For those following the intense debate over intercity passenger rail in the US, the following recent news items might have a few planners scratching their heads:
I recently had the pleasure of sitting on a panel convened by the Lincoln Instititute of Land Policy to discuss the Tea Party and its effects on local planning (a topic I've discussed earlier on this blog). At one point, the moderator asked if there were any successful techniques that planners could use to effectively deal with Tea Party activists. This was an intriguing question, but also one that I thought was a bit odd. Controversy and conflict are not new to planning; they are built into the very process of American planning because of its inherent openness and inclusiveness.
Last summer, most of the nation was justifiably outraged when Raquel Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide because her four-year old son stepped off a median into oncoming traffic and was killed. Common sense alone should have kept this case from going to trial, but I believe this case should have raised a bigger and more encompassing issue for planners and a question of social ethics: What is the responsibility we take as individuals for the choices we make living in an urban environment?
In August, I moved into a high density apartment complex just 1.5 miles from my office and a five minute walk to a bus stop. One of the central advantages of the building's location was its access to alternative transportation modes. While I could park my car for "free" (the real cost is built into the lease), I was interested in keeping it parked as much as possible. Now, after nearly three months of experimentation, I'm ready to give up the bus, and the reasons are central to understanding the future of transit in the US.
For a while now, I've wondered if we have been mislabeling the development around well functioning transit stops as transit-oriented developments (TODs). This may seem odd, because numerous studies have shown that property values can increase by 20% to 40% percent around transit stops, particularly rail stations (although the increases are uneven).
As just about everyone in the planning profession now knows, this is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities by urbanist icon Jane Jacobs. While Death and Life was itself iconic, Jane Jacobs was also a great public intellectual who continually built on her ideas in subsequent books and articles.
Republicans appear set to make significant political inroads in Congress this November, perhaps taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives and knocking on the door of majority control of the U.S. Senate. Their success will be in no small part due to the so-called Tea Parties, a grassroots political movement reacting to the perceived excess of the federal government. Planners should take note. While the Tea Party Movement is largely a national and statewide, its effects may well be felt on the local and regional level as well.
Climate change has become a focal point of urban planning in the U.S. and abroad as cities grapple with so-called sustainability. I’ve been a critic of many attempts to implement sustainability plans, not so much because I disagree with the intent as much as I believe the tools used to achieve sustainability are not particularly effective.
In a previous blog post, my discussion of externalities, public goods and roads spurred an unexpectedly lengthy set of posts and repostes. In this article, I want to address a trickier topic: Whether road users have effectively shifted the burden for paying for roads to non-users and whether the reason we pay for roads out of general taxes is a result of that lobbying effort.
Planners are quick to criticize roads and highway investments for the vast sums spent to build, operate and maintain them, often questioning the value of these subsidies. Recently, on a planning list-serve, these subsidies were labeled an “external cost” of automobiles, but they are not.