March 15, 2011
Ride the Rails! FROM DOUG CAMPBELL Everyone should have a high-speed-rail map of the United States in front of them and ask, What happened to American greatness (“The Incrementalists,” by Karrie Jacobs, January 2011, p. 42)? Here, you can either drive across the country (not sustainable, affordable, or time efficient) or fly to a particular […]
Ride the Rails!
FROM DOUG CAMPBELL
Everyone should have a high-speed-rail map of the United States in front of them and ask, What happened to American greatness (“The Incrementalists,” by Karrie Jacobs, January 2011, p. 42)? Here, you can either drive across the country (not sustainable, affordable, or time efficient) or fly to a particular destination— no middle ground. In other countries, rail makes it convenient to stop at various cities and towns along the way. One can participate in many events and cultures and contribute to their economies. We’re missing out on all that.
FROM KLAUS PHILIPSEN
Passenger rail used to work in this country. It works across the world and is clearly much less elitist than air travel. Considering external costs and environmental burdens, rail travel is an economical solution to moving both freight and people. It is only due to our lack of investment in this mode that the cost of doing it now is so staggeringly high. It will be even higher tomorrow. Meanwhile, we will fall further behind in our competitiveness. The difference between spending and investing is that investment will have a return in the future. Infrastructure has a return.
Austin’s Brand of Populism
FROM STEVEN A. MOORE, Bartlett Cocke Regents Professor of Architecture and Planning, the University of Texas at Austin
Karrie Jacobs makes some thoughtful obser-vations about the lack of “architectural and civic beauty” in Austin, which she recently visited (“Austin, Now What?” December 2010, p. 34). She also makes the common error of confusing democracy with populism. Democracy requires not only freedom of expression, both verbal and visual; it also requires discipline and knowledge. By contrast, populism of the right (Sarah Palin) or left (Jim Hightower), embraces the “native scrappiness” and “aversion to authority” Jacobs correctly found while in town. By mistaking Austin’s unique form of populism for genuine democracy, Jacobs is forced to conclude that “to implement a vision … may not be a democratic, small d, undertaking.” Through such faulty reasoning, she tragically associates “beauty,” once again, with the concentration of power generally valued by demagogues in search of Cultural, big C, excellence at any price. Austin’s politics would surely benefit from making decisive planning choices—as Jacobs urges—but she would surely benefit from spending a bit more time here so as to appreciate the difference between democracy, populist “messiness,” and “civic beauty” by domination.
On page 61 of our January 2011 issue, we misidentified Zachary R. Heineman as the founder of Lab-RAD. It was, in fact, started by the OMA grad Wayne Congar and his partner, Arielle Assouline-Lichten.