Monday, September 6, 2010

National Transportation News/Policy

I attempt to close the longest posting gap in the history of this blog on this cloudy Labor Dabor through somewhat lengthy prose. Thanks to dear old Mom for sending me the piece with the following exclamation, "Should be more than 4000 miles!!!!"

Obama to Propose Massive Rebuilding Program Costing at Least $50 Billion
by Julie Pace, The Associated Press
Proposals to see 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of railways, 150 miles of runways constructed or rebuilt

I think the best way to attack this is to post an excerpt from my reply:

I cant fault this administration compared to any other in history when it comes to rail investment, but yes, this is still heavily loaded toward maintaining the personal motoring system. I fear this is probably the only way they can get it passed because a consensus of people with the right mindset just doesn't exist yet. It is higher fuel prices (or scarcity), not high unemployment, that would drive a paradigm shift as we started to see 3 years ago.

Any money thrown at airports at this stage of the game is
money thrown directly into a black hole in my opinion. On top of the business model issues any airline faces when crude oil reaches the $85 per barrel region (it currently trades at $74.41), they seem to have no regard for the constant alienation of their customer base through hideen taxes and fees, new baggage fees, and if that wasn't enough, horrificly uncomfortable conditions.

When we went to Philadelphia and other coastal cities in April, we figured we'd save a lot of time by flying back from Baltimore. When we returned in August, we just decided to take the train all the way home, a 10 hour trip, but infinitely more comfortable, enjoyable, and humanist. And the trains are jam-packed these days. A piece of the original stimulus went to building new rail cars. The sorry state of the Amtrak fleet previously could not add any additional capacity or trains not due to demand, but due to limitations in physical numbers of rolling stock.

When all is said and done, 4,000 miles is 19% of what Amtrak currently operates on. I suppose there is not yet a breakdown as to how those miles are to be broken up into freight only operation, shared freight/passenger alignment, and local subways/light rails/streetcars. Conversely 150,000 is 3.75% of the utterly preposterous 3,995,644 miles of roads in the United States, many of which should never have been built.

At this point I'd go into my diatribe about why the post office is losing money, but you've probably had enough...

First let me say that there is a modicum of disingenuousness in my accounting (there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, right?). 4,000 is actually 2.84% of all railway length in the U.S., but I assume this is largely targeting the public transportation side of things. I don't believe Class II and Class III railroads are considered at all for this type of funding.

I spared my mother a rant on the efficiency and economic viability of postal service (before and after the proliferation of suburban sprawl and the rejection of the railroad), but you, the world-at-large, will have to indulge me my key points. What you didn't have to put up with was a short missive on Kidney Bean pod growth.
  • Massive post office buildings of high architectural quality have been destroyed or sit empty in downtowns across the nation
  • Most are situated close to rail stations or their historic location
  • The cost to mail is regionally flat - the cost to mail a letter from downtown Rochester to downtown Syracuse is the same as mailing it from Webster to Baldwinsville

There really isn't much more to it than that, and there really doesn't need to be. The increased reliance on many many more letter carriers traveling in many many more vehicles is breaking the system as we have spread out to create inefficient metropolitan regions. We now duplicate and triplicate postal facilities on the periphery of cities as centralization was executed in favor of ample parking.

Unfortunately this blog is facing the spectre of another sizable posting gap. I have not lost interest in the topics of urban infill development, resource scarcity, mass transportation systems, and local food production. Quite the contrary, I consider them more critical than ever. What has happened the past two months has been a significant extension of volunteer work.

The following organizations comprise what is essentially my personal urban action plan:

So if you don't hear from me in a while I'll either be doing these things or a rare leisure pursuit. Another factor, no doubt, is the drying up of capital streams which has rendered new development project announcements few and far between. I expect this to continue as we unwind bad debt and persist in a deflationary circumstance.

On that note, I'm not really one who is into overtly telling people what to do, but I recommend the following strategy for the seemingly transitional months and years ahead.

  • Pay down all debts
  • Reinvest in your property, strive for energy efficiency
  • Move your money from too big to fail bank to local credit union
  • Buy local food, strive for cane sugar over HFCS, meats are increasingly a local item too
  • Acquire as many practical skills as possible
  • Locate along transit lines/walkable areas, get acquainted with local transit
  • Support local businesses regardless of cost differences
  • Get involved in community events, build strong bonds with neighbors
  • Have standards and be principled!

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