"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


George Will hates trains

Dear Mr. Will,

I occasionally enjoy your writings for the principled conservatism you express, but I found your February 27th contribution in Newsweek to be nothing but good, old-fashioned red-baiting at its most base:

"...the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism."

High Speed Rail as is being pushed by the DOT and Obama is undoubtedly going to be wasteful, but don't use that to paint the entire mode of Rail. Rail is much more economical than driving in terms of fuel efficiency in $/passenger-kilometer, and the basis of the infrastructure is already there and just needs to be revived/updated.

Yes, if viewed as a purely government-funded exercise, rail is more expensive. But rail pays a greater percentage of its way through fares (62% of operating expenses) than driving does via gas taxes and tolls (less than 50% for the Federal Highway Administration).

Further, why is rail vilified for being subsidized by the government when the same can be said for our highways? Because its detractors can't let go of cheap gas (gone forever), and are deliberately comparing apples to oranges: on percentage of current mode-share vs. what is currently subsidized through taxes. Rail ridership grows every year, and track infrastructure with equal mode-share is much more economical than continued maintenance of interstate highways we can no longer afford.

Fighting "global warming" is an unwinnable battle but, rail also pays dividends in reducing pollution and improving public health. Why do you hate people's lungs, George?

There's no denying the $50-80 billion nationally per year in additional healthcare costs from transportation related pollution. To say nothing of the $150 billion in additional costs dealing with type 2 diabetes - a direct result of our car-dependent sedentary behavior.

The free ride of cheap oil is over, George. The airlines will soon be a millionaires club, and local travel and development will be increasingly more oriented towards transit, bicycling, and walking. The direct and indirect costs of a car-only transportation policy are simply too great to bear anymore. Roads are not an entitlement, and it's time to stop paying for them with the wallets of the middle-class and lower, as Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin.

Your argument is bullshit and reactionary. You know this, so you just resort to the fossilized cliché of calling people "communists." It is your only defense against people who don't embrace the pointless consumerism of car-culture or the fallacy of "individualism" predicated on an endowment of cheap, convenient energy. Against those who place more value on public space, community, efficiency, and health.

American individualism is far older the automobile; it was born out of finding a better way of doing things.


Thursday Hate: Where is John Burge when we need him?

I really hope - and you never know with Brazil - that they cut this guy's balls off and feed them to him at gunpoint.


My email to David Brooks of the New York Times

Dear Mr. Brooks,

I have recently become a big fan of your writing.

Your recent columns, "Ben Franklin's Nation," "Run, Mitch, Run," and "The New Normal," resonated with me greatly. Indeed, the middle class need to reclaim our dignity by distinguishing ourselves by what we spend on, rather than what we have to spend. I, too, hope for a measured approach in ensuring the inevitable austerity is less painful.

I suppose you might call me a progressive-realist. I work for a Chicago nonprofit that advocates for better biking, walking, and transit for our citizens. Not the typical resume of a Republican. And I don't identify as such, but I am a fan of Mitch Daniels.

Mitch Daniels played not a small part in the passage of Indiana's landmark Complete Streets bill late last year. Complete Streets is the concept that most new public roadway development considers all possible users. Daniels realizes there are great gains to be achieved by reclaiming a portion of the public space for the use of all.

These are gains in energy efficiency, quality of life, and public health that will positively affect the bottom line of governments across the land.

Our current infrastructure, heavily car-centric, is much like a third-rail entitlement program, eating up increasingly more of the budget and creating dependency (on low energy prices).

Several recent studies have shown the huge dividends of investing in bicycling, walking, and transit-oriented development, especially in fuel savings and lower public health burden.

The American Journal of Public Health reported last November - covered by NPR - that in cities with high rates of active transportation, obesity and diabetes rates are 20% lower or more. Treatment of type 2 diabetes claims $1 in every 100 dollars spent in this country, and each sufferer can incur additional lifetime healthcare costs of up to $400,000. One in three born after the year 2000 will contract it.

A brand new study by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that by 2040, bicycling investments in Portland, OR in the range of $138 to $605 million will result in health care cost savings of $388 to $594 million and fuel savings of $143 to $218 million.

Finally, the Chicago Tribune reported that the city's Bike 2015 Plan is indeed working: they've built the lanes, and the cyclists - finding increased safety - have come. Business Week cites findings that such infrastructure cuts cyclist injuries by half. Mayor-elect Emanuel has pledged to increase the rate of bike lane development in Chicago from 8 miles per year to 25, and has promised to open the Bloomingdale Trail - the sister of NYC's much celebrated and successful High Line - before the end of his first term.

It is my hope that you will weigh in with your support on these solutions that Indiana, Chicago, and many other towns across America are implementing to cut loose the stranglehold that car-only infrastructure has on their budgets, their health, and their public space.

Thanks for reading.