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Wing of the Butterfly

Out of Nowhere, Senate President Sweeney Proposal Seems to Have Prompted a Debate on Transportation Planning

Have We Inspired A New Bob Moses?

Butterfly effect: In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. (Wiki)

[Update: 1/18/15Bergen Record writes another transportation planning story – even mentions RPA!:

The WTC “Freedom Tower” that Christie/Cuomo Report seeks to divest from PA cost over $4 billion. Penn South would provide far greater benefits, so why i it “pricey”?

Yesterday, Senate President Sweeney made news by calling for a transportation planning initiative.

Today, a followup news story in the Bergen Record – quoting the Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman, Americans for Prosperity, and the Sierra Club – stokes a false choice between planning and the gas tax TTF financing issue.

What the hell is going on?

Seemingly out nowhere, we seem to be on the verge of having a debate about transportation planning.

Yes, out of nowhere, unless, that is, I simply missed 1) the Blue Ribbon panel that called for transportation planning, or 2) the Reports and press conferences by the Regional Plan Association and Tri-State Transportation Campaign calling for transportation planning; or 3) the investigative news stories and editorials demanding better transportation planning.

Thus far, the entire debate on transportation has been consumed by focus on just 3 issues: 1) the Bridge-gate scandal; 2) refinancing the Transportation Trust Fund/gas tax; and 3) Port Authority reform legislation and Governor’s Christie & Cuomo’s Port Authority Reform Report.

Could the Wing of the Butterfly have prompted this furor over planning? Almost 2 weeks ago, we wrote:

“The [Christie/Cuomo] Report – I hesitate to call it a Plan – is devoid of any regional or transportation vision other than financial and political.

At least our notorious Powerbroker and master builder Bob Moses used finance, institutional power, and economic interests to drive a larger vision of the region.

The modern day Moses’ regional vision is driven by the economic development oriented private Regional Plan Association – they just released the Fourth Regional PlanThe mainstream regional transportation advocates, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign have a more sensible vision. 

Other visionaries and planners ask questions like: could we bring back trolleys, streetcar suburbs, and inter-city light rail, fueled by renewable wind and solar power, and all of that driving a regional manufacturing renaissance and thousands of new sustainable jobs in decentralized worker owned co-operatives?

But our modern day political opportunists in the Governor’s Offices of New York and New Jersey could summon no vision – or even echo an historical vision or parrot the main stream vision.

The Report also ignores climate change, energy, or any environmental vision, values, policy, or objectives – trip reduction, reduction in VMT, telecommute, shift from airports and roads to rail and public transit, planning for a low carbon future, climate adaptation – all ignored.

That is a stunning failure of leadership and imagination.

This post came with this sub-header: (Almost Makes Us Nostalgic: Where Have You Gone Bob Moses?)

One thing I do know:

Had a NJ newspaper covered the issue and editorialized calling for better transportation planning, and had they been the only one doing so at the time, and had the Senate President – out of nowhere – 9 days later suddenly announced a transportation planning initiative, then I know damn well that that newspaper would have taken credit for that initiative.

Wing of the Butterfly?

[End note: I began my professional career as a transportation planner at the regional MPO in Binghamton NY.]

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