The conservative case for transportation is bifurcated and all mixed up
(Photo left: from the AGC of America.) The Weekly Standard sponsored a forum on the "conservative case for transportation," sponsored by the Association of General Contractors of America--who of course, have a vested interest in construction-related matters, and favor road building.
- More Highways, Less Congestion
- Interstate 2.0
One of the things that bugs the s*** out of me when it comes to a lot of conservative blather about "the market" especially with regard to land use and transportation is that their analysis of "the market" and what it is and why it functions the way that it does is narrow and constrained and therefore flawed. It takes for granted that "the market" is what is presented without identifying those governmental and other factors and supports which create and maintain the so called "free enterprise" of the market that they study.
No one is rooting harder for the democracy movements in the Arab world to succeed than I am. But even if things go well, this will be a long and rocky road. The smart thing for us to do right now is to impose a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax, to be phased in at 5 cents a month beginning in 2012, with all the money going to pay down the deficit. Legislating a higher energy price today that takes effect in the future, notes the Princeton economist Alan Blinder, would trigger a shift in buying and investment well before the tax kicks in. With one little gasoline tax, we can make ourselves more economically and strategically secure, help sell more Chevy Volts and free ourselves to openly push for democratic values in the Middle East without worrying anymore that it will harm our oil interests. Yes, it will mean higher gas prices, but prices are going up anyway, folks. Let’s capture some it for ourselves.
It is about time. For the last 50 years, America (and Europe and Asia) have treated the Middle East as if it were just a collection of big gas stations: Saudi station, Iran station, Kuwait station, Bahrain station, Egypt station, Libya station, Iraq station, United Arab Emirates station, etc. Our message to the region has been very consistent: “Guys (it was only guys we spoke with), here’s the deal. Keep your pumps open, your oil prices low, don’t bother the Israelis too much and, as far as we’re concerned, you can do whatever you want out back. You can deprive your people of whatever civil rights you like. You can engage in however much corruption you like. You can preach whatever intolerance from your mosques that you like. You can print whatever conspiracy theories about us in your newspapers that you like. You can keep your women as illiterate as you like. You can create whatever vast welfare-state economies, without any innovative capacity, that you like. You can undereducate your youth as much as you like. Just keep your pumps open, your oil prices low, don’t hassle the Jews too much — and you can do whatever you want out back.”
It's great that the Weekly Standard, the Examiner, and organizations focused on highway building want to keep things the way they are, but there is no way that the U.S., with less than 4% of the world's population, can continue to consume 25% of the world's oil supplies, not to mention that the massively subsidized separated use, sprawling and exurban land use development paradigm connected by personally owned automobiles is bankrupting the U.S. economy.
It was telling that at that conference that I was at on Tuesday, that only 4-5 areas in the country--I mentioned DC, NYC, San Francisco, and West Los Angeles, but not Boston--have functioning real estate markets where new development is still occuring and in most other communities, even reasonably successful places like Denver, Seattle, Houston and Dallas are not seeing substantive new development, and in automobile-centric metropolitan areas like Atlanta, Charlotte, much of Florida, Phoenix, etc., the markets are completely moribund.
But even in the Washington metropolitan area, it's only about 8 submarkets--4 in the city, and 4 in the suburbs--that are highly functioning.
All are well-served by the Metro subway system.
All are walkable/mixed use communities.