“Welcome to Citiwire.net! Leave it to the Brookings policy wonks and number crunchers to digitize Americans’ transit habits, metro by metro, for the first time. ‘Surprise’ bottom line: transit works when regions plan their land use, fund their systems. That means better access to jobs. Put another way: If you like a jobless recovery, keep on demeaning planning and cutting transit agencies’ budgets. … Anthony Flint, meanwhile, updates us on developing strategies to cope with, ‘regularize’ through legal land tenure, the multiplying squatter settlements impacting the developing world’s cities.” — Neal Peirce
By Neal Peirce
For Release Sunday, May 29, 2011
Â© 2011 Washington Post Writers Group
Are we ready for a “transit moment” in America?
In one way, it seems impossible. “Who cares” when three out of four of us still commute in a car, alone? And then there’s money: Federal transit assistance may well be on the chopping block of a cut-hungry Congress. State and local budgets are so pinched that regional bus and rail agencies already face serious service cuts and deferred maintenance.
But don’t despair — and think forward with hope. That was the message of a transit conference, sponsored recently in Washington by the Brookings Institution as it unveiled a study of unprecedented detail on how transit functions in America’s top 100 metro regions.
The “transit moment” message is straightforward. Gas prices have careened back up to the $4-a-gallon range. Fuel cost for the average household will be roughly $825 higher this year than last — meaning, almost assuredly, more and more families looking for transit alternatives.
Concurrently, policymakers talk incessantly about generating new jobs to fix the country’s prolonged job deficit. The simple message they need to hear, says Brookings’ Robert Puentes:
â€œItâ€™s not enough to create jobs if people canâ€™t get to them.â€
By Anthony Flint
For Release Thursday, May 26, 2011
As the world’s population hits 7 billion this fall, we are again reminded that we live on a planet of cities. More than half the world’s population lives in cities, and hundreds of millions more are on the way, coming in from the countryside in search of a better life. But we also risk living on a planet of slums. Although the number can’t be pinned down precisely, the UN estimates as many as 1 billion live in informal settlement — shantytowns, squatters’ shacks, and favelas that are technically illegally occupying urban land.
The reality of informal settlement has been around for decades, and though it spans from Asia to Africa, it’s Latin America — where nearly 130 million people or one out of four urban residents live in these makeshift neighborhoods — that has had the most experience in tackling the problem. South America in particular understands the costs. Informality is attributed to many causes, including low income levels, unrealistic urban planning and building regulations, a lack of serviced land and social housing, and a dysfunctional legal system. Though romanticized by some, life in the favelas too often means constant insecurity, fear of eviction, lack of basic services such as water and sewer, environmental and health hazards, discrimination, and violent crime. The costs are high for local government as well, in fighting crime, public health, and a vast array of social problems.