Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Mega-Projects (contd.)

Many Californians (and others) like to think of a Golden Age when "things got done" and eye-catching large-scale public projects were actually built. From today's vantage point, Egypt's pyramids are also attractive but, then, those were the days when costs were not up for discussion. So, 5,000 years later, the Pharos get a pass.

Not so for Robert Moses, whose devices are nicely summarized by Gene Callahan and Sanford Ikeda in the Fall 2004 Independent Review ("The Career of Robert Moses: City Planning as a Microcosm of Socialism"): "The career of Robert Moses, which had a tremendous impact on the day-to-day life of tens of millions of people, presents a paradigmatic example of the fatal conceit of constructivist planners ..." (p. 260; see the article for the wrenching details).

No pass, either, for the planners of Washington DC's Metro. Wendell Cox looks at promise vs performance 25 years later -- and it is not a pretty sight. The ten-billion dollar system did nothing to help the capitol avoid the standard big-city decline in transit use -- and concurrent increase in private vehicle use.

To be fair, neither Moses nor the Metro planners used slave labor to build their projects.