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If You Build It They Will Come

And other stories in the news

If You Build It They Will Come

You’ve heard this one from me before when speaking of expanding freeways. It may be a cliché, but it’s one that has some academic weight behind it. Two Canadian scholars have put out a study whose conclusion, basically, is: Roads cause traffic jams.

An increase in vehicles miles traveled is a sure sign of an improving economy, but also more traffic jams and greenhouse emissions.
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Above: An increase in vehicles miles traveled is a sure sign of an improving economy, but also more traffic jams and greenhouse emissions.

Their study will soon be published in the American Economic Review and it finds that building more roads or freeway lanes simply increases automotive demand.

The study (discouragingly) also concludes that building transit doesn’t do much good either. Transit opportunities may cause some people to choose the bus or the trolley, but that just frees up space on the roads… space that will be quickly filled by someone else's car.

The conclusion of Professors Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner seems to be: Build as little road capacity as possible and maybe people will just stay home… or go someplace to which they can walk or bike.

Detroit Gets Small

American carmakers took a long time to get there, but a New York Times article tells us they have responded to the demand for small cars. Almost one in four vehicles sold in the U.S. in April was a compact or subcompact car. A decade ago it was one in eight.

The shift to small car production, along with wage concessions by the UAW, is credited with preserving jobs in the U.S. auto industry. And small American cars are no longer a joke. The Ford Fiesta is the best-selling subcompact in the U.S. Among compacts, the Chevy Cruze is second only to the Honda Civic.

Density Will Makes us Rich!

Okay, this story comes to some questionable conclusions. But click on the link and see if it makes sense to you. An essay on Grist.org cites new scholarship to support the writer's view that urban density is the ideal human condition.

I quote: “The more smart, skilled people you get close together, the more you reduce transaction costs and increase ‘knowledge spillover,’ which leads to commerce and innovation.”

The article notes that the top 100 metropolitan areas in the United States take up only 12 percent of the land but produce 75 percent of the GDP. But isn’t that what you’d expect? And not all of those metro areas are what I’d call “dense.” I’ll stop.

Recycling Metal from Electric Cars

It’s surely occurred to some of us to wonder what’s going to happen to all that nickel and cadmium when we have to dispose of electric or plug-in cars and their high-powered batteries. Now a report from the United Nations Environment Programme tells us less than a third of metals, globally, have a recycling rate of more than 50 percent.

Rates of recycling are especially low for specialty metals that are used in many emerging technologies, which include hybrid cars and wind turbines. Apparently, environmental progress comes at an environmental cost.

Would the Rapture Lower Rents and Home Prices?

About a week ago there was a lot of talk about Harold Camping’s prediction of the end of the world and the coming of Jesus. That caused a columnist for Daily Finance to wonder how it would affect the real estate market.

Most people assume that the rapture would cause all of us to either go to heaven or be obliterated. But some theorists have imagined that those who were not called to heaven would just be stuck on earth with other sinners.

What would be the effect of this reduction in population? Would you finally be able to afford that 5-bedroom mini-mansion because there would be so few offers on it? Read the column and use your own imagination.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | June 2, 2011 at 6:12 p.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

Without the existence of high-density, multi-tiered, multiple-lane freeways, WITH innumerable on-ramps, connector roads, DRIVERS WOULD BE UNABLE TO USE THEM. Look to the history of our glorious automobilized neighbor to the north. Once upon a time there was just one Freeway--The Pasadena Frwy. Then faster than rabbits in mating season, LA gave birth to freeways by the score during the post-war era. Today, LA County is home to over 10 million motoring folks and probably twice as many cars. Orange County is home to over 3 million in a land area, just a fraction of the land size of SD County. Riverside and San Bernardino Counties each have more than 2 million. Add LA County and Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties;
SHAZAM! OVER 18 MILLION PEOPLE IN JUST those four counties. TECHNOLOGY FROM The past century has demonstrated how society can successfully AND RAPIDLY construct URBAN SPRAWL ON AN EVER-INCREASING SCALE.

As you WILL SEE BELOW- although I omitted San Diego County's population from the tally of OVER 18 MILLION FOLKS IN LA-ORA-RIV-SBDO MEGA-COUNTIES; SAN DIEGO COUNTY, BY ITSELF, RANKS AS THE SECOND MOST POPULOUS COUNTY IN THIS GOLDEN STATE.

By Population SOUTHERN CA COUNTIES (2010 CENSUS)
Los Angeles 10,441,080
San Diego 3,224,432
Orange 3,166,461
Riverside 2,139,535
San Bernardino 2,073,149
Alpine* 1,189

**I INCLUDED ALPINE COUNTY TO SHOW WHAT A STATE OF CONTRASTS CA IS. IF YOU WANT TO GET AWAY FROM PEOPLE GO NORTH, YOUNG ONE, GO NORTH. 1,189 PEOPLE IN THE ENTIRE COUNTY OF ALPINE. THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE LIVING IN MY APT. COMPLEX!

ANYWAY, THE ROAD TO THE FUTURE IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY IS CLEAR AND STRAIGHTAWAY. WE SEE THE FUTURE; AND IT IS LOS ANGELES MEGALAND. SO, HERE IN SD, MORE AND MORE FREEWAYS WILL HAVE TO BE BUILT AT AN ACCELERATING RATE IN THE YEARS AHEAD IN ORDER TO SUSTAIN CALIFORNIA'S DRIVING POPULATION. HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS MORE ON-RAMPS WILL SPROUT IN OUR CHERISHED EDEN-BY THE SEA.
MEGAMOTORWAYS-- 48 LANES ACROSS, WITH THREE VERTICAL TIERS OF TRAFFIC LANES WILL HAVE TO BECOME COMMONPLACE. WE'LL HAVE TO BUILD FREEWAYS EXTENDING SEVERAL MILES OFFSHORE INTO THE PACIFIC, AS WELL AS HIGH-ALTITUDE east-west, north-south FREEWAYS, UPWARD IN THE SKIES ABOVE!! WE'LL HAVE TO THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX!
WHAT AN EXCITING FUTURE of CREATIVE SPRAWL DESIGN LIES BEFORE US!

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | June 3, 2011 at 6:56 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

Is this a great country or what!?

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