Read about my travel adventures in the business section of today’s New York Times.
Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
It’s that time of the year again: More than 40 million Americans are expected to be traveling on the roads this Wednesday before Thanksgiving, according to AAA – the busiest travel day of the year.
Hope you’re not traveling on one of the roads listed below, from a ranking of the roads with the “slowest typical rush hour” in the United States and Canada. It’s based on data from NAVTEQ, the digital traffic and location data company (via TechCrunch/GreenTech). New York City tops the list, but Montreal is a close second. Philly, L.A., Boston, Dallas, and Toronto make the list.
Freeways with the Slowest Typical Rush Hour
1. New York City – Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (northbound)
2. New York City – Washington Bridge (eastbound)
3. Montreal – AUT-15 (eastbound)
4. Philadelphia – US-202 (southbound)
5. Montreal – RTE-138 (westbound)
Being stuck in traffic ranks as one of life’s most miserable experiences, according to researchers who study happiness, and unfortunately too many Americans find themselves spending more time stuck. A new report by urbanist Joe Cortright for CEOs for Cities provides a new ranking of the the nation’s 51 largest metro areas, based on the length of peak-hour commutes and the time commuters spend in peak-hour traffic. Americans living in large metro areas spend an average of 200 hours in peak-hour traffic. But peak-hour travel time varies from more than 250 hours to less than 150 hours across these metros.
So, what are America’s busiest airports? Depends on what you measure, it turns out. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics compiles detailed statistics on America’s airports (via the NYT’s Catherine Rampell).
For domestic flights, Atlanta is the busiest airport, followed by Chicago O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, and LAX. (more…)
Over at The Transport Politic, Yonah Freemark accuses me of making too much of a case for high-speed rail:
Setting aside the positives and negatives of fast trains for now, my biggest qualm with Florida’s argument is his sense that the megaregion will produce the “Concentration and clustering [that] are the underlying motor forces of real economic development.” He cites the Boston-Washington and Char-lanta regions as examples of these megaregions, which he says “Will do more than anything to wean us from our dependency on cars…”
Though there was been an increase in the number of residents living in the dense cities along the corridor (those that Florida implies need to be reinforced to meet the demands of the next century), that expansion is minor compared to the increase in the number of residents living in not-so-dense areas. It is true that the interconnections between cities in the Northeast have led to strong intercity rail ridership compared to the rest of the country, but the true success, especially of the New York metropolitan area, has been in maintaining urban and commuter rail ridership, which represents a far larger quantity of users and which has nothing at all to do with the presence of the greater Boston-Washington megaregion. The megaregion in itself, in other words, cannot be directly correlated with the notions of higher density…
That’s the question I asked earlier today at Twitter. You answered a combination of new tech, like broadband and the internet; high-speed rail; and greater concentration, density, and walkability. Here with a sampling of responses from the twitterverse. I’ll add more as they come in:
carlos9900: the equivalent of the highways today are the broadband internet, public transportation, electric & energy system
Last week President Obama announced that he would provide $8 billion of funds to study and plan high-speed rail systems in the U.S. My state of California received $2 billion to study a high-speed train link between San Francisco and Los Angeles. This is to go with a $10 billion bond issue that state voters approved for feasibility studies and right-of-way acquisition. As an aside, California voters have been approving bond issues for anything and everything for the last two decades, but never considering how the bonds will be paid. Now the state is bankrupt and we are studying and planning a high-speed rail system, while squeezing our universities, releasing criminals (not such a bad idea for those convicted of victimless crimes), chopping existing mass transit, and firing teachers. Go figure.
But this is not what worries me the most. We are studying a high-speed intercity rail system, when all over California and the nation, while dramatically increasing fares and cutting back mass transit service. The Bay Area BART is laying off workers, increasing fares, and will probably have to cut services. The Sacramento area transit system is laying off workers, cutting service, and raising fares. Atlanta’s MARTA is raising fares, curtailing service, and laying off workers. The New York MTA is increasing commuter fares and cutting service. You get the picture.
The bullet trains in Japan are so convenient because of the excellent mass transit when you get to your destination. Mass transit is what makes the northeast corridor trains work.
Does it make sense to pay to plan and study high-speed train lines while the existing energy saver and public amenity that makes cities more livable — mass transit — is being dismantled? Why not support and improve existing mass transit first? How are we going to have great cities without a functional mass transit system?
I recently had the opportunity to visit Milwaukee, WI, for the first time (thank you FUEL Milwaukee!). And visiting cities for the first time, to me, is particularly exciting. Arriving for the first time is a pure and unadulterated experience. First impressions matter and how a city presents itself to a first-time visitor is very important. I learned this from my friend Charles Landry.
I arrived via the airport with the typical location outside of city. My host takes the highway toward the city. As we approach the Hoan Bridge, we pass amid the Port of Milwaukee. On both sides, there are mountains of bulk materials and cranes. While not beautiful, there is the appearance of activity and a muscularity that says “we work here.” As we crest the bridge (with its own very strange design element) I am startled because the city presents itself there in panorama. The city in the hills to the left, the waters of Lake Michigan to the right. And to the right, near the lake, your eye is drawn to the white sails of the Santiago Calatrava masterpiece at the Milwaukee Art Museum. It looks so different and unexpected in the tableau that one cannot help but to stare. Unexpected because this is the Midwest where modern iconic design is not the norm and that is not a shot; I am originally from the Midwest! More photos click here.
While many question the value of “starchitects” and iconic design, I have to say that my impression of Milwaukee was and is shaped in no small part because of that building. It is different and it says something about Milwaukee that no amount of advertising and marketing could equal. It says in a profound way “we are not what you expect” and that Milwaukee is looking to the future and beyond the beer brewery image of its past. The building says it in a visible and demonstrable way that one cannot deny.
Cities that are arguing over the cost/benefits of such iconic architecture should consider the context in which the new building will occur. In starchitect-rich Singapore, one more Calatrava or Libeskind is just keeping up with the crowd. In cities with a dearth of quality architecture (lots of those) or cities that need to redefine themselves in the 21st century, a new building can be a catalyst for new design and a whole host of other values.
In her September 3 blog post, “Creative Florida”, Rana Florida asked for thoughts about Florida tourism. As a resident of St. Petersburg, Florida, I thought I should respond.
Tourism has long been the golden goose in Florida but it is also a double-edged sword. We have no state income tax in large part due to the sales tax revenue that tourism provides. When the tourists come, the coffers fill and all is well. When we have downturns in the economy or other disruptions (such as hurricanes or 9/11) our budgets shrink. This volatility prevents us from having a predictable revenue stream which in turn means less long-term planning.
For better or worse, tourism also defines Florida. For many it is great to have that identity but I know a lot of creative class entrepreneurs in high-tech who lament that they can’t attract talent or VC interest because no one takes Florida seriously as a business environment.
But to me the largest impact of tourism is that it has made us lazy (I say this with love, Florida!). Tourism is easy money and we have coasted on that for too long. When the tourists just arrive with bags of money, why innovate? Why invest in our schools or our infrastructure? Why make the hard tax choices when we can raise the bed tax on hotel rooms or local tax on car rentals? We need to rethink tourism and make it a higher value experience, one that leverages the service economy and makes it more creative and innovative.
Florida had a wake-up call last year when, for the first time since WW2, we had a net outflow of population. That is a seismic shift in the underpinnings of Florida’s economy and I hope that it forces us to look at diversifying our economy and making the harder choices of developing industries beyond the beach and theme park.