Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Infrastructure thoughts of the day

This is Joseph

Some thoughts on transportation and infrastructure.

Duncan Black points out a new proposal to create dedicated lanes for driverless cars.  I think it goes without saying that creating dedicated lanes will make any transportation system look good and that it says a lot that we are thinking about this for expensive cars but not buses.

In parallel, there is a nice article on how high speed trains can replace airplanes for medium distance trips.  To some extent this advantage comes from us deliberately making air travel inefficient.  Whether or not we need TSA screening, do we need long queues?  I like trains, I wish we had more of them, but I think the real barrier is the will to create efficient infrastructure projects. Should Paris be more efficient than New York?  

Mark Palko and Andrew Gelman are grappling with this inefficiency in the comments to this post.  Mark is assuming the stifling world of Los Angeles where even small improvements in density require huge amounts of political capital to change restrictive zoning and to reach out to the impacted communities.  Andrew asks the obvious question of why we can't just let construction companies fix these issues without central planning getting involved (via changing the zoning).  It's a good question.  My pet theory is that we've let house prices get so high that even small changes in value equal huge gains and losses, making local homeowners resistant to improved zoning.    

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