Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Unraveling of the Suburban Fringe

For so long we built worthlessly, now we're finding out just how much worthless costs:

BusinessWeek: Most of the overbuilding during the housing bubble took place in outer-ring suburbs. They are also likely the places to be hit worst by the downturn

Leinberger says not all suburbs will suffer this fate. (Most cities have a wealthy band of suburbs, such as the Main Line outside Philadelphia, that are holding value.) Many of Washington, D.C.'s inner suburbs such as Bethesda, Md., and Arlington, Va., could be role models for other suburbs, he said. They are dense, walkable communities focused around public transportation. Leinberger, who is also a developer, said suburbs should start building mixed-use projects around suburban train stations. "

Walkable places are now the most expensive on a price-per-square-foot basis because there is a tremendous pent-up demand for them (20 years ago it was the cheapest housing in the region)," Leinberger said. "We've got a structural change taking place in this country. Gas prices are just accelerating the trend."

How Far Will Housing Prices Fall

Howard Glaeser, Harvard Economist blogging at the NYT:

I am more confident, however, about predicting long-run prices in the Third America — the growing areas, like Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix, where the housing supply is essentially unrestricted because there is abundant land and few building regulations...

But since 2002, prices in Las Vegas and Phoenix have soared. While these cities sat out the price boom of the late 1980s, they experienced a brief, utterly unsustainable explosion in prices between 2003 and 2006. One explanation of this historically unprecedented price boom is that during a brief period of booming demand, perhaps caused by irrational exuberance, builders just couldn’t keep up. According to this view, the price boom was bound to end when supply eventually caught up with demand.

And that is the point of this post. In the unconstrained markets of the United States, that Third America, there is every reason to expect that in the long run prices will be close to construction costs. According to this view, prices in Las Vegas and Phoenix shouldn’t just mildly mean revert and fall by 20 or 30 percent. In these places, prices should fall back to development costs, which is where they were in 2002.

If this reasoning is right, then prices have plenty of room to continue falling. That’s good news for ordinary Americans looking for cheaper housing. It’s bad news, however, for the financial markets — and possibly also for the return the government can expect to receive on the taxpayer-financed purchase of Wall Street’s troubled assets.

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Opinion on the Bailout

Listen to those that know better:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/29/wallstreet.useconomy

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/26/useconomy.usa
In the Scandinavian banking crises (Sweden, Norway, Finland) which are a model of how a banking crisis should be resolved, most of the recapitalisation occurred through various injections of public capital rather than a government purchase of bad assets.

Purchase of toxic assets – in most cases in which it was used – made the fiscal cost of the crisis much higher and expensive (as in Japan and Mexico).

Wired Profile of Mitchell Joachim

Link.

At the top of the agenda, Joachim says, is mobility and its inefficiencies. Citing US Department of Energy statistics, he says that while 29 percent of the nation's energy expenditure--what he calls "the suck"--now goes toward getting around, "in 50 years that will double."

Among the biggest sources of waste, he argues, is the automobile--not only in energy but in the space it occupies (cars, he notes, spend more than 90 percent of the day parked). For nearly a century, Joachim says, "cities have been designed around cars. Why not design a car around a city?" So he did just that. One of his
concept vehicles, the
City Car , was named to Time magazine's Inventions of the Year list in 2007.

Something to Ponder While Searching for My Missing Drivers License

Friedman in the NYT: Green the Bailout and Get Something Useful in Return
In the 19th century, America had a railroad boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many lost money. But even when that bubble burst, it left America with an infrastructure of railroads that made transcontinental travel and shipping dramatically easier and cheaper.

The late 20th century saw an Internet boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many people lost money, but that dot-com bubble left us with an Internet highway system that helped Microsoft, I.B.M. and Google to spearhead the I.T. revolution.

The early 21st century saw a boom, bubble and now a bust around financial services. But I fear all it will leave behind are a bunch of empty Florida condos that never should have been built, used private jets that the wealthy can no longer afford and dead derivative contracts that no one can understand.

Top Ten Potential Freeway Removals from TreeHugger.

Quoting the Quotable:

Cities around the world are replacing urban highways with surface streets, saving billions of dollars on transportation infrastructure and revitalizing adjacent land with walkable, compact development. Transportation models that support connected street grids, improved transit, and revitalized urbanism will make reducing gasoline dependency and greenhouse gas emissions that much more convenient. It pays to consider them as cities evaluate their renewal strategies — and as the U.S. evaluates its federal transportation and climate policy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kucinich

Say what you will about him, but he's one of the few speaking sanely today, and in our interest as taxpaying citizens, word for word:

Protecting the public interest in any economic "bailout"

The U.S. government has been turned into an engine that accelerates the wealth upwards into the hands of a few. The Wall Street bailout, the Iraq War, military spending, tax cuts to the rich, and a for- profit health care system are all about the acceleration of wealth upwards. And now, the American people are about to pay the price of the collapse of the $513 trillion Ponzi scheme of derivatives. Yes, that’s half a quadrillion dollars. Our first trillion dollar compression bandage will hardly stem the hemorrhaging of an unsustainable Ponzi scheme built on debt "de-leverages."

Does anyone seriously think that our public and private debts of some $45 trillion will be paid? That the administration's growth of the federal debt from $5.6 trillion to $9.8 trillion while borrowing another trillion dollars from Social Security has nothing to do with this? Does anyone not see that when we spend nearly $16,000 for every family of four in our society for the military each year that we are heading over the cliff?

This is a debt crisis, not a credit crisis. Just as FDR had to save capitalism after Wall Street excesses, we have to re-invigorate our economy with real - not imaginary - growth. It does not address the never-ending war on the middle class.

The same corporate interests that profited from the closing of U.S. factories, the movement of millions of jobs out of America, the off- shoring of profits, the out-sourcing of workers, the crushing of pension funds, the knocking down of wages, the cancellation of health care benefits, the sub-prime lending are now rushing to Washington to get money to protect themselves.

The double standard is stunning: their profits are their profits, but their losses are our losses.

This bailout will not bring real jobs back to America. It will not bring back jobs that make things. It does not rebuild our schools, streets, neighborhoods, parks or bridges. The major product of this financial economy is now debt. Industrial capitalism has been destroyed.

In the next few days I will push for a plan that includes equity for every American in any taxpayer investment in this so-called bail-out plan. Since the bailout will cost each and every American about $2,300, I have proposed the creation of a United States Mutual Trust Fund, which will take control of $700 billion in stock assets, convert those assets to shares, and distribute $2,300 worth of shares to new individual savings accounts in the name of each and every American.

I will also insist that all of the following issues be considered in whatever Congress passes:

Reinstatement of the provisions of Glass-Steagall, which forbade speculation

Re-regulation of the finance, insurance, and real estate industries

Accountability on the part of those who took the companies down:
a) resignations of management

b) givebacks of executive compensation packages

c) limitations on executive compensation

d) admission by CEO's of what went wrong and how, prior to any government bailout

Demands for transparency
a) with respect to analyzing the transactions which took the companies down

b) with respect to Treasury's dealings with the companies pre and post-bailout

An equity position for the taxpayers
a) some form of ownership of assets

Some credible formula for evaluating the price of the assets that the government is buying. A sunset clause on the legislation

Full public disclosure by members of Congress of assets held, with possible conflicts put in blind trust.

A ban on political campaign contributions from officers of corporations receiving bailouts

A requirement that 2008 cycle candidates return political contributions to officers and representatives of corporations receiving bailouts

And, most importantly, some mechanism for direct assistance to homeowners saddled with unreasonable or unmanageable mortgages, as well as protection for renters who have lived up to their obligation but fall victim to financial tragedy when the property they live in undergoes foreclosure.

These are just some thoughts on the run.

You will hear more from me tomorrow.

Dennis Kucinich

Lessons Learned?

But they hate freedom!

What are the chances that we the taxpayer get any return on OUR investment buying up all these banks? Oh, I forgot, we also have little to no representation in our representative democracy. I need to figure out how to incorporate myself.

How Sweden Stemmed a similar banking crisis:

Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well...

...Sweden spent 4 percent of its gross domestic product, or 65 billion kronor, the equivalent of $11.7 billion at the time, or $18.3 billion in today’s dollars, to rescue ailing banks. That is slightly less, proportionate to the national economy, than the $700 billion, or roughly 5 percent of gross domestic product, that the Bush administration estimates its own move will cost in the United States.

But the final cost to Sweden ended up being less than 2 percent of its G.D.P. Some officials say they believe it was closer to zero, depending on how certain rates of return are calculated.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Sarah Palin Chronicles: Talk About Fiscal Irresponsibility

A quote from the previously posted article states:
"Sarah fouled her own nest, and I can't understand why. I hate to think it was simply greed or ambition."
I'll tell you what it is: Stupidity. Or perhaps better stated as ignorance. It's a blind faith in some bullshit somebody tries to pass as "free market." But, how is it really a free market when we have state and federal taxpayers funding the highways and overpasses below.

Expenditures at a time where Alaska isn't exactly the wealthiest state in the world and beyond that, we are discovering that we are too poor for expansive spatial relationships between home and work, you to me, me to goods, etc. Distances only exacerbated by incredibly expensive and physically corrosive highways and interchanges.

Let's take a look at Wasilla shall we?

This has been covered ad nauseum, but still important, Wasilla is a town of 9,780 people. Half of which are apparently on Meth because it is such a miserable place. I quote again from the previous article:
The two lakes are the town jewels, the only eye relief along a harrowing corridor of strip malls, big-box stores and fast-food drive-throughs that is Wasilla. "Lord, help me get through Wasilla," reads one Alaska bumper sticker.
Unfortunately, Google Earth only has decent photography of the edges of Wasilla, not the thriving downtown that we've told has been completely gutted for auto-centric, and ultimately very ephemoral auto-oriented nameless, placeless, and faceless, strip center style development.

Each of these pictures comes from within 6 miles of "downtown" Wasilla, if there still is such a thing, but based on the aerial, still within the boundary of suburban expansion.

The first, and closest to downtown. Keep in mind, all of these interchanges, pricing I would guess, in the 8- to 9-figure range times four. Nine thousand, seven hundred and eighty people. This one is still under construction. Whole lot of bang for their buck the taxpayers of Alaska are getting: a gas station, strip center, and two big box stores that will be empty within ten years.



Next. Somebody please tell me the purpose of this interchange? So the five people that live along it don't have to drive 1 mile to the next one?


Talk about bridge to nowhere?! Here is an interchange and overpass that stops. ON BOTH SIDES. Sure, it is intended to go further into the hyper-population explosion that is the metropolis of Wasilla. 9,780. This bridge alone probably cost about $25 million dollars. That's about 35 million Euros if you're scoring at home...or even if you're alone.



Last, and I can give a pass to this one because it is the intersection of the Glen Highway and the Parks Highway, but the question remains: Why does 9,780 people need a fully built out highway?

I'm certain some engineering firm was paid handsomely, a few big box developers swindled the city, state, and any federal assistance that joined the party, and retail dollars from the few wallets not dedicated to meth in Wasilla, get sucked in the middle of the night to Bentonville, AK, further impoverishing the people.

BUT BUILDING HIGHWAYS MEANS JOBS, DUMMY!!!!!111!!!!!!

Temporary ones. Ones that leave as well. This is the small mindset of the current Republican party: handouts to the road lobby for the sake of short-term growth with no mind for the long-term consequences.

As I've stated before, I'm working on a paper regarding how transportation policy needs to follow more of an economic mindset. And that is, to focus on the return on investment, the big picture return, in terms of the type, quality, and sustainability of the development that various transportation types and designs create.

Because development is always a reaction to the form transportation takes. Ugly road: turn your back on it, put a parking lot in front, and a wall in the back.

Hopefully, we can prevent other towns from succumbing to Palin's "small town" values of turning over the keys to the quality of life of the residents and taxpayers to every special interest with their hand out.

Dead Lakes of Wasilla

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/09/19/palin/index.html
"...the lake Sarah Palin lives on is dead.

"Lake Lucille is basically a dead lake -- it can't support a fish population," said Michelle Church, a Mat-Su Valley borough assembly member and environmentalist. "It's a runway for floatplanes."

Palin recently told the New Yorker magazine that Alaskans "have such a love, a respect for our environment, for our lands, for our wildlife, for our clean water and our clean air. We know what we've got up here and we want to protect that, so we're gonna make sure that our developments up here do not adversely affect that environment at all. I don't want development if there's going to be that threat to harming our environment."


But as mayor of her hometown, say many local critics, Palin showed no such stewardship. "Sarah's legacy as mayor was big-box stores and runaway growth," said Patty Stoll, a retired Wasilla schoolteacher who once worked in the same school with Palin's parents, Chuck and Sally Heath. "The truth is, Wasilla is just plain ugly, it's not a pleasant place to live. It's not thought out. And that's a shame."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making Up for Lost Time

Links:

Newsweek Architecture Critic (Link): The bad news about green architecture. Preach it sister.
"...if 500 employees have to drive 40 miles a day to work in the place—well, how green is that? Achieving real sustainability is much more complicated than the publicity suggests."

Another "conservative," Republican whose ideas I respect has expressed his support for Obama. That makes all of them. Matt Simmons on the candidates and $500/barrel oil:
"John McCain is energy illiterate," Simmons is saying. "He's just witless about this stuff. As a lifelong Republican, I'm supporting Obama." A dozen oil and gas men sitting around a conference table in Lafayette, La., chuckle nervously as he continues. "McCain says, 'Oh, we're going to wean ourselves off foreign oil in four years and build 45 nuclear plants by 2030.' He doesn't have a clue."

HUD Secretary: Over-supply of houses will weigh down the housing market for years.

Tent Cities popping up all over American Cities. Sounds a lot like HooverVilles:





Shall we call these BushTowns? BushVilles? BushBurgs?

I'm amazed at how many downtrodden are present in DTD (shorthand for Downtown Dallas, remember). Part of this obviously has to do with The Bridge, but economic policies is creating the population, the Bridge is just giving them a destination. We've coldly begun to refer to Ervay St. as "the homeless highway."
The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently reported a 12 percent drop in homelessness nationally in two years, from about 754,000 in January 2005 to 666,000 in January 2007. But the 2007 numbers omitted people who previously had been considered homeless — such as those staying with relatives or friends or living in campgrounds or motel rooms for more than a
week.

Everybody knows this administration has been fudging numbers since 2000 right, right? It's a culture that has trickled-down to every part of the economy. Pun intended. Fast food workers are now counted in the manufacturing sector. Those out of work for more than X length of time are not counted as unemployed. And apparently, if you had a roof for a couple of nights during the year, you aren't homeless. I would bet they count tents as a roof too.

I might be ashamed to admit this, but I had an "ahah" moment the other night. Perhaps this country needed the Bush administration to set fire to every branch of government. Yes, many programs and policies had become over-burdened by stifling levels of bureaucracy. While I completely disagree with the way they went about it, perhaps it takes this type of crash for overarching reform, which means we absolutely HAVE to have a progressive centrist like Obama in office next.

Generational Studies

I feel vindicated. People thought I was crazy proposing that we'll see more inter-generational homes in the future. There were two key factors precipitating that prediction. First, I knew a lot of people were about to lose their home. And as this article points out, Boomers are doubling up families in "Crash Pads" according to this report:
Boomers are getting squeezed from both ends, he says. "They loaded up on mortgage debt during the good times, and calculated their retirement assets based on inflated home prices. Now all that paper wealth is gone, they're stuck with white elephants, and the end of their peak earning years is in sight."

Scott says the housing bust could be lengthy, and painful. "The collapse of the 1980s took seven years to work itself out. In the next seven years, some 30 million boomers will reach retirement, many unprepared."
And, the second factor is the Millenials' family-oriented characteristic. Here is the original presentation I put together for internal housing market research:
(click on each image for more detail/legible text)
Millenials have a tendency to take ownership of everything around them, potentially from a pampered or spoiled upbringing. They even create their own language:
The most important thing to understand with generational studies is that they are cyclical, each generation being more a reaction to those previous than an amplification, which is why I refuse to use the term Gen Y.
There are always individual outliers, to get to know a generation, know the statistical center of gravity. It doesn't make you smart to say, well I'm not like that therefore this or that is false, or "I know somebody that isn't like that."






The full weight of Millenials are just graduating high school and college now. There full effect on society won't be realized for a number of years.







Boomers and the crisis they brought, fake money fiasco financing their obsessive need for junk accumulation.

We are currently leaving the unraveling stage and about to hit full crisis mode.











\


Millenials have the potential to be the biggest generation ever, depending upon when you cut off the back end (no two studies say the same thing). My opinion is that the involvement in this election is truly the defining point of this generation (that is, if Obama wins- huge favorite and instigator in this resurgence of young interest in politics - which was predicted by generational theorists). Therefore, any child/teen that became involved, which anecdotally seems to include a great deal of 12- to 17- year olds that won't be of voting age.
They were mostly raised in bland, disconnected suburbia and they are looking for the opposite as they move on from college. They seek diversity, activity, and urbanity.



[and they're high on caffeine]









Important point here. Millenials are the most amenable to forgoing personal space and luxury. They will take small apartments just to be in the middle of the city. They will take on roommates. And, as mentioned above, they are willing to live in multi-generational households.








The urban housing market, I predict, will get very competitive. One idea is to forgo parking provision and instead save on costs by marketing shared car programs, communal Vespa/Moped programs, or even a free bike with signing a lease.

[ignore the mullet, jean shorts, and antiquated PC monitors. either pretend this is a contemporary live-work unit or this guy is just in Oklahoma.]

Be creative about spatial arrangements and furniture design in smaller, more flexible, open unit plans.

Want More Friends?

Live CarFree. or so says this study referenced in The Guardian.

They kept their front windows closed, did not allow children to play in the street and usually accompanied them to school, he said.

Heavy Street also found people less likely to care for their street. "The whole street needs knocking down and rebuilding" was one comment. "People argue and shout regularly."

It could not have been more different on Light Street, reported Hart. There, very few people felt the need to build a fence or a wall in the front garden, and most people had their windows open.

Residents there reported almost three times the number of gathering spots
compared with Heavy Street.

"The primary influence on social deterioration is the external effect of traffic, not any possible personality differences among residents of the three streets," he concluded.

"Growing car dependence is creating an epidemic of deteriorated mental and physical health associated with air and noise pollution, inactivity and road deaths and injuries.

"It seems that community and quality of life have been neglected whilst planning and transport policies have led to a massive growth in motor vehicles in the UK,"
said Hart.

Very Cool House

Article and full slideshow here, showing the house of D.C. urban designer and CNU member Jeff Speck on a flatiron lot in D.C.





More on the Speck's, who don't own a car and had to get a variance to not provide off-street parking in their quirky, dimensionally restrictive lot. Portland eliminated these parking requirements years ago and you can bet I'll be pushing for that in Dallas.

As I've said many a time on here, the parking provision in a structured format at $15-to-18K per parking spaceis an economic barrier to investment in downtown. My building's garage is built at so-called "market" rate, i.e. suburban standards for a grocery store, cafe/bar, and 120-unit residential building, yet I never see it more than half full.

For a developer, however, seeking a variance may not be an option."

If you're working off borrowed money, you're not going to wait nine
months," Jeff Speck said.

As a result, developers of some recent D.C. projects have ended up with more parking than actually gets used, Tregoning said.

"We're forcing people to invest in spaces for automobiles rather than in spaces for
people," she said. "There's no way to recover that use."

When I Was 12...

I certainly wasn't able to do this:


Sorry for the posting absence, I was in meetings/client tours all day Thursday and Friday and "taking a nap" on the "Boulevard" at SMU's tailgate on the weekend.




Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Words of RFK

I recently began reading Obamanomics: How Bottom-Up Economic Prosperity Will Replace Trickle-Down Economics (which is excellent) by John Talbott, one of those lone voices in the wilderness predicting the housing, and in turn, banking induced Darwinism for the sake of pure ideology unraveling which quotes heavily from Robert Kennedy delivered to the Commonwealth Club of Cali on Jan 4, '68:

"Truly we have a great gross national product, almost $800 billion, but can that be the criterion by which we judge this country? Is it enough? For the gross national product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people
who break them.


It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife and television programs, which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. And the gross national product...does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, the joy of their play.

It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither wit nor courage, neither wisdom nor learning, neither compassion nor duty to our country. It measures everything...except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America, except why we are proud to be Americans."
Talbott sums it nicely later [paraphrasing] by stating 'the free market can not step outside itself to see the quality of life it is producing." It's time we step outside of our faith in pure numbers when the numbers don't really measure anything at all but how they can be manipulated. How many jobs, and brainpower, and gdp goes into searching for tax loopholes and market manipulation daily which results in not wealth creation but wealth reallocation, which is only a naughty word if its downwards.

RFK, proving that while people are immortal, great ideas are immortal.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Larry Beinhart's Crash Course in Economics

Supreme Court Justice, and one of the most quotable noir-ish soldiers from Ken Burns' Civil War, Oliver Wendell Holmes:
"Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society."
I'm working on an article to be published on how public investment (thinking through the lens of the triple bottom line) should be thought of in terms of what return can be generated. I'm more than happy to pay taxes that generate good schools, quality healthcare, builds bridges, efficient and intelligent transportation, particularly mass transit with a keen eye for its integration with and end result of the adjacent urban development, i.e. high quality urban places.

I thought to myself today during a meeting how we as the citizenry and stewards of our cities and country, are like amnesiacs learning how to build cities AND a civilized society again. The complete failure we are seeing of neo-liberal so-called free market global economics certainly appears to be the crash that Fourth Turning predicts. Thanks Baby Boomers, you fulfilled your destiny.

Piggy Backing on the previous article regarding the cost of selfishness, and in turn, the resultant anarchy, his closing statement:
"In my business, I hate regulations, unions, and high taxes.

In my country, I appreciate regulations, unions, and what high taxes, if intelligently spent, do for me. Then I live in a country in which business in general does better, my investments in the stock market do better, my retirement is protected, my children's health care is affordable, and I have more hope for their future."
Link to the entire article.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cost of Anarchy

Pretty fascinating little study by a couple of physicists (link).
Uncoordinated individuals in human society pursuing their personally optimal strategies do not always achieve the social optimum, the most beneficial state to the society as a whole. Instead, strategies form Nash equilibria which are often socially suboptimal. Society, therefore, has to pay a price of anarchy for the lack of coordination among its members.
I find the meta-issue to be more interesting and on-point than the proposed recommendations below. This study begins to put some empirical proof to the increased safety of populated pedestrian-friendly places or mass transit, the 'Jacobsian' "eyes on the street" theory that, in the end, we're still for the most part looking out for each other - to simplify it.

To gain a better theoretical understanding of the nature of POA in networks, the team applied their methodology to various types of idealized networks. They came to the conclusion that, to improve the Price of Anarchy, you must close off various roads—something known as Braess's paradox. In the network representing Boston, the researchers find six possible road closures that would reduce the delay in the suboptimal Nash (selfish) equilibrium. A similar analysis of the London and New York networks found that there were seven and twelve roads, respectively, that could be closed to improve the overall travel time.

While still theoretical, the work has the potential to aid future urban planning. Since the obvious solution of adding more roads may actually make the problem worse, an analysis of this sort could prove invaluable in determining real-world driving conditions.

This is where I start to get worried. The grid, the system with the most amount of choices and routes (or at least a modified grid i.e. D.C. vs. New York) is the most efficient and supports the most amount of 'traffic' or cars flowing at one time. What this study fails to account for is the differention in street hierarchy.

I can see the route closure suggestion having the most merit where there is already the most amount of mobility choices and, relatedly, density, i.e. London, yes; New York, yes; Boston, maybe; Dallas, gawd no.

New Swedish Bikini Team Train

Under Development (link).
To achieve those goals, the Swedish Railway Group is counting on a two-car electric-driven (Swedish electricity is mostly from hydro and nuclear) train type called Regina (Swedish designed from Canadian company Bombardier) retroffited with better bogies (wheel-carrying chassis) and noise-proofing to be faster, energy-efficient and comfy. One reason the country wants to get ahead in fast trains is because of the great (somewhat empty) distances between different population centers. Another is that the government realizes it needs to reduce the cost of fast, efficient train travel to compete with low-cost airlines. This summer the hyped-up Reginas got lots of testing, and last weekend broke two previous Swedish records (287 and 295 Kph) by travelling at 303 kilometers per hour. Poor Regina didn't get anywhere near the global record, however.

Most Sustainable Cities in 2020

From Ethisphere (Link).
The million-dollar question, however, is how these cities’ future development plans are going to be financed. One of the best routes forward—and all of the 2020 Global Sustainability Centers seem to understand this—is for cities to cooperate with the businesses operating within their borders. This benefits both parties; businesses drive their revenue through partnerships, and cities tap local resources to improve their quality of life. In fact, this concept is almost necessary to give any legitimacy to a city’s sustainability program.

Only American City to crack the top 10 of large cities is NYC; only in mid-sized cities is Portland. Leaving out Dallas was clearly appropriate an oversight.

Also of note, that despite China's best efforts at humongo-cities from scratch eco-cities, not one showed up on the list. Perhaps that zero in categories of free media/speech and transparency/justice had a little sump'n sump'n to do with that.

I had never heard of Ethisphere before, but it looks like a pretty good, knowledgeable/progressive AND pragmatic source.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Happy Hour - Free Beer Guess the City

Yes, I'm back. My first happy hour in weeks.

This week, given the amount of pictures I'm including, I don't know if it will be that difficult. Straight forward. All I need is the name of this place where not only is it carfree, you couldn't get a car there if you wanted to.



Not my hand.



Not a peace lily. Movie Reference - bonus beer to whomever gets that.

















And here is your one hint:
I speak, "arf."


Oh, and apparently, pigeons like it here as well (although none were photographed or injured in making this blog post).