February 10, 2011
Billions for High Speed Rail
Vice President Biden made an announcement Tuesday that's grabbing headlines - $53 billion in the Administration's proposed budget for high speed rail. From an article on CNN.com:
The proposed new investment -- including $8 billion in the upcoming fiscal year -- would accompany a streamlined application process for cities, states, and private companies seeking federal grants and loans to develop railway capacity.
"There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation -- one of which is infrastructure," Biden said in a written statement. There is a pressing need "to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced."
It might be, though, that none of that money ends up in Georgia. Georgia has a history of being hostile or apathetic to proposals for high speed rail, something that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a point of when he visited the state last year.
I think it's a shame Georgia's leadership isn't more progressive about rail. I loved the ease and convenience of riding the train to Philly when I lived in DC (much better than being grounded on a plane by thunderstorms in the summer, or driving the insanity that is I-95 in the Northeast corridor). Rail between Athens and Atlanta, and Atlanta and Chattanooga, make a ton of sense. But then, nobody's really asking me...
Jamie Baker Roskie
February 09, 2011
Super Land Use Bowl
In class, we started off the week with a quick session of Current Events in Land Use (aka, what-can't-Festa-turn-into-a-land-use-issue). The topic? Super Bowl. The students were prepared. Here's what they came up with:
The weather. Of course that was on everyone's mind last week all around the country, with blizzards in the northeast and midwest, and even a snow day in Texas. But Dallas had it particularly rough, affecting travel both to and around the DFW metroplex. When the Super Bowl is held in New Jersey in 2014, the weather may be worse, but I predict that it won't cause as many problems as it did in Dallas because it isn't (usually) rational for a city like Dallas to make the local government investments in snowplows, employees, and materials (salt) that will be on hand in NJ.
The parties. The worst weather was earlier in the week, so not that big a deal, right? I didn't realize this until the big game came to Houston in 2004, but the Super Bowl brings a full 1-2 weeks of celebrities, money, and parties--everything from huge VIP bashes to public street parties. Unlike any other sports event that I know of. And these things take lots of permits, approvals, resources, and land use coordination with local governments. I even have it on good authority from a DFW land use prof that there were private helicopter services to take people from party to party. I remember my very first assignment as an associate was to research the Houston sign code for a client who wanted to do a lot of temporary advertising during the Super Bowl festivities. Probably lots of SOB issues too.
The stadium issue. I'm sure you've all heard about controversies over sports teams' demanding new facilities, and the debate over whether the projects prove as economically beneficial as promised. The nearby baseball Ballpark at Arlington was built in the early 1990s using public funding and eminent domain (under the supervision of then-owner George W. Bush). Apparently the same tactics were used for the recently-built (just in time for the team to not play in the Super Bowl!) Cowboys Stadium. Another land use issue is the location--out in the suburbs. One student told me that team owner Jerry Jones tried to get it built close to downtown, but for issues of either land assembly or zoning and permitting (or maybe tax issues too), it couldn't get done.
I'll add one more: the team names. I take no side in the Clowney-Edwards debate at Property Prof Blog (though I did see a "Cheesheads for Obama" pin at the junior scholars conference in Albany). But I like the fact that these two team names say something about their cities' histories, and of course, land uses: Pittsburgh is obviously a steel town, and Green Bay's team is named after its meat-packing industry.
So that was in land use class. In my Property I classes, I simply noted that at the end of last week I predicted that the final score would be Packers 31, Steelers 24; and that the actual score was Packers 31, Steelers 25. So there!
February 07, 2011
Eminent Domain Song
I am neither endorsing the musicality of this video nor its message but I just can't resist sharing land-use-inspired music.
- Jessica Owley
January 26, 2011
Land Use in the State of the Union
I didn't have time to watch it last night, so I asked my students this morning to identify the land use issues in the President's speech. They mentioned two things: high-speed rail, and clean energy. From the Associated Press report, here's the key quote on HSR:
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying - without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already under way.
Potentially faster than flying, and they won't touch your junk! And here are two early responses. First, from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's Fastlane blog, America has a Future to Win; DOT stands ready to help:
As the President said last night, American businesses and workers are now competing in a global economy. If we are to thrive in competitive markets, we must be able to move goods and people faster and more reliably than ever.
At DOT we have been working hard to help do just that. And the projects we are supporting to rebuild America's transportation infrastructure are creating good jobs for American workers.
But the Reason Foundation's Samuel Staley is not so sanguine. Noting that the President cited China's massive investments in HSR, Staley argues that historical, economic, and geographic factors will render a similar HSR program impractical in the U.S. From President Obama, China, High-Speed Rail and the Sputnik Moment:
A key factor in ensuring high-speed rail's success is the closeness of employment and population centers. The largest Chinese cities aren't nearly as spread out as U.S. cities in terms of distance and the high speed rail lines are connecting larger urban cities.
China has 120 cities with populations of one million or more, and its cities are expected to add the equivalent of another United States - 300 million people - by 2025. The high-speed rail line will connect to most cities with populations greater than 500,000. Given existing levels of very low mobility and income, rail would be a natural beneficiary of rising travel demand as the travel market matures.
It will be interesting to see where the debate over HSR goes from here, particularly in light of the new fiscal and political constraints. I'm also curious about how many people out there may not have thought very much about the HSR issue before the President gave it a mention in the State of the Union.
UPDATE: I was planning on posting this anyway, but then as I was preparing for my afternoon Property I class, I realized it's a great tie-in to the famous INS v. Associated Press case that was assigned for today: If INS can't report the news it learns from AP's public bulletin, how come it's OK for me to blog about information I got from the AP's website? Discuss! Fun stuff.
January 19, 2011
Levinson and Junge on Property Tax on Privatized Roads
Last week we posted a link to the new article by David Matthew Levinson (Minnesota) and Bhanu Yerra (Minnesota), How Land Use Shapes the Evolution of Road Networks. Here's another road article from Levinson and Jason Junge (Minnesota): Property Tax on Privatized Roads. The abstract:
Roads cover a significant fraction of the land area in many municipalities. The public provision of roads means this land is exempt from the local property tax. Transferring roads from public to private ownership would not only remove maintenance costs from city budgets, but increase potential property tax revenue as well. This paper calculates the value of the land occupied by roads in sample cities and determines the potential revenue increase if they were subject to property tax. Further calculation computes the extent to which the property tax rate could be reduced if the land value of roads were added to the tax base. Property tax on privatized roads could generate meaningful revenue, but a corresponding reduction in rate for existing property would be small.
January 12, 2011
Levinson & Yerra on How Land Use Shapes the Evolution of Road Networks
David Matthew Levinson (Minnesota) and Bhanu Yerra (Minnesota) have posted How Land Use Shapes the Evolution of Road Networks. The abstract:
The present research develops a model to treat the organization, growth, and contraction of network elements. The components of the model include travel demand, revenue, cost, and investment. Revenue earned by links in excess of maintenance costs is invested on the link until all revenue is consumed. After upgrading (or downgrading) each link in the network, the time period is incremented and the whole process is repeated until an equilibrium is reached or it is clear that it cannot be achieved. The model is tested with three alternative land use patterns: uniform, random, and bell-shaped, to test the effects of land use on resulting network patterns. It is also tested with alternative values of the trip distribution friction factor. It is found that similar, but not identical, equilibrium hierarchical networks result in all cases, with the bell-shaped land use network, with a CBD, having higher level roads concentrated in a belt around the CBD, while the other networks are less concentrated. The results suggest that networks are capable of self-organizing, and that the nature of that organization depends on land use and traveler preferences.
January 06, 2011
Women Only Public Transportation
Here's a really interesting article about public transportation segregated by sex. This concept had never crossed my mind before I read this piece, but in many cases around the world women-only transport is saving women from sexual assault and helping them maintain gainful employment and educational access. As the article points out, the bigger issue is keeping women safe in the entire public realm. Still, it's an innovative idea that works in our still imperfect world.
Jamie Baker Roskie
December 03, 2010
Obama Replaces High-Speed Rail with High-Speed Bus Plan
You may have heard that the Obama administration's plans for high-speed rail projects have met with some challenges, most prominently from the incoming Republlican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio. Now comes this breaking news report from The Onion: Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan with High-Speed Bus Plan. Go ahead and check out the video at the link, it's worth it!
Joking, aside, though, there is a serious argument out there that upgraded and expanded intra-city, commuter, and longer range bus routes might be superior in many ways to HSR. Here is a thoughtful analysis with links from Tory Gattis, particularly to Robert Poole's Surface Transportation Newsletter for the Reason Foundation.
October 29, 2010
Four Year Old Bicyclist Found Potentially Liable in Woman's Death
Here's The New York Times version of a story that I know is getting lots of play. Usually I'm one to give judges the benefit of the doubt but, in this case, my first reaction is, "Seriously?!"
The suit that Justice Wooten allowed to proceed claims that in April 2009, Juliet Breitman and Jacob Kohn, who were both 4, were racing their bicycles, under the supervision of their mothers, Dana Breitman and Rachel Kohn, on the sidewalk of a building on East 52nd Street. At some point in the race, they struck an 87-year-old woman named Claire Menagh, who was walking in front of the building and, according to the complaint, was “seriously and severely injured,” suffering a hip fracture that required surgery. She died three months later.
Her estate sued the children and their mothers, claiming they had acted negligently during the accident. In a response, Juliet’s lawyer, James P. Tyrie, argued that the girl was not “engaged in an adult activity” at the time of the accident — “She was riding her bicycle with training wheels under the supervision of her mother” — and was too young to be held liable for negligence...
[The child's lawyer] had also argued that Juliet should not be held liable because her mother was present; Justice Wooten disagreed.
“A parent’s presence alone does not give a reasonable child carte blanche to engage in risky behavior such as running across a street,” the judge wrote. He added that any “reasonably prudent child,” who presumably has been told to look both ways before crossing a street, should know that dashing out without looking is dangerous, with or without a parent there. The crucial factor is whether the parent encourages the risky behavior; if so, the child should not be held accountable.
"Reasonably prudent child"? I realize the judge is just quoting the standard here, but I can't believe a court ever that a "prudent" child could ever exist? Obviously those judges never spent any time around small children. Children this age require constant supervision due to their particular lack of prudence.
Okay, you may be asking, but what does this have to do with land use? Well, my impulse to blog this came from some of the reader comments to the Times story, to the effect that the child shouldn't have been riding on the sidewalk but on the street or a trail. Other commenters, rightly, point out that it's certainly not safe to encourage small children to ride their bikes on the street.
Also, although I know bicycle advocates say that cyclists are actually safer riding in the street than on a sidewalk, even some avid cyclists I know sometimes feel safer on the sidewalk.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has the following suggestions for cyclists:
Only small children learning to ride should use sidewalks for regular riding. They should have adult supervision even on sidewalks or in the family driveway. [Emphasis added - at least someone has some sanity about kids on bikes with training wheels.]
All other bicyclists should learn to ride on streets or marked bicycle lanes, except in rare circumstances, such as when a wide sidewalk is part of a designated bicycle route.
Studies have shown that the sidewalk is considerably less safe for bicyclists than the street. The bicyclist is never required to ride on paths or sidewalks. Local jurisdictions can pass ordinances allowing bicycling on sidewalks if they have unusual circumstances where the sidewalk is safer for certain bicyclists.
So, food for thought for parents and cyclists alike.
Ironically, while I'm promoting cycling safety with this post, I am blowing out my carbon footprint on a flight from Atlanta to San Francisco. (Gotta love inflight wi-fi!) I'm spending the weekend at The Mindful Lawyer conference in Berkeley. Should be pretty groovy!
Jamie Baker Roskie
PS Here's an article from the San Francisco Chronicle's website about the Mindful Lawyer conference.
October 10, 2010
Prum & Catz on Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets and Mass Transit
Darren A. Prum (Nevada-Las Vegas) and Sarah Catz have posted Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets and Mass Transit: Can the Government Successfully Accomplish Both Without a Conflict? The abstract:
President Obama along with Congress has made it clear that there is a national need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the board. While state and federal smart growth legislative initiatives are being developed to accomplish the targets set by our policy makers, few if any initiatives have integrated the biggest tool in the tool box to reduce emissions -- transit. Most transit agencies across the board have cut service back by 20 to 40 percent. Retaining transit service levels (if not increasing levels) needs to be a national goal in order to reach a realistic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
This article reviews state and federal legislative greenhouse gas emissions initiatives and explores what legislative and fiscal opportunities exist to converge the funding of transit programs with greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. These smart growth regulations must begin to link land use with transportation systems that can positively influence greenhouse gas emissions.
October 05, 2010
Lefcoe on the Uses and Abuses of Tax Increment Financing
George Lefcoe (Southern California) has posted Competing for the Next Hundred Million Americans: The Uses and Abuses of Tax Increment Financing. The abstract:
We're working on TIFs right now in my state & local government class. Students find these animals to be challenging and interesting, because they are very powerful drivers of land use yet fairly obscure to the general public. This article helps explain TIFs and put them in the context of land use debates over density, development, and urbanism.
October 5, 2010 in Community Design, Density, Development, Environmentalism, Finance, Local Government, New Urbanism, Pedestrian, Planning, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Suburbs, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
July 16, 2010
Hester & Wright on the Shifting Scope of Railroad Easements
Jeffrey Hester (William J. Tucker & Assocs.) and Danaya C. Wright (Florida) have posted Pipes, Wires, and Bicycles: Rails-to-Trails, Utility Licenses, and the Shifting Scope of Railroad Easements from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries, published in Vol. 27, Ecology Law Quarterly. The abstract:
This article responds to a series of class action suits filed against railroads, telecommunication companies, and the federal government claiming that once railroads abandon their corridors, all property rights shift to adjacent landowners. This article reviews the state law on this matter and offers a theory of how courts should handle these cases. After discussing the history of nineteenth-century railroad land acquisition practices, it analyzes the scope of the easement limited for railroad purposes, then discusses the role of abandonment in affecting the rights of third party users of these corridors as well as successor trail owners. The article concludes with a theory of railroad easements that interprets the railroad's powers based on the public participation that helped create and establish these corridors and the tenuous claims of adjacent landowners.
July 07, 2010
We don't do a whole lot of fish-blogging over here, because, well, it is the Land Use Prof Blog. But land use law and practice is becoming more and more entwined with water, wetlands, environmental, and ecosystem law and policy at all levels. So some of you might be interested to hear about the impending Carp-Pocalypse: The Great Asian Carp Invasion Begins? from Time.
There's an underwater war underway in the Midwest – an offensive to keep the ravenous Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. On Wednesday, it became clear: The carp are winning.
Late Wednesday night, the Associated Press reported that federal officials have, for the first time ever, discovered a carp swimming beyond the multiple electric barriers that were erected along the Chicago waterways to keep the fish out of the Great Lakes system. A 20-pound bighead carp was caught by a fisherman in Illinois's Lake Calumet, on the South Side of Chicago.
That's beyond the electric fence, and only six miles from Lake Michigan.
For decades, the carp have been making their way up the Mississippi, and then through Illinois rivers and canals that form an artificial link between the Mississippi Basin and the Great Lakes. The problems with this migration stem from the fact that the carp can grow into 4-foot-long, 100-pound monsters who devour 40 percent of their body weight daily. They destroy ecosystems by gorging themselves, and starving out other species.
I've always been interested in the history of canals, commerce, and the human endeavor to connect watersheds across the continent, but it seems there were some unintended downsides.
Lewyn on What Coase Would Do About Parking
Michael Lewyn has posted a new draft article called What Would Coase Do (About Parking Regulation)? The abstract:
Lewyn has written widely about the effects of regulation on sprawl, and has addressed the impact of parking requirements among other regulations with respect to Houston in How Overregulation Creates Sprawl (Even in a City Without Zoning).
Perhaps we should just declare a new acronym for Coasian analysis: WWCD?
Enough with Jane Jacobs Already?
Check out this really interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal: Enough With Jane Jacobs Already, by Andrew Manshel. Manshel is with the nonprofit Greater Jamaica Development Corp. He argues that while Jane Jacobs was right about many things, the enshrinement of her views in planning circles should be reassessed. He says that now is the time, due to Mayor Bloomberg's Charter Revision Commission process. Lots of interesting thoughts in this opinion piece, so it's hard to know what parts to highlight.
Jacobs's book is generally regarded as a jeremiad in opposition to the large-scale planning of the '50s and '60s. She is celebrated as the individual who did the most to end that era's Robert Moses and Le Corbusier-inspired, automobile-centric view of urban life. In Jacobs's opinion, the ideal of city living was the West Village of Manhattan, with its short blocks, narrow streets and little shops. She praised the human-scale aspects of city life; the "eyes on the street" of the shopkeeper and the social cohesion promoted by "street corner mayors." In her view, large-scale planning was prone to failure.
Her views have now been broadly adopted and it is conventional wisdom in planning circles that participatory neighborhood planning is best, that preservation of old buildings is essential, and that in cities the car is bad. But Jacobs had a tendency toward sweeping conclusions based on anecdotal information, and some of them were overblown and/or oblivious to the facts. Perhaps most graphically, Jacobs predicted that the grand arts center planned for the Upper West Side of Manhattan would fail. But Lincoln Center turned out to be a great success—igniting the revitalization of the entire neighborhood.
More revealingly, the Greenwich Village she held out as a model for city life has become some of the highest-priced real estate in New York City—it's no longer the diverse, yeasty enclave she treasured. Ultimately, many of the policies she advocated blocked real-estate development—causing prices of existing housing stock to rise and pricing out all but the wealthiest residents.
Manshel calls for more attention to the ideas of William H. Whyte, who inspired Bryant Park and Houston's Discovery Green, among other projects. Manshel isn't the first to challenge Jacobs' legacy recently: see Benjamin Schwarz's recent Atlantic piece. What do you think about Manshel's critique of the citizen-participation focus? Again, it's a quick and thought-provoking read, so check it out.
July 7, 2010 in Density, Development, Historic Preservation, Houston, Local Government, New York, Pedestrian, Planning, Politics, Redevelopment, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
May 18, 2010
Congress for the New Urbanism 18: Atlanta
Last week Jamie posted about the "Sprawlanta" video, part of the project American Makeover: An Online Film Series about New Urbanism. "Sprawlanta" won first prize at last year's Congress for the New Urbanism video competition.
Is New Urbanism the prescription for healthier communities? Increasing scientific evidence suggests that community design -- land use, design character, transportation systems, sustainability, and density -- can promote physical activity and lifelong communities; lower the risk of traffic injuries, obesity, heart disease, and hypertension; improve air quality, affordability, social equity, connectivity, mental health and long-term value; increase social connection, sense of community and healthy food access; and reduce crime, violence and contributions to climate change. Organized with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Congress for the New Urbanism 18, "New Urbanism: Rx for Healthy Places," will present new research and innovative techniques for assessing the health impact of land use, transportation planning, and community design decisions -- from fine grained to mega-regional scales. Share the opportunities and challenges of designing and retrofitting communities that make it easier for people to live healthy lives -- CNU's 18th annual Congress in Atlanta, May 19-22, 2010. Preceding the Congress will be certification training, the NextGen Congress and other partner events May 17-18, 2010. For further information, visit http://www.cnu.org/cnu18 .
Looks like the program has a very interesting lineup of speakers and events, as usual. If you can make it to CNU 18, send us a report!
April 29, 2010
US Transportation Secretary Promotes Biking
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is blogging bikes, and he's getting media coverage for it -including in The New York Times. First, consider the internet savvyness of an official US DOT blog, "Fast Lane." One doesn't usually think of a high-ranking federal official as the source for an interesting blog.
Next, consider LaHood's words about biking, which suggest something might be different in the culture of the usually auto-focused DOT.
The transportation times, they are a changin'
Jamie Baker Roskie
April 22, 2010
"An Eruption of Unresilience"
While we have heard a great deal over the years about the need to diversify our transportation systems to reduce greenhouse gases and to prepare for peak oil, the Eyjafjallajokull eruption demonstrates that our present transportation monoculture is simply not sufficiently resilient even under normal conditions, for it is incapable of responding adequately to unexpected stressors. The lack of diversity and redundancy in our transportation infrastructure thereby threatens the stability of every other system that interacts with it, including food, business, tourism and the countless human needs dependent on it.
The blogger, Michael Dudley, points out that if the volcano erupts for up to a year (which apparently it has in the past) it could make a dramatic difference in lifestyles and transportation patterns.
Since I don't have any current travel plans, I haven't been following the volcano very closely. I did live in Portland, Oregon when Mount St. Helens erupted, and I remember the strange and dramatic events during those days - including hosing ash into the storm sewers and wearing surgical masks around in public. However, the Eyjafjallajokull fallout is bigger, both literally and metaphorically. Will we adapt?
Jamie Baker Roskie
April 20, 2010
Texas Sprawl Goes Out With a Bang
They imploded Texas Stadium recently, which was in the suburban city of Irving in the DFW metroplex. What is Irving going to do with all of that land? Turns out they have a plan, as described in this story: Texas Sprawl Goes Out With a Bang: Development Sprouts on Irving Transit Line.
Part of the reason for the assessment of market demand for urbanism is that the nearby Las Colinas area that is home to corporate offices but lacking in other dimensions.
April 08, 2010
Forum: Land Use in the Unzoned City (@ South Texas)
The South Texas College of Law is pleased to invite the public to what promises to be a very interesting forum called Land Use in the Unzoned City: Regulation, Property Rights, and Smart Growth in Houston's Future. From the program:
Houston is the only major city in the U.S. without traditional zoning. What should the government’s role be in regulating land use and development? How should the law and the land intersect? Should Houston stay as it is, adopt zoning, or consider Smart Growth principles to reduce sprawl and protect the environment? Do regulations and policies to promote New Urbanism or transit-oriented development work, and are they right for Houston? Our panelists will offer their perspectives on the future of land use in Houston and across the U.S.
Panelists: David Crossley, President & Founder, Houston Tomorrow Kendall Miller, CEO, Houstonians for Responsible Growth Prof. Asmara Tekle, Texas Southern University Moderator: Prof. Matthew Festa, South Texas College of Law
David Crossley, President & Founder, Houston Tomorrow
Kendall Miller, CEO, Houstonians for Responsible Growth
Prof. Asmara Tekle, Texas Southern University
Moderator: Prof. Matthew Festa, South Texas College of Law
When: Tuesday, April 13, 12:00 noon
Where: South Texas College of Law, 1303 San Jacinto, Downtown Houston, Garrett-Townes Auditorium
The event is being hosted by the student Real Estate Law Society, with co-sponsorship from Houston Tomorrow and Houstonians for Responsible Growth. I'm very much looking forward to it. If you can be in Houston next Tuesday, we'd love to have you attend (did I mention free lunch?). Contact me if you have any questions.
April 8, 2010 in Community Design, Conferences, Density, Development, Form-Based Codes, Houston, Lectures, Local Government, New Urbanism, Planning, Smart Growth, Smartcode, Sprawl, Transportation, Urbanism, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack