This week we passed 500 members on the Strong Towns Network and are just a handful of connections away from 2,500 Facebook likes and 3,500 Twitter followers. To top it off, this past week I participated in our 99th Curbside Chat. None of this is possible without all of you tuning into our stuff and then sharing it with others. Thank you for your role in spreading the Strong Towns message. We really appreciate it.

Enjoy the week's news.

  • Next Thursday I will be speaking in Minneapolis for an event being hosted by the Minnesota ULI. I'm really excited about this particular event, not only because it is in my home state but also because the format for the program is giving a lot of time for Q&A. This is going to be a high-powered audience and I'm hoping they push me a little beyond the standard give and take. There are limited seats and I know things are filling up so, if you are interested in attending, don't wait.
  • I spent a couple of days this week in Memphis, one of my favorite American cities. This is a place with so much potential that is just waiting to burst out -- very invigorating to be there. Of course, there are always difficult issues to work through and the Desperation Phase of the Suburban Experiment is creating delusions everywhere. My response to the "moonshot" concept was that we would be better off heading to the casino and just putting it all on red. At least we could then move on to actually focusing on those fine-grained solutions we need.

About 50 members have been recruited since the effort started in November. Each already has been asked to offer three possible "moonshot" ideas for Memphis and Shelby County.

The chamber will reform its committees around the long-term, strategic plans that the Chairman's Circle create. The $2.5 million will be seed money to accomplish the circle's big-vision plans.

  • Patrick Kennedy at Walkable Dallas Forth Worth is one of my favorite bloggers. He's a very intelligent and insightful guy in an area that has some real serious challenges in dealing with reality. Nice to see his stuff gaining traction. (Side note: Andrew Burleson informed me that Texas had the highest percentage of wind energy in the nation to which I responded, "If they could harness all the blowhards, they would be exporting clean energy to the world." One of my favorite past times is messing with Texas, especially my Dallas relatives.)

The bust wasn’t the problem. It was the boom, that displaced and destabilized cities… Sprawl.

The underlying problem is that you can’t balance the budget with an imbalanced physical environment. Too much infrastructural burden and too little tax base.

Whenever the phrase “our crumbling infrastructure” passes the lips of a politician or appears in the pages of a newspaper, I change the password on my checking account and move my wallet to the front pocket of my jeans. So when President Barack Obama invoked our “aging infrastructure badly in need of repair” in his State of the Union address on Tuesday and Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria used his perch yesterday to complain that Obama wasn’t proposing near enough for infrastructure, I closed my bank accounts, canceled my credit cards, converted my liquid investments into gold bullion, dumped them into 55-gallon drums, rolled the drums into a backyard pit and poured a load of cement over the heap.

It’s not that infrastructure doesn’t crumble — everything turns to dust eventually. Obviously, useful bridges, ports, airports and highways need to be maintained, and as a country grows it needs new ones. It’s just that the press allows members of the civil engineering-industrial complex to bamboozle them into believing that all calls for building infrastructure are equal.

  • The engineering profession during the Suburban Experiment has always been prepared to fight the last battle, which unfortunately is true not only in the United States but in Australia as well. After decades of not understanding induced demand and thus underestimating traffic volumes, the profession -- committed to making only new mistakes -- has severely overcompensated. That this is happening simultaneously with declining average daily traffic counts makes the professional myopia all the more tragic.

As Matt O'Sullivan reported, Arup had predicted that Airport Link would attract about 135,000 vehicles a day just a month after it opened in July, rising to 291,000 vehicles by 2026, but usage has actually been falling. In December, an average of just 47,000 vehicles a day used the toll road.

 

A late Friday update: Had a fantastic day at school with Stella. Turning six as a kindergartner is a HUGE deal and it was fun for me to be part of it. I've had a rough couple of weeks with a lot of time away and so there was a little bit of makeup guilt for me here too. It is hard on the kids when dad has a long stretch away. 

When we got back home today we opted for dance party instead of blogging and then switched to cleaning up the house for family and friends expected on Saturday. Everyone's in bed now, including me, and I'm going to close my eyes here and get my mind and body ready for tomorrow. Have a great weekend, everyone. See you back here on Monday.