If you've followed the obscure musings of the Stagemanager at the Art Pope Puppetshow lately, you've noticed that he's rapidly losing whatever little touch with reality he once had. Fancying himself an armchair intellectual in the vein of his hero John Locke, Hood has taken to flights of fantasy that must surely stretch the mental capacity of his regular readers.
Call me unashamed to admit that when I see someone make effective use of a Judy Garland song title, I crack a smile. One might say my heartstrings go “zing, zing, zing.” But when I read the original headline of a Christian Science Monitor piece on streetcars and downtowns – “Clang, clang, clang went development” – I had to wince. Apparently so did others, because when the story went online, the tone of the headline went from sentimental musical to Tennessee Williams: “Desire grows for streetcars.”
Given that the current subject of his dilettantish whimsy is streetcars, you can imagine that he turns his gay attention quickly to the evils of transit and planning. Hardly skipping a beat in his churlish prose, he dives like the devil into his same old song:
At least these streetcar boosters aren’t alleging that their toys are making a discernible impact on transportation patterns. Still, their economic-development claims are risible. A correlation is not evidence of causality. Downtown properties get bought and redeveloped all the time. To separate out the incentive effects of a streetcar line from the background churn would require far more diligence that any of these city governments and activists have yet exhibited.
True to his "don't bother me with the facts" self, Mr. Hood seems incapable of seeing with one eye what the other eye is blind to. Transportation planners care not a whit about economic development when it comes to transit. The simply engage in the game because the right wing noise machine has so successfully ridiculed the very practice of thoughtful planning itself.
What Hood fails to realize is that counting passengers on trolleys today is a fool's errand well suited to his tastes. It is not the 100 or 1000 riders on any bus or train today that are important, but rather it is the long-term value of alternatives to current traffic patterns that must command our attention. Every aspect of transit planning - zoning, land acquisition, rights-of-ways and more - become more and more expensive and tenuous the longer we wait. Indeed, in some cases it becomes impossible. Puppet Kieran Shanahan and his property rights wackos continue digging in their heels in hopes of gaining leverage to stop any future government agencies from acquiring land for the common good.
More to the point, though, Hood's whining about economic development voodoo numbers is typical of the red-herring sock-puppetry we've come to expect from the Stagemanager on a regular basis. Writing about defenders of strategic transit planning, Hood says:
They allege that apartment buildings and storefronts next to rail-transit stops represent entirely new, and newly taxable, property value rather than simply development redistributed from one part of the community to another.
They stretch things. They prevaricate. They fantasize. I’d make some reference to a fanciful land somewhere over the rainbow, but that feels excessive.
You know what feels excessive? The amount of happy horseshit flowing from John Hood's puckish brain.