« Trump and the GOP | Main | How's real estate (really) doing? »

July 05, 2016

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Ahhhhhhhh. If we only had the steam engines that stopped every twenty miles to fill up with water and wood. Ahhhhhh. Those were the days.

Excellent job at willfully twisting the point of the column and bringing absolutely no value. Our unbalanced over-dependence on automobiles is the contemporary equivalent of a wood-burning steam locomotive. With so many of our former star commenters sitting on the sidelines, I worry for the future of these threads. Try to add some value or don't comment.

There is only one issue. There has only ever been one issue. You and your "star commenters" refuse to address it. There used to be fewer people. Now there are too many people. Want to solve ALL YOUR WORLD PROBLEMS? Get rid of four billion people.

There is only one issue. Embrace it.

The column directly addresses population. It does not address mass murder of 4 billion. If this is your one issue, you need to go elsewhere, or my patience is at an end. Embrace it.

"Drive along Interstate 85 around Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C., for example, and you will find a linear mess of shopping strips, chain restaurants, office "parks," boxy corporate gas station-convenience stores, and otherwise isolated subdivisions stretching out for more than 30 miles."

This is also what the Phoenix-to-Prescott drive has become via I-17 and AZ 69. You traverse a 100-mile-long strip city featuring the dreariest roadside "architecture."

Strip City deprives us of a sense of place, even of traveling. Even the pleasure of automobile driving is lost. What was once the cadence of town-country-town is replaced by monotony. It all looks exactly alike.

"Automobiles are often conveniently tagged as the villains responsible for the ills of cities and the disappointments and futilities of city planning. But the destructive effects of automobiles are much less a cause than a symptom of our incompetence at city building"

Jane Jacobs.

The 1970s would have been a great time to have turned toward rail and away from OPEC. Air travel should have remained exclusive and expensive. But that did not happen.

A pre-Interstate West? God I would have liked to have seen that.

"We can do so many great things together, still."

Sorry, I can't agree.

Great column.

P.S. I'll just leave this here.

http://time.com/4247162/donald-trump-trains-infrastructure/

Couple of things:

1. It seems like there are almost 2 separate interstate highway systems-the "long distance" (I-80 outside of its interaction with large urban areas) and then the parts of I-17 (for example) that run through a major metropolitan area. The long distance part of the equation is a Godsend-- however, if user taxes aren't paying for it, they should. To me, it's almost a lock that no one really knows if the taxes/fees for the long distance pay for those roads. Would you include the federal income taxes that the long distance carriers (Swift, for example)pay?

2. Great point about the explosion of cars, and the migration to the suburbs when either the costs were not allocated correctly or everything was just cheap enough that it all made sense. As urban real estate prices skyrocket, we might be watching another migration- although for different reasons.

3. Not so sure that interstates did nothing but hurt cities. How you going to get the stuff from the orchards of Washington to Pike Street Market? And that's hardly a unique example- products (especially agriculture) have to get there somehow.

For all of the mistakes made in post-war downtown Phoenix planning, the gaping canyon carved through the center of the urban core for I-10 has to be one of the worst. Its plan accelerated the abandonment of any residential areas within the potential path of destruction, causing the population to hollow out prematurely and preventing any real form of neighborhood opposition to the final proposal. I-10 is a major barrier that will always serve to separate downtown from midtown and makes walkability between the two almost an impossible thought, especially as suburban design proliferates north of the freeway.

Without I-10, downtown would have had a connected series of historic neighborhoods, built at a density that could support transit and new urban initiatives that failed time and time again because of the lack of population. Time and money would not continue to be thrown at the sunken cost that is Deck Park - an awkward attempt at mitigating the freeway's visual impact that lacks the potential for the kind of surrounding development that would allow it to act as a central city park.

I still don't see what was so bad about connecting to I-10 via 17?

Rogue will be thrilled to know that the plans for I-11 (from Las Vegas to Phoenix to Nogales) are chugging along. One of the suggested routes would run through Tubac and Tumacacori. They've also suggested a Tucson bypass that would run west of town through Avra Valley and Saguaro National Park (past the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum).

They're still collecting comments through July 8, if you'd like to vote for "none of the above":
http://i11study.com/Arizona/

http://threesonorans.com/2016/03/29/tucsons-19-crossroads/

http://www.nogalesinternational.com/news/locals-learn-about-react-to-interstate-plan/article_2acf71e8-398f-11e6-b5ac-9b55af894db4.html

Per Rogue's comments on the Interstate destruction of the small towns along its path, John Malcom Penn's "Moonlight Motor Inn" (here done by a bluegrass group from Montana) is an excellent commentary:
http://idlehandsdept.blogspot.com/2016/06/a-little-saturday-nite-bluegrass-div_11.html

I flew to Seattle a few years ago to visit my parents, who live in Bellingham. My mom picked me up at the airport and we drove north on 1-5 to their house. With traffic, it took approximately 90 minutes. It was a scenic drive -- I'd say one of the prettier drives I've made on an Interstate highway over the years -- but it wasn't worth sitting in traffic.
The day I was scheduled to fly home, I decided to take the train from Bellingham to Seattle. It arrived on time and wasn't close to being full. I settled into a seat on the right side of the train, which allowed me to look out the window at the scenery as the train rushed southward. At times, it seemed as if the train was just a few feet from the water. In addition, it had free wifi and a bar car. It made a few stops along the way, but the entire trip seemed to take about 45 minutes. It was such a relaxing trip, I would do it again any day over driving.

This is an imperfectly-remembered fragment of an interesting book on the Roosevelt-era origins of the interstates: Ike built it but the planning went back to the 30s. The surprise for me, and I gather for the people who went to build them, was that the roads were intended to speed long-haul traffic, a blessing for anyone who can remember driving the US highways of the 50s; but the predominant *use* of the interstates turned out to be short-haul traffic, people getting around their city quicker and easier. I think there are serious careful studies to show this. Unintended consequences, but the freeways of Phoenix now are overwhelmingly used for getting around Phoenix with maximum use of one-occupant automobiles and minimum efficiency.

Even in my small town in Graham County, Arizona, the US Highway and railroad next to it divide my community in two. There are not stop lights, no side walks, or cross walks. You are expected to have a car to go to the other side of the community.

I was bewildered to see Senator John McCain and his opponent Representative Ann Kirkpatrick pander for praise after funding expansion of the I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson. The federal grant provides "funds to make improvements, widen and relieve bottleneck areas where there are only two lanes, install dust storm early warning technology"

https://twitter.com/SenJohnMcCain/status/750691120997335040

https://twitter.com/RepKirkpatrick/status/750439116433653760

I traveled that route in the past month, so I understand the need to refurbish the road, but widening the road is another matter all together.

What ever became of the ADOT passenger train study between Maricopa and Pima Counties? If that many commuters travel between these two major cities, why can't passenger rail be subsidized at least as much as the money drain that are is I-10? It's most likely because, we the people, are drunk on cars and gasoline. These candidates for the Senate would not be trumpeting that the vast majority of their constituency did not support.

I seem to remember from high school that Ike built the Interstates for "defense" purposes; that is, to be sure military equipment could get around the country. No surprise that we can't muster similar resources for purely civilian infrastructure.

The automobile will be the death of us yet.

Thanks Cassandra, I took the survey and offered my $0.02. I do think they should use the existing corridors wherever possible to save money and mitigate all the various impacts. I am not sold on the absolute need for I-11 *today* -- but I know there is somewhat of a need there and it figures to increase as both LV and PHX continue to expand dramatically in population, so in the aggregate I am for it, since federal funding is involved.

Regarding Jon's post...personally, I love seeing America as a driver-tourist as well as when I was driving professionally, and frankly the Interstates get boring after a while...the back roads hold more color, but they also take a tremendous amount more time. Driving the Interstates even in the spread-out West just reminds you how much commerce uses these roads and how critical they are to the American economy.

I am all for more long-haul rail lines, particularly freight lines (these days, people prefer to fly unless it's commuter rail), but for better or worse this on-demand, local, 24/7 economy relies so heavily on our tremendous road infrastructure and even decades of rail building projects would only fractionally reduce trucking's dominance.

I don't travel outside of Arizona more than a few times a year, but I do live in the suburbs, so to speak, and I enjoy it. That's just me. Regardless, I am all for continued revitalization of urban spaces in the Valley. Hopefully we can have both a downtown that urbanistas don't hate and still continue to have the more suburban living that most Valley residents currently enjoy.

Mark, the proposed I-11 is a developers (see Jim Click, Don Diamond, et al) wet dream. See the library of data stored on the ADI.com web site, for more info. The survey you filled out is designed by Pima County aparatacicks and when the results are sifted, if they don't fit the Pima County supe's plans and promises, they will be filed in the garbage.
The i-11 is a DRUG & contraband highway proposal.

As soon as I read:

"...It was a model of what we could do together, before we became a venal and wicked people, paralyzed by greed, bigotry, and right-wing extremism..."

I knew that this column would be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

As support by such disparate persons as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump demonstrates, improving our infrastructure--including passenger rail--is a non-partisan issue.

Democrats and liberals have worked tirelessly since the introduction of Amtrak to "partisanize" passenger rail, and to make it all about providing jobs for the "sons of Pullman porters and the sons of engineers" and arranging for "the rest of us" to subsidize regional rail systems in the left and right coasts and Chicagoland while getting none of our own.

The Northeast, especially, has a "trains for me but not for thee" attitude and, pandering to its Blue State champions, Amtrak shamelessly foments Western and Heartland conservative "anti-rail" sentiment by "restructuring" its accounting to show that the Northeast Corridor makes money and the long-distance trains in the West are the biggest money losers when--if the truth were known--the reverse is more likely the case.

Partisan rail critics conveniently fail to remember that Amtrak, created during the Nixon administration, saw its significant cutbacks in service take place under Carter and Clinton.

From the beginning, politics influenced which routes would be continued under Amtrak and which would be eliminated. In politically powerful California, the Los Angeles-San Diego corridor got three trains daily in each direction (before the state invested a penny). Local elected officials representing districts and jurisdictions along the Los Angeles-San Diego route were well aware of the popularity of these trains and were comfortable voting to commit state funding for service enhancement.

By comparison, Arizona’s population centers of Phoenix and Tucson were connected by one train operating three-days-per-week in each direction. Such a token service level was never taken seriously by most of the elected officials representing central or Southern Arizona. Unlike their peers in California, Arizona’s elected officials seldom heard from anyone other than passenger rail advocates and railroad buffs about increasing the service frequency between Phoenix and Tucson. Passenger rail has been irrelevant to many Arizonans because of the lack of service. Consequently, when Arizonans have visited the voting booth, other issues of local or national importance have guided their selection. Candidates who happen to oppose investment in passenger rail service have been elected to serve Arizona—even though their positions on rail issues had little to do with their selection.

Passenger trains are popular where the benefits of rail travel are available to experience. As Arizonans have been presented with more opportunities to ride trains, interest in rail has increased. Popular excursion railroads such as the Grand Canyon Railway and the Verde Canyon Railroad have exposed a new generation of Arizonans to the enjoyment of rail travel. The phenomenal successes of the Metro light rail system in metropolitan Phoenix and the SunLink modern streetcar in Tucson have demonstrated passenger rail’s utility and convenience in urban settings.

Recent local rail developments in Arizona underscore the intrinsically bi-partisan nature of the issue. In August 2015, Phoenix voters were asked to vote on Proposition 104, an initiative to increase the local sales tax to fund additional infrastructure improvements in the city. Duped by the inaccurate belief that conservatives oppose passenger rail, the opponents of the proposition over-emphasized the light rail provisions of the measure.

Proposition 104 passed by a comfortable margin, even though more Republicans than Democrats cast ballots in the election, according to Democrat Vice Mayor Kate Gallego​.

While it is tempting in this election year for left-leaning columnists to blame Republicans for everything they can think of, America's infrastructure--especially rail--is too vital an issue--and a non-partisan issue at that--to be trivialized in this fashion.

Look to the German train system.Professional attendants who take pride in their jobs,trains that run on time,ease of boarding without TSA lines,comfortable and roomy seats.The citizens take pride in their railroads and the stations are integrated with local subways,bus lines,and attractive food and merchandise stands.They may have lost the war but they were smart enough to recognize that oil was a finite resource and taxed it to discourage it's use in autos.If people will pay $40 for a carton of cigarettes,they can surely pay for the infrastructure that's needed.

Jon, an excellent piece that drew in comments from the folks in the know with intelligent discernible commentary. As some commenters pointed out, Arizona’s population is going to grow and will need to provide modes of transportation for that population. I suspect that currently a large amount of that population are senior citizens such as myself. People addicted to cars. People that are opposed to living in high density cities. We seniors will pass on, so your job is to convince those younger, SunFan types that high rise density is where the future lies. That concrete and asphalt freeways are not good for the planet.
Someone mentioned Germany and people movers. These are the folks that sent back to America the world’s smallest drill bit with a hole drilled all the way down the center of that drill bit. I find it hard to imagine Arizona like Germany, England or France or New York.

I know that Mombo got your ire up a bit with his to many people comment. But many of us are not great thinkers but reactors. So if we accept the inevitable population growth how do we deal with it? Killing probably will not work (as it did centuries ago along with the plague) as fission-fusion kicks in and we breed more to make up for the losses. Maybe we can figure out a way to make more Roadless Wilderness and force folks to live in high density cities?

I probably will not live long enough to see light rail come to Why or Ajo, Arizona where I plan on having my 320 square foot tin can metal home, with solar and a generator and 500 books and VHS tapes, parked on the edge of the Organ Pipe in the Great Sonoran desert.

I will keep driving my Honda Fit until it dies on the back roads of America as outside of reading, hearing the rubber on the road is one of my few great joys left to me as I come to that conclusion, Death as invented by Wiley Kiyohtee, the first environmentalist and earliest ancestor of Thomas Malthus.

I am glad its use guys problem. Here is hoping to your good luck. Hope and Luck?

A train route from Phoenix to Tucson would seem like a no brainer, especially with all the tracks that are already in place.

Does anyone know why the Amtrak station is in Maricopa rather than Phoenix?

As I have posted here previously:
For 50 years or more I have talked about a passenger train from Nogales to Flagstaff via Tucson and Phoenix.
Those thoughts arose out of selfish reasons but they did arise, somewhere between the beginning and the decline of puberty.
AND I think a passenger trains should start at the US border at Tijuana and Juarez, MEXICO.

I agree with a lot of the article. But I have problems with the “cause and effect” connection. The best that can be said that l lot of significant changes happened at about the same time. What caused what is hard to untangle.
Being a geezer, I can remember pre-interstate times. I spent my early years in suburban Washington D.C. (Prince Georges County, Maryland). As an aside, Prince Georges County may have been the most segregated and racist area in the most racist and segregated city in the country.

First: suburbia grew long before the interstates were built. I know. I grew up in it.

Second: Large national chain stores existed before the interstates e.g. Sears, Montgomery Ward and J C Penny.

Third: (this applies to the Northeast and Midwest) There were many interstate-like highways before the interstates. For example the New Jersey Turnpike, the North York Throughway, the Merit Parkway, etc. They were all tolled – but other than that they were interstates. In Florida we had the Sunshine State Parkway from Ocala (in north central Florida) to Miami. There would have been an interstate-like system but it would be a hodge-podge.

Forth: The (passenger) railroads were dying long before the interstates came along. In Birmingham the daily arrivals went from 74 in 1905 to 40 in 1948 to 18 in 1963. With the cancelation of the mail contracts the daily arrivals went to 3 per day by 1969. For the record – interstates in the South were slow in coming. When we moved from Washington to Florida (Cocoa Beach) in 1962 it was state/U S Highways the whole way.

There are some other things you might have added. One of the biggest were national TV networks. This, in combination with Chains access to Wall Street money made it very hard for small retailers to compete.

I don’t know when the Federal Government lost the ability to take on massive projects and deliver with any efficiency. I have some theories, but I won’t bore you with them. The “we became a venal and wicked people, paralyzed by greed, bigotry, and right-wing extremism” explanation is only a good start. I’d throw in left-wing extremism, gaming the legal system and a growing lack of professionalism within the Civil Service System. One would like to think that the F-## fighter-bomber project is an anomaly – but I think is typical of any federal project.

Alas, small town living is and has been on the way out for many decades. It continues today, even when there is no interstate explanation. The root of it is that small-town living for the most part sucks. (So does mega-city living – but that’s another matter). A smallish metro between one and two million seems to be the sweet spot.

Interesting post wgk.
A nice village is not more than 10,000.
A good town is not more than a Mil.
Anything bigger is a disaster bound to go the way of any object that becomes unstable and unable to support its on weight. The day will come when Climate change washes civilization into the acidic oceans where plastic outweighs the fish.

You twisted up some stuff here. How can you seemingly exonerate rail systems when they would have the SAME effect on small areas.

AND Left-wing extremism is equally damaging as anything right wing. Maybe more-so.

Regrets? We are only "tenants on this planet " and it appears there are no new leases available.

I must admit that I envy some here that live in the "now", as I seem to hang out in the past and the future. The future that my grandchildren will inherit. Inherit the mess we have created. I care. Do You?

And I forgot, Go ahead and tee up on a Troon Sonoran desert illegal grass course.
Fortunately, I'm proud of my grandkids that don't play golf or follow proffesional THUG sports. They are to busy as humanitarian university educated scientists that care about the condition of the universe.

Pouring concrete. Jon do U forget that ADOT is controlled by the LDS. Pouring concrete and asphalt feeds the brethren. Here and in Utah the fight is over development. Screw the wilderness. Build buid. No need to care about the planet earth when one is guaranteed a planet of your own when you move on with multiple wives and five children. Religion is evil and dangerous and even more dangerous when it's controlled by old men with nothing to loose. So we just keep pouring those finite resources.

Cal,

The interesting paradox is that Salt Lake City not only has a very advanced light-rail system, but is also a hub for the Frontrunner commuter rail system, which reaches 80 percent of Utah's population.

What's the difference between their Mormons and our Mormons? A serious question.

Jon depends on where you are. Salt Lake like Phoenix tends to be pretty progressive Utahans outside the polluted hole of Salt Lake are much like the folks in Arizona. Rural Utah politics fights to throw off federal regulations more aggressively than anywhere else. They want more privitazion of land for everything from riding your ATV to the same goals the Bundys were advocating regarding land use. The rural Sheriff's have even threatened to arrest federal agents that attempt to enforce federal laws. Utah also has been a haven for illegal extraction of antiques to out and out criminal damage of national moments. I suspect the transportation in Salt Lake is driven by the location of the Mormon Temple where millions visit every year. And was not the Olympics held there a push for the transportation build up? There is only one other place on earth more Holy to the LDS. Arizona is a place to conquer for fiscal extraction to be sent home to Utah. I should say has been conquered.
The Uthans are also a little smarter in how they treat their illegals than Arizona. Again it's about the economy. Arizona does have a few "liberal " Mormons. There is the Udall's of the Southwest and the former Mesa Mayor and governor candidate. And Downtown Mesa may have got bypassed by the freeways but wisely they jumped on the light rail. Intetesting is that the very strong LDS town of Snowflake with a brand new Mormon Temple has passed an ordinance that if enacted will make Snowflake the largest Arizona producer of Marijuana.
So your the expert on these subjects. I suggest you examine it at is it a rural vs a mega city war?

Jon your 80 precent Utah population figure.
Salt Lake population is 200 thousand and Phoenix is closing in on 2 Mil? I'm not sure what that means?

It means the Frontrunner commuter rail route, from Ogden to Provo and other routes, with SLC at the center. Very succcessful.

https://www.rideuta.com/Rider-Tools/Schedules-and-Maps/750-FrontRunner

Well, Jon as I said decades ago, why not a passenger train from Nogales to Flagstaff?
The above folks that posted excellent responses and you can better answer these questions than I can. Any suggestions on changing the ADOT mission of pouring more concrete?

Public lands vs privitzation

https://forcechange.com/28517/protect-utah-public-lands-from-privitization/

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/report/2013/03/11/56103/state-efforts-to-reclaim-our-public-lands/

In defense of the current Utah governor:
http://gomb.utah.gov/budget-policy/planning/

Cal Lash's attack on religion is unfortunate as well as a hasty generalization. Indeed, not all believers think that we ought to bequeath a trashed environment and unlivable cities to following generations - look at Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith's (LDS) vigorous promotion of the Valley Metro expansion. The transportation challenges facing Arizona shouldn't be seen from such Manichean eyes. But to be fair, I support Cal Lash's Phx-Nogales rail proposals!

That aside, the I-11 corridor is deeply troubling for all of the reasons Rogue Columnist and others have made on this blog previously. If the bypassing of the old U.S. routes in favor of the Interstates wrought havoc on local economies, what could we expect of an I-11 completely bypassing Tucson (given how some Pima County leaders want either I-11 or a spur of it to branch off from either I-11/I-19 and then run east to Vail, bypassing the Old Pueblo entirely). A project like this will have serious repercussions.

But the mindset of the ordinary voter believes that government investments always need to pay themselves back and therefore paying for railway infrastructure (especially passenger service) is just colossal waste. Goodness knows that freeways and defense spending among others don't exactly "pay back" the taxpayers either, but its hard to alter that mindset and convince the public that passenger and freight railways ought to be funded to improve our quality of life (and mitigate against unnecessary land-development schemes in undeveloped desert areas).

Hopefully public opposition to this boondoggle will mount to prevent Southern Arizona from becoming Southern California or a hotter Inland Empire.

Nogalense, thanks for your post. I agree with it. I did mention Scott Smith (I just left his name out) above and Mesa's lite rail.I would have preferred Smith as Arizona's governor and I miss the likes of the Udalls.

I admit I am bias against all organized religion and at 75 probably will not change that attitude. I dont think I am hasty about the power of LDS in Arizona. It's been obvious to me since the fifties. I get along fine with individuals including relatives that are LDS. (IN about 20 minutes I am meeting with a friend that happens to be LDS.) My emphasis is not about my LDS acquaintances but about the Theocratic Fundamental beliefs incorporated into political power that has taken control of Arizona politics that guide development that I find to be extremely detrimental to the environment and contributes adversely to population growth. I prefer less economic growth and more Roadless Wilderness.
Cal from the Great Sonoran Desert, what's left of it.

I have also read that the interstate highway system was at least partially justified as a defense system. Ike's perspective on this lead to his championing of it. He spent his early career in the army moving from post to post and experienced the inadequacy of the early highway system, which was slower to mature than the vehicles driving on it. His experience managing the mobilization of huge military forces dovetailed with his early experiences moving around the country and made him a passionate advocate for a modern highway system. At least that's the way I heard the story.

RC's excellent exposition on the unintended costs of the interstate system reminded me of the movie Psycho. If you've seen the movie, you'll remember how the motel was built before they moved the highway, making the Bates Motel a very lonely place and very dangerous for single female guests. So, Norman Bates is another product of the interstate highway system.


Sandverbena asked: "Does anyone know why the Amtrak station is in Maricopa rather than Phoenix?"

Because Maricopa is on the Union Pacific East/West main track and the Phoenix line is a dead end. At one time the Phoenix branch ran from Picacho to Welton where it rejoined the main track. The Southern Pacific abandoned the west leg of the Phoenix branch years ago.

Another name for the bill was the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act. This was a political move by the Eisenhower administration to draw conservative support for a major infrastructure project.

In reality, moving large numbers of troops and equipment by road would have been highly inefficient. The constant need for refueling, for example. Railroads were the more efficient transport, as shown in World War II. Also, the Navy would have destroyed any invasion force long before it reached our shores.

The Interstates intrigued civil defense planners as a way to evacuate cities in the event of war. This broke down on closer examination. Where to put and feed such large populations, or deal with the traffic jams in a crisis?

As to the railroad, the Southern Pacific Northern Main Line ran through Phoenix and carried all but one of the SP's passenger trains. The line was downgraded in the 1990s when the state would not help pay for maintenance of the section of the line from Phoenix to Wellton. Hence, Phoenix became the largest city in America with no Amtrak service.

"THE STATE WOULDN'T PAY"???
Screw the big evil liberal city,Phoenix.

I must be a glutton for punishment, because I know I’m going to get no end of grief over this posting.

I went to the Utah Transit Authority’s website and browsed some of the publications. It is indeed an impressive system. The UTA seems to have good coverage of the service territory – which is about 80% of the total population in Utah.

There were a couple of things I found troubling.

First was system usage: service area population about 2,336,000. Average weekday boardings are about 160,000. Assuming two boardings per user per trip, the usage of the system would be approximately 3.4%. (80,000/2,336,000). But this number is on the high side. The average fare/boarding figure is $1.12. There are a whole range of fares. But the lowest is a flat $1.00 rate for the streetcar. It is clear that many are buying a $88.00 monthly (adult) pass. (It’s not stated but I think the pass is good across the system i.e. buses, commuter rail, light rail). The monthly fare holders appear to be using the system intensely. The true utilization is less that 3% - probably somewhere around 2.5% - for a system that’s about as good as it gets! Sounds a lot like the Dallas light rail system – wonderful but nobody rides it. Even Portland’s transit utilization rate is shockingly low.

The second was system finances. Operating expenses are $394 million ($228 million without depreciation). Total fares collected were $54.4 million. The system depends on massive operating subsidies - $60 million in Federal, $228 million sales tax. Looks like there us a big pension obligation problem also.

Let me address a couple of things preemptively.

Car/truck systems are subsidized also. I didn’t save the reference but I recall reading that highway user fees cover about 70% of the costs. Also, there were streets and roads long before there were cars and trucks. Also, about 50% of UTA’s ridership is on buses and vans – on streets and roads. (and without any contribution to their cost recovery.)

Many aspects of our daily life are subsidized. Public schools are almost 100% subsidized. But then again system utilization is very high – approaching 100% in most areas. Here’s an important point. Public support for programs needs to be very high for any program to be successful in the long run. This is the main issue for transit: how do I get people to use it?

I think it is true that the interstates are a less than ideal way to evacuate an entire city. In 2005, about a month after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans (where many people suffered from not evacuating), hurricane Rita, an even bigger storm, was headed towards Houston. A large portion of the city headed north on I45, creating epic traffic jams. Several people actually died from illnesses and heat while stuck in the gridlock. The hurricane moved east at the last moment and missed Houston. It was a learning experience for the city. They now have an official contraflow plan where outbound traffic will use the inbound lanes. They also work hard to encourage people who live in more inland parts of the city to shelter in place. The system actually worked pretty well in 2008 when hurricane Ike hit Houston. There was no mass evacuation and very few problems during the storm. The issues where mostly after the storm, when almost the entire metro area was without power and some areas didn't get it back for a few weeks.

I can only imagine how bad a war situation would be. The Houston panic of 2005 would pale in comparison.

I think Eisenhower had this in mind:

He was involved in an exercise by the U. S. Army in 1919. It was to test the field mobility of its truck corps. The goal was a test run from NYC to San Francisco. The convoy took started with 81 vehicles of various types. It took 62 days (including six “rest days”) to cross the country. There were numerous delays of many different type – but mostly due to poor roads and bridges.

From the article below: “In addition to 230 road incidents[11] (stops for adjustments, extrications, breakdowns, & accidents) resulting in 9 vehicles retiring,[2] the convoy of "24 expeditionary officers, 15 War Department staff observation officers, and 258 enlisted men" had 21 injured en route who did not complete the trip.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1919_Motor_Transport_Corps_convoy

Okay, having both professional and personal experience with the issue of interstate economic impact I think it a two edge sword. Real use of mass transit requires bus connections, more frequent connections and routes. Every single city that has better bus service has better utilization. Phoenix is trying, but suburbs like Scottsdale illustrate the hardship of the working poor trying to use mass transit to move to employment.

http://routes.valleymetro.org/timetables/701/transit_route

Look at these crappy route times. Ridiculous to ride from Chandler to Thompson peak during rush hour in two hours. Can't make it to work riding this donkey.

Look at the times on the weekend- half hour bus service, slow as heck, and with connecting bus service needed, damned near ridiculous.

This is not transit, this is a sop to the folks who think bus service is for those folks with infinite patience.

This ultimately is what makes me angry in the entire discussion- you can run a bus service like a feeble joke- http://routes.valleymetro.org/timetables/701/transit_route

Or you can run it like it was meant to move people where and when they want to go- http://www.ridemcts.com/docs/default-source/default-document-library/mcts7244-final-2015-transitguidemap%C6%92_lores.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Look at the service delivered by Milwaukee versus the pathetic service in Scottsdale

Route times that move, buses are frequent to serve the workforce, connections are made to move people between lines.

This is why the freeways are necessary in Phoenix, because what service for bus is pathetic. I know Rogue is proud of building the light rail, but without that cross bus infrastructure it is stunted and will stagger along below potential.

That is what has angered me for the last twenty years of this.

Now on to rural Arizona. My family owned tourist businesses in Williams from 1976 to 2003. Having been involved for decades in the rural economy, I can tell you the interstate first of all increased the speed of travel from dang slow to fast. It used to take 12 hours to travel from Los Angeles to Williams Az- that was one days travel on two lane blacktop Route 66. Now, with the interstate, 12 hours from LA of hard driving will take you to Albuquerque.

So, when the interstate bypassed Williams in 1984, Bobby Troup came and played at the celebration, and Williams went splat. What happened after that crash is the important part. The Grand Canyon continued to grow in popularity, and that business is what saved Williams. The gradual return to the tourist trade eventually made the motel businesses profitable and allowed remodeling of the existing buildings in spite of the new building out by the freeway. Without that Grand Canyon trade, Williams would resemble Holbrook, Ash Fork, or Winslow.

So, the real question in rural America is what money from the modern economy is going to flow through the old legacy infrastructure. Winslow is a prime example- the prison and Santa Fe support the town, along with the new development along the freeway (ugh, Wal-Mart). Historic downtown properties are still dirt cheap, in spite of a few good examples of restoration like La Posada. Other drags upon the town include the bordertown status with the Reservations, because of the conflicts between the town and Native Americans. This conflict limits the appeal of a cheap retirement community because of high taxes necessary to support the town operations.

The modern money flows have killed rural America. In places with primary agriculture economy, the modernization of agriculture has destroyed the rural economy. Look at the rural midwest, where manufacturing did not come in and save the day, the depopulation trend of the last 100 years continues to consolidate and hollow out rural towns.

Where manufacturing has failed, coal mining has failed, etc, etc, etc, rural America is depressed and destroyed. My wife's family is from just outside Wilkes-Barre, and small towns there are still dying from the long slow decline of manufacturing and coal. Want to buy a retirement house for $50k bang how many do you want in Nanticoke, PA?

Now with the world going back to cities, the trend for rural poverty is going to be nearly unstoppable outside of the rich resort lifestyle outposts (see Colorado, Jackson Hole, etc.

Thanks for your insightful posts, Concern Troll. You've been missed.

here is Japan, http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-japan-population-snap-story.html

Look at our future.

Retirement and poverty.

The really funny part is I am totally ready to watch America slow down into poverty because the huge baby boomer boost is over.

What happens when house prices fall? What happens if the Chinese decide to sell their bolthole properties because the cost to carry is too high?

Vancouver is insane due to the Chinese overinvestment. Remember the Japanese were going to buy America?

Trends run until they end, and perpetual growth is done until we retool our economy.

Hi Rogue, work interrupted.
I have been slammed.

Concern Troll, Interesting posts. I agree with you about bus service. I'm not sad to see coal mining go away. Today we live off the land not with the land. Drill baby Drill and let's Frack up more earthquakes.
Not only have the interstates increased the speed of movement but the speed with which we exhaust the planets finite resources.

"Retirement and poverty." Define poverty. Maybe we will have to learn to live with less. Do you really need a 2000 square foot house with a pool and a speed boat parked in the driveway hooked to your big 4 by 4 diesel truck.

How's the water situation in Williams, nowdays?

"Revealing my desert thoughts to a vistor one evening, I was accused of being against civilization, against science, against humanity. Naturally I was flattered and at the same time suprised,somewhat hurt, a little shocked." Edward Abbey.


Concern Troll, the downfall of America resembles the burial of Pagan Democratic, science and philosophy oriented Greece by Rome's decline into ignorance and Christianity. The founders of America I most care for would have been at home in ancient Greece, not so today's kooks.

"First they came for the experts"

Interesting posts all, thank you for the food for thought.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo

Your email address:


Powered by FeedBlitz