Critics of government spending claim that building quality infrastructurefor the social good is not affordable. Focus on utility and low cost, they say. No need for grand stone building with imposing facades. Their concerns touch on two core marketing topics, designand pricing.
In their recent report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave US infrastructure a grade of D+. ASCE also said bad infrastructure costs U.S. households $9 per day in higher prices, poor service, repairs, and wasted time. For just $3 per day, they say we could fix the problem. Those numbers sound small, but they add up. Multiple that household-per-day number by 125 million households and 365 days a year, and you get an annual infrastructure bill of $137 billion. Paying for infrastructure is a big decision. How to pay for things is a marketing decision regarding pricing. What are the options?
Governing common shared resources such as water supplies relies on layers of resource management. Each level of management has different roles and responsibilities, from neighborhoods and cities through to regional, state, national and international governance. Currently, the way many cities approach water quality is inefficient because resource management is not regional. Water agencies ignore problems upstream, where water quality problems start. Applying funds to upstream problems is a marketing decision related to how we price our social goods. Fixing those upstream problems reduces costs downstream for water treatment.
Wired published an articleat the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics showing how some of the games’ venues would be recycled once the competition ended. Parts of the aquatics venue (above) will be used to create two public pools. The beachside volleyball stadium will become four elementary schools.
I like this designconcept. It reminds me of other innovations in public infrastructure, such as prefab bridges that cut both costs and construction times. But will Rio actually follow through on the promise?
Sidewalks are infrastructure and infrastructure is a reflection of our social nature. Sidewalks are, or can be, important public spaces. They might, or could, be the public space with which we’re most familiar. Sidewalks build community and promote the healthy lifestyle and walkable neighborhoods that many people say they want.
Consider what happens on sidewalks: chalk drawings, tricycle rides, dog walks, hopscotch, jump rope, lemonade stands, neighborhood conversations, holding hands.
I need to replace a toilet in my house. I don’t like spending money on toilets. To me, toilets are like vacuum cleaners and car tires–things that I didn’t grow up looking forward to investing in with my adult money.
We are social animals, goes the premise of this blog, and social animals build.
You might think of the social insects as builders: ants and termites, bees and wasps. Social mammals also build for the community. For instance, tunneling mammals like prairie dogs, voles and meerkats build communal networks of tubes and chambers.
Recently, a map of San Francisco’s BARTsystem as originally envisioned in the 1960s appeared in my Facebook feed (see above), and left viewers aching for more public transit. Most of the comments accompanying the map went something like, “Wouldn’t that be awesome to have today!”
Mainly, that’s because Bay Area drivers sit a long time in traffic. In the national bad traffic rankings, San Francisco is #3 and San Jose is #8. Plus, the current BART system is crowded and serves only part of the central Bay Area, and nothing to the north or south.
Voters 50 years ago had a chance to make something truly useful and awesome, but did only half the job. When our grandchildren look back at 2015, what things are they going wish we’d done for them?
Taxpayers in the 20th century left us a powerful legacy of interstates, power grids, telecom and computer networks, and more. For the sake of our communities, now and in the future, I believe that we need to continue investing in infrastructure that benefits us all.