Matt Kahn and Eric Morris on Green Travel Behavior

Mat Kahn and Eric Morris, two of the very smart peoples at UCLA, have published a very cool paper on the coherence between attitudes and behavior among environmentalists. He discusses the paper and provides a link on his blog.

Kahn, Matt and E. Morris. 2009. Walking the Walk: The Association Between Community Environmentalism and Green Travel Behavior.

Forthcoming in the Journal of the American Planning Association.

Every time Matt publishes a paper, it’s a paper I wish I’d written. I have written about a group that is suspected to be indifferent to the environment–truckers–along with CJ Brodrick and Sue Spivey at James Madison University. You can find that manuscript here. The bottom line is that truckers have two major groups–employee truckers and owner-operators, and the employee truckers do have pro-environmental attitudes. Owner-operators are, unsurprisingly, more driven by costs, which in the case of idle reduction technology, aligns with environmental interests. But capital markets are imperfect and it takes some time for the technology in the owner operator fleet to change over.

Schweitzer,L., Brodrick, C-J, , and S.Spivey. 2008. “Truck Driver Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors: An Exploratory Analysis.” Transportation Research Part D. 13 (3): Available online at: doi:10.1016/j.trd.2007.11.001.


It’s official

We have a budget, with no tax increases but lots of service cuts. The cuts to K-12 are…pretty staggering. The Republicans outwaited the Democrats and clearly won this one in a lesson in minority statehouse brinkmanship.

Oh, I won, too, actually. Childless and affluent, here I go. Now I afford these because I won’t be changing the amount of withholding. Who needs services anyway? Not me! I can pay for them. I wonder who might need public services? Hmm. Gee. I can’t think of anybody who is a visible, important part of society, you know, people like me, who might need public services. Guess this worked out ducky then. Where did Dr. Schweitzer put her $4.90 caramel macchiato?


When Transit Works in the Southland

After my moan from yesterday I decided that lest I leave people with their comfortable belief that “transit in LA is terrible, not like Portland or San Francisco or Boston or New York or (insert urbanists’ dreamland utopia here)”, I should also add some posts talking about where transit works in Los Angeles. And it does work: the LA MTA serves over 1.6 million boardings a day. That’s a lot of people, every day, and more than the aforementioned transit utopias save for New York.

So here’s one of my favorite transit spots in LA, or more specificly, Long Beach. I have a fondness for Long Beach anyway, but here I think we have a nice example of a bus-train interface at the termination of the Blue Line in downtown Long Beach. There’s some high-end development going on, but it’s not the hyper-expensive, hyper-pretentious downtown LA sort. This is a relatively affordable place for people to live, it’s a pleasant place to walk, and you have plenty of bus and walking information when you get off the train. You move from one mode to another without having to eat car exhaust, dingy freeway undersides, or an ocean of car parking. It’s not ostentatious, it just does what it is supposed to do: provide a decent place for people to walk around, do some stuff, make a transfer if they have to, or buy/rent a condo.

They could use some more street trees and landscaping, but that’s a pretty easy fix.

And that little Asian kid is just too danged cute for words.


Rosa Parks Station, the bad bus stop of the century

This bad bus stop of the week is in Rosa Parks Station, which I think is so bad it deserves a lifetime achievement award for poor treatment of pedestrians and bus riders. This station is where the Blue Line and the Green Line come together, along with many bus lines. Bus riders and Blue Line riders get on and off underneath the freeway, enter a sea of parking, with little art installations designed, I guess, to cheer the place up. Some sunshine and sidewalks might have worked a wee bit better.

This station serves primarily south-central residents of Los Angeles, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that amidst the comprehensive ocean of lousy bus stops in LA, the very worst can be found serving Metro Transit’s most loyal and consistent customer base. If that doesn’t make you think twice about customer service in transit, you aren’t paying attention.


No hoping for the environment

I happened upon this article rather late, as they ran the feature in February, but here is an synopsis:

“Is hope a placebo, a distraction, merely sowing the seeds of disillusionment?” they ask, in an opinion piece titled “Abandon Hope.” The authors, co-founders and directors of the Conservation Ethics Group, an of environmental ethics consultancy, examine the proper role of hope in environmentalism. They suggest that hope’s alternative is not hopelessness or despair, but rather the inherent virtue of “doing the right thing.”

John Vucetich and Michael Nelson. Abandon Hope. The Ecologist, March 2009

I wonder about this. Much of the environmental discussion is conducted in terms of apocalypse: we’re doomed, we must save ourselves. Then when somebody like Bjorn Lomberg comes along and refutes that message, the reaction is histrionic, like the guy is a Holocaust denier or something, when all he is doing is shaking up the discussion and looking at the data. So there’s already a heavy moral component to the environment–for some people, it ties into longstanding western ethics associated with efficiency and frugality, for others it ties into obligations regarding stewardship and responsibility towards other life or for resources over which humans have control, and for yet another group it emanates from obligations towards other people, either their cohort, the next generation, or both. Anne Coulter–somebody so relentlessly self-promotional that she hardly needs me to link—maintains that environmentalism is the “religion of the left.”

So it’s not as though environmental values are not already bandied in terms of “right” and “wrong” already. When I say that I study sustainable transport, people get a pained look on their faces and say “I know I should take transit, but it just takes so long and it’s so hard to get anywhere and it’s…etc., etc., etc.” It’s not like people don’t know what they probably should be doing or should not be doing here. They don’t do “right” by the environment because they have other priorities, not because they don’t care and don’t see it as a matter of right and wrong, and you probably need better ethical imperatives to help them set their priorities than “the environment is more important than your other priorities because the environment is my priority.”


Evacuation and Resilience Manuscript

Relocation of Household Dependents For a Daytime No-Notice Evacuation in a Multimodal Transportation System

Sirui Liu, Pamela Murray-Tuite and Lisa Schweitzer

Under no-notice conditions with family members collecting dependents, the locations of these pickup points becomes a crucial factor to efficient evacuation. This paper presents a mathematical program for facilities to relocate, optimally, dependents that need to be picked up. The program, solved using Lingo, is iterated with a traffic simulation model to obtain an optimal set of locations based on anticipated travel times with dependents relocated to those sites. The entire methodology is applied to a case study based on Chicago Heights with three safety thresholds. In two of the three cases, relocation improved evacuation conditions.

You can download the draft here.


Cheap Commercial Land in Manhattan

I started off this morning reading through the new material sent me by Wiley Interscience journals. I subscribe to email alerts for new papers from a bunch of journals–one of the few ways that email has actually improved my life–and a paper in Real Estate Economics caught my eye for a couple reasons:

Wheaton, W. C., M. S. Baranski and C. A. Templeton. 2009. “100 Years of Commercial Real Estate Prices in Manhattan.” Real Estate Economics. 37 (1): 69 – 83.DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6229.2009.00235

I always pick up stuff from William Wheaton because he’s my academic grandfather–my advisor’s advisor–though we’ve never met. He’s also somebody whose work I’ve followed since before I went back for my PhD.

This is a particularly interesting manuscript. The abstract is short enough to include:

This article is able to put together a database of 86 repeat-sales transactions for office properties in lower and midtown Manhattan spanning the years from 1899 to 1999. Using this very limited database, decade-interval changes in real property prices are estimated—with varying degrees of precision. Our conclusions are two fold. First, adjusting for inflation, commercial office property values were 30% lower in 1999 than they were in 1899. Second, within any decade values often rise and fall by 20–50% in real terms. With these results, the long-term historic return to New York commercial property must mostly comprise yield with capital gains limited to general inflation. Other historical studies consistent with this conclusion are reviewed.

A perfect paper for an intro to urban economics or a class on urban sprawl, for it would be very counterintuitive for students, particularly planning students, who think New York is the poster child for a metro area that has not decentralized.

Those MIT peoples are smart.


More on the stimulus

Richard Green, director of the Lusk Center and, as I said yesterday, one of my favorite colleagues (I seriously do have fantastic colleagues–I really enjoy being in a policy school) tries to help me understand why the stimulus is going do what we hope it will via this very useful discussion paper. I recommend highly.

I will maybe take up further arguments tomorrow, depending on how far I get on this manuscript I’m working on.


WSJ on no more stimulus

The Wall Street Journal surveys 54 economists throughout the year. The latest results show that most economists in their survey suggest waiting. I can’t imagine this is a particularly random sample of economists, given the WSJ. Make sure you click through the charts because somebody in information presentation did some beautiful work here.

My super-smart economist colleague, Richard Green, disagrees, and then goes on to explain why the plan to help out distressed mortgage holders is also too timid.

Caveat: The following are mostly my impressions–I don’t have research that backs me on these ideas.

I’ve always maintained that the stimulus would disappear like a stone into water–and I think a second would do the same– and I am less sanguine about the rebound effects than the wait-and-see guys polled by the WSJ. I’m not sure where this “mother of all joblessness recoveries” is coming from. The transportation sector is, of course, happy to suck up as much money as we throw at it. I wonder about this sector as a source of growth anyway. Public transit advocates widely claim multiplier effects of investing in public transit, but in terms of construction, I bet the sector has become even more capital-intensive over the past three decades than just about any other. And if travel is ubiquitous, as it is in many places, the idea that you will open new markets with infrastructure investment doesn’t hold water–not that the way it did back in 1930. If that’s the case, the money goes to the contractors and, to a much more limited degree, to skilled workers. I don’t see contractors really doing anything besides sitting on those gains for awhile, which might provide some cash for other sectors. Maybe. But getting that money into the hands labor through job creation? I don’t see it happening. What I see instead coming are massive government layoffs, adding to joblessness rolls.