Thursday, May 28, 2015

Inequality and our cities

Here is Paul Krugman writing about inequality and the urbanism we have.

I have often commuted to and from USC, eastbound ("inbound") in the AM and westbound ("outbound") in the PM.  For as long as I can recall, the heavy AM traffic is "outbound" and the heavy PM traffic is "inbound". In a monocentric city model, this makes no sense. But LA is certainly not monocentric and there are many decent-to-good jobs on the "westside" where housing tends to be expensive and much more low-rent housing on the "eastside".  This is an awful "mismatch" if one cares about commuting efficiencies and/or the plight of lower-income eastsiders.  These are all general statements; generalizing about large metropolitan areas, where there can be stark contrasts block-to-block, can be tricky.

Los Angeles is as "blue" as major American cities get. Urban visionaries and progressives claim to address spatial mismatch as well as the problems of the less well off. But they don't. The local planning process is mainly a politicized, cumbersome and an expensive dogfight. Here is just one high-profile example. Stuff like this is in the news almost daily. Who (besides the rent-seekers) needs it?

Bent Flyvbjerg and Russ Roberts discuss megaprojects here. They do cite rare successes but how do we get from here to there? How to get more successes? More politics is surely not the answer. Flyvbjerg suggests that infrastructure contracts be written clearly so that it there is no question who bears the burden in the event of the inevitable contingencies. How about public posting of all contracts several months in advance? Allow some months for wiki-editing. Then see if the usual suspects still line up to sign.

In the July Reason (gated), Greg Beato writes about "Better Government Through Crowdsourcing."  He likes government's challenge website and the effort get government agencies to work in tandem with large crowds to discover "bold new ideas". So it should be with megaproject contracts.