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Transportation Technology

We Don't Need More Highways 244

Posted by timothy
from the we-need-more-hang-gliders dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "When it comes to infrastructure, politicians usually prefer shiny new projects over humdrum repairs. A brand-new highway is exciting: There's a ribbon-cutting, and there's less need to clog up existing lanes with orange cones and repair crews. So it's not surprising that 57 percent of all state highway funding goes toward new construction, often stretching out to the suburbs, even though new roads represent just 1.3 percent of the overall system. Now Brad Plumer writes in the Washington Post that many transportation reformers think this is a wrong-headed approach and that we should focus our dollars on fixing and upgrading existing infrastructure rather than continuing to build sprawling new roads). UCLA economist Matthew Kahn and the University of Minnesota's David Levinson made a more detailed case for a 'fix-it first' strategy. They noted that, at the moment, federal highway spending doesn't get subjected to strict cost-benefit analysis, and governments often build new roads when they arguably shouldn't (PDF). And that's to say nothing of data suggesting that poor road conditions are a 'significant factor' in one-third of all fatal crashes, and cause extra wear and tear on cars."
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We Don't Need More Highways

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 06, 2012 @08:31AM (#41567133)

    do we really need more gas guzzlers chugging along a bunch of asphalt strips to no where?

    • by firex726 (1188453)

      Here in Texas they tried years ago and are trying again.

      Problem though was the initial attempt failed because the oil companies and airlines got laws passed making it nearly impossible for one to be built.

    • by golodh (893453)
      Short answer: yes we do.

      For those who don't know why, look at this link http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs06/htm/nt5.htm [dot.gov]

      Average commuting trip length is about 14 miles in rural environments and about 10.3 in urban environments. Now that's short.

      With such distances air transport is totally ridiculous, and rail transport is not viable. With one exception: when there are large numbers of trips that run parallel for the main part of the journey.

      This is why most of the US is (deliberately or otherwis

    • by Cinder6 (894572)

      California is trying this. If our "success" is any indication of how it would be in other parts of the country, then I wouldn't touch high-speed rails with a 10-foot pole.

  • I agree! (Score:3, Funny)

    by cnaumann (466328) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @08:34AM (#41567145)

    But can we do this after the Memphis-Huntsville-Atlanta section of I-30 gets planned and built?

    • by Burdell (228580)

      Yes please! Of course, at the rate Alabama road crews build highways, I'd die of old age before it opened (even if they started tomorrow).

  • by darjen (879890)

    Government is the reason we don't have more efficient transportation. Our politicians decided that everyone should drive, so they took our money and built lots of congested highways. Here is what we really need:

    FREE MARKET TRANSPORTATION: DENATIONALIZING THE ROADS* by Walter Block. Department of Economics. Rutgers University, Newark. [mises.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, it's the selfish U.S. electorate that thinks that everyone needs their own car that prevents more efficient transportation from being built. It's not "duh gubmint" preventing anything. If that were the case why is it that the governments in Southeast Asia built all sorts of high-speed trains and extensive rail and bus systems?

      • by Entrope (68843) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @10:05AM (#41567483) Homepage

        The efficiency of mass transit goes up at least linearly with population density. In the US, only some large city routes reach break-even for mass transit versus individual transit, and in most of those one pays a cost in transit time in order to realize the relative gains for other resources. (Side note: Many of those routes depend on subsidies to gain enough riders for break-even, and those cities' transit systems tend to have a lot of other routes that don't break even.)

      • Efficient in whose eyes? I prefer a car that goes directly from point A to B on my schedule, to a train that has me walk or drive to point C, then get off at point D, then take a bus to get to point B. Perhaps you have a surplus of idle time to ride the choo-choo and see the sights, but some of us are working under a tighter schedule.

    • by AHuxley (892839) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @08:51AM (#41567197) Homepage Journal
      While the US is sitting in rusting cold war transport networks and wondering who to blame ...
      Your highways where built for troops and war... and getting your political elite out of cities ...
      ie very efficient transportation - just not for you.
      China is funding a rail system in Turkey for $35 billion.
      http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=277360 [todayszaman.com]
      Long term thats China to Spain and England by rail. No roads, no shipping.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by alen (225700)

        In the USA we have airplanes

        When I went to visit family 1600 away two months ago it took me all of 4 hours to fly there

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Plus the hour drive to the airport, and the two hour wait before hand for security and boarding, and the hour drive at the other end of the flight to your destination. So, yeah.

          • Assuming those numbers are accurate = 4 hours + 2 + 1 = 7 hours. For 1600 miles - 24 miles of uninterrupted driving assuming no traffic and no gas stops. I'd still call that a bargain.

            I hate the experience of flying, but when it comes to getting to the other side of the country quickly... there aren't any better options. If I had a couple of spare weeks to make the round trip, I'd drive it - but I seldom have that luxury.

            • I get a lung infection every time I take a commercial flight. ~One week to full recovery. No bargain for me, YMMV.

        • Why is this stupid comment modded as "interesting"? Pretty much every country on earth has airplanes. Secondly, it is not practical or possible to fly to all destinations. Many trips would still require driving to the final destination after flying.

          • by alen (225700)

            because even though my family lives out in the boonies it only takes an hour to drive from the airport. where i live its only like 10-15 minutes and with electronic boarding passes and curbside baggage you don't need to get there 2 hours prior. if you send all your info to the TSA you can get faster security line access at a lot of airports depending on the airline.

            and with the USA and suburban living the high speed rail has to stop at the suburban stations or there won't be anyone to ride it. check out the

            • Which is great and all but doesn't address what I said. You can not fly everywhere. Driving is still required. Also, flying to the city that is 30 minutes away that I can just drive to on I-35 would be both extremely expensive and a huge waste of fuel.

        • by drjzzz (150299)

          Can somebody spare some "troll" karma for this post?

          Nobody proposes that high speed rail can replace the airplane for long distance travel (100-600 miles, approximately). That said, I would (rather) like to see cars develop networking capabilities that would allow them to travel safely and efficiently in tight, slipstream packs on highways, where about half a single car's energy is spent (wasted) overcoming air resistance.

          • by drjzzz (150299)

            I hereby retract my call to heap troll karma on alen's post. A moment's reflection led me to realize that I'm not even sure I know what troll karma is. I apologize and welcome alen's ideas. Carry on.

            • Can somebody spare some "troll" karma for this post?

              I hereby retract my call to heap troll karma on alen's post. A moment's reflection led me to realize that I'm not even sure I know what troll karma is. I apologize and welcome alen's ideas. Carry on.

              Oh, I thought you meant YOUR post as if you were doing a more direct version of the reverse-psychology call for moderation thing. "Ill get modded down for this but..."

        • by houghi (78078)

          So? I live in Europe and do the same for longer distances. However not all trips are that long. Do you know how I get to that airport? By train.

          From 621M (1000KM) on I will start looking if train or plane is more interesting. And even then it might be a combination. It will depend on several factors.

          I also sometimes drive 1000+KM. One trip I made was 2500KM.

          People I know would take a train, where I would take a plane and the other way around for various reasons. Sometimes the trip is more important then the

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        China is funding a rail system in Turkey for $35 billion.

        I was listening to the radio and they were talking about China's foregin aid.
        In the context of Egypt, the policy wonks were saying that China likes to hand out infrastructure money,
        but that they send Chinese workers over to direct and build the project from start to finish.
        The end result is a finished product, but with no local jobs or expertise used or gained.

      • The idea that the U.S. highway system is a cold war relic is ridiculous. Let me count the ways:

        1) Much of it was designed pre-cold war.
        2) Roads are a terrible way to move equipment during an emergency, because they are instantly clogged (see 9/11). You mention below that we currently move heavy military equipment via roads. That's because it's peacetime, genius. And we still move it via rail and air.
        3) It's much easier to open the airways by restricting civilian air traffic than it is to keep Jethro fro
        • by dwillden (521345)
          You vastly underestimate the challenge of moving reasonable amounts of very heavy and bulky military equipment around by air. Yes it can be done and often is in a limited amount, but rail, road and sea are far more viable options, and both road and rail are used extensively inside the country. Most large scale movements of equipment are done by rail. Every large base I've been on in my career has a rail yard for loading and unloading equipment. Smaller movements of a few vehicles may go by road, but mor
    • Re:Government roads (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kbonin (58917) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @08:58AM (#41567229) Homepage

      I read the linked paper, and while interesting, it typifies one of the critical flaws in the extreme Libertarian model - there are a set of cases where for-profit private enterprise is a bad solution, such as where it is not practical to provide an reasonably large number of easements to setup competing infrastructures. Where constraints exist that facilitate natural monopolies, history has shown that it IS in the public interest to preclude predatory practices, as unchecked for-profit private enterprise will always seek maximum return on investment, leading to predatory practices. While it is true that modern government bureaucracies have demonstrated themselves to be extremely inefficient managers of infrastructure, they are arguably better than an unchecked predatory monopoly. Legal mechanisms like the Sherman Antitrust Act, while anathema to an extreme Libertarian, have proven highly valuable in the past. And circling back to the original point, given the critical nature of roads, and the time period required to execute a a negative feedback cycle through the legal system, I personally believe that unfettered privatization of all roads would be a good way to grind a modern civilization to its knees.

      • by darjen (879890)

        What reasons are there for advocating the free market approach for the highway industry? First and foremost is the fact that the present government ownership and management has failed. The death toll, the suffocation during urban rush hours, and the poor state of repair of the highway stock, are all eloquent testimony to the lack of success which has marked the reign of government control. Second, and perhaps even more important, is a reason for this state of affairs. It is by no means an accident that gove

        • by drjzzz (150299)

          What if a community of citizens decides they want a new road? They might agree to build it and finance it by a community tax. This would be possible even in a libertarian Utopia, correct? Even if some in their community object (who might also object to a single citizen building the same road), so long as there is a majority in favor, it seems they should be able to proceed. Is that not, in aggregate, what a well-functioning government does? Maybe it is more palatable if "public corporation" is substitu

        • Look at what typically happens when cities decide to give ... I mean sell off ... their parking garages to private businesses: Parking prices skyrocket because of price gouging by oligarchs.

          So your approach to privatizing roads might actually be good: By making driving cost prohibitive for most people through the exorbitant tolls that will be charged to drive on their natural monopolies, the libertarian approach would do a great deal to help the environment by drastically reducing the overall usage of autom

      • by Tenebrousedge (1226584) <tenebrousedge@gm a i l . com> on Saturday October 06, 2012 @09:57AM (#41567461)

        Whenever I commute (as infrequently as possible), I cannot help but look and see the tens of thousands of dollars that each individual has chosen to spend on transportation, and imagine what spending a tenth of that money would have done for public transit.

        It's a hidden tax which impacts the middle class most severely. It is a spectacular inefficiency, and in my opinion one of the strongest arguments against Libertarianism.

        The other strong argument against Libertarianism is reality.

        • by Entrope (68843)

          Most cars on the road today cost $20,000 new (+/- 50%). How much do you think a tenth of that would help public transit? It might be enough to employ a driver for a month -- but don't forget the mechanics and managers that you seldom see, or the depots where buses or trains are parked and serviced, or (pshaw) the capital costs of the vehicle.

          Leasing a car -- which means you'd get a brand new one every three years or so -- typically runs under $300/month. Even if one adds in fuel and maintenance, and comp

          • Re:Government roads (Score:4, Informative)

            by Tenebrousedge (1226584) <tenebrousedge@gm a i l . com> on Saturday October 06, 2012 @02:20PM (#41569973)

            The United States in 2010 spent over 130 billion dollars on new cars alone.[1] [bts.gov] [2] [bts.gov] Preliminary reports suggest the total for 2011 was higher.[3] [automobilemag.com] Also in 2010 Americans spent $479 billion dollars on gasoline.[4] [eia.gov] [5] [eia.gov]

            There are about 250 billion cars in the US[6] [bts.gov], using a very rough estimate of $10,000 per car[7] [bts.gov], that's $2.5 trillion dollars' worth of passenger vehicles. I'm not even going to get into the costs of road maintenance.

            I would post statistics on fuel efficiency/energy use per passenger mile but I suspect that you're not a complete idiot. A 2002 APTA study put total public transit costs at ~$39 billion annually.[8][pdf] [vtpi.org]. Do you see how the one number is a couple orders of magnitude lower than the other one?

            I can keep hauling out statistics, but [8] is a pretty comprehensive overview of the subject. Among the other BTS statistics? The "hidden tax" I mentioned is on average 10% of annual income. Other sources claim double this number. As with medical care, no other country on Earth comes close to spending as much money per capita. That above $2.5 trillion figure is more than the US annual federal revenues. The US spends as much money on new cars annually as the national budget of Greece -- which has the 24th largest budget (by expenditures).

            In summation, given the roughly two orders of magnitude difference between spending on personal vehicles and mass transit, my previous statement was entirely correct.

            For further comment on Libertarianism, see here. [slashdot.org]

      • And yet surprisingly, natural monopolies are not as common as one might believe. I for one love the trade-offs that some municipalities engage in, as they are willing to offer any number of rights (including being the sole servicer of a region) in return for acquiring said service.

    • by caseih (160668)

      Wow that is one of the most interesting papers I've ever read. Had almost a Jonathan Swift feel to it, making wonder if he's really serious! Seems to me he glosses over a lot of issues such as the short-term chaos that would entail from every road having its own rules. That and the possibility that if one could not buy access to necessary roads, one would find oneself imprisoned on his own island, unable to even talk off it! Why stop there though. Why not privatize the military, the police, and so for

  • on the other hand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @08:44AM (#41567179)
    Most people, when asked to choose between "has the probability of saving a few lives" and "will definitely shave five minutes off my commute" will opt for the latter in a landslide. That's why we get new roads.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uh, no. The summary just explained that politicians choose new projects specifically in order to benefit themselves, rather than the people who they supposedly represent. And it certainly does seem to be that way. Remember the famous "bridge to nowhere"?

      The average citizen has no idea these new roads (among other pork barrel projects) are being buit until they see the bulldozers. It would take 40 hours a week just to keep up with them.

      • by HarrySquatter (1698416) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @09:14AM (#41567275)

        Remember the famous "bridge to nowhere"?

        You mean the same "Bridge to Nowhere" that Palin was a supporter of when running for Governor in 2006 but then rewrote history when a VP candidate to claim that she was against Congress earmarking the money? And actually that very same bridge was very popular within Alaska of the citizens. So other than Palin using it is a political stunt during her VP run, it doesn't actually fit into what you were claiming.

        • Re:on the other hand (Score:5, Informative)

          by schwit1 (797399) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @09:31AM (#41567361)

          Both Senator Joe Biden and Senator Barack Obama voted to kill a Senate amendment that would have diverted federal funding for the bridge to repair a Louisiana span badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. And both voted for the final transportation bill that included the $223 million earmark for the Bridge to nowhere.

          http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/23/biden.earmarks/index.html [cnn.com]

          • Good for them? How does that have any relevance to the fact that the "Bridge to Nowhere" was popular among Alaskan citizens which is why Palin was a major supporter until she rewrote history when running for VP 2 years later? Oh right, you probably thought incorrectly that I was an Obama supporter or had to interject an inane "but the other side is just as bad!!!" comment.

      • politicians choose new projects specifically in order to benefit themselves, rather than the people who they supposedly represent

        This doesn't contradict what I wrote. When a voter hears "building a new road" they assume it will benefit someone, somewhere. If it's being built in their general geographic area then they assume they'll derive some benefit from it, even if only marginally. The fact remains: people seem to care more about roads being efficient (i.e. getting them where they need to go as quic

  • by stomv (80392) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @08:47AM (#41567187) Homepage

    Zoning determines "how much" house you can build on a property. Single family only? Up to 2-3 family? Apartment, 3 stories or fewer? Larger? Parking requirements? All of that is determined at the local level in most United States states. Highway money is typically spent by the states. They decide which projects get funding, etc. Additionally, most new highway projects aren't long distance projects -- they're circular ring roads or spokes into cities. The funding for the highway infrastructure is nearly all federal. The US Congress decides how much money to spend on highways.

    As a result, there is very little coordination, and we end up with sprawl because of it.

    Making matters worse, high speed rail is clearly state-to-state infrastructure in most cases (San Fran to L.A. notwithstanding). However, the rail infrastructure isn't federal -- it's state. That means if you want to improve a rail corridor along five states, you need five sets of funding, five sets of state decision making, etc. That's one federal gov't, five state gov'ts, and dozens of local gov'ts all getting in each others way.

    Building new roads is easier. Costs more, wastes more, but there are fewer barriers -- fewer abutters adjacent the road to complain, less pain caused by orange cones and lane reduction during construction, etc.

    For better or for worse, our very government structure is designed in such a way that makes road repair/expansion far more difficult and painful on both politicians and constituents.

    • by garcia (6573)

      As a result, there is very little coordination, and we end up with sprawl because of it.

      No, we end up with sprawl because living the American dream includes a home with a yard and not high density housing. And even when planners are forced to create HDH to reduce or slow sprawl, Americans would rather continue to spread out to get their piece of the dream than live in a 'Pass the Sugar' neighborhood or HDH communities.

      The biggest problem with all of this is that instead of building transit infrastructure wh

      • While your argument was true at one point, you should read about the ongoing resettling of urban America. People who could not possible have a Slashdot ID as low as yours are moving back into cities in droves, to live in small homes and in condos where an elevator represents most of their ride home. I'm not saying this should or will ever replace the goal of some subset of the populate to live in a KB Home (tm) with a ChemLawn (tm), but it's a choice for anyone who wants to stop complaining about the road

      • No, we end up with sprawl because living the American dream includes a home with a yard and not high density housing. And even when planners are forced to create HDH to reduce or slow sprawl, Americans would rather continue to spread out to get their piece of the dream than live in a 'Pass the Sugar' neighborhood or HDH communities.

        My wife and I have lived for years in a apartment in the middle of the city. It's not high-rises block after block -- but it's dense enough to have some of the most frequent bus service in the region outside of downtown proper and everything is walking distance. (Light-rail exists here, but for whatever reason does not flow through the core of the city. Makes no damn sense since the entire neighborhood was built in the 1910s as a Streetcar suburb, but whatever. On-street light rail would probably conflict w

    • To give an example of the lack of coordination in American government, my hometown has a large former quarry/sandpit which would be ideal for office space. We have Boston's big ring highway and the highway up to New Hampshire starts here. Instead, the town is allowing single family homes with "traffic calming" (read:causing) planning to be dropped into the middle of the space. I think we plan the roads based on the wiggling of worms.

      The State tries to make Boston's waterfront more attractive with tax bre

    • by fermion (181285)
      The counterargument is Houston, Rx. No zoning. A neighborhood can have anything. Manufacturing, commercial warehouse, huge 10 story tall apartments, single family homes, 10,000 square foot mansions covering two lots. Some places have deed restrictions to keep it single family residential, but those are usually a square mile or two with a couple hundred houses. There are also towns within the inner city, but those again, do not make a significant area.

      Furthermore, the roads for the most part are built

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 06, 2012 @08:54AM (#41567211)

    An interesting study shows how the cross-bronx expressway was almost instrumental in destroying the vibrant pre-war south bronx neighborhoods. Point being that they divide and destroy communities.

    The problem is that the government made a huge commitment to interstate roads after the war (ww2) and basically put them everywhere without regard for communities. This was a failed government policy driven by lobbyists from oil companies/auto makers and misguided politicians who wanted to bring the autobahn stateside.

    But if you look around the world you will see governments and communities thriving based upon public transport and planning that is not all automobile based. So the answer would be to vote in politicians that realize this and work towards more sustainable transport and planning.

    Now to reform the wretched election laws in this country of ours....

  • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @08:54AM (#41567217)

    Despite the rambling, the TFA made it's only salient point with the following:

    there's less need to clog up existing lanes with orange cones and repair crews.

    Compared to repairing existing roads, new road construction is the cheaper option, even with the costs of additional steps such as planning and grading. Repairs are incredibly expensive and inconvenient for exactly the above reason; it's much harder, much more dangerous, and much slower work to repair a surface in active use, and in the meantime some fraction of that infrastructure is put out of use. When you do need to make significant repairs, what you end up with is Carmageddon [laweekly.com], which users can't put up with for long periods of time.

    Simply put, many of these major roads are too important and too busy to take out of commission for any period of time for repairs. Your best option quite often comes down to building a parallel track, at which point the original track becomes free for repairs (or more historically, decommissioning).

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Compared to repairing existing roads, new road construction is the cheaper option, even with the costs of additional steps such as planning and grading

      While that's strictly true, shouldn't road maintenance be budgeted when a road is constructed, with some kind of plan for covering the ongoing costs?

      Your best option quite often comes down to building a parallel track, at which point the original track becomes free for repairs (or more historically, decommissioning).

      Well, that's the history of the interstate highway system all over again, isn't it? This is just another reason why rail is so appealing, it has much higher potential throughput for about the same costs. Granted, it can't go all the same places, but few people talk about completely eliminating cars all in one go, or any time soon.

  • by XB-70 (812342) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @08:57AM (#41567227)
    Don't get me wrong here, I'm FOR driving and I'm FOR roads. The simple concept of a road is to shorten the travel distance between two points. The real issues at stake here are two-fold:

    1. We have a population that is growing and yet, we do no demographic projections or analysis prior to building roads. We just build them because the existing ones get full and the voters complain.

    2. We have urban planners and city fathers who let developers run the show. As a result, in most cities, you have to drive two miles to buy a quart of milk.

    No one is tackling the crazy innefficiencies of WHY we travel as opposed to WHERE we travel. Do this and we'd have less, yet better roads.

    • I can now walk to a major grocery store to get my milk. It tooks years of waiting for our finances to be in the right place, and the right opportunity in the market, but that's because I wasn't willing to live in an apartment for 10 years before hand. If you're okay with that (and many people are), there are new condo projects flying up around here to give you a choice where an elevator gets you most of the way to that quart of milk.

  • by Ron Bennett (14590) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @09:10AM (#41567259) Homepage

    Rt 222 in Pennsylvania between Reading and Allentown is a highly traveled road that's mostly all two lanes (one lane each way) with traffic lights and much cross traffic.

    PennDOT's solution is building circles at some of the intersections instead of upgrading it into a wider highway. Circles may help with flow, though that's debatable when one throws lots of big rigs into the mix, but doesn't solve the volume problem - two lanes carries a lot less vehicles than a four lane, limited access highway.

    Among the main reasons for highways being needed, seemingly, most everywhere is the lack of planning. Though many states are now encouraging regional zoning; communities need to look beyond their borders when approving new construction.

    Much of the challenge in building new highways is the lack of money combined with excess regulation that often greatly inflates the costs. For example, it took 40 years to expand Rt 222 between Reading, Pa to the Lancaster County line roughly 7 or so miles away - and that was even in despite of most all the land needed for it already being condemned decades before - so that wasn't the hold up. It was strictly environmental combined with lack of funds.

    A similar issue occurred with the Blue Route near Philadelphia - another road that was started in the 1960s and then stopped for lack of funds, then held up by environmentalists until it was finally completed (though not as designed, which has caused problems ever since - 3 lanes merging into 2 at a very busy section) around 1990.

    Rambling on, but in a nutshell, reducing the standard of living, which many environmentalists seem to advocate, isn't the answer. New and/or improved highways in many places *are* needed.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      It was strictly environmental...

      Nah. Environmental lawsuits are almost always thinly disguised NIMBY. Everyone wanted the Blue Route except the people who would have to see it out their kitchen window.

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @09:10AM (#41567261)
    Neil Degrasse Tyson said one of the most profound things I've ever heard. He said growing up he thought Congress was made up of Doctors, engineers and scientists. He was shocked to find out who was actually running the country. The point is how can a politician make a judgement call on an engineering project? How can a Congressman restructure Medicare when they don't know anything about medicine? What about the environment or NASA? The argument would be we invite in experts and have studies done. The truth is they invite in lobbyist for advice who are mostly retired politicians. They don't do reports on every project considered and most Congressional studies are biased and they lack the education to know the difference. The whole mess starts to make sense when you realize the country is being run by a bunch of non professionals. How many actual economist or even accounts are in Congress and they handle all the money! Do you know the most common profession Congressmen come out of? The law as in lawyers. Congress should be made up of an even mix from all major disciplines. We need experts running the country not people skilled in cutting deals!
    • by Grave (8234) <awalbert88@@@hotmail...com> on Saturday October 06, 2012 @09:29AM (#41567347)

      That's actually what the founding fathers had envisioned. They believed nobody would want to be in politics for long, so they never envisioned career politicians. While many of them were lawyers, there were also judges, farmers, and scientists there.

      At this point, the idea of a doctor taking a few years off from their practice, a scientist taking a break from research, or a farmer leaving their farm to go spend a few years in DC is very foreign to us. In most cases, they would have a very hard time returning to their occupation due to the toll that is taken by that much time away.

      That said, I think these sort of people are way more skilled in cutting deals than the typical crop of politicians. As Jon Stewart tried to point out with his "Rally to Restore Sanity" a couple years ago, the average person has to work with people they don't like, and come to agreements with those people, on a daily basis. Yet Congress can't seem to do the same.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      The whole mess starts to make sense when you realize the country is being run by a bunch of non professionals. How many actual economist or even accounts are in Congress and they handle all the money! Do you know the most common profession Congressmen come out of? The law as in lawyers.

      Congress is the legislative branch of the government, they make laws. Lawyers are professionals in the field of law. What else should they be experts in? If a Congressman was an expert in medicine, what should he do when the issue is transportation or defense or criminal law or whatever else - abstain 95% of the time? If they're not getting good input on what laws are needed, then that's the problem not expecting them to be masters in whatever field is up for debate. Being an extremely skilled doctor doesn'

    • Actually doesn't Tyson miss the point entirely? It's the legislator's staff that does all the "heavy lifting" of going through the bills, getting info from knowledgable parties, etc. I mean I think I read somewhere that there's so many pages of proposed legislation every year that if a senator or rep didn't have his staff to sift the wheat from the chaff he'd never have enough time to vote on anything.
  • Merely symptomatic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @09:11AM (#41567263) Journal

    It's symptomatic of our culture which is much more about "buying new" then "repairing old". This comes somewhat, I admit, out of economic reality: for most of our consumer goods it really is cheaper to replace than renew.
    But the approach holds through larger purchases as well - homes and cars, for example. Few people have the skills or interest to fix them up to 'like new' condition, when it's easier (especially now in terms of housing) to get a brand new one dirt-cheap.
    I live in a 100+ year old home, and it has its charms, certainly, but I'm well aware that (given my lack of construction skills/desire) it would have made more sense to just buy a new home instead. (Thank god my father in law is unbelievably skilled in construction, and that he loves his daughter apparently without limits.)
    To the point, though, this is the accommodation (if not a driver) of urban sprawl. I live in the Twin Cities and if you drive around the perimeter you STILL see waves of new home construction - where are all these people coming from? Is this just urban flight?

    It's one of the reasons I try to patronizing Dunn Brothers coffee as much as I can; I don't know if it's corporate policy, but around here they've deliberately placed their stores in really old buildings and paid the (high) cost to refurbish and bring them up to code, instead of grabbing a slot in the shiny new strip mall a half-mile down the road. In Eden Prairie, they even saved an historical brick home that the local preservationists couldn't afford to maintain/hold, turning it into really a terrific coffeeshop.

  • On a thread about the Interstate system this may be offtopic, but if the US wants to spend some money on road infrastructure upgrades then I think point one on the ToDo list should be many more roundabouts.

    I drove a couple of thousand miles around the northeastern US this summer (I know, practically 'nipping out for a paper and some milk' in terms of distance for an American) and I really missed roundabouts. I used two the whole time I was there - one in Columbus OH and the other in NYC in Manhattan somewhe

    • Circles, roundabouts, or whatever term is in vogue these days can be worthwhile, but aren't a cure all - they may increase capacity a little, but ultimately, the best way to increase capacity is adding more lanes / converting into a limited access highway.

      With that said, Pennsylvania PennDOT agrees with your sentiments - they're on a "roundabout" building spree with many in the pipeline, including locations where they are not appropriate (ie. Rt 222 between Reading and Allentown) - that will likely result i

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        I think it's entirely down to cultural issues, since we have many roundabouts that have heavy flow, multi lane traffic coming together also with large tractor trailers and they work extremely well. I see no reason why the sorts of "circles" we have here couldn't work in the US, other than people simply being unaccustomed to using them.

        Some roundabouts here have 4 lanes on them, and 5 or more exits, although more typical is a 3 lane roundabout. Just get into the correct lane and follow the paint and everythi

    • Traffic circles cause a lot of accidents in the U.S. because (you pick, based on your biases) A) Americans aren't used to them, or B) Americans aren't bright enough to understand them.

      Several around here have been taken out recently and replaced with stoplights for safety reasons.

      • I mean near where I am there's a rotary and I've seen people literally stop in it to avoid missing the exit they wanted.(It's a fucking circle, go around, it'll take literally 10 seconds to get another shot.) Did I mention they'll also pass people while getting on or off the rotary.(It's one lane but it's wide and around here people will pass any time they can.)
  • We have a situation relevant to this here in South Carolina.

    Currently, Myrtle Beach is in the process of purchasing and developing right-of-way for a freeway connection to I95. As it stands, there are zero actual freeway connections to the town; we do have freeways but they're all local spurs and not connected to the rest of the system and, as such, are still signed as local roads. The primary connection into town is U.S. 501, which generally becomes extremely congested during the summer tourist season here

  • by adewolf (524919) <adewolf@gmail.com> on Saturday October 06, 2012 @09:24AM (#41567329) Journal
    Is more public transport. The automobile and fossil fuels are a dead end. We (The USA) need to start putting out infrstructure dollars in repairing existing infrastructure as well as building out rail/light rail infrastructure. Commercial air travel has become less and less customer oriented and will eventually be for rich people only, on the airlines schedule.
    • by tomhath (637240)
      Rail/light transit to where? Mass transportation only makes sense when you're moving thousands of workers to and from their jobs. We need to consider if there's a need to move so many people back and forth within a densely populated area every day. Nobody is building large factories close to cities and office workers are better off telecommuting at least a few days a week.
  • by Lumpy (12016)

    We need more light rail for public transportation. Instead we rip up the train tracks and turn them into bike trails. Even small cities like the ultra tiny one I work in, only 550,000 people, can use light rail to connect the miniscule 100,000 people communities that are 30-50 miles away to it. wo raillines side by side to allow a loop of two trains would give you a MAJOR difference. But no, let's support the Auto industry by building roads that ned to be repaired every year.

  • What complete and utter nonsense. Congestion is the number source of poor fuel economy by far. It is such a big deal that every car sold in the US (and most other countries) comes with two different fuel economy numbers - Highway and City. For the overwhelming majority of cars in existence they get better fuel economy at highway speeds instead of city speeds. This holds equally true for tail pipe emissions / pollution / carbon output.

    Congestion also is a leading contributor to poor health for a couple of re

  • "Federal highway spending doesn't get subjected to strict cost-benefit analysis"

    You can take out the word "highway" and the statement remains true. Or rather, no cost-benefit analysis exists for the taxpayer. But every dollar spent benefits the permanent Washington insider class that rakes its profits off of an ever-expanding government.

      Another true statement:

    "Federal regulation doesn't get subjected to strict cost-benefit analysis."

    And for the same reason.

  • Why is our leadership so bad? Because it's based on appearance not results.

    If you can fool 51 out of 100 people into thinking you're cool for a one-year period, you win.

    Since intelligence (in all ethnic, racial, etc. groups) fits a bell curve, most people are on the left side of that curve, which is below the level required to understand college courses.

    As society has gotten more complex, it has become clear that the herd doesn't make good decisions; it's questionable whether they ever did, which is why our

  • There are many places where new highways/freeways are needed, and many places where expanding on existing roads makes more sense. To say that because YOU live in a place where there is no need for a new highway that it isn't a good idea to build new ones just shows the limitations in understanding that so many people have.

    One thing that adds to costs of goods is the cost of shipping. If you have a very rural area that has small roads with only one lane in each direction, that means that transportation o

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