(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 372: The Annual Prediction Show with Yonah Freemark
This week we’re joined by Yonah Freemark, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute. We chat about the impacts of the pandemic on office work, rethinking federal transportation policy, and make our annual predictions on next year’s transportation policies and projects.
Below is an unedited full transcript of the show:
Jeff Wood (1m 23s):
Well Yonah Freemark. Welcome back to the Talking Headways podcast.
Yonah Freemark (1m 41s):
Thanks for having me.
Jeff Wood (1m 43s):
Well, thanks for being here. You wanna, you know, this is the 10th visit to the show, and we’re excited to have you every year to talk about your annual project report, but what’s been going on in the meantime. What else have you been up to?
Yonah Freemark (1m 53s):
Oh gosh. So much, so much activity from my home office, but you know, I’ve been, I’ve been actually going into the office. I work at the urban Institute. Oh, you’re going into the office about half the time. Yep. Take the subway. I’m used to the DC Metro at this point, you know, the service is not perfect and the trains are old, but it works.
Jeff Wood (2m 13s):
How is it going to the office? Like, what’s it like, how’s that going for you?
Yonah Freemark (2m 16s):
You know, it’s a good experience for me because I like taking the subway. I like the separation between home and work, but it’s surprising how few people want to make that journey. And, you know, I, I actually think that’s sort of an interesting indication of where we’re going because people have the option at this point. It’s sort of like an open-ended invitation and it’s intriguing to me that so many people don’t actually see it as a
Jeff Wood (2m 40s):
Benefit. Do you think it’s fear or do you think it’s convenience?
Yonah Freemark (2m 44s):
I think it’s gotta be convenience. I think, you know, I talked to a lot of my colleagues who aren’t necessarily scared of going to work, but it’s almost like a critical mass. Hasn’t arrived at the office to justify going into the office for a lot of people. And so they would prefer just staying at home. They can talk via zoom where they can get just as much done in their view, then they would be able to at the office. But I think that we’re actually losing something there, you know, a lot of economists talk about agglomeration effects and I see it in my own office. There’s sort of a lack of agglomeration effects that I want to see that you would get from the person to person contact. It’s I’m hopeful. We sometimes are able to make our way back to having more people in the office.
Jeff Wood (3m 24s):
I’ve been interested in that. I mean, I’ve been working at home since 2014 and before that, you know, I, I do miss those interactions, you know, just sticking your head around the corner and popping into somebody’s office and sharing some nugget of information. But you don’t that you can’t get that from Twitter or from chat rooms or anything like that. It’s kind of a different thing, but is that the agglomeration you’re talking about is just like the pop-up.
Yonah Freemark (3m 45s):
Absolutely. I feel like there, isn’t the type of opportunity to just discuss project ideas, to update people on the type of work you want to be doing that I think would add to our collective experience and help generate more exciting ideas to bounce off ideas without too much pressure, like reserving a zoom meeting time. I think it’s something that we were really missing out right now. And I also think it’s causing people to be less happy in a lot of cases, you know, among people that I’m seeing,
Jeff Wood (4m 14s):
What’s the lack of happiness coming from? Is it just because you’re not able to kind of talk to your colleagues or is it isolation? What do you think it is?
Yonah Freemark (4m 21s):
I, I don’t know. I don’t want to speculate too much on everyone else’s feelings, but I do think that there is a general sense of isolation. Absolutely people are sort of operating in their individual rooms, not seeing anybody else during much of the day, maybe having meetings via zoom, but not actually getting to know the people around them. And I think that is a profoundly anti-human thing. I mean, we’re a social species. People want to see each other. And I think, you know, we’ve got to find ways to see each other more.
Jeff Wood (4m 51s):
It’s interesting yesterday, mayor of New York said to a bunch of people get out of your pajamas and come to work. And as somebody works from home, I was a little bit like, come on, man. I wear track pants. What are you talking about? There’s no pajamas here, but you know, I think that there’s two sides to that. There’s definitely some sort of convenience to being a home and getting those two extra hours that you didn’t have before to work or to relax or to do other things. I think generally as a society we’re overworked. And so I think people have kind of taken ownership of those two hours, whether that’s what they use for showering or, or whatever else to go to work. But then on the other side, there is those, those agglomeration economies. There are the things where you can’t replicate at home. You can’t replicate a beer, a meetup, you know, those types of things, and even going to conferences.
Jeff Wood (5m 33s):
I think it wasn’t the conference necessarily in the sessions that people were going for. It’s the beers and getting to talk candidly with folks and then, you know, glean information and take what they could and then re disperse it. So I think that’s interesting. There’s been tons of articles about this in the last couple of days, even from basically every publication I’ve seen, they’ve all been talking about, you know, how much work from home is going to impact downtowns. And this is actually something I was going to talk about value later, but a perfect kind of time to talk about it. And I’m wondering if, you know, this affects our thinking overall on transit expansion and projects and those types of things. I mean, because if people aren’t going to be making that work trip, we have other trips that people need to make. What is the reconfiguration of say a capital program or formula funding or anything along those lines?
Jeff Wood (6m 17s):
It seems like this is a pivot and we can say this as white collar workers ourselves, but there’s that other aspect of equity and, you know, the folks that can’t do it, the essential workers, everybody else who isn’t able to sit at home in front of their computer and work. Yeah.
Yonah Freemark (6m 31s):
And you know, I actually am of two minds on this to some degree I’m not entirely convinced we’re moving, you know, full bore towards a work from home economy. I mean, I certainly think that maybe some past more is about how people work, maybe have changed. You know, I feel a lot less worried about the way I’m dressing when I go to work now than I, then I maybe would have a year and a half ago. And I think that’s a really good and positive change. I think, you know, we don’t need to maintain strict office dress codes that we used to have, but at the same time is there is this interest on people to return to work despite the skepticism among some.
Yonah Freemark (7m 11s):
And when I take the subway every day, I mean, part of the problem is DC. Isn’t running enough trains right now, but the trains are pretty crowded. And so it’s not that people aren’t taking the transit systems that exist, but maybe they’re taking them to somewhat less degree at the same time. I completely agree with you that there’s an opportunity here that I’m not sure transit systems, especially in the U S know how to take advantage of right now, which is what is the opportunity to try to grab some of those non-work trips and make them part of the community. I think systems like Bart and Ramada in DC were built entirely around work trips, right? They focus on downtowns.
Yonah Freemark (7m 53s):
They are really designed to make sure you can get from the suburbs to the downtown offices as quick as possible. And they make getting between neighborhoods much more difficult than that. I think what if we reinvision the way our projects are planned so that we’re focusing more on trying to grab those non-work trips, the right now are much more likely to be done by car and try to pull some of those into transit. I think it could be transformative in thinking about the type types of transit that we’re building, but the projects that are going forward right now are still in sort of, I think the older mode of thinking.
Jeff Wood (8m 25s):
Okay. And what types of projects are those? I’m thinking of these huge capital projects in places like New York city or even the Bart subway underneath San Jose, but what kind of projects are you thinking about?
Yonah Freemark (8m 35s):
Yeah. I mean, those are projects are great examples of that. Some of the projects that are opening this coming year are great examples of really downtown oriented projects. So if you’re looking at the new subway projects that are opening in Los Angeles and San Francisco this year, the green line extension in Boston, those are three of the biggest projects that are opening this year. And they’re actually all really about that sort of outer neighbor to downtown commute, making sure they’re as effective as possible in certain ways and not saying they’re bad projects. In fact, I think they’re great projects, but I am worried that we don’t necessarily know how to connect neighborhoods in more effective ways to get people between the different areas between the spokes of our transit lines in ways that are not happening right now.
Yonah Freemark (9m 15s):
Just to give you an example of this, the green line project in Boston is going out into Somerville and Medford sort of suburban communities outside of Boston. And it’s going to actually dramatically improve their ability to get into downtown. And that’s wonderful, but getting from Somerville and Medford into Cambridge and into the Southern parts of Boston is very difficult right now. And it’s not really going to be improved by this project. So what’s the plan to actually address those types of travel that may have nothing to do with work at all, but may have more to do with entertainment, retail restaurants going to school. I think we need to be thinking more about how we make those sorts of circumferential connections to be more effective.
Jeff Wood (9m 58s):
One of the things that I’ve been noodling on lately, and I’m just going to share this unrefined to you is, you know, we have this big transit capital program and new starts, we ha and then we’ve talked about this for almost a couple of decades. Now we’ve been doing this for such a long time with each other, but, you know, we have this huge capital program and it builds projects one by one. And what happens is in a lot of cities outside of New York in the big five, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, San Francisco, et cetera, it builds these projects one by one and in a place like Minneapolis, or even in Charlotte, you get these one projects. And then what that does is it puts a lot of pressure on the real estate in that corridor. It sucks a lot of the life out of like regional development.
Jeff Wood (10m 39s):
And what it also does is kind of focus, you know, a lot of the capital expenditure on that individual line from a regional perspective, and that causes displacement, gentrification, all those other things. And in my brain, what about rethinking our networks? And this isn’t just a plain bus network redesign. I’m just thinking about regional planning and how we do things. Overall. We have these system plans where we build one line at a time. What if we rethought that and then allowed people to apply for new starts funding to build regional networks instead of just one line at a time, and I’m not talking about light rail networks necessarily, or subway networks or anything like that, maybe it’s just capital improvements for bus rapid transit or capital improvements for these connectors, right? It seems like there’s a big disconnect between what the capital funding should be for and what it’s actually being used for.
Yonah Freemark (11m 26s):
Yeah, I think that’s actually a really cool idea. I think it’s also worth thinking about that idea within the context of some of the transit network redesigns that people like Jarrett Walker have been piloting. You know, he’s basically saying we need to go around the country, look at the existing bus networks and reallocate service so that we’re prioritizing quarters that are going to have frequent bus routes, you know, so that you can have a grid of connectivity across the city. And I think that’s wonderful, but what if you can combine that sort of network redesign with very clear thinking about which specific routes there need to get that sort of high quality new starts level service. So in other words, not only are you changing the way the bus network works, but you’re combining it with long-term thinking about what a network of regionally planned, either bus, rapid transit, light rail or subways could look like.
Yonah Freemark (12m 17s):
And I think that has not been the way people at the federal transit administration are thinking, and it’s not really the way people, I think in these regional transit agencies are thinking either,
Jeff Wood (12m 27s):
I think it’s what LRT peas are actually for and what MPOs are actually supposed to do. But it seems like it, it migrated from that at some point to individual projects. And I don’t know why that happened, or, you know, I guess maybe there would never was really a network thinking outside of Lumada to a certain extent, I guess, the great society subway, but everywhere else just seemed line by line. And it’s frustrating and interesting at the same time, but it’s something to think about. The other thing I want to talk with you about was kind of a funny thing that happened this last year. You know, there was a viral meme that went around about housing specifically, and you were included in the cartoon. I’m sure you saw this. How did you feel about that?
Yonah Freemark (13m 4s):
In my job at, at the urban Institute, I’m the director of the research director of something called the land use lab at urban. And we are trying to conduct new research on the impacts of land use on a variety of different things. So, well, I specifically land use regulations on a variety of different outcomes in terms of society, in terms of housing costs, in terms of access to transportation. And, you know, I think there’s a tendency in the Twitter verse to turn what in fact are complicated non-binary issues into single-minded debates, where there is a clear answer to a question.
Yonah Freemark (13m 47s):
And, you know, what’s funny about that video for those of you who have seen it is that I believe that I am portrayed as somebody who is sort of not wanting to partake in this conversation and yet I’m in it. And I think that’s because some of the research I’ve done on zoning and I am, I actually appreciated the video because I do think it sort of reflects on to some degree, my hesitation to, you know, be too strong about what we know about how land use regulations are gonna change the world. I think we should be careful to make any extreme claims about the impact of any one policy, especially land use policy on outcomes.
Yonah Freemark (14m 31s):
I don’t want people out there to think that, you know, this means that we shouldn’t try to change our policies to encourage more development. We absolutely need more housing out there. We absolutely need to give people access to transportation. We absolutely need more affordable housing, especially, but the idea that any individual policy is going to solve the problems and therefore any debate that is just a, you know, a massive confrontation of, of complete disagreement, I think is simplifying.
Jeff Wood (14m 59s):
Did you find it funny at least a little bit? Oh, absolutely.
Yonah Freemark (15m 2s):
I find it funny only in so far as I have managed not to pull myself too far into it. I, I feel like the great thing about being somebody who has written about transportation issues for the last, at least 14 years is that I think housing issues, especially in the United States, the debate is very lint and unhappy, but the conversation about transit, I think can often be a really positive, exciting space where people have exciting views about the future and want to see change in a positive way. And don’t turn it into a space of hatred. I just like that. And I’m able to, I’m able to pull myself away from the housing conversation and think about transportation.
Yonah Freemark (15m 43s):
And I think that’s a really positive thing for me from a mental health perspective.
Jeff Wood (15m 47s):
That is really good. And I do appreciate being in transportation space, even though we do talk about housing because it is interconnected, everything’s connected, but I just found that entertaining that I was watching this cartoon, this animated cartoon with subtitles and people associated, and I saw your name pop up. And I was like, well, why is the owner in here? I was like, oh, I must be that study. He did in Chicago and it’s kind of entertaining, but the NIMBY MB battles get pretty, like you said, very lit and it is a little bit distressing sometimes that they get so heated and it makes for an interesting conversation about why, you know, those discussions on housing gets so heated, whereas discussions on transportation may not get like that. Maybe it’s just because there’s not really an entrenched interest necessarily, I guess, in transportation. And people’s, you know, assets aren’t necessarily up for grabs when you’re talking about transportation.
Jeff Wood (16m 30s):
So it’s an interesting discussion.
Yonah Freemark (16m 32s):
Yeah, I think that’s absolutely it. I mean, the reason why housing makes people so upset is because it feels so personal. And I understand that I pay too much. Other people pay too much to buy a house. And it’s incredibly frustrating to feel like our society is structured in such a way to make housing such an extreme expense and transportation, frankly, offers people a way out, right? If you feel like the transit system isn’t good enough, which unfortunately it often isn’t, you can go buy a car and you’re, you’re going to have your own struggles, but you have a way out, but the housing market doesn’t really give people a way out, especially when you live in a really expensive city. And I think that makes people really angry when they feel like they’re not seeing action on those issues.
Yonah Freemark (17m 13s):
And so, you know, I understand it. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (17m 15s):
Let’s pivot a little bit to federal transportation policy. You also released the report with Harriet you’re groaning, next generation, place-based federal transportation policy. What’s that report discussing. And why was it so important to put it together?
Yonah Freemark (17m 26s):
You know, I think we have a problem in the United States of not being able to move past the approach we’ve taken to transportation policy, frankly, since the passage of the interstate highway act in 1956, we just passed this really big infrastructure law, which had some positive elements, unquestionably. It increased funding for, it includes a lot of money for energy upgrades, for sustainability and for led pipe removal. Wonderful. But it also includes a significant number of dollars that are going to be distributed to states who are then going to spend the money on expanding highways, building new highways.
Yonah Freemark (18m 6s):
And we’ve already seen a number of states actually write letters to the department of transportation, telling them they essentially don’t want the hands of the us federal government on their highway money. They want to be able to build as many high as they want. I think that Harriet and I were inspired by the sense of the lack of a transformative nature in the policy to suggest that we just need to, we just need to sort of throw it out. We need to throw out this approach to thinking about transportation as this siloed thing, where we just fond the status quo. We need to think about transportation with a new perspective. That’s focused on achieving equity and sustainability at the core, and then going out from there, what are we doing in our decision-making related to transportation, it’s going to achieve those outcomes.
Yonah Freemark (18m 54s):
And what we suggest actually is that number one, you know, we need to be evaluating all our transportation projects against those, those attributes. Is your project going to increase equity and resolve climate change issues? Or is it going to make those worse? If it’s going to do the latter, then you know, why, why are we funding it? First of all, second of all, how are we making sure that projects actually are being produced in a creative way by communities that want to do something different that integrates transportation into broader thinking about housing, healthcare, parks, et cetera. And I think we’re sort of focusing on the idea that it’s possible to rethink our transportation investments, not just around the infrastructure itself, but rather around how we can use that infrastructure as a lever to then generate communities that integrate all those things together, affordable housing, access to healthcare, access to jobs and access to recreation.
Yonah Freemark (19m 49s):
So that’s what we’re trying to go for in this sort of position paper. I hope it’s inspiring to at least some people.
Jeff Wood (19m 56s):
Why not everybody?
Yonah Freemark (19m 57s):
Why not everybody?
Jeff Wood (19m 59s):
I think that’s a good set of goals. I think that that’s a good way to go. It is frustrating to see kind of what happened, especially with the infrastructure bill. Yes. There are some good things about it. Lead pipes included, et cetera, but there’s also a lot of frustration just because of how it came about. We’ll get to that. It probably in the predictions in a second, I’m sure, but it’s been kind of a up and down, I think for the last year or so watching kind of that sausage making happen. And, and it’s been frustrating also to not see anything change from a kind of a distribution standpoint. And, and even when Stephanie Pollack sends a letter to everybody that says, Hey, we’d like you to, you know, focus on, fix it. First, everybody starts yelling and it’s like, this letter is not a requirement. It’s just a gentle nudge to say, and then everybody freaks out and even have senators freaking out about it.
Jeff Wood (20m 42s):
It’s like, you know, you guys really are, you know, proving a point here. You’re just going with the status quo and not actually trying to think of anything different when all you do is push back on, on nudges to do the right thing. So that was a frustrating thing as well. All right. So we have you on every year to talk about your annual post on openings and construction starts, which you can find [email protected] for those who might not be listening every single year for the last so many years in the last 10 episodes that we’ve done together, what’s the purpose of the post and the accompanying a transit Explorer database?
Yonah Freemark (21m 15s):
Well, you know, obnoxiously, I would say the purpose of the post is to document the delays in the Honolulu rail transit project. Cause I, I’m pretty sure that it’s been on every single post I’ve done since 2009 and it still has not opened maybe this year. You know, I think more positive. The goal, the goal of this work is really to be able to say, you know, like what are all the scopes of, of transit projects opening all over? Well, it used to be the United States, but now it’s a number of countries around the world. And the idea is basically to give people a sense of optimism, I think about, okay, we’re, we’re actually investing in some really positive changes in our transportation system to give people a sense of what’s coming in their communities and the coming year based on planning and to give people a chance to think about what might be missing there.
Yonah Freemark (22m 8s):
And so, you know, we developed this transit Explorer, interactive map to really document where all the projects that are existing under construction or planned are, and then give people ideas, you know, what might be missing on that map? Where are there projects that people might want to see that for some reason planners in their communities are not looking for yet?
Jeff Wood (22m 31s):
There’s some positive stuff. I think, you know, it’s just not, not just about Honolulu obviously. And I went back and listened to last year’s show and I noticed that the Honolulu example was used as one of the predictions that failed. And I don’t think you made the prediction again, but I think it’s been on a couple of shows as you mentioned, but we did have San Diego and Seattle’s north gate extension this year. We had some good stuff happening. So those were positive outcomes. I imagine that you rejoice in.
Yonah Freemark (22m 58s):
Absolutely. Listen. I think it was kind of shocking to me that any project opened in 2021 only in so far as transit agencies faced a lot of struggles and could probably continue to face a lot of struggles. And I was able to document some of those. We did a report with APTA, the American public transportation association, and we interviewed transit agency officials in five cities. And frankly they have dealt with rapidly increasing inflation, which has made it really difficult to hold on to Boston train drivers. They’ve dealt with material shortages, which has made it really difficult to keep construction going. You know, they’ve dealt with in some cases inability to get permits and other types of authorizations from state governments that have slowed down.
Yonah Freemark (23m 43s):
And when you put these things together, frankly, it’s surprising that they’ve been able to keep services going. And so I do, I think, you know, it’s easy to criticize transit agencies that aren’t necessarily performing up to our high expectations, but at the same time, you know, they’ve done a lot of impressive things to keep these public services going. And I, I really come in for that and the fact that they were able to open these new lines and, you know, San Diego and Seattle is really exciting to see
Jeff Wood (24m 7s):
You’re doing the report this year, going through, obviously it’s all not at once because you, you, you build up the database over time because doing it at once would be crazy crazy for you. What are something that’s, what’s something that’s been exciting about putting it together? You know, what are some projects that you’re seeing that you’re very interested in, in seeing move forward? Well,
Yonah Freemark (24m 26s):
I think one of the aspects of the investments that I’ve seen change over time has been an improvement in the quality of the bus, rapid transit lines that are being advanced by cities. I think, you know, when, when we were talking 10 years ago, I think when, when the first tiger grants were going out from the Obama administration, some of those grants were going to streetcar and suppose it bus rapid transit projects. Hence, you know, frankly, a lot of those projects were some improved shelters and buses getting stuck in traffic coming once every 15 minutes at best.
Yonah Freemark (25m 7s):
And that was considered an improvement in the bus service in a lot of cities. And I, I think we didn’t necessarily have the judgment at the time to be able to say, guys, what are we doing here? Or at least we didn’t have the expectation of us transit agencies to be able to do something different. But more recently we’ve seen a lot of projects that are really actually strong investments for bus rapid transit. You know, the Columbus avenue busway in Boston, the Venice BRT in San Francisco, that’s about to open our really high quality bus infrastructure, the sort of very clear dedicated lanes for the buses, very nice stations, clear transit signal priority.
Yonah Freemark (25m 49s):
And when you put those things together, you’re going to get a much higher quality service than you got with old investments in Boston movements. And so I I’m really feeling good about that because I think there’s a lot more willingness on the part of local stakeholders to actually make that change. I can see that in my, in the place where I live in, in Washington, DC, where, you know, they just released a bus plan where they’re actually committing to really dedicating lanes to buses. And obviously there’s going to have to be some pressure to keep up with that and make sure they actually achieve that. But that dedication to bus ways and the fact that they’re building them right now in 16th street is a change. We would not have seen that 15 years ago. And in fact, we didn’t. So I’m excited about that.
Jeff Wood (26m 29s):
You alluded to this, but is it really just because there were no examples out there and now there are, or is it just because we’ve, you know, transit agencies learned a lesson by looking at the schedules and what was actually happening on these rapid bus routes? Well,
Yonah Freemark (26m 41s):
I think it’s a mix of things. I think there were a lot of people 10 years ago who were supporting, for example, trips to south and central America to look at bus, rapid transit systems in creativity and other cities. And in retrospect, I think that some of those trips, perhaps miss understood what would be appealing to local stakeholders. The idea that you could take something in a, in a very large developing country highway and translated onto the streets of a us city, I think was misinformed and unrealistic. I think that we were giving people this impression of what bus rapid transit could be.
Yonah Freemark (27m 23s):
Politicians, even those who were interested, took it home and said, we would never put a Cree Teebo style bus way on our street. We don’t even have a highway in the middle of our city that we can stick it on. That’s not a possibility. So as a result, they said, yeah, we’ll improve bus service. And that meant making the bus shelter slightly better. I think that the continuous pressure from advocates to improve bus service, as well as the acknowledgement that actually bustling do make a difference, has been what the change has happened. And I think, you know, new York’s rollout of its select bus service has not been perfect, but it has demonstrated the ways in which you can do this on a sort of city-wide basis. You can select corridors, get positive results and, you know, see outcomes that people want to see.
Yonah Freemark (28m 8s):
So I think that that has actually been more effective as a model than maybe the south American ones were.
Jeff Wood (28m 14s):
Oh, that’s interesting. All right. Shall we get to some predictions from last
Yonah Freemark (28m 18s):
Jeff Wood (28m 19s):
All right. Well, I want to go back to two years ago and the reason why is because we talked about it last year, but I want to kind of bring it back again. So one of the things you mentioned came up again recently, which is tri rail to Miami. We talked about this on the Monday show a few weeks ago, but basically I’m not sure when it’ll open, but the downtown station won’t fit, try rail trains. So I’m wondering if you saw this, you predicted that this would happen two years ago and it didn’t happen. It was one of our negatives last year, but I also saw that news recently and I thought that was kind of hilarious that it popped up again here. So,
Yonah Freemark (28m 49s):
So frustrating. I did see that and I believe it has something to do with the size of the trains, right? They can’t fit on the platform.
Jeff Wood (28m 56s):
It’s the step downs, it’s the steps and the steps are going to rip into the platform itself. I think. So they’d have to rejigger those or do something along those lines. And it’s like, did you not think about this
Yonah Freemark (29m 7s):
And just remind you, I, I seem to remember this story of when DIA was first introduced in 1999, I believe that the trains which were designed for, you know, doing obviously fast service throughout the route, unfortunately tilted so much when they were accelerating that if they were to go at their higher speeds on some of the parts of the quarter, they would run into the other trains on other tracks. And yeah, and I believe this actually caused a number of slowdowns compared to what they initially expected with those trends. And this is the kind of thing where you ask what is going wrong with B procurement and engineering processes.
Yonah Freemark (29m 50s):
The result in this kind of mistake, I mean, this is, should not be happening. And I can only hope that tri rail is not paying for the use of platforms that can’t use.
Jeff Wood (30m 1s):
Yeah. I hope, hope there’s a solution of some sort, but it’s going to be some sort of an engineering solution where they have to either chop up the steps or they’re going to chop up the platforms. And I don’t think either one is beneficial, but I guess they’ll have to figure it out. You also double down on a prediction that the Honolulu rail line would open in 2021. I don’t believe that’s the case, but that was their
Yonah Freemark (30m 21s):
Triple down and say, why
Jeff Wood (30m 24s):
Not? I mean, yeah, let’s do it.
Yonah Freemark (30m 27s):
That’s the open in 2022. I swear to God, listen, I think that this, I think that the, the Honolulu rail project first phase was originally supposed to open in 2012. If I remember correctly, if that is the case, this project first phase will be 10 years late. So if they can’t do it 10 years late, then you know, I’m just, I’m giving up.
Jeff Wood (30m 49s):
The whole project was supposed to be done in 2020. I think you said four. So yeah, we’ll double down on that. And hopefully it will open this year, at least the section between the stadium and the outskirts. Okay. So you said, I think we might see an election coming up in Charlotte and the reason is they want to build a new east west line that would serve the airport in the west. In the next two years in Charlotte, we will have an election. And I said, I’d take that bet myself. So it’s interesting because news lately has been saying and showing up that they’re arguing over this, whether they’re going to have an election or not. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of those news items, but it seems like locally they’re struggling over whether they’re going to have an election or not at the moment I’m leaning towards no, from the standpoint of just where transit is at the moment from a ridership and kind of resources perspective.
Jeff Wood (31m 38s):
I’m thinking that they’re going to wait a little while, but that could change, I guess, but that’s kind of where I’m at.
Yonah Freemark (31m 44s):
One thing I find interesting about cities like Charlotte is that I’m not sure that their local leaders are aware of the fact that if they do not find local sources of funding to promote their projects, they’re going to really get behind on the, on the federal queue. You know, I think we’re about to see a bunch of projects funded in Austin, RACI more projects funded in Raleigh, in Seattle, in Los Angeles and Atlanta, all these cities that have passed transit referendum and that have the local funding to match the federal dollars. And if other cities like Charlotte are not able to find new funds to support their match, then they’re going to have a really hard time getting that federal funding coming anytime soon.
Yonah Freemark (32m 33s):
So, you know, I, I agree with you. I’m not seeing a rush in Charlotte to passing a new referendum, get that new transit line up and going. And I agree with you that the climate for transit in Charlotte is not necessarily positive, but if they want to see a transit for their future, you know, the more they delay on their local funding, the more they’re going to be delaying on, on getting,
Jeff Wood (32m 56s):
I think that’s true. You know, another interesting thing, I talked with Ian at seamless bay area last week, and he was mentioning that even the bay area, we might go have election in 2024 for a massive, you know, Seattle LA style referendum, where we can build a big amount of projects. And I think that when you have those in the large cities and they’re large projects, I think you kind of suck a lot of the air out of the room as well. So that’s something to think about for some of these smaller places and maybe, you know, go back to our previous discussion about thinking about network design and you know, what you can do with capital money. That might be a better alternative for a place like Charlotte than it is for a larger,
Yonah Freemark (33m 32s):
I mean, I think that is worth considering. And I think you’re right, that more than just, you know, the city that already have funding sources, we’re going to see a lot of big cities getting new funds for transit coming very soon. I think you’re right. San Francisco is going to probably put something on the ballot and I would expect pass funding for a new trans bay tunnel, which is going to eat up a ton of money. New York is going to ask for money for second avenue, subway, and maybe for Triborough or the inner borough express projects. These are huge projects that, you know, are going to take up a lot of that federal dollar. What’s going to be left for the cities that haven’t thought about how they’re going to fund their projects yet.
Jeff Wood (34m 12s):
Not much. It makes me wonder if there should be like, you know, kind of like they’ve done for the gateway project. Maybe there’s a separate pot for these large mega projects that can be pulled out because it seems like they’re just gonna eat up everything. So we’ll see how that goes. So in your next one is when it county will also have another election in 2022.
Yonah Freemark (34m 32s):
I don’t think it’s too late. It’s still possible.
Jeff Wood (34m 35s):
You can still put it on the ballot. Is that you’re saying
Yonah Freemark (34m 37s):
He was so close in 2020. It was like, I think it was like a few thousand votes. And I don’t know. I think, I think that the possibility is there, but yeah, I don’t know. Am I required to,
Jeff Wood (34m 49s):
It was a few thousand votes, but it was also, it was a very, very good election for Georgia Atlanta in that way that I don’t, I hope we see that kind of for people who might
Yonah Freemark (34m 58s):
Be voting for transit,
Jeff Wood (34m 59s):
Right. I hope you see that kind of energy again, but I don’t know if you will. So coming to that short, it reminds me of Austin in 2000, they lost with, you know, less than 2000 votes when George Bush was on the ballot. So, interesting, interesting kind of comparison there.
Yonah Freemark (35m 13s):
So based on that, they should, they’re going to have to wait until 2040 in Gwinette.
Jeff Wood (35m 20s):
I hope not. I wish I do not wish Austin on anybody that type of 20 year waiting period, but you know, who knows what’s going to happen? It’s interesting to think of 2000 is, you know, light rail in, in San Diego in 1981, right? That was the first kind of major light rail project. And then 20 years later you see a vote in, and then 20 years later, Austin actually gets it. So 40 years from the first light rail in the United States, you get light rail in Austin, Texas, and it’s split by that vote in the middle, in the very middle. Well, I
Yonah Freemark (35m 48s):
Mean, you know, progress is slow.
Jeff Wood (35m 52s):
Okay. So number two question last time was, and then we kind of flittered with the first question, but the number two question was because of the pandemic. We were like, well, predictions, Hm. Maybe there won’t be a ton of predictions to be made, but maybe we can talk about this infrastructure bill that they’re talking about at the time. So here’s your quote. I think that my prediction is there’s going to be an infrastructure bill this year, that sort of my general prediction. And I don’t think it’s going to be a significant expansion over the current transportation authorization, which is set to expire, I believe in October. So my prediction is that it will increase transit funding, quite spectacularly for Amtrak funding by even more,
Yonah Freemark (36m 27s):
That’s not bad. Hey, that was pretty pretty on point. Yeah. I think that that is accurate status quo policy, big increase for Amtrak and somewhat increased for transit. That is a hundred percent correct. I guess. I didn’t think it was going to be combined with an energy and water bill, but there, yeah,
Jeff Wood (36m 44s):
Well infrastructure, right. It’s more than just roads and pipes. So there’s other pieces here that are interesting. I think that the way that they’re going to do it is by repealing some of the Trump tax cuts. Huh? I don’t think that’s correct.
Yonah Freemark (36m 58s):
And they did it by not by essentially using debt. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (37m 2s):
Bye bye. More debt, which is, yeah. And then the next one is really interesting. I still think it only be passed if it’s passed by 51 votes with 50 Democrats in the vice-president that was wrong. That was also,
Yonah Freemark (37m 15s):
That was totally wrong. Yeah. I mean, I suppose it is surprising that, well, interestingly it was, you know, it was bipartisan in the Senate, but very few house Republicans I believe voted for it. And that is interesting.
Jeff Wood (37m 27s):
There are more, they got a little cover, I think maybe like 10 to 15, maybe something like that. Does that, does that right? Sounds sounds about right. But yeah, I think there was, I think there was cover that more of them voted for that because they saw that the Senate did and I’m sure they got yelled at by whoever, but whatever. And you made a fantastical prediction as well, which was that Amtrak will spend $1 trillion on high-speed rail.
Yonah Freemark (37m 55s):
Okay. That hasn’t happened. Amtrak is not proposed a single high speed rail project.
Jeff Wood (38m 0s):
Yeah. So you got mostly, you got this. Right. And I I’m very impressed. The positive spin. Yeah. No, I mean, you know how to pay for it is kind of a thing and how it’s going to get past as kind of a thing, but you know, the general gist of it you got right. So I continue to be impressed with your predictions.
Yonah Freemark (38m 18s):
You know, I think th the Amtrak Joe thing, you know, it, it came true. Amtrak is Joe Biden’s favorite public service. And, you know, they’re, they’re benefiting from that
Jeff Wood (38m 27s):
For sure. So on my end though, I got a lot very wrong, so this will be entertaining. I’m sure. So I thought we’d get rid of the 20 split wrong. I thought a major focus of the bill will be fix it first wrong spending money on electrifying fleets. Mail delivery is not gonna be electric anytime soon. So that’s three strikes. It’s kinda rough on me. We did get a bunch of money for chargers, but that’s not necessarily what I’ve meant
Yonah Freemark (38m 54s):
Better than nothing, I guess, I
Jeff Wood (38m 56s):
Guess so. Yeah. I
Yonah Freemark (38m 57s):
Think you should give yourself some credit,
Jeff Wood (38m 58s):
Like a, like a half, a point 10 maybe. And then my fantastical argument, which is so really wrong was that we’re going to stop talking about the gas tax, going to fund everything with the carbon tax. That was my fantastical prediction. We both got one fantastical prediction. Yours was a trillion dollars for high-speed rail. Mine was the carbon tax. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the final. We’ll wait to give our predictions for next year, but I want to hear some of your thoughts on, on the infrastructure that you talked about a little bit earlier, but kind of your kind of big picture thinking, especially since we got the infrastructure bill, but not kind of the conjoined BBB with it.
Yonah Freemark (39m 35s):
Yeah. I think from a trend that’s pronation policy perspective, the law has passed has been just a disappointment because you only get so many possibilities to make a major change in how federal transportation works. And we just lost one in terms of looking for major change. And, you know, nobody’s really going to touch this for at least the next five years and who knows what the world’s going to be like in five years. I do think that one thing that is clear about the confluence of power in the us federal government right now is that especially on environmental policy, I think there has been, I don’t know if it’s an intentional decision or if it’s just the reality of who’s in power, it’s resulted in a acknowledgement that the only way we’re going to really see progress, at least at the national level is through private sector intervention on decarbonization.
Yonah Freemark (40m 30s):
I think that there is there’s some positive moves in the infrastructure bill towards funding projects that would reduce carbon emissions, but frankly, the federal government is not going to be the leader on pushing for less carbon emissions from the transportation sector. It just isn’t. I think we’re seeing more progress from state governments like Colorado in pushing for assessments of the climate change impacts of new infrastructure projects. We’re also seeing more states having open conversations about the devastating impacts of highways on their communities. We’re hearing that in both New York and California, and I think that that dialogue is new and really positive.
Yonah Freemark (41m 16s):
And we’re also seeing open pushback, whether from community groups or from individual politicians, from the idea that we have to expand highways in every case, you know, I think the situation in the rose quarter in Portland, Oregon, the pushback in the Houston area around highway expansion are indicative of a changing mentality at the local and state levels, at least in terms of advocate involvement. And so I am hopeful that those will have to be sort of at the forefront. We can’t think of the federal infrastructure law as the thing that’s going to get us there. We’re going to have to rely on private sector intervention towards electrification and state and local activism promoting change.
Jeff Wood (42m 2s):
Yeah. I, it’s interesting that you mentioned Houston because I think that that is the reason why they can push back is because there’s somebody, a partner at the federal level that is allowing them to make the case. So in one way, if they didn’t have the local push, then it’s unlikely that, you know, secretary budaj would, or whoever’s in charge of, you know, those types of regulations and rules would push back on, on the freeway and make them pause it and redo their environmental impact statement and those types of things. But at the same time, you’re right. I mean, earlier this week we saw where a judge in Louisiana took away the ability to socially cost carbon. And so, you know, there’s a lot of permits for oil and gas drilling. And I ex I imagine that, you know, a lot of the infrastructure that would, you know, use the social cost of carbon, which ranges anywhere from 50 to a hundred dollars, a ton would be used in, in any meaningful way so that, you know, the federal action is something that was used to justify a lot of these climate actions, but there’s getting whittled away by judicial action.
Jeff Wood (43m 1s):
And I think we’ll see that in the Supreme court tune as well with EPA, whether they have the ability to regulate environmental stuff, like, you know, air quality and things like that because of the way that the Federalist society and those assholes think. So I say, that’s my opinion, not yours. I won’t judge that for you, but I, as an independent person, I’m just going to say that. And so, you know, I think that that’s going to be really frustrating for a lot of environmental activists. And I think it’s going to be frustrating for a lot of folks who are working on climate action and seeing a lot of these big projects continue to kind of rumble down the road and not be able to do much about it because of judicial action. So it’s something that we definitely will watch out for, you know, you can’t really, except for appointing judges.
Jeff Wood (43m 43s):
You know, there’s not really much you can do about it given the more rural bent of, you know, federal elections and those types of things. So it might have to be like cities and it might have to be private action and it might have to be really strong local pushback. And, and you know, the crazy thing about Portland, for example, in the rose quarter is that the governor is a Democrat and the transportation commission should know better. And they even, you know, they talked about out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to climate change and carbon emissions, but then, you know, road building is seemingly exempt to a lot of them. So that’s a frustrating thing too
Yonah Freemark (44m 16s):
Well. And I do think there’s been a lack of at least open awareness from especially state level officials about this connection. You know, I think you’re right. A lot of people talk about how we supposedly care about climate change and then go ahead and push highway expansions. And I think there’s sort of an acceptance of whatever the state department of transportation tells them that they’re supposed to do with regards to investments. And that just sort of reigns in terms of the choices they make. And I I’m hopeful that the openness of this dialogue, the debate sometimes protests over these projects is going to change, change that and convince people that we need to be thinking about these projects differently.
Jeff Wood (44m 57s):
It’s interesting. You mentioned, you mentioned state duties. I’m wondering which way do you think it goes? Do you think the power goes from the state deities saying that we need to build roads. This is the way it’s been, and this is what we’re doing and the politicians follow, or do you think the political climate is such that we are getting pushback from our constituents, that we need to build more roads. And so that’s pushing on the state, the OTs that are now a little bit more intelligent and know better and are just not doing what they should.
Yonah Freemark (45m 21s):
This is a great question. This is an enduring mystery to me. And my general point of view is that the state deities are more to blame than individuals asking for improvements. And the reason why I think this is that when you talk to the quote, normal people, people who don’t think about transportation on a daily
Jeff Wood (45m 40s):
Basis, not transportation.
Yonah Freemark (45m 42s):
Yes. They don’t know what it means to make a project to think about, okay, what would it be to develop a new highway? Where would it go? Who would it serve? And so they’re not saying they’re not calling up their governor and saying, I want a highway that does X or Y thing to solve my congestion problems. The people who are coming up with those ideas are coming from the state deities. The reason why governors and states are able to actually respond to citizens by saying, we’re solving your congestion problems by building X and Y road is because the state duties have developed plans for that road. And I’m convinced that if this ADTs work developing lens for the road, you wouldn’t exactly see this like crowd of citizens out there saying we want to build this specific highway.
Yonah Freemark (46m 29s):
So I don’t know. I think I’m, I’m more convinced that we need to attribute blame to state deities. We need to hold them accountable and get more out of them.
Jeff Wood (46m 37s):
That’s interesting because you know, I’ve heard lately from folks at state deities that are like, it’s the politicians that are saying that this is the thing that needs to happen. It’s the politicians that are pushing these projects. And so, and these are more progressive state duties. Obviously we’re not talking about Nebraska, but it’s interesting to think about what side it actually comes from and where the political power comes from, right. Where the power to actually build these projects come from, it was a couple of state duties that were pushing back on Stephanie’s nudge towards fix at first, but it was also a lot of governors, right? It was a lot of governors saying like, Hey, what you can’t tell us what to do with our money. Whereas, you know, a lot of those places, I mean, I’m sure that there’s plenty to fix. I don’t think nudging people to do fix it first is not telling them, you know, or you have to build a bus rapid transit line in the rural area.
Jeff Wood (47m 19s):
It’s more like, you know, I’m sure you have a bridge or two, that’s close to eating it past its useful life. You know, we need to focus on those first.
Yonah Freemark (47m 25s):
Yeah. I mean, maybe one way to think about it is this, you know, in days,
Jeff Wood (47m 31s):
Are you seeing
Yonah Freemark (47m 34s):
How many dozens of transit projects that are sort of put out there for study and then are sort of either killed or just sort of die on the vine when somebody makes the decision that quote, this is infeasible, or we don’t have enough money for this. So we’re just not going to do it. Right. That’s happened to so many projects that you can think of out there that is a choice made by departments of transportation. They don’t have to be making the choice to deny transit projects, the ability to move forward and vice versa. Why don’t we heal here? State DOD is saying, it’s just technically infeasible. We don’t have the financial capacity to build this new highway project to the governor. That’s what they should be saying. They should be telling the governor, we can’t do it because it’s going to force, you know, a thousand people to have to leave their homes.
Yonah Freemark (48m 19s):
It’s going to degrade the environment and it’s a terrible disaster. You know, that’s what we should be hearing from the state. DOD is telling their governors, but we’re not.
Jeff Wood (48m 28s):
And I think as schools and education changes too, and, and you know, there’s a fight over the MTCT versus an Acto guides and whatever else. I think you’ll start to see a shift maybe as people kind of move into those positions of power where they can make that comment to the governor or whoever else. So I’m hopeful. I, I just think it’s, it’s interesting to think about where that actually is right now in this moment. Okay. Predictions for next year. Do you have any, do you want me to start? I can, I can start. So, you know, at the moment, I’m not sure really what’s going to happen. And I don’t know if there’s going to be section, you know, BBB is dead, right? It’s mentioned killed it, Sinema killed it, but I think there will be parts of it that kind of slipped forward in some form or fashion in the next six months or so before the next election. But I don’t think that, you know, DeFazio’s transit service access program that he had kind of slipped in there is going to actually be there.
Jeff Wood (49m 14s):
So that’s one of my predictions is just kind of like, we’re going to sit in this kind of LA LA land of thinking about the build back better pieces, but we probably won’t get another crack at the transportation part of that. That was part of that bill.
Yonah Freemark (49m 26s):
I agree with you. I think that we do not have the constituency to reopen transportation as an issue at the federal level. I think mansion clearly is not interested in passing an ambitious bill. I think that there are some other elements of BBB that have more potential that were not included in infrastructure law, like housing. Hopefully we’ll maybe see some more positive action at the federal level. Maybe some more work related to the environment, but transportation. I don’t know. I’m not, I’m skeptical of federal change on that front.
Jeff Wood (50m 6s):
Yeah. I think they shot their shot and decided that was enough. The certain people, obviously, not everybody, but certain people that can decide at the moment because of our system. I do have a silly prediction that you might laugh at. But I do think that the central subway and Venice will open this year.
Yonah Freemark (50m 24s):
I, you know, I recently saw some pictures of construction on the central subway and I got to say, I, it did not look ready, but maybe, maybe I’m missing something.
Jeff Wood (50m 33s):
Know, I think they said that it was going to be 23. And so, you know, I’m just being optimistic, but you know, maybe they’ll get it. Maybe they’ll get it ready a little early, you know, maybe throw it out there. Maybe a van ness and central subway. Maybe it’ll be a dual party. Get some confetti.
Yonah Freemark (50m 47s):
Yeah, it sounds don’t they, I mean, they run into each other. Right. Am I making this?
Jeff Wood (50m 51s):
No, they don’t. They they’re they’re parallel. They’re parallel. They’re parallel. Yeah. Which is another thing that is weird because it should have been a Geary subway, but that’s another, another argument for another day. Yeah. So that’s my prediction for that. And then also, I, I think I predicted earlier that Charlotte won’t have a, an electric transit expansion. So those are my three that I put together.
Yonah Freemark (51m 12s):
Yeah. All right. My predictions are number one. I think that other cities are going to imitate Michelle who’s piloting free transit service. So, you know, as you probably know, you know, Michelle Wu has been a big proponent of free transit and managed to sort of finagle the MBTA into providing free transit on three bus routes, including on the Columbus avenue bus way. I think. And I think that other cities are going to be inspired by that. You know, there’s a lot of debate out there about whether free transit is a good idea or a bad idea, but there are a lot of examples where free transit does seem to be effective.
Yonah Freemark (51m 52s):
You know, if you look at the example of Richmond, Virginia, the free transit fair has been pretty strongly associated with pretty strong ridership in that community. And I think free transit has a lot of potential in a lot of smaller mid-sized cities. So I bet you, we’re going to see five other cities piloting free translation.
Jeff Wood (52m 11s):
I have other cities. Okay. Well, it’s interesting, you know, Utah is actually doing that free transit month of February because of air quality issues that they always have because of the inversion effects during the winter. And it’s just a, kind of an air quality hell hole because of the pressures, keeping all the pollution inside of the valley, they’ve gotten 20% increase in ridership, just in the first parts of doing that free transit pilot. So I agree with you. I think you’ll see a lot more, it’s interesting to hear the arguments. I mean, I’ve gone on the record on the show being like, I’m not quite sure about it mostly in major cities, I think smaller cities you’re right. I think it’s, it’s probably a good deal, but in major, major cities, you’re just cutting so much of the budget out that could be used for better service. So if you’re cutting 200 to $500 million out to make it free, what does that mean for, you know, this is a, it’s also a priority thing.
Jeff Wood (52m 60s):
Like would you rather spend that 200, $300 million on freeways or would you just kind of pull that over and keep your budget the same? Like that’s kind of the, the fight that you need to have, but as we had the discussion about state duties earlier, I don’t know if you’ll actually see that transfer over. So that’s the thing I’m worried about is, is that, but there is something to be said about it and Michelle just hired Tiffany Chu, who is at remix. So that’s a positive move as her chief of staff. And she’ll be focused on that too. And I know that she obviously knows all about the ins and outs of transportation policy related to that. So I think that she’s built a good team and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.
Yonah Freemark (53m 35s):
Yeah. I mean, I’m also interested in seeing sort of variations on this theme, you know, just recently a council member in Washington, DC proposed giving every district resident a $100 sort of voucher to be used on their transit pass every month. So everyone would get a hundred dollars every month to use Walmart as Metro rail and Metro bus system. And it’s not exactly the same as free transit because you’re not getting the fair exactly paid for, but you are getting this large amount of money to cover fairs. And I think this is a potential other way of thinking about free transit fairs. Maybe it should come by just giving people money that they can then use on transit in that way.
Yonah Freemark (54m 17s):
And I, you know, I think we have sort of internalize the view for example, that homeowners can claim tax credits for paying their mortgages. And in some places like Massachusetts and Washington DC, you can claim a credit for your rental costs when you rent your home. And I think that’s great. I think it helps people pay for their costs, but maybe these governments should also be thinking about transportation as something that actually everyone deserves some access to and some assistance for. And so maybe that can be part of the free fair equation.
Jeff Wood (54m 49s):
Yeah. Some sort of a tax credit, something along those lines, you know, it’s interesting. We posted a plenary from revolution and Peter Rugoff was on and he kind of pushed back on free transit because a lot of employers in the Seattle area pay big bucks for passes for their whole workforce. And I thought that was interesting too, just from a where you get your money standpoint, because they obviously make a lot of money off the Amazons of the world because of that. But you know, if we structured our tax system correctly, I think that you, you wouldn’t have to have that argument about, you know, whether you’re actually going to give that, you know, it’s, his argument is like you’re benefiting them by making them pay less for transportation. Whereas, you know, in my mind you should just be taxing them appropriately anyways, and pull as much out of them as you can.
Jeff Wood (55m 33s):
There’s a fight here in San Francisco about delivery services and, you know, using the zoning code to kind of clamp down on Amazon and the last mile delivery centers. And it’s interesting to see how much of that is like a proxy war for all these other things like transportation, because of all the cars, the vehicles that are becoming out of that area, it’s a proxy war for wage arguments, whether people should be paid more than minimum wage or more than, you know, the prevailing wage in a, in a certain area, but they’re using zoning as the target because that’s what they have control over. So, you know, we could have it congestion pricing, or we can have actual wages or we can have the zoning that picks apart this thing. And so if this proxy war that land use is being used as, which is really fascinating as well, which kind of goes back to that rogue off thing is like, there’s all other ways to do this, but you’re using this way to do it instead.
Jeff Wood (56m 19s):
Fascinating. Should I give another prediction? Yeah. You got one, you got one more unless you have more,
Yonah Freemark (56m 23s):
But I have, so I have a multi-part New York region prediction.
Jeff Wood (56m 29s):
I’d like to hear that.
Yonah Freemark (56m 30s):
So the prediction is about four separate things.
Jeff Wood (56m 36s):
Are they interconnected there? Yeah.
Yonah Freemark (56m 37s):
They’re all related to local projects and the federal government. So I think number one, I think that the gateway projects will receive in 2022 or before our next show a commitment from the federal government for one of its mega infrastructure grants. So these are some of the new large infrastructure project funds coming from the infrastructure law. And I think that the gateway project we’ll get that this year to be able to fund that project. Number one, number two, I think that the second phase, the second avenue subway going up to 120 fifth street will get its new starts grant agreement. I think it’s going to happen.
Yonah Freemark (57m 17s):
Number three, I think that the inner borough express project, which is connecting Brooklyn and Queens,
Jeff Wood (57m 25s):
The one that the governor
Yonah Freemark (57m 26s):
Governor hotel just announced, I think it’s going to be serious. And I think that they’re going to move forward into the federal process. They’re going to put it into the federal planning process by the end of the year. And number four, I think that the LaGuardia air train is going to be definitively canceled and replaced with a new subway extension plan to the airport. Thomas story. I think that the governor is going to do that. So number four is the most dangerous because I don’t know if anybody’s serious about this subway extension, but I’m just going to throw it out there. I think it’s going to be announced by the end of the year.
Jeff Wood (58m 4s):
It’s a sports parlay where you have to get them all right to win, or is this an individual? Cause you know, you know how a parlay works, right? Basically you, you bet on four different games and they all have to go right for you to win. But it’s a bigger,
Yonah Freemark (58m 15s):
It’s a bit, it’s going to be a big one. Yeah. Because I’m going to win all of them.
Jeff Wood (58m 19s):
Okay. All right. I’ll hold you to that. Hold you to that. I like those. Those are good. You know, it’s interesting. Whatever happened to the Blasio’s street car line is that just kind of slowly disappear.
Yonah Freemark (58m 30s):
You know, it’s still in my database because no one has officially killed it, but I think it’s dead.
Jeff Wood (58m 34s):
It seems dead. Yeah. I w I didn’t want to add that onto your thing, but I’m wondering if some of that energy is going to go towards the inner bureau expressive.
Yonah Freemark (58m 41s):
Oh, I absolutely think so. Especially since the skepticism of the BQX I believe is the official term for the street car was all about it being a giveaway to developers about, you know, just reinforcing gentrifying areas. Whereas the justification for the inner borough expresses is very different. It’s about frankly, connecting a lot of working-class communities, helping people get between subway lines, sort of on the far end of the system. It’s a very different vision for what the role of transit is supposed to be. And there’s been much less active criticism and much more positive feelings about that project. So I’m optimistic about it
Jeff Wood (59m 20s):
Now there’s also the BQ E discussion, which is the Brooklyn Queens expressway. And whether that should be torn down or tunneled or whatever it is that the discussion of the day is about it. Have you seen anything about that? I haven’t seen anything about that lately.
Yonah Freemark (59m 32s):
I’ve not seen an announcement from the mayor’s office, you know, I think for better or worse, it is a highway that is very well used by a lot of drivers. And I am very skeptical of a mayor being willing to tear that kind of facility down. So I’m more on the side of believing that he’ll likely announce a reconstruction and tearing it down. Okay.
Jeff Wood (59m 56s):
All right. But they have to do something with it, right? Yeah.
Yonah Freemark (59m 58s):
Yeah. I think the viaduct is in bad shape. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (1h 0m 1s):
Hello roads and bridges, roads and bridges. All right. Well, you want to, where can folks find you online if they want to find any of your work?
Yonah Freemark (1h 0m 10s):
I’m doing most of my work at the urban Institute. So urban.org, but you can also see some of my other [email protected]
Jeff Wood (1h 0m 19s):
And you can follow you on Twitter at Y free mark. Is that correct? Awesome. Although maybe you don’t want people to follow you and
Yonah Freemark (1h 0m 25s):
I always want more forward, so I want to be an influencer. Oh,
Jeff Wood (1h 0m 30s):
Okay. I thought you already were an influencer. That’s why, that’s what I thought, but maybe not. Who knows what people want to do these days. It’s crazy world out there. Well know, thanks so much as always for joining us 10 years or actually 10 episodes. I shouldn’t say 10 years. Cause I think we started in 2013 or so 2014. So it’s been 4, 6, 7, 8 years, eight years of podcasting. So we appreciate you coming on each time. That’s great.
Yonah Freemark (1h 0m 52s):
Jeff Wood (1h 0m 59s):
And thanks for joining us. The Talking Headways podcast is a project of the Overhead Wire and posted first at Streetsblog USA. Thanks to our wonderful patron supporters for sponsoring this show. And Mondays at The Overhead Wire, you can Support the show by going to patrion.com/ The Overhead Wire. You can sign up for our 15 year old newsletter at The Overhead Wire dot com. And you can listen to the show on your pod, catcher of choice, including Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud, iHeart, radio, and apple podcasts. And if you can’t find it there, you can always find it. Its original home. Hey, USA dot Streetsblog dot org. We’ll see you next time at Talking Headways.