Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Linkages

In honor of the South coast of these very States united being caked in the sweet nougat of the planetary bon bon, we're going to focus on some of the costs associated and/or externalized in the combustible economy built on happy motoring.

This is about a month old, but Carol Coletta of CEOsForCities interviews Anne Lutz Fernandez author of CarJacked on Smart City Radio. Anne talks of all the usual subjects regarding the high cost of car ownership, but particularly with regard to the poor and the high percentage of their incomes get spent on car maintenance/operation for cars that are often not safe or reliable on the roads. So in a way, they are much more expensive on several levels. Also, she discusses the exploitation of the vacuous notion of the American Dream by auto manufacturers.
Happening as I type this, David Roberts of Grist is tweeting from the Moving Ahead 2010 conference, which is all about sustainable transportation solutions for the 21st century. A sampling:
Bill Lind (conservative!) openly advocates for raising gas taxes every year. He's more progressive than the Obama admin. Sigh. #ma2010

Bill Lind: streetcars are pedestrian facilitators. Losing streetcars was instrumental in decline of street life in cities. #ma2010
Treehugger wonders what effect rising prices due to supply and demand inherent in peak oil and its potential for softening the landing due to decreased usage.
None of the above is intended to suggest that the market will fix everything. Or that peak oil is anything but a major concern. It undoubtedly poses a threat to our stability and well-being, and could even cause social disruption and unrest. Throw climate change into the mix, and the future is anyone's guess. But as I argued in my post on why activism beats prophecy every time, predicting the future is a fool's game. We are much better off figuring out what kind of future we want to see, and then making it happen.
On a related note, over the weekend I heard of a report suggesting that the true price of gasoline per gallon is closer to $15 rather than the $3 or whatever it is at the pump when you factor in all of the externalized costs, effects, and subsidies associated. So I looked it up and here it is, written and published in 1999, Real Price of Gasoline by International Center for Technology Assessment.
Another (and more recent) report wonders why we keep building new roads when we can maintain the crumbling existing infrastructure:
Road Work Ahead describes how America’s roads and bridges are in disrepair, bringing together a wide variety of statistics and sources with state-by-state analysis. It shows how special interest pressure tilts the playing field toward the construction of new and ever-wider highways at the expense of repair and maintenance.
The trouble with livability rankings and the disclosure of the data and metrics at WSJ. Where one list has Vancouver as its most livable city, another Vienna, and even another...Huntsville, Alabama. Where is that number for Uhaul when you need it?

Livable-city rankings can be misleading even when the methods used are transparent. The differences between the first- and second-place cities on these lists are so minute as to be statistically insignificant, yet Vancouver and Vienna get the bragging rights for first-place scores. Even a 56th-place finisher like New York scored 87 points, according to the EIU, which still places it comfortably in the top tier of cities.

"Generally speaking, we can see the figures look right," says Jon Copestake, editor of the EIU survey. "People in New York may argue it's a great city, better than Vancouver."

A recent New York Magazine ranking of top neighborhoods overcame a common drawback of rankings—that outlier results can have disproportionate impact on the overall results.

The magazine's ranking was accompanied by an online tool allowing readers to adjust weightings according to personal priorities and preferences. "We're giving you our expert authority on what makes a great neighborhood, and then we are sacrificing our authority and letting readers make their own call," says Jon Steinberg, a senior editor at New York who worked on the rankings. "We're kind of having it both ways."