New Blog: The Road to Ruin

Bacon’s Rebellion

is launching a new blog, “The Road to Ruin,” which will focus on transportation and land use issues. The blog is a key component of a broader initiative to provide deeper, more insightful coverage of the transportation policy debate.

Thanks to the generous financial support of our donors, led by the Piedmont Environmental Council, Bacon’s Rebellion has hired a full-time staff writer to research and write about transportation issues through the 2006 session of the General Assembly. (Read more about the initiative here.) Bob Burke, a former writer for the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star and senior editor of Virginia Business magazine, will tackle the transportation topics that the Mainstream Media has consistently ignored. Bacon’s Rebellion will disseminate his stories electronically.

Burke has extensive experience writing about the environment, transportation, land use and economic development. As part of his daily routine, he will round up transportation-related news in Virginia publications and link to the articles from the new blog. Also, I will shift my transportation-related blog posts to “The Road to Ruin.” I invite readers of this blog interested in comprehensive and in-depth coverage of transportation/land use issues to frequent

A month ago, I promised Bacon’s Rebellion bloggers that great things were coming. While Virginia has a number of excellent blogs, none have had the resources to create much in the way of original content. For the most part, we have been limited to putting our own spin on news reported by the Mainstream Media. By hiring Burke, Bacon’s Rebellion breaks the mold. We will provide a depth of coverage that will put the Mainstream Media to shame. Yes, that’s a challenge. And a promise.

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  1. Barnie Day Avatar
    Barnie Day

    Jim, I hope this will be something besides a long and continuous anti-growth commercial. I suppose we would all be a little uneasy with the idea of the Virginia Road Builders Association underwriting ‘fair and balanced’ coverage of Virginia transportation issues. Considering the underwriters, would some healthy skepticism be in order here? In the ‘mainstream’ media, paid space is generally marked as such.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Barnie, I don’t think you have to worry about anything associated with Jim Bacon being “a long and continuous anti-growth commercial.” I have dedicated the better part of my career to understanding what it takes to create a more prosperous, more liveable Commonwealth–including what it takes to achieve economic growth. The question is not whether “growth” is desirable–it is both inevitable and desirable–the question is what pattern it takes.

    There is nothing inevitable or desirable about growth following the sprawling, inefficient, land-intensive pattern that has characterized suburban development in Virginia over the past 50 years. There are other models of growth. And there is no immutable law of nature that says the only way to increase peoples’ mobility is building mega-road and mega-transit projects amidst low-density development. There are alternatives.

    When embarking upon this project, I insisted to our sponsors upon total transparency, that we readily acknowledge the sources of our funding. As for our dedication to balance and fairness, it doesn’t matter what I say, it matters what we do. Judge us on our record.

  3. Barnie Day Avatar
    Barnie Day

    Jim, fair enough. If I am straightforward, though, I must tell you that one of the things that gives me initial pause is the very title of the new blog. Why ‘The Road to Ruin?’ Why not the ‘Road to Prosperity?’ To ‘Happiness?’ To the Highest Stand of Living in the History of the Planet?’ To ‘Private Property Rights?’ To ‘Highest and Best Use?’ To ‘Free Market?’ To say “There is nothing inevitable or desirable about growth following the sprawling, inefficient, land-intensive pattern that has characterized suburban development in Virginia over the past 50 years” ignors the fact that this development has largely been owner-induced by people who, I believe, act–as most of us do–in their own best interests. It it has been, as you imply, undesirable, I think the undesirabilty view of it is mostly held by folks who didn’t own it to begin with. There seems to be no shortage of groups who want to govern the use of land and resources they don’t own, much as there seems to be any number of folks who want to ‘improve’ an area by limiting its access to others. I don’t know of one who holds the view that the same sort of ‘improvement’ could be achieved were they to move out.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I hear you, Barnie. Just don’t pre-judge us before the fact. We’ll post all of our content online, and if we commit the sins you fear, then you, Ray Hyde, Steve Haner, and anyone else who wants to, can jump all over us!

  5. I was starting the process yesterday of trying to encourage some of the others affilated with Virginians for Better Transportation to participate and their initial reaction was quite skeptical. The PEC’s agenda is pretty clear and its reputation well established. I’m sure you will be fair about posting stuff, but you’ll remain the guy who gets the final word and you’ll get to set the topics.

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I appreciate your effort, Steve. I understand the skepticism. Indeed, I anticipated it. That’s why I decided from the beginning that it was crucial to be totally transparent about where our money comes from and what we’re trying to accomplish. We’re going to have to earn our credibility.

    In any case, the blog will remain open to everyone should your buddies change their minds.

  7. Hopefully the NTVA people will share their perspective.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    I checked out the new blog.

    Do you know that only people with a blogger account can post a reply?

    I understand eliminating anonymous, but you’re going to require people to sign up with blogger?

    Guess I won’t be commenting. Oh, well.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous, thanks for pointing that out. I have changed the settings to allow anyone to comment (at least, I think I have, I’m still getting the hang of the controls). Although anonymous posts are allowed, you’d be doing readers a favor if you would pick a pseudonym and stick to it so we can at least recognize your persona.

  10. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I’m going to try to reserve judgement, but I’ll concede a healthy skepticism, based on the funding and the name. When I read articles by Chris Miller, Ed Risse, Jolly deGive and others I find a remarkable propensity for spin – things that aren’t necessarily untrue, but which are either unconnected to anything real, or tenuously redirected to a given train of thought.

    There may well be alternatives to the pattern of growth we have seen, but as discussed and generally agreed here, there are no apparent examples.

    I’m perfectly willing to agree with Kevin that we can do better than we have. However, I think that means using more space not less – even if we eliminate the worst examples of sprawl and invent and construct an entire new mode of transportation from scratch.

    Whatever we do is going to cost a lot of money, more than we can imagine. If we construct compact cities they are going to need extensive systems to control and treat the concentration of pollution they cause, as well as some system of transport that is not yet invented or constructed. Denizens of such places are going to require much more than we now allow for open spaces. Adequate pedestrian and bicycle facilites will require still more.

    We will need to recognize that promoting land use controls is fundamentally inconsistent with promoting free markets. Fairness, balance, and economic realities need to be taken into account.

    We’ll need to come up with more consistent and better defined terms: mega transit and low density growth to one may mean adequate roads and sufficient space to another. I hope that is what you mean by deeper, more insightful coverage.

    We are going to have to start living what we preach. I know of PEC supporters opposed to land intensive development that live on very large lots and commute long distances. Making the sacrifices to save open space for the environmental benefit of all won’t fly if the space is privately held or the costs are distributed unfairly.

    Warrenton, VA is the home of PEC and has (or had) what I would consider to be most of the elements of a balanced community. It has had for years the kind of government leaders that are sensitive to growth issues. Yet Warrenton now exhibits all the bad virtues of what we associate with both sprawl AND intensively located development. It is not a good omen.

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