(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘national parks

“Investment in infrastructure is a long term requirement for growth and a long term factor that will make growth sustainable”*…

So it’s a problem that infrastructure here in the U.S. is so very expensive. Why is that?

As Congress argues over the size of the infrastructure bill and how to pay for it, very little attention is being devoted to one of the most perplexing problems: Why does it cost so much more to build transportation networks in the US than in the rest of the world? In an interview in early June, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledged the problem, but he offered no solutions except the need to study it further.

Biden’s original infrastructure proposal included $621 billion for roads, rail, and bridges. His plan is billed not only as an infrastructure plan but one that would help respond to the climate crisis. A big part of that is making it easier for more Americans to travel by mass transit. The Biden plan noted that “America lags its peers — including Canada, the U.K., and Australia — in the on-time and on-budget delivery of infrastructure,” but that understates the problem.

Not only are these projects inordinately expensive, states and localities are not even attempting to build particularly ambitious projects. The US is the sixth-most expensive country in the world to build rapid-rail transit infrastructure like the New York City Subway, the Washington Metro, or the Chicago “L.” And that’s with the nation often avoiding tunneling projects, which are often the most complicated and expensive parts of any new metro line. According to the Transit Costs Project, the five countries with higher costs than the US “are building projects that are more than 80 percent tunneled … [whereas in the US] only 37 percent of the total track length is tunneled.”

America’s infrastructure cost problem isn’t just confined to transit, it’s also the country’s highways. Research by New York Federal Reserve Bank and Brown University researchers reveals that the cost to construct a “lane mile of interstate increased five-fold” between 1990 and 2008. New construction — widening and building interchanges and building new sections of road altogether — is where the bulk of the problem lies, says one of the researchers, economist Matthew Turner. (The cost of “heavy maintenance” like resurfacing increased as well, but Turner said that’s due almost entirely to the rise in the price of certain paving materials.) 

According to a report by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, the nation’s transit spending “fell by $9.9 billion in inflation-adjusted terms” over the last 10 years. In comparison with similar countries, America spends a relatively small amount of its GDP (1.5 percent) on public infrastructure, while the UK spends 2 percent, France 2.4 percent, and Australia 3.5 percent.

The problem is fundamentally that the US is getting very little for what it builds

Infrastructure: “Why does it cost so much to build things in America?”- this is why the U.S. can’t have nice things. From @JerusalemDemsas in @voxdotcom. Eminently worth reading in full.

Chanda Kochhar

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As we lay the foundation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1886– the anniversary of the date in 1864 the Abraham Lincoln set aside Yosemite Valley as a preserve— that Congress recognized and established by law (24 Stat. L.103), the Division of Forestry in the Department of Agriculture.  Created in 1881 by fiat of the then-Commissioner of Agriculture, it’s initial remit was to assess the quality and conditions of forests in the United States.  In 1891, its mandate was expanded to include authorization to withdraw land from the public domain as “forest reserves,” to be managed by the Department of the Interior– the precursor to America’s National Forest and National Park program.

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“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”*…

 

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“I have always said that I would make more money out of the Grand Canyon than any other man.” Ralph H. Cameron, an entrepreneur in both business and politics, desired nothing less than a fortune from the canyon, and did not mind misusing laws—or his influence—to obtain it. From the time he arrived in Arizona in 1883, until he left under a cloud of disapproval after his single term in the Senate ended in 1927, Cameron used mining laws for many purposes other than mining.

Although Cameron began his work in the Grand Canyon legitimately, he drifted away from lawful practices, seeking more power and more money. Cameron wandered from early mines at the Grand Canyon to early tourist trails and eventually to Congress. But his routes repeatedly crossed opponents, from railroad companies to the federal government. He masked personal interests as public-mindedness, a charade hard to conceal forever. Seeing how Cameron bilked the public and opposed federal conservation efforts offers a window to the ways such questionable ethics undermined the public good to feed simple greed…

Ralph H. Cameron staked mining claims around the Grand Canyon, seeking to privatize it. When the federal government fought back, he ran for Senate. The cautionary tale of “The Man Who Tried to Claim the Grand Canyon.”

* Wallace Stegner

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As we contemplate the commons, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the Cape Cod National Seashore was created.  Encompassing 43,607 acres– and 40 miles of seashore– on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, it includes ponds, woods and beachfront in the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion in and around the towns of Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans and Chatham.

321px-CCNS_Sign source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 7, 2019 at 1:01 am

“There is a phenomenon called ‘Trail Magic'”*…

 

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Each year, about a thousand people complete a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, walking the 2,192 miles that run from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Millions more follow the trail for some shorter stretch, whether along the alpine ridge of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, the towpath of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, or the downtown sidewalks of Damascus, Virginia, making the trail corridor one of the most well used and widely recognized recreational sites in the world.

But the original concept for tracing out a hiking path along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, dreamed up almost a century ago by the planner, forester, and idiosyncratic social reformer Benton MacKaye, was so radical that MacKaye himself feared it would be dismissed as “bolshevistic.” What MacKaye envisioned when he first proposed the trail in a 1921 article for the Journal of the American Institute of Architects was something far beyond a woodsy recreational amenity. This “project in regional planning,” as MacKaye called it, was meant to be a thoroughgoing cultural critique of industrial modernity — a template for comprehensive economic redevelopment at a scale never before attempted in the United States. The project drew on ideas ranging from forest conservation to socialist central planning, and its effects were intended to be felt just as strongly in the booming urban centers of the eastern seaboard as in the devastated hill towns of the Appalachian uplands…

In its original concept, the Appalachian Trail was more than a hiking path. It was a wildly ambitious plan to reorganize the economic geography of the eastern United States: “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.”

* Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods, an account of his hike along the Appalachian Trail

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As we walk the walk, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that an act of Congress created Hot Springs Reservation, to be “preserved for future recreation,” in Arkansas.  Established before the concept of a national park existed in the U.S., it was the first time that American land had been set aside by the federal government in this way.  It became a National Park in 1921.

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Pool of hot spring water in Hot Springs National Park

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 20, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Travel makes one modest”*…

 

… or not.

grand canyon

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Went to the Grand Canyon this past week, and let me tell you, it’s a big ole waste of time! There was dirt EVERYWHERE, and the hiking trail was too long! Also where are the vending machines?? And nowhere to charge my phone! It’s way too deep to even see the bottom! The only thing that saved this trip were the crab enchiladas we ate down the road at Plaza Bonita. BEST MEXICO FOOD EVER! Grand Canyon—more like Grand Blandyon.

Gina M.,  Los Angeles

Just one of the instructive one-star reviews of National Parks on Trip Advisor.  For more: “Too Hot, Too Crowded, Needs More Vending Machines.”

* Gustave Flaubert

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As we look gift horses in their mouths, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that a jealous Robert Frost heckled Archibald MacLeish at a reading of the latter’s poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Middlebury, Vt.  Bill Peschel recounts:

The gathering was held at Treman Cottage, and Frost was among the attendees, sitting in the back. It was a time when Hitler was on the ascendant, and the United States was divided between warning against the rise of Fascism in Germany and Italy, and those who didn’t want to intervene in another European war. MacLeish was anti-Fascist, and Frost despised MacLeish’s support of Roosevelt.

That night, as MacLeish read from his poetry, Frost began heckling him. “Archie’s poems all have the sametune,” he said in a whisper that could be heard. When MacLeish read the single-sentence poem, “You, Andrew Marvell,” smoke could be smelled. Frost had accidentally, on purpose, set fire to some papers and was beating them out and waving away the smoke.

Most people accepted the story of the accident, and the reading eventually concluded. MacLeish was still the center of attention, and he was asked to read from one of his plays. But Frost was not done with him. As [Wallace] Stegner wrote:

“His comments from the floor, at first friendly and wisecracking, became steadily harsher and more barbed. He interrupted, he commented, he took exception. What began as the ordinary give and take of literary conversation turned into a clear intention of frustrating and humiliating Archie MacLeish, and the situation became increasingly painful to those who comprehended it”.Even Bernard DeVoto, a scholar and friend of Frost, had enough, calling out, “For God’s sake, Robert, let him read!” Frost ignored him, but shortly thereafter, on some pretext, “said something savage,” and left.

Afterwards, Frost’s defenders tried to kick sand over the events. One friend wrote only of “unfounded allusions” and “behavior not proven by fact.” There were people there who didn’t even notice what Stegner saw that night. But baiting MacLeish had caused a permanent rift between DeVoto and Frost. At the end of the conference, when they met and shook hands, DeVoto told him, “You’re a good poet, Robert, but you’re a bad man.”

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 27, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Public life in good quality public spaces is an important part of a democratic life and a full life”*…

 

private space

Paternoster Square, pictured here from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, is owned by the Mitsubishi Estate Company

 

In general, the privatisation of public space in the west accompanied the traumatic transition from an industrial economy to one based on financial services, shopping, entertainment and “knowledge”. This model began in 1970s America, where downtown waterfront areas that were former industrial heartlands were redeveloped into entertainment complexes: Baltimore’s Inner Harbour, described by the Urban Land Institute as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment”, is the prime example.

London’s Docklands, once the hub of the UK’s shipbuilding industry, became a centre for privatised financial services districts such as Canary Wharf, gated developments and private campuses such as the Excel, the enormous conference centre where the potential to “lock down” the site ensures it is well suited to host such events as the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition.

War very often leads to heavily privatised areas, too. In downtown Beirut, the rebuilding of the city centre provided the opportunity for Rafik Hariri, a billionaire businessman and the former prime minister, to form Solidere, a company that has remodelled a 200-hectare area of the city centre.

Jerold S Kayden at Harvard has coined the term Pops (“privately owned public space”) for these types of places, and found that there are 503 in New York City alone. One of the highest profile is Manhattan’s latest tourist attraction, the High Line, which also appears to be the model for London’s contentious Garden Bridge – an urban “park” that bans all sorts of activities, closes for corporate events, does not allow political protest and requires groups of more than eight people to book ahead.

Indeed, the key question in determining how “private” a city might be could be about access, rather than ownership. Zucotti Park, another Pops in New York, was for many months the venue for the Occupy Wall Street protests. Contrast that with London’s Paternoster Square, home to the London Stock Exchange, where Occupy was quickly evicted when the owners took out an injunction. Political activity has been almost entirely squeezed out of London’s square mile, and Occupy had no choice but to camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, on the only genuinely public space left in the city.

So while it may be impossible to name a city or a place as the “most private” in the world, what we can say is that societies with high levels of inequality are also those where the privatisation of the public realm and life behind gates increasingly defines the urban fabric. In Britain and North America, where democracy remains the system by which we define ourselves, the spread of this kind of city space is extremely problematic…

More and more parts of more and more cities are becoming the equivalent of private clubs or airport lounges: “What is the most private city in the world?

Semi-related (but altogether fascinating): “Everything we’ve heard about global urbanization turns out to be wrong.”

* Jan Gehl

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As we try not to ask about access, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that John Muir set pen to paper to capture his experience of awakening in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  Published in 1911, My First Summer in the Sierra is based on Muir’s original journals External and sketches External of his 1869 stay in the vicinity of the Yosemite Valley.  His journal, which tracks his three-and-a-half-month visit to the Yosemite region and his ascent of Mt. Hoffman and other Sierra peaks, was instrumental in building public support for President Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation efforts, and for the formation of Yosemite National Park and the birth of the National Park Program.

jul-19-muir source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 19, 2018 at 1:01 am

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