Samuel Staley's blog

Are transit ridership numbers more pomp than substance?

The American Public Transit Association reports that transit ridership climbed to 10.3 billion trips during the first quarter of 2008, the “highest number of trips taken in fifty years.” That represents a 3.3 percent increase overall over the previous year while vehicle miles traveled, a measure of demand for car travel, fell by 2.3 percent, they observe.

Where's the planning in metropolitan transportation planning?

Randal O’Toole’s recent policy study from the Cato Institute, “Roadmap to Gridlock” is s worthy read for all professional planners, no matter what their ideological or professional stripe. Undoubtedly, most planners probably consider someone who maintains a blog called the “Antiplanner” more of a bomb thrower than a serious policy analyst. But this dismissive attitude throws an awful lot of good work by the road side, and a good example of that is O’Toole’s “Roadmap to Gridlock.”

Planning Juno

Many viewers may not fully appreciate movies as a visual story-telling medium, but that fact came home to me dramatically the other night while watching “Juno,” the off beat, smart and funny film that just snagged a best screenplay Oscar. The deliberate use of architecture and public spaces, in particular, was quite effective although you probably won’t find these references in plot summaries or synopses.

Economists vs. Planners? Complements, Not Substitutes

Often, planners and economists seem to be at odds. Actually, a better description would be talking past each other—literally two ships passing in the night.

Planners often think economists are too narrowly focused on dollars, cents, and rational decisionmaking. Economists can’t understand why planners don’t recognize the real world of markets and why incentives matter—a lot.

When Planning Matters

Why plan? That’s an important question for a planning skeptic like myself. I’m not at all convinced that conventional public urban planning has much value, despite (or because of?) spending eight years on a city planning commission. Yet, I don’t consider myself an “antiplanner”. I’m happy to leave that role to my friend and virtual colleague Randal O’Toole at the Cato Institute. (He even runs a blog called “The Antiplanner”.)

Urban planning has a role even though, IMO, on balance, its application has had a negative impact on communities and cities. Notably, even the free market (and Nobel Prize winning) economist F.A. Hayek recognized a role for planning in his classic book on political economy The Constitution of Liberty.

The question is: what is planning’s role and, perhaps more importantly, how has this role changed or shifted in modern times?

Is eminent domain necessary for revitalizing cities?

Planners are split on eminent domain—one group believes it’s a critical component of planning since it allows them to implement plans more quickly. Others believe eminent domain does more to destroy urbanism than build it up. I’ve weighed in on it numerous times, including this commentary published by Planetizen.

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