Yesterday's New York Timesfeatured a look at the wave of American cities considering investments in streetcars. Once upon a time, streetcars rambled along the avenues of many American cities, but most systems were dismantled as planners did their best to accommodate the automobile during the 1950s and 60s. Too late did they realize that making it difficult to get around within town and easy to get into town from the suburbs would encourage everyone who could afford a car and a home to leave.
I often have critical words for Amtrak CEO Alex Kummant. Where a normal CEO might approach something like bold proposals for high-speed rail networks by tempering pessimism with an explanation of what the potential benefits might be, Kummant simply acts like he doesn't much care whether it happens or not. Granted, that's an understandable attitude for a guy running an organization whose $1 billion or so in federal money has been threatened annually by the president (he needed it for two days of the Iraq War). Still, would it hurt to put the investment in some kind of context?
Health care isn't really my specialty, but I can't help mentioning an email posted by Megan McArdle, who's been recounting unhappy experiences with various motor vehicle departments. After railing against the District Department of Motor Vehicles for several paragraphs (which everyone complains about but where I always, inexplicably, get good service), the emailer concludes:
I can't wait for the government to take over our healthcare system.
Me neither! Because then we can look forward to occasional bureaucratic errors, as opposed to deliberate maleficence. Seriously, has this person never filed a claim before?
Let's move on to the next question: have gas prices caused devastation in suburbs, and/or will they in the future? As with resurgence of center cities, gas prices have only exacerbated a pre-existing condition--in this case, the housing bubble collapse.