The Washington Post notes Supreme Court Declines D.C. Commuter Tax Case. I am sure the court is right that the framers gave Congess full authority over the district. It is just too bad DC cannot exploit its monopoly power as national capital to tax those who live outside the district to pay for District services. This notion of “taxing foreigners living abroad” is a politically elegant way of off-loading costs in the toll-road context.
An interesting article at ZDNet: A traffic control system for molecules. I don’t know if there are practical applications for transportation any time soon, but neat nonetheless.
(link courtesy Slashdot).
There has been a lot of discussion about “network neutrality” as being a core property of internet service. This discussion includes a number of inter-related concepts, which not every advocate agrees to. In particular, the wikipedia article on the subject identifies:
“* Non-discrimination means that all traffic over the network (typically or exclusively digital packets or bits) is treated the same by the network, including the traffic originating with the network operator. This principle of ‘bit parity’ means that all bits are treated as ‘just bits’, and no bit traffic is prioritized over other bits, and none is hampered or disabled.
* Interconnection means that network operators have both a duty of interconnection and a right of interconnection to any other network operator. Networks must be constructed so that there are a reasonable number of accessible interconnect points; that traffic is carried to and from rival networks at reasonable rates; and that the network is built with sufficient excess capacity to accomodate the reasonably foreseeable traffic that may be presented at the head-ends or peering points. Without a right of interconnection, there is no network.
* Access means that any end user can connect to any other end-user. End users may be people, but the term could also mean devices (modems, routers, switches) or even other networks. Access means that a piece of content, say, an email message, has a right to enter the network, and if properly addressed, be received by the other end user, even if said user is on another network. In other words, traffic can begin at any point on the network and be delivered to any other point.”
I wrote to my friends that Andrew Sullivan is right about conservative govt. being dead, but being quite simplistic about gas taxes (and sounds just like Thomas Friedman).
To which my friend Phil Goetz asked “What would someone less simplistic say?”
Randall Crane’s Urban Planning Research discusses accessibility vs. mobility. He seems to be searching for a definition.
Accessibility is nicely defined as the ease of reaching particular destinations. That can be operationalized (and easily communicated) as how much stuff you can get to in a particular amount of time (e.g. number of jobs within 20 minutes). Our book from the conference is now out. The first of many reports on methods for measuring accessibility will be out soon.
Randall rightly notes that the importance of different things varies for different people. Accessibility measured as above is clearly a supply (or opportunities) measure, and makes no account of demand. No one measure encapsulates the entire economy.
Choices have costs. Increasing acccessibility is not free. Enabling someone to access 101 grocery stores in 30 minutes travel by auto instead of 100 will likely not be noticed unless that grocery is somehow distinct, and valuable, to an individual consumer.
In the blog L.A. traffic sucks: Let’s fix it! the author argues that driving is an “addiction”. I believe people are behaving individually rationally (with perhaps irrational preferences) to achieve personal satisfaction, which may result in societally unoptimal outcomes.
From today’s Star Tribune: State of our roads is getting bumpier
The article says “Department officials say they don’t consider the condition of the roads a safety concern,” and there is no evidence unsmooth roads (at least in the range considered in Minnesota, where roads are much better than, say, Africa), reduce capacity, so what is the rationale for smooth roads?
The answer seems to be to prevent future deterioration.
“”You can reconstruct the roads already in poor condition or you can keep the roads that are about to go into the poor category from ever getting there by doing something first,” Janisch said. “It’s cheaper to keep them up.””
But is there a value to smooth roads? How much of a premium would travelers pay, all else equal, to have a smoother ride?
In the most recent episode of The West Wing(the penultimate episode “Institutional Memory”), White House Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg is being recruited to help run a foundation loosely based on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and her idea of what the best use of $10 billion would be to criss-cross Africa with highways, which would enable the delivery of medicine, expand trade, and do all sorts of good things.