- Biggest gaps between views of scientists and those of general public come on topics of animal research, GMO foods [Pew/AAAS]
- New study challenges prevailing assumptions: controlling for such factors as poverty and race, “no differences [found] in asthma risk between children living in urban areas and their suburban and rural counterparts” [Science Daily; Knappenberger and Michaels, Cato]
- Interview with NYU’s urbanist Alain Bertaud, formerly of the World Bank [Market Urbanism]
- Little free libraries on the wrong side of zoning law [Conor Friedersdorf, Sarah Skwire/Freeman, L.A. Times]
- “Who knew following the trail of ‘clean energy’ money could make you feel so dirty?” [Oregonian editorial on scandal that led to resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, more, Watchdog] Actually, the correct answer is “plenty of us”: green-barrel projects rife with cronyism in other states too [Mark Newgent, Red Maryland; Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun]
- “EPA’s Wood-Burning Stove Ban Has Chilling Consequences For Many Rural People” [Larry Bell, Forbes]
- “The digital poker magnate who financed an epic pollution lawsuit against Chevron has disavowed the case and accused the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer of misleading him about the underlying facts.” [Paul Barrett, Roger Parloff]
I’ve got a new post at Cato about the perennial problem of poor governance at Washington, D.C.’s WMATA Metro subway system, which on Monday suffered a smoke-in-tunnel accident that cost the life of a passenger and sickened many more. Excerpt:
If the cream of the nation’s political class, living within a 50 mile radius in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., cannot arrange to obtain competence from their elected local officials in delivering a public service that’s vital to their daily work lives, what does that tell us about their pretensions to improve through federal action the delivery of local government services – fire and police, water supply and schooling, road maintenance and, yes, transit itself – in the rest of the country?
Reactions from George Leef (“it tells us that we should ignore them”), @jasonkeisling (“If it had been Uber, the gov would ban their service. But no need to address any problems with metro.”), and Christine Sisto/National Review. The Washington Post succinctly summarizes local outrage about the service’s failure to live up to its boasts of a “culture of safety”, while Washington City Paper, Aaron Wiener reviews Metro’s sluggish response to a series of previous safety crises and breakdowns.
A lot of literature — like this recent study cited by the Regional Plan Association — tends to confirm the idea that transit operations work better when governance is arranged so as to provide clear lines of responsibility and accountability. WMATA, which has gone through many general managers over the years, suffers from a weak, too-many-cooks board structure in which two each of eight board seats are filled by Maryland, Virginia, the District, and the federal government, along with another two alternates for each of the four jurisdictions.
On Wednesday morning at 9:15 a.m. I’m scheduled to be on Fox 5 WTTG Morning News television to talk about these ideas.
More: Michael Brickman, Flypaper. @politicalmath recalls when Metro got $200 million from the stimulus program to “create a safety culture.” Another comment from @jasonkeisling: “No accountability. Imagine if a private company had an incident like this…”
- In Utah prairie dog case, federal judge finds Endangered Species Act regulation of intra-state property impacts exceeds scope of enumerated federal powers [Jonathan Adler, Evan Bernick, Jonathan Wood/PLF] Certiorari petition on whether economic considerations should enter into ESA measures on behalf of delta smelt in California [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus]
- “While Smart Growth as a whole is maligned by some advocates of the free market, many Smart Growth tenets are actually deregulatory.” [Emily Washington, Market Urbanism; related, obnoxious-yet-informative Grist]
- Economic logic should be enough to halt suburban Maryland Purple Line, but if not, says Chevy Chase, hey, let’s find a shrimp [Washington Post; Diana Furchtgott-Roth on economics of Purple Line]
- SCOTUS should review Florida-dock case in which lower courts held property rights not “fundamental” for scrutiny purposes [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus]
- “The Problem of Water” [Gary Libecap, Cato Regulation]
- Paul Krugman and others hyped the rare earth crisis. Whatever happened to it? [Alex Tabarrok]
- Louisiana judge strikes down state law prohibiting levee boards’ erosion/subsidence suit against oil companies, appeal likely [New Orleans Times-Picayune]
Government is busy chasing century-old transit formats [Randal O’Toole, Cato; more] And Marc Scribner cautions libertarians against buying too heavily into a “regulated ridesharing” legal framework that could impede the emergence of something much better in ten or twenty years when self-driving vehicles are common [Skeptical Libertarian]
“A woman using a Grand Central Terminal stairwell fell and broke her ankle last year because a spooky advertisement for the [Showtime serial-killer] series startled her, a new lawsuit charges. Ajanaffy Njewadda and her husband, a former Gambian ambassador, are suing the MTA and the cable network, accusing them of placing the ad in a dangerous spot for pedestrians.” [James Fanelli, DNAInfo New York]
The Taxi and Limousine Commission functionary ignored the volunteer driver’s protests that the vehicle was not operating unlawfully for hire but was rather being provided as a free charitable service. After all, as someone might have put it, stealing the car of a volunteer driving cancer patients to the hospital is just another name for the things we do together. [NY Daily News, New York Post, earlier this month]
Taxi regulators and taxi operators join to conspire against the consumer interest [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today; Matthew Feeney, Cato (including link to Cato podcast), more (Illinois, Maryland, Australia, and an ADA complaint in Texas)] “Austin, Texas, Impounds Cars Because Their Drivers Were Giving People Lifts” [Brian Doherty, Reason]
Update June 11: Demanding a stop to consumer-driven Uber — but inadvertently making the most eloquent case for it — London black cab drivers are barricading key intersections today, and Paris taximen are deliberately driving airport fares at snail’s pace. [Lara Prendergast, The Spectator]
Maria Francisco fell off her bus seat and was injured when an Alameda-Contra Costa transit bus driver, according to Francisco’s lawyer, took a speed bump at 30 mph. Francisco can walk, but has been awarded $15 million for her injuries, and her daughter, then 4, a further $1 million for witnessing her mom’s fall. I’m quoted in Britain’s Daily Mail expressing misgivings about the level of damages (“spin to win”).
- Anonymous tip as basis for search? Thomas, Scalia divide in 5-4 SCOTUS decision [Tim Lynch/Cato; Popehat and Scott Greenfield vs. Orin Kerr]
- Undercover police target Uber, Lyft drivers to “send a message” [Alice Truong, Fast Company; related on New York AG Eric Schneiderman; yet more from NY state senator Liz Krueger (claims AirBnB could also lead to gambling and drugs)]
- Judge Rakoff on plea deals: “hundreds… or even tens of thousands of innocent people who are in prison, right now” [Tim Lynch, Cato]
- “Everybody’s trafficked by something,” claims one Phoenix police lieutenant [Al-Jazeera via Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason] “Lies, damned lies, and sex work statistics” [Maggie McNeill]
- Small town police get feds’ surplus armored military vehicles. What could go wrong? [Radley Balko, with reader comments on challenges of supplies and maintenance]
- Good: “Obama to consider more clemency requests from nonviolent drug offenders” [CBS, Tim Lynch, my take in December]
- Arkansas: “Mom Arrested for Breastfeeding After Drinking Alcohol in a Restaurant” [Free-Range Kids]