Category Archives: Mission

How Long Before Cars Drive Themselves?

Raj Rajkumar, a self-driving vehicle researcher at Carnegie Mellon, warns that self-driving cars are being over-hyped. Despite promised by Ford, Nissan, and other companies, they are actually many years away.

Ford’s promise to have fleets of self-driving cars in cities by 2021 is deceptive, the critics say. “Dig into the statements and press for details,” says the Wall Street Journal, “and a Ford spokesman says that car will only be self-driving in the portion of major cities where the company can create and regularly update extremely detailed 3-D street maps.”

However, that is exactly what the Antiplanner said a few months ago. As the Antiplanner noted at the time, a company called Here has already mapped two-thirds of all paved roads in the United States, and updates its maps every day. It seems likely that all paved roads will be mapped by 2021.

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No Delays, No Hesitation, No Compromise

The Antiplanner’s travels through the Balkans–yesterday, Skopje, Macedonia; today, Tuzla, Bosnia; tomorrow, Sarajevo–aren’t leaving much time for detailed posts. However, I happened to come across this video of a speech given by Lyndon Johnson 51 years ago that remains relevant today. Perhaps more than any other president, Johnson inspires mixed feelings as one of the best and in other ways one of the worst presidents we’ve ever had. But this speech shows him at his finest.

A few days before the speech, American television screens showed Selma, Alabama police beating up peaceful demonstrators who were seeking voting rights for blacks. Johnson was so angered by what he saw that he asked to address Congress and told them that he would submit a bill that would require all states to remove all barriers to letting blacks vote in all elections. He didn’t ask them to pass the bill; he told them it was their obligation to pass it. Many southern members of Congress sat in the audience looking disgruntled, and he merely stared them down in disgust.

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Buses Are Better Than Trains

More people are taking up the call to promote buses rather than build trains. As the Antiplanner noted on February 10, the average number of people on board a transit bus has declined from 15 in 1979 to about 11 today.


Starting today, rides on AC Transit’s double-decker buses will be free for the next three weeks.

Just one week later, New York Times writer Josh Barro argues that if some people won’t ride buses because they “carry a ‘shame factor,'” it makes more sense to spend a little money improving the public image of buses (as Midttrafik is doing) than to spend a lot of money building rail lines that are no faster than buses.

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Liberals and Libertarians

Brutality on the part of overly militarized police forces. Too many people in prison due mainly to a war on victimless crimes. Routine torture. The national surveillance state. A president who believes he can remotely kill anyone he wants without trial or due process.

Assett forfeiture. States and cities that routinely take away people’s property rights without compensation or take people’s property with compensation to give to private developers on the pretext that, because the new owners will pay more taxes than existing owners, it is in the public interest.

These are a few of my least-favorite things about America today. This list heavily overlaps eleven reasons why liberal Dave Lindorff is ashamed to be an American. On most of these issues (except, perhaps, regulatory takings), liberals and libertarians are in full agreement.

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Economic Principles for Planners, Part 2

Here’s a continuation of yesterday’s post with five more economic principles for planners. Today’s principles are a little more complicated than yesterday’s. To clarify, I am using the word “planners” as shorthand for “advocates of government infrastructure subsidies and regulation.”

6. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Planners would like you to believe that there is free money available to do the projects they propose. Sometimes they mean federal money (“it’s going to be wasted somewhere, so we might as well waste it here”), while other times they mean tax-increment financing (“if we didn’t subsidize the development, the taxes wouldn’t come in to pay for it”).

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Economic Principles for Planners, Part 1

Planners and economists often come to the exact opposite conclusions about various policy proposals. In too many cases, this seems to be because planners (which I define here as “advocates of government spending and regulation”) have a poor understanding of basic economics. To help them out, the Antiplanner has developed ten economic principles for planners. I’ll present five today and five tomorrow.

1. Capital costs are costs.

Too many planners want to ignore, or want other people to ignore, capital costs. Like a high-pressure car salesperson whose job is to get the customer to buy the most expensive car they can afford, they’ll say, “Pay no attention to the number of zeroes at the end of that number. You only have to pay the capital cost once, and then think of all the benefits you’ll get.” Why get a Chevrolet when you can get a Cadillac? Why get a Yaris when you can get a Lexus? Why improve bus service when you can build light rail?

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American Dream Presentations

Of the more than 30 presentations given at the 2014 Preserving the American Dream conference in Denver this past weekend, 18 used PowerPoint shows, all of which are downloadable below. A complete agenda shows when each presentation was given.

PowerPoint Presentations

Session 1: Debate Over Tolls and Public/Private Partnerships

Robert Poole: The Case for Tolls and PPPs

Greg Cohen: The Case Against Tolls and PPPs

Session 2: Transportation

Christian Holter: Struggles and Successes of Private Transit in America

Session 2a: Transportation Issues

Alan Pisarski: Where Is VMT Going?

Marc Scribner: The Future of Automobility

Session 2b: Transportation Finance

Baruch Feigenbaum: The TIGER Program–Discretionary Grant or Political Tool?

Session 2c: Data Workshop

Wendell Cox: Urban Data (10 MB)

Session 3: Land-Use Issues

Wendell Cox: Britain’s Declining House Sizes (13 MB)

Session 3a: Sustainability vs. Freedom

Rick Harrison: Sustainable Suburban Development Can Defeat Social Engineering (108 MB)

Thomas Wambolt: Problems with TIF

Session 3b: Fighting Sustainability Plans

Mark Gotz: Fighting Southern Florida’s Seven-50 Plan (14.1 MB)

Video on slide 9 of Mark’s show (12 MB)

Peter Singleton: Fighting Plan Bay Area

Session 3c: How to Review Transportation Plans

Thomas Rubin: How to Review a Transit Plan (10.8 MB)

Randal O’Toole: How to Review a Regional Transportation Plan (19 MB)

Session 5b: Getting out the Message

Sharon Nassett: Stopping Wasteful Projects Through Citizen Advocacy

John Anthony: Shattering America’s Trance (2.0 MB)

Jim Karlock: How to Make YouTube Videos

Mimi Steel: Fighting a Plan After It Has Been Approved (5.1 MB)

Videos associated with Mimi Steel’s presentation (107 MB).

Size not shown for files smaller than 2 megabytes.

Supplemental Papers

Marc Scribner on Regulation of Self-Driving Vehicles

Which Way for the Highway Trust Fund

Emily Goff on Bringing Transportation Decisions Closer to the People: Why States and Localities Should Have More Control

Tom Rubin on Strategy for Preparation of NEPA/CEQA Administrative Record

Selling the Northwest Passage, an article about a proposed third bridge across the Columbia River

Survey of St. Johns-Lombard about transportation issues

A Line in the Sand, an article about Sharon Nasset and the Columbia River Crossing

Interesting Data (Excel Files)

Most of the files below are from the 2012 American Community Survey, a Census Bureau survey of more than 3 million households. Some of the files for urbanized areas may not include data for smaller urban areas because the sample size wasn’t large enough for statistical accuracy.

How people with no cars get to work by urbanized area

How people with no cars get to work by state

How people get to work by income class by state

Median home price to median family income ratio by urbanized area

Median home price to median family income ratio by state

This spreadsheet is a summary of the 2012 National Transit Database, which includes data for nearly all transit agencies and modes in the nation. An Antiplanner post explains most of the rows and columns in the 1.8-MB spreadsheet.

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Light Rail and Streetcars

The Antiplanner (along with co-author Jeff Judson) has an op ed in the San Antonio Express News on what San Antonio should do now that it has given up on the streetcar. My presentation to the San Antonio Tea Party on a similar subject is available for download as a 35-MB PDF.

At least some people in San Antonio think the city should adopt a smart-growth plan to deal with the million people who are likely to move to the area in the next 30 years. But roughly a million people moved to the area in the last 30 years without dire consequences (except for the congestion that resulted from planners’ obsession with rail transit while they ignored efficient solutions such as traffic signal coordination), so it isn’t clear why a new plan is needed.

Here are the speaking events I know about for the next few days. First, this afternoon (Monday, September 8), from 4:30 to 6:30 pm, I’ll be speaking about the Pinellas light-rail plan at a public forum at the IRB Sushi Restaurant in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.

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Planning for the Unpredictable

How do you plan for the unpredictable? That’s the question facing the more than 400 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) that have been tasked by Congress to write 20-year transportation plans for their regions. Self-driving cars will be on the market in the next ten years, are likely to become a dominant form of travel in twenty years, and most people think they will have huge but often unknowable transformative effects on our cities and urban areas. Yet not a single regional transportation plan has tried to account for, and few have even mentioned the possibility of, self-driving cars.

Instead, many of those plans propose obsolete technologies such as streetcars, light rail, and subways. These technologies made sense when they were invented a hundred or so years ago, but today they are just a waste of money. One reason why planners look to the past for solutions is that they can’t accurately foresee the future. So they pretend that, by building ancient modes of transportation, they will have the same effects on cities that they had when they were first introduced.

If the future is unpredictabie, self-driving cars make it doubly or quadruply so.

  • How long will it take before self-driving cars dominate the roads?
  • Will people who own self-driving cars change their residential locations because they won’t mind traveling twice as far to work?
  • Will employment centers move so they can take advantage of self-driving trucks and increased employee mobility?
  • Will car sharing reduce the demand for parking?
  • Will carpooling reduce VMT or will the increased number of people who can “drive” self-driving cars increase VMT?
  • Will people use their cars as “robotic assistants,” going out with zero occupants to pick up groceries, drop off laundry, or doing other tasks that don’t require lots of supervision?
  • Will self-driving cars reduce the need for more roads because they increase road capacities, or will the increase in driving offset this benefit?
  • Will self-driving cars provide the mythical “first and last miles” needed by transit riders, or will they completely replace urban transit?

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