Today’s Headlines

  • Bus Rapid Transit Can Save the World: TransMilenio Gets Full Multi-Media Feature in the Times
  • Senate Dems Give Embarrassing Turncoat Pedro Espada a Raise (NYT, News, Post)
  • LaHood to States: Spend Transpo Stim Cash in Economically Depressed Areas (WSJ)
  • Our National Transit Nightmare Continues: Fare Hikes in Boston as Drivers Pony Up Zilch (Globe)
  • MTA Taking Bids on Project to Automate the 7 Train (Post)
  • Medhanie Estephanos Is Running for City Council on a Congestion Pricing Platform (Queens Ledger)
  • No Sane Businessperson Would Give Away Anything the Way Cities Give Away Parking (Planetizen)
  • Progressive Blogosphere Swept Up in Discussion of Roundabouts (PPS, Yglesias, TNR)
  • Celebrity Smackdown: Alec Baldwin Shames Jack Cafferty for Assaulting Cyclist (HuffPo)
  • AAA Members in Oregon Can Get Roadside Assistance for Their Bikes (Hard Drive via Streetsblog.net)

Catch more headlines over at Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Two comments on the Flushing Line. This project is late.

    And if it is going to cost $350 million just for this, we will never be able to repair and replace the signals on the subway on an ongoing basis. It’s too much. Particularly with interest.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The T has some of the nation’s highest benefit costs for its workers…But the T’s bigger problem, more than $8 billion in debt and interest, continues to weigh down the agency with escalating yearly payments.”

    The twin curses Generation Greed is passing on — the early retirement is has promised itself, and the debts from the taxes it was unwilling to pay.

    “Those (benefit) costs are set to be reduced under a transportation overhaul signed last month by Governor Deval Patrick. The agency has been depleting its reserves and redoubling its borrowing in the past year just to stay solvent.”

    Generation Greed’s twin solutions.

    Younger generations of workers will be paid less than those who came before, as is also the case in the private sector, but unlike in the private sector the expectations of the work they will do will probably go down as well, a benefit older workers will also receive.

    And borrow, borrow, borrow and defer costs. Children are resilient, after all, and there are needs right now.

  • In New Delhi, for example, the experiment foundered in part because it proved difficult to protect bus lanes from traffic.

    That’s a nice way of removing responsibility from the politicians who weren’t willing to take the necessary steps.

  • RE: Senate Dems Give Embarrassing Turncoat Pedro Espada a Raise

    Prediction: he will win his next election in a landslide.

    I’m so glad the impasse is over, and the first thing they did is raise the sales tax. Thanks, guys.

  • vnm

    “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz says reduce the tolls on the non-Manhattan-bound spans but toll the free bridges (News)

  • rlb

    “TransMilenio last year became the only large transportation project approved by the United Nations to generate and sell carbon credits… bringing Bogotá an estimated $100 million to $300 million so far, analysts say.”

    Can the NYC subway do this, or does it have to be something that’s in the works?

  • Ian Turner
  • rlb

    That’s a fairly positive development. Hope it works out. Thanks for the link, Ian

  • James

    If you look at the comments on that piece on the MBTA fare hike, you could replace the word “MBTA” with “MTA” and it would literally look identical to what we just went through here in New York. I suppose it’s just the American way to starve public goods like transit and then bitch and moan when they don’t provide the expected level of service and end up in financial crisis.

  • Larry Littlefield

    In the wake of Generation Greed: one analyst’s view in the LA Times:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2009/07/theres-an-interesting-and-ugly-economic-scenario-for-california-painted-by-blogger-gregor-macdonald-who-describes-himself.html

    “Without the two industries that characterized post-war growth in the U.S., housing and automobiles (and the financial industry that squatted on top of these) it’s hard to see how California — and the U.S. by extension — does not become a permanently smaller economy.”

    “The United States, just like California, now sits astride massive, gargantuan post-war infrastructure that was built with cheap energy and leveraged with cheap energy, for over 50 years. . . . To make matters worse, the federal government is in the midst of one of the largest policy mistakes in U.S. history as it has chosen to make enormous new investments in car companies, cars, biofuels, roads, and highways to the exclusion of public transport. This is a classic, textbook example of the sunk cost effect in decision making and is a hallmark of the collapsed societies of antiquity.”

    This error, of course, is over and above debts and retirement benefits for older generations that cannot be afforded for younger generations, and yet are paid for by them.

    “SUNK COST” Exactly right. But it isn’t just the cost, it’s the politics, with the majority of the politically active benefitting from things as they are (or were), and not worried about the rest or the future (or at least not willing to sacrifice anything on their behalf, or even stop making them sacrifice ever more).

  • “Without the two industries that characterized post-war growth in the U.S., housing and automobiles (and the financial industry that squatted on top of these) it’s hard to see how California — and the U.S. by extension — does not become a permanently smaller economy.”

    But note that our cities would have been more livable if we had not had all that postwar growth in suburban housing and automobile use. In terms of how we build our cities, I think everyone on this list can see that we would be better off living more simply and spending less on transportation and housing.

    This suggest that we might also be better off with a “permanently smaller economy.” In fact, international comparisons of self-reported happiness show that higher per capita income increases happiness up to about half the current US income level but does not increase happiness after that. We in the United States have reached a point where economic growth brings little or no benefit but brings huge environmental costs.

    Larry, let me suggest that we need “generation greed” to be followed by “generation simpler living” – people who want to downshift economically, work shorter hours and consume less, live in neighborhoods where they can bicycle rather than driving, and so on – first because they know it is necessary to leave a livable world to their children and second because they know it is a better way of life than working long hours in order to be stuck on suburban freeways.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Larry, let me suggest that we need “generation greed” to be followed by “generation simpler living” – people who want to downshift economically, work shorter hours and consume less, live in neighborhoods where they can bicycle rather than driving, and so on.”

    I certainly agree, and that describes my choices, which worked out very well for me. But not the choices of the rest of my generation it seems (the back half of the baby boom). It seems that “generation greed” was followed by “generation apathy and do what people do on TV.” Less well off financially (per the data), but deeper in debt due to spending as much as before. Not sure how one would describe the subsequent Gen X.

    Our kids’ generation? Perhaps after a little attitude adjustment and adaptation, “voluntary simplicity” will follow “involuntary simplicity.”

    But “simple living” well requires the subsitution of cheaper shared amenities (public parks, transit, virbrant streets, libraries, decent public schools) for more expensive personal amenities (one’s own books, big backyards with pools, two SUVs, “third place” social gathering locations you pay for by buying things, a limited number of good private schools and schools in expensive suburbs). Which is why I’m so upset about the diversion of our future tax payments to past privileges, leading to an institutional collapse.

  • Larry: You are right, and I can only hope for a new upsurge of the idealism that is urgently needed to deal with today’s environmental problems. My hope is that Obama can help inspire the idealism of the 2010s, as Kennedy did in the 1960s (but, of course, that it won’t end up burned out and self-destructive like the 1960s).

  • Larry Littlefield

    The question is whether existing institutions can be saved by idealists, or are destined to be destroyed by the greedy who control them. I’ve come to believe the more that idealists shovel into them, the more the greedy will suck out of them.

    In that case, the best that can be hoped for is for the destinted institutional collapse of our “collapsed societies of antiquity” to happen sooner, while the greedy are around to feel the consequences, followed by the development of new institutions out of simplicity.

    One could argue that is what happened to NYC in the 1950s to 1970s. The greedy plundered the place and moved on, leaving it in ruins, while another generation tried to rebuild. Unfortunately, the greedy then took over the state government while on one was paying attention.

  • Not sure how one would describe the subsequent Gen X.

    “Screwed”?

    I wasn’t around for Kennedy, but it seems to me all he “inspired” was a massive boondoggle that culminated in us beating the Reds to the moon. Yay. I don’t see Obama doing much of anything besides following his predecessor’s example and saddling us with mountains of debt and continuing to entangle us in unfriendly corners of the world. Part of the new “modesty” is going to have to include spending within your means, and Obama sure isn’t doing that.

  • Rhywun: I am not a backer of Kennedy’s policies, which included more rapid economic growth and the inflation that went with it, the Vietnam war, and almost nuclear war over the Cuban missile crisis. But I think Kennedy’s personality helped inspire the idealism of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I hope for the same from Obama: though his policies are not as bad as Kennedy’s, they are not all that we need, but I hope his personality can inspire idealism.

    Larry writes: “The question is whether existing institutions can be saved by idealists, or are destined to be destroyed by the greedy who control them. … In that case, the best that can be hoped for is for the destinted institutional collapse of our “collapsed societies of antiquity” to happen sooner, …, followed by the development of new institutions out of simplicity.”

    The most important question is whether we can get world CO2 emissions to peak during the next decade and to decline by 80-90% by 2050, in order to keep world temperature increases down to 2 degrees centigrade. If we cannot, the world’s environment will be so drastically degraded that future generations will have a much harder time rebuilding, and there will be massive famine and dislocation in the poorer parts of the world. Yet the most that the G-8 is talking about is a 50% decline by 2050.

    It seems to me that the only thing that will get the world’s governments to do more is people demonstrating, marching in the streets, and committing acts of civil disobedience, as the civil rights movement did in the 1960s. That will require the same sort of idealism that motivated the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

    The threats are extinctions of up to 50% of the world’s species, extreme weather events, widespread desertification and flooding, and a permanent reduction of the earth’s ability to produce food. You can speculate about letting society collapse and then rebuilding it, but it is not possible to rebuild a collapsed world environment.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The most important question is whether we can get world CO2 emissions to peak during the next decade and to decline by 80-90% by 2050, in order to keep world temperature increases down to 2 degrees centigrade.”

    There are enough short term disasters that I’d hate to think too hard about that long term disaster, because I think the answer is no. I’d rather think about getting my own emissions down so I can go to my grave not feeling responsible for whatever is coming. At least there is some control there.

    There is no good news on this subject. None. Those who talk about global warming don’t walk the walk. They are only willing to do something if someone else pays, or (if politicians) the cost can be hidden and someone else is blamed. Poorer countries reject any curbs (including just yesterday at the world economic summit), arguing with some justification that this would just lock in existing inequalities.

  • vnm

    Charles Siegel #11 — one of Streetsblog’s best comments ever.