Transit expert Jarrett Walker gives Elements of Access a nice review over at his blog Human Transit. I quote the first part here:
Access — where can you get to soon? — is, or should be, the core idea of transportation planning. David Levinson has long been one of the leaders in quantifying and analyzing access, and this work kicks off this fine new book. The cover — a 1925 map showing travel times to the centre of Melbourne, Australia — captures the universality of the idea. Access is what I prefer to call freedom: Where you can go determines what you can do, so access is about literally everything that matters to us once we step out our front door.
But that’s just the beginning of this very friendly book. Elements of Access is really a tour of the whole field of transport planning, and its goal is to strike a balance between academic precision and readability. In this, it’s a great success. I’ve never taken more pleasure from reading academic writing about transport. The writing is mostly clear and easy to read, and deftly combines technical ideas with references to everyday life.
The book is also easy to browse. It’s organized in units of 1-2 pages, grouped under six themes. Photos are used well. Footnotes appear in the otherwise white space on each page, so that there’s no flipping to them, and interesting nuggets in them have a chance to catch your eye. The book is also full of internal references, aiming for the structure of a hypertext to the extent that a physical book can.
I first caught this review on Twitter.
For non-academic folks interested in the theory of transport planning, here’s a friendly new book, full of readable explanations. My review: https://t.co/H2fnfR7MTU@trnsprtst
I am grateful it has been retweeted so many times and favorited even more. Now all of you should purchase the book!
At the end of his review Jarrett notes we didn’t cite his book, Human Transit, which is an unfortunate oversight which will undoubtedly be corrected in the second edition. You should read his book too. A review of Human Transit by Kari Watkins can be found in JTLU 5(3).
In the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams, a ghost whispers “Build it and they will come” ‘it‘ refers to a baseball field; ‘they‘ are the ghosts of past baseball players. This has been adopted by planners to describe the idea of induced demand, which applied in transport is that if you build a new facility (road, tracks, etc.) demand will respond and use it, making trips that previously would have been unmade.
This has been illustrated using economic supply and demand curves, and to an economist this “induced” or “latent” demand was always there, just unrealized until the cost of travel was lowered by the new capacity. The road (or train) fills up, congestion returns (or at least the expected congestion reduction benefits do not last long, as travelers adapt to the new environment. The consumers’ surplus increases, as people can now do things they want to do at lower cost. In the planner’s telling, only the hapless traffic engineer (or traffic modeler who is as often a planner as engineer), who made the partial equilibrium assumption that demand does not respond to supply, is surprised by this growth.
Of course induced demand is not surprising to anyone who has thought about this, and the idea of induced demand has long been well understood, even if the magnitude of induced demand associated with any given project are hard to estimate, and the models are not used appropriately, and internal consistency between model inputs and outputs is still not standard practice [I did my MS Thesis on this more than 25 years ago, and it wasn’t a new idea then.] A related notion is Say’s Law, from 1803: Supply creates its own demand, or more pedantically as per Wikipedia “that aggregate production necessarily creates an equal quantity of aggregate demand.” Induced demand has been dealt with previously on the blog, here we lay out the hypotheses a bit more formally.
But there are 4 specific hypotheses (and 4 null alternatives) that can be generated here, varying three dimensions: construction (supply), demand response, and sequence:
H2: They come and [then] you will build it. [Because supply responds to demand, or because you were building it regardless] [Compare H1]
H2null: They come and [then] you didn’t build it. [Because supply is independent of demand] [See H3]
If you don’t build it, will they come? [Exogenous Demand Question]
H3: Don’t build it and [then] they will come [anyway]. [Because demand is independent of supply] [See H2null]
H3null: Don’t build it and [then] they won’t come [Either because demand is independent of supply, or because you didn’t build it]. [See H4null]
If they don’t come, will you build it? [Exogenous Supply Question]
H4: They don’t come and [then] you build it. [Because supply is independent of demand] [See H1null]
H4null: They don’t come and [then] you didn’t build it. [Either because supply is independent of demand or because they didn’t come.] [See H3null]
Each of these tells us something a bit different. There is both the dependence of the supply-demand question (are they dependent or independent), and there is the sequencing (which comes first, transport or land use).
Of course these are binaries, and we could consider how many of “them” need to come for us to say “they came”. So you built a stadium to seat 10,000 and 5,000 came, is that evidence of induced demand? In short, yes, but not as much as you planned for.
Karl Popper developed the idea of falsifiability, which a website says: “is the assertion that for any hypothesis to have credence, it must be inherently disprovable before it can become accepted as a scientific hypothesis or theory.”
Sequencing, matters here, and it’s hard to prove a negative. A single sequence of events cannot provide proof for induced demand, maybe everyone was going to show up in Kinsella’s Field anyway, and the field just accommodated them. Just because they never showed up before he built the stadium is not the evidence we require. Instead, we need to compare multiple cases to justify our case, and build the evidence for it.
A sequence of events can however disprove induced demand (or supply), as the list above illustrates, there are several cases where construction does not result in demand (we can conclusively disallow induced demand in that case) or where demand does not create supply (we can conclusively refute induced supply).
There are some other issues, what if they come and you didn’t build it (or you didn’t build and they come)? It is sort of hard to get the sequence correct in the absence of an event, when did the event of non-construction happen (or when did construction not happen)? Always. The related question is when did the absence of demand occur?
In either case, negative externalities ensue, this is the NIMBY fear of growth without supporting infrastructure. NIMBYs may not want the growth with the supporting infrastructure either, but their main complaint, on face value, is growth without it, which realistically may negatively affect their personal quality of life and property value. Whether or not you believe they should prevail, you at least understand their point-of-view.
Policy responses to ensure consistency between supply and demand include concurrency or adequate public facilities ordinances. Having worked on these before, these are rightly treated skeptically by the public.
The idea of the two-sided market is best exemplified by eBay. This is hardly a great website (c. 2018), but it remains valuable because it connects buyers and sellers. I look for stuff there because vendors are there. Vendors sell stuff there because buyers are there. eBay gets its middleman cut, and better websites can’t get a foothold since shifting everyone simultaneously is hard. Many tech companies try to do this. Amazon in a similar vein, though it also takes the role of vendor. Uber matches taxis with passengers (but loses money still, and may need to become a fleet operator). There is lock-in because of the two-sided nature of the marketplace and the value to consumers of a variety of suppliers, and to producers of numerous consumers, despite the competitors. Dating services match people seeking contact.
eBay is just the virtualization of a flea market (or shopping mall). Those are physical places where everyone goes to trade. The shopping mall (and parking lot owner) collects rent from the vendors to be able to participate. In some cases they may also collect rent from the shoppers (charging for parking, for instance). Bars and clubs collect rent (in terms of alcohol sales) from potential mates seeking each other.
Cities can be thought of as two-sided markets as well. The primary economic function of cities is production.
I am here because you are here, you are here because I am here.
In this case, it is the production process, rather than (or in addition to) the consumption process that is relevant. Laborers and Employers co-locate, people to get jobs, employers to attract workers. Cities (or those who own them, the landowners), if managing this properly, profit from this through taxes and increased property values. In a democratic context, this is an argument for land value taxes, since the land value appreciates because of the actions of others.
Cities compete with each other, but each has some spatial monopoly aspects as well. They also have specialization. Los Angeles for instance specializes in film-making among other things. Everyone is there because everyone else is there. It’s not impossible to make movies elsewhere, yet many if not most are made in greater “Hollywood”.
Each film producer is also a multi-sided market, connecting all the elements of film production (writers, actors, set-designers, directors, sound production, cameras, editing) and distribution, which are otherwise largely independent individuals and organizations that come together to create art and entertainment, and then disband. As such, producers have power over the system in their coordinating function. Though technically anyone could put together a team, a producer has connections that cause people to believe that he (or she) will put together a more artistically and remuneratively successful team, and thereby attract people to want to be part of it. Success breeds success and power. The recent Hollywood scandals relate to the exploitation of power by immoral actors and producers.
Universities establish several multi-sided markets. Students and Professors are matched. Now in the modern world, students don’t directly pay the professors, it is mediated by the university, but we can go back in time, and imagine the professors paying rent to the university to have the privilege of teaching, and collecting directly from students. Instead universities commodified teaching and turned professors into laborers.
Researchers and funders are mediated by universities as well. You can’t be an independent professor and expect to get funded by science agencies in the modern world. This is mediated by universities and similar organizations with Sponsored Research Offices. In fact researchers who are not tenured faculty do pay rent to the university in terms of “overhead.”
Perhaps the most cynical relationship is between students and employers. Students come to the university to learn and get a degree, but also become certified as employable, and to get some assistance in finding work (access to job fairs is baseline for this, some schools, especially business schools, go much farther in assisting job placement). So the university is selling itself to students as a place where they can get a first job, and they are selling themselves to employers as a place where they can find labor. In fact universities often speak of training the workforce, as if finding a job with a large organization (as opposed to becoming an independent entrepreneur who starts new companies, much less a well-educated human being) is the goal.
Power and Politics
Power accrues to the middleman. Most power comes from being the middleman in a difficult-to-disintermediate multi-sided market. Everyone agrees you have power because of common rationality of beliefs. If everyone thinks that everyone thinks you have power, then you have power, because changing everyone’s beliefs simultaneously isn’t just hard, it’s the veritable herding cats.
People feign loyalty to powerful individuals. Many want to appear to be loyal. Society rewards that characteristic, as someone who exhibits loyal to someone else might be loyal to me. They may even feel loyal (as what better way to appear to be loyal than to be actually loyal). But in the end almost all who claim loyalty will leave when the going gets tough. They will ‘defect’ in game theory terms if they believe that serves their long term interests, like rats fleeing a sinking ship.
Likewise, if everyone believed you didn’t have power, then you wouldn’t. I could act against you and no one would back you.
Power is an interesting thing:
Most 9/11 attackers were Saudi.
So Bush uses 9/11 to invade Iraq.
& Trump uses 9/11 to block people from 7 Muslim nations but not Saudi
Saudi Arabia has power. Where does it come from? Oil is the surface answer, but it’s not just that, it is how they use oil revenue (and promises of future revenue) to buy friendship. I am not privy to the specific conversations, but if the oil keeps flowing, other people with power (Presidents of the United States) still yield to them.
The following people have been paid by Goldman Sachs, a large investment bank:
Goldman Sachs has power and used the revenue it generated to pay a relatively small amount to cover its bases in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure it had access to power after the election. This is important so that it will be considered Too Big To Fail during the inevitable next crisis, as well as getting better tax treatment in more ordinary times.
U.S. Vice PresidentDick Cheney shot Harry Whittington during an alcohol-infused car-based quail-hunting trip. Harry Whittington apologized for getting in the way of the bullet and inconveniencing the Vice President. Dick Cheney had power.
So today, the President of the United States has power because enough people continue to agree that he has power, despite a glaring incapacity for the role. If instead he were continuously disobeyed by his staff and the federal government, he would not have any. The risk is that this would bring the whole system down, and people are (rightfully) nervous about the unintended consequences. Revolutions have a mixed history. But the ability to grant power is in our collective selves, and we can choose to not grant it. Consent of the governed is an important concept, but the difficulty of displacing the lock-in of multi-sided markets should not be underestimated.
So your planet has global warming. Venus says “Welcome to the club!” CO2 pollution  not only destroys the environment and adds to remediation costs, the traditional air pollution that comes with it shortens your life. While this undoubtedly annoys you as a human being, it could be worse; your planet might not have excess carbon dioxide emissions or pollution because no one wants to be there (hello Mars). Still, it would be great to have a thriving planet without pollution. People could do more things over their longer life.
Pollution like congestion can be thought of as a queueing problem. There is a demand side (production of pollution) and a supply side (the ability (capacity) of the environment to process pollutants). When the production of a pollutant exceeds the ability of the environment to process, the pollutant builds up, e.g. there is more CO2 in the atmosphere because humans produce more CO2 than nature can absorb in the short run. So like traffic in a queue, CO2 in the atmosphere rises. This is a straight-forward physical process.
When the CO2 in the atmosphere rises, the heat of the planet rises with it. This is also a straight-forward physical process, noted by Arrhenius in the 19th century. Now like transport and behavioral systems, environmental systems are complex, so even though the direction is clear, the rate of change is hard to ascertain, and there are many mitigating or exacerbating feedbacks. Still more CO2 emissions means more heat.
Some of that gets absorbed in trees or the ocean, or is not measured, but the temperature will rise. If the rate of human production of excess CO2 falls to zero, the excess CO2 in the atmosphere will eventually be absorbed by nature, the queue will be discharged. But nature will have been changed by the whole process. For as long as we don’t have net zero or net negative carbon emissions, the queue of unabsorbed pollution will continue to lengthen.
There are a number of proffered solutions out there. Pollution is, in principle, a mostly solvable problem, even if no fast-growing planet has, to the best of our knowledge, fully solved it.
This article outlines ways that pollution could be solved. Some of these are dumb, many are good, one is great.
Capacity [Bio-Engineering] – Perhaps the most obvious, ‘common sense’, solution when demand (pollution) is in excess of supply is to expand capacity. This is what we do with most things if we can. If our house is too small, we make it bigger. If our wallet can’t hold all of our cash and ID cards, we get a bigger one. If the internet is too slow, we add capacity. In roads, this usually means adding lanes to existing roads. Perhaps we could plant more trees to absorb more carbon pollution. Unfortunately, there is not enough space for enough trees to offset the problem. Maybe algae in the oceans, but that sure seems like that would have adverse consequences.
Capacity [Geo-Engineering] – Besides planting trees, perhaps we could do something faster, typically called geo-engineering, using the power of chemistry to capture CO2 gas or change CO2 gas into something more benign. Wikipedia lists a bunch of inter-related topics:
The first problem with this set of solutions is that it is potentially expensive. Adding to the ability of the planet to absorb pollution is difficult. Unlike transport, people have only done this kind of geo-engineering speculatively. So there is a huge risk associated with some of these techniques, especially the more speculative ocean fertilization. But you know, “what could go wrong?” For the less expensive methods, the question is whether they can scale to be significant contributors.
Solar Radiation Management. Just deal with the heat, ignore the carbon. As Wikipedia says: “Solar radiation management (SRM) techniques would seek to reduce sunlight absorbed (ultra-violet, near infra-red and visible). This would be achieved by deflecting sunlight away from the Earth, or by increasing the reflectivity (albedo) of the atmosphere or the Earth’s surface.” This sounds like a terrible idea to me, but if the CO2 is bad only because of the rising heat, it could be an interim solution. Volcanoes have similar effects. The problem is cold summers, and one could easily imagine this going badly for crops (and thus humans). Wikipedia has a series of articles …
The first set of strategies are basically supply side. But pollution problems are caused by a mismatch of supply (ability to absorb) and demand (production). So let’s turn to demand. The main sources of demand are transport, industry, agriculture, and residential, with the electric power sector serving these indirectly.
Emissions = Liters/KM x Carbon/Liter x Vehicle KM Traveled.
If cars had better fuel consumption, less emissions per fuel consumed, or traveled less, there would be less emissions. All three of these things can be worked on together.
The first few are technological shifts, the latter will require behavioral change.
Bio-fuels – If all of our fuel was from recently deceased plant matter, rather than oil (long deceased plant matter), and those plants were replanted, net CO2 from burning fuels would be about zero (assuming the equipment used to harvest and transport the bio-fuels also used bio-fuels, (like turtles, all the way down)). The advantage is that the energy density of liquid fuels is generally better than batteries. The disadvantage is the large amount of area needed for bio-fuels, which will compete with food agriculture for the best farmland. This is likely to be especially important for aviation.
Controls Better pollution control devices like the catalytic converter for Internal Combustion Engine vehicles have significantly reduced tailpipe emissions of EPA criteria pollutants. Something similar could be done for CO2 emissions. So the same amount of liters would somehow produce fewer tons of carbon. The difficulty here is chemistry. The gasoline is ultimately burned, producing CO2. Perhaps it can be captured and stored, or catalyzed into some other what we know believe to be innocuous byproduct. Arguably this is a supply side method, but I class it as demand side here as the aim is to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted, not improve the capacity to deal with emitted CO2.
Improve fuel economy in transport. Better fuel economy for Internal Combustion Engine vehicles has significantly reduced fuel use, and thus CO2, and has plenty of generally good side effects for society, like reduced air pollution and less dependence of oil more generally. Increased energy efficiency overall throughout the economy is feasible.
Electrify the automobile fleet, switch the energy source for automobiles from fossil fuels to electricity powered by renewable sources (e.g. solar and wind and hydro and nuclear) or use fuel cells to transform the number of Liters/KM to zero.
Reduce (or end) automobile use. This works on the third part of the equation. Transport is about 1/3 of CO2 pollution, plus or minus. My earlier post “21 Strategies to Solve Congestion“, (which this not-coincidentally resembles), outlines how to reduce automobile demand, which is a large or the largest source of CO2 pollution. So long as cars continue to rely on the Internal Combustion Engine (in some form for a few more decades yet), reducing automobile demand and gasoline consumption will be critical to reducing CO2. There are many reasons to reduce automobile use, pollution among them. It turns out that biking is more efficient than driving. It turns out, more surprisingly, that eBikes are more efficient than bikes (after netting out the extra energy for the extra food for the extra calories burned biking).
The same basic logic applies outside the transport sector. Emissions depends on energy consumption, carbon content, and activity.
Conserve. Reduce electricity and natural gas consumption at home and work. Use LED light bulbs. Insulate your buildings. As Jimmy Carter suggested, put on a sweater and set the thermostat cooler in the winter. Strip naked and set the thermostat higher in the summer (though he didn’t say it, he may have thought it). Recycle. There are a thousand or more ways to reduce energy consumption.
Make production processes more energy efficient. This is related to conservation, in that it reduces consumption, but at a much bigger and holistic scale, and examines the process by which outcomes are achieved.
Use Renewable Energy in the Electricity Sector. Electricity is about 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Transformation from burning coal is well underway, and adoption of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydro power, among others, are the best way to get this sector down to zero net CO2 emissions over the coming decades. There is a large amount of fixed capacity (sunk costs) out there now, so the transition will take some time.
Reduce industrial energy demand by closing industry – Industry is about 1/5 of CO2 pollution. Perhaps intuitively, if we shut down polluting industries, we reduce pollution. To the extent we want the thing the industry intends to pollute (aside from the pollution), this might be problematic. If we want it closed, but want the goods, the factory will pop up elsewhere with fewer environmental strictures.
Exhortion – Tell people they shouldn’t pollute because it is bad for themselves, or society, or will condemn them in perpetuity to an unpleasant afterlife. Guilt can get you a little bit of benefit, but as evidenced by the state of the world, can only go so far. This is really a means to one of the other ways of actually reducing pollution.
Rationing – Give people and firms pollution credits, the right to emit a certain amount of CO2 per year. Reduce that credit annually. Allow them to trade credits for money. If it were cost effective to reduce pollution, they would do so to sell credits. If it were not, they could buy credits. When people talk about cap and trade, that is a form of rationing.
Pricing – Charge people and firms for the amount of pollution they generate and they will generate less pollution.
How do polluters reduce pollution?This is the best part. Each individual or firm decides for themselves whether or how to consume or pollute less, what production processes to change, when to substitute clean power for dirty. With pricing, polluters will see the air, which is now treated as an unregulated commons as a valuable resource, and if they increase throughput per unit of carbon, they will save money. They will try to be more efficient about managing the use of the existing clean air.
Isn’t this another tax?This is the second best part. It raises money by discouraging people from doing something that we don’t want them to do. Other high taxes on things that we do want them to do (like work) can be lowered. Done properly, this is revenue neutral.
Can this work?This is the third best part. There are many proposed strategies to implement pricing. Obviously this has been politically difficult, or it would already be widespread. Carbon taxes are the simplest intervention, and we already do this in some places (12% of the world’s Carbon is already taxed). Since it is assessed for industries rather than on individuals, it has a low cost of collection. For instance rather than metering each car, petroleum from refineries or fuel wholesalers can be taxed. This accelerates the uptake of electric vehicles, which should on the net be a good thing.
There are undoubtedly some other solutions out there not discussed here, and lots of details overlooked.
Pricing is the answer and you know that for sure
Pricing is a flower
You got to let it, you gotta let it grow
This post is basically a rewrite of my popular post about a different externality: congestion: “21 Strategies to Solve Congestion“. Perhaps we might call this `CO2gestion’.
Yes, I know some people don’t accept CO2 as “pollution” and prefer “emissions.” Since it is above the ability of the environment to process in the short term, it imposes harmful or dangerous effects, and so it is pollution, even if it is a natural product. All pollutants are fine in small enough amounts, and everything is horrible in too great amounts.
We visited Canberra the first week of January. The aim was to see the city, as I am fan of planned cities, and see the museums, and provide some education to the kids along the way. Canberra was planned by the American Walter Burley Griffin (inventor of the carport) and his wife (his wife has a name of course, Marion Mahony Griffin, an architect in her own right, but she was not generally credited, though apparently was very important in the design process). Walter Burley Griffin apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright in his Oak Park days, and while Wright’s later Broadacre City was never actually built as such (though in another important sense, it defines America), Griffin did get Canberra off the drawing board to realisation.
A Review of the Journey
To get to Canberra we took the train. We ticketed from Redfern to Canberra, though the Sydney train departs Central and doesn’t stop at Redfern on its way out, so we walked to Redfern, caught a train to Central (without tapping in on Opal, since we were ticketed), fortunately, you can get from our platform to the trains without tapping out, so we just transferred, and then backtracked past Redfern on the way to Canberra. The train was on time, if a bit slow. It is a Diesel. Once we got out of Sydney, the path was especially winding. (The cost was about $AU200 roundtrip for 5 … the kids were basically free).
Australia has many fine, lovely Victorian or Federation era small (1 or 2 platform) train stations. Canberra (Kingston) train station is not one of them. It is straight out of Amtrak.
The advantage of taking the train was not having to rent a car and drive, saving money on the rental and fuel. It also gives an opportunity to see the countryside, and for the kids to have a chance to ride an Intercity Train. The train had a buffet car (a section of the first class car), so food could be ordered in motion, but you brought it back to your seat (not a full traditional dining car experience). The food was cromulent, but relatively inexpensive.
The downside of taking the train was no car in Canberra. We walked, and as needed, Ubered instead. (We attempted taxi, but they couldn’t give us a ride for 5 in one car, nor quote us a price to our city hotel.) Not driving was probably a minor strategic error.
A Review of the Plan
The tourist board also doesn’t advertise the unwalkability of the city. To the best of my knowledge, before our trip, no one had ever walked in Canberra. There are some bicyclists, they mostly ride on the sidewalks, which like the bike lanes, are an afterthought.
The plan is lovely; from a bird’s eye view it is elegant. It looks organic, centered on Lake Burley Griffen, named for the town’s planner. It is not organic however, as plans never can be. An organic town grows from a point outward. (Or in the case of conurbation, from multiple points outward.) Instead it was laid out as a whole with the scale of the motorcar in mind, even given its early date in the deployment of automotive technology.
Canberra faces many of the same scaling problems of other 20th century planned capital cities, most notably Brasilia. To be fair, it is a challenge to plan for today’s technologies, and tomorrow’s; for today’s land use needs, and tomorrow’s. But by privileging the future over the present they guarantee the present is dysfunctional and thereby discourage growth. I hate to say “design for today, for tomorrow we may be dead”, but if we don’t design for today, where will the growth come from? Tomorrow can worry about itself. While keeping options open is a good thing, keeping all the land vacant while waiting for the future diminishes the accessibility of the present, as I discuss in my paper: A Random Walk Down Main Street.
A light rail line is under construction. While Walter Burley Griffin’s plan called for trams, this never happened, as it was too late in history and by the time the decision was to be made, cities were already starting to remove trams, so Canberra has been served by buses as its sole mass transit mode. This is apparently a good local bus system, but it didn’t seem to take Opal and we didn’t ride it. How much time is someone expected to figure out how to use the system? The light rail may eventually go useful places, but it isn’t yet under construction to cross the lake to the government district. The lake, I might add is large (18km circumference, with a very short (500m?) diameter on the short end, so something like 9km long. This is good for biking, bad for walking.
The town is very strictly zoned, so there is a government precinct with just government. There are no restaurants in the government precinct to speak of. We did eat at Snapper on the Lake, which was a fine (if expensive and astonishingly slow) fish and chips establishment. We walked into the City district to eat breakfast at the Pancake Parlour. Which was, as the sign says, ‘lovely’. Indeed they were good pancakes, probably the best in Canberra, perhaps the only in Canberra. We also ate at Mister Zee’s, which was excellent Middle Eastern charcoal chicken.
The downtown shopping street (City Walk, Bunda Street) have some activity in the evening. Citywalk is a pedestrianized street. Bunda is a shared space. The mall was on Bunda and it seemed to be doing better (higher rent, more pedestrians, fewer vacancies) than City Walk, but I am not sure the causality here.
A Review of the Museums:
Day 1: Arrive and visit Questacon – This is a pretty good science museum (with reciprocal arrangements with the Australian Museum and Powerhouse Museum of Sydney, so free if you are members, costly otherwise – museum memberships are good value if you have school age kids and can plan your visits right). It has a lot of hands on exhibits, so is more like the San Francisco Exploratorium than the other Australian museums we have visited. It is not as broad or scientifically in depth, more about the cool optics. But maybe it will get kids interested in physics.
Day 2: War Memorial – This is an excellent war museum, not just a memorial to the fallen of Australia’s many overseas adventures. It forms an axis with Parliament (what doesn’t?), and sits at the base of Mount Ainslie. There is a nice view of the city atop the mountain. We climbed it the hard way (Thanks Google Maps! That which did not kill us does make us stronger, but it was touch and go there), though there is an easier path that was not well signed or mapped. At the top of the mountain there is a lookout, and a man selling ice cream on a hot summer’s day.
Day 3: Visit National Museum of Australia – The building tries to be symbolic and iconic, but really it’s just ick. (Chaotic, Tragic, Formulaic). The architecture tries far too hard, it is doing too many things. It has a visually great location on the lake. It has a functionally terrible location that is hard to get to by any means but car or tourbus. There are at least side paths here, but they clearly do not expect you to walk here from a hotel, that’s just unheard of.
The exhibits were fine, a bit of culture, a bit of history, a bit of guilt (not as much as the National Museums of Guilt you see in some other guilty democracies, but still feeling sort of bad about how the First Nations here were treated, but not so bad that the right thing is actually done by the government). Also exhibits about history of settlement, but nothing you don’t see in other Australian Museums.
Museum of Australian Democracy – This occupies the old Parliament House, which is a surprisingly small building for a national Parliament (smaller than many statehouses in the US). Australia in its short life has already purchased a Parliamentary upgrade to create a more symbolic building. The ground floor has a nice exhibit of recent political cartoons (probably better in book form, but still interesting). The upstairs has interesting exhibits about Prime Ministers of Australia, as well as preservation of how the building functioned in its later days (Press room, Speakers Offices, etc.). The Museum also displays and preserves the two Houses.
Other Random Thoughts
First to note is how to say this name. Apparently there is agreement about neither the pronunciation (I have heard it pronounced both Can-bra or Can-ber-ra) nor the etymology. Perhaps it is from an aboriginal ( Ngunnawal) word meaning meeting place, or the space between women’s breasts (it is in a valley), or prosaically from the word Cranberry, which was grown in the valley.
The second thing to note is the flies. The tourist board doesn’t advertise this, but the flies in Canberra are extremely friendly, and numerous. They land on you, attempting to gain your affections, but in reality it is a form of harassment. The sweatier you are, the more amorous they become. They will even sit on your glasses to get your attention. [I could make some joke about Canberra, politics, and flies, but I didn’t.] Speaking of flying insects, there are also many clouds of gnats, but they go to their own club, and aren’t really interested in you, just annoyed that you didn’t get off of their cloud. The mosquitos don’t seem to have settled here. Perhaps it is too dry. Perhaps we were fortunate and missed them.
Third to note is that the trees in Canberra don’t provide shade. There are many trees. However in general the leaves are too small. This is unfortunate as the summer in Australia gets hot.
Fourth, Summernats, a big Australian car show, was in town, and there were people and their classic vehicles driving around town, but not being car owners, or aware of this in advance, didn’t visit the show. Apparently there is a parade which we missed.
Note, since this is summer holiday, government was not in session, and I think the employees were on holiday as well, so maybe the town pops more during session.
Politics balances the ideal with the possible. In the first best world, we do the best thing assuming everything else about the world is ideal. In the second best world, we do the best thing recognizing everything else about the world will remain as dysfunctional as it already is.
Many political debates are because people disagree on values: I think a lot of freedom is more valuable than a little bit of safety, you may be more afraid, some people capitalise on that fear; I think the life of the unborn has value, you think a women’s body is her own.
Other debates occur because people cannot agree about the relevant time frame: I think earning more dollars today will solve tomorrow’s problems, you think we need to sacrifice economic growth to reduce pollution now.
A few debates are because people don’t accept common facts: I think very few people attended the President’s inauguration, he purports to believe it was the biggest ever.
Finally, some debates are because people disagree about the model of the world: I think most threats (future dangers) are home-grown, you think they come from outsiders. This relates to the last two, but is distinct because it deals with future facts, not something evidence-based.
Often political debates are about how much change is possible. This depends on the model of the world. If I vote yes now, we move somewhat in the right direction, but we release the pressure to move farther in the right direction. If I vote no, we don’t make the move, hoping a better offer will be on the table later. There is no guarantee this will occur, and in the meantime we may have lost some benefits. Say, in the US context, I believe in what a real Green Party* would stand for, but don’t think they will win, should I vote for the Democrats instead, which will be closer than the Republican alternative to my preferred outcome? Given the current US single-member district, first past the post, no ranked-choice voting system, that’s a logical choice for most environmentalists. They are choosing the second-best rather than nothing. I can make a protest vote, or I can try to move the system. If everyone in my district (admittedly I am thinking of progressive Minneapolis here) thought the Greens had a chance, they would act as if the Greens had a chance, and the Greens would have a chance. The possible is determined by what everyone thinks that everyone else thinks.
I believe there is no point in being a politician unless you want to accomplish something that improves the world around you. Sure some people get into politics for personal self-aggrandisement and wealth enhancement, but I believe for most politicians there is in the end no reason to accumulate power but to do something with it, that is to impose their values, their preferred temporal horizon, their perception of reality, and their model of the world on the government. Further, they must have the notion they can do this better than anyone else, not just better than a person in the opposing party, but better than the next best person in their own party.
Power is a means to an end, and usually the end is more significant than private wealth. Some politicians may forget this along the way, many try to combine their values with wealth-enhancement, but hopefully they remember near the end of the careers the whole point of doing what they did and expend some of their power to achieve their original aims.
It is the advocate’s job to move the politician in a particular direction.
It is the politician’s job to compute how far to move both to maximize future power by ensuring his constituency is along for the ride and to actually move in the ‘right’ direction consistent with the reason for being a politician in the first place.
* The US Green Party at the national level is of course highly problematic from an environmental and political perspective.
The Journal of Transport and Land Use is an open-access, peer-reviewed
online journal publishing original interdisciplinary papers on the
interaction of transport and land use. Domains include: engineering,
planning, modeling, behavior, economics, geography, regional science,
sociology, architecture and design, network science, and complex systems.
Nothing in cities makes sense except in the light of accessibility. Transport cannot be understood without reference to the location of activities (land use), and vice versa. To understand one requires understanding the other. However, for a variety of historical reasons, transport and land use are quite divorced in practice. Typical transport engineers only touch land use planning courses once at most, and only then if they attend graduate school. Land use planners understand transport the way everyone does, from the perspective of the traveler, not of the system, and are seldom exposed to transport aside from, at best, a lone course in graduate school. This text aims to bridge the chasm, helping engineers understand the elements of access that are associated not only with traffic, but also with human behavior and activity location, and helping planners understand the technology underlying transport engineering, the processes, equations, and logic that make up the transport half of the accessibility measure. It aims to help both communicate accessibility to the public.
Nothing in cities makes sense except in the light of accessibility.
Transport cannot be understood without reference to the location of activities (land use), and vice versa. To understand one requires understanding the other. However, for a variety of historical reasons, transport and land use are quite divorced in practice. Typical transport engineers only touch land use planning courses once at most, and only then if they attend graduate school. Land use planners understand transport the way everyone does, from the perspective of the traveler, not of the system, and are seldom exposed to transport aside from, at best, a lone course in graduate school. This text aims to bridge the chasm, helping engineers understand the elements of access that are associated not only with traffic, but also with human behavior and activity location, and helping planners understand the technology underlying transport engineering, the processes, equations, and logic that make up the transport half of the accessibility measure. It aims to help both communicate accessibility to the public.
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