Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There’s Always Something More to Be Said

I’ve become delinquent with my follow-ups in the New Year.  But my negligence notwithstanding, there always seems to be insights that follow on the heels of past posts.  So, today will be a collection of follow-ups.  You can spend a few minutes glancing at them, or you can spend a half-day following all the links.  Go ahead, get lost in the online world of urbanism.

StrongTowns:  As a reminder of the upcoming video chat with Charles Marohn of StrongTowns, we’ll start with something from Brent Toderian, a Vancouver, BC city planner.  Toderian seems to be a convert to the StrongTowns theory because he tweeted, “These days in North America, the most persuasive argument for compact, walkable cities, and for walking, biking, and transit, is a fiscal one.”

Please note that Toderian isn’t saying the “best” argument, but the most “persuasive” one.  The distinction is significant.  One can argue that there are many reasons for an increased emphasis on urbanism, including climate change, peak oil, and market demand.  But the fiscal argument is the one that will likely resonate across the broadest range of the political spectrum.  And that breadth can be crucial toward building a consensus.

Infrastructure Cult: Despite the efforts of Marohn and Toderian, the drumbeat of the infrastructure cult continues.  When the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released their updated assessment on the need for more infrastructure, the Bloomberg Report, CNBC, and the Washington Post all jumped into line, noting the $3.1 trillion of GDP that could be lost without new infrastructure.

All three understood one key point differently than I had.  They assumed that $3.1 trillion would be the GDP loss if the U.S. didn’t fund $1.1 trillion in potentially unfunded infrastructure improvements.  But I understood it to be the loss if none of the $2.7 trillion in infrastructure costs required between now and 2020 were funded.  I still suspect that I’m correct.  If I could argue that $3.1 trillion in benefits would flow from $1.1 trillion in costs, I’d make that point as clear as possible.  And ASCE didn’t do that.

Presidential Inauguration: I described an urbanist connection for the woman who offered the invocation at the inauguration, but missed another urbanism star.  The press coverage of the motorcade from the Capitol to the White House gave good coverage to the newly installed bicycle lane on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Bicycles versus Motorcycles: Two months ago, I made a passing note about the line between bicycles and motorcycles becoming blurred.  Apparently I wasn’t the first to think so.  The European Union has developed a demarcation between the bicycles and motorcycles.  I don’t know if they drew the line in the right place, but I’m sure of two things.  One, there is at least one manufacturer unhappy with the decision.  And two, the U.S. government will draw the line in a different place.

Readership: I recently noted that readership of this blog had decreased slightly during the holiday season.  I hoped for a rebound.  The rebound happened.  Readership is now at its all-time peak.  I thank my loyal readers for coming back three times a week and for telling their friends about this blog.  We’re hopefully building a solid North Bay urbanism community around this blog and around other people and sites who offer a similar message.

I continue to send email reminders, by bcc, whenever I publish a new blog post.  If you or a friend would like to receive these emails, let me know by comment or by email.  I’ll be pleased to add you to the list.

Petaluma Urban Chat:  This past Saturday, Petaluma Urban Chat took its scheduled Petaluma Transit field trip.  The outing went well, with the Petaluma Transit manager joining us for lunch to discuss some of the intricacies of transit planning and finance.  The group will soon begin discussing its next field trip.

The next meeting of Petaluma Urban Chat will be on February 12, when we can chat with the StrongTowns founder.  Details are here.

These follow-ups were fun.  Look for more next week.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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