Bitter Irony: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose have the Worst Roads in America, Worse even than Detroit

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But the roads in much of the nation are in terrible shape too.

That the streets are in terrible shape in San Francisco is clear when I step out of the house, look at the pavement I need to cross, and think: “I should have put on my hiking boots.”

To its credit, the city has been repaving streets in sections of a few blocks here and there. Those repaved sections look civilized, until you get to the next intersection. But now we know, sort of officially: the streets in San Francisco are in the worst condition of any major urban area. Even compared to smaller cities, only Concord, also in the Bay Area, outshines it.

This we now know from a report by TRIP, a nonprofit that “researches, evaluates, and distributes economic and technical data on highway transportation issues.”

And it’s not just in San Francisco. The report found that 32% of the nation’s major urban highways and roads are in “poor condition” and “provide an unacceptably rough ride to motorists.” An additional 39% of them are in “mediocre or fair condition.” Only 28% are in good condition. TRIP obtained the pavement data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), based on data submitted annually by state departments of transportation.

In the table below, the top three urban areas are among the most expensive places to live, and they’re all in California. In San Francisco and Oakland, lumped together into one urban area, a confounding 71% of the roads are in “poor” condition. In the area of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Santa Ana, 60% of the roads are in “poor” condition. In the southern bookend of booming and wealthy Silicon Valley, San Jose, 59% of the roads are in “poor” condition. These expensive and wealthy areas have road conditions that are worse than those of Detroit, the biggest municipal bankruptcy so far.

Here are the 25 urban areas with a population of over 500,000, with the worst road conditions, according to the TRIP report:

us-road-conditions-worst-cities-over-500k

A special word must be said about San Francisco. It’s where the median two-bedroom apartment rents for $56,000 a year, down by about 7% from a year ago. This is also the place where the median home has cost over $1 million for several years. The economy has been booming. Employment in the tech sector has soared, bringing in high-income employees, and they’re all paying taxes out of their nose in San Francisco.



Tourism too is booming, and special tourist taxes (hotels, rental cars) have reached obscene levels. Sales tax is 8.75% (includes 6.25% that goes to the state). Revenues from parking and traffic tickets are soaring: from $274 million in fiscal 2014 to $285 million in fiscal 2015, to $290 million in fiscal 2016. Each a record year. But we can’t get our streets repaved.

The smaller cities are in no better shape. The table below shows the 25 urban areas with a population between 200,000 and 500,000 with the worst road conditions. Number one on that list, Concord, is also in the Bay Area, as are number 4, Antioch, and number 9, bankruptcy-filer Stockton:

us-road-conditions-worst-cities-200-500k

While governments save some money by not keeping roads in decent condition, it costs companies and consumers a heck of a lot, according to the TRIP report:

The average motorist in the U.S. is losing $523 annually — $112 billion nationally — in additional vehicle operating costs as a result of driving on roads in need of repair. Driving on roads in disrepair increases consumer costs by accelerating vehicle deterioration and depreciation, increasing the frequency of needed maintenance, and requiring additional fuel consumption.

This table shows these additional expenses for the 25 urban areas with over 500,000 people, where drivers pay the most annually due to roads that are in “poor, mediocre and fair” condition:

us-road-conditions-biggest-costs-cities-over-500k

Two cities in Oklahoma have beaten the San Francisco-Oakland duo. It costs drivers in all three urban areas about $1,000 a year in additional repairs, maintenance, fuel, and other expenses. That’s not pocket change. A similar picture emerges among the smaller urban areas:

us-road-conditions-biggest-costs-cities-200-500k

The report pointed at a conundrum: Rough freeze-thaw cycles accelerate road deterioration. They’re an excuse for Detroit, Milwaukee, Tulsa even, and other cities. But freeze-thaw cycles are just not happening in the three large urban areas with the worst roads: It just doesn’t get that cold in San Francisco, San Jose, and coastal Southern California.

And it’s going to get worse, nationally, according to TRIP:

Vehicle travel in the U.S. increased by 15% from 2000 to 2015. US vehicle travel during the first eight months of 2016 increased 3.1% from the same period in 2015.

Travel by large commercial trucks in the US increased by 26% from 2000 to 2014. Large trucks place significant stress on roads and highways.

And the dollar amounts to get this mess fixed are huge:

The 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report found that the U.S. currently has a $740 billion backlog in improvements needed to restore the nation’s roads, highways, and bridges to the level of condition and performance needed to meet the nation’s transportation demands.

That $740 billion backlog is on top of the annual costs to just keep the road system from falling apart entirely. Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director, put it this way in a statement:

“With state and local governments struggling to fund needed road repairs and with federal surface transportation funding falling short of the amount needed to make needed improvements, road conditions are projected to get even worse.”

“Without adequate investment at the local, state, and federal levels, our nation’s crumbling pavements will be more than just a nuisance for drivers – they’ll be a roadblock to economic growth and quality of life.”

TRIP advocates to invest enough “to ensure that 75% of local road surfaces are in good condition.” Sure, that would be nice, but I think they’re dreaming. It’s a lot more glamorous to inflate asset prices than it is to fix potholes and bridges.

There has been a big demographic shift behind the high-rent phenomenon. Read…  It’s Not a “Housing Crisis” for Everyone



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  89 comments for “Bitter Irony: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose have the Worst Roads in America, Worse even than Detroit

  1. James R. Chaillet, Jr., MD
    November 6, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    One small defense for Milwaukee and Madison, WI. They get a lot more ice and snow that San Francisco and, in general, they do a good job of keeping the streets navigable in Winter. I believe my kids had, perhaps, 5 snow days in their entire 16 years of primary education there. I don’t know what Chicago’s excuse is. Oh, yes I do!!

    • Chris
      November 7, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      Chicago gets a lot of snow and low temperatures in case you did not know.

  2. Uncle Frank
    November 6, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    Taxpayers have been complaining about the poor road conditions in my Texas city of 100,000 for years. The city council, regardless who is elected, gives us their word that the situation will be rectified with no change. Years ago they sold-off all the road maintenance equipment and told the public that the roads would be maintained under private contracts when needed. That failed miserably and now the situation is much worse. The council has funded for a botanical garden but the roads will remain a shambles. This is what happens when less than 20 percent of the eligible citizens vote for city council.

    • MC
      November 7, 2016 at 4:46 am

      It seems a depressingly common problem worldwide: the city has never any money for road or sewer maintenance but always has plenty to spare to build amenities which invariably fall into a state of disrepair after a few years, when interest wanes and maintenance stops being a priority.

      Public parks are big favorites because they are big PR boosts and are relatively cheap to build while driving nearby property values. However public parks also require daily maintenance to remain in shape: just think about emptying the trash bins and raking the fallen leaves.
      Smaller cities and towns tend to run out of maintenance funds pretty quickly and those parks become poster children for the urban decay the media do not want to cover because people don’t want to see it: youths go there to binge drink and smoke pot, drug dealers and junkies congregate on the far side where police can only arrive on foot… anybody who has spent a part of his/her life in a small town will be able to take it from here.

      Then mothers taking their children for a stroll notice the piles of empty bottles and the needles and start to make a racket. The new administration decides to rebuild the park… rinse and repeat.

  3. Harrold
    November 6, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    I think a lot is by design in the Silicon Valley area. Poor roads help make commutes impossiblely long and keep outsiders outside.

    Several cities are voting Tuesday to put laws in place to lower growth of housing, retail, and offices. Mainly offices to keep outsiders from commuting in to new jobs.

  4. Casey Baldwin
    November 6, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Roads are like the weather; a mundane but important subject that affects nearly everybody. And it certainly seems like Americans are suffering from poor maintenance of basic infrastructure, some dangerous, like bridges. I particularly don’t understand why the three most expensive areas to live in the country, all in California, are at the top of the ‘poor’ road list. Surely these affluent areas pay far higher taxes on their property, consumption of goods, and on their income. This detailed article fails to ask why and absolutely begs for an answer. Sacramento isn’t on the list, but of course that’s where State legislators drive. Maybe the Golden State is in far worse financial shape than they are telling their voters. In my relatively poor Canadian province of Nova Scotia, which does have some frost heave in winter, the roads are quite well kept. Poor California road maintenance remains a complete mystery to me. CB

  5. Ptb
    November 6, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Sounds like a set-up for a gigantic fiscal stimulus spending package.

    • Mike R.
      November 7, 2016 at 8:04 am

      You naile it. The timing and focus is incredibly coincidental.

  6. old farmer
    November 6, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    A friend who is an engineer at CalTrans pointed out to me that self-driving cars absolutely require good roads, and particularly crisp and bright striping if they are to stay in their lanes. I notice that a lot of striping on California secondary roads is worn away and hardly visible; some obvious implications.

    • Renews
      November 7, 2016 at 2:36 am

      How sad would it be that roads be improved thanks to autonomous cars manufacturers and companies :(

    • MC
      November 7, 2016 at 4:30 am

      You will get what we have here: roads with potholes so big you could raise fishcat in there but immaculate, freshly applied striping.

  7. chuckles
    November 6, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    As a native and resident of San Jose, I am not surprised at all that we are the 3rd worst in the nation.

    • nick kelly
      November 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      San Jose declared bankruptcy- a major cause according to Micheal Lewis ( Big Short etc.) fire and police salaries and pensions.

  8. Merlin
    November 6, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    You get what you pay for. Low bid wins government jobs and the material of choice (low cost) is usually asphalt, not concrete, and temperature extremes of over 100 degrees simply destroy asphalt. Also, shoddy workmanship, skimping on quality, poor to no oversight from anyone with expertise to know a bad job in the making.

    The root cause is endemic indifference by a ever-growing segment of the population in an aging empire.

    • NotSoSure
      November 6, 2016 at 11:58 pm

      “The root cause is endemic indifference by a ever-growing segment of the population in an aging empire.”

      I would say most of the population have always been indifferent. Certainly they didn’t ask where the oil came from or how the sausage is made inside the banks.

      “The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.”
      ― Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

  9. NotSoSure
    November 6, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Duh, it’s obvious when the money went. Money in America invariably ends up in only the following 3 places:
    1. Banks. Meaning bailouts.
    2. Democratic + Republican slush funds
    3. Internet advertising.

    • Lee
      November 7, 2016 at 3:12 am

      You forgot high salaries for public serpents and their associated high pensions which are still unfunded.

      Which do you think will get the priority: roads or benefits?

      Here in Australia we have a different problem with our roads.

      In the city they are overcrowded and in generally good repair. Funding is from general revenue and not real estate levies/taxes.

      Once you get off the main roads and highways they are some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen. Local country roads are in really bad shape. They even have road signs limiting the speed limit because of the rough surface.

      Overcrowding in the big smoke and not enough people out in the sticks. Not enough funding to bring up the standards out in the sticks.

      As we have large distances to get from one population center to another there have been calls for increasing the speed limit in country areas. This is fine on the main highways, but would result in even more deaths on the local roads.

      Guess where most of road fatalities happen on a per capita basis and % basis………………

      (And Australian drivers especially in the Melbourne area are some of the worst in the world – rude, impatient, and plain ole dumb)

      • Ptb
        November 7, 2016 at 11:02 am

        Public serpents. Lol. Thanks for the laugh.

      • Tim
        November 7, 2016 at 4:19 pm

        bahaha blame the public servants. Just to let you know Lee, and Australian public servant’s pension is 9.5%, just like everyone elses. I hope you’re not applying to Mensa anytime soon.

  10. john
    November 6, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Everyone is overlooking the obvious… The way we build doesn’t generate enough value to pay for the infrastructure required to service it.

    Check out http://www.strongtowns.org for some real information about this. The only way out is more productive land use.

    • economicminor
      November 7, 2016 at 11:24 am

      I agree but while we’re at it why not just more sane use of our energy and resources. Repaving all the streets will use a lot of oil and then in 10 years we have to do it all again. Let us just waste a depleting resource and create some more global warming while we’re at it.

      People need to get real, especially on the west coast. All this urban sprawl for what? And it all is occupied by the same retail. You can go from Stockton Calif to El Passo TX and find the same strip malls.. Everywhere is looking the same. Is all this sprawl and same town look making anyone a happier healthier human beings? What is life about? Certainly not only about working to shop so we can all look alike all have the same and do the same and be the same.

      • I M
        November 13, 2016 at 9:06 am

        Actually, some Global Warming is the solution to many of the road maintenance costs faced by states in cold climates. Without the severe winters, plowing, salt, freeze-thaw cycles, etc. then a large cause of road damage goes away. With a wider perspective, one might also consider that with longer growing cycles it’s possible that local agriculture can replace some of the trucked in produce, further reducing road stresses along with the added benefit of using more organically grown products vs agribiz farms.

        While the primary cause of urban sprawl is local gov’t greed for tax revenues, the secondary cause is demand by people that want to walk or bike everywhere or drive under 2 miles rather than drive 10+ miles to the nearest Starbucks. I for one don’t need a CVS and Walgreens on every corner of a 1 mile grid, but that’s just me. If local gov’t would zone for 1+ acre lots instead of condos or postage stamp lots for mcmansions, there would be far more distance separating neighborhoods and the nearest shopping destination. If one compares recently constructed suburban neighborhoods vs those constructed 30+ years ago, it becomes apparent that people today demand convenience above all else and gov’t exploits this for the tax revenue. In my childhood neighborhood the nearest grocery store was 15 miles away, not so today with average driving distances in the low single digits. I moved to ‘the country’ to get away from the sprawl but the sprawl has come to me with a flood of mcmansions on zero lot lines and a bloody walmart thanks to the city greed. I suspect that as people worry more about their ‘carbon footprint’ they will demand even higher densities in the form of smaller dwellings (condos) and even shorter distances for shopping (i.e. walking distance) rather than lower density suburban neighborhoods of old. I don’t see things improving.

        • economicminor
          November 13, 2016 at 12:14 pm

          IM you do understand that urban sprawl has lots of negative consequence. Your argument about snow is speciois at best.. I’m guessing you are a climate change denier. Do you think we can double or tripple or quadruple the planet’s population and still have adequte good food and clean air and water?

          Have you ever watched the video series published by Chris Martensen called the Crash Course? https://www.peakprosperity.com/crashcourse

          Do you understand the mathematical principle of exponential numbers? The earth is a finite environment. Check out #3. Or just go back and put your head in the sand like an Ostrich. It really isn’t rocket science.

  11. Chicken
    November 6, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    I’ve been wondering how well tax receipts are doing, more and more projects seem to be privately funded these days?

    • MC
      November 7, 2016 at 8:01 am

      I’ve just checked and my taxes haven’t gone down a penny, so it’s not me!

  12. John Doyle
    November 7, 2016 at 12:25 am

    I assume the roads are on the State tab? The federal government can step in and pay for the improvements. It costs it zero dollars. It spent hundreds of billions bailing out banks at no cost to taxpayers. Now’s the time to bail out the other arms of government, States and Municipalities. The improvements will pay for themselves in short order as far as GDP goes.

    • Yancey Ward
      November 7, 2016 at 1:32 am

      Another free-luncher. It is this kind of thinking that leads to rotting infrastructure.

    • Dan Romig
      November 7, 2016 at 7:31 am

      In Minnesota, we have a 28.6 cent per gallon tax on both gasoline and diesel. The Fed tax on top of that is 18.6 cents on gasoline & 24.4 cents on diesel.

      The Minnesota fuel tax revenue is supposed to go to the roadways, and we need more maintenance to be sure. Hell, in the springtime I think I should wear a mouthguard when riding my bicycle from all the cracks and potholes that shake me. The Twin Cities certainly gets freeze-thaw during the winter, but the GOP has blocked any tax increases which are nessesary to keep roads maintained.

      I am a Libertarian for the most part, but there’s a place for investing in public infrastructure, and keeping our roads in shape is pretty damn important.

  13. Yancey Ward
    November 7, 2016 at 1:30 am

    The roads are one of the most noticeable signs of the country’s rot. It will only get worse.

  14. Frederick
    November 7, 2016 at 2:00 am

    If you think they are gad now just wait till the collapse of the dollar Got Gold?

  15. ian
    November 7, 2016 at 2:08 am

    Roads in the UK are in a similar condition. We can afford to give 13 billion pounds a year away to foreign countries, many run by despots; we can pay over 1 billion to the useless UN and god knows how much to their myriad other agencies who do no good whatsoever; we give 18 billion a year to the EU so we can watch our democracy being overruled; we charge for university when it used to be free; we accept countless unskilled immigrants when we have millions unemployed who go straight onto sucking the government teat; we buy aircraft carriers but can’t afford the planes; we are going to spend countless billions on a high speed rail system that is a nice to have considering the backlog of necessities. A complete cluster f@&k.

  16. Renews
    November 7, 2016 at 2:33 am

    – highly paid SF inhabitants don’t care that much about roads or additional car maintenance costs: they don’t drive their own car, and often they have uber/lift or shuttle transportation

    – i try to make note of re paved roads in SF: it never takes more than 6 months before some construction or utility team digs holes and patch them poorly.

    – another unintended consequence of poor road is the much higher risk incurred to cyclists!
    You basically have to pay attention to drivers (scanning around) AND the road (scanning down).

    – the quality of material used for roads, at least in the Bay Area, is just subpar

  17. GSX
    November 7, 2016 at 3:16 am

    Thanks Republican do nothing Congress!!! You fund America not the White House. Too busy worrying about women’s bodies and not what keeps America moving!! Republicans take a long look in the mirror. You own Congress and the Tea Party thinks roads fix themselves I guess LOL

  18. night-train
    November 7, 2016 at 3:26 am

    My area has had a lot of construction of retail and condo/apartment complexes in the last 10-15 years. All that construction related traffic has put a lot of stress beyond the normal wear on the roads. About 20 years ago, I decided that buying a really nice sports car or sedan was foolish, since I was driving around on a tire company test track. Which is why my last two vehicles were SUVs. If I have to drive on logging roads, might as well drive a truck.

  19. November 7, 2016 at 3:41 am

    All excellent comments and observations as always.

    Now in another but quite relevant dimension ( and I will surely receive some criticism for what I am about to post ) . . . in a sane country . . . meaning a country with diligent professional leaders selected by a sane and concerned citizenry :

    (1) Gasoline would be $5.00 per gallon, minimum. Perhaps a bit more . . . and perhaps a lot more.

    (2) American behemoth Pickups and SUVs and massive engine automobiles would just not exist.

    I won’t expound on the two points above, conclusions and benefits are obvious.

    People will object – – long commutes, urban sprawl, holiday driving ( and whatnot ) .

    My response is this – – in my imaginary posited country, where such sane people and effective leaders dwell – – different cultural norms, policies and infrastructure would exist from the beginning :

    Such as emphasis on trains instead of interstate highways. Less urban sprawl, saner zoning and walkable cities. Small efficient vehicles and no ridiculous “let’s all hit the road it’s Labor Day” kinds of annual nonsense.

    I remember when Japanese pickup trucks were nicely small and fuel-efficient, and then one day a decade or more ago I say a Toyota Tundra and a Nissan Armada, etc. I knew we had returned to the 1950s and 1960s fuel-wasting mindset again.

    The Japanese learned they could sell massive ecological atrocities in America like the big three. Profitable. And so they did.

    We are – – as a nation – – collectively insane and irredeemably stupid. I reject membership in that collective and hope to see $5.00 gasoline in my lifetime.

    SnowieGeorgie

    • night-train
      November 7, 2016 at 4:54 am

      People will object – – long commutes, urban sprawl, holiday driving ( and whatnot ) .

      It’s the whatnot that worries me. :>

      Actually, I find your comment to be very sane, but I don’t expect Americans to change behavior until we have to. Perhaps the next couple of generations will change, as maybe they develop different values. But we boomers probably will not. Driving is an integral facet of our identity. We were brainwashed from the get-go. Big cars with big engines, and for a while, big fins on the back. Cruising the strip for entertainment getting 8 miles per gallon. At least many of todays crop of vehicles get somewhat descent milage.

      • economicminor
        November 7, 2016 at 11:48 am

        I think we are at a “have to” crossroads. The country is fractured and divided up into tribes. There is no more water to be squeezed from that stone. The wealthy elite do not seem to care or understand that without a healthy society supporting the infrastructure of the country, they will be left to their compounds with armed guards and no way out. They’ll be lucky to have enough replacement parts either.

        The roads, power grid, water and sewer infrastructures are all in decay. People are working hard and have rules of law they can not function under while those at the top of the society act like those at the top in the Hunger Games.

        The infrastructure will not get fixed until crony capitalism has run its course and collapsed. To me it feels like we are on that road today.

        • D_Boon
          November 7, 2016 at 12:56 pm

          I have been thinking about this question of infrastructure – particularly, that it is an opportunity to promote healthy and thriving people, economies, and trade. One the one hand, it is tempting to view the current situation as the cannibal economy disregarding the systems that sustain it; still, I think that a darker question emerges. With current developments in Big Data, AI, automation, and the global Panpticon of the Internet/telephone, what number of under class people would be needed to support the lifestyles of the ruling elites? What number would be most ideal for the purpose of stability in rule?

          Whichever numbers you get, they are less than the numbers of us today. Add this to the “liberal interventionists” that seen to be getting in tomorrow, and we have a recipie for war. It’s been brewing for a while, but it is coming due. i also have an expectation of more shennanigans after the war runs its course… more on that in the future.

      • I M
        November 13, 2016 at 9:39 am

        Would you find an electric HumVee objectionable?

    • Dan Romig
      November 7, 2016 at 7:45 am

      Minnesota has a ‘Progressive’ license tab renewal program that punishes success and rewards those that drive older SUVs and trucks that wear down our roadways. My Democratic State Representative and Senator laugh at me when I advocate renewal tab fees based on vehicle weight – not age and value.

      My 21 year old SC 400 cost me $51 for tabs & my 10 year old Chevy half-ton pickup was $58, but a two year old high-end small car (Audi S4) costs hundreds.

      • dwkunkel
        November 7, 2016 at 10:34 am

        I agree. Licensing fees should be by wait and the fees should increase geometrically as weight increases.

        • I M
          November 13, 2016 at 10:49 am

          By weight makes sense, but geometrically is excessive, some might even call it punishingly ‘progressive’. A $50 baseline fee and an incremental $10~20 per 500lb GVW is not unreasonable as it addresses the relevant concern. Gasoline taxes fairly distribute the remaining burden as long as the authorities are properly channeling that revenue to road related uses rather than pet projects.

      • I M
        November 13, 2016 at 11:05 am

        Are they taxing the Audi because it’s high end or because it’s new?

        The likely reason new fuel efficient cars cost more than older vehicles to renew is because the relevant municipality has realized that they won’t be getting as much revenue in gasoline taxes from a small fuel efficient car, so they ‘tax’ it on the front end. This has been one of those pesky unintended consequences of increased CAFE standards.

    • nick kelly
      November 7, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Train enthusiasts tend to look at Asian and European services.
      The density there is much higher and the distances much shorter. You can often get off the train and walk to a subway or even city bus terminal.
      Many Americans commute daily a distance across Holland.
      My (crazy) former brother-in-law commuted for months about 100 miles each way.
      BTW: the evacuation of US hurricane cities every few years and Fort McMurray ( Alberta Fires) this summer were done via private cars. There is absolutely nothing existing or in theory that could move that many people that quickly.

  20. d
    November 7, 2016 at 3:42 am

    This is what happens.

    When, as America has.

    You allow you political system, to become a Duopoly.

    Owned by Globalised Vampire Corporates, and Oligarch’s, currently allied with china.

  21. walter map
    November 7, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Ahem.

    It’s not just roads. It’s bridges, dams, levees, water and sewerage, schools, whole cities. The U.S. is turning into a third-world country. A lot of the country is already there.

    A word about dams. Sacramento and other cities have huge earthen dams built by farmers in the last century that CA expects to fail. Some states have no dam inspectors at all. It’s easy enough to google up horror stories for the rest of the above list, and that’s the short list.

    Where does the money go? Bank bailouts, overpriced ‘health care’, military imperialism, tax cuts for the rich, all cost the U.S. a couple of trillion, at least, year after year. Garrisoning the planet and blowing up brown people on other continents isn’t cheap.

    Meanwhile, the productive capacity of a quarter of the population is idled at great expense because letting them contribute and support themselves wouldn’t sufficiently enrich the wealthy.

    You need look no further than that.

    Meanwhile, the ecology of the planet is gutted with increasing rapidity, to the point where it is likely to be only marginally inhabitable in a few decades. For a large and growing fraction of life it is already uninhabitable.

    If you want a world that is just, peaceful, prosperous, sustainable, and enlightened, talk to the owners.

    • walter map
      November 7, 2016 at 6:17 am

      Bad things happen when you let a tiny tiny fraction of the people run the show for their own pointless glorification. Catastrophic, in fact. Just saying.

  22. patrick k
    November 7, 2016 at 6:21 am

    As a long time resident of SF, the bad roads, I’m convinced, produce negative psychological conditions. Bad days turn horrific when you drive somewhere and you swear your car is being rattled apart. I regularly go blocks out of my way to travel on newly paved streets to get across town. It used to be said you want to live by the mayor–the roads to and from seemed to be better maintained. Not any longer however. And just in case you think things will get better–they won’t. The entire sewer system, well past 100, needs to be redone.

  23. Yancey
    November 7, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Roads are in such disrepair in Ohio that pot holes have been named after Kasich.

  24. RalphZ
    November 7, 2016 at 6:40 am

    It’s the same in most of Europe. Here in Belgium, roads are notoriously in bad shape, and when repair works are carried out, the new road covering usually doesn’t last long.

    In France they have great highways, smooth like pooltables, but excruciatingly expensive to drive on. The free highways in France are in no better shape than in Belgium…

    Even in Germany roads are decaying… for example, in Berlin I took a bus ride in a cosy neighborhood in the city’s south (where my grandma lives), on a street where several lines pass through, sitting on the top deck of the doubledecker felt like being on a boat in bad weather…

    Roads cost increasingly more to maintain… and every day, extra miles of new roads are created everywhere in the world… sounds like an impossible equation.

  25. Uncle Frank
    November 7, 2016 at 7:55 am

    The standard answers I get from my city council member on why the roads can’t be repaired:

    1. The city doesn’t have the funds.
    2. We are budgeting funds for a study on which roads need the repairs the most.

    No wonder the residents are so frustrated with the system. Unfortunately, the same people manage to get reelected each time because of low voter turnout.

    • d
      November 7, 2016 at 8:03 am

      “low voter turnout.”

      Mayhao you need to do something about that.

      It is illegal not to vote in some country’s for good reason.

      Sadly some of those country’s have yet to implement a mechanism to stop the left buying elections with long term financially untenable promises.

      • walter map
        November 7, 2016 at 9:13 am

        “Sadly some of those country’s have yet to implement a mechanism to stop the left buying elections with long term financially untenable promises.”

        You mean Democrats, not leftists. Decades of corporate propaganda have ensured actual leftists are almost completely excluded.

        You’re only annoyed with Democrats because they’re willing to throw the people a bone once in a while, meanwhile selling them ‘health care’ programs (designed by corporatists) that enrich their wealthy clients, which pisses off Republican rivals no end.

  26. Thor's Hammer
    November 7, 2016 at 8:00 am

    Consider the alternative:
    Rode the BART from the SF airport to downtown three years ago. An experience comparable to being locked in a room with 4O cats in heat. About 120 decibels of screeching bearing noise.

    By the standard of the new SkyTrain in Vancouver or even the public transportation system in Bogota Colombia 40 years ago when I lived there, a total fiasco.

    • November 7, 2016 at 9:00 am

      That’s not my experience with the BART. Sure, there are some weirdos, but it has been OK so far. But I agree, it’s pretty lousy, especially compared to the Japanese commuter rail systems, though those trains get a lot, lot more crowded during rush hour than BART does.

    • walter map
      November 7, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Mass transit in the U.S. is insufficiently profitable to the oil cartels and underfunded to keep them discredited. Most large cities have no mass transit to speak of.

    • Dan Romig
      November 7, 2016 at 10:15 am

      We in the Twin Cities have two light rail lines. One from Mall of America & MSP airport to Downtown MPLS, and one that links MPLS to St. Paul. The cost to build the nine miles from existing light rail to St. Paul a few years ago was over $1 billion. That’s right, more than $100 million per mile!

      On top of that, we bought the first set of trains from Montreal’s Bombardier at $3 million each; and they were made in Mexico. Now we’ve added some from Germany’s Siemens, the S70, which are manufactured in Sacramento CA. The price tag for these cars for the proposed light rail line linking the southwest suburbs and downtown MPLS is $4,370,000 per.

      At least these are built in the USA, but it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when we don’t have an American company building electric trains at home for public transit largely funded by tax subsidies.

      Sarcasm: Maybe Trump (if he wins) can “Make America Great Again” by building choo choo trains here, damn it.

      P.S. I took my bike on the light rail to go to work yesterday, and at $1.75 per a two and a half hour long valid ticket, it’s a good deal. People flying into MSP can get to their hotel in the city almost as fast as by cab (sometimes faster; traffic and weather) for $2.25 during rush hour. Almost like Europe, eh?

    • Kasadour
      November 7, 2016 at 11:01 am

      I just rode the skytrain in Vancouver, was there about a month ago. Nice it was but it doesn’t go far enough. I’ve ridden the Bart and I understand what you mean about the noise.

      Oregon roads are terrible. Besides the normal cracks and road debris, the main problem is the road and highway system in Portland is overloaded. It just can’t handle the traffic anymore. Portland has grown but the road system has no adapted with it.

  27. Anon
    November 7, 2016 at 9:35 am

    The roads may be in poor shape, but California public employees have some of the best retirement benefits in the country.

    • walter map
      November 7, 2016 at 10:12 am

      You could cite phony examples but the millionaire teacher meme has already been discredited and the millionaire sanitation worker meme was never believed anyway.

      • MC
        November 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm

        I think it’s akin to how retirement systems work in Italy and Spain: only pennies to the dollar get to the beneficiaries but the whole system is so mind-numbingly wasteful people come to believe people must get incredibly generous retirement benefits.

        • walter map
          November 7, 2016 at 1:00 pm

          NakedCapitalism.com has featured a long series on how CalPers is systematically bled by private equity profiteers. NC regularly cites wolfstreet on related issues, btw.

          All very bad. Generally speaking, with regards to any program intended to provide anything for the common folk, if predators can’t take a fat cut, it won’t be allowed. This is called ‘political compromise’.

          Back on the roads. CA evidently finds it far easier to subsidize the wealthy than to pay for infrastructure:

          http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html

          It’s SOP. There are many examples.

        • Kent
          November 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm

          I read an article in my local paper that Brevard County, Florida retirees get an average of $8300/year from the State’s pension system.

          Florida supposedly has a very solid pension program for those in it, but it may be because it doesn’t pay out much.

        • John Doyle
          November 7, 2016 at 6:11 pm

          That’s not much. My old age pension here in Sydney pays out over $A20,000 p a. Even so it only pays the rent so I have to keep working.

      • nick kelly
        November 7, 2016 at 6:32 pm

        My city’s fire dept just settled for 95K after 5 years. Most hires are mid- twenties. This is triple the average salary of about 32K which INCLUDES teacher salaries. No post secondary ed.
        So by 28 or so they are part of the upper class.
        35K private sector is a good and not easy to find salary.

        But at least when they work they work. A close relative recently retired from senior staff at a University. Absolute funny farm.
        One gal whose mother is head of the union got a job in cafeteria.
        Now she could apply for in-service or closed competition ( which should be illegal)
        So she competes and against the assurances of senior boss, gets a job requiring a lot of computer skills. First question: what’s an app?
        This so peed of co-worker who now had to do everything she stopped talking to her: now she’s off on stress leave and pursuing bullying claim.
        This is just one example- there are hundreds.
        These jobs all begin at 50K

  28. EVENT HORIZON
    November 7, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Surprised? Really?

    Having been born over-seas, having lived over-seas, been raised over-seas, and having compared different nations, there is a simple reason for this:

    Every Third World Nation has Third World Roads.

  29. Ptb
    November 7, 2016 at 11:09 am

    It’s all relative. Having driven extensively through out the southwestern US, I can tell you that AZ roads are way better than CA roads. Yet, people in AZ complain about their roads more than the people in CA.

  30. November 7, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Get rid of the cars and the road problem solves itself.

    Best to divert resources toward vital infrastructure such as water supply and waste treatment; to revive our corroding national grid. Money is easy to find to keep up cell-phone infrastructure and TV cable but not for ‘other things’. Problem w/ roads is they are costly to rebuild yet the need is endless; patching is rarely effective for longer than a few years.

    Money is also easy to come by for nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan but not in the US. Want to know where your roads are ask the Pentagon.

    We have not come to the danger point yet but it is nearing relentlessly, day by day; when the decrease in fuel supply is such that keeping hundreds of millions of cars aimlessly circling from nowhere to nowhere reduces crop production and-or threatens the comfort of the elites.

    Crop failure will present an mental puzzle for US motorists as they universally believe food is created by magic in the back rooms of grocery stores but the elites have the military at their beck and call. They will ration fuel supplies for reasons of ‘security’ and ‘war on terrorism’ so they will get what they- and their pets want leaving the rest will do without. If you think things are bad now just wait.

    Better to get rid of the cars now … before all that bad stuff happens, right?

    • November 7, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      “Get rid of the cars now, before . . . . .” ?

      Absolutely, get rid of them, but for ( perhaps ) the most “necessary” uses, e.g., ambulances and the like.

      Hard to do. People, however, do respond to rational incentives. People respond to pain and to pleasure. The pleasure of wasteful driving at this time exceeds ( by a lot ) the pain of paying for the gas and the automobile. At this time.

      Raise the pain level for driving, people will respond to that. AT $5.00 GASOLINE, driving will begin to diminish, Y.O.Y.

      AT $10.00 GASOLINE, getting rid of cars will become within reach. Guaranteed. Even if cars cannot be completely eliminated, at $10.00 gasoline, almost all wasteful driving will be curtailed. And yes, bus transit will reappear for the “non-elite” wage earner, just as it used to be 100 years ago.

      Change is possible. Just apply enough pain to the correct pressure points.

      SnowieGeorgie

    • economicminor
      November 7, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      It isn’t the cars so much as the heavy trucks that tear up the roads.. An improved rail system would go a long way towards fixing this BUT then again, that takes government intervention not only with funding but with easements and other infrastructure. All the while one side hates government and the other side uses it for endless wars and special breaks for their owners.

      • d
        November 7, 2016 at 9:39 pm

        “It isn’t the cars so much as the heavy trucks that tear up the roads.. ”

        This is to put it mildly, factually incorrect.

        World wide research has shown, that single axle truck’s (In America including all those level big SUV/Pickup’s) do more damage to roads than Heavy vehicles ever will, as all the weight of the unit, is on 1 strike point. instead of spread over severally.

        Further the greats % of overweight truck’s, are single axle.

        Michigan specials have a logic behind them. Other than tax.

        Learn to understand that logic.

        • November 8, 2016 at 12:12 am

          I’m not sure I buy that.

          There is a very simple number: tire pressure in pounds per square inch. Class 8 truck tires are inflated to around 105 pounds per square inch (psi). Passenger vehicle tires are inflated to about 32 psi. That means that a truck tire puts 3.3 times as much pressure per square inch on the pavement.

          And trucks weigh a lot more, so they have a lot more wheels to spread the weight (18 is a standard rig in the US, I’ve seen road trains in Australia with far more wheels).

          So the math: an 18-wheeler has 4.5 times as many wheels as a regular pickup. Each of these 18 tires puts 3.3 times as much pressure per square inch on the pavement.

          So if that 18-wheeler weighs 70,000 pounds, spread over 18 tires, each putting 105 pounds per square inch on the pavement, then the total contact area of all 18 tires combined is 70,000 pounds/105 pounds per square inch = 667 square inches of total contact area to rough up the pavement – and at 3.3 times the pressure.

          By comparison, the 4 wheels of a 6,000 pound pickup/SUV have a combined contact area of 6,000/32 = 187 square inches, and at less than one-third the pressure (32 psi vs. 105 psi) on the pavement per square inch.

          Is my math right? Julian?

        • d
          November 8, 2016 at 1:39 am

          Your math is correct, your thinking is wrong

          Brake it down to Lbs sq In/Kgs per Sq cm, over the contact patch of the Tyre. 18 Wheeler’s (An archaic combination now (most of ours are 8 axles, 28 wheels in the same application as your old18’s) have bigger contact patches per Tyre.

          Look at the Physical contact patch of a 185/14 dual rear wheel truck, then look at the contact patch of 1000/20 dual wheel truck.

          Then factor in Kinetic energy of speed.

          R/Train’s B/doubles M/Specials, have huge Contact patches to dissipate their huge loads, so their Lbs sq In/Kgs per Sq cm, is actually lower.

          I took your position, when I was an apprentice.

          Put a 18 wheeler truck on The scales.

          Then put a Put medium size two axle truck on the scales. These are individual wheel scales, because that’s what the scalies do, when they weigh you, then they look for the heavy axles, and more importantly, wheels. Here and in Road train/skippy land, anyway. After they have run a heat gun over the wheels to check the brakes are adjusted properly.

          Its amazing what happens when you move a 6 ton load, 50MM/2″ forwards or backwards, on some units. Like $5000.00 fine for overloading amazing.

          Volvos in particular are Mongrels for going heavy on the no 2 front axle on 4 axle tractors/truck’s.

          I used to build specialist units, that’s how I learnt these thing’s, from the Scalies who came and weighed them, whilst we we were building them.

          We built around 8 reefers once, then had to lengthen the wheel base on all of them, by 100MM as they weren’t weighing up properly, as the truck sales people we built them for didnt, get the first one weighed, properly.

          Two axle trucks do not spread their loads anywhere near as efficiently as Multi Axle trucks/truck trailers, that have suspensions designed, to do just that.

          Even if the gross is OK, frequently Two axle trucks, are still seriously over weight on 1 wheel, or axle, due to incorrect load placement.

          Then go to the Overweight units.

          Statistically more single axle trucks, with smaller contact patches, traveling at higher speeds, are overweight, often, all on 1 rear wheel. More kinetic energy on that 1 heavy wheel = much more road damage, in 1 spot.

          They dont get picked up, as the Scalies are all looking for the $5000.00 heavy front axle.

          What Happens in the real world on the road, is the little guy brakes the surface, then the B train or 18/28 goes over it, and rips it to bits, getting the blame for the damage.

          Once the road is damaged, the 18/28 will rip it up, fast, 99 times out of 100, he didnt make the first hole. He is simply speeding up the process, started by the first small overweight truck.

        • economicminor
          November 8, 2016 at 12:19 am

          well, OK Trucks it is… even if they are not 18 wheelers.

          I can’t figure out why anyone would want to drive one of those big SUVs and big PU trucks around a city anyway.. It is hard enough to find parking for a car.. the bigger the less available parking is and if you can’t park, what’s the point?

        • economicminor
          November 8, 2016 at 12:28 am

          OR you can just do the simple math… a fully loaded truck is 80,000 lbs divided by 18 = 4,444 lbs per tire.. A SUV weighs in between 4 to 5,000 with 4 wheels or a total of 1250 lbs per tire. You might get more with a loaded PU truck but a 3/4 ton truck carrying 1500 lbs plus the weight of the truck at maybe 5,000 lbs = 1650 lbs per wheel.

          Way different than a Civic that weights < 3,000 lbs and has 4 wheels = 750 lbs per wheel

        • d
          November 8, 2016 at 1:51 am

          Bigger contact patches, load balancing suspension, Etc.

          Operators of smaller flatbed’s and pickups, don’t pay that much attention to correct load placement, and regularly run overweight, often inadvertently.

          They do the damage, then the 18 Wheeler’s, show you where it is.

        • Dan Romig
          November 8, 2016 at 6:39 am

          Very interesting topic. In theory it does come down to mass per surface area – in a static situation, and force(s) exerted toward roadway in a dynamic situation. Dynamic force loads are not unidirectional.

          Take, for example, a one ton pickup without duel wheels in the rear that is pulling a trailer and is loaded in the bed. When accelerating from a stop, there’s a lot of force put down on the road in the vertical plain from weight, but there’s also the horizontal force applied as the tires push back. This combination puts a lot of stress on the road from a relatively small contact area, and it also happens under braking.

          A fully loaded 18 wheeler on a flat smooth road @ 100kph constant speed doesn’t do that much damage to the highway. Of, course your Honda Civic is easier on the surface, but how many Polaris snowmobiles can you deliver with a Civic from Roseau MN? Full disclosure: I have owned three Civics.

        • d
          November 8, 2016 at 8:15 am

          Yes, then add what happens regularly to single, and particular single tired axles, when the suspension bottoms, exerting huge leveraged parabolic forces, on the road surface.

          Due to the load sharing nature of the suspension, multi axle vehicles, almost never exert loads like that on the road surfaces.

          This is why you see such damage on the inside of turns, going up steeper hills.

          Once you have a surface fault however, a multi axle unit, will rapidly exacerbate that fault. As one part of the unit is shock loaded, and unloaded, then loaded again, unevenly.

          This is why 3 and 4 axle trailers, on air suspension in particular, are superior to two axle trailers, loaded on even surfaces.

          This is why tracked vehicles with huge weights, can pass, off highway, where light single tired Axel vehicles, can not

      • nick kelly
        November 8, 2016 at 7:38 pm

        Very true- in fact the damage to a road from vehicle weight varies as the CUBE of the weight.
        This is the reason for highway weigh scales.

  31. Tom Kauser
    November 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Truck is heavy with compounds to dissolve ice and snow and has a shovel to push it “out the way” what could possibly go wrong? Umh pothole racket!

    • Tom Kauser
      November 7, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      Fines double!

  32. Doug
    November 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I drive a lot and been to both San Francisco and Detroit and do not agree with this assessment. Detroit wins the terrible road award and some of the worst city streets I’ve experienced is in Dallas Texas.

  33. chino west
    November 7, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    This doesn’t even reflect the absolute filth and garbage on every highway & on/off ramps. Just drove 8 hours from DC to Norfolk r/t and there is more trash in 1/4 mile on bay area roads. The sheeple don’t notice or get angry when it’s pointed out.

  34. kayjay
    November 7, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    In many respects (population > 1Million), Fairfax County in Virginia .S.is probably the wealthiest county in U.S. Having driven in SFO, Oakland, etc, recently enough, I can bet you a Dollar that this county is the absolute worst in the U.S. I don’t know anything about the poorer counties in MI or OK, but Fairfax County beats anythong I can imagine in shoddy, busted roads and D.C. IS PROBABLY WORSE.

  35. ML
    November 8, 2016 at 3:09 am

    Here in UK, our county Herefordshire, part of the main street in our town is like a farm track. H is a large county (bordering Wales) but few towns and low density population. The council is broke. It does not have the money to repair all the roads. Potholes and damaged car wheels are the name of the game.

    Neighbouring counties are not as badly off. Their roads are generally in better condition. Even so my theory is that the car tyre and wheel manufacturers are loving it.

    • nick kelly
      November 8, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      It would take one hell of an impact to damage a wheel, it would have to deflate the tire in the process. And they are relatively cheap and easily replaced.
      The biggest and most expensive damage from pot holes is the suspension, springs, and shock absorbers, and possibly CV joints.

  36. Chris Maas
    November 8, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Moved from DC to a tiny little town in the middle of the woods in Maine. Wonderful town government. Lots of Conservative Republicans, Liberal Tree huggers. But we talk to each other – so we just agreed to increase our taxes by one full mil to pay for keeping our 34 miles of town roads in good shape. So many advantages to living in a place where people really work together!

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