If Sacramento Sprawled Like Portland

Sacramento Bee
To the Editor:

For all the Portland envy expressed in Mary Lynne Vellinga’s “A T ouch of Portland in Offing for Capital” (Bee, December 26, 2004), it is well to remember that if Sacramento sprawled like Portland, there would be 30,000 more acres of development. Moreover, traffic congestion, which used to be better in Portland, is now worse than in faster growing Sacramento. Portland is not nearly the Nirvana its proponents claim.

Sincerely,Wendell Cox
Principal Wendell Cox Consultancy, St. Louis
Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris
618 632 8507Mailing address: PO Box 841, Belleville, IL 62222


The Paycheck to Paycheck Apples to Oranges Report

A report funded by Freddie Mac and prepared by the National Association of Counties and the Center for Housing Policy addresses the important issue of housing affordability. But its principal measures are not comparable. The report provides information on the estimated household income required to buy the median priced home in a number of counties. It goes on to compare this number with the "typical" wage of various occupations, such as police officer or teacher. Many households have more than one wage earner, and therefore a comparison of household income to the wages of particular jobs is misleading, and invites the conclusion that the situation is much worse than it actually is.


Hallucinating About Transit in St. Louis

STL Post Dispatch Oped by Kathleen Henry & Michelle Tham
In which it is proposed that a better solution to a new Mississippi River Bridge in STL would be lower light rail fares and HOV lanes.

It is baseless rhetoric to suggest that transit or high-occupancy vehicle lanes are a substitute for a new bridge over the Mississippi. Neither alternative can take enough people where they are going to make a material difference iin trafficcongestioin. No believable computer models or plans say otherwise.


High Speed Hallucinations - USA Today

Think your commute is tough?
By Debbie Howlett and Paul Overberg, USA TODAY


Today's USA Today front page story on commuting was fairly well balanced compared to previous articles. The subject was people who commute more than 90 minutes. The article was devoid of the usual smart growth hyperbole to the effect that people have to commute long distances. The reporters rightly noted that much of long commuting has to do with finding the housing people want at a price they can afford.

But the article was not without the usual bone-headedness. The reporters bought on to the line that the proposed high-speed rail line from San Francisco to San Diego through Palmdale and downtown Los Angeles would speed up travel for commuters. Anyone who thinks that the average commuter would be able to afford the high-speed rail fares knows nothing about high-speed rail. The consultant also mused that the line would be the equivalent of an 8-lane freeway, seeming to provide further evidence that innumeracy continues its plague-like march through the public sector.

Even if the 8-lane hallucination were valid, it would make little difference, since so few people in Palmdale ride transit to begin with. If all of the people riding the "popular" double-deck trains to downtown went instead by car, they would fall at least 75 percent short of using up the capacity of a freeway lane. But, following the logic that seems to apply so often in transit, people will get out of their cars to get on trains that aren't going where they are. The problem, of course, is that transit is about downtown. In most large metropolitan area, only 10 percent of employment is downtown. The number is even lower in Los Angeles, at 3 percent. So if high-speed rail is the equivalent of an 8-lanes freeway, it is an empty freeway.


75 MPG Car Coming to Canada

Will be marketed in Canada but not the US. I have driven these in Europe and would buy one if I could here. They make a lot of sense for getting around the urban area. You could take it up the elevator and park it in your foyer. 66-75 mpg raises my concerns about energy sustainability. But, of course those numbers wont be achieved in Canada, where there are neither gallons nor miles. (Wendell Cox)

Why Not Just Buy Them Cars

That US urban public transport costs per passenger mile are now four times that of the automobile raises an interesting concept. There may be ways to provide all low-income transit riders with cars, which could lead to higher incomes and more efficient labor markets. This thought exercise has become very popular on both sides of the political spectrum, though for different reasons.

Obese Portland Loosens Belt (Urban Growth Boundary)

Less than seven months after voters outlawed further neighborhood densification, Metro expandeded the urban growth boundary more than had been planned for the next 36 years (2040). Metro expanded the boundary farther in 2004. At the rate since 1995, the urban growth boundary is on track for sprawling beyond what had been projected if the area's so-called smart growth policies had never been adopted. However, the weight of regulation has already distorted the market and driven housing affordability down and traffic congestion has become the worst among medium sized urban areas.

Elusive Costs of Sprawl: 50 Years is Enough

The anti-sprawl movement claims that newer (more sprawling) communities have higher government costs than older (less sprawling) communities. However, an econometric analysis shows no practically significant difference in expenditures per capita between the two types of communities. Other factors explain the variation in municipal expenditures.

50 years of suburbanization would seem to be sufficient for the elusive costs of sprawl to reflect themselves in the actual data.