California bullet train advances amid cries of ‘boondoggle’ (New York Times)
The top of the story says it best: “With a brashness and ambition that evoke a California of a generation ago, state leaders — starting with Gov. Jerry Brown — have rallied around a plan to build a 520-mile high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco, cutting the trip from a six-hour drive to a train ride of two hours and 38 minutes. And they are doing it in the face of what might seem like insurmountable political and fiscal obstacles.” And nowhere in the article do any of the politicians quoted offer real ideas for a funding plan.
Planning for future Gold Line station, La Verne limits industrial land (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)
The idea is to preserve space for future commercial and residential use near the station. Problem is, the story says it’s at least five years until the train arrives. That’s technically correct. But the article should have noted that any extension of the Gold Line beyond Azusa (scheduled to open in 2015) is at this time not funded.
Leaving California (L.A. Times)
Again last year, more people left California to live in other states than moved to California from other parts of the U.S. This trend has been ongoing for several years now and the percentage of Californians born elsewhere in the U.S. reached a new low last year. What does this mean for California? Hard to say, although a couple people in the story say it’s a reflection of high real estate prices and the decline of good jobs in the state. It’s worth noting that the overall population still went up between 2000 and 2010 — from about 33.9 million to 37.2 million.
The death of the fringe suburb (New York Times)
The Baby Boomers are now empty nesters stuck with homes larger than they need — and what they increasingly want are walkable city neighborhoods where there are things to do. The same goes with the Milleniels who grew up in the suburbs and have rejected them. In the view of Christopher Leinberger, a Brookings Institution fellow, that likely means less money will be invested into the distant suburbs in metro areas. Excerpt:
The cities and inner-ring suburbs that will be the foundation of the recovery require significant investment at a time of government retrenchment. Bus and light-rail systems, bike lanes and pedestrian improvements — what traffic engineers dismissively call “alternative transportation” — are vital. So is the repair of infrastructure like roads and bridges. Places as diverse as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Charlotte, Denver and Washington have recently voted to pay for “alternative transportation,” mindful of the dividends to be reaped. As Congress works to reauthorize highway and transit legislation, it must give metropolitan areas greater flexibility for financing transportation, rather than mandating that the vast bulk of the money can be used only for roads.
For too long, we over-invested in the wrong places. Those retail centers and subdivisions will never be worth what they cost to build. We have to stop throwing good money after bad. It is time to instead build what the market wants: mixed-income, walkable cities and suburbs that will support the knowledge economy, promote environmental sustainability and create jobs.