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✊🏙 Green New Deal has vision; free transit momentum?; high-speed rail; Amazon HQ2 drama; housing discrimination; & more!

February 10 · Issue #72 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists,
AOC’s Green New Deal resolution was unveiled this week, so I couldn’t not talk about that. My focus is on some of the great commentary that’s come out about it, including a necessary critique. I also briefly discuss free transit, before giving you links to other great reads near the end. I did some categorization this week — let me know if you want me to keep doing that in future!
Have a great Sunday!

Green New Deal resolution revealed
I’m a big fan of the Green New Deal. And so are many Americans — 92% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans, according to a survey by Yale and George Mason University.
On Thursday, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey unveiled their Green New Deal resolution, laying out the principles and priorities that legislation for such a program should prioritize. Is everything in there perfect? No, but that’s not the point. The details will have to be ironed out, but the vision contained within it is unlike anything seen in U.S. politics in decades. And there can be no question that, in light of the IPCC’s 1.5ºC report stating we have until 2030 to slash emissions by 45%, it’s the kind of bold plan we need.
There’s been a lot written about it since Thursday, so I wanted to highlight a few intriguing pieces, starting with one that’s actually a bit older.
“How are you going to pay for it?”: This one was written back in November, but I think it’s important. Economics professor and former Bernie Sanders advisor Stephanie Kelton, along with Andres Bernal and Greg Carlock, lay out how the government would pay for such a program, challenging the dominant framing of the U.S. budget with the increasingly popular “modern monetary theory” approach.
As a monopoly supplier of U.S. currency with full financial sovereignty, the federal government is not like a household or even a business. … Congress can pass any budget it chooses, and our government already pays for everything by creating new money.
Housing: The Green New Deal must be tied to a mass building program for public housing to densify communities and ensure they remain affordable. If you’ve read my recent issues, you know that leaving housing to the private market has been a policy failure. House prices are soaring, and when new transit and bike lanes are built, they too often push up rents and prices, forcing out the very people who would most benefit from them. That’s why we don’t need more tax credits; we need more public housing.
It’s time to let go of tax credits and market nudges, and get real. Just as Medicare for all and a federal jobs guarantee would attack health and job needs at their roots, bypassing the money-suck of corrupt public-private partnerships, a housing guarantee must be built by the people, for the people.
High-speed rail: There was right-wing criticism of a piece in AOC’s FAQ on wanting to completely replace air travel with high-speed rail. Sure, that’s not going to happen, but a lot of short-haul flights — up to 1,000 km (620 miles) according to one study — could be replaced by high-speed trains, which would be more comfortable and would massively slash carbon emissions. I particularly like Alon Levy’s proposed East-coast HSR map.
What’s missing: There is one major omission in the Green New Deal, however, and that’s any mention of land use. Alex Baca writes for Slate that unless we deal with suburban sprawl, the emissions-reduction and social-justice goals in the Green New Deal can’t be fully achieved; one way to do it: build the millions of necessary homes around transit and in a way that increases densities in more communities.
Katie Mack
Me: High speed trains are not a revolutionary idea; maybe we could have them?
Everyone else: the trains in other countries make me cry for America 😔
Moving toward free transit?
Last year, Luxembourg announced it would make transit free, joining a growing number of cities and towns around Europe. In a recent piece for the BBC, Marc Auxenfants drilling into the economic side of that pledge to look at what it would mean for commuters and the government once free transit comes into effect. Will Luxembourg’s move get more cities to consider make fares free, or will it remain an uncommon goal?
In Washington, D.C., the city is set to decriminalize fare evasion, meaning those who don’t pay won’t be subject to a maximum $50 fine, instead of possible jail time and a find of up to $300. However, David Zipper argues in CityLab that instead of decriminalizing fare evasion, the city should simply make fares free — and he makes a pretty compelling case.
Other great reads
📈 Vancouver transit ridership grew 6.7% in 2018, including a 7.3% jump in bus use, but as BC considers legalizing Uber, is that success in jeopardy?
🚧 LA Metro is planning to complete 28 major transport projects by 2028, but Joe Linton proposes ten alternative projects the agency should focus on
♿️ “A city accessible for parents, along with wheelchair users and disabled people, is simply a city that is better to live in for everyone.”
🚄 China is determined to build a 3,000-km high-speed-rail network in Southeast Asia as part of its Belt and Road Initiative
🇮🇹 Italy‘s governing coalition between the populist 5-Star Movement and far-right Lega is divided over a high-speed rail link between Lyon and Turin that would require an €8.6 billion, 57.5-km tunnel under the Alps [FR]
🙄 The latest Exxon and Koch-funded smear on California’s high-speed rail project: it will displace electric car trips
🤕 Consumer Reports’ limited investigation finds 1,500 e-scooter injuries since late 2017. I’m looking forward to the CDC’s upcoming report on scooter injuries, which they say is due in the spring.
🚲 Bike-friendly cities that don’t consider race and class are only bike-friendly for wealthier and whiter residents
🇷🇺 Car sharing is booming in Moscow, with more than 16,500 vehicles at the end of 2018. Does that spell trouble for automakers?
🇮🇱🇵🇸 In West Jerusalem, Palestinians find it hard to rent since private housing is not covered by anti-discrimination laws
💰 “It seems fitting that in the cut-throat capital of capitalism, even the air is for sale.” A market for air rights is behind the super-tall towers in NYC.
🇨🇦 Canadian cities are gathering data on the full cost of suburban development, and how much they’d save by promoting higher densities
🙃 Are tiny homes as great as the media makes them seem? Residents say they feel unsettled in them, and consumption habits rarely change.
✊ Amazon may reconsider its NYC headquarters after local criticism of $3 billion in incentives it’s poised to receive and its opposition to unions
🇰🇿 An estimated third of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s Soviet artworks have been lost, but discoveries of hidden mosaics and sgraffiti are exciting finds
🇨🇳 Chengdu concept images seem to take “tower in a park” to a whole new level. Have any readers visited?
Molly Sauter’s takedown of Sidewalk Labs’ proposed Toronto smart city through the utopianism of its illustrations and promises is a must read
🔥 “The world’s driest desert is flooding and some of the planet’s wettest woodlands are burning. Welcome to summer in Chile.”
An interview with a NYC delivery worker on the e-bike ban
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading. You can follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
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