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Slate: Train in Vain

Mass transit has, according to its fans, a staggering array of benefits. It reduces pollution, improves quality of life, and anchors vibrant walkable communities. It boosts public health and makes people happier. But relatively few transit-boosters understand that existing federal guidelines for assessing which new projects to fund not only exclude those considerations, they make it extremely difficult for newly built transit to meet those objectives. A new proposed rule from the Department of Transportation, now entering its 60-day comment period to let people raise objections, should change all that for the better.


Next American City: An Open Letter to David Axelrod, Re: Urban Politics

Last week, David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, announced that after the 2012 election season he’ll return to Chicago to run a political institute at the University of Chicago. But this isn’t just some political think tank. Axelrod’s ambition is:

to help encourage young people who are going to be the David Axelrods – and better – in the future so that we’ll have a new generation of people who will be active in politics and public life.

He goes on to say that there’s going to be an urban slant to the whole thing:

Mr. Axelrod, a former journalist, will serve as the institute’s inaugural director and said it would lean toward a focus on urban politics, in part because of the city around it.

Doubly interesting. What should David Axelrod do with this new institute with a leaning towards urban politics? Here are a few ideas:


The New York Times: New York’s Bad Bet

The casinos might create jobs and generate revenue for state coffers, but those gains would come at a cost that casino supporters ignore or play down. Various studies, including research by the economist Earl L. Grinols at Baylor University, have shown that casinos produce little to no economic spinoff and in fact divert spending away from surrounding businesses like restaurants, movie theaters and live entertainment. In the worst cases, some problem gamblers spend money that is needed for groceries, rent or child support.

More broadly, casinos are nothing more than a regressive tax that extracts wealth from the very citizens who can least afford it. The details of Governor Cuomo’s plan – which requires changing the State Constitution – remain largely under wraps but will likely follow the blueprints of other states that have allowed casinos at select locations


Fast Lane: FTA proposes New Starts streamline

Earlier this week, the Federal Transit Administration proposed significant changes in the way America’s major transit projects compete for federal funds. This revamped approach will speed up the New Starts process and focus more on transit options that fit local needs.


DC Streetsblog: House Transportation Bill “a March of Horribles”

There was no grand unveiling of the House-s five-year transportation bill today, but a summary of the bill has been kicking around for a few days. While there aren’t any hard numbers available yet, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act looks like a return to 1950s-style transportation policy. It is particularly unkind to transit and bike/ped programs, and to cities in general.

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