Joan Fitzgerald

Joan Fitzgerald is professor of urban and public policy at Northeastern University. She is the author of Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, and is working on a new book, Greenovation.

Recent Articles

Moving People, Not Cars

Dedicated lanes for bikes and buses are a great idea. But there is only so much city street to go around. The missing link? Limiting cars.

Dylan Passmore/Creative Commons Cambridge, Massachusetts, is ranked number one in the nation for bike infrastructure and walkability. This article appears in the Spring 2018 issue of The American Prospect . Subscribe here . B ike rentals are popping up in every major U.S. city, a harbinger of the desire of more and more people to break the car habit. Enthusiasts have visions of Copenhagen and Amsterdam, where about 40 percent of people commute to work and do many errands by bike. Yet few American cities have separate lanes in which bikes can safely travel. Meanwhile, bus rapid transit—buses moving in their own lanes that drive up to platforms and are boarded like trains—is catching on as a lower-cost alternative to expensive subways. But here’s the catch that is slowing the shift to both bikes and modern buses: There are only so many lanes on a given street, and at some point these uses compete with each other—unless cars are given less space to hog the road. Unlike Europe, American...

The Green Wall Against Trump

He may repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan, but states and cities can, and will, still do a lot to advance clean power.

AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File
AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File Installers from California Green Design install solar electrical panels on the roof of a home in Glendale, California. O n March 28, President Trump signed an executive order to repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which mandated emission reductions from power companies (an estimated 650 million tons by 2025 alone). But since 29 states plus Washington, D.C., have set requirements to adopt more renewable energy (known as renewable portfolio standards), how much impact will Trump’s order have? Despite Trump’s embrace of coal, there is a fair amount of evidence that too many states are too far along on a renewable energy path for Trump to reverse their momentum. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that the states that have set goals for adopting renewable energy have collectively met 95 percent of their targets. Solar production was up 95 percent in 2016 alone, and that followed several years of rapid expansion, according to GTE Research...

Solar Eclipse?

Can the U.S. have a coherent solar policy in the face of China’s strategic trade moves?

Imaginechina via AP Images
Imaginechina via AP Images Sun rising in the East: Solar panels and wind turbines at a photovoltaic power station in Yiyang county, Luoyang city, central China's Henan province, January 2016. This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . T he United States does not like to engage in explicit economic planning. Direct government pursuit of industrial objectives violates both our professed belief in free markets and our global commitment to liberal trade devoid of national favoritism. Nonetheless, the U.S. has been willing to use something close to economic planning when it comes to transitioning to both photovoltaic (PV) power installation and production of solar cells—a transition that markets won’t make on their own because of the current pricing advantage enjoyed by carbon-based fuels. States and cities have subsidized solar startups. The federal government has used tax credits to subsidize solar production. The Department of...

Why Markets Can't Price the Priceless

It takes government planning to promote the rational conservation and use of water.

(AP Photo/Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey)
(AP Photo/Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey) A public works wastewater reuse project accounts for approximately half of the water used daily by Wichita Falls, Texas. This article appears as part of a special report, "What the Free Market Can't Do," in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . W ater sources for many Southwestern cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix are drying up. Meanwhile, most Eastern cities have ample supplies but decaying infrastructure that can’t handle the more frequent and severe flooding brought on by climate change. The Cato Institute and Reason Foundation are part of a libertarian movement arguing that market pricing of water could solve both problems. But water, as a public good, can’t just be left to private markets, or we will have billionaires watering lush lawns while other citizens have dry taps. Privatizers are also notorious for underinvesting in the infrastructure needed both to supply fresh water and to...

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