Weekly Links

We Should Have Taxed Ridesharing

Urban Design

Let’s Add a Bike Lane or Two Here and…

From Kottke.org and StreetmixIf you love Sim City or any other urban planning simulation game then you’ll probably love designing a street. Streetmix allows you to customize your own street by adding sidewalks, rail, bike lanes, etc. This is a pretty neat tool, but it would be even cooler if they added some economic element. It’s easy to point out all the aspects of a street that should be changed, but it’s another thing to improve the street on a budget.


Could Ridesharing Services Help Fund Mass Transit?

From The Detroit Free PressJohn Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press does a great job summarizing the debating argument over traffic congestion and autonomous (or self-driving) vehicles. On one hand, autonomous vehicles offer the hope of fewer parking lots and more mobility, but on the other hand they could easily lead to worsening traffic. The latter argument relies primarily on the idea that if you make driving easier then more people will choose driving over other transportation modes, which leads to more traffic congestion. This is something that transportation and urban planning professionals (including GDOT) know well and it’s the reason why traffic does not decrease when roads are widened or new roads are built.

Previous studies have already shown that ridesharing increases traffic congestion in cities as more people opt for this service over walking, biking, or using public transportation. Regulators need to take this into consideration. The Georgia Legislature debated adding a tax for ridesharing services to pay for public transportation, but ultimately chose not to include that in the metro Atlanta transportation bill. This was a major mistake.

Ride-sharing services and autonomous vehicles should supplement other modes of transportation, not replace them. It’s ill-advised to put all your resources into one mode of transportation; we’ve learned this over the past several decades as we’ve focused primarily on highways and cars, which has led to worsening traffic. Additionally, many states are struggling with tax revenue despite a strong economy largely because services (like ridesharing) are not taxed like goods. Since we’ve dramatically shifted from a goods-based to a service-based economy, states are taking in less revenue.

Self-Driving Car in San Francisco. Image Credit: Dllu



Cities Should Annex Suburbs

From The WeekRyan Cooper argues that cities should annex suburbs in order to create more uniform governance. While the trend has reversed over the past 10-15 years, wealthy people for decades abandoned cities for suburban communities. This left poorer individuals in the city, though wealthy people still relied on the city for jobs. City governments were therefore cash-strapped and unable to provide adequate levels of service to residents while wealthy suburbanites used city services on a daily basis.

We’ve seen this problem in Atlanta for a long while, though fortunes are changing since wealthier people are now moving into the city. That means poorer people have to live in the suburbs, though. Today the argument could be made that instead of large central cities benefiting from annexation, suburbs could now be the beneficiary of annexation. More governments, of course, necessitates increasing cooperation in order to get any regional projects approved. This is exactly what’s been happening in Atlanta. In Georgia (and probably in most states) the state legislature has to approve any change in a city’s boundaries, so even if the suburb and city agree on annexation, a legislature dominated by rural interests could veto the proposal.

Atlanta’s Boundaries in 1883. Via ScholarsBlog



The Bi-Partisan Caucus to Combat Climate Change

From The Economist. The Climate Solutions Caucus is a congressional caucus dedicated to supporting legislation to address climate change. It also has an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. While some members are dedicated environmentalists, 12 of the 33 Republicans in the caucus are from districts that Donald Trump won by ten or more percentage points. What makes the caucus unusual is that congressional members can only join if they bring a member from the opposite party. Formed in 2016, the Climate Solutions Caucus is so popular that it has a long waiting list to join and currently ranks in the top tenth percentile in terms of size among the 598 caucuses in the US Congress.

This story comes on the heals of Exxon recently admitting in federal court that they knew about the impact of fossil fuels on climate back in 1988. It appears to be the case that an increasingly small group of older Republicans are the only people who don’t believe in climate change. Insurance companies and large corporations certainly aren’t questioning the overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing. The denial of climate change among Republicans is somewhat baffling. There are certainly a number of moderate, educated voters who support some of the Republican economic agenda, but are turned off by Republican’s complete disregard for evidence and the long-term vitality of the planet. Why continue to deny climate change when you could admit it’s happening and win over voters with a conservative approach to solving the problem? Very conservative voters and oil companies aren’t going to start supporting Democrats if the Republican party decides that climate change is happening.


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