There’s a whole host of good stuff out there this weekend, covering the economy, smart growth, transit, high speed rail, and more:
Smart growth is nothing to fear: Roger Lewis aims to quiet the fears of Washington Post readers:
In fact, as new long-range plans are implemented in the coming decades, your property’s value will probably go up, your way of life and neighborhood character will be enhanced, and traffic congestion will not worsen. Indeed, it may ease. Also remember that such plans primarily serve future generations.
Optimism is justified. Stable, low-density residential neighborhoods and subdivisions will remain untouched. Transportation network plans do not depend on routing future traffic through subdivisions and local residential streets, many of which are loops and cul-de-sacs. And redeveloped areas actually will provide new, desirable conveniences for residents able to walk or bike to buy a quart of milk or sip coffee in a cafe.
Daniel Gross puts that into a larger context: Complete with quotes from Richard Florida, Mr. Gross looks to optimistic visions of the future and the chance to re-shape our economy, using the pending economic rebound to re-shape things – putting those kinds of smart growth plans into action:
So what will our new economy look like once the smoke finally clears? There will likely be fewer McMansions with four-car garages and more well-insulated homes, fewer Hummers and more Chevy Volts, less proprietary trading and more productivity-enhancing software, less debt and more capital, more exported goods and less imported energy. Most significantly, there will be new commercial infrastructures and industrial ecosystems that incubate and propel growth—much as the Internet did in the 1990s.
Not everyone is so optimistic: Reihan Salam at The Daily Beast isn’t nearly as optimistic about our economic prospects, despite the good intentions and aspirations of folks like Roger Lewis.
But one could just as easily argue that we’ve been furiously spending taxpayer dollars propping up the McMansion-and-Hummer economy. To protect homeowners, we’ve launched an extraordinary series of interventions designed to buttress housing prices, an approach that effectively transfers wealth from those who rent to those who own. Collapsing housing prices could prove a boon for less-affluent households or cautious investors who were reluctant to buy at the top of the market. That can’t help unless we accept that housing prices can and should collapse, even if that hurts key constituencies in the short term. And the same goes for efforts to keep the domestic automotive industry on life support.
Beyond these big, national-level policy questions, there’s plenty of room to debate the local impact. Housing Complex notes that DC has lots of jobs (relatively) and high rents, circling back to the notion that the ability to change things won’t be uniform across the nation. Places like DC are positioned well to make the transformation – provided the Federal framework enables these kinds of changes.
On that note, Aaron Renn looks at a potential city-friendly federal policy framework, emphasizing talent, innovation, and connection – looking at policy areas of transportation, housing, the environment, and immigration. Perhaps the key takeaway is the requirement of flexibility – many of today’s problems stem from federal policies that are too rigid to be of much use in urban environments.
- Yonah Freemark questions whether streetcar suburb densities are enough to get real urbanism and transit use.
- Aaron Renn asks if density is overrated for smaller cities, as they can still compete without it, taking advantage of highways and cars that work well at lower densities.
- Cap’n Transit criticizes both thoughts, emphasizing the bigger picture about why we want to encourage urbanism and transit use in the first place – arguing that Renn’s rationalization isn’t helpful in the long run.
- Parking nightmares – requirements, history, and the path (or lot location) not taken.
- Ed Glaeser – Cities demonstrate “the power of agglomeration — the enormous value that human beings place on being near one another.”
- Guerrilla subway art in New York demands better etiquette from riders. Reminds me of Metro’s anti-rapture campaign.
- Interesting thoughts on the added value of HSR to local land uses around stations.
- NPR looks at songs for the urban cyclist.