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Crossposted at The Seminal at FDL.

As we bring to a close one of the busiest holiday travel seasons of the year, I want to offer a reminder of a policy area where our timidity in proposing and supporting bold, visionary ideas directly hampers the political support for bold, visionary ideas.

In some minds, suburbia exists in juxtaposition against mass transit. But the deeper reality is that suburbia is most dependent upon mass transit. The problem is that we have displaced a great diversity of transit options with only two for the vast majority of suburbanites: main highways and commercial airports. There is a great amount of goods and passengers that like moving all around our great land. It is not the individual preferences of travelers that have created a system of congested interstates and frustrating air travel. Rather, it is the specific actions and inactions of policy makers.

This is good news insofar as it means that the main barrier is something that can be overcome. Consumer preferences is not the problem.

It comes as a surprise to some people to learn what holidays are dangerous. The first one that comes to mind for most people is New Year's Eve, from all the drunks on the road. And that's a good guess; Americans die every year in traffic fatalities on New Year's Eve. But that's not even the second most-deadly holiday. The deadlier ones, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, have a very important factor in common. They involve migration patterns that overwhelm our transportation infrastructure. Long times in confined spaces, particularly when aggravated by traffic and congestion, lead to stress, irritability, fatigue, and aggression. We have poured significant resources into getting suburbanites around and within the metropolitan areas in which they live day to day. However, we have failed to allocate the same kinds of resources to getting people between cities.

If this were because suburbanites were opposed to big government spending on our transportation infrastructure, it would be more difficult to credibly suggest doing anything. If this were because there was something un-American about mobility, or about developing transportation options, it would be more difficult to credibly suggest doing anything.

But look at where our dollars have been going the last couple decades. They've been going toward massive highways and airports predominantly in suburbia. And in spite of our much-maligned civics and history education in our country, you know what every junior high schooler can tell you about? Things like New York's great natural harbor, the almost-mythical Erie Canal, the Louisiana Purchase happening because we wanted the Mississippi River port of New Orleans, and the Transcontinental Railroad. Monopoly has permanently cemented the B&O Railroad in our cultural lexicon. We even use transportation networks in sports nicknames, like World Series events such as the Subway Series and I-70 Series. And don't even get me started on the nearly universal appeal that is electric train sets to 8 year olds.

There are some areas where there is a conflict between environmental concerns and public opinion. What is so noticeable about building a more diverse and comprehensive transportation network is public opinion is not a problem. Everybody wants less traffic. Trains are an iconic aspect of Americana. We don't have to get everybody to stop driving; in fact, that's a nonsensical goal. Rather, we should give people more options. Tightly coupled systems break down spectacularly. But systems with slack and redundancy are much stronger. They're more pleasant to use.

Oh, and we could use forms of transportation that emit less air pollution and GHGs while using less oil. But what's great about our transportation network is that we actually used to have a less oil-intensive system. We had great waterways and rail systems. Some of them are so superior they are still in use today despite massive public policy preferences for major highways and airports.

We don't have to reinvent America. We just have to reclaim it. Americans love big projects. We love being able to move about the country. And what makes better family values than getting home safely so you can go visit again next year?

Now, this obviously is a not a detailed technical analysis of how to (re)build our urban and rural rail network while connecting this relatively newer concept of suburbia in between. I just want to offer a reminder that we can do it. Suburbanites aren't opposed to spending big money on massive projects. They love it. The've spent the last couple decades on Big Government doing just that, rimming our metro areas with three digit interstates.

20 miles from downtown St. Louis, MO, there's a marker for the beginning of the first Interstate highway system in the 1950s. Today, that system includes two massive bridges over the Missouri River, five lanes each. Just a couple miles south, another parallel system has been built with another pair of five lane bridges. These were massive public works projects in the heart of conservative suburban America.

Why were these built? Because people love them their mass transit.

One of my favorite bits of this story is that big projects are so popular, so captivating of the American experience, that there's even competition for the claim of where the first Interstate started. Two other states, Kansas and Pennsylvania, also claim to be the first location of the system. In the middle of the 21st century, will we have similar contests for where our next generation rail system got kickstarted? I'd love to get us to the point where we look at that map that the US High Speed Rail Association has put together and say not that it looks bold, but rather, that it looks rather incomplete. If you had a map of our interstate highway system from the 1970s, you would scarcely be able to navigate suburbia today.

I want to emphasize, this isn't a knock against suburbia. I love suburbia. This is a knock against the fear that causes us to hesitate as if there's something unpopular or un-American about proposing big projects. Why can't we have a combination of urban subways, suburban light rail, and rural regional and high speed rail networks that place a train station within walking, biking, or short car distances of the vast majority of the population? I think it's because we're a little afraid to ask for it.

Originally posted to washunate on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 07:39 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  urban subways connected to suburban light rail (20+ / 0-)

    connected to rural high speed passenger networks. Making trucks pay for the full cost of the wear and tear they do to our nation's highways. And revitalizing the bulk of rural America that isn't along one of our core rural interstate corridors. That would do a lot to help Americans move around our country easier, from those going to see grandma to grandmas who aren't comfortable driving anymore being able to go see their new grandkids.

    This ain't rocket science. We built the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century. That's the century before the last century, for those keeping score. And there is such love for the train stations of the 20th century that people have poured resources into them for other purposes just to try to keep their memory alive.

    •  Every year .. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      washunate

      During the holidays, I pile-on to the trains with a few hundred millon of my compatriots to go home. It gets a little crowded and hectic at times, but it's always a great adventure and a safe trip.

      Between holidays, I commute by Metro and Bus, and locally by bicycle. Public Trasit leaves time for reading or socializing or sleeping, personal public time (verses the isolation of automobiles).

      The US really does need to get back to trains. They are so sensible and civilized and green.

      Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

      by koNko on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 06:55:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You're singing my song. (7+ / 0-)

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 07:44:28 PM PST

  •  Preaching to the choir (10+ / 0-)

    as the spouse of a bus driver. :)

    And as the population ages, transit is going to be a necessity in more areas of the country as people have to give up their private vehicles either because of cost, or because they can no longer (or should no longer) drive.

    Civility is the way of telling someone to go fuck themselves in such a way that the someone agrees it probably is a good idea.

    by Cali Scribe on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 07:58:18 PM PST

    •  People will drive until they die (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bleeding blue, maggiejean, Norbrook

      Literally, in many cases.

      "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

      by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 07:59:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  actually, that's far from true (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Phoenix Woman, bread and roses

        Why say things like that? That's precisely the language and framing that is our problem.

        Many people would prefer another option, and for others, they have stopped driving (or reduced their driving - like limiting night time or long distance or unfamiliar places) precisely because they don't want to get in an accident.

        •  There is a good option: Cities! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          debedb, koNko, penguinsong

          The policy of smearing dollars all over the place hasn't worked.

          "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

          by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:06:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  So you're going to force people (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RosyFinch

            to leave their homes just because they can no longer drive? Plus, the people in those suburbs often want to get into "the city" for entertainment and other pursuits; a lot of folks down here on the Peninsula use either CalTrain or BART to get into San Francisco to dine out or go to the theater, and CalTrain runs special service to Palo Alto for Stanford University football games and often holds the last train from San Jose if the San Jose Sharks hockey team plays an overtime game.

            Civility is the way of telling someone to go fuck themselves in such a way that the someone agrees it probably is a good idea.

            by Cali Scribe on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 09:46:14 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm not sure what exactly he (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              theran

              is saying about "smearing money all over the place".. However, I think he may have a point about cities. It isn't really about forcing people to leave their homes, the reality is that for an older individual or couple who can no longer drive living in a city might be a good option for a number of reasons. Living in a smaller, easier to maintain place might be appealing as might be the ability to walk to stores, medical offices, entertainment and social activities and to take public transit for those places that aren't too far away.

              I support extending light rail to the suburbs, but I also think we need to focus on growing denser urban communities in and around cities which make the best use of urban rail's ability to efficiently move large numbers of people.

              The suburbs were created in an era in which cities were unpleasant places due to noisy polluting industries, and badly designed tenements. Those living in the cities found suburbs a good step forward away from that environment, those living in the country found suburbs a good transitional way of living which allowed them to hold on to aspects of what was previously valued. They could own land and a home even if it was no longer the productive farm of previous generations.

              In a sense the suburbs became a representation of the American dream of previous generations and I think in some ways may have turned out better in theory than in practice. Despite the fact that the type of work changed from largely farming to largely industrial the values in terms of owning ones own plot of land and home did not. In some ways our values didn't shift to meet the changes of the world, but rather we tried to create a world that matches our previous values for as many people as possible that made use of the new technology and new realities in terms of type of work.

              It worked in some ways, but the suburbs led to: long commutes; inefficient use of energy; travel of a relatively significant distance for work, entertainment etc; limitations on those too young or old to drive in terms of ability to take part in the community and so on.

              I think in some ways it is time to question those values and attempt to create as appealing as possible a world for people which combines our belief that all people deserve the chance at a good life with the idea that perhaps owning ones own plot of land away from activity and other people perhaps isn't the best thing for everyone to be striving for. In other words, keep the lesson that created the suburbs a good life for all, but call in to question the ethos of the 19th century that say everyone should live as independently as possible just as the creations of the suburbs kept the 18th century idea of independent living while suspending still earlier ideas the some did and some didn't deserve a chance at such a life.

              •  By smearing (0+ / 0-)

                I mean allocating transit money to all areas roughly equally, instead of to the most-transited areas.  This means, pretty much perforce, sprawl highway projects.

                "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

                by theran on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 06:36:08 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Once you can no longer drive (0+ / 0-)

              It's not practical to live in a car-centric suburb.  I was a little glib, in that I could have also said "New England-style Small Towns!".

              You were the one who noted that it's not pleasant to be able to walk out to the store.  Suburban rail is great for a lot of things, but not for running to the store.

              "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

              by theran on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 06:35:18 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Most people I know (0+ / 0-)

            can't afford the rent downtown. I live somewhat near the urban core. Unfortunately I work in suburbia.

            Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

            Your argument is not Scottish.

            by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 01:12:24 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Indeed! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            theran

            I live in one and love it!

            Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

            by koNko on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 06:56:29 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  My dad-in-law just lost his driving privileges (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        theran

        this year, and it's put a real crimp in their habits; instead of being able to run up to the store for a needed item, everything is a planned adventure. They've been fortunate to have a couple of friends available to take them out for shopping and such (one retired, the other recently laid off), and my spouse takes them once a week to see their youngest son in transitional care for mental health issues, but they're working on trying to learn the transit system (there's one bus that runs right by their house but it only runs weekday daytimes, once an hour).

        Civility is the way of telling someone to go fuck themselves in such a way that the someone agrees it probably is a good idea.

        by Cali Scribe on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 09:43:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I am an HSR skeptic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maggiejean

    especially at a time when we need to undo the destruction we've already suffered at the hands of car-suburbia.

    "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

    by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 07:59:08 PM PST

    •  are you opposed to all rail? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Garrett, Phoenix Woman, theran, Norbrook

      Our Interstates are capped around 50-80 mph depending upon exactly where you are. Much of our rail infrastructure would be built at those speeds (or even slower, for much of our urban subways).

      Personally, I'm a huge advocate of HSR as well. I would just point out that's only part of a comprehensive rail network.  In fact, the most important parts of the network would be those that are not high speed. HSR is primarily a way to displace air travel between cities that are a few hundred miles apart.

      •  No (4+ / 0-)

        I am skeptical that HSR will work well outside the NEC or that the cost would not be better spent on letting people move within the major population centers more easily.

        This is a country that can't build a new subway line, or in many cases a bike lane, and the HSR fetish seems designed to distract from what could be started now.

        "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

        by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:10:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  okay, then I think we're pretty similar (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bread and roses, theran, RosyFinch

          in our perspectives.

          HSR is the icing on the cake. For most of us at least, icing without cake doesn't make much sense.

          However, I would add that what makes the Northeast corridor unique is that the cities in its destinations have significantly better local transit options. The reason people drive from Chicago to Saint Louis to Kansas City to Wichita to Oklahoma City to Dallas, etc, is because if you take the train, you've still got to rent a car when you get there, so you might as well just drive over distances of a couple hundred miles.

          The population density of the northeast is not required to support passenger rail. Rather, it just means things like fewer routes and lower frequency of operations on those routes. In other words, the Indianapolis airport is of course going to be smaller than those in NYC, Chicago, or LA. But Indy does have an airport.

          One other word on HSR is sometimes you do build the flashy things and let the development happen around them. Our commercial airports have influenced significantly the growth of much suburban sprawl around them. If we built a meaningful HSR network, there would be more incentive for states and localities to connect them via local light rail and bus routes. The very existence of transportation infrastructure, both big and small, influences development around them.

          •  One major HSR advantage (0+ / 0-)

            is that train stations are not unpleasant to be near.  This makes it work well in an urban core.  For example, if you look at Seoul Station from the air it isn't surrounded by a sea of parking the way a typical suburban airport is.

            So to be useful, HSR needs cities that are large enough to fill the trains, at distances around a typical "shuttle" flight, maybe a little longer, and most importantly the population to be concentrated in the core enough to not cause a transit nightmare.  My feeling is that these are tighter constraints than many think.

            For example, Houston, would need a huge parking lot near the station...

            "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

            by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:35:47 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  The USA is going post industrial (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            theran, RosyFinch

            With the offshoring of manufacturing jobs, more and more activities are office based - advertising/banking/IT etc. People in these industries require about 200 sq ft per employess, whereas manufacturing with storage, loading bays raw material stocks probably require 10 times the space.

            Creating hubs around HSR stations, with reasonable local transport links would significantly reduce the amount of travel needed to make the economy run.

            I used to work for a US coporation which has it's head office with 4000 employees on a sprawling campus, 15 miles from town in Eastern Pennsylvania. We used to joke that at any one moment, 10% of the employees were travelling around the campus on the buses between buildings.

            Who put the highways in Baton Rouge?

            by senilebiker on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:45:26 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  So how do you get there from here? (0+ / 0-)

              Imagine we are going to build a new HSR network.  The first question we have is: where to put the station.

              Now, the "obvious" long-term answer is downtown.  But the suburban population will scream, or the urban population will when the proposal is to have a huge parking lot next to it.

              How do we manage the transition?  (Short of first work on getting around the metro area.)

              "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

              by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:58:30 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Look at how the UK (eventually) solved this. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RosyFinch

                for the Eurostar.

                The terminal station is in St Pancras, and the last 10-15 miles is essentially underground, or over existing railway lines.

                For the parking issue, a second station was built at Ashford, around 25 miles from London city centre, and just off the M25 ringroad.

                If you connect by public transport you go to St Pancra, if you go by car you go to Ashford.

                When the usage is settled, you adapt the timetables to optimise the journey times. Some start at St Pancras and go non stop to Paris, some stop at Ashford, some start at Ashford.

                Who put the highways in Baton Rouge?

                by senilebiker on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 09:10:18 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Not sure we're a good example... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  theran, senilebiker

                  We only built the high-speed line to the Channel Tunnel (the only high-speed line in the country so far) because the treaty with France that authorised the tunnel required it, and that line only fully opened two years ago, fully thirteen years after the tunnel.

                  Having said that, what will be interesting is that three weeks from now, the full domestic service on the high-speed line to London from many of Kent's major towns will begin.  For some parts of Kent this will provide a halving of the current journey times to London and will dramatically increase the size of the practicably commutable zone in the county.

                  For me, living in Medway in north-central Kent, the journey time savings of the new service will be less dramatic (about 15 minutes off a current door-to-door time of 1hr 30m) IF the new trains can keep to their planned timetable, which on the current service is not the operator's - Southeastern trains - strong suit!).  Nevertheless I will give them a try, even though my fares will increase by about 30%...

                  Oh BTW, Ashford isn't actually very close to the M25 at all - it's Ebbsfleet which is the M25 "park and ride" station.

    •  That's because you have never used one. (10+ / 0-)

      Here is the train that took me from Cologne to Frankfurt airport, about 125 miles in less than an hour.

      ICE

      On board you have a bar/bistrot,wifi, sockets to charge your laptop, cellphone free cars. There is no check in, you can arrive 5 minutes before departure, you don't have to take your shoes off to get on board.

      On longer journeys, the ICE or TGV can do 300 miles in under 2 hours, and 500 miles in around 3 hours.

      Who put the highways in Baton Rouge?

      by senilebiker on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:11:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not true (0+ / 0-)

        I was a frequent KTX taker for some time.  That length of trip at that price (much less than the Acela) seems like the sweet spot.

        "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

        by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:15:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  So why are you a sceptic? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Norbrook

          HSR is one essential element of an integrated transport policy. In order to maximise the benefits, HSR tends to be longer distances, and is competing as much (if not more) with air travel.

          Resolving the suburban issue is something else, and the key is too  increase the density of cities, thereby cutting back on the amount of miles covered to get from home to work/shop/sports venue etc.

          Who put the highways in Baton Rouge?

          by senilebiker on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:26:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Because I think HSR is good in (3+ / 0-)

            constrained circumstances.  The NEC would fit the bill, but a lot of other city pairs would not.  Even in NEC cities, it is increasingly difficult just to cross the metro area using any mode of transit.

            "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

            by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:37:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  There are lots of plans for HSR Networks (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RosyFinch

              that have been diaried in the last couple of years.

              The most obvious line is as you say Boston NY Phili Washington. Others include a hub in Chicago, Dallas/Houston/Nola, SF/LA/San Diego.

              The French TGV system started with one line Paris Lyon, which was stretched to Marseille. They then added a Northern line to Lille and Calais, with a spur to Brussels, an Eastern line to Nancy Strasbourg, and a Western line to Tours, and the Nantes and Bordeaux.

              The TGV operates at high speed only on purpose built track, but with the same guage and height as other electric trains, can continue onwards, albeit at lower speeds. In this way the journey time between Paris and Bordeaux is around 3 hours for 550 km, the first half at 300km, and the second half at 150 km. When they complete the high speed track between Tours and Bordeaux, journey time will drop to 2hours 15mins, about the same time it takes to check in at Paris Airport.

              Who put the highways in Baton Rouge?

              by senilebiker on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:57:31 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  I like HSR, and I agree with you. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              theran

              It works in some places, not in others. When you have a major urban area, with far-flung, sometimes agricultural towns, it works. When you have a huge, densely populated area, it perhaps shouldn't be the highest priority.

              I do like the idea of HSR between SF and LA. Problem is, the corridor proposed may not be the best.

              We are about to be attacked by Al Qaeda. Wave flags if you have them. That always seems to scare them away. I'm kidding. - Kurt Vonnegut

              by not a cent on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 09:01:13 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  must admit route seems important (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                theran, not a cent

                is it better to build rail line on the coast (bluffs that erode, sea level rising) or in the central valley (used to be marsh)

                "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." [Ray Bradbury]

                by RosyFinch on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 10:47:35 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Both are tough, and there's another problem. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  theran, RosyFinch

                  HSR, to maximize use, has to have stops in or near population centers, even if small. Don't think the coast is an option (and shouldn't be, imo). OTOH, routing through the central valley ensures that it will bypass the populated areas that would use it.

                  We are about to be attacked by Al Qaeda. Wave flags if you have them. That always seems to scare them away. I'm kidding. - Kurt Vonnegut

                  by not a cent on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 10:57:13 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  “Make no little plans..... (5+ / 0-)

    ....they have no magic to stir men's blood"

    --Daniel Burnham

  •  Having spent the first 26 years (10+ / 0-)

    of my life in NYC I can attest to the huge advantages of public transportation.  The whole time I was growing up we had no automobile.  Neither of my parents drove.  We were able to go anywhere we wanted using mass transportation.  Even our summers at Cape Cod were easy.  Take the train from Grand Central Station to Boston then hop on the bus to the Cape.  I now live in an area where there is little to none in the way of mass transportation.  I live in CA with its clogged highways and lack of imagination.  Sigh.

    "Politics is not left, right or center ... It's about improving people's lives." -Paul Wellstone

    by maggiejean on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:07:57 PM PST

  •  Interesting diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theran, TracieLynn, Plubius, washunate

    The Erie Canal was one of those projects considered "impossible" and "too expensive" when it was first proposed.  It became one of the major commercial successes, and was responsible for a great deal of the economic development of the Midwest.  

    The canal still exists and operates.  It's not used much for commercial transportation anymore, but that seems to be changing.  It's a highly efficient way to move large cargoes, and you can move cargoes that are difficult or impossible to move by rails.  We may see it being heavily used again.  

    I think that I have had enough of you telling me how things will be. Today I choose a new way to go ... and it goes through you!

    by Norbrook on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:17:55 PM PST

  •  Cities, Cities, Cities, Cities, Farmers, Cities.. (0+ / 0-)

    It seems apropos to link to this excellent diary by futurebird.  (Who seems not to post here any more.)

    "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

    by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:18:24 PM PST

    •  While there's a big urban (0+ / 0-)

      cheerleading group, the other side of the coin is that all cities need an extensive support network outside the city.  New York City would be the perfect example.  The water supply is in the Catskills.  There is no way to grow sufficient food for the city inside of it - it must be brought in.   "Green" electricity generation is also going to have to be external to the city - as is much of it's current electrical supply.  Trash must be disposed of, sewage needs to be treated and disposed of, etc., etc. etc.  All of those functions take place externally, sometimes at a good distance from them.  That means you need a population external to the city to maintain and support that - the small towns and rural areas.

      Then there's the people like me - who have lived in large cities, and while I consider them a nice place to visit, I never want to live in one again.  

      I think that I have had enough of you telling me how things will be. Today I choose a new way to go ... and it goes through you!

      by Norbrook on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:39:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is the "Farmers" part (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wu ming

        As somebody who lived in a small town for a while (and liked it) the keyword I would focus on is "small".  Endless suburbs are not actual farming.

        "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

        by theran on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:41:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  urban farming, increased composting, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grollen, wu ming

        more/better bike lanes, solar/wind/water power, in-city reservoirs...

        clearly a city cannot be entirely self-sufficient, but NYC's wasteful ways don't necessarily prove the point that cities cannot cut back on their reliance on the "outside"

        •  Sorry, but (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          theran, 2020adam

          if you look at the actual surface area of NYC and the population, you're not talking about having the capability to do much of anything like what you're saying.  The BBC did a look at the "urban farming" routine for NYC - if you were to somehow be able to convert each roof to a farm, given average yields, you could feed 12,000 people.  Being generous, allowing for the use of hydroponics (which are energy intensive), and other methods, even a 10-fold increase in that figure doesn't even come close to feeding the 8 million people who live there.  

          You're trying to have your cake and eat it too.

          I think that I have had enough of you telling me how things will be. Today I choose a new way to go ... and it goes through you!

          by Norbrook on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 07:44:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Mass transit MUST be integrated (6+ / 0-)

    Just as the airlines use a hub and spoke system, effective mass transit must be integrated. High speed trains, commuter trains, street cars and buses need to operate around common hubs, with co-ordianted timetables to minimise journey times.

    This si the transport hub of a small town in Germany, with the bus station, strassenbahn (tramway) and S Bahn (underground/light rail)all co-located in the town centre.

    From here you can connect to Bochum or Essen, where you can link up with the high speed rail network.

    Ground transport hub

    Who put the highways in Baton Rouge?

    by senilebiker on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:19:04 PM PST

  •  The interstate highway sytem is a relic... (7+ / 0-)

    ...of an America that was not afraid to do great things. It cost $425 billion (in today's dollars) and took 35 years to build.

    The Apollo program cost $145 billion (again, in today's dollars), and had no practical benefit in mind.

    Today, our government is infested with people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, and we have an entire political party dedicated to preventing great things.

    While the idea of American exceptionalism lives on, the things we did that made us exceptional are fading to dust.

  •  Mostly becuz we don't want inner (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    washunate

    city riff raff (read blacks and mexicanos) showing up in our suburban malls, hitting on our suburban wimmins, tyvm. But, personally, I love the idea of bringing back light rail and high speed rail to connect us better! Doubt it will happen, but... is a great idea!

  •  You know the BRT (bus rapid transit) (8+ / 0-)

    thing is getting so popular here in MN they're getting their own fancy parking garages and stations. People are being conditioned to wanting that frequent service. In addition, we just opened our first commuter rail here, hauling people from some of the most conservative suburbs. All opposed by the congresswoman for this district, Michele Bachmann...though she is happy to take credit now that it's done.

    I was paid to post this comment by my cat, but he's a deadbeat.

    by decembersue on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:28:40 PM PST

  •  Build it, and they will come (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    washunate
  •  "Clang, Clang Clang Went the Trolley" ... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grollen, theran, RosyFinch, washunate

    Several decades ago St. Louis had an extensive trolley system as highlighted by Judy Garlkand in "Meet Me in St. Louis".

    I live in an Illinois town about 15 miles east of St. Louis. It disheartens me when I hear stories from "the old timers" about how they could hop on the trolley from several points in our town and be in downtown St. Louis in no time at all.

    Today, if you live in Illinois, it will be likely that traffic could be backed up for miles trying to get across the Poplar, Eads or MLK bridges to downtown St. Louis. Especially during morning rush hours or ball games. After decades of fighting between Missouri & Illinois politicians, a much needed additional bridge will be constructed, but that is several years off from starting and even more for completion. During the construction, the Illinois side of I-55/70/64 and the current bridges accesses will be affected and there will be even longer delays. Personally, I would have preferred to have the trolleys back or an additional metro link line to Madison County. There is a metro train link for residents of Belleville & East St. Louis in St. Clair County, but residents of Madison County, where I live, are out of luck.

    The popuation of the Illnois counties bordering St. Louis has increased significantly over the past couple decades as Missourians, tired of the congestion of west, north & south St. Louis & the bordering counties, have moved east. I believe that the regional & national master planners - whoever they were - made a huge mistake by not planning more for mass transit. When I-270/I-255, that circles St. Louis, I-70, I-55 & I-64 were planned, they should have included a metro train right down the middle of all of them. If they had, I bet St. Louis would still be one of the top cities in America like they were during the 1904 World's Fair.

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