Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Flair for the Obvious

In completely unsurprising, yet sadly true news, our Infrastructure is obsolete and it's broken. A group of state level heavy hitters from across the country, including the Governator himself, have also put together a report on how to overhaul our transportation system and our infrastructure.

To anyone who has an interest in transportation related issues this counld be the unshockingist news of the century. It is however right on the mark. Our transportation infrastructure is overburdened and outdated. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, it will cost an estimated 2.2 trillion dollars to fix our transportation infrastructure. Additionally, the bipartisan coalition (with the Governator's help) issued a report on our transportation system which outlined the following changes that they feel must be made:

-Change the political approval process (less earmarks for transportation projects, more transparency)
-Emphasize Livable, Sustainable communities (YES!)
-Expand of public transit and passenger rail (YES!)
-Fix what we've got right now
-Tolls with variable pricing based on time of day
-Public/Private partnerships for transportation projects
-Create a stable revenue stream for transportation (Do something about the Federal Gasoline Tax and Highway Trust Fund)

I agree with all of these ideas and agree that these are all legitimate concerns. In my mind, the first concerns are fixing the infrastructure we've got now and making transportation funding solvent(that includes fiscal responsibility amongst transit agencies. No more$60,000 per year bus drivers who pay 3% of their health care and can retire at 50*).

However, the greatest long term point of emphasis needs to be sustainable living! Incentives have to given to stop the sprawl happy, auto accessible only types of development that have been the hallmark of the last 50 years. I can speak, from my terrible daily drive, that this kind of construction is still taking place around Pittsburgh. Public Transportation and alternative methods of transportation (i.e. trains) will only have so much value when there is a massive amount of sprawl. This will be a huge challenge given that some cities haeve nearly their entire infrastructure based on suburban style single family homes and single use commercial and industrial development.

While depressing to view, the beginnings of suburban slums and suburban abandonment signal something good. They signal that we are moving in the right direction and SLOWLY beginning to re-concentrate our population in ways that are more sustainable and transit friendly.

*I'm not attempting to cite a specific statistic, merely illustrate through rough estimation how labor costs for transit agencies are exorbitant.

1 comment:

nathan said...

I enjoy your blog, but often hear you referring to your abysmal commute.

I'm curious, for someone who seems to advocate "more walkable, livable" communities, why don't you live in one?

I always believe that the biggest vote we have is the way we live our lives: don't like Walmart, don't shop there, don't like cars, don't drive one.

So what makes you live outside of an arrangement that would suit your ideals better?

Not trying to be a jerk, just curious!