Smart Growth Round-Up: Livable Cities and Transportation
Here’s a quick recap of what’s trending in regard to livable cities and transportation:
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 Streetblogs.net 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.”