Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Energy

Letters to David Brooks: Yes to Infrastructure, No to Highways

d_brooks.jpgOn Friday, Times columnist David Brooks joined the chorus calling for more transportation investment, which came as something of a surprise given his conservative pedigree. But Brooks has always had a soft spot for the exurbs, and his proposed "National Mobility Project" was predictably premised on the idea that transportation projects should accommodate sprawl:

Workplaces have decentralized. Commuting patterns are no longer radial,from suburban residences to central cities. Now they are complex weavesacross broad megaregions. Yet the infrastructure system hasn't adapted.

The Times published five letters in response, including this one from Transportation for America's David Goldberg:

David Brooks is spot-on with his call for major investment intransportation infrastructure, both for near-term economic stimulus andfor a sustainable recovery. His recommendations of what to build areoutdated, however.

As he notes, a way to put people to work wouldbe to repair and maintain our existing highways, bridges and transitsystems. But building new highways was the project for an earlier era,the 1950s, when gas was cheap and President Dwight D. Eisenhowercreated the Interstate System.

Today we urgently need to buildthe infrastructure for a clean-energy economy and reduced dependency onoil. Soaring gas prices made our vulnerability clear: Americans flockedto public transportation or took to their bicycles only to find thetransit systems underfinanced and the roads dangerous and inhospitable.Half of our urban-dwelling citizens found they had no transit at all.

Ifwe're going to go into debt to build for the future, we must do so tocomplete our transportation network with high-speed rail, modern publictransit, streets that support safe biking and walking, and, yes,well-maintained highways.

Dave Alpert at Greater Greater Washington picked up the exchange, noting how cities such as Charleston, South Carolina are already moving beyond the default presumption that transportation investment equals road-building.

And BikePortland's Jonathan Maus, recalling an earlier Brooks column that dismissed cycling as transportation, offered this take on transportation spending priorities:

Should we invest billions into highway projects that cater to "mobility" of single-occupancy vehicles (like we did in the 1950s) andthrow scraps to everything else (like we do now)? Or, will we look tocreate world-class biking cities where possible (because bikes offerthe best return on transportation investment of any mode) and theninvest in things like passenger rail, streetcars and bus-rapid transit?

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Tuesday’s Headlines: Biking with a Dutchman Edition

You really get a fresh perspective on city cycling when you do it with someone from Holland. Plus other news.

April 16, 2024

City Urges Judge to Toss Anti-Open Streets Lawsuit

The city's not responsible for 24-7 car access to every street, officials argued.

April 16, 2024

Opinion: Connect the Dots of Manhattan’s Missing Bike Lanes

Only a few miles of missing protected lanes stand in the way of a robust bike network.

April 15, 2024

Monday’s Headlines: Thanking the Academy Edition

We would be remiss if we didn't offer some photos and copy about Friday's George Polk Awards ceremony, plus other news.

April 15, 2024

Civic Panel Pushes For (Some) Atlantic Ave. Safety Upgrades

Brooklyn Community Board 2 stopped short of calling for a more aggressive redesign of a street where drivers have killed six pedestrians in the last decade.

April 15, 2024
See all posts