23 December 2006

fashionable defeatism

"fashionable defeatism" is a term coined by Robert Atkinson of the Progressive Policy Institute to describe the tendency of leaders to slow the rate of congestion (at least in the context i care about) rather than fix the problem. i've been reading The Road More Traveled by Ted Balaker and Sam Staley, mailed to me from the Reason Foundation (i'm just that important). the main theme of the book is how US leadership has fallen asleep at the wheel and fallen prey to neo-hippie ideology regarding congestion on our highways.

unfortunately, many countries are ahead of us in solving similar issues (including France!) by involving the private sector, often by guaranteeing long-term concessions for tolls. australia, england, germany, france, etc are solving problems using innovation and targeted incentives rather than taxation and stubborn adherence to outdated philosophies. the result is that all the money is avoiding our coffers.

my "neo-hippie" snipe regards mostly the idea that we should seek to abandon our cars and live in harmony with light rail and walking. the poster child is almost always the NYC subway. i've ridden the subway and it's nice. but i don't commute around NYC and i certainly don't commute between two suburbs when a radial rail system is fo' shizzle. NYC also boasts about 50 000 people per square mile, way more than enough to warrant a large investment in a rail system. light rail won't work for most places and will end up being subsidized to the tune of millions in order to serve a decliningly small percentage of commuter traffic.

convenience matters, too. a woman at my office was in a van pool that would ultimately deliver her to the front door of our building in about 90 minutes. now she drives to work in 30 to 45 minutes and has time (here i paraphrase) to sleep late and still enjoy a relaxing morning with her husband. i haven't asked, but i'm sure she'd agree that rail wonks can eat it. with a fork.

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