The Case For Localizing Federal Transportation Policy

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

[This article has been modified and updated from a Capitol Hill briefing I gave for the Cato Institute. You can watch the full speech here.]

Should the federal government dictate urban policy? This seems to be the default assumption among many Republicans and Democrats, for pet issues ranging from housing to infrastructure to immigration. But for those who care about cities, this approach may be wrong for two reasons. The first is that the federal government redirects tax revenue away from cities and into less productive rural areas, amounting to a raw deal for major metros.… Read more

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San Antonio: Growth And Success In The Mexican-American Capital

[Originally printed in the San Antonio Business Journal (paywall) and republished by the Center for Opportunity Urbanism]

 

[Ed’s note: this was part of a larger project by Joel Kotkin’s think tank, the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, to explain the growth of Texas’ cities. Scott’s essay is on pg. 40 of the pdf.]

 

San Antonio, TX — For decades, as many U.S. cities declined, and others became overly exclusive, cities in Texas evolved into places of opportunity. Due in large part to liberalized economic policies, the state’s “Big Four” metro areas — Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio — consistently rank among the nation’s leaders in population growth and job growth, experiencing the rapid urbanization once common among America’s legacy cities.… Read more

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Philadelphia’s SEPTA Transit Workers Go On Strike…Again

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

It has become a familiar story: Philadelphia’s public transit workers are on strike. At 12:01 am on November 1st, 4,738 unionized employees ceased working after failed negotiations with SEPTA. This is their first strike since 2014–when President Obama himself had to intervene via executive order–and their 10th since 1977, making SEPTA America’s most strike-prone transit agency, with a new strike every 4 years on average. And while the length and magnitude of this strike remains unknown, it is different from past ones in the following way: Philadelphians finally have viable private options to fall back on.… Read more

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Uber Has Revolutionized Transit More In 7 Years Than The Government Has In 7 Decades

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

There’s a revolution occurring in mass transit, something I’ve witnessed firsthand while traveling the nation. Many newly-christened urbanites who didn’t grow up riding transit now view it as essential to mobility. And it is more convenient than yesteryear’s transit, able to arrive within minutes after pressing a button. Was this revolution driven by any of the government agencies that have controlled transit for decades in every U.S. city? No. Instead it came from a handful of rideshare companies—Uber being the main one—that transformed in several years from scrappy startups to global behemoths.… Read more

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austin-rail

Austin’s Rail Transit Boondoggle, Further Explained

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

[For the author’s original piece on this subject, click here].

Several months ago, while living in Austin, I wrote a critique of the city’s commuter rail line. In a lengthy op-ed, I described the train as “a monument to government waste” and “perhaps America’s leading rail transit failure.” The reaction was swift and visceral. The article’s comments section filled up with locals both for and against the train. The local press ate it up too, with the article reviewed by the Austin American-Statesman, the Austin Business Journal, and several area blogs.… Read more

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Austin’s Commuter Rail Is A Monument To Government Waste

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Austin, TX–Last Saturday morning, while stumbling upon an Austin rail station, I was able to imagine at micro level what it must be like to visit one of China’s ghost cities. I was in Leander, an Austin suburb that has the northernmost stop on the metro area’s commuter rail system, when I spotted a multi-acre station plopped across what was essentially a rural area. After parking in the empty lot, I got out and walked around, to find a clean, well-landscaped facility that had not one human in sight.… Read more

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Subsidizing Light Rail Is Like Subsidizing The Landline Telephone

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

What would happen if your city, in the name of progress, started giving poorer residents vouchers for landline telephones rather than smartphones? Or if, rather than stocking public libraries with computers, so that people could write emails, your city installed fax machines? You would consider these unnecessary expenditures on outdated technologies. Yet when it comes to public transit, many cities splurge on modes designed for a different time and place—namely light rail…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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A Private Proposal To Solve Chicago’s Freight Rail Bottleneck

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

As the Midwest’s most important economic hub, Chicago is naturally the focal point for much rail traffic. Both Amtrak and Metra, a regional rail transit authority, run through the city, as do six of the nation’s seven largest freight railroads. These trains carry goods between America’s East and West coasts, and between Canada and the U.S. South, with Chicago handling roughly 25% of nationwide rail traffic. This has created massive bottlenecks, with trains sometimes taking days to get through the city. Every level of government—federal, state, regional and local—has tried addressing the problem.… Read more

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How Will The Panama Canal Expansion Bolster Industrial Houston?

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Pasadena, Texas

Because of its global nature, Houston is a city where local conditions are influenced by worldwide trends. Oil prices–ever the result of Middle East turmoil–can be the difference between a citywide boom or mass layoffs. Strife throughout Latin America or Asia can spur waves of immigration. And tight land use regulations along America’s East and West Coasts have caused young professionals to flood Houston’s cheaper housing market. The latest example of this global imprint will be the Panama Canal expansion…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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Can Los Angeles Solve Its Traffic Problem By Building More Roads?

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Anyone who has visited Los Angeles doesn’t need statistics to confirm its traffic problems, but here they are anyway. America’s 2nd-largest metro area suffers the most congestion overall, the 7th-longest commute times, and the 2nd most hours spent in traffic per resident. The reason for this has been because of the city’s sprawling yet semi-dense built pattern, which forces people to drive. The solution proposed by urban planners has been to build more mass transit, so driving is no longer the only option. But a new Reason Foundation study argues that road expansion is the most cost-effective solution for L.A.’s congestion, thus countering the long-standing dogma…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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