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Archive - April 2006

Plenty of April Fools at Grand Canyon Trust

A Good Joe

The State as Landlord

Back from the Brink

Putting the GOP back into the Governorship

Another Liberal Sunday in Flag-town

South Rim Transportation - Take I

Flagstaff - Baby Leviathan

South Rim Transportation - Take II

South Rim Transportation - Take III

Saturday, April 1, 2006

   Plenty of April Fools at Grand Canyon Trust - Well, not just at the Trust.  And, not just in April.  But, the recent efforts by a group called the Just Transition Coalition, of whom the Grand Canyon Trust is a member, will surely put other April Fool pranksters to shame.  However, it should be noted, that the JTC did get an early start, and their hoax may not end any time soon.  Let's break it down ...

The issue:  The Mohave Generating Station used to pump out over 1500 megawatts of power.  But, not any more.  Years ago, the Grand Canyon Trust was a partner in a lawsuit against Mohave's owners, asking that they be forced to clean up their pollution or shut down.  [I blogged on this in Lumps of Coal for Christmas.]  The clean-up costs amount to over $1 billion.  And, the visibility improvements at the Grand Canyon are likely to be zip - indeed, it will take an estimated five years of scientific observations to determine if there is any net benefit in visibility!

The ripple effect:  As is typical in the coal-fired electric power industry, there was only one supplier of coal for the Mohave plant, and that was from the Black Mesa mine, located on the Navajo Reservation and operated by Peabody Energy.  As a consequence of the shutdown at Mohave, the mine has also shut down, costing many hundred Navajos jobs that paid very well ($70,000+, which goes a long way on the rez).

The Just Transition Hoax:  The hodgepodge of environmental and social activist groups that form the JTC issued a statement claiming that the value of Mohave's pollution credits should not go to the owner, Southern California Edison, but, rather, to the Hopi and Navajo tribes.  They want $20 million a year, for the next 20 years.  Yes, Alice, we've completely stepped through the looking glass on this one.

     My characterization just barely scratches the surface in capturing the bizarre nature of the JTC statement.  Let's take a closer look at that statement, at least at the one published in the Arizona Daily Sun on March 20, 2006.

For years, the Navajo and Hopi people made major sacrifices to enable the Mohave Generating Station to operate.  The people provided labor, coal, ... water and bore the burden of pollution.


One may be excused for thinking that, based on this statement, there was no compensation for these resources.  Of course, that would be wrong.  The workers got paid, and paid well.  The tribes got paid, for the coal and the water, and paid well.  And, at many hundreds of miles away from the Mohave plant (further away than where I live in Flagstaff), they didn't bear any "burden" of pollution.

Now that the facility has closed, we have a right to ask the owners of Mohave to help us transition to a better future, to repay the debt.


Well, let's see ... the groups of the JTC helped make it impossible for the plant to remain open, and now they want to be "compensated" for that action?  To make matters even worse, these groups opposed a plan to allow Mohave to continue to operate, at least temporarily.  And, there is no "debt" to repay - the tribes did not lend any resources to Mohave.

How will the Just Transition Plan work?  Funds secured from the sale of pollution credits by the primary operators of the Mohave Plant ... would go to the tribes for investment in local communities through renewable energy development.


One wonders why the tribes haven't already spend funds for these kinds of developments.  Over the last 20 years, they have earned at least $1 billion in royalties from their coal and water.  Couldn't they have put away $20 million a year for these purposes?  Yes, they could have.

It is time for a fresh plan to bring justice to Black Mesa and economic development to a people cheated out of decades of billions of dollars from lost coal and water royalties.


I don't know how spending $20 million, extorted from a company that has nothing to do with the contract between Peabody and the tribes, brings "justice" to people cheated out of billions of dollars!  This fanciful tale has not been endorsed by the tribal governments, which have benefited greatly from the coal and water royalties.  So, maybe this hoax will die a deserving death, sooner rather than later.  Meanwhile, the April Fools at the Grand Canyon Trust are most certainly busy working on some new scheme to bankrupt businesses, impoverish hard working families and denigrate the visitor industry in this region.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

   A Good Joe - Joe Alston, that is.  Superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park.  Although, I had written to him when he first took that position, in an attempt to shoehorn my way into the inner circle of transit policy-making at the park, he never wrote back.  Well, so it goes.  But, last night, the park service held and open house "scoping session" with regard to their current plans for transit, and parking, at the South Rim.  Thankfully, the heyday of rail transit at the canyon has passed, hopefully for good.  If, or when, it re-emerges, I am sure that many years will have passed.  More on that topic soon.

     Back to Joe.  The open house ran from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Museum of Northern Arizona.  I was there from about 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  There were precious few people at this meeting while I was there, and I don't imagine that they really had a flurry of visitors showing up at the start of this session.  Consequently, I got a chance to meet with practically everyone there, from the park service folks to members of the consulting firm preparing the upcoming EIS document.  And, one of the people I met was the superintendent.  Although we hadn't met before, he knew who I was - not only does my reputation precede me, but, I think it is oddly enhanced by the cold shoulder I get from most park service officials.  Still, we had a great chat, for probably fifteen to twenty minutes.

     I took the opportunity of our meeting to raise the issue of access to the South Bass trail.  As I have blogged on this topic before, in "Grand Canyon's Bass Trail - Visitors Discouraged," the Havasupais have put up a fence on the road and, if manned, will try to charge $25 to drive through the corner of their land that takes you to the South Bass.  Alston was more than sympathetic about this issue.  He said that there was an effort to get the tribe to back off of this fee, especially since the Congressional Act that enlarged their reservation lands (in the 1970s) required that they not prohibit access to the park.  But, that has come to naught.

     Alston was quite interested in the idea of restoring the old park boundary road as an access route to the South Bass.  Some years ago, that road had been included in a plan to expand designated wilderness at the canyon, even though the national forest is literally a few yards away.  The consequence of that proposal was that the road was shut down.  Alston agreed with me that the improvements to the South Bass trailhead area, and the marked improvements to the trail, shouldn't go to waste because of access limitations.

     If you agree with Joe (and, with me), that this old road should be restored to use, send him a note, using the park service's on-line form, or you can write a snail mail letter to:

Joseph F. Alston, Superintendent
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Thursday, April 20, 2006

   The State as Landlord - In this case the "state" is the city of Flagstaff.  Overwrought with concern about "affordable housing," but unwilling to do anything significant to lower housing prices, like relax their stringent development codes, the city council has voted to manage a land trust that would be charged with building low cost housing.  The land either belongs to the city now, or it will be purchased by the city later.

     Is it the role of government to provide housing?  To anyone?  Of course not.  Government gets its funds by taking it from taxpayers.  We should oblige the government, in return for this awesome power, to take as little as possible and to only use these funds for the purpose of governing, and not for just any purpose that seems like a good idea.  Or, at least, seems like a good idea to somebody.  To the complaint, raised by council members Haughey and Silva, that the city "shouldn't be in the housing business," socialist council member Kelty replies that such an attitude is a "slogan, not an idea."  If that's her idea of a hollow slogan, she must think that the constitution is just a nonsense jingle.  Quite simply, government shouldn't be in any business.

     As if to highlight the absurdity of government in this area, the county board of supervisors, yesterday, turned down a rezoning request for a 660 home development about 25 miles east of Flagstaff.  This project is aimed at pushing the boundaries of the commute into town, and the number of units is impressive, relative to the stock of housing in the city.  But, the county turned this down because it contributes to sprawl.  Aarghh!  Is there any better illustration of why there is an "affordable housing" crisis?

Friday, April 21, 2006

   Back from the Brink - The Park Service is reviewing plans that address the congestion that occurs at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Last week, the editor of the Arizona Daily Sun wrote an editorial that was critical of these plans because they didn't ban cars from the park.  Yikes!  To top it off, the editorial was unusually long - filling up fully half a page of the paper.  I wrote to Randy Wilson, the managing editor, and he agreed to let me write a "guest editorial" in rebuttal.  That editorial ran in yesterday's paper.  I titled it "Back from the Brink" but he chose a more descriptive title.  Here is it:

More South Rim parking worth pursuing

By Dennis Foster
Guest Columnist

     Years ago, if some National Park Service (NPS) officials had their way, there would already be a light rail system in place at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It would be mostly unnecessary, and almost always inconvenient.  Itís diesel engines would be noisy and dirty.  It would be frustrating for visitors to use, especially during the off-peak times of the year.  It would be crowded during the summer, and congestion, from the visitorís standpoint, would have worsened.  And, the crowning glory of that system would have been the enormous deficits generated each and every year since opening in 2000.

     Lucky for us, the NPS was forced back from the brink.  Now, they have proffered a new plan to deal with problems at the canyon.  It is not a perfect plan, but there is a lot to recommend in it.

     The plan calls for a parking lot near the new visitorís center, which actually was part of the General Management Plan for Grand Canyon, adopted in 1995 .  It was a good idea then, and it is a good idea now.  This would relieve the pressure on the parking at Mather Point, which used to be a short, layover, stop on the typical visitorís itinerary - park and see the canyon for fifteen minutes, then drive on down the road to the visitorís center and the South Rim Village.  But, now, visitors are parking at Mather and leaving their cars, walking over to the visitorís center, and taking a shuttle bus into the village.  That is a poor use of this fantastic viewpoint.

     Indeed, I have proposed that the Mather parking lot, which is user friendly, and well-screened from the viewpoint, be extended all the way to the Yavapai Observation Station.  This could add between 450 and 900 spaces, which would accommodate visitation for many years.

     One huge advantage of the NPS proposal is that it leaves parking in the village intact.  This will preserve the freedom to move about in a convenient manner, and reduces the strain of allocating resources to the transit infrastructure.  You may leave your car at the visitorís center and travel about the area by shuttle bus, but it wonít be mandatory.

     The NPS also proposes to expand the South Entrance Station.  That is exactly the right thing to do in the near term.  The entrance station has been a bottleneck for years.  Alleviating this congestion, and this source of visitor frustration, is easy and can be done quickly.  In the longer term, I would urge the park service to move the entrance station to the visitorís center.  That would allow visitors to pay at a destination point, where they can spend time reviewing their options, rather than along the road, seven miles from the rim.

     The current level of parking at Grand Canyon can be easily increased to better accommodate visitors, and it can be better situated, so that visitors can actually find it.  It may surprise many to hear that the South Rim Village area has barely 2,400 parking spaces.  With practically four million visitors a year, you would be hard pressed to find a more environmentally friendly arrangement.  The park service estimates that they only need about 3,000 spaces to handle the current peak demand.  By way of contrast, there are 4,500 spaces at the Flagstaff Mall, and over 9,000 on the campus of Northern Arizona University.

     What about buses?  Since 1990, the bus share of traffic through the South Entrance Station has averaged 23 percent.  At least half this number is really a count of air visitors, since they actually enter the park on a bus.  Still, buses account for only 2 percent of long-distance travel in the U.S.  By any measure, mass transit to the Grand Canyon has been wildly successful.

     Would more auto travelers take a bus to the canyon if they knew about this option?  It is unlikely.  In a 1994 survey, Grand Canyon visitors were asked why they didnít use mass transit.  Nearly 80 percent responded that they preferred using their own vehicles or that they found mass transit to be inconvenient.

     The additional time you make people spend in buses, in trains, parking miles from the rim, is time you steal from their visit.  Time they could have spent in contemplating the Grand Canyon, or walking along its rim.  The NPS proposal does much to allow visitors to spend their time at the Grand Canyon rather than forcing them to adapt their itineraries to the wishes of some transportation planner.

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Dennis Foster has a Ph.D. in Economics and has authored, ďGrand Canyon Transportation Planning: The Railroading of Visitors,Ē a monograph published by the Goldwater Institute (Arizona Issue Analysis 158).

Saturday, April 22, 2006

   Putting the GOP back into the Governorship - Last week, the College Republicans at Northern Arizona University (of whom, I am their faculty advisor), hosted a number of activities as part of their "Conservative Week."  They held a PETA barbeque, a "support the troops" rally and a symbolic building of a wall to publicize the problems associated with illegal aliens.  They wrapped up their activities with a Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Forum, held in the auditorium of the campus library.  I was asked to serve as a moderator for this event, and was happy to oblige.

     We were treated to three candidates - Gary Tupper, Don Goldwater and Mike Harris.  All were passionate and articulate.  Any one of them would make a great governor, and all are preferred, in my humble opinion, to our current governor.  Realistically, I'd have to say that Tupper will find it difficult to win the primary, so the nominee is much more likely to be either Goldwater or Harris (pictured, respectively).  There are two more candidates, but I haven't seen them in action, so I have no comment on them.

     I thought that I would focus on taxing and spending issues - after all, I am an economist and these are Republican candidates.  But, immigration turned out to be the topic most discussed.  I have libertarian leanings in this regard, and would support totally wide open borders to any and all immigrants, as long as they register their presence and as long as they don't receive any social services until they attain citizen status.  But, that is not likely to be an option in this debate.

     All three candidates were clear that illegal immigration should not be tolerated and each suggested different means of dealing with this issue.  Goldwater was, to my mind, the most definitive in making this an issue of law and order - illegal immigrants have broken the law and should be punished to the fullest extent possible.  He argued for quick apprehension and border tent prisons to serve as a way station to sending Mexican residents back across the border.  Harris thought that, rather than incarcerate illegals, offering them the option of returning home, with a felony conviction on record in the U.S., would alleviate the strain on prison spending, and I think he has something there.  Tupper was more interested in promoting Mexican economic development as a way to deter the mass migrations that have been taking place, and all agreed that such an outcome would be ideal, but that the corruption of the Mexican system would not likely allow for such change.

     I was surprised that this issue was so important to these candidates.  But, I do live a more isolated life in the ivory tower of academia, and in the northern portion of Arizona.  One facet of this controversy, with which I am quite sympathetic, is the argument that granting amnesty to illegals is a slap in the face to legal immigrants, and it discriminates against those that abide by our restrictions and seek to come here legally, but aren't able to.  After all, we once controlled the Philippines, and there are many Filipinos that would like to settle in the U.S.  But, they can't just walk across a poorly patrolled border to get here.

     And, then, there are others that abide by the rules and wonder if they will ever get a chance to be a permanent resident - for example, read Ilya Shapiro's excellent commentary, "Unqualified Immigrant."  And, the rules do get enforced, so changing those rules seems patently unfair.  One of my former students, a girl from Russia, was sent back home for a year, because of the status of her papers, even though she was married to an American!

     The candidates did get a chance to speak a bit on taxes (too high) and spending (way too high) and education (too poor).  I was very impressed with each of them.  But, you won't read about this event in the local paper, since no reporters came to this event.  And, you won't see any coverage on the local TV station either.  Still, I would place a bet that one of these three candidates will, in fact, be the next governor of Arizona.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

   Another Liberal Sunday in Flag-town - Today's editorial page, in the Arizona Daily Sun, is like being in liberal hog-heaven.  Here's a run-down:

Global Warming:  The paper's own, featured, editorial is on global warming and what we can/should do about it on the local level.  The premise, of course, is absolutely crazy.  There is nothing we can do locally about anything globally.  And, that isn't even considering whether it is, or is not, a problem.  The editors laud New Mexico's plan to reduce pollution in that state - I say, expect to see people and businesses relocate to Arizona as a consequence.  They cite the city of Flagstaff's use of a recycling plant, that must be one of the biggest boondoggles in city history.  In fact, this serves as a good metaphor for Kyoto - large expense, mostly shoved off on taxpayers, with near zero benefit.  And, it helped to destroy a vibrant private business sector in the process!  Well, there's something to celebrate.  And, in a fit of earth day frenzy, the editorial recommends a host of regulatory changes (for auto tires and auto insurance) and tax penalties (on gas guzzlers).  Time for another cup of joe - I'm thinking about just buying from producers that help to cut down the rain forest.  But, that's another blog.

The letters:  Apparently, the Friends of Flagstaff's Future handed out paper and pencils to their members last week and urged them to write letters in favor of tax increases and socialist candidates for the city council.  Letters by S. Garretson and B. Daggett, the president and executive director, respectively, of the FFF, argued for the transit tax and the city's involvement in expanding "workforce housing."  Local activist L. Rayner offers support for small-s socialist city council candidate Rick Swanson, based, in part, on his response to an FFF survey, while R. Marlatt supports Swanson because he doesn't post up campaign signs.  A couple of other letters extol the virtue of the housing proposition and, my favorite, is A Altland's, "As a regular bus rider I [am] ... 'sold' on the benefits of an expanded bus system."  Well, of course!  I wish the city would subsidize my gardening, my dogs, my birds, my hobbies, well ... my whole lifestyle!  Only one letter went against this grain - R. Krug, defeated in the last city council election, opposes the housing proposition.

City government candidates:  The candidates for mayor and the city council sound off on the relationship between Northern Arizona University and the city.  Although, the editor's comment, that "Flagstaff's economy fails to keep [NAU] graduates in town," the tenor and tone of the candidate responses was on what NAU can do for the city.  Can anyone think of a more unsustainable relationship than that of partnering up with government spending?  It is from state and federal taxes that the spending on NAU comes from, and, of course, Flagstaff gets the reward from this - lots of business for retailers and restaurants, financial planners and realtors, movie theaters and bars.  And, yet, every candidate wrote of what more NAU can do to benefit the city.  Talk about narrow vision - it must just be a requirement for all politicians.

The cartoon:  President Bush, sitting at a school desk, with a science book open, which he appears to be reading.  But, no, he isn't reading that book, as another book, titled, "Politics" is open behind the science book.  The implication is, of course clear - Bush treats science as a political matter.  Oddly, the "guest editorial" is just below this cartoon, and was titled, "What questions can science answer?  Not everything."  Written by NAU Biology professor Lee Drickamer, it is actually a well-written commentary on the limits of science, but you probably wouldn't get that from its title and position below the cartoon.  So it goes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

   South Rim Transportation - Take I - The Park Service is soliciting public comments as part of their scoping process for the consideration of plans to deal with congestion at the Grand Canyon.  I mentioned the scoping session I attended in my blog, A Good Joe, and I commented on the general nature of the park service's plans in Back from the Brink.  The comment period ends on Monday, May 1st at 12 midnight, and I have intentions of making a number of suggestions, beginning with this one.  I really don't have much sense for how much these comments really influence park planners, but the people I met at the scoping session seemed genuinely open-minded.  If you wish to opine on these matters, you can do so through their on-line comment form.  [If you go to the form, you can easily navigate to the various documents that are posted up relating to this issue.]

South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan Ė Public Comments
Proposal DF-01

     Extend the Mather Point parking area to the Yavapai Observation Station, either all at once, or as a series of building projects over time.  I estimate that angled parking on both sides of the lot, like the current configuration of the Mather lot, would allow for an additional 450 spaces.  If a second row of parking were added, this number could be doubled, providing ample space for visitors to park in this location.  Indeed, the Mather lot is probably wider than it needs to be, if a separate lot for RVís and vehicles towing trailers can be designated.

     To facilitate the passage of visitors from Mather Point to the Canyon View Information Plaza (CVIP), I would encourage some visionary thinking.  For example, a wide foot bridge could span the roadway, alleviating safety concerns, and could provide a signature experience for park visitors as they walk up the gently sloping structure, seeing the canyon out in front of them, and descending to parking area.  A structure that embodied the ideals of famed canyon architect Mary Jane Colter, with use of natural materials, would make this an astounding focal point for visitors.

Rationale:

--The CVIP is where it is and there is no getting around it.  The problem with lots of visitors crossing a busy road, and one where there is significant parking on the shoulders, has led park officials to suggest closing this road and this parking lot, in favor of a lot at the CVIP.  That would be a mistake, in my opinion, as it further distances the visitor from this fantastic place.  I believe that this proposal would solve the parking problem and the safety concerns, while actually enhancing the visitorís experience.  Also, this is compatible with the planned expansion of the South Entrance Station.

--Insofar as the park service is interested in promoting an internal shuttle bus system, this proposal would nicely fit into those plans.  The main road, alongside Mather Point, can be redesigned with shuttle bus pull-outs to pick up visitors that wish to journey to the Village by bus.  The bus could run on a loop Ė Mather area to Yavapai Observation Station to Business District to CVIP to Mather.

 

To see some better park maps, follow this link to the Grand Canyon web site.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

   Flagstaff - Baby Leviathan - The city of Flagstaff is having a general election next month.  Actually, the election is ongoing, since one must return a mail ballot, and there will be no polling places open on election day, May 16.  There are only two issues here - filling seats for the mayor and some of the city council, and voting on four propositions.  I'm already done voting - for the mayor (lesser of two evils kind- of-vote), for current council members Haughey and Silva (both of whom exhibit a sanity that is in sharp contrast to the socialist members of the city council) and Overton (a newcomer, with an uncertain agenda, but better than putting socialist, and failed businessman, Rick Swanson, back on the council).  Insofar as the tax related propositions go, I voted "No" to all of them ...

Prop. 401 - Making the sales tax permanent:  The city is required to ask voters to renew our commitment to the city sales tax every so often - 10 years, I believe.  The current authority expires in 2014.  I say, "No."  Make the city keep asking us for this authority.  The cost is minimal - it doesn't take a special election for the voters to consider this tax.  And, it would be an easy way for voters to express extreme disapproval of what the city does with our tax money, if that should become an issue.  Less government is better than more government, and control over taxing and spending is certainly much better than handing over these decisions to bureaucrats and politicians that hardly ever have our best interests at heart.

Prop. 402 - Expanding the base level of city expenditures:  The state sets a limit on how fast city expenditures can grow, based on population growth and inflation.  So, let's live within our limits and abide by the state's formula.  This has been amended before - upwards, of course.  Essentially, going through these "adjustments" really means that we don't intend to abide by the limitations built into the system.  I say, "No."  The city's fact book, which is such a work of propaganda that one wonders if some old Soviet communists haven't migrated here as well as our amigos from south of the border, states that, "The expenditure limitation ... formula does not, however, factor in new or expanded program growth."  In other words, the city just wants to spend more taxpayer money on more projects.  

     Indeed, this gets worse.  The proposition calls for a $5.5 million dollar adjustment.  Does that mean spending can rise that much higher than currently allowed?  Well, no.  If this change is approved, spending for 2006-2007 can rise from $79 million to $105 million.  How can that be, the naive taxpayer may ask?  Well, this is due to the fact that we are increasing the base, which was established in 1979, and we get to move to the higher growth path as if the increase had been allowed since that time.  I don't know exactly what the level of spending was in 1979, nor do I know what growth rate has been applied to this (presumably it changes every year).  But, starting at $19.5 million (in 1979) and using a 5.4% average annual growth rate, we would be at about $80 million today, and, with the higher base, we would be allowed about $103 million, so I am in the ballpark.

     The chart, to the right, shows what this means, based on the numbers I used.  As you can see, for 2006, we get to "jump" up to the higher growth line, meaning that the city could increase spending by a whopping 33%.

Prop. 403 - transit tax increase:  The city wants to raise the sales tax (ironically, labeled as the "transaction privilege" tax, as if the natural order of things called for us to serve the government rather than the government to serve us) that is allocated to public transit, and to make it permanent.  As with proposition 401, the city seeks to end the process of explicitly asking for voter approval every 10 years - tell me, why is it that a city council packed with socialists is so anti-democratic?  I guess the answer is that they care so much about us that they don't want us to ever have to worry about making tough decisions.  Ever.  I say, "No."  The city should explore ways to make it easy for a private business to provide mass transit and get out of this business altogether.

Prop. 404 - workforce housing:  The city wants the ability to spend more than the maximum allowable, without a vote of the local electorate, on something called "workforce housing."  The amendment to the city's charter would be changed from, "with the exceptions of utilities, public safety, and street facilities..." to "with the exceptions of utilities, public safety, street facilities, and workforce housing..."  There are two huge problems here.  First, and foremost, is that most people would probably agree that the city should be responsible for the sewers, the police and the roads, and that they shouldn't have to put changes in this spending to an explicit vote.  We all use these services.  We all depend on these services.  We all accept that these are legitimate functions of local government, although I am always interested in considering how we can reduce government's role and shift services to the private sector.  Instead, the lazy social activist tries to shift services out of the private sector and into the government sector.  Can it be true, as the city spin book states, that, "workforce housing will benefit the entire Flagstaff community?"  Of course not!  I say, "No."  Let the private sector deal with housing.  If the city government really cared about the price of housing, they wouldn't restrict development as much as they have.

      The second problem arises from the fact that nobody really knows what "workforce housing" means.  I work.  Does that make my home "workforce housing?"  The city booklet states that this is, "housing that is affordable to households who lack the necessary income to live in decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings without overcrowding ... such as teachers, bank tellers, nurses, construction workers, police officers, and other essential workers."  Well, that certainly clears things up - pretty much everyone falls into this category, except for retirees.  And, the proposition calls for the city to have unrestrained authority to spend tax monies on this housing.  Coupled with proposition 402, I smell a big tax increase on the way.

     One more point to make here.  This last proposition was suggested by a "task force" that the spin book describes as "representing a broad cross-section of individuals."  I don't know who is/was on this task force, but the city's solicitation for participants reads as follows:

Notice anything odd about this?  Well, the six public members with specific expertise all have a vested interest in supporting outcomes that expand this type of housing.  So, how is that a "broad cross-section?"  The die was cast before it was even thrown.  [I am sure that is mixing metaphors, but it sounds good.]

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     "Leviathan" comes from the book, of that title, by Thomas Hobbes.  Among the many cool things he wrote is this:

Friday, April 28, 2006

   South Rim Transportation - Take II - The Park Service is soliciting public comments as part of their scoping process for the consideration of plans to deal with congestion at the Grand Canyon.  The comment period ends on Monday, May 1st at 12 midnight, and I have submitted one proposal earlier this week.  Here is a second proposal of mine.  If you wish to opine on these matters, you can do so through the park service's on-line comment form.  [If you go to the form, you can easily navigate to the various documents that are posted up relating to this issue.]

South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan Ė Public Comments
Proposal DF-02

     Create a new parking area west of the Bright Angel Trailhead and re-route the West Rim Drive to accommodate this parking.  The area just west of the current beginning of the West Rim Drive is ideal for an expanded parking area.  It provides walking access to the rim lodges without having to cross the roadway, and it would be rather unobtrusive insofar as the character of the South Rim Village is concerned.  I estimate that this area could easily accommodate at least 750 vehicles, with the possibility of future expansion.  This could be done in 250 space increments, as demand warrants.  As a general rule, I would encourage the park service to consider this as additional parking and not use this to replace existing parking in the village area.  That is, parking at the El Tovar, Kachina, Thunderbird, and Bright Angel should be maintained, as well as the parking along the railroad tracks.  I would proposed that this lot have a separated entrance and exit along the existing one way road through this area.

     To facilitate this new lot, the West Rim Drive will have to be redesigned.  I would suggest a new "entrance" to the West Rim at/near the Maswik Lodge.  This will necessitate another road crossing of the railroad tracks, and whatever equipment is required.  Still, the traffic already does cross the tracks as it passes the current West Rim Drive roadway.

Rationale:

--Any additional parking that is created in the three critical areas of the South Rim Village area - the rim lodges, the business center and Mather Point - reduce the necessity for a complex and expensive transit system.  Additionally, it allows the park service to dramatically scale back, or eliminate, this service during the off-peak months of the year, since visitors can easily drive from one locale to another.  Of all the possible parking-based solutions for congestion at the Grand Canyon, this is the least obtrusive.

--The park service is currently considering a redesign of the Bright Angel trailhead area.  The placement of this parking would be well-suited to these efforts to create a definitive "bookend" to the development along the rim.  This would be especially true if a major restroom facility is to be built in this area.

--Insofar as the park service is interested in promoting an internal shuttle bus system, this proposal would nicely fit into those plans.  Buses can run the existing village loop and add this parking lot into their routes.

--The current West Rim Drive may be getting an upgrade in the near future.  The existing road is old and in poor shape.  The initial mile, or so, is well away from the rim, so the re-routing proposed here does not diminish the visitor's experience.

--In the future, it would be possible to add additional visitor services at the back end of this lot, as the situation warrants.

To see some better park maps, follow this link to the Grand Canyon web site.
[I should note that the map I am using is an old one - the original name of
the Maswik Lodge was to be "Mushwhip."]

Saturday, April 29, 2006

   South Rim Transportation - Take III - The Park Service is soliciting public comments as part of their scoping process for the consideration of plans to deal with congestion at the Grand Canyon.  The comment period ends on Monday, May 1st at 12 midnight, and I have submitted two proposals (Take I and Take II) earlier this week.  Here is a third proposal of mine.  If you wish to opine on these matters, you can do so through the park service's on-line comment form.  [If you go to the form, you can easily navigate to the various documents that are posted up relating to this issue.]

South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan Ė Public Comments
Proposal DF-03

     Expand the parking area south from the existing lot at the business center.  The area just south of the business center parking lot is an ideal location for expanded parking in this area.  It provides access to the business center without any interference with the existing roadways.  I am under the impression that the parking in this area is not especially congested, and that should be made less so with the addition of parking at Mather Point and in the village.  Still, it would be easy to add at least 250 spaces here, perhaps even as a prelude to some expanded visitor services in this area (e.g., restaurants, retail shops).

Rationale:

--Any additional parking that is created in the three critical areas of the South Rim Village area - the rim lodges, the business center and Mather Point - reduce the necessity for a complex and expensive transit system.  Additionally, it allows the park service to dramatically scale back, or eliminate, this service during the off-peak months of the year, since visitors can easily drive from one locale to another.  Of all the possible parking-based solutions for congestion at the Grand Canyon, this is likely to be the easiest to accomplish.

--Insofar as the park service is interested in promoting an internal shuttle bus system, this proposal would nicely fit into those plans.  Buses already stop in this area and can make this additional parking space another stop on a loop run in the Mather Point area, as suggested in Proposal DF-01.

--As noted above, this parking would be especially accommodative of additional development in this area to serve the needs of the visitor, be it eating facilities, shops or educational attractions.  I can easily imagine that this block of land, bounded by the entrance road, the campground road, the trailer village road and the Market Plaza road, could be developed over many years to meet visitor needs.  It has the advantage of not disrupting existing traffic flow and it is located well away from the rim of the canyon, although it is accessible via the walkway near the Shrine of the Ages and due to its proximity to the Canyon View Information Plaza.

To see some other park maps, follow this link to the Grand Canyon web site.
[The original image, above, was copied from Google Earth.]

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