By Tyler Falk
Posting in Cities
Vice President Biden makes an important point on U.S. infrastructure quality.
Pop quiz: What country is that train car in the photo above from?
If you said America, you're making U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's point.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, Biden lamented the lacking quality of infrastructure in U.S. cities.
I wish you could travel around the world with me. [I've traveled] 600,000 miles so far, just since [becoming] vice president. If I blindfolded Americans and took them into some of the airports or ports in China and then took them to one in any one of your cities in the middle of the night just so they could see it and then said: "which one is in America and which one is in China?" Most Americas would say: "That great one is in America." It's not.
While conservative blogs spun this as America bashing, Biden's blunt comment -- if you ignore his odd reference to blindfolding people in the middle of the night -- gets to an important point: American infrastructure is not competing with global cities the way people expect it to. The overall state of U.S. infrastructure was given a "D" grade by the American Society of Civil Engineers. And a study from the World Economic Forum ranked the overall quality of infrastructure in the U.S. at 24th in the world, behind countries like Barbados, Malaysia, and Bahrain. A humbling place to be for a country with a proud history of infrastructure innovation. This should be troubling to all Americans.
In Biden's statement he was more or less preaching to the choir. Earlier this year the U.S. Conference of Mayors released a report that named infrastructure spending as their top priority for Congress -- which, they say, is failing the metropolitan areas of America. In a 2011 survey mayors say, overwhelmingly, that they need more investment in infrastructure. Ninety-six percent said that investment in affordable, reliable transportation is an important part of their cities’ economic recovery and growth.
In response to the survey, George Pierson president and CEO of the engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., laid out the issue well:
Today, we are investing approximately two percent of our GDP on infrastructure; Europe and China are investing approximately five percent and nine percent, respectively. Growth in India, China, Brazil and other surging economies is being fueled in part by investment in transit systems, roads, airports and other infrastructure. Thousands of miles of high-speed rail systems are being built in Europe and Asia, connecting population and economic centers. When mayors in the United States speak to their need to improve the quality of roads and transit systems in their cities, they are responding to a public need in a way that will arm their cities for success in global competition.
U.S. mayors know first hand that their cities need more infrastructure investment. It's a message Biden needs to help get through to Congress.
Jun 17, 2012
When you're a productive nation of savers, "investment" is a different animal to when you're financing your investment out of funds borrowed from that same nation of savers. just saying..
Trucking anything over long distances is inherently uneconomical compared to moving it my rail. Just think how many more tractor / trailer trucks and drivers are required to transport the load carried by a single Santa Fe goods carrying train. Figure out the fuel / kg / mile cost difference. I know my argument would not go down with most Americans who have been raised on the door to door transport in their gas guzzling vehicles. I will take train transport over driving any day as I did for more than 6 years in Chicago. I had the time to catch up on my technical reading without the tension of any fender benders or high blood pressure. At 67 I look much younger than most Americans at 50. I have a very comfortable retired living AND can afford my own medicare, even without any health insurance. To those - Americans - who are talking about European countries going bankrupt had better look at the figures owed by yourselves. Even your economy is living on borrowed time. Don't think only in comparative terms. Learn to think in absolute terms. Just wait till Chinese products find enough outlet elsewhere and they stop lending you the money !!
15 April 1904, New York Sun, pg. 6, col. 5: Their Points of View. 'Twixt optimist and pessimist The difference is droll; The optimist the doughnut sees - The pessimist the hole.
It is bad over here not good. We have not kept up or upgraded the transportation issue is hot and needs decades of work to bring it up to acceptable it never will be first class. No wonder the US can not compete.
Apples to oranges. Biden compares the best of a modern facility on one hand with the worst of a modern slum on the other. Why doesn't he compare the air quality in Bozeman, Montana to that in Bejing, China? Or why doesn't he compare the Chinese train station with Chinese city streets at night? "Thousands of miles of high-speed rail systems are being built in Europe and Asia, connecting population and economic centers. " Connecting Paris to Brussels to Bonn is like connecting New York City to Philadelphia to the District of Columbia. Try connecting NYC to LA to Chicago with high speed rail and get back to me with the cost. And then tell me who's going to pay for it. Oh, yeah, the rich. Ri-ight.
Let's take a look at how China affords all these great cities, and then look at what the people live in. China has an abundance of cheap labor, like every citizen in China with the exception of the chosen few. They can build and maintain anything that they could possibly want with all their cheap labor. But let's look at how the average Chinese lives, in impoverished housing stacked on top of each other, some with several families living in one apartment. Most can't afford a vehicle and require mass transit to get around, which works out just fine with all the cheap labor they have to build all this mass transit. You just can't compete with communist, no how, no way....
Infrastructure is not the problem with America's cities. If you try to build something nice in America nowadays, the new inhabitants of the inner cities will steal, vandalize, or destroy it. 100 years ago, when a different type of inhabitant lived in the cities in America, people had respect for property. In Malasia and Singapore, the penalty for graffiti is caning (20 whips to the rearend with a piece of cane).Today in America's cities, you see graffiti at best, and copper, brass, and stainless torn off at worst so it can be sold to scrapyards and shipped to China. If you want to change the infrastructure, you must change the culture first. Go to any large American city (not center city where the money is) and take a walk in the ghetto. If you come back alive you will realize what the real problem is with the formerly great American cities. They have been in decline since the end of WW2. Biden is an idiot if he does not realize this.
Ok then lets get on with re-building this country, put people back to work. For the 4 trillion wasted with banks we could have replaced every bridge in the country and put a 1,000,000.00 back to work.
The US had a program started by Pres Eisenhower to build the inter state highway system. This was supposed to help the military get around the country but it has benefitted everyone by extending the range of trucking goods across the country and also made cross country trips easier. The highway system suffers because money originally marked for upkeep was spent elsewhere. It is sad to watch our aging infrastructure fall apart because it would have been cheaper to maintain before it breaks. There is no political will of the people to take the time and money to keep the infrastructure in good condition for all. Corporations won't take the initiative to build new or repair existing infrastructure without getting paid for it. We are stuck in magical thinking that someone will step up and take care of these problems without the need for taxes or revenues to pay for fixing those problems.
Any urban or transportation planner could see the need for rapid inter-city transit in the Eastern corridor as roads, planes and trains begin to max out. Also you need the proven technology and operational know how. So the federal government offered to fund a high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando and another couple of locations in the open west like Arizona. First Florida turned it down mostly for politics to defy the Obama administration followed by Arizona. as in effect "We are not a city and do not need it. We prefer the freedom of our cars and SUVs. Here they could get it cheap and early before urbanization makes costs even more prohibitive and guide development of their states and cities and add to quality of life. I guess they are waiting for the pitiful graduates coming out of our underfunded schools of the last 10 years where test cheating is the only measure of success -- so that our graduates can design, engineer, build and operate our infrastructure. Many of the people who developed our current technology are out there looking for a better job than MacDonalds and underutilized or unemployed. We are even further behind Europe - do not forget they have had major urban AND rural transportation upgrades for 50 years now and continue to integrate it into city plans and exploit technological improvements. Get around town there in France or Germany or Spain and see the difference in quality, convenience and cost compare to what you see in the US. As with all US highways being subsidized, even toll roads, so subways and rail can be but the users pay some of the costs. You cannot say dump the NYC subway since it is subsidized - and lose its value to the society. Think global. Denial won't make the baby go away. When you are PG -- all alternatives have issues.
Lets not kid our self, the USA is not going to update anything they have Jesus coming soon so no need. Pathetic. The apologetics are going to straw man the whole but China is this or that behind us like the children they are. If the Chinese don't finance us the average American is at the level of Somalia in productivity and performance. I for one don't actually care, there was a time when I did now I say let it rot in its own ignorant stew, maybe in another decade or two we can come back to this issue but for now its a mute story. Jesus is coming and that all a lot of retarded people think is reality. So why spend for the future since their little minds don't see a future.
Wherever there is an existing highway, use the space above for elevated rapid transit. It makes sense. The right-of-way already exists, and it would follow most routes to major places of employment.
Sorry Tyler, you're jumping the shark here. And comparing infrastructure investment with China is pretty much non-sequitur; it's still a country where 20 years ago most people slept with their livestock out of necessity; of course their investment is higher than ours because they've only recently entered the industrial age. A percentage comparison is largely meaningless. As for the mayors, we've been through that before. They all want to "invest" in new infrastructure, but they want someone else to pay for it. Ironically, the only ones currently willing to finance Congress are the Chinese.
Bud, I was just stating facts. Why don't you go ahead and see for yourself(ves) and come out of the ivory tower and take a good hard look. Get past your prejudices and see the world as it really is. There was not one hateful statement in my post, only fact. Sometimes people confuse unpleasant facts with emotions. It is the true "inconvenient truth" that America faces. Hiding under the "hate" card is not going to change things. America is doomed if the situation does not change.
...there should not be a crack or pothole left in this country. So you can understand why many of us remain skeptical when the same people keep suggesting we should spend more in the hope that they'll get around to it right this time.
...if we actually spent the money collected in the name of maintaining and repairing the highways on repairing and maintaining the highways. Instead, much of it is diverted in the name of "alternative" transportation, and the rest is handed out as political spoils instead of being deployed in an efficient or even rational manner.
Gee John, you forgot to mention Europe is also a place where 20 years ago people slept with their livestock. Oh, no, I'm wrong! Europe is so far ahead of the states, and always have been. You can thank our oil companies back in the early 1900's for that. Next time John, don't pick your bits and pieces, look at the complete subject. The point is America is archaic when it comes to infrastructure.
Biden's is a narrow-minded snob. He traveled here and there...whatever! He probably only stayed in the most expensive places in the largest towns. I've been to Dulles AP and it was pretty nice. We have two nice airports in our town. Okay, well one is named Bush Intercontinental Airport, so I guess Biden wouldn't like it no matter what the conditions are. Both of our airports are continually improving and modernizing all of it's facilities.
The high speed train in France. Four of us sitting at a table enjoying some wine and cheese. It's very comfortable, quiet and smooth. The scenery flies by. We are doing 300 KM/hr and the wine in the stem glass on the table barely moves. Do yourself a favor... stop listening to the Fox distortion machine. Get out there and see some reality.
Our infrastructure is still ahead of what 90% of the world's population gets to endure. Yes, it's not what it could or should be. But it's not as dire as promoted either. The unfortunate fact is that when politicians throw the word "infrastructure" about, it's not about building or rebuilding what actually needs building or rebuilding, but about spending other people's money on their pork projects and beneficiaries, or worse, "social engineering". And Europe is ahead of us in many other ways too. They're far closer to bankruptcy than we are as well.
I travel by train in Europe every chance I get. It's wonderful. And it's a mirage. Whenever I do so, it's with the knowledge that well over half of the price of my ticket is subsidized mostly be working class citizens with half the standard of living that I have who rarely partake of the pleasure. I appreciate their sacrifice on my behalf. But what does any of that have to do with my post other than being a feeble attempt at changing the subject? High speed trains in France & Spain have done nothing to stave off their inevitable bankruptcy. Doing the same here certainly won't work any better for us. And that is [i]some reality[/i] for you.
What I am arguing is what our politicians define as "investing in infrastructure". It's a popular, well-tested soundbite. But it's also synonymous with "boondoggle". Investing trillions in high-speed trains is going to do absolutely nothing to solve the problems described in your link. Actually, boondoggles only divert and deprive resources from actual infrastructure maintenance.
instead of throwing around opinions and political invective. for example from The American Society of Civil Engineers web site at http://www.asce.org/Infrastructure/Report-Card/ASCE-s-economic-study-in-the-news/ "Deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure will cost the American economy more than 870,000 jobs and suppress the growth of the country???s gross domestic product by $3.1 trillion by 2020. That???s according to the report ???Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends on Surface Transportation Infrastructure,??? released July 27 by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The report finds that, in 2010, deficiencies in America???s roads, bridges, and transit systems cost American households and businesses more than $129 billion. That includes vehicle operating costs, delays in travel time, and safety and environmental costs. If investments in surface transportation infrastructure are not made soon, those costs will grow exponentially, the report warns."
Sorry John, I didn't read far enough down the line here to see someone else obviously agreed with my opinion. Had I read it, I wouldn't have responded. Maybe.