Urban Fold

Steven Polzin's blog

Steven Polzin is the director of mobility policy research at the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida.
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So Where Should We Plan on People Living in the Future?

Having become something of a junkie who overdoses on political and economic news, it is only natural that I try to help justify that time investment by scouring the news for tidbits that have professional relevance.  Just this past week several things have come across my monitor that have made me reflect. 

Travel and Cars – Fun with Numbers for 2008

Transportation and its relationship to the economy have been headline media topics for most of 2008 as we have seen unprecedented swings in fuel prices and travelers responding with declines in vehicle miles of travel (VMT) and unprecedented slowing in new vehicle sales.  Transit and Amtrak have seen noticeable ridership growth and there have been cutbacks in demand for and supply of airline capacity.  What is increasingly looking like an historic recession combined with a plummeting of gas prices late in 2008 has confounded the diagnosis of energy price impacts on travel. 

Energy Crisis Solved

 Technology innovation – that’s all we need to solve the energy crisis!  Unleash American ingenuity and we’ll be able to cope with higher energy costs.  The Windmillmobile, should go a long way toward reducing petroleum consumption.  It seems to work fine unless there is a strong tailwind.  The engineers are still working on the sensor to fold down the windmill for garages and overpasses.  


Gas Prices Up a Nickel, It Must be Friday

America is facing more than just gasoline price inflation. The contemporary media is overwhelmed with stories on the impacts of higher fuel prices. The fingers are pointing in every direction. Planners are proposing everything from 50 year transit plans to build a handful of rail lines to forecasting a radical transformation of urban form and travel behavior. After exhaustive research to understand consumer responses to higher energy prices the analysis is complete and the results are in.

Time for Change? Skip the Change, I’ll Take Dollars!

I’ve been torn lately between two contradictory perspectives on the state of the country as it relates to providing transportation infrastructure and service.

Saving Ginormous Amounts of Energy

I couldn’t wait to use the new word, ginormous, which Merriam-Webster recently added to the Collegiate Dictionary.  My spell checker has been trained and now I can get about the business of saving ginormous amounts of energy.  Recent bouts of ecoterrorism in the form of Hummer vandalism in Washington D.C. and the growing media attention to the environmental hypocrisy of the travel and housing habits of card-carrying carbon footprint club members (take a gander at the 10,000 sq. ft. home of Al Gore or the 28,200 sq.

More Folks Work at Home and More Homes Where No One Works

I find it intriguing when I hear folks talk about how high energy prices will cause a tipping point and everyone will rush back into the city in order to afford to commute to work.  If, or as, higher costs for energy begin to play a greater role in location choice it is as likely that they will force even more employers to move to the suburbs.  In many urban areas we may be well past the point where fuel price pressures to minimize travel would result in land use changes that move population back to town. 

Compelling Needs, Great Technology and Unparalleled Economic Capacity Produce Stunning Transportation Progress ...Not!

Having sat through a Transportation Task Force committee meeting recently where a representative of local government requested funds to enable the completion of a particular road project, I had to chuckle – folks had been asking for the final funds for that road for several years and, several times, various community leaders had touted the resolution of the funding problem with “full speed ahead” declarations.  While not quite as embarrassing as the President Bush’s now dated declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, it was gaining the same notoriety locally.  The actual construction was less than half completed and years away from being finished.  Several levels of government ha

Schizophrenic Policy Makers Pursue Buying Economic Development

My local community recently got into political spat as the city, county and state negotiated the terms of a deal to attract a major corporation to bring a facility to the community. In the interest of high-quality growth, tens of millions in dollars and various perks were offered to attract a very well-heeled corporate player. In the meantime, Floridians frustrated with the inability of government to be willing or able to keep up with growth in terms of providing the requisite infrastructure; sewer, water, transportation, etc., increased the pressure on governments to have new development pay for growth rather than having it increase the tax burden on existing residents. Let's see:

Famous Seer Predicts Congestion Will Get Worse . . .

In spring 2007, the Texas Transportation Institute and its partners will release the newest version of the "Mobility Report." This eagerly-awaited document will chronicle the worsening congestion in urban and suburban America. The report typically spawns a frenzy of media stories as folks eagerly peruse the ranking lists finding out just how their area did. While methodology tweaks and data issues might add a few wrinkles, no one will be surprised to see congestion worse than the prior report two years ago. Surprise, surprise!