Two trips to Minnesota's Iron Range this week have me both exhausted (long drives) but also very excited, the latter due to the level of excited and interest in the Strong Towns message. There are some great cities there that need our help and I'm so happy to be making some inroads in our own backyard.
My wife is out of town this weekend for a conference and so I get three days of daddy and daughters. Who knows exactly what that will bring, but I guarantee it will be unorthodox and fun, starting with the clothes they each picked out for school today (not something I suspect mom would approve of but, hey, at six and eight years old stripes and plaids most certainly match).
Enjoy the week's news.
- The Official Super Hero of Strong Towns, Cap'n Transit, reacted to my podcast about the Bike/Walk Summit with a great post that expanded on my thoughts. As always, a blog worthy of your time.
This is the situation that bike, walk and transit advocates have gotten us into in Washington. Roads and parking are not just competing with pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure; they steal users from those other modes and reduce their lobbying strength further. On top of that, they’re bad for our health, bad for our safety, bad for our security and bad for our sanity. Chuck has also shown that they’re bad for the fiscal health of our local, state and federal governments.
- This week also saw Bacon's Rebellion expand on Monday's post about the government's portfolio with a local take on the concept. I've received a couple of lengthy emails with some quite detailed and technical questions on the subject which I'll try to respond to next week. In the meantime, I hope people continue to discuss this.
It would be difficult for Virginia government to start treating its capital investments like a growth portfolio with specified risk-return objectives, but it’s essential to start doing so. Yes, essential. It’s no longer a matter of merely saving taxpayers money, as I once would have argued, but of avoiding avoid fiscal collapse within another generation.
- I sat for a number of interviews during my time in D.C. for the Bike/Walk Summit. This week Buildipedia.com published a Q&A piece that was a little extra provocative in tone and content. The original edit made me uncomfortable because it distilled some pretty complex thoughts down into statements that were more sound bite in nature, but it has grown on me a little. See what you think.
People on the left like my approach because it supports goals they share, but what I’m saying is the way we got into the mess we’re in relied on central planning and federal spending. So the solution is not a new set of federal programs. The solution is to remove these destructive programs so that the market can become more productive at the local level.
- Next month I'm heading out to the NW of the country with a stop at the RevitalizeWA conference in Vancouver, WA and, due to a string of requests, hope to be back again shortly. The PortlandTransport blog also reacted to my Bike/Walk Summit podcast with some dialog and quality discussion. One commenter rightly pointed out one of my premises -- that some states don't get as much back from the federal gov't for transportation as they send in gas taxes -- has not been true since the Federal Highway Trust Fund became insolvent and Congress has supplemented it with borrowed money.
Essentially the argument is that the feds collect gas taxes in all 50 states, then return those funds as matches for large capital projects (for both roads and transit) that are mostly growth-oriented (at here we can hope to say that our transit projects are smart-growth oriented). But the matching nature of these funds means that local funds are also directed away from maintenance to make the match.
- Later this month I will be in Roswell, GA. The blog New Urban Roswell is expanding the conversation there and preparing the ground for the discussion I hope to have.
Chuck Marohn of StrongTowns.org has coined the term STROAD to describe a “street-road hybrid” which performs poorly at both functions. Chuck calls a STROAD “the futon of transportation alternatives. Where a futon is an uncomfortable couch that also serves as an uncomfortable bed, a STROAD is an auto corridor that does not move cars efficiently while simultaneously providing little in the way of value capture.” You can find STROADs all over North Fulton. Any time you are driving between 30 and 50 mph, you are likely on a STROAD.
- One of the friends I've had an opportunity to make through my work here is Norman Wright, a very talented -- but largely unknown-- planner who I've seen do some tremendously good work. This week he landed his own blog at Planetizen that I'm hoping raises his profile to deserving heights. Looking forward to hearing more.
If you accept the fact that sprawl and infill compete for the same consumer, what if we tilted the fight? What if we gave great infill development a real competitive advantage? Specifically, what if we removed barriers for great infill instead of making new barriers for sprawl? Economically, if great infill were easier to develop than sprawl, there would be more of it in many cities.
- Finally, with literally 20 hours of my week taken up with driving (ugh -- very unproductive time, and that doesn't include my modest commute) I've not gotten to a lot of news (or email) this week, but it was hard to avoid the Stockton, California bankruptcy. A judge is allowing them to move ahead, a decision that will surely set a precedent in California and around the country where this type of announcement will, over the next decade I believe, become quite common.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein said the bankruptcy declaration was needed to allow the city to continue to provide basic services.
"It's apparent to me the city would not be able to perform its obligations to its citizens on fundamental public safety as well as other basic government services without the ability to have the muscle of the contract-impairing power of federal bankruptcy law," Klein said.
Let the party begin. See you all back here on Monday.
If you'd like more from Chuck Marohn, you should really get a copy of his recent book, Thoughts on Building Strong Towns (Volume 1). It is a primer on the Strong Towns movement and an essential read for those wanting to get up to speed quickly.
You can also chat with Chuck, Nate Hood, Andrew Burleson, Justin Burslie and many others over at the Strong Towns Network. Join the conversation on how to make yours a strong town.