A winter storm has cancelled and delayed flights in some parts of the country, but so far the Pacific Northwest remains clear if a bit cold. Travel safe and have a happy Thanksgiving wherever you are.
The Antiplanner is flying to Boise today to speak to Boise State University Students for Liberty. I’ll be talking about public lands and wildfire issues tonight at 7 pm in the student union. If you are in Boise, I hope to see you there.
The Antiplanner is flying to Washington, DC, today for the Preserving the American Dream conference. Postings may be thin next week as this conference will consume much of my time.
Coincident with the conference, the Cato Institute will release my latest paper on the follies of sustainability planning. Readers can get a preview of the paper, which argues that sustainability planning is not a cost-effective way of saving energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or solving other problems.
The Antiplanner gave a presentation on property rights in Ottawa on Saturday, September 14, and a presentation on Plan Bay Area in Novato on Tuesday, September 17. The Ottawa presentation is downloadable as an 11.6-MB PDF. The Bay Area presentation is downloadable as a 16-MB PDF or a 57-MB zip file containing the PowerPoint show plus two videos of driverless cars.
Any one is free to distribute, use, or borrow from these presentations. I make every effort to use photographs that are in the public domain or under a creative commons license, but may have accidentally included some that are copyrighted, so it is best to try to find the photo’s origin before publishing the photos.
First, over lunch, I’ll speak to Novato Republican Women in Marin County. Second, in the evening, I’ll speak at a public meeting in Lafayette. Both presentations will be about Plan Bay Area. If you are in either place, I look forward to seeing you there.
The Antiplanner is traveling to Washington DC today where I’ll testify tomorrow before the House Public Lands Subcommittee on federal land recreation fees. By an extraordinary coincidence, tomorrow the Cato Institute will release my policy paper recommending that Congress allow the Forest Service, Park Service, and other public land agencies to charge recreationists fair market value to use the public lands.
On Wednesday, I’ll participate at a Hill briefing on transportation issues. By a not-so-extraordinary coincidence, Cato will release my new policy paper arguing that the “New Starts” program of federal funding for new rail transit projects gives transit agencies incentives to develop high-cost, rather than low-cost solutions for transit. The paper reviews, among other plans, Maryland’s Purple Line light-rail proposal and shows that it will cause more congestion, use more energy, and emit more pollution than not building it–points that should already be familiar to Antiplanner readers.
The Antiplanner will be in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho today speaking at a conference that seeks to find a balance between property rights and clean water. Golf courses, waterfront homes, and other developments along Lake Coeur d’Alene spill nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients into the lake, leading to algal blooms that can cause serious problems.
For sale: four bedrooms, two baths, comes complete with tradable pollution permit.
To prevent this, some propose that the county regulate or limit new development. But the Antiplanner argues that any regulations should apply equally to existing developments. Instead of regulation, I propose a system of tradable pollution rights, in which every waterfront property owner starts out with a right to a tiny amount of pollution. Those who don’t pollute could sell to those who do, and those who pollute in excess of their rights would be severely fined.
The Antiplanner is suffering a week-long visit to Hawaii (or perhaps Hawaii is suffering a visit from the Antiplanner. Posts may be thin depending on whether I can find time in my busy schedule of two speaking engagements and lots of cycling; also on whether I can find free wifi at the low-cost hotels I am staying at.
The Antiplanner is going to Indianapolis this week to talk to people about a proposed transit plan. The plan, which was written by the Chamber of Commerce rather than Indy’s transit agency, calls for creating a regional transit district (IndyGo, the city’s transit agency, only covers one county) and running several “rapid transit” lines that are billed mainly as bus-rapid transit but that might use light rail on one route where a rail right-of-way is owned by local governments.
The plan is expected to require more than $1.3 billion in capital investments, and the transit system will then require more than triple the operating subsidies–from $43 million in 2011 to $140 million when the plan is fully implemented. Of course, if they actually build a light-rail line, the total costs are likely to go much higher.
In reading through a PDF version of the plan, I was struck by a one-sentence summary of the basic justification for the plan: “A robust regional transit system is necessary to spur our region’s continued economic growth, to preserve our ability to compete for jobs and talent, and to address growing challenges with congestion and air quality compliance” (page 5).
Today the Antiplanner is in Milwaukee to try to help persuade the city not to build a streetcar line. It is notable that many of the places that want streetcars–Cincinnati, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Orange County, to name a few–originally had light-rail plans that never happened. It is almost as if streetcars are seen as a consolation prize for failing to sucker the locals into funding light rail.
Yet cities were right not to build light rail, and streetcars would be an even bigger waste of money. The least-expensive streetcar lines being planned today are more expensive than the first light-rail lines. Both San Diego’s and Portland’s first light-rail lines cost less than $15 million per route mile, and even after adjusting for inflation that’s less than $30 million per mile today. Yet most streetcar lines being planned today are expected to cost $30 million or more per track mile, which is $60 million per route mile.
The problem with light rail is that it is expensive, low-capacity transit that doesn’t go very fast–most light-rail schedules average only about 20 to 22 mph. Streetcars are worse, having much lower capacities and speeds of only about 6 to 10 mph.