Thursday’s Required Reading

1. Back to Church, but Not, Let’s Hope, Back to Normal.

“One way to think about this pause in our lives is as a rare—likely a once-in-a-lifetime—opportunity for a reset. We actually stopped, the one thing our societies have never heretofore done. Things ground to a halt, offering us the chance to examine our lives and our institutions. And now, if we want it, we have a chance to rearrange them.”

2. Stop Building More Roads. Dan, Dan, The Transportation Man has been saying this for years. Who knew he knew what he was talking about? For some reason, the authors fail to mention that the President has sporadically talked about investing in infrastructure, but not followed through at all.

3. Japan auto companies triple Mexican pay rather than move to US. I’ll take “What the President Won’t Talk About” for $500.

“Consumers will ultimately pay the price for inefficient production and increased component flow. U.S. research agency Center for Automotive Research estimates that 13% to 24% of all cars sold in the U.S. will be subject to tariffs. If automakers pass these costs on, prices will rise by $470 to $2,200.

The center also said U.S. car sales will drop by up to 1.3 million units annually due to the Trump administration’s trade policy — including sanctions on China. It estimates that 70,000 to 360,000 jobs will be lost, leading to a $6 billion to $30.4 billion reduction in gross domestic product.”

4. Two Chefs Moved to Rural Minnesota to Expand on Their Mission of Racial Justice. Such a hopeful story about social infrastructure. Great pictures on top.

5. This vertical farm could be the answer to a future without water. New Jersey isn’t the only place where farms of the future are starting to bloom.

 

 

Public Transit Is An Essential Community Asset

And as of 1/1/20, ours is free*.

“Zero-fare transit systems report many benefits. Going zero-fare increases ridership which in-turn improves the environment and reduces congestion. It enhances access and equity making communities more livable. Eliminating the fare reduces barriers both for those individuals that can afford to pay as well as those that cannot. And zero fare makes boarding easier and faster which reduces travel times for all.”

Intercity Transit reports that less than 2% of its revenue was coming from fares.

I detect a trend, people paying small amounts with dollar bills and coins is too time consuming. How long until the Costco food court realizes this and soft frozen yogurt is “free”?

*a portion of our sales tax revenue funds it

Rooting for the Millennials

Car makers are worried.

Today’s teens and twenty-somethings don’t seem all that interested in car ownership. Or driving more generally. Less than half of potential drivers age 19 or younger had a license in 2008, down from nearly two-thirds in 1998. The fraction of 20-to-24-year-olds with a license has also dropped. And adults between the ages of 21 and 34 buy just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, a far cry from the peak of 38 percent in 1985.

Jordan Weissmann in the Atlantic writes, “The billion-dollar question for automakers is whether this shift is truly permanent, the result of a baked-in attitude shift among Millennials that will last well into adulthood, or the product of an economy that’s been particularly brutal on the young.”

I’m guessing both and.

Wiessmann asks why purchase a new car given the five figure cost, insurance, repairs, and $4/gallon gas, especially if there are reasonable, nearby alternatives like a Zip Car membership, bicycle sharing program, or subway?

Also Millennials are more likely than past generations to live in cities, about 32 percent, somewhat higher than the proportion of Generation X’ers or Baby Boomers who did when they were the same age. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, surveys have found that 88 percent want to live in cities. When they’re forced to settle down in a suburb, they prefer communities which feature plenty of walking distance restaurants, retail, and public transportation.

“If the Millennials truly become the peripatetic generation,” Weissmann warns (emphasis added), “walking to the office, the bus stop, or the corner store, it could mean a longterm dent in car sales. It’s doubly problematic (emphasis added) if they choose to raise children in the city. Growing up in the ‘burbs was part of the reason driving was so central to Baby Boomers’ lives. Car keys meant freedom. To city dwellers, they mean struggling to find an empty parking spot.”

Josh Allan Dykstra in Fast Company asks, “What if it’s not an ‘age thing’ at all? What’s really causing this strange new behavior (or rather, lack of behavior)? He likes the thinking of a USA Today writer who blames (emphasis added) the change on the cloud, the heavenly home our entertainment goes to when current media models die. Dykstra writes, “As all forms of media make their journey into a digital, de-corporeal space, research shows that people are beginning to actually prefer this disconnected reality to owning a physical product.”

“Humanity,” he contends, “is experiencing an evolution in consciousness. We are starting to think differently about what it means to ‘own’ something. This is why a similar ambivalence towards ownership is emerging in all sorts of areas, from car-buying to music listening to entertainment consumption. Though technology facilitates this evolution and new generations champion it, the big push behind it all is that our thinking is changing.”

I like Wiessmann’s and Dykstra’s analyses and insights, but not their conclusions. They’re singleminded focus is on twentysomethings’ impact on economic growth as if everything valuable in life hinges on sales receipts. Ultimately, they’re coaching car makers on how to entice Millennials back into the market.

I’m more interested in cheering them on. For resolving to live differently than their parents, meaning within their means. For caring about the quality of the environment for future generations. For contributing to our country’s energy independence and making it less likely we’ll fight foreign wars. And for challenging the status quo of conspicuous consumption.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, an inspiring generation.

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