By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
It’s expensive to live in a big city. But what if it’s more expensive to live in a small city? The Citizen’s Budget Commission, a non-profit financial watchdog organization in New York, took a look at housing costs in US metro areas recently, then added in transportation costs. By these two metrics, New York City (and most dense metro areas with good public transportation) is one of the cheaper urban options.
What’s the fastest way to get from point A to point B in a major American city? It’s probably a bike, according to a new joint project of the MIT Media Lab and the Social Computing Group (also at MIT). In the You Are Here data visualization, interactive maps show the fastest way to get from wherever you are in any one of 12 cities to other parts of the city. It’s a really fascinating way to visualize how cities in the US are laid out, and possibly has policy implications in helping to understand how important bicycles and associated infrastructure can and should be to the future of urban transportation.
Bills have been introduced into both the House and the Senate to dismantle the federal government’s role in interstate highways and leave that massive responsibility to individual states. Tea Party adherents and other conservatives are applauding this effort. The Interstate Highway System, they argue, was largely completed in the 1980s and local communities should provide their own transportation needs.
Urbanists were excited by President Obama’s election in 2008, as it heralded the first time in a century that a president would come from a major city. And Obama was not just a resident of Chicago, he had worked as a community organizer. On the campaign trail he promised groups such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors that – after years of neglect under Republicans – his tenure would feature federal cooperation with, and attention to, cities.
Federalism’s days appear to be numbered. The reason isn’t so much that the power of the federal government has increased, though that’s part of it. Instead, the slow-motion death of federalism flows from the fact that a wide array of federal programs have seduced state governments into playing Washington’s tune.