Day 11:27 pm

  • Three Cheers for Common Sense

    The Arizona Republic is reporting that the city leaders of Scotsdale have decided to move ahead “with plans for bus rapid transit on Scottsdale Road as community leaders say there is no consensus on extending light rail into the city.  According to one official, light rail was “guaranteed to lose money.”  This is true of almost all rail projects, but there is also the underperformance that is typical with light rail and streetcars.

    For anyone wanting to refresh themselves on the arguments about light rail and rail transit, Randal O’Toole has a new report available at the Cato Institute that covers all the bases.

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  • More Smart Growth Claims Refuted

    The indispensable Wendell Cox is out with another excellent piece questioning the messianic conception of Smart Growth.  Cox details a new study in the Journal of the American Planning Association that either refutes or diminishes the most significant assumptions of Smart Growth.  A major conclusion of the study found that “Smart growth principles should not unquestioningly promote increasing levels of compaction on the basis of reducing energy consumption without also considering its potential negative consequences. In many cases, the potential socioeconomic consequences of less housing choice, crowding, and congestion may outweigh its very modest CO2 reduction benefits.”

    In Wendell’s review of the study, he uses loaded words like “messianic” and “sacred foundations” when referring to the key assumptions of Smart Growth.  For those of us who follow closely this urban planning doctrine, we recognize that Wendell is a lot closer to being literal instead of figurative.  Smart Growth acolytes have elevated this planning doctrine to the status of a clique religion.  Smart Growth principles were cast in stone and are articles of faith that simply need not be challenged, so any effort to challenge them must be derived from ill motives.  Contrarians – even outstanding researchers like Wendell – are heretics.  Evidence (to the contrary) is ignored because evidence is unnecessary.

    Smart Growth is a faith … a pretty pathetic faith.

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  • Buyer’s Remorse

    Earlier this month, the Economist reported that the few remaining high-speed rail projects in the U.S. were all in critical condition.  Blaming both national partisanship as well as local and regional pressures, the report noted that in California “if given a second chance to vote on the 2008 $9 billion bond issue that is funding the early stages of the project, 59% of survey respondents would vote it down.”

    A third reason may simply be that people have come to learn more about what HSR entails.  The costs (and not just monetary) have begun seeping through the rhetoric about the benefits and people are just exercising better judgment than two years ago.  Tory Gattis on the Houston Strategies blog compares the efforts spending gobs of money to reduce travel times (e.g., HSR) versus spending less (“90% or 99% less money”) to improve the travel experience.  The latter approach actually results in higher rider satisfaction.

    Back to the Golden State (via Washington, D.C.), the U.S. House of Representatives just passed its version of the Highway bill that “forbids federal funding next year for California high-speed rail,” effectively gutting the project.  Depending how the House bill is reconciled with the Senate version, this could be the end of the line for California’s high-speed rail ambitions.  And the California example be enough to get other states to rethink these billion dollar boondoggles.

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