Wednesday, June 22, 2011
High-Speed Rail is Moving Fast in China
As the United States dithers on the creation of high-speed rail lines, China is moving ahead at high speed. A comprehensive article in the New York Times details the cost and controversies that have gone along with China’s program.
China’s rail ministry has borrowed $300 billion to put the high-speed network on a fast track. Not all of the high-speed news out of China is positive. Building the system was a lot more expensive than they expected and ticket prices are a lot higher than they led riders to believe.
But high-speed rail is having a clear impact on commerce and mobility in China. The Times article says that real estate prices have increased tremendously in the cities that rail lines have connected. Train tickets are selling out, even when the trains are leaving stations once every 15 minutes.
Does this mean the U.S. should move ahead as well? Depends who you ask. Critics of high-speed rail say America’s low population density makes it impractical. By comparison, China is connecting cities with populations of 10 million-plus.
You Don’t Have to be Drunk to be a Driving Hazard
The legal limit for blood-alcohol content behind the wheel is .08 percent in the U.S. But researchers at UCSD say it should be lower. Apparently, just copping a buzz can make you dangerous on the road.
Sociologist David Phillips examined a huge store of data about traffic accidents. He found that even drivers with .01 percent alcohol are involved in more severe accidents than sober drivers.
A UT report on the study says that many developed countries enforce lower blood-alcohol limits. In Sweden you’re DUI if you have as little as .02 in your system. Even in the U.S. some states set tougher standards. In Colorado the blood-alcohol limit is .05.
Will this result in new legislation to crack down on drunk driving? We’ll see. When it comes to government regulation of the lives of citizens, the United States ain’t Sweden.
What Keeps Middle-Class Families in the City?
The great book of conventional wisdom tells us that cities have to improve public schools before middle class families will choose to stay in the inner city. But what if those families choose to stay in the city, for other reasons, and that results in an improvement of the schools?
This chicken/egg question was explored in a post on Streetsblog. They say researchers are starting to notice a trend. Educated middle-class parents are setting down roots in the city. They are either searching for the best public schools, through choice programs, or working to improve their neighborhood school.
There are plenty of families who don’t want to leave the city behind for a life of long commutes and houses on cul-de-sacs. Some parents (like me) have gone the Catholic school route. Others look for magnate schools.
Many inner-city schools still perform very poorly. But between education reform and shifting demographics, they may not stay that way.