Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, January 11, 2010

AP study says road building "stimulus" projects don't employ the unemployed

From "AP: Road projects don't help unemployment" in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot:

Ten months into President Barack Obama's first economic stimulus plan, a surge in spending on roads and bridges has had no effect on local unemployment and only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Spend a lot or spend nothing at all, it didn't matter, the AP analysis showed: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless of how much stimulus money Washington poured out for transportation, raising questions about Obama's argument that more road money would address an "urgent need to accelerate job growth."

Obama wants a second stimulus bill from Congress that relies in part on more road and bridge spending, projects the president said are "at the heart of our effort to accelerate job growth."

The issue really is that construction of a road or any transportation improvement takes a long time, generally, to spur additional development. Sure construction of the road has some employment associated with the construction project, but the substantive return on investment comes later.

So if the road is a "make work" project not likely to substantively contribute to local and regional economic growth, it doesn't make much difference long term.

Similarly, with transit, it isn't just building a transit line that generates return on investment, it's whether or not the line is well routed, both linking activity destinations, particularly job centers with residential areas, and well placed to generate further economic activity.

As that Sam Staley slide used in an earlier blog entry states:

"Transit, highways are mechanisms for providing transportation benefits, not ends in themselves" and "Success depends on economic conditions."

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