When clearing out the detritus of decades of accumulated academia, one finds a collection of lanyards and name tags. I had thought about putting them on all at once, but I could see the headline “Professor tragically killed by asphyxiation in freak lanyard incident: authorities trying to determine reason”, and so I won’t. Alternatively, it’s a Clue(do) solution: Killed by Lanyard in the Study by Mr. Mustard. Instead, they will attend to the great recycling bin in the sky, recorded here for posterity. Anyone who wants to go as “Conference Man” or “Lanyard Man” (able to sit for conference presentations for hours on end, able to network and make small talk for small amounts of free food) for Halloween should get in touch.
I sent out the first issue of my newsletter to more than 2000 people yesterday. You can sign up for the next one.
This is what it looked like:
It appears on the Internet, that Hate trumps Love.
- There are 4370 Google hits for “Right Wing Hate Machine”.
- There are 3690 for “Republican Hate Machine”
- There are 4850 for “Left Wing Hate Machine”
- There are 571 for “Democratic Hate Machine”+ 840 for “Democrat Hate Machine”
- There are 3 Google hits for the “Right Wing Love Machine”
- There are 5 for “Republican Love Machine”
- There are 43 for “Left Wing Love Machine”
- There are 9 for “Democratic Love Machine” + 4 for “Democrat Love Machine”
and these are generally ironic or sarcastic.
When I attended a Reformocon (Reform Conservatism) summit 18 months ago, (where I presented Modernizing America’s Transportation Policy) someone snarked I was getting in bed with the Right Wing Hate Machine, and I shot back, no, it’s the Right Wing Love Machine.
Perhaps I am naive, but I believe there is a difference in the two groups. The Right-Wing Hate Machine (RWHM), comprising what we now call alt-right, fueled by talk radio, sanctioned by many churches and so-called religious leaders, and most recently inspired by Donald Trump, spews hate. It is the physical embodiment of the comments section on the Internet.
In contrast the Right Wing Love Machine (RWLM)* puts forward policy they will believe makes America better. As it is comprised of fallible people instead of Vulcans, it does sometimes get a bit worked up and needlessly mischaracterizes the opposition, but they don’t go around encouraging race war and trying to intimidate people. The difference between the RWHM and the RWLM is the difference between saying ‘Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster’ and ‘Hillary Clinton earned a lot of money while in “public service” somehow.’
The Left-Wing Hate Machine is not nearly so bad, nor so organized, nor has taken over a party, but is a natural response to the RWHM, and does needlessly demonize those they disagree with, practicing the politics of personal destruction, defining demons down, making it harder when they need to demonize someone actually worth demonizing.
Given what the two extreme wings say about each other why would anyone want to become a political figure. And given why a sane, rational person wouldn’t want to be a politician, is it a surprise we so seldom get great figures to be leaders.
A Love Machine tries to make the world a better place. You may disagree with its policies, but it keeps policy differences distinct from character assassination. Ideally we would have two (or more) sides that seek common ground, respect their opposition, understand the rules of the game, and acknowledge the results of legitimate elections.
The problem materializes in asymmetric warfare. It appears that Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek” is insufficient, and will get you branded as a spineless weakling. One side cannot turn off the hate while the other continues to spew it. “When they go low, we go high” are nice words, but don’t think there aren’t sharp elbows nearby as well. When I say “one side” does this, it doesn’t mean everyone on that side does this. The first lady does not, nor does the President. They have allies and supporters who do.
Instead we have a dilemma where the rational strategy for one side is to spew hate when the other spews hate, and to spew hate when the other projects love. In short, because people don’t punish (and instead reward) going negative in campaigns and governance, we see negativity.
In game theory, the solution to the Prisoner’s Dilemma lies in Indefinitely Repeated Games. When a positive sum game is repeated an unknown number of times, cooperation beats defection. A single congressional or Presidential race however is played once, there is no repetition, hence no incentive for cooperating if you cannot enforce it by retaliating in the future. A competition between two stable political parties in contrast, has the potential to have the dynamics of Indefinitely Repeated Games. They can come to an agreement not to go negative on each other, to draw and respect boundaries of civil discourse. But this requires the long lasting institution of parties controls the politicking rather than many distinct individuals running personal campaigns. A parliamentary system with strong parties moves in that direction (though one can hardly say parliamentary systems lack negativity).
The other aspect of this Repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma is that cooperation works if it is a positive sum game, that is, if the collective payoff of cooperating exceeds that of defecting. While people should be happier without negative campaigning, in the end much of politics is zero sum, either one side holds control or their opposition does. But policy is not. There should be gains from policy trades as the two sides care unequally about different issues. These policy trades are far more likely in a system where people get along and keep the personal out of it, while discourse remains professional. Again, people, even politicians, are not Vulcans.
In a Parliamentary System, the party in the majority can dictate its platform if it can whip its members in line. However, many systems have multiple parties, and lack a single majority party so require cooperation.
I realize the US will not get Parliamentary government any time soon. In the mean time …
Hate has always been with us. It seems to spike around elections, and has become far more visible with new social media smashing the moderating and centralizing influence of mid- late 20th century American Mass Media. One hopes new tools will come about which don’t silence dissent, but still defang the hate mongers.
After Donald Trump loses in November, it remains essential for America’s future for an there to be effective opposition party at the national level in the United States, one that was reasoned, pointed out the problems with the majority party’s solutions, and itself offered me alternatives and offered me solutions rather than simply playing Bartleby the Scrivener.
This requires the Love Machine reasserting control, pointing out how the Hate Machine, which has controlled the Republican Party in Congress for years now, and has foisted on the world such a piece of work as their nominee, has failed to achieve any of its ends, and has thus forfeited claims to legitimate control the party. This also requires the everyday membership develop a better filter to distinguish between the Love Machine, the Hate Machine, and the Batshit Insane.
The shorthand for identifying a member of the Right Wing Love Machine is any Republican who has disowned Trump from the start, or at least the middle, of the race, and stuck to it. #NeverTrump-come-latelies, who endorsed and then dis-endorsed, will of course make nice with the party, but they wear a virtual scarlet T, discrediting them in the eyes of the everyone else.
* Yes, there will be snark about a “Right Wing Love Machine” given the misdeeds, reputations, and boasting of Mr. Trump, Mr. Hastert, Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Giuliani and their brethren. I am sure the RWLM will not actually go by this name. Sex is not love people. The Right Wing Sex Machine would be a vastly different thing.
- Stanley, John and David Levinson (2016) Workshop 3 report: Sustainable funding sources and related cost benefit measurements. Research in Transport Economics. [doi]
Recognising that public transport services generally deliver substantial benefits for society but frequently require operating and capital funding support, this Workshop sought to find ways to bridge this benefit/funding gap, particularly through benefit monetization. It elaborated a wide range of benefits from public transport services, to both users and non-users. In regard to non-users, there was a particular focus on the role of public transport in promoting positive external benefits, such as agglomeration economies, and reducing the negative external costs of car use. A number of ways in which the service funding requirement might be reduced by improved system management were considered, such as better fare evasion practices and more effective public private partnerships. A range of funding opportunities was then reviewed, from which two preferred bundles were developed. Value capture was seen as a vital funding opportunity, both for supporting operating funding and capital funding requirements. Funding circumstances that were seen as more properly a governmental responsibility were identified.
Keywords: Benefit measurement; Externalities; Fares; Marginal social cost pricing; public private partnership; value capture.
This was developed at a Workshop at the 2015 Thredbo Conference in Santiago, Chile.
A reminder, paper submissions for the 2017 World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research in Brisbane are due Oct. 31.
World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research 2017
July 3rd- July 6th, 2017
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
We are pleased to announce that the 2017 World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research (WSTLUR) will be held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, July 3rd- July 6th, 2017. The conference will bring together academics and practitioners working at the intersection of transportation planning, engineering, economics and policy. The conference is aimed at developing a better understanding of the dynamic interaction between land use and transport, with strong interest in how the built environment can contribute to more sustainable transport in a rapidly changing world. Papers are welcome on all modes of personal, passenger, and freight transport on all spatial scales (see Call for Papers). The conference brings together researchers and topics from all parts of the world.
The conference program will feature peer-reviewed paper presentations, workshops, technical tours, and plenary presentations from:
- Eric Miller, Bahen-Tanenbaum Professor, University of Toronto
- Billie Giles-Corti, Professor, University of Melbourne
- Becky Loo, Professor, The University of Hong-Kong
- Rob Adams, Director of City Design, City of Melbourne
In addition to a thorough exploration of a wide range of land use and transportation issues, the 2017 conference will emphasize two spotlight themes: technological change and equity. Specifically, how will technological change influence the development of land use and transportation systems in the future? What equity issues will emerge via future changes in land use and transportation systems? How do technology and equity relate in the context of land use and transportation systems?
The World Symposium on Transport and Land use (WSTLUR) seeks original papers (not submitted elsewhere) on the interaction of transport and land use. Papers must be submitted by October 31st, 2016. WSTLUR membership is not required to submit a paper, and there is no limit on the number of papers an individual may submit. Each conference registrant may be a co-author on multiple papers, but there is a limit of one presentation per registrant.
- Initial Papers Due to JTLU for Conference Consideration: October 31st, 2016
- Decisions about Conference Acceptance (Reviewer Comments Provided): Early March 2017
- Early Registration Deadline: April 1st, 2017
- Most Recent Accepted Paper Drafts that have been uploaded to the JTLU Website are considered as the Conference Proceedings: Early May 2017
- Conference: July 3rd-6th, 2017
- Revision Deadline for Publication Consideration. Responses to Reviewers and Revised Draft must be submitted to JTLU: August 2017
The symposium will include four keynote speaker addresses, approximately 100 peer-reviewed paper presentations, and several technical and non-technical tours. Preliminary program to be added in April 2017.
Depending on the quality and alignment of the papers submitted in each topic area, up to four workshops will be organized to generate interactive discussion on specific themes listed above. Each workshop will include a summary presentation from a workshop leader followed by the presentation of 3 resource papers. All workshops should leave enough time for significant audience involvement.
Registration for the WSTLUR symposium will open in January 2017. Registration will be done online through the JTLU website. Registration fees will be announced at that time. We anticipate offering discounted fees for attendees from developing countries as well as scholarships for students.
Brisbane is Australia’s main sub-tropical city and the nation’s third largest by population with over two million residents. The capital city of the state of Queensland, Brisbane enjoys year-round sunshine and blue skies. The conference venue will be near the vibrant downtown and Southbank precincts which have some of Australia’s most visited galleries, museums and parklands, great restaurants and cafes, waterside walking and cycling paths, a public bicycle hire scheme, busways, river ferry terminals and a wide range of high-quality accommodation options. Brisbane is only an hour away from both the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, Australia’s most popular beach resorts. Further north is the Great Barrier Reef. The conference is being hosted by Griffith University, the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology – Brisbane’s largest and most prestigious teaching and research universities.
For questions regarding the conference please direct them to:
WSTLUR Conference Co-Chairs
Local Organizing Committee
WSTLUR Conference Organizing & Scientific Committees
I haven’t actually sent anything out, but observant readers of the Transportist will notice in the upper right corner a new Click to Subscribe for a newsletter. I plan to send out news, including both things I am doing in the world of transport as well as general interest, periodically (say monthly). But before I do that, I figured I’d give you an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. So Click to Subscribe, and see what’s up. It will be really easy to unsubscribe, I promise. (It’s managed by TinyLetter). Also, it’s free. People charge money for this stuff.
Note this is different from subscribing to the blog (also in the upper right), which will get you each blog post in your email.
I wrote this 8 years ago. Since we will have a new President, maybe she can adopt these ideas.
I have drafted a Memo to the Next President of the United States on Transportation Policy.
The memo outlines ten visions, which are summarized here, for fuller discussion, see the full memo:
- Within eight years more cars sold in the United States will be powered primarily by electricity and bio-fuels than by fossil fuels. All buses and passenger trains will use electricity or bio-fuels.
- Within eight years Americans will be able to ride autonomous smart cars that drive themselves in mixed traffic.
- Within a year, an independent federally-funded Bridge Inspection Service will begin to inspect and publicly report on the quality of all bridges on the National Highway System.
- After thorough evaluation, within eight years, bridges and pavements on the US Interstate Highway System will be upgraded to handle trucks carrying up to 100,000 pounds, increasing the efficiency of the trucking industry and by reducing the number of vehicle trips, increasing safety for other road users. These improvements will be paid for by the trucking industry, which directly benefits from the improved system. In heavily traveled corridors, a system of truck-only toll lanes will be constructed.
- Within eight years American travelers can choose to travel congestion-free by car or bus through America’s largest metropolitan areas.
- Within four years American travelers will enter airports and transit, and train stations and cross borders, passing both security and immigration controls without delay while ensuring security.
- Within eight years a new source of transportation revenue based on time and place of use will be deployed, replacing the federal and state gas tax. This funding will support highway and transit networks.
- Returning to the vision of Democratic President Andrew Jackson, items in federal transportation legislation that do not serve a national purpose will be vetoed.
- Extending the bipartisan efforts of transportation deregulation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, within four years, highway and transit services and infrastructure will begin to be competitively provided by independent (public, private, or non-profit) organizations under appropriate local or federal oversight. Infrastructure will be provided under a public utility model, ensuring quality of service in exchange for earning a rate of return.
- Within one year, the United States federal government will establish separate capital and operating budgets. This will be coupled with a federal program to guarantee loans and bonds for highway and transit infrastructure projects.
Full memo after the jump
Memo to the Next President of the United States regarding Transportation Policy
MEMO TO THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES REGARDING TRANSPORTATION POLICY
DR. DAVID M. LEVINSON1
Until a bridge collapses, gas prices go sky-high, a plane is hijacked, or workers go on strike, transportation seldom garners public attention. When the system is working as expected, its daily problems fester as a dull sore on the public consciousness. Problems like the billions of hours wasted in congestion on roads and at airports, air pollution, dependence on foreign energy, and 43,000 Americans killed each year on public roads are just sitting there, not getting noticeably worse, but not getting noticeably better. Somehow America has resigned itself to mediocrity in the transportation sector. Further, the past decade has shown in many respects (in particular congestion and infrastructure condition) the system is deteriorating.
As a Presidential candidate, Senator Obama has established progressive positions on a few transportation issues described on the Barack Obama website2, but his most notable position in the area is his strong stand against Senator McCain’s proposed summer holiday for the federal gas tax which would have eliminated income into the federal Highway Trust Fund, and thus choked off future spending. Yet the area remains largely undefined, and has not been prioritized, on the Obama website, 22 issue areas are identified, and transportation is an after-thought, alphabetically the last of the six “additional issues”. In contrast, the McCain campaign does not list transportation among 14 listed issues. I do not know the political salability of the transportation issue, but I believe it is something that touches people’s lives, which the federal government can improve by changing policies. Establishing and achieving an uplifting vision for transportation will provide a lasting legacy for the United States.
In the next year a surface transportation authorization bill will again be in play. All of the traditional special interests are proposing all of the same policies, usually with more funding. While many of those policies do warrant support and more funding, the time has come for a game-changer, something that will put the transportation system on a new trajectory.
There are several issues that needs to be addressed:
- What constitutes the Best Transportation System?
- What should be done by the Public Sector?
- What is the appropriate Federal Role?
Some of the major transportation problems are discussed below, as well as what I suggest are visions that the next President of the United States should adopt. These visions are achievable, with a clearly defined federal role, but will not occur without a leader setting the direction and implementing supportive policies.
Three environment and energy problems rise to the fore.
- Climate change
- Air pollution
- Rising price of fuel
While the past three decades have seen a public policy success in terms of reduced air pollution and associated health effects in the United States, carbon emissions have been increasing unabated.
Globalization and development have implications for transportation. International trade will continue to grow, placing demands on long distance transportation systems serving both passengers and freight. Due to the fast growth, especially in cities in developing countries, many of the issues the United States has faced (and not solved) will be presented to a new set of places without the same resources and the luxury of time the United States had in its development. Increased pressures to consume scarce resources (especially oil and construction materials) will undoubtedly drive up prices and decrease the reliability of their steady supply. Increasing population, both worldwide and in the U.S., and the desire to improve one’s situation by traveling to better opportunities, will in the absence of a radical change in the vehicle fuel source, continue to exacerbate environmental problems such as pollution and carbon emissions and drive up prices.
The consequences of carbon emissions are recognized as causing significant problems, and a major source of carbon emissions are transportation systems, especially autos and aircraft. The policy responses to this are varied, from changing land use and travel behavior, to promoting alternative technologies, to regulation of supply and price. A number of policies, such as use of corn-based ethanol to power motor vehicles, have unintended consequences.
The rising price of fuel diminishes transportation demand, which helps alleviate the other externalities that transportation causes (e.g. climate change, pollution) but also eliminates the benefits transportation provides.
All three problems can be addressed with the same solution, changing the source of energy used to power most transportation from fossil fuels burned on the vehicle to some form of electric power. While this does not solve all problems, it moves environmental problems away from the transportation sector and its very difficult to regulate mobile source pollutants to much more contained power plants. With appropriate energy policy, it changes the source from a single type of energy to the multi-variate sources that can be used to generate electricity. We are beginning to see markets move in this direction, with hybrid and soon plug-in hybrid vehicles becoming more popular.
Vision 1 Within eight years more cars sold in the United States will be powered primarily by electricity and bio-fuels than by fossil fuels. All buses and passenger trains will use electricity or bio-fuels.
There are a number of other supportive policies, many described on the Barack Obama’s Plan for a Clean Energy Future 3; similar policies on cap-and-trade are identified on the McCain website 4. Cap-and-trade does not provide the same level of incentives for individuals to change behavior as a more direct carbon tax.
Moving from fossil fuels to electric power, however, creates one more problem, how to finance surface transportation, which has historically been financed from user fees collected as gas taxes. This is discussed in a later section.
According to the USDOT, motor vehicle crashes killed 42,642 people in 20065 and injured countless more. Almost everyone knows someone who was killed or injured in a car crash. A study sponsored by the American Automobile Association monetizes the cost of urban crashes as $164.2 billion 6. Sadly, the real problems of safety have been overshadowed by sensationalist fears about security7. The resources, both financial and attention, given to security have drowned out a much more serious problem.
There are many initiatives that aim to reduce highway crashes, ranging from driver education, better road engineering, increased enforcement and more stringent laws to requirements for additional safety equipment on cars, and they have produced solid incremental improvements, the crash rate (crashes per million vehicle miles) is much lower than it was several decades ago. Roads and vehicles are safer, emergency medical services are better, and cell phones speed notification of emergency services, but people remain fallible. In the end, until the driver is taken out of the loop, cars will continue to kill.
Taking the driver out of the loop, i.e. cars that drive themselves, may seem far-fetched, but investments in intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and smart cars have brought this distant future within grasp.
The DARPA Urban Challenge8 recently tested a number of autonomous vehicles in an urban like setting. In the absence of a driver, these cars were able to navigate complex urban streets in the presence of other vehicles. If moved out of the laboratory into full deployment, a number of positive changes can be expected:
- Make travel safer for both those in the car and outside.
- Provide mobility for those who currently lack, including the elderly, disabled, and children.
- Enable passengers to spend time doing other valuable things while in their vehicle.
- Reduce parking problems in inner cities, as cars can drop passengers off at the door and park themselves remotely
In the near term, vehicles will be assistive 9 more than autonomous, as there are many technologies that are street-ready and can be deployed that aid the driver; the full set of technologies required for fully autonomous travel will require additional development. Infrastructure can be made intelligent-vehicle friendly, making the job of the computers driving the cars easier.
Vision 2 Within eight years Americans will be able to ride autonomous smart cars that drive themselves in mixed traffic.
To achieve this vision, the federal government should (a) sponsor research both directly and through prizes and (b) provide a legal framework for liability associated with smart cars lest manufacturers be unwilling to supply them. With appropriate motivation, in eight years the technology should be ready for the first autonomous cars to be sold to consumers.
Since the collapse of the I-35W Bridge on August 1, 2007, six other bridges in Minnesota have been closed for replacement or significant repair. The average section of the interstate highway system is 40 years old, and many elements are reaching the end of their useful life. Unfortunately, maintaining existing infrastructure is unglamorous work that does not attract politicians and does not generate ribbon-cuttings, but is a core responsibility of those who own the bridge. Because of the political nature of state transportation funding, there is a trade-off between new construction, which brings with it media attention, and the quiet work of operations and maintenance. Had more attention been paid previously to maintaining the existing system, the infrastructure crisis would not now be upon us.
Vision 3 Within a year, an independent federally-funded Bridge Inspection Service will begin to inspect and publicly report on the quality of all bridges on the National Highway System.
The Bridge Inspection Service will be politically independent of the agency that owns the bridges, but will need to cooperate to develop mechanisms for continuous monitoring. The service will also assist states in developing accurate structural models of bridges so that they can be re-assessed for appropriate vehicle weight limits. This will be paid for by road users.
The deteriorating infrastructure is coming just as globalization, the logistics revolution, and rise of containerization place additional demands on the transportation system to be reliable. Industry has established a just-in-time production system that relies on infrastructure. The economy demands transportation systems that do not merely have a low average time, but have a low variance in that time, so that the system is predictable. The industry seeks systems that can more more material at lower cost. While railroads are effective at long-haul trips, trucks can go places trains cannot.
Vision 4 After thorough evaluation, within eight years, bridges and pavements on the US Interstate Highway System will be upgraded to handle trucks carrying up to 100,000 pounds, increasing the efficiency of the trucking industry and by reducing the number of vehicle trips, increasing safety for other road users. These improvements will be paid for by the trucking industry, which directly benefits from the improved system. In heavily traveled corridors, a system of truck-only toll lanes will be constructed.
Countless hours are wasted by Americans sitting in traffic, time that could be better spent doing almost anything else. Reasonable estimates place the cost of congestion on the order of $100 billion per year 10.
Simply put, the unpriced demand for facilities often exceeds capacity for a period of time, causing congestion. There are three strategies for this: acceptance, capacity addition, and demand reduction. Current policy is a mix of all three, with a large dose of acceptance, a small dose of adding capacity, and a mere smidgen of reducing demand.
Building capacity is expensive, it is usually most expensive where congestion is worst, as many of the easy capacity fixes have already been taken. While there are some short-term strategies for making existing infrastructure operate more efficiently (adding effective capacity), the gains from this are limited, and most of these strategies have been employed in the most congested areas already.
To date, most attempts at demand reduction have used persuasion to encourage people to behave differently, without much success. Exhortation only goes so far in the absence of a visible crisis (such as World War II, when behavior did shift both because of exhortation and due to real shortages). Implementing prices however has largely not been tried as a means of reducing traffic. There are some experiments, most notably in Singapore, London, and Stockholm, which have implemented congestion charges and successfully reduced demand. Illustrating the political difficulties, a proposal to implement a congestion charge which would have been associated with significant federal grants in New York City was rejected earlier this year.
In the US, some of the most interesting experiments have been about converting existing but often underutilized carpool (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes to allow use by any vehicle which pays an electronically collected toll. There are a number of successful conversions to what are called high-occupancy/toll (or HOT) lanes. While HOT lanes will not eliminate congestion, it can provide a reliable congestion-free alternative for a price.
Networks that provide reliable and predictable transportation for a varying charge complement existing networks that provide unreliable and unpredictable transportation for free. Everyone is in a hurry sometimes, and the HOT lanes that have been deployed have seen use from people in all income groups. Conversion of existing fixed-price toll facilities to variable pricing is an ongoing trend that will aid in the management of the urban transportation system. Networks of these facilities can be utilized by Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicles to speed transit commutes. The problem remains what to do about the vast unpriced system. The discussion below about transportation financing suggests a direction.
Vision 5 Within eight years American travelers can choose to travel congestion-free by car or bus through America’s largest metropolitan areas.
The events of September 11, 2001, wherein a failure in the security of a transportation system presaged a radically change in airport security and how people use and view air travel. That and subsequent terrorist attacks in Madrid and London reinforce the trade-off between security and efficiency, the open train and transit systems were easily attacked, and while security systems allowed the attackers to be caught, they were not much use at prevention. In contrast, the post-9/11 air travel system provides a greater, though by no means perfect, deterrent, which adds significant time costs (travelers need to arrive at airports much earlier to be guaranteed to make their flight) and greatly reduces traveler flexibility.
The response to 9/11 was an over-reaction. The actual terrorist threat was given inflated importance, and as a result we made our own lives worse. Life has risks, we need to accept that no system is threat-proof. As the passengers of United Flight 93, who fought back against the hijackers showed, the events of 9/11 will not be repeated, we cannot constantly be responding to yesterday’s attack.
We need to have security, but not to the detriment of efficiency. This applies to arriving at the airport and train station, and entering the country at border station by both ground and air. An American citizen carrying a valid passport and not carrying dangerous items should be able to move freely and quickly, without needing to disrobe or unpack their entire suitcase for inspection.
Vision 6 Within four years American travelers will enter airports and transit, and train stations and cross borders, passing both security and immigration controls without delay while ensuring security.
This will require planning, smoothing out the scheduling of security personnel, deployment of better technologies that don’t inconvenience the passenger as much, and yes, some tolerance for risk.
The existing gas tax will remain viable for a few more years, but as the fleet transitions from dependence on the gasoline powered internal combustion engine to other sources of power, revenue from the gas tax will steadily decline, and new sources will be required to maintain existing investments, much less expand the system. Electronic tolling is emerging as the likely alternative.
The revolution in transportation finance enabled by information technologies, global positioning systems, and electronic toll collection presents new opportunities that can better tie transportation revenue to use and outcomes. Charges can vary by time of day and location, with discounts when facilities are uncongested. This would encourage people who have choices to travel outside of peak times, and thereby allow better management of the use of the system to reduce traffic congestion (and other environmental spillovers) and increase system reliability.
Financing using a new means like road pricing in some form or another must be careful not to be distortionary. Tolling one road will push traffic onto another untolled road. Tolling the safer road will push traffic onto the less safe road. Therefore we will need to have a system-wide rather than facility-by-facility piecemeal deployment to make this work.
The new financing system will ultimately replace the gas tax, but maintain the user-funding basis of transportation that built the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Highway System.
Vision 7 Within eight years a new source of transportation revenue based on time and place of use will be deployed, replacing the federal and state gas tax. This funding will support highway and transit networks.
Article I, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress To establish post offices and post roads. Further, the Commerce Clause gives Congress power To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes. These are legal foundations for a federal role in transportation.
In early US history, there was debate over federal funding of turnpikes, with the Maysville Road turnpike veto by Andrew Jackson notable as the rationale for the veto was the road was wholly within one state. Clearly over time, this view has eroded, and Congress now appropriate funds to road projects that are not only within one state, but not on the 47,000 mile Interstate Highway System or even the broader 160,000 mile National Highway System. Worse, highway user funds are allocated to non-transportation uses. Many of these projects are dubbed earmarks, which Senator John McCain has drawn attention to. Of itself, if Congress is appropriating and authorizing money, it has a right to determine where it goes. The problem lies in the earmarks which:
- Waste public resources,
- Attract public derision, to wit the famous Bridge to Nowhere,
- Squander scarce attention to transportation policy,
- Tempt states and localities to mis-allocate resources to attain earmarked federal matching funds, and thus,
- Exhaust and undermine confidence in transportation investment.
Every element of wasteful spending reduces popular support for transportation spending where it is needed. Even if, objectively, earmarks are a relatively small part of the federal transportation budget, they receive a disproportionate level of media coverage. Earmarks also distort federalism, bringing the federal government onto local problems where it does not belong.
Reforms within Congress are needed to manage this process, but the threat of a veto can be used to discourage this. One must recognize that Congress has in the past over-ridden vetoes of highway legislation.
Vision 8 Returning to the vision of Democratic President Andrew Jackson, items in federal transportation legislation that do not serve a national purpose will be vetoed.
Most surface passenger transportation in the US is provided by government agencies. New models have been tried with success in the United Kingdom and other countries, where privately owned and operated companies operate franchises to provide local and intercity bus and rail services. This has driven down costs and resulted in improved service and significantly increased ridership. Intercity highways in many countries are privately operated toll-roads. These roads generate a stable source of revenue that pay back bonds held by pensions and other organizations seeking a consistent rate of return. The federal government can incentivize states to follow this example, initially as demonstration programs, and if successful for more widespread deployment.
Vision 9 Extending the bipartisan efforts of transportation deregulation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, within four years, highway and transit services and infrastructure will begin to be competitively provided by independent (public, private, or non-profit) organizations under appropriate local or federal oversight. Infrastructure will be provided under a public utility model, ensuring quality of service in exchange for earning a rate of return.
A major problem with the federal budget is that it does not properly account for long term investments. Most states and municipalities and any responsible corporation separate out capital and operating budgets, the federal government should follow their lead.
Vision 10 Within one year, the United States federal government will establish separate capital and operating budgets. This will be coupled with a federal program to guarantee loans and bonds for highway and transit infrastructure projects.
1Professor David Levinson holds the RP Braun/CTS Chair in Transportation in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota. He is the author, co-author, or co-editor of five books on transportation, including Financing Transportation Networks, The Transportation Experience, and Planning for Place and Plexus: Metropolitan Land Use and Transport and has written over 100 peer-reviewed articles on the subject. Address: 500 Pillsbury Drive, SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455; Phone: (612) 625-6354; Web: http://nexus.umn.edu ; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2Barack Obama: Strengthening America’s Transportation Infrastructure http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/FactSheetTransportation.pdf
4John McCain Climate Change policy http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/da151a1c-733a-4dc1-9cd3-f9ca5caba1de.htm
6Cambridge Systematics with Michael Meyer (2008) Crashes vs. Congestion – What’s the Cost to Society?
7In contrast with surface transportation, the aviation sector has significantly improved safety. Remarkably, the number of large commercial US jet plane crashes since 2002 is zero, though there have been incidents with commuter airlines.
9Assistive technologies include helping the driver by controlling speed through adaptive cruise control, providing lane departure warnings, and automatic parallel parking among other tasks
10Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report (2007) places the annual cost of congestion in US urban areas at $78 billion http://tti.tamu.edu/documents/mobility_report_2007_wappx.pdf, but this is almost surely an underestimate
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On 23 Jun 2008, 10:17.
The rumors are true. The Transportist will be moving to Sydney, Australia. I have turned in my keys, and as of October 15, I am no longer an employee of the University of Minnesota. Thus I join the ranks of the unemployed, enter the Gig economy, become a freelancer, or as others might say, an author.
I hope I will soon, Australian Immigration officials willing, be issued a visa and be able to join the University of Sydney’s School of Civil Engineering to help set up the program in Transport Engineering there. This is a permanent move.* (If the Immigration officials are unwilling, I will get back to you).
Why Sydney? It’s a combination of push and pull factors.
- No winter. I could not imagine being in Minneapolis in the winter in my 60s and 70s, walking to work. So why should I do it when I enter my 50s?
- The Metric System
- It’s a great University
- The opportunity to build a new program in a growing country still building new infrastructure. In Sydney alone, new projects include: a second airport, a new Metro system, two new Light Rail lines, and a massive underground freeway scheme. I will withhold judgment on the worthiness of these projects, but it does require civil engineering.
- The low, low land prices (ok, not that)
- I predict we will get more out-of-town visitors in our first two years in Sydney than in 17 years in Minneapolis
- Parliamentary Government. As bad and crazy as the politics are in Australia with 6 PMs in 6 years, take a look in the mirror, America.
More generally, it is time for a change, exposure to new ideas and a new environment.
I will still retain some connections to the University of Minnesota, as an adjunct in Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, particularly while I continue to supervise some graduate students. I will also stay involved with research at the Accessibility Observatory, and with JTLU.
How to get in touch with me? I will always be on the Internet. My preferred work email will likely change once I arrive Down Under.
This of course means our houses for sale. If you want to move to Prospect Park, Minneapolis, or just change houses in the neighborhood, see this link. Moving out of our houses will be the hardest part of leaving Minnesota.
* Well, as permanent as anything in this world. I suppose if President Gary Johnson asks me to serve as his Secretary of Transportation, I will reconsider, but I suspect that is an unlikely outcome.
I am pleased to announce the publication of my latest book: Spontaneous Access: Reflexions on Designing Cities and Transport on Kindle Editions and at the iBookstore. The price is $4.99. If you have the option, I encourage you to get it on Apple’s iBooks, it has additional features.
Table of Contents
- The city spontaneous
- The 60-Year Line
- Community without dendricity
- The pint-of-milk test
- The timeless way of building networks
- Axioms about roads
- Garden streets
- An archipelago of walkability
- Filling in
- Leapin’ frogs
- The reorganization of road function
- Beyond the plan view
- Interfaces of freedom
- Instruments of control
- Shared space
- Winter is coming
- Diversity as insurance
- Differentiate city and country
- Don’t confuse the place for the time
- Great Britain doesn’t have an Americans with Disabilities Act
- Designs serve varied and sometimes conflicting interests
- A vision of visions
- A faster horse
- The Ant and the Grasshopper
- Deconstructing Busytown
- Spontaneity in a can, spontaneity in a plan
- Building the city spontaneous
- Framing regional development
- First do no harm
There are several themes in the book:
Cities and their networks operate on multiple timescales simultaneously. Traffic lights change by the second, rights-of-way last millennia. Cities see massive daily flows of people in and out. The core, timeless, enduring elements contrast with the faddish ephemera that too much effort is focused on. The future is emerging, but determining what we are looking forward to will be enduring or ephemeral should be the critical focus of anyone involved with transport and city design.
This book does not shy away from the normative and prescriptive. In this it differs from much academic work, including my own, which tends to the positive and descriptive. Principles are laid out, which I believe to be true and correct, many of which are not scientific in the way they are framed. They of course may lead to testable hypotheses, but they are also value-based.
The idea of the ‘spontaneous city,’ one that serves needs and wants in real-time, is a theme running through both the title and the text. What conditions encourage people to take advantage of their city (and therefore make it stronger)? What conditions worsen life for the users of the city?
The emergence of new transport technologies gives us a chance to restore and correct, to right what is wrong with the places we live. From the railroad and electric streetcar creating separation between places where people lived and where they worked, to the elevator enabling high rise construction, to the motorcar which put suburbanization into over- drive, all significant transport innovations reshape cities. The new autonomous vehicle, the new electric vehicle, the new shared vehicle, the vehicle form, shape, and size are a transformation of similar scale and scope. These changes will create opportunities over the coming decades, which we can seize or reject.
This book is about how cities do work, how cities can work, and how cities should work. In part it is about traditional fields of planning and engineering, but takes a much broader concept of design principles than those fields usually do. This is because it is also about evolution and it is about opportunism. The world is changing fast. We can make it a more humane place than it has ever been, or we can allow it to devolve into a more brutish environment, where we remain a victim of our collectively built environments, rather than their master.
When the book speaks of ‘cities’ it really means the entire metropolitan ‘urban system,’ not just the historic core city (or the central business district). Downtown is but a part of the city, and the central city in many metropolises is not even a plurality of residents.
Much of this book includes complaint, and it may feel like shouting into the wind. But every complaint is about a design failure, either with intention or by accident, that degrades experience for everyone, or degrades the experience of some for the benefit of others. Life is comprised of tradeoffs, but not all tradeoffs are made at the appropriate rate of exchange. Both cities and their transport networks are the product of thoughtful human actions and unconscious emergent processes, where systematic behavior drives the underlying logic of designs.
The optimal design of transport networks to serve the goal of spontaneous access cannot be determined in the absence of knowledge about the actual development pattern. The optimal development pattern cannot be known without regards to the plan of the network. Discovering the right combinations of networks, land use, and other urban features is what makes cities successful. The measure of their success is their population, their wealth, their happiness.
But even more importantly, the optimal transport network for the technology of one era is not necessarily the optimal network of the future, and the same is true for development.
Much of Spontaneous Access is drawn from my blog transportist.org, or streets.mn, although it has been significantly edited and reorganized from posts that may have appeared there. In that sense, it is a younger sibling to the recent (2015) book The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport with Kevin Krizek. This book too talks about access, that is why we build transport in the first place. It is a collection of reflexions (a somewhat archaic British way of spelling “reflections”)