Watch Me Go Back to the Land Before Time

Have you ever watched something archived from the past and thought to yourself, “man, I can’t believe people thought that way back then.  That was a looooong time ago.”  Well, this piece of agitprop video provided by Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation was made only five years ago.  And if the name of that group doesn’t transport you back to 1984, now you’re thinking, “I had no idea dinosaurs roamed the earth that recently!”

Watch the video here.  Then scroll down for my running commentary:

0:27 – The video opens with an unintentionally ironic parallel clip from the 1950’s where the narrator talks about how great the new highway system is, how great the family’s new suburban home is, and how pleasant the dad’s commute is.  Blissfully ignoring the consequences of what was happening and what we’re dealing with today.  It’s clear the TSRT is harkening back to the 1950s as some grand time.  Beware anybody that yearns for the past.

The narrator of the new video then chimes in to remind us that he is indeed not from the paleolithic era and is here to present the solutions to all the problems their golden age of the 1950s created.

“Explosive Growth” was the by-product of the highways, apparently.  Well, let’s think about that for a second.  Sure, it created outward expansion.  But growing outward while cannibalizing from the core isn’t growth.  Furthermore, yes, population did grow.  But was it because of highways?  Was Dallas NOT growing before the highways?  Do cities not grow unless they have not just highways, but ever bigger highways?

No, of course not.  That’s all horse shit by a lobby group.  Frankly, it’s a shame government officials even appear in this.  But, that’s the gordian knot of the highway industrial complex.

If we look into census data…yep, it appears Dallas was indeed growing before the 1950’s.  Since there wasn’t a Dallas-Fort Worth Megalopolis yet (ie pre-sprawl), from 1920 to 1950 Dallas plus Fort Worth’s populations grew by 269%.  From 1980 to 2010, the DFW area grew by 213%.

Compared to nationwide population growth the region grew by 1.56x the national rate of population growth, but 1.89x the national rate of growth from 1920 to 1950.

DFW’s growth is due to a broader population shift south and west towards nicer climates and particularly this area because of its central location in the south.  The South needs a Zipfian ‘capital’ to emerge and that will be Dallas.


0:34 – We get a series of highway glamour shots.  SEE, AREN’T THEY AWESOME.  LOOKIT HOW WELL THEY WORK. But, then we’re told they’re failing.  Huh, wonder why.  The answer according to this group (that wants money) is money!  The wealth transfer from government coffers is drying up, so in order to keep the trough full for the pigs, we need access to tolls via public-private partnerships in order to add capacity.

1:01 – Highways moving fast again.  Aren’t they grand?

1:16 – State Highway 130!  It’s innovative, see!  I wonder how that’s working out.

1:36 – “The face of our community is going to change dramatically with the reduction of congestion.”  Is this the only measure of quality of life that government officials care about?

1:47 – A citizen is cornered at a gas station.  He says he has to leave an hour and a half early because congestion is terrible.  AN HOUR AND A HALF.  And the solution is more driving?  According to the highway lobby, yes.  Yes it is.

1:50 – Now we get video of highways not moving.  They don’t work when we need them to not work in order to make our point!  In actuality, they become congested due to their limited access nature, which attracts traffic, reduces route options by severing the grid, instilling car-dependence by unlocking sprawl, and most importantly they fail at peak periods because they can’t scale with demand.

2:08 – “Our survivability…” We will all die if we don’t expand highways.

2:14 – “Customer.” You, citizen and taxpayer are no longer a human.  You are a customer.

2:18 – “North Texas gets the most projects off the ground.”  If we’re building the most, why perchance are all of our roads outdated?  Oh, right we’re adding new capacity at the expense of maintaining existing capacity.  Well spun.

2:43 – “Consensus.”  Where is the public at in this consensus building?

3:19 – Have you ever seen so many gray haired white people in one place?

4:10 – Our first look at the Reason Foundation.  This is like lifting the hood to get a look at the engine of the Koch Bros lobbying machine.

4:17 – If the private sector can collect toll revenue, “public dollars expand considerably” allowing us to finance new capacity.  Of course, as we know now tolls depress demand, which is why they’re terrible financing mechanisms, unless you manufacture demand through car- and route-dependence, which is scary.  Neither of these is a positive outcome.

4:41 – $10 billion in projects will “give drivers new choices.”  Of course, they don’t give you a choice as to whether or not you WANT to drive to all of your destinations.  The freedom afforded by Stockholm Syndrome.

5:21 – “People can choose to pay tolls rather than sit in congestion.” Wait a minute.  So the non-tolled lanes are still congested?  I though you were going to solve congestion.

6:10 – Remember when I said that highways can’t scale with demand.  Dynamic tolling is the solution.  It scales demand in order to reduce demand so that you can still drive fast for 1 segment of your trip.  That’s $4 billion dollars to push cars back up onto congested roads, which then causes ripple effects at all of the surround choke points WHILE reducing necessary revenue to pay off the road.  Compare this to transit, which is revenue generating.  When demand rises, you can cheaply add another car to the tracks, reduce headways, improve service WHILE generating more revenue.

7:06 – The innovative public-private partnership of SH130 lured Caterpillar plant to Seguin, Texas.  That and $10 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund.  This is one half of the silly economic development argument that gets made.  Caterpillar or any other new development was going to happen anyway.  The highways just gave a new, cheap piece of land to put it on.  That’s not economic development, but rearranging deck chairs and spending billions to do it.  Polish that brass on the Titanic, fellas.

7:40 – Woah, woah, woah.  “For every $1 billion we spend on highways equals 30,000 jobs.”  If we unpack the math on that, that’s $33 grand we’re spending per job.  Why not just hand 30,000 people $33,000 each?  This is the nonsensical economic development these dinosaurs spew.  MATHINESS!

7:53 – North Texas will see more prosperity.  By having to own, operate, and maintain cars AND then pay more to do so in tolls?  Highways are wealth transfer upwards.  There’s a reason it’s got a huge and powerful lobbying arm.  It’s not because you, Joe Sixpack, is getting wealthy.

8:16 – “Brings property taxes.”  Just less than what is needed to maintain the infrastructure that created it.  More bad math.

8:43 – “All of the risk is on the private sector partners.”  Except that private sector partner is a shell corporation that vanishes the moment it goes bankrupt.  And THEN the public sector is at risk.

9:49 – “Communities like Dallas-Fort Worth and those along SH130 can look back AND KNOW that public-private partnerships helped propel economic growth.”  I wonder if those communities along SH130 KNOW IT yet.

Dinosaurs may fascinate us, but if Jurassic Park didn’t show us how scary they are, this video should do it.





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