Monthly Archives: August 2007

Worst-Managed Transit Agency Takes Another Turn for the Worse

San Jose’s transit agency, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), is cutting bus service again. Over the past six years, a series of financial crises have forced it to cut service by almost 20 percent, contributing to a 34-percent decline in total ridership.

Endangered transit service.
Flickr photo by Ian Fuller.

Now it is planning to eliminate another 10 percent of its bus lines. It says that its goal is to increase ridership by boosting frequencies on heavily used lines and dropping routes that run nearly empty. One route to be discontinued, for example, carries an average of just six passengers per hour.

Continue reading

Share

Solution to Congestion: Two Fewer Traffic Lanes

When the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, the city closed the adjacent 10th Avenue bridge so rescue workers could use it to recover injured people and bodies. Now that all the missing people have been found, the city plans to reopen it tomorrow — with two fewer traffic lanes.

10th Avenue Bridge with pre-collapse I-35W in background.
Wikipedia photo.

Originally, the bridge had four 11-foot traffic lanes, 11.5 feet for bikes, and 8 feet for pedestrians. The reopened bridge will have 12 feet for bikes, 8 feet for pedestrians, a new 11-foot pedestrian lane for viewing the collapsed bridge, and two 15-foot lanes for auto traffic.

Continue reading

Share

Lessons for Hawai’i from Puerto Rico

The Honolulu City Council is determined to spend billions of dollars on a ridiculous rail-transit line in Oahu. State Representative Marilyn Lee happened to visit Puerto Rico and came back gushing about that island’s new Tren Urbano in Honolulu’s leading paper.

“There are many similarities between Hawaii and Puerto Rico,” says Representative Lee. “We must proceed with our scheduled plan to build transit — our sister island state has shown it can succeed.”

San Juan’s Tren Urbano.
Wikipedia photo.

There are so many fallacies in Representative Lee’s column that it is hard to know where to begin. Needless to say, Puerto Rico is not a state. Further, Honolulu rail proponents have a nasty habitat of calling rail transit “transit,” implying that Honolulu doesn’t have mass transit because it doesn’t have rail transit.

Continue reading

Share

Operating in the Black, Government-Style

The director of Metro, Portland’s regional dictator planning agency, offers some insight into how government planners view such concepts as profits, losses, and sales. It is not a lot different from the way soviet managers looked at the same ideas.

Phil Stanford, a columnist for the Portland Tribune, recently commented that Metro’s Oregon Convention Center “has been losing money by the bucketload.” Two years ago, this convention center was the centerpiece of a Forbes magazine article about how cities are losing millions overbuilding their convention centers.

The pretentiously named Oregon Convention Center.
Flickr photo by Premshree Pillai.

Continue reading

Share

The Pleasures of Public Transit

Here are some heartwarming examples of how public transit helps build a sense of community as compared with those soul-destroying automobiles.

A family of tourists got on a Portland light-rail train looking forward to a day of seeing all the sights that can be seen within walking distance of one of Portland’s rail lines. But then they heard someone shouting “the foulest of epithets” in the back of the car.

The shouter moved closer to them, pulled a collapsible rifle out of a duffle bag and quickly assembled it while muttering something about “not appreciating” the fact that another passenger had told him he shouldn’t bring a gun on board. Everyone held their breath, but nothing more happened until the next stop, when a uniformed officer escorted the man off the train.

Continue reading

Share

The Insurance Solution to Wildfire

The Forest Service’s biggest excuse for spending billions of dollars a year on fire suppression is that there are an increasing number of homes in the “wildland-urban interface” (abbreviated WUI and pronounced “wooeee”) and these homes need protection. I’ve always said that this is a matter between the homeowners and their insurance companies.

The Castle Rock Fire casts an eerie glow at sunset as seen from Ketchum, Idaho.
Flickr photo by kajo55

Now, an insurer named AIG has stepped up to deal with the problem. A national forest fire in Idaho has burned 22 square miles and threatens to burn some valuable homes covered by AIG near Sun Valley. AIG’s solution? Hire a fire truck to defend the homes from the fire.

Continue reading

Share

Affordable Housing Means More to Spend on Travel

Forbes reports on a new study that claims that residents of Houston face the most expensive commutes in the country. This is based on a study by the Brookings Institution, but commissioned by the notoriously anti-auto Surface Transportation Policy Partnership (STPP). Unfortunately, the study itself is not yet available on the web.

But it is interesting that having more money to spend on travel is portrayed as a bad thing. “What really takes a beating is your wallet,” says Forbes. Of course Houstonians spend more: they have more to spend.

Continue reading

Share

The Antiplanner’s Library: The Ultimate Antiplanning Book

From time to time, the Antiplanner has reviewed books that seemed worthy of inclusion in an antiplanner’s library, or at least worth knowing about. Now the time has come to announce the ultimate antiplanning book, one specifically aimed at repealing all government planning laws.

Click the image to see the full cover in all its glory (287 KB).

Yes, the Cato Institute is releasing The Best-Laid Plans, written by the Antiplanner himself. The book covers all the issues discussed in the Antiplanner blog, including forest planning, urban planning, and transportation planning. But the book’s theme is not that there is something wrong with these specific kinds of plans but that government planning itself — that is, comprehensive, long-range planning by government agencies who often don’t own the resources being planned — cannot work and should not be attempted.

Best of all, the back cover of the book presents a beautiful photo of the Antiplanner’s favorite dog, Chip. Just ignore that old guy teetering next to him, who probably got in the photo by accident.

Continue reading

Share

Some of You Nut Cases Are Making Us Serious People Look Bad

Some people criticized me last week for assuming that all the electricity needed for rail transit came from coal. This was a valid criticism, though less so than you might think. The last major hydroelectric dam in the Northwest was built in the early 1970s, but the first light-rail lines were built after 1980. So none of the incremental energy needed to power light rail came from hydroelectric sources. Wind power, maybe, but not hydro.

I am working on a revised version of my report on greenhouse gases and rail transit. To be fair, I will include both the assumption that electric power comes from coal and that it comes from a mix of sources. I’ll also try to show why, in most states at least, coal will be the source of power for any new electric rail lines. And I’ll compare transit with SUVs as well as conventional cars. I don’t expect these changes will greatly improve the outcome for rail transit, but we will see.

Continue reading

Share

To Light Rail or Not Light Rail, That Is the Question

Congress appropriated money to replace the I-35W bridge that collapsed in Minnesota, but not to increase capacity or add light rail to the bridge. The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates that each day the replacement is delayed costs Minnesota travelers more than $400,000.

Yet Minneapolis Mayor Rybak is willing to delay the reconstruction by a few months, or a few years, so they can put a light-rail line on the new bridge.

Continue reading

Share