranges. High speed rail does nothing for intervening areas between cities and freight rail isn’t really interested in them either, due to the high costs of switches and switching. All a town needs is an exit on the Interstate and they are connected to the rest of North America for the purposes of moving goods to market which is essential to all economies.

Interstates are about moving goods between cities, towns and regions in a safe and quick manner. Freight must move or that shipper will cease to exist. Intercity passenger travel is 80% discretionary. So the cars pay their way by way of the excise tax, fines and tolls. High speed rail is heavily subsidized, even in France, by way of the regional (departement) subsidy (bribe) to create regional stations that is hidden by calling it revenue to SNCF.

High speed rail does nothing for freight which is the key for rural agricultural and industrial survival. This is were you mix apples and oranges.

28 11 2009

I argue that you begin mixing your apples and oranges right from the get-go. Because Interstates do nothing for areas that are not within approximately fifty miles of one. It’s a shame, how those towns beyond that have been allowed to die (i.e. America’s Hearland). It’s a shame, how both our domestic agricultural and industrial capacity has been so extensively outsourced. And it’s a shame, how our intraregional and intraurban rail system was destroyed, an act that among others General Motors and Standard Oil were convicted for conspiring against the public’s welfare.

The whole Interstate+Federal Housing Act experiment has always been heavily subsidized (building schools on the fringe, extending sewer and water lines to sprawling development, extending emergency services to the fringe, and direct pay-outs to developers; one case in point: and has only been increasingly so, especially beginning in the early 1970s (which is when the US production of oil peaked, forcing us to extend ourselves farther abroad), and now we as a society can no longer afford continuing to do so.…look at the costs being accrued in Iraq and Afghanistan over our need to control our oil supply! One should consider that nothing but a highway subsidy, no?

The former chairman of the Texas House of Representatives Transportation Committee Mike Krusee himself recently said: “What we found was that no road that we built in Texas paid for itself. None.” From the Texas Transportation Institute: “If a region’s vehicle-miles of travel were to increase by five percent per year, roadway lane-miles would need to increase by five percent each year to maintain the initial congestion level;” (our) “analysis shows that it would be almost impossible to attempt to maintain a constant congestion level with road construction only. Over the past 2 decades, less than 50 percent of the needed mileage was actually added. This means that it would require at least twice the level of current-day road expansion funding to attempt this road construction strategy. An even larger problem would be to find suitable roads that can be widened, or areas where roads can be added, year after year.” A good example? The Trans-Texas Corridor was recently shelved while Lone Star Rail is poised to begin picking up the slack, and this is an interesting piece:

But let’s never mind arguing about constructing new roadways; we can’t afford to maintain the roadways that already exist. The infrastructure is literally falling apart, which means that freight (one main component in the spike in freight costs is the increasing need to maintain eighteen wheelers) will no longer be able to move in the manner you describe. Nor will people. Furthermore, and speaking of apples and oranges, most of our foodstuffs are imported as are most other goods, and our whole global system of economic growth (Simon Kuznets: “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income.”) is predicated on the subsidized-so-it-can-be-cheap consumption of energy. The global production of oil has nearly reached its peak point (some argue that it already has in Saudi Arabia), which is going to have extreme ramifications, one of the effects being our society becoming more local in nature, diminishing the need for such extensive freight delivery.

I close by echoing the words Truman used when signing the Federal Housing Act: “We need to break from the past.”


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