Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kubler-Ross Model on Line 3, err Stage 3

We did it!  We made it everyone!  We have finally advanced the fossils of the 20th century beyond the first two stages of grief as we read an op-ed firmly planted in the bargaining stage:  Keep the Faith on Trinity Parkway's Benefits to All of Dallas.

You remember the first two stages don't you?  Denial, "it's funded and approved.  Nothing you can do.  Get over it."  Anger, "nothing but no good hipsters and rich people trying to punish the poor."  Forget for a moment that the op-ed linked above is utter nonsense or that car-dependence actually punishes the poor more than anybody else (and that's who you claim to protect? Yay, paternalism!) or that Dallas county is bleeding jobs outward, primarily to the north so that South Dallas residents must either drive further or leave altogether (both of which are happening).  No.  Instead, what I love most is the picture accompanying the piece:

"Here are some wildflowers.  Aren't they pretty.  They're inside the levee.  Now imagine this replaced with a highway?  Ain't it grand?!" ...k...

That was fun.  Now for my real point: the nonsensical drivel that propels the dinosaurs to write that "new highway capacity eases congestion and drives growth."  Both are incorrect.  Dramatically so.  "But if we just repeat it ad nauseum people will believe it!"  Or, "if we don't even question that assumption ourselves, then we can believe what we write!"

Here's the real problem with the assertion.  We know that as you increase highway capacity, the amount everyone drives goes up.  What traffic engineers don't realize, is that they think they're chasing the market, where origins and destinations are.  But in fact, they're pushing the market, shifting where those origins and destinations are.  We don't blame the leaves for their location on the tree, it's the branches.

If driving goes up (increased private sector cost to get around) because of increased highway capacity (increased public sector cost), what are we actually trying to achieve?  Just more spending?

While there is a less strong correlation between the various GDP per capita data and amount of miles driven, it still appears to be negative.  Regardless, we know for a fact that it isn't a positive correlation.  The more people drive, the economy doesn't improve because driving around is but the means.  It is waste.  Hence, my point about Copenhagen (54% of trips by cars, 4% of gdp spent on transpo) and Houston (95% of trips by cars, 14% of GDP spent on transpo).  The 10% gap is waste simply to do all the exact same things while not agglomerating economies in an efficient, profitable, sustainable, and resilient manner.  The inertia is like the tides eating away at the foundation beneath the beach house.

Because there is no new wealth to be gained simply by spending public dollars in frivolous manner.  Ultimately, transportation is about allocation of goods and services in the cheapest and most expedient way possible.  High cost of infrastructure and high cost of getting around is literally the worst idea we've ever adhered to...luckily for most cities around the world, they've learned this lesson far more quickly than Dallas or NCTCOG or TxDOT.  Though there seems to be some new blood in TxDOT.  Severe debt and no sign of new revenue tends to shake up the thought processes.