Pander bears

With Clinton in bed with McCain and Bush on the gas tax holiday, it is nice to see Obama opposing.
From the Strib comments Roadguy Blog Archive � Gas taxes: Ads at the pump? A federal holiday?
The sensible readers of the Strib have spoken, the gas tax holiday is a bad idea, of 17 responses, 0 were in favor and most against.

New Town Center for Columbia

An article from the Baltimore Sun: Town aims to redraw its core
One suspects the newspaper article above is not terribly accurate or complete (“Retail and arts space, and possibly an international center for the study of small cities, would front the roadway, replacing the office towers that ring the mall complex area.” … will office really be replaced by art, maybe complemented, but not replaced), but it appears the General Growth Properties plan, which has gone through many iterations, finally begins to account for the Mall as the centerpiece of downtown, and tie it in rather than keeping it separate.
The Howard County govt plan is here (pdf).
My previous posts on Columbia are here, and here.
The meeting is tonight, alas it is not being webcast. The official website is here: Columbia Town Center

Gas May Finally Cost Too Much

From BusinessWeek Gas May Finally Cost Too Much
“Now, with nationwide gasoline prices having passed the inflation-adjusted record of $3.40 a gallon set back in 1981, the U.S. Energy Information Administration is predicting that gasoline consumption will actually fall 0.3% this year. That would be the first annual decline since 1991. ”

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

A very nice essay by Clay Shirky: Gin, Television, and Social Surplus .
It leads to the thought, just as we wasted time with Gin and TV, we also waste enormous resources while traveling that could be more productive (both personally and socially) in many other ways. Car radios, Ipods, cell phones, in-car computers help, but only go so far if we are still required to drive. (or are confined as a passenger in a system requiring frequent transfers or without adequate space). This is one reason why the DARPA urban challenge is potentially so important (in terms of leading to a fundamental change in how society operates), affecting how we spend 90 minutes a day.

Another Minnesota Bridge falls silent

The Lowry Avenue Bridge across the Mississippi has been closed: Minneapolis ‘singing’ bridge goes silent and Lowry Avenue Bridge to be shut down
It always made me nervous driving across, with the steel grates instead of a proper paved roadbed. I am sure it was fine, except I like the illusion of surface under my car, which the steel grates prevented.
Too bad they couldn’t time this with the reconstruction of Lowry Avenuetwo years ago, or have gotten the funding and design in place before they had to close it, so a year wouldn’t be wasted with a closed bridge and no construction. Some of the designs shown on the Strib article (above) look good, certainly better than the I-35W bridge.

Honda Crime Alerting GPS: Honda GPS Warns Drivers of High Crime Zones”

Via Techdirt, from Gizmodo: Honda Crime Alerting GPS: Honda GPS Warns Drivers of High Crime Zones
While now in Japan, the social implications of this are interesting. Can’t people figure this out just by observing the environment themselves though?

Does alcohol lubricate Putnam’s social capital?

Minnesota ranks among worst in DWIs, study shows
“Minnesota has one of the nation’s worst drunken driving rates, said a government report that says 15 percent of adult drivers nationally report driving under the influence of alcohol in the previous year. Here are the states with the worst records:
1. Wisconsin, 26.4 percent
2. North Dakota, 26.4 percent
3. Minnesota, 23.5 percent
4. Nebraska, 22.9 percent
5. South Dakota, 21.6 percent”
Note, these are also almost exactly the states with the highest social capital according to Robert Putnam’s index (see the book Bowling Alone)
Table 4.1 Social capital scores by state
Rank State Score
1 North Dakota 1.712
2 South Dakota 1.693
3 Vermont 1.424
4 Minnesota 1.325
5 Montana 1.296
6 Nebraska 1.157
7 Iowa 0.988
8 New Hampshire 0.779
9 Wyoming 0.6710
10 Washington 0.6511
11 Wisconsin 0.5912
12 Oregon 0.57
(Source: Putnam 2000)
(Kevin Krizek and I discuss Putnam’s social capital idea in the book Planning for Place and Plexus
This raises the interesting question: does alcohol lubricate Putnam’s social capital?
From a social perspective, drinking alone at home may be better than drinking away from home. But what do I know, I am a teetotaler.

Government to release proposed fuel economy rules

Government to release proposed fuel economy rules
These rules implement the law that requires Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards of 35 mpg by 2020.
Historically CAFE standards seem to correlate with progress in fuel efficiency, rising from 12.9 MPG for new cars in 1974, though the present standard has been unchanged since the early 1980s and as a consequence, with the shift from passenger cars to light trucks, the combined fleet fuel economy has dropped slightly from a peak in 1987 of 26 mpg to about 25 mpg presently.
See Automobile and Light Truck Fuel Economy: The CAFE Standards for more background information and discussion as of 2006. See especially Figure 1.
For some historical reason CAFE standards were the provenance of NHTSA, the safety agency. (probably because the agency regulated vehicles).
I suspect the CAFE standard could be raised higher, which would push technology faster, and more toward battery-based and hybrid systems. It is too bad the market can’t do this on its own, (i.e. why don’t people buy their own fuel efficient vehicles rather than relying on govt. standards and forced cross-subsidies by automakers between gas guzzlers and gas sippers) and this is a very inefficient way of internalizing externalities, but it is apparently politically easier to regulate automakers than to raise gas taxes.

Clinton Joins McCain on Gas-Tax Holiday; Obama Opposes

From WSJ: Clinton Joins McCain on Gas-Tax Holiday; Obama Opposes
One more reason Clinton should not be President. Think about it this way, imagine there were a road utility, which was a separate non-profit (but also non-loss) organization that managed roads, and received revenue from users, revenue which could only be spent on roads. We wouldn’t let politicians take away its revenue because some other price went up.
Perhaps this is the model we should consider to help depoliticize road management.