Planning Curses

David Metz writes about a great paper by Bridget Rosewell Planning Curses

“Planning Curses
‘Planning Curses’ is the title of a paper by the economist Bridget Rosewell, published by think tank Policy Exchange, which challenges conventional approaches to justifying investment in infrastructure. Economic models are too complicated and have a poor track record; and welfare analysis as the basis for benefits means little to those affected by investments – for instance the notional travel time savings from transport investments.
Bridget Rosewell wants us to pursue projects on the basis of their contribution to the economy, not to ‘welfare’, with business cases which engage business; and to use long-term frameworks for thinking about the future, rather than plans or blue-prints.
A stimulating critique of the standard approach.”

JWT: 100 Things to Watch in 2011

J Walter Thomson ad agency has trend spotters (sounds like a fun job), who have put together a slide-show: 100 Things to Watch in 2011
Key transportation items:
5. Auto Apps
39. Green luxury cars
57. The New Mobility Industry
70. P-to-P Car Sharing
84. Space Travel Goes Private
96. Urban Industrial Parks
An interesting list, a bit-obsessed about London, Celebrities, and Brazil otherwise.

A Physicist Turns the City Into an Equation

This NY Times article has been making the rounds A Physicist Solves the City
Now that the city is solved, I guess we can all go home.
Apparently physicists have discovered larger cities (1) consume more resources, and (2) possess some economies of scale and agglomeration er “superlinear scaling” (cities increase in per capita productivity by 15% with every doubling). It would be nice if for once a physicist read something outside their own discipline. I won’t say the rest is bogus – but I don’t think New York City with 8 million people is 1.15^4=1.75 as productive per capita as a city with 1 million people (1 -> 2 -> 4 -> 8) or .03 -> .06 -> .125 -> .25 -> .5 -> 1.0 -> 2 -> 4 -> 8 = 1.15^8 = 3 times as productive per capita as a US city with 30,000 people. It really gets to how you define cities (and productivity), and the bounds within which you are working and have observable, reliable data. There is no reason to believe this is constant over all ranges of city sizes. Further, if this were true, wouldn’t everyone in the world live in a single city, with all the productivity that would generate. The positive externalities are offset by negative externalities which reduce productivity. Perhaps there is an optimal city size, given a certain technology level. This is not likely to be constant with changes in technology. Certainly average compensation in NY is not 3x greater than a city of 30000 people.
However I must say Santa Fe Institute has a great publicity machine which the rest of us in academia covet.
For further reading on something that has passed peer-review in our field, see
Cities as Organisms: Allometric Scaling of Urban Road Networks by Horacio Samaniego and Melanie E. Moses. Journal of Transport and Land Use 1:1, pp. 21-39, Summer 2008.