Bus Shelters for the Poor, Trains for the Rich

Low-income residents of the Twin Cities can rest easy, as planners at the Metropolitan Council, the area’s regional planning agency, are proposing a regional transit equity plan. According to the Metropolitan Council’s press release, this equity plan consists of:

  1. Building 75 bus shelters and rebuilding 75 existing shelters “in areas of racially concentrated poverty”; and
  2. “Strengthen[ing] the transit service framework serving racially concentrated areas of poverty” by building bus-rapid transit and light-rail lines to the region’s wealthy suburbs.


The blue line, the yellow line to St. Cloud, and the green line between the Minneapolis interchange and St. Paul Union Depot are open; the next priority is the green line from the interchange and Eden Prairie.

Bus shelters for the poor, light rail for the rich: that sounds equitable! Of course, the poor will be allowed to ride those light-rail trains (for example, if they travel to the suburbs to work as servants), just as the well-to-do will be allowed to use the bus shelters. But for the most part, the light rail is for the middle class.

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Is MagLev a Game Changer?

Much like the proposed Florida passenger trains that can be run without government subsidies (but can we have some anyway?), train supporters are gushing over Japan’s tentative decision to build a magnetically levitated (maglev) line from Tokyo to Osaka. Japan apparently sees this as a way to revitalize its economy, especially if it can sell the trains to the United States and other countries.


Maglev train being tested in Japan. Wikimedia commons photo by Yosemite.

The Antiplanner has maintained that transportation improvements are economic game changers only if they make travel faster, cheaper, and/or more convenient. Maglev meets only one of those criteria: at projected speeds of a little more than 300 mph, maglev would be at least 50 percent faster than existing high-speed trains and possibly even faster than flying over short distances. Flights from Tokyo to Osaka, the route of the proposed maglev, take about 80 minutes, and the maglev promises to reduce times to little more than an hour.

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Funny, Funny Men

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver are very funny men. Their humor also has a distinct liberal bias. It’s possible that they don’t think they are biased, because they sometimes criticize Democrats as well as (though not nearly as often as) Republicans. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t biased.

By “liberal bias,” I don’t mean they always support Obama. Most of their humor is directed to two targets: first, government officials who lie, waste money, and/or support policies that kill innocent people; and second, people who don’t trust government.

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Good-Bye Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

Antiplanner readers know that I have no sympathy for Clive Bundy, who has been trespassing on federal lands for two decades and somehow made people feel like he was the victim. Perhaps it seems strange, then, that I have a lot more sympathy for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, whose operations in California’s Point Reyes National Seashore the National Park Service is trying to shut down.


Incompatible use? As long as the oyster company could avoid using motorized equipment in the part of the bay designated wilderness, oyster growing should be compatible with wilderness. Flickr photo by Earthworm.

At first glance, the facts are similar. Both Bundy and Drakes Bay
used public lands or waters for decades, and were allowed to continue to use those resources after the BLM took over the former and the Park Service took over the latter. Then Congress passed laws–the Endangered Species Act in Bundy’s case and a wilderness law covering the oyster farm–that restricted the use of those resources.

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Solar Conways

Crowdsourcing is one of those great ideas that could only come about because of the Internet. But it also opens up the possibilities for con artists, or at least advocates of really bad ideas, to get money from people who don’t know any better.

One of those bad ideas is solar roadways, which–thanks to a tweet by George Takei (because actors on science fiction TV shows know so much more about science than other celebrities)–received more than $2 million in pledges when its promoters asked for only half that. The pledges kept coming in even after numerous web sites debunked the proposal to turn roads into solar energy collectors.

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Uncompetitive Transit

A web site called You Are Here has put together an intriguing series of maps showing the best mode of transportation from any point in various cites to any other part of those cities. So far, the maps cover Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, Salt Lake City, Cambridge, Boulder, and Santa Monica.


Click image to go to the “Best Mode” Portland map.

Select any of the above cities (or click here to see if more cities have been added), wait for the map to load, then click anywhere on the map. Instantly, the map is color coded to show the fastest mode of transportation from the point you selected to anywhere else in the city. Modes include walking, cycling, public transit, and driving.

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Ignoring the Law of Supply & Demand

The Twin Cities Metropolitan Council is currently writing the Thrive Plan, which–like so many other urban plans today–aims to cram most new development into high-density transit centers. To justify this policy, the council naturally hired Arthur Nelson, the University of Utah urban planning professor who has predicted that the U.S. will soon have 22 million surplus single-family homes on large lots.


Click image to download a copy of the report.

“Demand for attached and multifamily housing in the Twin Cities will continue to grow,” trumpets the Met Council’s press release about Nelson’s report on Twin Cities housing. That, of course, is what the Met Council wanted Nelson to “prove,” which is why they hired him. However, his report can’t really justify the Met Council’s plans.

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There’s an App for Disruption

A former limousine driver and current editor of Limo Insider Report has written a persuasive letter of complaint about Uber to the U.S. Attorney General, accusing the ride-sharing company of circumventing all sorts of laws and regulations. Similarly, the Taxicab, Limousine, and Paratransit Association argues that Uber and Lyft are risky for consumers to use. These are both good points.

At the same time, at least some of those regulations are in place for the specific purpose of limiting competition within the taxi industry. As a result, as the Washington Post observes, taxi medallions “have been the best investment in America for years.”

When regulations are in place to protect the providers of a good or service, the consumers usually are the losers. Politicians, policy makers, and opinion leaders need to understand that the true value of a policy must be judged from the point of view of consumers, not providers.

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Congress Should Get Out of the Transportation Business

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has bravely proposed to pass a three-month transportation bill. Three more months, he says, will give Congress a chance to figure out a long-term solution. The only problem is that Congress had three months three months ago and did nothing.


Would you buy a used transportation system from these people?

Meanwhile, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bob Corker (R-TN) have proposed to increase gas taxes by 12 cents a gallon. Considering that the gas tax hasn’t been increased in more than 20 inflation-filled years, this would seem to make sense.

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