Weekly Links: brief commentary on local, state, and national stories from (roughly) the past week
The High Cost of Flooded Parking (and Sidewalks)
From Wunderground. In the early 1960’s, Annapolis, Maryland experienced about 4 high-tide flood events a year. These types of flood events are often called sunny day or nuisance floods because they happen absent any storm; a simple higher-than-average tide causes the flood. Fast forward to 2017 and Annapolis experienced 63 high-tide flood events. That 920% increase tops NOAA’s list of cities with the greatest increase in high-tide flood events. Other major cities experiencing rapid increases in high-tide flooding include Wahington, DC and San Francisco. Coastal Georgia is also no stranger to these events, as passage between Savannah and Tybee Island can often be impossible during such floods.
Using parking meter data and tweets from local business owners, researchers showed that business dropped by 2% in downtown Annapolis due to the high-tide flooding. They found that when downtown flooded, people simply avoided the area for up to 6 hours after the flood-event had ended.
In economic terms, this results in a loss of $86,000 to $176,000 a year in business. With 3 to 12 inches of additional sea-level rise, researchers estimated that business visits to downtown Annapolis would drop by 4% and 24%, respectively.
As You May Have Guessed, Ridesharing Increases Traffic Congestion
From Streetsblog. If you take people off transit, sidewalks, and bike lanes and put them in cars, would you guess that traffic congestion would increase? Streetsblog put together a quick list of the ways ridesharing (Uber, Lyft, etc.) have hurt transportation in cities with increased congestion being the most expected.
If cities with the highest ridesharing usage saw miles driven increase by 3%, then it’s perhaps unsurprising that Uber and Lyft increased traffic fatalities last year by 1,100 according to a study from the University of Chicago. Cars are, after all, very dangerous and driving more tends to increase risk of death. It doesn’t help that 30-60% of the time, ridesharing drivers are simply circling around looking for additional passengers. On top of all that, one study showed that absent ridesharing services, 42% of passengers would have taken transit, 12% would have biked or walked, and 17% would have driven . So Uber and Lyft tend to reduce demand for transit, which perhaps decreases people’s willingness to fund transit. That might not be so bad if ridesharing didn’t increase deaths, cause more congestion (and corresponding pollution), and many people didn’t rely on transit funding to get around.
In 9-0 Ruling, Supreme Court Agrees Civil Asset Forfeiture is Un-American
From The Supreme Court. In a unanimous, and relatively short opinion, the US Supreme Court ruled that the 8th Amendment of the Constitution also applies to states. It may come as a surprise to some, but the first ten amendments (aka the Bill of Rights) originally applied only to the federal government. Over time, though, the Supreme Court has found that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution intended to make the Bill of Rights applicable to the states. This week, the Court finally got around to telling us that states cannot escape the 8th Amendment since the 8th Amendment protects rights fundamental to the founding of this country.
The little talked about amendment prohibits the government from levying excessive fines, among other things. What this means is that state and local police departments can no longer seize property through civil asset forfeiture in ways that amount to excessive fines. Typically police will charge a person with a crime and then seize any asset (car, cash, house, etc.) that has some remote connection to the crime. Regardless of whether the person is actually convicted, the government takes the property and the person charged with the crime is left trying to get it back.
In the case at hand, Timbs v. Indiana, police charged Mr. Timbs with selling heroin, for which Mr. Timbs pled guilty. After the court sentenced him to house arrest, probation, and made him pay $1200 in fines, police then filed a civil suit to seize his $42,000 car since the car was used to transport the heroin. Mr. Timbs sued to get the car back, which brought the case to the Supreme Court. While not holding that this particular seizure was, in fact, an excessive fine, the Court did hold that the 8th Amendment does apply to the states. This means that the trial court back in Indiana is free to find that the state violated the 8th Amendment when it seized Mr. Timbs’ vehicle.
Cover Photo: Flooding during a king tide in Annapolis. Credit: Amy McGovern via Flickr
Categories: Weekly Links