Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday Linkages

A couple of quick things as I get back into the swing of things (though I returned from Charleston on Sunday):

First, a good piece about Detroit and Ed Glaeser from Rustwire, who effectively argues that Detroit's failings were sewn by bad, anti-urban infrastructural choices not a lack of entrepreneurial nous:
Although Detroit did make a substantial investment in infrastructure throughout the twentieth century, such investments were shaped by anti-urban ideals. Apart from the People Mover project that Glaeser references, which was far too little (three miles of light rail) and far too late (mid-1980s), Detroit’s urban renewal investments in “transportation infrastructure” were devoted to miles-upon-miles of highways. Such highways ripped up and divided scores of once-functional neighborhoods throughout Detroit. Glaeser is no friend of highway spending, but it is misleading and misguided to use Detroit’s twentieth century “transportation investments” to argue broadly against public investments in transportation infrastructure.
And I agree.  But here is the missing part: entrepreneurial opportunities (Glaeser) and the Creative Class (Florida) are intricately tethered to transportation infrastructure.  They both require the opportunity afforded and the productivity provided by networks of interconnectivity.  Detroit built (and now the Sun Belt is busy still building) networks of disconnectivity and isolation.  Those with means left for opportunities that were relocated away from the city by the misguided public investments.  That the poor were left behind should be thought of in morphological understanding as the last remaining leaves of a dying tree.  In other words, everybody's right, but only partially.
Monorail, monorail, monorail!  Ahh the golden age of the gondola is almost here!  Everyone rejoice the inelegance of Rube Goldberg-esque transportation networks while we neglect improving and perfecting the key interaction and integration between movement and land use of the ground plane.

And posts in defense of the capacity of gondolas in comparison to say light rail and street car leave out a few factors:  1) speed of light rails and subways - a typical NYC subway line moves about 5x more than the peak number gondola advocates are projecting while the busiest Hong Kong line (perhaps the best system in the world moves more than 10x the people per hour) 2) the effect streetcars have on improving walkability by calming streets the busy commercial streets they share.

As for cost in comparison to other forms of mass transit, I disregard that as a factor because it plays in the hands of the current model of gold-plated highways while neglecting other forms that produce better, more livable, lovable, and efficient cities.  On the flipside is it really that cost effective in terms of ridership (and ridership gets into that efficiency and need for expedience issue)?  The Emirates Air Line in London cost $100 million and moves 4,500 people per day (though with regard to the Olympics, the price of everything is inflated by a certain "corruption" percent).

The neatly veiled caveat in the Atlantic Cities piece is to specify "in certain cases" cable drawn is best.  Yes, when steep inclines are involved or you want to sell a view to tourists.  And that's pretty much it.  Because it only stacks up otherwise when you dumb down the arguments or capitulate to the failed transportation and city building political apparatus currently in place.
Apparently, community organizing and outreach yields $115 for every $1 invested.  And walkability nearly $40.  I'm going to try and spend some time digging into these reports over the next few days to parse how they derived those numbers.  Though I'm sure there are a plenitude of reports stating for every highway dollar spent every one gets a pony and the world will be filled with rainbows.