Despite claims of a downtown population boom, the reality is that every demographic group is growing faster in the suburbs than the cities–and that includes poor people. According to an L.A. Timesreport on a new book from Brookings, between 2000 and 2011, the number of poor people living in suburbs grew by 67 percent and now outnumber poor people living in cities.
This is supposed to be a problem because antipoverty agencies are “unprepared to meet the need in suburban areas.” This being Brookings, one of the remedies is supposed to be “more (and better) transportation options” (meaning public transit) in the suburbs. But this begs the question: if antipoverty agencies and public transit are so critical to poor people, why did so many poor people move to the suburbs in the first place? The answer, of course, is that they aren’t that helpful.
Meanwhile, a report from Australia suggests that one reason why low-income populations are growing in the suburbs is that wealthy and upper-middle-class people are crowding poor people out of the inner cities. This is certainly the situation in many American urban areas, such as San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. This, of course, is what the cities wanted: to lure the high-taxpaying people away from the suburbs. In many cases, however, the way they are doing it is not by making the cities attractive to the rich but by making them unaffordable for the poor.
Police cars today have cameras that can scan the license places on every car they see. Plate numbers are transmitted to a central computer and if a number is flagged as wanted in any way, the police in the cruiser get an alert and they can pull the car over. That sounds reassuring but it also represents a potentially serious invasion of privacy.
Compared with this, privacy concerns over such things as self-driving cars or VMT pricing seem tame. Yet conservatives manage to freak out over potential invasions of privacy by Google’s self-driving car as well as by proposals for VMT pricing.
Let’s get this straight. There is nothing about self-driving cars that are potentially an invasion of people’s privacy. Unlike police cars, the cars do not report to nor are they monitored by some central computer, Instead, all the electronics is on board the car. While some car systems being designed today could invade people’s privacy, the systems used to enable cars to drive themselves are not among them.
“Implementation of Plan Bay Area will require the demolition of more than 169,000 single-family detached homes, or one out of every nine such homes in the region, according to table 2.3-2 of the draft environmental impact report. Any earthquake or other natural event that resulted in this much destruction would be counted as the greatest natural catastrophe in American history.”
The Antiplanner would like to think this is one of the better opening paragraphs that I have written in some time. My complete comments on Plan Bay Area are now available for download.
In reviewing my previous post on this subject, my friend MSetty made the good point that Plan Bay Area planners put that 169,000 home figure in terms of a change in demand. Although 56 percent of Bay Area households live in single-family detached homes today, by 2040 only 39 percent will want to, so say the planners.
While Plan Bay Area is terrorizing the San Francisco area, Plan Lafayette is doing the same to the much smaller community of Lafayette, Louisiana (city population 125,000; parish population 225,000). Lafayette has a consolidated city-parish government, so the whims of one council can control what happens in the entire parish.
Plan Lafayette has four alternatives, and like Plan Bay Area all but one are various forms of growth-management planning, while the remaining one is “do nothing.” Not surprisingly, planners snidely imply that doing nothing will lead to more congestion and higher taxes, when in fact, the reverse is probably true. “Minimal provisions are made to reduce traffic congestion or to provide community services, because of the high costs of servicing a very large area,” say the planners. “Without a plan, government can only address issues in a reactionary versus a proactive manner.”
Local tea party activists asked the Antiplanner to present a different view in a ten-minute slide show. The result actually is less than nine minutes, and they found someone else to narrate it, so you don’t have to listen to my droning, nasal voice.
Comments are due this Thursday on the draft environmental impact report for Plan Bay Area, a regional plan written for nine counties that surround San Francisco Bay. This plan is so poorly written that it makes me proud to be an antiplanner; if I were a real planner, I’d be ashamed to be associated with a profession that could produce such a shoddy plan.
The main problem with the plan is that its main prescriptions were set in advance of any analysis of whether they would be effective. In fact, planners never did analyze whether those or any alternative policies would cost-effectively meet the plan’s goals.
Portland transit follies are increasingly scrutinized by the local media, something that should have happened years ago when there was still a chance of stopping projects such as the $1.5 billion boondoggle low-capacity rail line to Milwaukie. (The video below shows why it is such a boondoggle.)
Joseph Rose, the superreporter who can walk faster than a speeding streetcar, has found that the fare machines for Portland’s low-capacity rail lines are in service a lot less than the agency claims. Some are down more than 35 percent of the time. Since they give out $175 tickets to people who don’t pay their fare, this can be distressing.
A year ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation dramatically shut down more than two dozen “Chinatown” bus companies for safety violations. At the time, the Antiplanner expressed skepticism, saying that if the same criteria were applied to transit agencies such as Washington Metro or Boston’s MBTA, they would be shut down too. But the DOT said it relied on a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) study that found that “curbside” buses were seven times more dangerous than conventional intercity buses.
Fung Wah, the original Chinatown bus company, was not one of the ones shut down in last year’s federal raids. Wikipedia photo by Toytoy.
Now, some people are challenging this study, saying that its methods were so faulty it may as well have been completely fabricated. The NTSB has a reputation for sound quantitative analysis, but this study was first questioned by Aaron Brown, a Wall Street financial analyst, who accused the NTSB of “statistical malpractice” for improperly manipulating data and refusing to release its raw data. Based on what data were available, Brown estimated that curbside buses were actually safer than conventional ones.
The Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is one of those transit agencies that depends on annual appropriations for its operations, maintenance, and improvements. The agency bitterly complains that it doesn’t have a “dedicated fund” meaning a tax on something else that it can count on whether it serves its customers or not. It tried to get permission to have the state impose a toll on Interstate 80 and give SEPTA the money, but the federal government rejected the idea.
In 2011, fares covered less than 29 percent of SEPTA’s costs, including both operating and capital costs. Local governments provided only 7 percent, the feds 20 percent (mostly capital funds), leaving the state to cover 42 percent of the agency’s budget. Without more money, says SEPTA, it will have to cut service.
Black rhinos have reportedly been extirpated from Mozambique, and the loss is partly blamed on park rangers who were hired to protect them but who earned more money helping poachers. Supposedly, “conservationists are trying anything and everything to put a stop to” such poaching, including using “surveillance drones and hidden sensors, to monitor . . . human activity in reserves.”
Maybe, however, they haven’t tried everything. Rhinos are a difficult case because so few are left, but in general, African wildlife is doing best in countries with secure property rights. Unfortunately, Mozambique is not one of those countries. Someone may think they own land, but the country has few of the institutions needed for them to prove it. If you can’t prove you own land, think how hard it must be to prove you own wildlife.
The Antiplanner’s faithful ally, Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation, told a Congressional committee last week that highway user fees should be dedicated to highways and any federal subsidies to transit should come out of other funds. Unfortunately, we have become so used to the idea that everything should be subsidized that advocates of transit subsidies could get away with calling Poole’s ideas “crazy talk.”
Why is it crazy to think that user fees should go to the infrastructure that the users are using? I suppose the transit lobby thinks that some of the money people pay for clothes at Wal-Mart and J.C. Penneys should go to subsidize Paris fashions. Or that some of the money people spend on ordinary groceries should subsidize gourmet restaurants.
After all, transit–at least the kind of transit these people want–is a luxury, not a necessity. They want expensive transit systems aimed at getting relatively well-off people out of their cars. To pay for these systems, they want to tax the more-than-92 percent of mostly ordinary people who have and use cars as their primary modes of transportation.