Leading the Charge Against Public Investment in Mass Transit

A recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal on the reasons why "Americans don't want to live in Ray LaHood's car-free utopia" is garnering a lot of attention in the planning and transportation worlds.

In the opinion piece, the Journal's editors slam the ongoing struggle to complete a new multi-year transportation bill as bereft of any "new thinking." They point to estimates that "traffic gridlock costs motorists more than $100 billion a year in delays and wasted gas" as evidence of "inefficient transportation spending" in which 35 cents of every gas tax dollar is "intercepted by the public transit lobby and Congressional earmarkers." According the the editors, who clearly aren't traffic engineers, "This congestion could be alleviated by building more highway lanes where they are most needed and using market-based pricing-such as tolls-for using roads during peak travel times."

In attacking Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's "strange 'livability' agenda" wherein people can actually complete a daily chore or two without getting in an automobile, they conclude that, "If Congress really wants to enhance the livability of cities and suburbs, it will pass a highway bill that builds more roads."

It's hard to know where to begin in refuting the naive comments made in the article, but Janet Kavinoky at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Free Enterprise blog, of all places, takes a shot. Citing their strong belief that "transit is a critical means of addressing congestion and driving economic development in many areas around the country", Kavinoky, speaking on behalf of the Chamber, argues that "the federal government plays an important and necessary role in infrastructure investment."

Full Story: Why Your Highway Has Potholes



WSJ and Transit

It seems bizarre that we'd have to argue with the one newspaper most focused on North America's largest transit hub... somewhere between Penn Station and the Staten Island Ferry where all the interborough subway lines enter Manhattan... but, alas, the world of hyperconservatism has no reason.

I'm all for cutting public transit capital subsidies to those cities that can't get a grip on their land use (why should we be funding LRT in cities that won't zone land over 10du/acre?), but we do need to be making an investment in change FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY DO WANT TO LIVE IN CITIES!!! And these people aren't mythical creatures... they exist in LARGE CITIES (not just NY or Boston, but growing cities that are becoming increasingly dense, increasingly populated, and decreasingly auto-dependent - especially among younger populations that are clearly outside the WSJ demographic).

But alas, the WSJ probably supported Governor Christie's view that century old twin train tunnels are more than adequate to serve the NJ-NY commute (and any New Yorker should be happy to limit the number allowed into the city from across the Hudson).

Planner Keith

The Wall Street Journal's irrational editorial raises an idea

This is another in a series of high-profile, increasingly irrational editorials seeking to push back much progress in city planning and the alternate transportation choices people are making.

I don't think a "car-free utopia" is any part of legislation being considered. However, now that this editorial brings it up, it raises a very interesting question: in light of the economic benefits New York City has seen by blocking off more of Times Square for people, might a national program of car-free areas in cities be initiated? Many cities could use a similar economic boom--in terms of tourism, property occupancy rates, economic activity, and employment--that NYC has enjoyed. In many cities world-wide, many streets are pedestrian-only. Surely, many cities in the US could learn from the best practices used (and past mistakes made) and implement more of the best concepts for these pedestrian-favored areas.

Thank you to the Wall Street Journal for bringing up this idea! I think the first such pedestrian area outside of NYC should be called "Murdoch Square" in honor of this editorial.

Seriously: car-free areas are demonstrated boosts to economies and a clear and present danger to interests--such as those represented by this WSJ editorial--who would rather people stay in their cars.

Crazy Like Fox

The Wall Street Journal seems to be turning into another Fox News - which will destroy its credibility. "Ray LaHood's car-free utopia" exists only in the fevered imagination of this editorial wrriter.

Charles Siegel

Michael Lewyn's picture

my response at my blog

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