Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘poverty’ Category

How to fix Translink’s broken governance

with 12 comments

The need for this article, right now, is almost purely academic. The ruling BC Liberals seem immune to widespread obloquy over not one but a series of scandals any one of which might have brought other kinds of government down. Yes Translink is a problem for those of us living in the region  – and that is, numerically at least, the majority of the BC population. But that is not the way politics works here, and Christy Clark seems able to serve out the rest of her term. And anyway there are plenty of other issues where she is at odds with most of the people who live here, but can survive at least until the next election.

The reason I decided to start writing was a piece in BC Business entitled  “How TransLink might fix its broken business model” which is nearly a month old now but its author, Frances Bula chose to tweet it again to-day, which caught my  attention. Basically the article looks at the turn around in Atlanta, and speculates about a similar approach here.

My comment is under the article, and this post is designed to enlarge upon it. Quoting myself

The problem in Vancouver is not management. It is governance. The present model is unaccountable and unrepresentative. It was imposed by a provincial government that has clearly demonstrated that it has absolutely no interest in seeing it work.

The province has always had a policy that transit is different to other types of public service, and needs a unique approach. It interferes continually but, at the same time, refuses to fund transit properly while spending far too much on road expansion. A referendum is required for any new funding mechanism, but is never required for any highway project – or indeed any other type of provincial spending/funding decisions.

And Jordan Bateman will always be only too happy to torpedo any proposals that might actually work to improve the situation as that would rob this one trick pony of his audience.

A new CEO is not going to be able to change the governance. Only the province has the ability to do that. This government never admits to any of its mistakes. Only a change in Victoria as complete as the one just seen in Ottawa is going to make any difference.

So one day there will be a different provincial government that decides that it is time to reform Translink. Here is what they will need to think about:

The current arrangement has been cobbled together to suit the BC Liberals of the day. It makes no sense now to continue with it, and the easiest point to start might be to unpick what they did by simply repealing their legislation, and go back to the former GVTA. Except that was not exactly popular either, and for very good reason. In its first iteration it was a new body run by some but, not all, of the Mayors with some acknowledgement of the varying sizes of the municipalities. This method of indirect representation is similar to that of Metro Vancouver, responsible for waste disposal and water delivery, regional parks and planning, but there all the Mayors get a seat at the table but with weighted votes.

Translink was supposed to have been a transportation agency – with responsibility for some bridges and the Major Road Network (MRN), but this was really only provincial downloading of responsibilities that would have happened anyway. One of the worst decisions, in terms of its financial impact on Translink, was to replace the Albion Ferry with the tolled Golden Ears Bridge, which has created a huge drain on the agency’s revenues as traffic has never come up to expectations, and revenue risk was not transferred to the P3 – which pretty much vitiates the reason for using that method of funding. Apart from that the MRN seems to have worked well except for one long running argument over a bridge between New Westminster and Coquitlam. On the other hand the ill conceived North Fraser Perimeter Road was soundly defeated and has yet to re-emerge. Though it almost certainly will if the Ministry engineers get their way – as they usually do in the Long Run.

I have long argued that indirect elections are a recipe for discontent. Mayors are not elected on regional issues, and tend to adopt a stance that is defensive of their turf before any regional consideration. But no matter how much you might dislike what your Mayor says over regional issues, they are not the deciding factor come election day. We need representative and responsible government and you do not get that by holding infrequent, contentious non binding plebiscites.

The governing body has to be an advocate of better transit, because this region has historically been underserved for most of its existence, and is the only feasible way for a region of this size to function effectively. Transit is not only vital to the economy, it is also essential to tackle our most pressing environmental and social issues – and those include affordable housing. Where you chose to live determines how much you travel and the concept of affordability has to include costs of housing AND transportation if it is to be meaningful.

And while the province will never make any concessions over the needs of longer distance travel and transport, nor will the federal government in terms of ports and airports. Both levels of government have effectively abandoned their responsibilities with respect to housing but that is not sustainable and will inevitably have to change. And while technological changes may well have some dramatic impacts on how we use the transportation system they are unlikely to reduce demand for movement of people and goods overall.

It is also obvious that you should not plan just for transport as though it was not intimately enmeshed with land use. Sadly, we continue to behave as though the two subjects were unrelated – even if we give the idea of integration at least lip service if not substantive commitment. By and large, when new transit lines are planned it would be much better to get them up and running before the people arrive, if you do not want them to get used to driving everywhere first, which is what has been happening.

So, given that Metro Vancouver seems to work acceptably, why would you not just put Translink under its command? I think that is a temptingly straightforward solution but not one that satisfies the need to improve accountability. Much better I think to reform both at the same time and hold direct elections for regional government – with a Mayor for Metro. This is the solution that was adopted in London. Mrs Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council, but then balked at privatising and deregulating London Transport. It was the proverbial dog’s breakfast and did not last for long after she was deposed. The Greater London Authority and its directly elected Mayor now runs Transport for London – and some related issues that have been downloaded including taxis (which used to be run by the Home Office). Much of the transit service is contracted out, but there is a single integrated fare system, and some of the local train services have been transferred from the national rail system to the Overground.

The huge issue that I have not so far dealt with is the need for much more investment in transit as well as increasing need for revenue support – if only because the use of gas tax revenues has been a victim of the system’s very success at getting people out of their cars. Property tax is not going to be accepted, and the province needs to become much more responsive to the needs of people to get around without a car. This applies as much outside Vancouver as within it. It is absolutely baffling why the province refuses to set up a transit service along Highway 16 (“The Highway of Tears“) between Prince George, Terrace and Prince Rupert. That has to be part of the solution to terrible loss of life due to aboriginal women being forced to hitchhike as the only way to get to essential services. Victoria’s need for rail based transit could not be more obvious, nor so long obviously ignored. Restoring trains on the E&N is only a start.

So yes there is going to have to be more provincial money for transit, and the roads budget is the place to start. We simply cannot afford more freeways and gigantic bridges. We also need to raise money fairly and equitably. Income tax and corporation tax are the obvious places to start, and the odious fees and charges levied without reference to ability to pay have to be abolished. So much less reliance on BC Hydro, ICBC as revenue sources, no more MSP and a thoroughgoing reform of BC Ferries to make it once again a public service and not a pretend corporation. The wealthy can readily afford to pay more tax. There has to be an end to all the corporate welfare, especially subsidies and outright give-aways of natural resources. There will still need to be fossil fuels, but levying reasonable royalties (cf Norway) has to be central to public finance. Carbon tax has worked, to some extent, but the “revenue neutral” mantra has to be abandoned.  We have to switch away to renewable energy sources at a much faster rate, and a lot of carbon is going to have to stay in the ground. At the same time, we have to recognize that far too many people are currently living a hand to mouth existence, and cannot absorb more levies fees and tax increases. We have to be more socially responsible, but this also will often mean better ways of doing things. It is cheaper to house people than it is to cope with the costs of homelessness. The war on drugs is unwinnable, but recreational substance use can be a useful source of revenue – and self medication.

The idea that we can reform Translink by tinkering with its PR and “business model” (whatever that means) is delusional. And like any interdependent ecosystem, we cannot just pull on one or two strings and expect the web to stay intact.  But we can also readily identify where the current policies have not worked and cannot be made to work better just by getting tougher. Most of the knee jerk right wing responses are ill informed and unsupported by any credible data. Better policies are in place elsewhere and we can find better examples than the one we have been so blindly following. And none of this is a stand alone issue. It is long past time for some joined up thinking.

AFTERWORD

From the Globe and Mail Friday November 20

One change Mr. Fassbender said he’s not going to consider at all is another reorganization of how TransLink is governed. When the agency was first created, 12 mayors sat on a board that directed TransLink. The province changed that in 2007 to have the board composed of non-political appointees.

Mr. Fassbender emphasized that everyone needs to stay focused on what’s really important, not squabbles over how much TransLink’s CEO is paid or what the governance of TransLink looks like. “It’s important that we keep our eye on the goal – an integrated, working transportation system.”

 

Written by Stephen Rees

November 18, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Andrew Coyne at SFU

with 5 comments

There is already a post on this blog announcing the talk this evening and with my initial reactions. I have have attached my notes below. I have also assembled a storify from the tweets that used the #movingthefuture hashtag

The evening was remarkably short, ending at 20:15. Usually these things go on until 21:00. Was Translink paying him by the minute? I also have the strong suspicion that he was reading a prepared talk, so it seems quite possible that a transcript may appear sooner than the SFU video which is promised “within weeks”. I would have thought a talk like this, which used no visual presentation materials at all could have been distributed as a podcast much faster.

My reaction then is what I am going to write first. He opened by disclaiming expertise – in this field or any other. Experts, he said, know very much more about much less. He knows less about very much more. He also has seemed to me, from his opinion columns, a convert to right wing politics, and in particular their love affair with markets and less government. For such people economics is delightfully simple and straightforward, for they only have familiarity with the basic concepts as set out in Economics 101. They seem not to have been listening when told that the market conceived of under Perfect Competition is an abstraction. It is an entirely theoretical construct used for didactic purposes: to explain what would happen under a set of highly unrealistic assumptions. You have to grasp that in in order to understand what comes in the later courses – which deal with the complexities and difficulties of the Real World.

I have been an advocate of Road Pricing myself – and covered that here. (There are 69 results if you do a search on this blog for “road pricing” (without the quotes). It would be a better way of allocating a scarce resource (road space at peak periods) than the one we currently use – queueing. But that is not to say that such a solution can be implemented easily or quickly. Road pricing might be a better way to deal with congestion – but that does not mean we can implement it here and now. Andrew Coyne did not deal with either here or now. He did not reference the provincial fiat: they are the only ones who can price provincial assets including the designated provincial highways. So the Mayors have been told that Road Pricing is effectively off the table at present. Indeed they themselves have said that while they recognize its potential usefulness they do not actually want it for at least five years in the the future. Like St Augustine is supposed to have prayed: Give me Chastity but Not Yet.

UPDATE Breaking News – according to a paywalled story in the Globe and Mail this morning Todd Stone is now willing to consider tolls and regional road pricing in the upcoming referendum (Posted at 09:08 Feb 26)

Secondly he was very selective in some of the evidence he cited. And in some cases I feel that he rather mislead the audience. For example he asserted that London Transport had halved the cost of providing bus service since it adopted contracting out. What he did not say was that this was imposed by a Conservative government at the national level with a stated objective of breaking the power of the trade unions. Most if not all of the savings came at the expense of the wages of those actually performing the service. The profits of the bus operating companies have been quite remarkable. Indeed that is also true of the railways. There the cost to the public purse has tripled. A franchise to run trains – such as that owned by Virgin – is a bit like a license to print money. It has been a lot tougher for the people who build trains. Only one UK manufacturer remains. The users also now complain of very expensive tickets and gross overcrowding due to underinvestment in very necessary additional rolling stock. Outside London Andrew Coyne conceded experience had been “mixed”. He failed to mention the complete absence of service in many rural areas, the dearth of off peak services everywhere and the consequential huge problem of social isolation.

He did concede that introducing prices on services now provided “free” like road space, hit poor people hardest, but that he said was simply an income problem. Easily solved by a commitment to give poor people more money. If anyone has ever come across a conservative politician who is actually willing to embrace this notion, please let me know. As far as I am aware the idea of the guaranteed income is anathema to every conservative and is no more likely to be introduced into Canada or BC than I am to be given a seat in the Senate.

UPDATE Todd Litman has posted to Planetizen that road tolls are fair and benefit the poor – with lots of references. He does not address region wide road pricing in this piece. He argues as follows

While it is true that a given fee is regressive (a dollar represents a greater portion of income for a poor than a wealthy person), road tolls are generally less regressive than other highway funding options because poor people drive relatively little on such highways: many poor people are retired or unemployed, lower-income workers often have local jobs that do not require highway commutes, and if they do commute on major travel corridors they are more likely to use alternative modes, or travel off-peak because they often have off-peak work schedules.

Saying “eliminate the subsidies” is easy: getting that to happen requires the enthusiastic cooperation of Stephen Harper and Christy Clark. They would also both have to support income supplementation for the poor. Does that seem at all likely?

Afterthought

I happen to be reading Sacré Blues by Taras Grescoe (it’s about Quebec) where I came across his assessment of Andrew Coyne – “the knee jerk conservatism of power worship”

———————————————-

Easing congestion in Metro Vancouver: Pricing without subsidies.

Traffic is strangling our cities – he produced a bunch of statistics which I am not a fast enough hunt and peck tapper to record. He did not note that driving in the US has been declining – something which is also evident here.

The costs of congestion are massive and growing

Commuting by car 85% of total nationally unchanged in twenty years

We use the most perverse system to ration road space – time
Building more roads also doesn’t work it induces traffic
Reduction in capacity produces less demand
Induced traffic also results from other measures. To the extent that they have been successful in improving traffic volume/delay that space is quickly absorbed by new induced traffic

Incentive requires rational mechanism – tolls
Smeed Report (UK 1964)
Roads represent a tragedy of the commons – people leave early to try to beat the traffic just as farmers drove their sheep onto the common to crop its loser before their neighbours got there.

Sprawl creates congestion

Many will object “I paid for those roads already”  but you haven’t paid for the space you occupy at peak periods. Each extra vehicle that joins a congested traffic stream has an exponentially worse impact.  Congestion exists on some roads and some times, so the toll that is needed is a congestion price. Willingness to pay for uncontested roads is demonstrated by the success of express highway lanes in California, HOT lanes in Minnesota and tolled autoroutes in France. Toronto has Highway 407 an express toll route that parallels a section of Highway 401 but offers a faster alternative to those willing and able to pay. The prices imposed on these roads are set at a level to deter enough new traffic to keep the flow moving smoothly. 

Do we need new roads? Can’t we toll existing ones? It a toll had been applied to Highway 401 maybe the 407 would not have been needed.

Cordon tolls are used in  London and Stockholm which were initially very successful but
have induced traffic within the cordon. Singapore had its cordon set up much earlier and now also applies tolls within the cordon on arterial roads

Why not toll every road all the time?
UK 2004 white paper for just such a system (summarized on wikipedia)
the netherlans and Oregon are both considering such schemes and trucks already pay this way in Germany and Austria

Many are concerned about the impact of specific road pricing by location and time on privacy. However that is already the case with the use cell phones. (It seems to me that the general reaction to the relevations by Philip Snowden on the use of this metadata by the NSA shows this asserted faith in cell phone companies is misplaced).

The biggest objection  is that prices are unfair to the poor. This is an income problem not a price problem. We do not in general try to fix the  price of food which would help rich and poor alike. (This seems to ignore US and European food agricultural policies) Equity issues can be dealt with through tax credits and other transfer payments

Buses would move better as a result of less traffic on the road. He felt that this improvement alone would be enough to create a beneficent cycle of growth of bus use without diverting revenue from tolls to transit. He felt a better use of the revenue would be to distribute the surplus as a dividend to all

Not same to use revenue to subsidize transit
There is no virtue in transit use
Unnecessary rolling roads produces better transit levelling the playing field

Transit use is still subsidizing sprawl

Not a good way to get to use transit. Better passenger experience, subsidies insulate operators. Value to society exceeds cost of provision. Thicket of overlapping subsidies.

Competition
Transit is not a natural monopoly
Experience in UK mixed

People make better choices when they know the true cost

Even a modest rp scheme would have some benefits
No free lunch or no free road

Q & A

1 After a impromptu poll of the audience which I think was supposed to show more people drive than used transit (it didn’t) Test of political bravery. (I think the questioner should have stuck to the track record of politicians unwillingness to try road pricing – there are plenty of examples)

We are at least now talking about this, which was not the case a few years ago. There is a lot of  spadework needed but “the answer is staring us in the face”
Cash grab objection

Political leadership Mayors council says 5 years out

Partial scheme like only tolling one bridge real problems

Eric Doherty:  climate change costs wide range of damage costs of GHG makes congestion cost look trivial

Carbon tax is a separate instrument
Road Pricing (RP) benefits car users

ED: In Zurich all surface transit has exclusive lanes. There even bankers use transit as driving is so slow by comparison

The best thing for transit is take the subsidy out of driving

Clive Rock: we only have a  weak regional entity, and provinces don’t do cities well. We need a
champion for RP who has to have stature. We have to review our institutional structures – municipalities were compared to warring tribes

AC admires the GVRD model and called it  “civic federalism”. He also warned of the penalties of amalgamation and the possibility of getting a Rob Ford instead of an RP champon

The Centre for Dialogue at SFU has been consulting on this issue and found that citizens want fairness and choice. They also preferred that RP be distance based. She also observed that the
capital cost of rapid transit can’t come from the firebox [By the way you can get a pdf file of the report from the SFU Centre for Dialogue]

People will have options and choices
Give poor people more money
Don’t need to subsidize transit
Can borrow or raise on equity markets for private sector transit investment
Transit is only really “needed” if it can be financed commercially

Externalities … Is there a societal benefit from transit use?

Q There are very few places where transit is profitable

By pricing roads you change the options

We are subsidizing sprawl not good public policy

Dense cities built before transit

Make transit better self reinforcing cycle

Affordability guaranteed income without that inequalities

Fixing prices does not target help

Trying do social justice on the cheap

Collective responsibility on the tax and transfer system

Fuel tax does not address congestion

Q BC had a huge amount of trouble getting changes eg carbon tax

This is a local fix and an easier sell than carbon tax
Achievable with a phase in period but there will be life investment upheaval

Richard Campbell: In this region there has been over optimism in tolls on bridges

Which shows the danger of partial solutions It also demonstrates that you can’t be sure of how much revenue you will get, so that is another reason not to rely on RP to fund transit expansion

20: 15 close

Where to donate old cell phones

with one comment

3121575464_8a062db061Art by KK – message from Uncle Weed

Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Posted in poverty

Transit pass a ticket out of welfare

with 5 comments

Jessey Basi

Jessey Basi is a graduate of the master’s degree program in public policy at Simon Fraser University.

The piece he has written describes his research. Which like most social science restates the blindingly obvious. In BC welfare rates are well blow the poverty line. They do not allow anyone enough to find shelter and food. In other words, they cannot afford a transit pass. So all the programs and the requiremnts for welfare recipeints to find work cannot be effective.

If the beneficiary purchases a two-zone round-trip fare to attend a single job interview, that costs $7.50, nearly the entire day’s support allowance. How can anyone manage to live when spending almost 100 per cent of their daily finances on transportation alone?

BC is deliberately ignoring the evidence – and has been for years – that is punitive attitude to welfare recipients is self defeating. The poverty is used as a club to beat the poor – not a system to help people get back opn their feet. The biggest barriers that welfare recipients face to finding a job are not the opportunities, but simple things like daycare and a transit pass. And there are many other places that have abandoned this Victorian attitude and have found more effective and effcient ways of helping people find their place in society again.

This is nothing to do with the transit provider. They should not be expected to deliver social policies. They are simply not equipoped to do that. They have a hard enough job fighting theoir way through the car traffic. This problem should land squarely on the desk of the architect of the problem. Gordon Campbell.

I do not fault Jessey Basi either. But this sort of research should not be necessary. It should have been made redundant by a government willing to acknowledge when its poicies have failed. Yes, you are right Jessey, it DID need to be done. Becuase this is BC. “The Best Place on Earth”. If you are not poor, unemployed, mentally or physically ill or disabled.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 23, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Three downtown streets identified as hot spots

with 7 comments

Downtown Ambassadors

Photo by Mordechai Dangerfield on flickr

Sun

The three streets in the city’s downtown business improvement area were identified recently as crime hot spots in city assessments to determine the need for expansion of the Downtown Ambassadors Program.

Vancouver city hall is recommending that council adopt a one-year $237,000 contract with the Downtown Business Improvement Association to extend the program.

The three streets are Granville, Georgia and Robson. They are “hot spots” because of people identified as “druggies, panhandlers and rough sleepers”. In fact the same people fit all three “categories”. And the Ambassadors do nothing more than move them along to another street somewhere else. They do nothing to solve the problem.

This is the same approach that failed with street prostitution.

And it is promoted by the same mindset that sees the needle exchange and the safe injection site as causes of more “problems”. And is not going to work this time any more than it has worked in the past.

Of course the customers of downtown businesses do not like seeing reminders of how useless our social policies are. The failures are societal, not just of the individuals who find they can only cope with adversity though self medication.

The problem has been growing steadily. The Tyee recently showed how inadequate even an apparently simple count of those affected was recently. And the response has been – from all levels of government – totally inadequate. But shows no sign of change. $237,000 might provide a few beds for a few nights. Or some dry socks. But the City and the BIA would rather chivvy people than help them.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 15, 2008 at 7:00 am

Posted in criminality, poverty

Tagged with

City needs to push the envelope to stay on top

with 17 comments

Miro Cernetig talks to Larry Beasely

The ostensible reason for the article is that we have moved up another of those best city lists.

These rankings take our attention off the question that’s really at hand: With a million more people expected to be here by 2030, how are we going to stay on the cutting edge of urban planning that’s put us in the livability big leagues?

Larry of course is building not one but two cities in the dessert of Abu Dhabi and

“I’m learning we’re not as far ahead on some of this stuff as I thought we were,” he says.

Which is refreshing. The problem with these rankings is they have gone to our head – or at least to the collective heads of the planners. And upstart furriners like me who keep saying “The Emperor has no clothes” are simply not listened to. But Larry, with his OC and new perspective will be.

The trouble I have is that they think it is about buildings and especially cultural institutions. Which seems to me to reflect the priorities of Marie Antoinnette.

There are some very basic things we need to be doing – and architects are not going to be the most important component of that, neither are the problems or their solutions the exclusive domain of the City of Vancouver. No doubt working for a Crown Prince with few budget constraints is a heck of a lot easier than herding cats, but in a metropolitan area being run (and ruined) by the province, that is what has to be done.

For starters, there is the problem of housing, and the related issues of mental health and welfare. These are basic social problems – and in my mind the quality of society is measured not by its glitzy buildings or cultural institutions, but by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens. And right now the only thing that seems to be grabbing our attention is how to conceal the extent of our social policy collapse during the weeks of and around the 2010 Olympics. Lack of affordability of homes to buy is actually the least of it. We are supposed to have free at the point of service for public health, yet people with multiple diagnoses are simply turned away from treatment. We shy away from creating more and better public spaces for fear that the homeless will move in. We cannot buy a decent bus shelter or bench in case somebody finds it a better place to sleep than a doorway. And instead of building more public housing, we simply buy up a few more roach infested SROs, and do a half hearted job of trying to clean them up, displacing more people in the process. And actually destroying some of the best public housing we have, and rebuilding it to provide more marketable homes!

It is not the buildings that are the problem. They simply reflect what we are willing to pay for. And the answer here at present seem to be not much since the land costs so much. But it is the spaces in between the buildings that matter – and in the words of that tired old cliché we have private affluence and public squalor. We devote more space to car parking than almost any other activity. Our streets may be broad, but the sidewalks are mean. And public places where people gather are few and inadequate. And we concentrate on Vancouver – and especially downtown – as if that were the only place worth considering.

And I haven’t even started on our infrastructure. “World class” cities surely need good waste disposal (liquid and solid) as well as reasonable movement alternatives for goods as well as people.

Oddly enough there is no need to “push the envelope” with any of this, the solutions have been around for decades. We have just turned our back on them in our obsession with finance and profitability, as if that is the only way to measure worth. How can we boast of our GDP per capita – when so many of those heads have no pillow?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 17, 2008 at 10:20 am

Sarkozy’s rescue plan for suburbs

with 2 comments

BBC News

There is absolutely no doubt that something must be done. The scene of riots on more than occasion, and of continuing deep alienation of a significant number of people. What is depressing is that Sarkozy has absolutely no idea of what is needed, and simply goes to the standard right wing play book. A crack down on drug dealing, bussing school kids, some new houses and the right to buy. I am surprised he left out the tax cut. When, anywhere, have these policies done any good?

What these young people need are jobs. The problem, surely, is 40% youth unemployment. Where is the strategy to deal with that? And yes there are things that work. There is an Australian company that contracts to governments and is paid by results that gets people out of long term unemployment and into good, permanent jobs. The company only gets paid for results and is one of the best examples I know of that shows contracting out can work. They have been working in France long before Sarkozy got into power. The company was created by Therese Rein wife of Australian PM Kevin Rudd, and to avoid the appearance of conflict no longer works for the parent company but goes around the world setting up companies like workdirections. (And yes, she did visit Vancouver, and was told she was not needed here!) The only reason I know all this is my sister works for them.

A number of US cities have “welfare to work” programs. One of the things they tackle is that people who live in deprived areas and have no jobs also find it hard to travel – they cannot afford the car that most US cities require as a minimum of any kind of life at all. They will give people bus tickets so they can get to a job for the time it takes for the employer to actually pay them something. They will work with transit agencies to ensure that services run at the right times and to the right places.

Either of these approaches has impeccable right wing credentials. Neither has a lot of opportunity for grand gestures like pulling down an ugly tower block. So guess which one Sarkozy will chose.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 8, 2008 at 8:18 am