28 01 2010

How soon, for example, will a city be able to create a combination of density, design, and mixture of uses that yields the same performance as an old city that naturally has those features?

Upon this question Our Most Senior Fellow retrospects, first from an individual structural point of view: “It is going to take a very, very long time. The recent real estate bubble was not only the culmination of an absurd travesty in regards to lending practices and locational choices but was also an absurd travesty in regards to general construction contracting practices. Structures today are comprised of shoddy material and, instead of the focus being a good job, labor is now a cost that has been extremely minimized and, as a result, so has the ROI on that cost. Furthermore, structures are still generally being built only to last as long as the mortgage; so after thirty years or so they are considered a diminishing asset. The resulting structures reflect all of that. And they will not decay gracefully.”

Then, while subsequently pondering about how, one, the intent of the Federal Housing Act was for folks to get houses they would then turn into long-term homes but what are now considered to be homes are in fact nothing but short-term investments; and, two, how the implementation of the Interstate Highway System effectively cut the throat of Urbanity after which about twenty years later its guts were ripped out by so-called Urban Renewal; a fad that, three, occurred at roughly the same time this country began messing with its manufacturing sector (first outsourcing domestically [i.e., to the South/Southwest] and then abroad) so all its citizens could become footloose and fancy-free cogs within the post-industrial service sector machine, a shift now so complete that our manufacturing capacity has been eroded to such an extent that there are scarcely any more stable well-paying middle-class lifestyles available anymore at the same time prices for everything (but, believe it or not, gas) are only getting higher and higher while the VERY REAL REAL “2%” RICH are only getting RICHER and RICHER –

The following lightning struck Our Most Senior Fellow: “Maybe federal banking regulations should be rejiggered such that, to get a mortgage, not only the fact that one has a job but where that job is located was also somehow calculated in to give property owners an incentive to live in closer proximity (at or within, say, 20 miles)? Just like folks are given an incentive to perform such supposed public goods as, ahem, get married? According to AAA, the composite cost per mile average for driving in 2008 was .71$/mile  (up .09$/m from a year ago). Maybe a strategy to reduce the number of VMTs in this manner will free up more disposable income, which would make housing, among other things, more affordable?”

Francis Fukuyama: “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

William Jennings Bryan (at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1896): “There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.”

State of the Union: Is Obama Ready to Make the Middle Class His Priority? “

Obama’s Tiny Jobs Ideas for Main Street, A Big Spending Freeze for Wall Street

Federal Spending Freeze for Non-National Security Issues Proposed

George Santayana: “Those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.”

Which way do we go?

25 01 2010

Christopher Hawthorne: “This movement in the direction of emptiness is profoundly difficult for contemporary culture — and particularly American culture — to grapple with. Occasional recessions and other setbacks aside, we assume that our national trajectory always moves toward fullness, that our cultural progress can be measured by how much new square footage we’ve created and occupied. But that process has completely reversed itself in many of cities hardest hit by economic crisis…The combination of overbuilding during the boom years, thanks to easy credit, and the sudden paralysis of the financial markets in the fall of 2008 has created an unprecedented supply of unwanted or under-occupied real estate around the world. At the same time, rising cultural worry about environmental disaster or some other end-of-days scenario has produced a recent stream of books, movies and photography imagining cities and pieces of architecture emptied of nearly all signs of human presence.”

Ken Belson: “Years after a wave of construction brought publicly financed stadiums costing billions of dollars to cities across the country, taxpayers are once again being asked to reach into their pockets. From New Jersey to Ohio to Arizona, the stadiums were sold as a key to redevelopment and as the only way to retain sports franchises. But the deals that were used to persuade taxpayers to finance their construction have in many cases backfired, the result of overly optimistic revenue assumptions and the recession… Nowhere is the problem more acute than in Cincinnati. In 1996, voters in Hamilton County approved an increase of half of one percent in the sales tax that promised to build and maintain stadiums for the Bengals and the Reds, pay Cincinnati’s public schools and give homeowners an annual property tax rebate. The stadiums were supposed to spur development of the city’s dilapidated riverfront. But sales tax receipts have fallen so fast in the last year that the county is now scrambling to bridge a $14 million deficit in its sales tax fund. The public schools, which deferred taking their share for years, want their money. The teams have not volunteered to rewrite their leases. So in the coming weeks, the county plans to cut basic services, lower its legal bills and drain a bond reserve fund with no plan for paying it back.”

Alec MacGillis: “In April 2006, the Richard Florida show arrived in the Southern Tier of Upstate New York. It was only one of the scores of appearances this decade by the economic-development guru, whose speaking fee soared to $35,000 not long after his 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class made him a star on the lecture circuit. Cleveland, Toledo, Baltimore, Greensboro, Green Bay, Des Moines, Hartford, Roanoke, and Rochester were among the many cities that had already shelled out to hear from the good-looking urban-studies professor about how to get young professionals to move in. Of course, none of these burgs has yet completed the transformation from post-manufacturing ugly duckling to gay-friendly, hipster swan. But middling results elsewhere did not keep people in the greater Elmira area from getting excited about Florida’s visit…As Elmira and other cities on Florida’s circuit dutifully carry out his instructions, though, the guru has grown less confident in their prospects…Florida has been arguing that the recession has so decimated many cities and regions that it’s time for the country to cut its losses and instead encourage growth in places that are prospering, like Silicon Valley, Boulder, Austin, and North Carolina’s Research Triangle. And the rest?(:)…He delivered the harsh news: ‘We need to be clear that ultimately, we can’t stop the decline of some places, and that we would be foolish to try. … Different eras favor different places, along with the industries and lifestyles those places embody. … We need to let demand for the key products and lifestyles of the old order fall, and begin building a new economy, based on a new geography’…Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution…says: ‘The problem is that he omits a whole group of cities and parts of the country that would never be magnets for talent. Most of the places that really need economic development are cities that must grow skills and talent from within.”‘

Anatomy of Ruins

P.J. Huffstutter: “Cottonwood trees grow through the collapsed roofs of homes stripped clean for scrap metal. Wild grasses carpet the rusty shells of empty factories, now home to pheasants and wild turkeys. This green veil is proof of how far this city has fallen from its industrial heyday and, to a small group of investors, a clear sign. Detroit, they say, needs to get back to what it was before Henry Ford moved to town: farmland. ‘There’s so much land available and it’s begging to be used,’ said Michael Score, president of the Hantz Farms, which is buying up abandoned sections of the city’s 139-square-mile landscape and plans to transform them into a large-scale commercial farm enterprise. ‘Farming is how Detroit started…and farming is how Detroit can be saved.'”

Amy Hsuan: “In the past few years, a change has taken over the woods, unsettling residents and their relationship with the land. Here and throughout the Pacific Northwest, investors have been buying millions of acres of forestland, betting on big payouts for their clients — pension funds, university endowments and foundations. Today, timber investment management organizations and real estate investment trusts represent the largest private landowners in Oregon and across the country. Over the past decade, investor-owners have used one big advantage as they’ve quietly replaced traditional forest products companies: They don’t pay corporate taxes…With timber prices flatlining and real estate values rising, many private forestland owners are shifting their gaze to building homes rather than growing trees. Landowners elsewhere in the country, under pressure to maximize returns, have looked to convert forests into subdivisions and resorts as trees become less valuable than the land they occupy.”

Daniel Weintraub: “California’s battle against greenhouse gases is likely to come to the Bay Area soon — with rules designed to reduce the carbon footprint of new housing and commercial development. That is a concept you might expect to be welcome in a region known for its environmental advocacy and hostility to growth. But some environmentalists and city planners fear that the new set of guidelines being considered by the region’s air quality regulators could have an unintended consequence, making it more difficult and more expensive for developers to construct buildings within already urbanized areas. That would run counter to the notion that builders should be given incentives to shift future population growth from the car-dependent outer suburbs to places where public services are already available and public transit is a more viable option to get people out of their cars.”

Martin Mittelstaedt: “Americans’ infatuation with their cars has endured through booms and busts, but last year something rare happened in the United States: The size of the U.S. car fleet dropped by a hefty four million vehicles to 246 million, the only large decline since the U.S. Department of Transportation began modern recordkeeping in 1960…And the overall drop in car ownership has prompted speculation that the long American love affair with the car is fading. Analysts cite such diverse factors as high gas prices, the expansion of many municipal transit systems, and the popularity of networking websites among teenagers replacing cars as a way of socializing…The institute is issuing an analysis Wednesday that contends the drop in 2009 isn’t a one-time fluke caused by the recession, and that U.S. car ownership is likely to be entering a longer-term decline that will see the fleet drop by another 25 million by 2020.”

Jenn Abelson: “For many young Americans, the automobile is less a love affair than a way to get there. Even before the recession, the younger generation of motorists had lost their lust for the latest and greatest cars on the market. Some analysts say automakers dropped the ball years ago on designing affordable and swanky cars for young motorists to flash their style. Between 2005 and 2008, sales of new vehicles declined consistently, and consumers between the ages of 20 and 34 accounted for the largest drop, about 30 percent, according to Maritz, a market research firm.”

Dennis DesRosiers: “The drop in ownership is arguably one of the absolute most serious downside threats to the North American auto industry. I call it the nightmare scenario for the industry.”

Sustained Long-Term US Gasoline Demand Growth Unlikely

Deron Lovaas: “Since U.S. gasoline demand may have already peaked…we come back to the elephant in the room for many of our discussions: With declining gasoline tax revenues, how will we pay for all of this?”

Peggy Fikac: “The Texas Transportation Commission has directed a fresh study of the (Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax) idea, and it is not alone. There are pilot projects in other states and nationally to gauge how such a tax would work. Texas transportation officials say the study is meant to help give lawmakers information on options ahead of their next regular session in 2011, when they confront a funding squeeze that is expected to drain the highway fund of money for new construction contracts by 2012. “We need to think differently about how we fund transportation,” Texas Transportation Commission Chairwoman Deirdre Delisi said at a Texas Taxpayers and Research Association forum in November. Delisi said the vehicle-miles-traveled tax idea is controversial, but should be discussed because revenue from the state’s main source of transportation funding, the motor fuels tax, is declining. The gasoline tax has not been raised since 1991.”

A “Truer” Cost of Sprawl?

15 01 2010

Several months ago Our Most Senior Fellow dusted off the teachings from a very, very long ago Econometrics class requirement and began delving throughout the Texas Transportation Institute’s statistical database. He learned a lot but, the more he grew familiar with the data, the more he grew frustrated. To him something wasn’t clicking, and he started likening his endeavors to golf – He’d rather spend four hours in a row banging his head against a concrete wall over and over and over again than play. Then “Eureka!” exclaimed he, “Their universe is predicated upon moving more and more cars more efficiently rather than moving actual people more efficiently!” And now that he has said pretty much all he’s needed to say in order to dispel the so-called ‘basic God-given Patriotic American right to drive the biggest vehicle one can afford on an increasingly extensive roadway system’ Myth/Lie that has been artificially inculcated into us virtually from birth (and benefits very few at the expense of many), Our Most Senior Fellow has decided to stick one of his very valuable toes back into statistical endeavors, hopefully doing so in a creative and meaningful manner. (Although first he must point out that it was neither Twain nor Churchill who made that famous comment but Disraeli before prefacing with what is sure to be much bloviation; let’s see what happens:)

After excavating and dusting off an eleven-year old missive from which, after clearing his throat, after an overdramatic pause, “The overriding value of steady economic growth is the foundation of American political ideology. If there is anything approaching dogma in the national belief system, it is the idea that economic growth is the key to solving all problems. In every election here in the United States, for example, votes are used to confirm the leaders of companies that use their lobbying power and campaign contributions to make sure the congressional committee that oversees its industry understands ‘oversight’ means ‘failure to notice’ financial or corporate shenanigans that are not truly in the public’s best interest. No one disputes that the aim of today’s society is to keep the economy growing while preventing inflation from getting out of control, and it is also a given that millions upon millions of people have to be unemployed in order for the system to work at its most ‘efficient.’ Using GDP as a system of accounting for real increases in material wealth is, at the very best, troubling,” with many flourishes Our Most Senior Fellow reads (very furiously and without looking up once).

“Furthermore, according to the fundamental economic maxim in effect from the end of the seventeenth century up to right now, the only object Man should pursue is his very own pleasure. If he takes into consideration the happiness of others, it is only to keep his own happiness from being interfered with by the sanctions of society. By solely pursuing your own pleasure, it is thought that you add to the general happiness of society and, by pursuing this, you once again add to your own pleasure. Thus, a motive is only considered to be ‘good’ if it brings happiness to the person directly involved. Furthermore, individual consumers are increasingly essentially Walmart-ized from birth to care about Price rather than Costs, and the dominant economic theory says that they are autonomous entities except at those points at which they come together for exchange. A system predicated on human selfishness such as this not only recognizes but also encourages a selfish element in human nature, which frays the moral fabric of society.”

 (The Placemaking Institute’s staff’s much needed internal summation: In other words, special interests “win” while greater society as a whole “loses.”)

“The post-World War II American Era in particular, with its rigid, hierarchical and largely unsustainable economic and political system, is largely based on commodities that are finite in capacity, thus generating their great paradoxical value. Via our Powers That Be’s ignoring Adam Smith himself’s warnings by embracing the ruthless exploitation sanctified by the marriage of laissez faire economics and utilitarian pleasure principles, human welfare during this period is unable to keep pace with material prosperity. Beginning in the 1970s, with the U.S. reaching its peak oil production output plus the nascent economic threat of the Asian Tigers and, later, the world at large, U.S. firms began to cut the cost of production in order to be more efficient and thus remain as competitive as they had been since immediately after World War II. One of those costs they reduced was the cost of labor. From 1970 to 1990, while mean rents increased by 350%, mean incomes only increased by 180% – a discrepancy that was exacerbated and only keeps being exacerbated by the industrial shift away from manufacturing toward the high-end service sector.”

(Our Most Senior Fellow now makes us minions point out that all the way back in 2000 he wrote: “This kind of society cannot effectively house itself.”)

But while such things as the average annual growth in home prices nationally over the past 50 years was 5 percent, and over the past 30 years was 6.1 percent (see page 11), the price of gasoline, which is needless to say an increasingly finite product that consequently should be becoming increasingly costlier has, in fact, been kept artificially devalued by a high rate of subsidization.

“This figure shows that…relative to 1978, the price of regular gasoline has increased by 260 percent in nominal terms and 47 percent in real terms. However the price-to-income ratio has declined by 17 percent, i.e., it is more affordable today. (source)

“If we look at the average annual Inflation Adjusted Gasoline Prices (from 1958 to 2009)…the long term average price is $2.37 then in 1988 gas was very cheap and in 1978 it was only slightly below average but in 1981 and in 2008 it was extremely expensive on a historical basis. In 1998 gas had gotten really cheap by historical standards allowing people to buy gas guzzlers like SUV’s and Hummers. But that reversed in 2008 as prices rose above the long term average. As of this writing, the monthly average price of gasoline in November of 2009 was $2.61 just slightly above the long term average price of $2.37. With the Annual Average for 2009 at $2.28 being extremely close to the long term average.” (source)

According to the basic Law of Supply and Demand and consensus estimates, regarding commodities there are divergences between societal expectations and reality, which essentially means that, the longer we continue our tremendous subsidization of gas, the greater the subsequent negative impact will be. Let’s now take a look at the True Opportunity Cost of gasoline: “Estimates on the ‘true’ or ‘real’ cost of gasoline vary by study and by year — I’ve seen numbers ranging from $5 per gallon to $10 per gallon to $14 per gallon and higher. Over at the liberal opinion site AlterNet, Jason Mark notes that it is a conservative think tank whose research put real gas prices above $5 — and that was a couple years ago. Presumably that number would only have risen since.” (source)

Let’s apply the inflation adjusted long-term average cost of $2.37 as well as the various true costs of gasoline and perform a quick regression analysis to TTI’s national congestion costs (439 area average) for wasted gasoline:


Now let’s apply those terms to the Greater Austin Metropolitan Region:

These graphs speak for themselves. And we here at The Placemaking Institute believe that somewhere within here may very well be a good “true” cost of our oil ravening GDP-based sprawl mentality…You, dear reader, decide what’s worth what to you.

All Austin has to do is remember

11 01 2010

Our Most Senior Fellow feels (and thus all of us here at The Placemaking Institute must also feel) it should be duly noted that Oklahoma City (following the examples set by such Texas trendsetters as Dallas and Houston and now San Antonio) has recognized broadening its transportation modalities by implementing urban rail is the way to go. All the while Austin is unfortunately still sitting on its hands.

Ack-basswards Oklahoma City, Austin, Oklahoma City!

There will be a general obligation mobility bond referendum in November 2010 which, if passed, would fund the City’s portion of the initial phase of an urban rail system.

In an Aug. 9th Express-News article, columnist Jan Jarboe Russell explained why San Antonio should develop a modern streetcar system: “In the late 1920s, all of San Antonio – then, a tiny 36 square miles – was connected by about 130 miles of electric streetcars. It was a better, more fuel-efficient and cheaper transportation system than we have today. Sadly, in 1933 we became one of the first American cities to dismantle its streetcar system. This is a no-brainer: We should bring back the streetcar. Here’s why: A starter streetcar system costs less than half of the expense to build light rail. It can be built in about half the time. It doesn’t add to air pollution and hums along like a quiet song…(And) streetcar lines not only move people efficiently and quietly, they drive economies…(Modern streetcar technology) has emerged as a symbol of a new San Antonio with a revitalized center city and a 21st-century economy.”

The Day Austin’s Streetcars Died: February 7th, 1940

Ten Reasons to Love a Streetcar

We need to pass it now; not doing so twenty years ago (when, according to TPI’s analysis of TTI’s data, was the perfect time to strike) was short-sighted and has put us behind the proverbial transportation eight-ball. If we don’t some place like freakin’ Stillwater will surpass our reputed Progressivity.

We Need New Growth Catalysts

7 01 2010

Jay Walljasper: “Public transportation use is at the highest level in decades. Buses and trains are overflowing, even after the steep fall of gasoline prices since last summer. Voters last November approved billions of dollars for new transit project across the country. This is all wonderful news for anyone who cares about curbing the global climate crisis, cleaning up the environment and revitalizing our communities. But, unfortunately, transit systems all over the country are cutting back service and raising fares. The New York Times reports that Denver is considering axing one of its light rail lines and several bus routes. St. Louis is planning to cut bus service in half. Even New York, a city where less than half the residents own cars, is looking at eliminating two subway lines and 24 bus routes as well as a whopping 23 percent fare increase. How can this be happening at a time when public transportation is more popular than ever? When it is proving to be a practical solution to pressing economic, ecological and energy problems?”

Zach Rosenberg: “Increasingly, infrastructure investment and mass transportation are framed by the liberal-conservative divide, turning relatively straightforward municipal issues into cultural and ideological battles. With our transportation infrastructure literally falling apart — the American Society of Civil Engineers puts the repair bill at $2.2 trillion — the United States faces an interesting dilemma. A thriving economy is desperately needed to increase wealth, decrease unemployment and wean people off federal entitlement programs fiscal conservatives hate. A dependable and indirect method of stimulating the economy is driving down the cost and energy required to move goods and services by investing in our roads, railways, bridges and other infrastructure. That by definition requires massive amounts of public money.”

Dave Demerjian: “You know the economy’s in great shape when our elected leaders start handing over our highways, airports, bridges and tunnels over to the highest bidder. That might be a bit simplistic, but on some level it’s accurate. States and cities, struggling with gargantuan budget deficits, are increasingly selling or leasing vital transportation infrastructure to private companies. Yes, it helps fill state coffers, but it’s a scary development nonetheless. One of the biggest proposed deals is a plan to lease the 537-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation’s oldest major toll road, to a private investment group that includes Citigroup and the Spanish firm Abertis. The legislature votes on the deal next month; if it goes through, Abertis will pay $12.8 billion to run the turnpike for 75 years. That’s a big chunk of change.”

Samuel Staley: “For the most part, property values increase around transit stations. Often, the range of the increases is between 25 to 30 percent higher than the growth non-transit neighborhoods. Unfortunately, these same studies about property values have not examined the underlying causes of these price increases. Despite that, many observers simply assume proximity to transit is the most important factor. Lots of factors influence private investment, including public safety, access to jobs, quality housing, tax rates, financing, and zoning. Access to transit is likely far down the list compared to these other factors. A closer look at the numbers suggests that actual transit ridership has little relationship to the private investment around transit stations.”

Jarrett Walker (international consultant in public transit network design and policy): “Different cities may have different patterns of density, so in your city the highest-ridership area may not be the historic core.  On the other hand, even substantially neglected cores trigger strong ridership because even if density is lower than it could be, it’s often still higher than in the suburbs…If you rank any transit agency’s services by productivity (passengers per unit of service cost), the high-frequency lines in the densest part of the city always come out on top…The principle is the same in any network: If your goal is ridership, follow patterns of dense development with intense service.”

Staley: “The rising property values around transit-oriented developments are likely less about providing access to transit than accommodating demand for higher-density and more urban lifestyles that local zoning codes and development regulations impede. To compete against low-density subdivisions, transit-oriented developments must offer significant non-transportation benefits—walkability, mixed uses, public safety, quality housing, urban parks, etc.—to offset the inherent mobility limits of transit. Pharmacies, grocery stores, hair salons, and other neighborhood residential services need to be provided within walking distance.”

Walker: “This is also an example where “design” comes in. If you press on the “follow patterns of dense development” rule, what’s under it is principle of a radius of demand. A transit stop’s market is the area that’s within a fixed walk distance radius. Since it’s a fixed radius, it’s a fixed area, so the number of people and jobs and activities there is determined by density. However, some people may be within the fixed radius but not able to walk to the stop because of barriers in the street network, and such barriers are much more common in newer suburbs than in old core cities. The fully connected grid street networks of old urban cores generally minimize walking distances and thus maximize the real radius of demand.”

Staley: “Understanding the proper role of transit in promoting urban development is important for public policy. Whether we build great urban places or emphasize higher transit use is not a “chicken and egg” choice. Great urban places come first because their benefits offset the individual and social costs of greater dependence on a less flexible, restricted mode of transportation. In the end, higher transit use is an outcome, not an input, in economic development and urban redevelopment. Federal and state policies should emphasize transit in the sense that it becomes a service that local residents and businesses demand. Planners and elected officials should not lose sight of the broader need to meet the demand for more dense and varied land uses.”

Amy Cortese: “In April, the Carrollton City Council approved a $38 million mixed-use development next to a commuter rail station being erected downtown…City officials hope the railway and new development…will breathe life into a city center that empties after dark…The project in Carrollton is among many nationwide to be planned around new and existing light rail lines. These so-called transit-oriented developments, along with downtown revitalization plans, tap into a move toward more pedestrian-friendly, urban-style living. While the credit crisis has halted many housing developments — notably subdivisions and stand-alone condominium buildings — some projects that are going forward are linked to broader revitalization or transit-related efforts.”

Yonah Freemark (The Transport Politic): “Detroit has a terrible history of transit investment – since the 1950s, it has repeatedly rejected efforts to spruce up its public transportation systems in favor of expanding highways, often to the detriment of the city’s core. There is no concrete evidence that the city’s lack of rapid transit has contributed directly to its giant population exodus – from 1.85 million in 1950 to around 900,000 today – but it is clear that the region’s steadfast devotion to the automobile hasn’t helped matters much either, especially considering the recent implosion of the Big Three. Now there’s news from the Detroit Free Press that the light rail program – now called M1-RAIL – has received $9 million from the city’s private Downtown Development Authority and $35 million from the Kresge Foundation. The Overhead Wire points out that this is probably the first-ever example of a foundation contributing to the construction of a transit line.”

Neal Pierce: “The World Bank is becoming more pro-city. The strategy seems a major departure for an institution that long leaned toward rural areas, many of its governing officials and affiliated governments subscribing to the view that aid to the countryside would somehow stem the massive tide of people moving to cities in search of jobs and opportunity. The new policy, officially announced by World Bank president Robert Zoellick at a November meeting in Singapore, boldly defines urbanization as the 21st century’s defining phenomenon. Manage the growth of developing world cities well, he said, and the challenges of climate change, jobs, poverty reduction and health can be dealt with proactively, and more effectively.”

Wendell Cox: Intellectual Terrorist

4 01 2010

Our Most Senior Fellow (OMSF): “As those of us who have been following this blog know, we here at The Placemaking Institute are adament that the so-called ‘basic God-given Patriotic American right to drive the biggest vehicle one can afford on an increasingly extensive roadway system’ myth that has been artificially inculcated into us virtually from birth (and benefits very few at the expense of many) should most definitely not supersede our basic human right to live our lives in healthy manners.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists: “Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States. It causes over half of the carbon monoxide, over a third of the nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons in our atmosphere in 2006. With the number of vehicles on the road and the number of vehicle miles traveled escalating rapidly, we are on the fast lane to smoggy skies and dirty air.”

OMSF: “But beyond individual health, sprawl’s ravening need for consuming more and more oil faster and faster has also instigated national security issues that are adversely impacting us collectively, no?”

Rand Corporation: “The United States would benefit from policies that diminish the sensitivity of the U.S. economy to an abrupt decline in the supply of oil, regardless of its import dependence. The United States would also benefit from policies that would push down the world market price of oil by curbing demand or increasing competitive alternative supplies. U.S. terms of trade would improve, to the benefit of U.S. consumers; rogue oil exporters would have fewer funds at their disposal; and oil exporters that support Hamas and Hizballah would have less money to give to these organizations. The United States might also benefit from more cost-sharing with allies and other nations to protect Persian Gulf oil supplies and transport routes. The United States could encourage allies to share the burden of patrolling sea-lanes and ensuring that oil-producing nations are secure.”

U.S. Energy Information Administration: “Total crude oil imports averaged 8.566 million barrels per day in October, which is a decrease of (0.657) million barrels per day from September 2009.”

OMSF: “And why are a majority of both U.S. political parties so apparently intent upon spilling blood by occupying Iraq and Afghanistan?”

U.S. Energy Information Administration: “Development of Caspian Sea oil and natural gas, along with the necessary export pipelines, has been slowed by regional conflicts, political instability, and a lack of regional cooperation…Most of these conflicts are in the Trans-Caucasus part of the Caspian region, where conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia, and the Chechen republic of southern Russia have hindered the development of export routes westward from the Caspian Sea. On the east side of the Caspian, the unstable situation in Afghanistan, following over 23 years of war, has stifled the development of export routes to the southeast, and the continued threat of Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia, especially in Uzbekistan, may prohibit any new export pipelines involving that country. The threat of war between Pakistan and India serves as a further deterrent to Caspian export pipelines running southeast, either via Iran or Afghanistan.”

OMSF: “We as a society can no longer afford solely focusing upon and so very extensively subsidizing building more and more highways, each bigger than the last one, in order to relieve congestion and mitigate smog. Needless to say, blindly following this outmoded sprawl strategy will not provide any anecdote whatsoever to our societal illth and will, in fact, only exacerbate it both here and abroad. Not only that but it’s fiscally impossible to do so. Right?”

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.”

OMSF: “Yet there are still those so-called patriotic entities out there like the Heritage Foundation and the Reason Institute and Wendell Cox’ the Public Purpose – ”

Samuel Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

OMSF: “Yet these so-called patriots are still contriving ingeniously stupendously counterintuitive conclusions like we as a society should be driving more and that increasing urban density will only increase the amount of vehicle miles driven per capita and thus our multi-modality should solely be confined to building more and more auto-centric roadways, tollroads and flyovers to relieve congestion and mitigate smog?”

Texas Transportation Institute: ” 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.”

OMSF: “Then why, someone please pray tell, when it has already been acknowledged that, largely because of our sprawl mentality, this young generation will fare worse than their parents’ generation, are mindsets like Cox still fabricating and perpetuating (at the very least) myths (if not outright lies) that only prove them more than willing to sacrifice future generations by keeping us on a bleed-until-bankrupt transportation plan Osama Bin Laden would be proud of?”

Taylor Bowlden/LightRailNow!: “(Cox and a gaggle of cohorts with far-right extremist agendas) are far from ‘neutral’, ‘scholarly’ experts. Instead, say critics, (they) are nothing more than highly biased crusaders for roadways and road-based transportation industrial interests (such as asphalt and rubber-tire vendors), who distort facts through misrepresentation and cleverly selective manipulation of data to mislead their audience… – all behind the facade of disinterested, altruistic, intellectual endeavor, of course.”

OMSF: “So it’s just because they’re afraid of losing some plum sinecure?! So abject greed is their overarching motive?”

TB/LRN!: “Wendell Cox, for example, has been on the bankroll of the American Highway Users Alliance, a lobbying group founded in the 1930s by General Motors Corp. And, according to a June 1999 Texas Observer article, the Wendell Cox Consultancy has done a lot of work for private bus companies who bid on the very contracts which Cox promotes after rail projects are scuttled.”

OMSF: “Shame on him.”

TB/LRN!: “Transportation planning, and the evaluation of options and alternatives, demands a nonpartisan, truly unbiased environment, where researchers and analysts – and their consultants – bring open minds and impartiality to bear on these problems and potential solutions. Clearly, both in their ties to highway-oriented corporate interests and their obvious political alignments, Wendell Cox and the Reason group have demonstrated that their role in such an open-minded environment is highly questionable.”

OMSF: “Again, all’s I can say right now is shame on him.”

Joel S. Hirschhorn: “Sometimes it is necessary to bring attention to terrible work because many people can be conned and believe its lies, distortions and misinformation. Wendell Cox is a sprawl shill-meister with a long history of presenting pro-sprawl propaganda in the guise of scholarly work. But as others have also concluded, his work does not stand up to scrutiny.”

G. B. Arrington (renowned transit expert): “In every instance, Cox’s statements are either inaccurate, distortions or claims not supported by the facts. Cox’s technique seems to be to start with a snippet of the truth and stretch it like taffy until it turns into something else that supports his position.”

OMSF: “Right now I would like to point out that Sophistry is a Greek-derived word that means subtly deceptive reasoning or deceitful argumentation apparently plausible in form but actually invalid. A person who employs such rhetoric is called a Sophist.”

Haynes Goddard (University of Cincinnati Professor): “(Cox and his anti-transit crowd produce) superficial, poorly thought out and misleading arguments;” (the work represents) “either intellectual laziness, or more seriously, intellectual dishonesty” (which results because) “all ideologues are blind to reality and to the vacuousness of their arguments.”

Hirschhorn: “(Americans) have seen the increasing attention to the high costs of sprawl development by citizens and policymakers. The terrible fiscal condition of most local and state governments has created more interest in replacing suburban sprawl with smart growth development. So scared are the sprawl shills that Cox has concocted this ‘junk science’ analysis as a counterpunch.”

OMSF: “Would any one like to provide an example that we here at The Placemaking Institute’s roundtable discussion can kick around?”

Kevin Libin: “It’s not that environmentally minded transit promoters are being dishonest when they argue that city buses are more efficient than private cars: It’s that they’re talking about a fictional world where far more people ride buses. Mass transit vehicles use up roughly the same energy whether they are full or empty, and for much of the time, they’re more empty than full.”

OMSF: “Perfect, thanks. You’re up first, Mister Cox, any comment?”

Wendell Cox: “Subsidized transit is not sustainable by definition. The potential of public transit has been so overblown it’s almost scandalousThe problem is that where the automobile has become the dominant form of transport, and where urban areas have become decentralized and highly suburbanized, there are simply not a sufficient number of people going to the same place at the same time to justify urban rail. As a result, it is typically less expensive to provide a new car for each new rider than to build an urban rail system(I) believe agencies should seek to obtain maximum value for every dollar of taxes and fees expended, using whatever transportation choices maximize ridership.”

OMSF: “Good day, sir.”

Cox: “(But I’ve yet to say that) a lot of what passes for a public process in this country is what I would call a dictatorship of busybodies (and) – ”

OMSF: “I said good day.”

John Norquist (former Milwaukee Mayor and current head of the Congress for New Urbanism): “I think Wendell Cox is one of the biggest advocates of big [government] spending I’ve ever encountered in my 28-year political career.”

Jarrett Walker (international consultant in public transit network design and policy): “Meanwhile, back in the real world, transit agencies have to balance contradictory demands to (a) maximize ridership and (b) provide a little bit of service everywhere regardless of ridership, both to meet demands for ‘equity’ and to serve the needs of transit-dependent persons…To describe the resulting empty buses as a failure of transit, as Cox does, is simply a false description of transit’s real, and conflicted, objectives.”

OMSF: “Diverting arguments with logical fallacies, which nowadays we call a ‘red herring,’ has no place whatsoever in any serious debate, and its usage indicates the medieval kind of mind that first comes up with a conclusion and then does everything in their power to reach that foregone conclusion, putting every premise of theirs up for immediate dismissal.”

Paul Milenkovic: “I looked up the 2003 figures for Madison Metro and Indianapolis along with PACE, the suburban Chicago bus network. The diesel-powered bus mpgs were 3.8, 4.5, and 3.9. The average numbers of passengers per bus were 7.4, 8.1, and 9.6. Taking into account that gasoline has less energy than diesel, the gasoline-equivalent passenger mpgs were 25.3, 32.9, and 33.3. The average trip length was 3.1 miles in Madison, 5.0 miles in Indy, and 6.4 miles for PACE. Only seven passengers on an average bus? On what planet? Every time I get on the bus, it’s standing-room only. Heck, there must be 60 people fighting for my oxygen. And if a bus gets three mpg, I reckon I’m getting 180 mpg on the ride home. What kind of car gets fuel efficiency like that?”

OMSF: “And so there we have it, folks, Wendell Cox: Intellectual terrorist – He gains from your loss.”

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