Sunday, February 19, 2006

Back to the future

Two weeks ago, Ray Bradbury wrote in the LA Times that monorail was the way to go for LA. Very silly.

Today, Tom Kirkendall shares the latest news from Las Vegas, re its monorail and, you guessed it. But this is less silly because there is real waste involved.

Today also, the LA Times reports our mayor's views: "Tall, Green, Vital: L.A. as Mayor Dreams It ... Villaraigosa sees a city of parks, high-rise housing, a subway to the sea ..." This view suggests that we try to buck some very powerful trends. But spend enough money and you can put a man on the Moon.

Twenty-five years ago, all of elite opinion saw downtown L.A. as the future financial capital of the Pacific rim. To that end, tons of other people's money were spent on downtown-serving rail and office high-rise. Those investments were wasted. Visionaries spending other people's money are always a problem.

In the past 35 years, LA county's population grew at an annual rate of 1.02%, lagging the U.S. as a whole which posted 1.09%. The outlying counties, where the densities are lower, grew at over 2.8% per year. For private sector job growth over the same period, the numbers were 1.43 % for the county, 4.28% for the outlying counties and 2.02% for the U.S. And L.A. city's growth usually lags the county's.

The county and its four outlying counties divide the whole metro at about 60/40 in terms of the area's population and jobs; it is not the case of comparing growth rates in very unequally sized units.

So, it's back to the future. The elites and the know-nothings will embrace visions that entail the transfer of resources from the public at-large to those who will gain from the construction of projects that have little economic rationale.

We should not forget that the movers are usually the same people who don't miss a chance to posture on behalf of "equity".