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These aren't the droids you're working for

Oct 16, 2019

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The Big Book

America’s infrastructure isn’t sexy

Kai Ryssdal May 19, 2015
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America’s infrastructure has fallen behind other nations. Highways are congested. Bridges are crumbling. Flights are delayed. Clearly, we need a solution. Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter identifies the hallmarks of successful transportation systems and explains the work being done to address these issues in her new book “Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead.” 

What’s the solution? 

We need a new vision that puts mobility at the center of so many things. I think that if we can rally the public and rally leaders, state and local, who do press on Washington to say this is a critical national priority for our future, this is the only way to grow the economy, this is the only way to end poverty. I mean, poor people are living in areas where they don’t have access to cars or public transportation. This is important to health, traffic fatalities, the air we breathe. State and local (governments) get it. Mayors and governors get it and we need their voices. 

On federal vs. local leadership: 

Federal, it’s so partisan, it’s so hard to get anything to happen. But mayors, for example, are very pragmatic. They have to run their city and often it’s all about operations and transportation. Governors often have a vision about what will build their economy. 

On the word “infrastructure” not being appealing: 

I thought when I started talking about the fact that I was writing this book, that I would say “infrastructure” and people would go to sleep. Instead, they want to tell me their story…they want to talk about their traffic jam, their late flight, their potholes, their awful neighborhood construction problems.  

Interesting facts about infrastructure in the United States:

  • The average American commuter wastes a total of 38 hours in traffic each year. That’s 5.5 billion hours in lost US productivity annually and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel. Traffic congestion alone costs about $70 billion per year in time wasted.
  • Nearly 20 million Americans work in transportation, transportation infrastructure, and related industries.
  • The average household spends between 11-19 percent of its budget on getting around.
  • Between 1989-2013, the US had nearly 600 bridge failures. Some of those collapses have led to deaths and hundreds of injuries.
  • In 2012, a quarter of all US bridges were deemed by the Federal Highway Administration to be structurally deficient. By 2023, a quarter of US bridges will be over 65 years old (and structurally deficient).
  • Delayed or canceled flights cost the economy about $30-40 billion a year.
  • The cost of traffic accidents is about $871 billion per year.

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