It's OK if you thought I was dead.
Once upon a time I wrote an occasional newsletter about my work and other stuff called Urbababble. You subscribed. Then I stopped writing it. A year passed. I read great books, went on some awesome bike rides, saw some cool birds, and so on. I didn’t tweet. A few people thought I was dead.
I could write a big long essay about why I’m resuming Urbababble now that arrives at no actual conclusion, has dozens of factual inaccuracies, and features lots of handwringing about various internet social trends, but then I’d be a wealthy and successful writer. (Shoutout to Michael Hobbes’s new podcast about wealthy, successful writers.)
If you’re not already a subscriber, you can sign up for free to keep up with my work.
What have I been up to lately? Oh, my usual bullshit. Longtime readers will know I write a lot about why the U.S. can’t build stuff. I had the phrase “urban productivity crisis” in a recent draft and my editor was like, “Is this a real phrase? If so define” and I replied that no, I had just made it up. It got cut. Editors are smart.
But I basically write about the U.S. urban productivity crisis, which I will define by linking to some stories I have written.
Thank You For Your Feedback: The community feedback process is an inconvenient annoyance that brings out the worst in people. It is also at the heart of why U.S. cities can't build new housing or transportation.
Here’s How the U.S. Can Stop Wasting Billions of Dollars on Each Transit Project: The U.S. is the most expensive country in the world in which to build mass transit. A new report by an NYU research group explains how that can change.
Why Doesn’t America Build Things? Environmental review laws have become a favorite scapegoat among those who lament our inability to build ambitious infrastructure, but the problem runs much deeper.
These stories are about 15,000 words combined, so I’m not saying you should read them all right now. But you can see I’m working towards something here. I don’t know what that something is. Cities are big, confusing places, and I don’t have some grand theory about why they’re so broken and how to make them work. And I would advise against taking anyone who does too seriously. Because people like that usually end up the subject of a future Michael Hobbes podcast debunking.
In the meantime, I’m looking for recommendations in the following areas:
Cat beds, preferably with a hidey-hole-like component
Good road or gravel bike rides off Metro North or LIRR
Until next time,
Aaron Gordon, senior staff writer, Motherboard, VICE News, alive