Audible Audio Edition
Listening Length: 11 hours and 14 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Audible.com Release Date: May 11, 2015
Whispersync for Voice: Ready
Best Sellers Rank: #3 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Public Affairs & Policy > Regional Planning #10 in Books > Engineering & Transportation > Engineering > Civil & Environmental > Transportation #20 in Books > Audible Audiobooks > Nonfiction > Transportation
America’s transportation finance system has a broken business model. It needs to be fundamentally changed to adapt to the world we live in today. Glib but ambiguous calls for “vision” and “leadership” do nothing to fix the structural flaws in the way we choose, finance, maintain, and use transportation infrastructure.So, here’s a case study for Harvard Business School.You’ve got a legacy business with trillions of dollars invested in fixed plant and equipment, yet your current revenues don’t even cover your operating and maintenance costs. Moreover, the demand for your services has been declining overall, and younger consumers (the prime 25-44 age demographic) are using this far less than their parents. Your customers, who have grown used to being charged very low prices, tend to stop using your product when it becomes even slightly more costly. The company’s been building more capacity based on internal predictions of increased demand for years, but consumption of its product has been declining for a decade, and is languishing at late 1990s levels.What’s your prescription for this struggling business?You’d think a HBS case study would critically assess cost and revenue drivers, and look to see what parts of the business were working and why. It would recommend triage, focus on improving the company’s value proposition, and seek actual areas of growth that reflect emerging customer interest, and right-size its physical plant. And it would push to make sure that it wasn’t needlessly penalizing the value-adding components of its business by cross-subsidizing value-destroying money losers. It might shift its focus to the things customers say they want.
This book starts out with the “crumbling infrastructure” meme that our roads, bridges, and airports are under-funded, then makes a case not just for repairing them, but for augmenting it with bullet trains, city-wide commuter trains, and bicycle and pedestrian paths. It’s really about re-engineering cities. Because cities are transportation hubs, it focusses on transportation as the means to redevelop them into densely packed but “green” areas with human-friendly transportation alternatives like ride-sharing, mass-transit, bicycle, and foot paths.Author Rosabeth Moss Kanter explains how city managers in places like Portland, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, and even old industrial areas like Chicago and Miami (the book devotes many pages to redevelopment of transportation in those two cities) are taking a comprehensive view of using alternative transportation to redevelop themselves.Ms. Kanter gives us an idea of how those trends might be harnessed to remake cities. Ideally, we’d like to have urban areas that offer many modes of transportation that move people comfortably from home to work, school, and recreation in the inner city or suburbs. People should be able to choose to get around by automobile, train, bicycle, or footpath. The compelling vision of having many clean, high-tech, and efficient transportation routes is the strength of this book.If there is any weakness, it is the usual “bait and switch” propaganda about “crumbling infrastructure.” Ms. Kanter lays out the party line of the highway construction lobby (roadbuilding contractors, heavy equipment makers, and construction labor unions) of portraying our highways and bridges in the worst possible light.
Kanter’s argument in Move expands the definition of American infrastructure. She explains why grassroots advocates are needed to fulfill its promise to organize and motivate policymakers to make it a national priority. Creative, integrated, and responsive types of infrastructure are essential to address national challenges in the economy, healthcare, education, social mobility and quality of life. But, as Kanter makes clear, it is about much more than roads, rail and air travel. Kanter argues infrastructure must harness and integrate these with emerging modes of transportation by connecting them with innovations in communications and information technology. “The average household spends 19 percent of its budget on getting around, according to the Federal Highway Administration.” Virtually everything we do is dependent on transportation. Infrastructure either makes life more efficient or maddeningly frustrating. The bulk of the book details the various options between these poles. These are centered mostly on urban settings. But, as Kanter makes clear near her conclusion, ideally solutions to these problems must be seen as regionally-based and the role of national policies should be to join together regions and the rural areas connecting them.Transportation options are much more numerous than we might initially imagine. We can look to Europe, China and Japan to see how application of the latest technologies can be combined into seamless transportation options incorporating safe and efficient speedy trains, light rail, air travel, shipping, busses, automobiles (including shared and limited use), parking, bicycles and that old nugget, walking. In the United States there is no overwhelming national strategy to address transportation infrastructure.
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