You know that something is up when a Washington Post editorial advises that the Obama Administration do a "reality check" on its plans for high speed rail. From the beginning, there was more slow-speed than high speed rail, however both components of the plan could be in trouble. The Onion joined the issue with a satirical video announcing a federal "high-speed bus" program that would replace the high-speed rail plans.
The Post criticized Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood for not allowing Wisconsin and Ohio to use the federal money to make needed highway improvements instead:
"This blunt refusal to heed the fresh mandate of Ohio and Wisconsin’s voters seems hard to justify – especially since using the money for other infrastructure would have created jobs, just as building trains would have."
Now, the tunnel may be back. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City has studies underwaythat could lead to extending subway Line 7 from a station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue to New Jersey instead.
Early press reports suggest the line can be built for $5.3 billion, which is approximately one-half the cost of the previous proposal. It is more likely that Governor Christie will buy the Brooklyn Bridge with tax money than this amount is in the "ball park." The subway tunnel would be only four blocks (15 percent) shorter than the cancelled tunnel.
The previous tunnel had the less than attractive name, "Access to the Regional Core." Given the back and forth history of this project, a more appropriate name might be "Rasputin’s Tunnel," after the Russian mystic whose enemies failed in multiple attempts to murder (though in the end, they succeeded).
More at… http://www.newgeography.com/content/001888-rasputins-tunnel
American households face daunting financial challenges. Even those lucky enough not to have suffered huge savings and retirement fund losses in the Great Recession seem likely to pay more of their incomes in taxes in the years to come, as governments attempt pay bills beyond their reasonable financial ability. Beyond that, America’s declining international competitiveness and the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve Board could well set off inflation that could discount further the wealth of households.
In this environment, the last thing governments need do is to raise the cost of anything. It is bad enough that taxes may have to rise and that a dollar will probably buy less. America’s standard of living could stagnate or it could even decline.
The decision brought immediate positive responses from local leaders. Uralla Shire Mayor Kevin Ward said that he couldn’t be happier with the decision. Guyra Shire Mayor Hans Heitbrink saidthat the decision not to merge the three councils speaks volumes about the spirit of the communities who fought to save their separate local government areas. Armidale-Dumaresq Mayor, Peter Ducat, spoke of the stress that the decision will relieve for council staff and the community.
More at http://www.newgeography.com/content/001886-australian-local-governments-stop-forced-amalgamation
Commentary on St. Louis National Public Radio (NPR) station…
Perhaps the most unmistakable message out of the recent midterm elections is that we have no business spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need. There were already indications of a revolution in spending policy, with Tea Parties taking aim at wasteful spending around the nation.
One of the Obama Administration’s principal transportation programs has been an interest in building high speed rail. At least that’s what they call it. But, with a couple of hideously expensive exceptions in California and Florida, none of the proposed projects would qualify as high speed rail in the international sense, such as in Japan, France or China.
Generally, the trains would operate at speeds barely competitive with automobile door to door travel times, while costing riders and taxpayers much more.
More at…http://www.stlpublicradio.org/programs/commentaries/commentary.php?cid=1262 (text)
"And if we do those two things, we’re most of the way toward a sustainable budget." That is a very tall order. Any serious examination of government costs makes it clear that there is no such thing as a sustainable budget. The unit costs of government services routinely rise, frankly because in government competitive influences are largely absent. When government encounters financial difficulty, it looks for ways to cut services and raise taxes — that is, ways to reduce customer service or to charge more for what it does. Regrettably, in government, the answer to every question seems to be "more money."
More at: http://www.newgeography.com/content/001880-the-myth-sustainable-public-budget