The Edmond Sun

Opinion

February 12, 2013

Mass transit can bring a prosperous future

EDMOND — Robert Caro is perhaps best known for his biography of Lyndon Johnson that is contained in four volumes. It tells Johnson’s story from his birth in rural Texas to his ascension to the presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.   

But Caro’s skill as a biographer was first demonstrated in 1974 with the publication of “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York” for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. In that work Caro told the story of Robert Moses, who oversaw the construction of 13 highways in New York  City and numerous parks throughout the city and the state of New York. Moses, who was known in New York as the “Master Builder,” headed several transportation authorities that received federal highway funds.

While the original plans for the interstate highway system mandated that the highways bypass residential areas, Caro documents how Moses directed that those highways be built through residential neighborhoods despite the protests of the residents in those communities. Moses had little interest in funding public transit and the highways be built allowed middle class New Yorkers to move to the suburbs while continuing to work in the city. Caro also details how that every time Moses opened a highway, the number of cars that traveled on it soon surpassed the numbers predicted, and within several years time the media in the Big Apple would document how the tireless master builder was planning to either expand that roadway or to build another one to handle the increasing number of vehicles that were using it.

It was thought that Moses was responding to the demand for more roadways, but Caro explained that in time some urban planners began to theorize that his highways were making the time cost of driving cheaper, which encouraged more driving, which resulted in more traffic congestion. In “Walkable City” urban planner Jeff Speck recently wrote of what is now known as  the “induced demand” that results from roadway construction, and quotes a study that concluded “On average, a 10 percent increase in lane miles induces a 4 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled, which climbs to 10 percent — the entire new capacity — in a few years.”

The theory of induced demand also has been summarized as “if you build it, they will come.” As the title of his book suggests, Speck is committed to making cities pedestrian friendly, and he laments the fact that much urban planning is done by engineers and planners who are committed to  maintaining the automobile as the primary means of transportation in their communities. But he is encouraged by communities such as Oklahoma City and Edmond that have constructed bicycling lanes on roads and walking trails. He lists a series of measures that cities can take to encourage more walking in their downtown areas.

The author is also a proponent of mass transit systems that connect cities to their suburbs, and reminds us that at one time every American city with a population of more than 10,000 had a streetcar system in place and that in Los Angeles in 1950 more than a thousand electric trolleys were in operation on a daily basis. He asserts that well-planned mass transit systems have made some American cities, such as Boston, Chicago and San Francisco effectively car optional places. Speck believes that the cities that will prosper in the future are ones that include downtown areas that feature residential units and stores as well as entertainment facilities. It is possible that Oklahoma City will in time become such a place.

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Loosening constraints on campaign donations and spending doesn’t destroy democracy

    Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics.
    In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy.
    This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons.

    April 23, 2014

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 23, 2014

  • Free trade on steroids: The threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Many supporters of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement are arguing that its fate rests on President Obama’s bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this week. If Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues for agriculture and automobiles, the wisdom goes, this huge deal — in effect, a North American Free Trade Agreement on steroids — can at last be concluded.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Chicago Tribune: If Walgreen Co. moves its HQ to Europe, blame Washington’s tax failure

    The Walgreen Co. drugstore chain got its start nearly a century ago in downstate Dixon, Ill., before moving its corporate headquarters to Chicago and eventually to north suburban Deerfield, Ill.
    Next stop? Could be Bern, Switzerland.
    A group of shareholders reportedly is pressuring the giant retail chain for a move to the land of cuckoo clocks. The reason: lower taxes. Much lower taxes.
    If Walgreen changes its legal domicile to Switzerland, where it recently acquired a stake in European drugstore chain Alliance Boots, the company could save big bucks on its corporate income-tax bill. The effective U.S. income-tax rate for Walgreen, according to analysts at Swiss Bank UBS: 37 percent. For Alliance Boots: about 20 percent.

    April 21, 2014

  • Sulphur a future major tourist destination?

    Greta Garbo says, “I want to be alone,” in the 1932 film “Grand Hotel.” That MGM film starred Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and a young actress from Lawton named Joan Crawford. It told the stories of several different people who were staying at an exclusive hotel of that name in Berlin Germany.
    It was critically well received and it inspired more recent films such as “Gosford Park” and television shows such as “Downton Abbey” in that it detailed the relationship between powerful and wealthy people and those who served them. The film opened amidst much fanfare and it received the Oscar for best picture in the year of its release.

    April 21, 2014

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results