A whole bunch of links, mostly transportation related.
* Is the era of “TINA” market fundamentalism finally over? Let’s hope so. Howard Wolfson in TNR: “Just as President Bush’s failures in Iraq undermined his party’s historic advantage on national security issues, the financial calamity has shown the ruinous implications of the Republican mania for deregulation and slavish devotion to totally unfettered markets.” And then there’s this pretty astonishing Newsweek article from reformed neocon Francis Fukuyama: “Like all transformative movements, the Reagan revolution lost its way because for many followers it became an unimpeachable ideology, not a pragmatic response to the excesses of the welfare state… Already there is a growing consensus on the need to re-regulate many parts of the economy… And in many parts of the world, American ideas, advice and even aid will be less welcome than they are now.”
* The Pew Center has a new consumer-targeted site, Make an Impact, which offers useful information — but is curiously housed at Alcoa.com. I don’t see a whole lot of pro-aluminum propaganda, but it’s still an odd PR choice. Something that site links to which I wasn’t aware of: FHWA offers some mediocre transportation-alternatives PSAs at its site, under the banner It All Adds Up To Cleaner Air. Another somewhat curious instance of corporate PR: leading trainset manufacturer Bombardier has a jazzy new subsite proclaiming that the climate is right for trains. All your railfan arguments in one place, and constantly updated.
* Eric de Place from Sightline quotes me in his roundup of Comprehensive Car-Free Hiking in the Northwest. (His original post, about a shuttle up to Snohomish Pass, got me thinking about car-free wilderness vacations.) And apparently, sightseeing by bike isn’t just for us dilettantes; it’s also good enough for Olympians in Beijing.
* Two Greg Hinz tidbits: (1) it turns out that a VP of bicycle-component maker SRAM, F. K. Day, is in the same six-figure Obama-fundraising league as Valerie Jarrett. I suspect that has something to do with this June bike-industry fundraiser that he hosted for Bikes Belong Coalition’s board. [Bikes Belong Coalition is a 501c6 that can participate in political activities, although it has an affiliated 501c3 foundation.] (2) Hinz wrote a column calling for “an armistice” between cyclists and drivers. Valiant, but still seems a touch “car-headed,” considering he talked to a major ER’s chairman who said he’s seeing “more than usual” numbers of injured bicyclists — nearly one a day, with most admitted to the hospital. I bet there aren’t nearly that many drivers checking in with bicycle-related injuries. I also bet that most of those crashes were the drivers’ fault; as is the case in bike-car crashes elsewhere.
* Walk Score has published neighborhood rankings for most major U.S. cities. It’s subject to the usual Walk Score caveats, but the cross-city comparisons are pretty fascinating, as a baseline comparison of urbanity. For instance, LA edges out Portland, and Houston beats Austin.
* Apparently, I’m not the only one annoyed with how much power gyms hog — the blasting AC, dozens of fans, countless TVs, mountains of laundry, and yes, all those powered aerobics machines. All this fossil fuel burned so that people can replicate movements that (for the most part) people have done outdoors without fossil fuel for centuries (running, cycling, rowing, skiing, lifting heavy objects). A tiny new “green gym” in PDX generates its own electricity from yes, the machines (those wattage calculators actually mean something) and from solar panels. The techno-wizardry aside, it exudes the right “reduce” attitude: no towels, members living within walking distance.
* Civia Cycles (a/k/a Surly/Salsa/QBP) has released Greenlight, an online “league” for commuters who religiously note their bike-computer readouts. Sure, behavioral economics teaches us that the right amount of feedback, peer pressure, and competition can motivate people to change their habits — combined with incentives, of course. (I’ve argued that cycling creates positive externalities and thus should be incented by government. Yet somehow these programs seem a bit clumsy; I’ve never gotten the swing of bicycle computers (and I’ve owned two). Surely, in this day of ubiquitous computing, we can come up with seamless systems — like the Nike+iPod product. Humana’s on-campus bike sharing program (the same one brought to the DNC/RNC as Freewheelin‘) automatically uploads mileage information to a central computer; this can be linked to one’s individual account to measure progress towards fitness goals, but requires lots of fiddly hardware. Even more promising is the PEIR project from UCLA and Nokia; it uses mobiles’ GPS systems (and perhaps additional onboard sensors, like for air pollution) to follow users’ paths — and could extend to accommodate countless additional user inputs, from pollution to scenery, pavement quality, available alternate routes, the works. (Okay, so the privacy factor is a bit eerie.)
* Timothy Noah in Slate makes Brookings’ argument for them: the “authentic small town ‘main street’ ” that Sarah Palin and others fetishize is not where “real Americans” live. 84% of Americans, including the Palin family, live in metropolitan areas, and it’s far past time to get used to that reality. And speaking of metros and politics, interesting to note that The Big Sort‘s author Bill Bishop now has a blog at Slate, just in time to provide some segmentation analysis for the election-sprint season. He notes that the #1 people-exporting county to Colorado in recent years has been Los Angeles County; I’d be willing to bet that it’s also the largest exporter to Nevada, another battleground. Northeastern relocatees are definitely a large factor in political shifts in Virginia and North Carolina. Yet these booming, transient communities are still finding their political identities — the tremendous Democratic field operation (I spent half my life there, but I’d never have guessed that Cary, N.C. would ever have a stripmall housing a black Democratic presidential candidate’s field office amid a row of curry shops) has an opportunity to lock in lasting gains.
* New site feature: click on the Dopplr link under Site News to get a rough idea of my travels. This also might help to explain occasional extended absences from the blog.