Smart Growth Round-Up: Livable Cities and Transportation

Here’s a quick recap of what’s trending in regard to livable cities and transportation:

Livable cities:

Vancouver, Canada is the most livable city in the world (according to The Economist, at least). The Canadian city ranked highest on stability, health care, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. In contrast, Harare in Zimbabwe ranked the worst city based on these same five indicators.

Tao Rugkhapan over at ThisBigCity, however, makes a valuable critique about the Economist’s assessment of the “most livable cities”:

“Rather than account for progress in policy change, the ranking considers instead some indicators that are of a nearly static, absolute nature. For developed countries, such indicators as ‘quality of road network’ or ‘quality of water provision’ although a necessary benchmark for a city’s infrastructure, are unlikely to significantly change from one year to the next. Like their temperate, thus ‘tolerable’ weather, the mature infrastructure makes Vancouver, Melbourne, and the other chart-toppers, natural winners who will continue to occupy this rank’s top spots for years to come. Cities with a long-established tradition of sound fiscal health and sizable capital are clearly at an advantage in providing development of corresponding proportions.”


As a nation, are we still too car-dependent? TransportationNation provides data from US DOT’s monthly “Traffic Volume Trends” report revealing that Americans drove three trillion miles in 2010, the most vehicle miles traveled since 2007 and the third-highest ever recorded.

Secretary LaHood says, “This new data further demonstrates why we need to repair the roads and bridges that are the lifeblood of our economy.”

The proposition to fix roads first goes hand-in-hand with this recent Brookings Institution report advocating for road repair and maintenance. Authors Kahn and Levinson explain the need to fix existing infrastructure first:

“Fix it first, expand it second, and reward it third. By focusing on fixing existing infrastructure before creating new, the report explains, states can boost their economy and maximize the number of jobs created…[This approach will allow] states to more with the money they already have and meet transportation challenges while catalyzing economic growth at the same time.”

But where is the funding for new transit projects that would both reduce car-dependence and create more jobs?

The House passed a spending bill last week indicating cuts to transit, smart growth and rail. In addition, the cuts will eliminate funds for High Speed Rail projects.

Angie Schmitt over at explains that these cuts are  detrimental to economic recovery:

“But one thing is clear: with global unrest sending gas prices skyrocketing and threatening the economic recovery, it’s exactly the wrong time to cut back on transit, rail, and active transportation.”

Posted on March 4, 2011, in Transportation, Trends and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. ‘…. it’s exactly the wrong time to cut back on transit, rail, and active transportation.’

    Very true. And it’s also exactly the wrong time to do anything to encourage more reliance on automobiles. The sustainable solution is higher, not lower, fuel prices. Higher fuel prices will encourage more people to use and demand more good transit, rail, bikeways, and walkable spaces — and will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the same time.

    The easiest and best way to do this is a ‘carbon tax’ on all materials and processes that produce CO2 [or other GHG], with no exemptions at all — and then use part of the revenue to offset the higher costs for low- and middle-income folks. The current practice of allowing industry to externalize its costs puts all the incentives in the wrong direction and leaves the taxpayer responsible for cleaning up the businesses’ mess.

    Unfortunately, governments rarely make decisions based on facts or logic or even what the majority wants. The current moves to reduce government expenditures make effective legislation and regulation even less likely. There is little doubt that this is the true purpose behind the hype about cutting budgets.

    If politicians were sincere about wanting to reduce deficits, they would stop allowing corporations and higher-income taxpayers to pay far less than their fair share. [Imagine a huge and enormously-profitable corporation like Bank of America paying no income taxes!]. And, of course, they would stop spending trillions on war and Wall St. bailouts. Instead, they should fund programs to increase renewable energy and dramatically increase block grants to the state and local government.

    At the state level, they would fully fund education [required by the PA constitution], transportation infrastructure, public transit, renewable energy installations, and human services, all of which create more jobs and keep more money in local economies.

  1. Pingback: Get on Board with High Speed Rail « Crossroads

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