Worser and Worser Gridlock

The Future of Transportation by Henry Grabar of Slate.

“Even here (the U.S.), in a nation of unprecedented personal wealth and plentiful land, the car-centric system has pushed up against the limitations of space, proving expensive to maintain and impossible to scale. In the fast-growing cities of the developing world, the situation is more extreme, as commutes consume a greater and greater portion of the world’s energy, time, and cash.”

Graber’s answer? Busses, bikes, and elevators. A bus, quite possibly if “. . . given its own lane, its own route, its own authority over signals.” A bike, hell yes. Elevators?

On bicycles:

“. . . no technology holds as much promise as the humble bicycle—especially when we include its newfangled, electrified cousins—to solve the geometry problem that is getting people short distances around a big city. Even in the United States, where everything is fairly far apart by global standards, 48 percent of automobile trips in the biggest U.S. cities travel less than 3 miles—a distance that, with the right infrastructure, could be easily covered by a smaller vehicle.”

One problem. Most Americans are too soft to cycle even 5 miles to/from the grocery store, work, dentist office. “It’s not safe, poor weather makes it impractical especially in my work clothes, and I don’t have the time!” Never mind that bicycles are often as fast as cars in dense urban environments.

The more pressing hurdle writers like Grabar never seem to address is the intense individualism that curses through the U.S. Individual car ownership does not make financial sense, but it is so deeply ingrained in American life because cars provide unrivaled privacy and freedom. We aren’t rational, so we each buy our own cars that quickly depreciate. And the costs to insure, maintain, register, and keep them gassed up require us to work longer hours than we’d otherwise have to. And nearly every car owner chooses their car over busses 100 times out of 100. Even if driving fewer than 3 miles 48% of the time.

Note to the transpo engineers, city planners, and pragmatic social scientists thinking most deeply about the future of transporation. It’s not primarily an infrastructure problem, it’s a psychological one deeply rooted in U.S. history. How do we get self-regarding U.S. car drivers to even consider more other-regarding approaches to travel? To care even a little bit about the common good, including our health and the state of our natural environment?

I don’t know, but this I do know, slight our history and irrational individualism and watch gridlock grow worser and worser.

Sierra Killer Climbs 5-2012 148

Internal dialogue, “Maybe I shoulda taken the car. Yeah, I def shoulda taken the car.”

Paragraph To Ponder

“Today the teacher who digresses is frowned upon; everything in a lesson is supposed to move toward a specific measurable goal. Teachers are supposed to announce the objective at the start of the lesson, remind students of the objective throughout the lesson, and demonstrate attainment of the objective at the end. Such a utilitarian view of education has a long history, but in recent years it has overtaken education discourse. It can be attributed to the introduction of business language and models into education, and the resultant streamlining of language. Schools and industries have become less concerned with the possible meanings of words, their allusions and nuances, than with buzzwords that proclaim to funders and inspectors that the approved things are being done—goal setting, ‘targeted’ professional development, identification of ‘best practices,’ and so forth. Thus we lose the means to question and criticize the narrow conceptions of success that have so much power in our lives.”

Diana Senechal, Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture, 2012.

We Are Overdue For A Stock Market Correction

How bad was the Great Depression?

A timely, eye-opening Wall Street Journal article by Jason Zweig.

“The Dow peaked at 381.17 on Sept. 3, 1929. It finally hit bedrock at 41.22 on July 8, 1932, down 89.2%. In less than 35 months, a dollar invested in stocks shriveled into barely more than a dime.”

How wrong were the experts?

“In a newsreel from Oct. 30, 1929 . . . Irving Fisher, the nation’s leading economist and a Yale professor, proclaimed: ‘It now looks as though the bottom of the market had been found.’

The market found the bottom, all right—84% lower and almost three years later.”

How long did it take for the market to rebound?

“The Dow didn’t surpass its 1929 high until Nov. 23, 1954, a quarter-century later.”

How many people held their stock investments long enough to break even? A clue.

 “A 1954 survey by the Federal Reserve found that only 7% of middle-class households said they preferred to invest in stocks over savings bonds, bank accounts or real estate.”

How are we still getting the lesson of the Great Depression wrong?

“No one who lived through the crash of 1929 would agree with the view, advanced in the late 1990s, that stocks become riskless if you hold them long enough.”

Zweig’s cogent conclusion:

“To be a long-term investor in stocks, you have to be prepared to lose more money for longer than seems possible. Anyone who takes that risk lightly is likely to sell out, in the next crash, near the bottom.”

The investors first task, know your time horizon. If it’s less than 10-25 years, proceed into equity markets with due caution.

 

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Radical Survival Strategies for Struggling Colleges.

“Moody’s projects that the pace of closings will soon reach 15 per year.”

Sobering. How will my employer, Pacific Lutheran University fare? If it was a stock, I would not buy it because of the larger context, but I am cautiously optimistic about our future because our brand new president is as smart an entrepreneur as I’ve known. He’s quickly learned about the never ending peculiarities of academic culture and faculty-based governance. But the Warriors may not have much success this year even with Steve Kerr as coach.

2. Payne Stewart’s daughter writes him a letter twenty years after his tragic death.

“People say time heals all wounds, but I don’t believe that. Sure, as the years have gone by, I’ve learned how to manage my sadness in losing you. But the pain never really goes away. I think about you every day, miss you every day.”

3. It turns out there are (really) bad questions.

4. How to Travel Like a Local. Thorough.

5. Why Don’t Rich People Just Stop Working?

“Are the wealthy addicted to money, competition, or just feeling important? Yes.”

6. Song of the week. So effortless.