Monthly Archives: April 2007

Will Transit Prevent Bay Area Traffic Jams?

A key part of the MacArthur Freeway, one of the most congested roads in the San Francisco Bay Area, collapsed in a tanker fire early Sunday morning. As shown in these graphic photos, the accident managed to put Interstate 80, 580, 880, 980, and state highway 24 out of commission.

In response, Governor Schwarzenegger announced that all Bay Area transit services will be free on Monday as commuters adjust to the new situation. BART promised to run longer trains and other transit agencies promised to increase frequencies.

Continue reading

Share

Condo Boom Over

Remember all those condominiums being built in various downtowns, and how they were supposed to herald the return of people to the cities? Not so much.

“We’re in for a fairly ugly correction,” says the president of Trammel Crow Residential. It turns out there are 5.5 million vacant homes out there, mostly purchased by speculators who expected condo and other home prices to go ever upwards.

Continue reading

Share

Federal Program Fails to Promote Transit

Here’s a great idea. The federal government should give its employees free transit passes. That will encourage a lot of them to leave their cars at home.

Actually, it turns out that it will encourage a lot of them to continue driving but to sell their passes on ebay to people who are already taking transit, thus taking zero cars off the road. When the GAO followed up on ebay transit pass sales, they were all being sold by federal employees.

The GAO estimates that this scam costs federal taxpayers $17 million a year — and that is an absolute minimum. But isn’t it worth the cost to know that the intentions were good?

Share

Monorail for Portland?

When I was a kid, I had a toy monorail. It looked like a rocketship, only pointed on both ends, or possibly two airplane fuselages back to back, and it hung from a thin, round metal rail. I saw one on a web site about historic toys once, but can’t find it now.

Now a former Boeing engineer wants to build a full-scale monorail like it in Portland. Instead of calling it a monorail, which is what it is, he calls it an “air tram,” possibly because he thinks that will sell better in a city that has already built an aerial tram.

Continue reading

Share

Making California Housing Affordable

A bill being considered by the California legislature aims to make the state’s housing more affordable. According to this analysis, the bill amends the state’s Planning and Zoning Act by requiring cities and counties to take more steps to keep housing affordable.

The bill is supported by various home building associations as well as some non-profit groups such as the California Council of Churches, St. Vincent DePaul, and the California State Firefighters Association, which worries that firefighters and other public employees can’t afford to live in the cities they serve.

Is California’s housing system broken? This house would cost $150,000 in Houston, $400,000 in Bakersfield, $950,000 in Marin County, and well over $1.2 million in San Jose.

Continue reading

Share

Subsidized Development Dumbfounds NY Times Reporter

“Rail Line Drives Utah Development” trumpets an article in Sunday’s New York Times. The article tells of a $140 million mixed-use development being built along a Salt Lake City-area light-rail line.

It took me less than five minutes to find what was really driving this development. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you should be able to guess it: tax-increment financing. Specifically, $24.6 million in infrastructure subsidies and $7.8 million in housing subsidies.

Continue reading

Share

Houston, Yes!

If I had first visited Houston thirty years ago, I probably would have hated it. And even today, I probably wouldn’t want to live in Houston, simply because I don’t like big cities. But I came to Houston last week prepared to like it, and in fact I loved it.

Probably my brand new Garmin Nuvi GPS helped, as I was able to avoid the frustration I always have of trying to find my way around new cities, or almost any city but Portland, which I know all too well. It didn’t hurt that the American Dream Coalition’s assistant director, Kathleen Calongne, did all the driving. And of course, in two days, I was only able to see a small slice of this giant city.

Continue reading

Share

Coming in May: Anti-Town Planning Week

On November 8, the American Planning Association celebrates World Town Planning Day. So it seems appropriate to celebrate Anti-Town Planning Week on the antipodes of November 8, namely the week that contains May 8.

During that week, the Antiplanner will review a number of city and town planning disasters that haven’t previously been mentioned in this blog. If you have any suggestions about what plans the Antiplanner could or should review, please feel free to let me know in the comments here or by sending me an email. It would be helpful if the plans are available on line.

Share