Joan Fitzgerald

Joan Fitzgerald is professor of urban and public policy at Northeastern University. She is the author of Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development and a new book, Greenovation, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Recent Articles

Mass Transit in the Sun Belt

If you build it, they will come—but not if the system is skimpy and unreliable.

This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . screen_shot_2017-07-19_at_4.28.52_pm.png Even in car-dependent middle America, there is support for local mass transit in surprising places. Some of these are blue cities in red states, with City Hall governed by Democrats or pragmatic Republicans. In some, the local business elite backs transit initiatives out of frank acknowledgment that reliance on cars has reached its limits. This stance, however, puts them at odds with more ideologically anti-government Republicans who typically control Sun Belt state legislatures. The pro-carbon obsession of the Trump administration largely eliminates federal funds, at least for now, as any sort of carrot. The transit coalition is also fragile. With mass transit underdeveloped and inconvenient, many suburbanites view buses as transit of last resort for the poor and prefer commuting by car. And in some cities minority communities want more transit in...

Moving People, Not Cars

Dedicated lanes for bikes and buses are a great idea. But there is only so much city street to go around. The missing link? Limiting cars.

Dylan Passmore/Creative Commons Cambridge, Massachusetts, is ranked number one in the nation for bike infrastructure and walkability. This article appears in the Spring 2018 issue of The American Prospect . Subscribe here . Bike rentals are popping up in every major U.S. city, a harbinger of the desire of more and more people to break the car habit. Enthusiasts have visions of Copenhagen and Amsterdam, where about 40 percent of people commute to work and do many errands by bike. Yet few American cities have separate lanes in which bikes can safely travel. Meanwhile, bus rapid transit—buses moving in their own lanes that drive up to platforms and are boarded like trains—is catching on as a lower-cost alternative to expensive subways. But here’s the catch that is slowing the shift to both bikes and modern buses: There are only so many lanes on a given street, and at some point these uses compete with each other—unless cars are given less space to hog the road...

Tilting at Windmills

Why the green jobs promise is still unfulfilled

Rex Features via AP Images
This article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Cleveland has been trying to develop offshore wind turbines on Lake Erie since 2004. After many false starts, construction on a pilot program will start in 2018, helped along by Project Icebreaker, which will allow year-round production in the partly frozen lake. Should this six-turbine wind farm on Lake Erie be successful, a new wind-powered energy grid could be developed along the southern shores of all the Great Lakes. The government’s National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that more than 100,000 megawatts of wind energy could be generated on the Great Lakes. That, in turn, offers the potential for thousands of good jobs in the manufacturing supply chain for turbines, their components, and maintenance. The American Wind Energy Association estimates that wind power has already stimulated 3,000 jobs and $900 million in wind investment in Ohio. But a closer look suggests how...

The Green Wall Against Trump

He may repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan, but states and cities can, and will, still do a lot to advance clean power.

AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File
On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order to repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which mandated emission reductions from power companies (an estimated 650 million tons by 2025 alone). But since 29 states plus Washington, D.C., have set requirements to adopt more renewable energy (known as renewable portfolio standards), how much impact will Trump’s order have? Despite Trump’s embrace of coal, there is a fair amount of evidence that too many states are too far along on a renewable energy path for Trump to reverse their momentum. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that the states that have set goals for adopting renewable energy have collectively met 95 percent of their targets. Solar production was up 95 percent in 2016 alone, and that followed several years of rapid expansion, according to GTE Research and the Solar Energy Industry Association. Indeed, in 2016, for the first time ever, solar was the top new source of electric...

Solar Eclipse?

Can the U.S. have a coherent solar policy in the face of China’s strategic trade moves?

Imaginechina via AP Images
This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . The United States does not like to engage in explicit economic planning. Direct government pursuit of industrial objectives violates both our professed belief in free markets and our global commitment to liberal trade devoid of national favoritism. Nonetheless, the U.S. has been willing to use something close to economic planning when it comes to transitioning to both photovoltaic (PV) power installation and production of solar cells—a transition that markets won’t make on their own because of the current pricing advantage enjoyed by carbon-based fuels. States and cities have subsidized solar startups. The federal government has used tax credits to subsidize solar production. The Department of Energy has underwritten research and even operated as a venture capitalist. However, because of the uncoordinated and slightly guilty nature of solar planning U.S.-style, the American...