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Episode 112 guest Jeff Wood

Across hundreds of guests and topics, Jeff Wood of The Overhead Wire and the Talking Headways Podcast has learned some fundamental lessons about infrastructure, access, and the nuance necessary to have a productive conversation about a complex topic like transportation.


Cohen: Josh Cohen
Jensen: L’erin Jensen
Wood: Jeff Wood

Cohen: I agree with you. I mean, the bus is the workhorse. The bus is where most of these people are moving. It’s more flexible. Why are we still in love with infrastructure?

Wood: [SIGHS] That’s a big question. [LAUGHS] Uh, why do people love puppies? [LAUGHTER]

F: The freedom of movement to access jobs, education, and social activities is a fundamental human right, but that freedom is not distributed equitably, undermining our ability to create vibrant and sustainable communities for all. Welcome to The Movement where we talk with the leaders who are reshaping their communities with brave decisions, inspired advocacy, and a stubborn unwillingness to accept the status quo all in an effort to inspire the next generation of leaders. Here are your hosts Josh Cohen and L’erin Jensen.

Jensen: Our guest today is Jeff Wood, the man behind the industry newsletter The Overhead Wire and the Talking Headways Podcast.

Cohen: Prior to The Overhead Wire, Jeff spent eight years at Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit Oriented Development as new media director and chief cartographer.

Jensen: Welcome to The Movement podcast, Jeff.

Wood: Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate you having me on.

Cohen: So you’re an icon. I guess, we had a little back and forth this morning about that. You’re like, “I’m not the icon,” but, I mean, you’ve done 300 episodes—right—300-plus of the Talking Headways Podcast. Right? Is that what we’re up to?

Wood: Yeah. Yeah, so I think it’s 325, and then we’ve also done 85 episodes of the Monday show. So we’re over 400-something now total episodes for on the feed, which is, I guess, a fair amount of episodes.

Cohen: Yeah, I mean, you’re, like—you got to be in the top, you know, 1% of podcasters out there—right—I mean, as far as the total number of episodes you’ve ever produced. I mean, how many people have done more? Joe Rogan?

Wood: Maybe so. This American Life—

Cohen: Yeah.

Wood: —you know, 99% Invisible maybe, like, all the classics I’m sure. But they get way more listeners than me, so—[LAUGHS]—got a lot of work to do.

Cohen: Well, their topics are not as niche perhaps.

Jensen: Yeah.

Wood: Perhaps so.

Cohen: Well, good. Well, I want to maybe just to dig into a little bit, which is the origin story of the Talking Headways Podcast. What was your original thought behind it?

Wood: I actually got asked by Streetsblog to write a column. Ben Fried and Tonya Snyder, who are good friends, they had messaged me and said, “Hey, you know, you have a blog, The Overhead Wire,” and I’ve been doing that since 2006. I’ve been doing the newsletter since 2006 at Reconnecting America. And they were like, “Hey, do you want to write a column?” And I was like, “I’m not a good writer.” I’m not. I’m just not. And I don’t really like it. I love blogging, and it was in my own voice, and I didn’t have a fact checker or somebody, you know, looking over my shoulders spilling all the red ink on my page. So I appreciated that I could do it on my own, but—so they asked me if I could write a column, and I said, “No, I’m not going to do that, but, hey, this podcast thing is interesting. Let’s maybe think about doing—I can do an hour talking. That’s fine. You know, we can just chat about whatever.”

As you all know, the podcast just isn’t an hour talking. [LAUGHTER] It’s way more than that. You’ve got to do your research, and you’ve got to do your background and all that stuff. But, yeah, so that’s how it started. Basically, Tonya and I started as kind of a chat show. Tonya is now at POLITICO doing transportation reporting, but, you know, after she left Streetsblog they were going to just shut the podcast down, so I told them, “Well, I’ll keep doing it, if you let me,” and they’re like, “Yeah, sure, content.” So that’s how kind of the podcast got started, Talking Headways. And, you know, the music is—Tonya’s choice is still there. The kind of the ethos of it is still there. But it’s changed a little bit from episode, I guess, 50 or something on. But, yeah, that’s how it started. So they asked me to come, and I said, “Okay,” and then I kind of got to take over after a little while, and now it’s been, like you said, over 300 episodes.

Cohen: Wow. Wow. And, I think, the thing that just jumps out to me whenever I listen to it is just the amount of work that is required to understand some of these topics, because, you know, as you and I, you know, discussed a little bit, you know, this podcast is a little bit different in kind of the way we tackle the subjects versus the way you tackle yours. And whenever I delve into yours I’m always just kind of amazed at, like, the minutia that you kind of dig into and are able to talk fairly well about. And, you know, I was listening to one the other day about the sand, you know, the recent Monday one talking about the sand. I was like, “My gosh.” Like, the how the sand is round in some parts and coarse in other parts. And, like, holy smokes. How do you fit all this in?

Wood: I think it’s just what interests me, honestly. You know, the sand thing, like you were talking about, I’ve actually been interested in that for a while because—I don’t know. You can’t see behind my computer, but I have a whole National Geographics going back to 1967. It’s one of my favorite magazines. My parents gave me a whole stash of it, and then I kind of collected it ever since. But there was a story maybe three or four years ago. I think, Paul Salopek, who is actually walking from Africa to South America at the moment, he’s taking this 10-year journey to walk from place to place. And he stumbled upon this place with, you know, sand mining and some mafias. And they kind of threatened him a little bit. And I was like, “What’s the deal with this? What’s the deal with this sand thing?” and so I’ve been kind of following it ever since.

And there was an article in Deutsche Welle last week about it, and I try to post it whenever I can because I think it’s just fascinating. We depend on this material so much, and, you know, it’s a scarce resource we don’t really follow because it’s not in the commodities markets. So, yeah, it’s a really fascinating topic. So it’s stuff I get interested in, and then I follow it, and then it kind of pops up from time to time. So it’s not just sand; it’s all kinds of different topics. And the newsletter helps, obviously. I go through about 1,500 news items every day, so, you know, there’s bound to be stuff that pops up and stuff that sticks in my memory. Some stuff doesn’t stick. So, yeah, so just kind of it’s a process every day actually of doing this. Sometimes I have no idea where stuff comes from, honestly.

Jensen: Fifteen hundred news items every day?

Wood: Yeah. Yeah, we—

Jensen: That’s insane. Like, how? When? Like—

Wood: Well, during the day, that’s my job. [LAUGHS] It takes about four hours or so, but we get through it.

Jensen: Oh, wow. So I want to go back a little bit about the—Josh mentioned the way that we tackle the transit news is a little different from the way that you tackle it, but, so I want to talk a little bit about some of the topics that have emerged over the years that you’ve been producing this podcast. You’ve said it’s changed a little bit since Tonya left, but what have you seen now, and what are some issues that have gained or diminished in importance?

Wood: Well, obviously, equity. Obviously, that’s been a—I mean, we talked about it at Reconnecting America a lot, but I don’t know if a lot of folks were listening at the time. But it was definitely on the top of our minds, because we were funded by a number of nonprofits and funders who were really interested in that topic. And actually one of the first research projects I did was a project between HUD and FTA that looked at the connection between transit projects and Section 8 housing. And, you know, one of the things that—and that was actually, weirdly enough, it was, like, the first time HUD and FTA had ever worked together back in 2007, which is, like—

Cohen: Wow.

Wood: —blow your mind. Because why aren’t you working together before? But, you know, coming to today, equity is such a large and really important topic. And I know you guys cover this quite a bit and it’s one of the focal points of the show, but, you know, I think that there’s a lot of change that’s happening in the discussion about it and positive change obviously. And some negative, but mostly positive. So, you know, I’ve tried to kind of include that in some of the shows as well.

Another thing is kind of the digital revolution. There’s so much stuff going on with, like, broadband and, you know, the technology that’s going on out there, so that’s stuff that’s interesting to me as well. I think, those are some of the things that have really changed over time. When I started the podcast, it wasn’t something I was like, “Oh, I’m going to talk about broadband and talk about who doesn’t and who has it,” and now obviously because of the pandemic it’s become a super-big topic and you can talk about it all day. But it’s just something that I never expected to kind of cover on a transportation podcast.

Cohen: It sounds like you kind of follow your nose a little bit on some of these topics, and I think we try to do that a little bit as well where we’re trying to identify, you know, things. And, you know, when it comes to things like transportation, there’s a lot of connection points in—right—and mobility in general. Like, there’s a lot of, like—you know, as you mentioned the HUD and FTA thing, it’s like it’s kind of amazing that it took that long. But, you know, obviously, housing is a pretty important thing as it relates to transportation and mobility. But I’m starting to see a lot of connection points. And we’ve had some interesting guests on from the Drucker Institute to talk about some of the work they’re doing with Bendable in South Bend, which is pretty cool. And we’ve had some leadership folks that have talked a little bit about kind of leadership more tactically, so it’s been fun to kind of, like, figure out those kind of proximate areas that kind of plug into transportation but are not actually directly transportation but are really important.

Wood: Yeah, and, you know, something that’s really funny is that when I go through these topics and I look up what I kind of want to learn about it’s funny who does and doesn’t listen to the show on any given week. So I’ll have a show where I’m like, “Oh, my God. This topic is going to be amazing; the guest is amazing; the whole thing. I did all this research; it’s going to be awesome, and I think that everybody’s going to love it,” and then, you know, fewer people listen to that episode than—and then the next episode is like, “Okay, I’m going to do this episode. I think it’s an important topic, but I’m not as interested because it’s something a lot of people do,” and then it goes bonkers, and I’m like, “I have no idea what people are interested in listening to.” [LAUGHS] So I just try to, like, be as broad as possible in order to kind of catch all the topics that possibly might come out that people might be interested in. Obviously, my topics like sand are a little bit more esoteric, but it’s interesting to see what people kind of gravitate towards.

Cohen: Yeah, for sure. One of the things I find interesting about being in this space is trying to see how my different perspectives evolve over time. Right? And so, obviously, like you said, you’ve kind of followed your nose; you’ve dug deep on some topics; you’ve covered a lot of topics, I mean, now over 400 episodes in your oeuvre here but—so I’m curious if there’s any topics, whether that’s micromobility or transit or housing or transit technology or even things outside of transit that have changed over time as you’ve had this exposure to some of these subject-matter experts that you have on your show every week.

Wood: Yeah. I think, one of the biggest things is the idea of light rail or, you know, huge capital projects.

Cohen: Go on.

Wood: When I started the blog—[LAUGHTER]

Cohen: This has been an issue I’m sure you probably were aware in our area here in Durham, North Carolina—

Wood: Yeah.

Cohen: —where we’ve had some issues. So, go on. I’m listening.

Wood: Yeah. Yes. Yes. I know Yonah was sad when we had him on for the annual show.

Cohen: Yeah.

Wood: But, yeah, I mean, I think that one of the things that I’ve noticed over time—and my blog initially was called and, you know, the podcast for Monday is called The Overhead Wire. Right? The show is about transit with overhead wires, which could be trolleybuses. But mostly I was into, like, drawing crayon maps of light rail and thinking about where the next light rail line can go or streetcar or whatever else. But ultimately the work horse of our systems is the bus. And, I think, the evolution of the bus and the discussion about the bus has been really eye-opening for me and something that I’ve actually changed my opinion on many, many times.

And I rode the bus when I was in college. I rode the bus when I was, you know, when I was living in Texas a little bit, but ultimately, you know, it was something that I was so focused on, this big capital project stuff, I was so excited about light rail. And when Austin passed their recent, you know, light rail election this last year, I mean, I wrote my master’s thesis on the politics of light rail in Austin. That was how into it I was; I was writing a master’s thesis about this topic.

Cohen: Wow.

Wood: But ultimately the bus networks and how the bus works and how we treat the bus is, you know, the defining feature in how transit works in the United States, for better or worse. And so I think that’s kind of an evolution over time. The second evolution, I think, that’s been big for me is access, the discussion of access. And I recently had Karel Martens on who is a professor in Israel and from the Netherlands. And he wrote this really kind of thick book, really kind of philosophical. I actually wanted to, like, kind of rip my hair out when I was reading one of the chapters, which we discuss in the podcast, so it’s not something he doesn’t know. But, you know, the discussion about access as something that’s really important and that is more important than, say, congestion as a measure of whether people can get around is another thing that I think I’ve discussed over time.

We’ve had people from the Accessibility Observatory on. We’ve had Karel on. We’ve had Jarrett Walker on. Obviously, he talks a lot about access as well. So there’s a lot of discussion about that topic specifically. And I know that T4America is really, you know, pushing for that too. There’s a lot of discussion about that, that, you know, we really didn’t really think about as much before when I was starting the podcast or even when I was doing the blog. I mean, I kind of understood it to a certain extent but not to the extent at which we’ve talked about it on the show.

Cohen: But I think those are two great examples, because I think I feel similarly on both of those. I mean, when we had Sunday Parker on a couple—probably a month or so ago, I think, the quote she said is, “It’s separate but unequal still.” Right? It’s like, “Yes, you can give us access, but if it’s around the back and it’s hard to get my wheelchair in there and I don’t get that same feeling that you get from walking into that entryway that everyone else gets, it’s not the same.” Right? And it was just an interesting way of looking at accessibility. I want to go back to this issue of light rail thought. Why do you think that we’re still—I agree with you. I mean, the bus is the workhorse; the bus is where most of these people are moving; it’s more flexible. Why are we still in love with infrastructure?

Wood: [SIGHS] That’s a big question. [LAUGHS] Uh, why do people love puppies? [LAUGHTER]

Cohen: All right. All right.

Wood: They’re soft. They’re fuzzy.

Cohen: Fair point. Good. [LAUGHTER]

Wood: They’re happy creatures for the most part. No, I mean, I—your question is well taken. I think we’re in love with it because of the idea that it brings, the possibilities that it entails, that if we did this one big thing maybe we can change everything for everybody for the better. Obviously, it doesn’t quite work like that. We’re about to embark on this discussion about a transportation bill, and there’s going to be a lot of projects that may or may not be necessary, you know, in that bill, especially with the rekindling of the earmark.

But, you know, I really do think that there’s something inherent about seeing the—you know, when you’re a kid you see the transit and you’re excited about it. You’re excited about going on the subway. You’re excited when you go to a foreign country and you get to ride the rails like you don’t get to ride in the United States, and you hope that when you come back your system is going to be the one that is visited by other people and they kind of look at it, you know, in a grand fashion. But that’s something that doesn’t necessarily happen in the United States maybe outside of New York City when you go, you know, ride the subway there. So, I think, you know, our love of infrastructure, our love of large projects is a hope. It’s Princess Leia at the end of Rogue One. You know, it’s getting the plans. You know, it brings us hope.

So I just—I really love transit, and I love subways, and I love light rail, but there’s also places where we build these lines that don’t really work and they’re not really necessary or we overspend. I could do without most of the commuter rail that’s been built in the last 20 years in the United States. I can do without a lot of the light rail lines that have been built in the last 20 years in the United States. And one of the things that I did when I was working at Reconnecting America was we wrote a paper for TRB thinking about access to destinations. And we looked at the ridership numbers when you actually connected people with jobs. And, you know, news flash, when you connect people on a rail line with more jobs, you get higher ridership. But a lot of these lines that people are building, they’re building them through places not to places and they’re building them on freight right-of-ways and they’re doing stuff to make it cheap rather than effective.

The whole light rail issue in Austin was that, you know, for years—in 2000 there was an election. They lost the election by less than 2,000 votes. The line itself went down the most dense corridor where the highest bus ridership was, but subsequently after that loss the planners there wanted to move it to other places that were not going to be as effective, not get as much high ridership. And luckily in 2014 that got voted down, the light rail alignment that they had chosen for the next election, and then they went back to the one that was going to work. So there’s a lot of decisions that are made based on money rather than actually getting people from A to B, and, I think, that’s the biggest problem with this big infrastructure push that we see. And I hope that can change. And that’s why I want—you know, that’s why I love talking about access and thinking about where to put the lines that would work the most and work the best, because ultimately if we get it wrong we actually lose in the end because over time you’re going to get all the critics that, you know, say, “Well, we were right.” And we don’t want to make them right; we want to make them wrong.

Jensen: You put a much more optimistic spin on that than I would have. As Josh asked that question, I was thinking, “Well, because, like, you can see infrastructure.” Like, people like to see things. They see where their money is going. Whereas with something like with access and for the Sunday Parker example, like, we all know that if, like, the more people who have access, everyone wins. When the most marginalized parts of our communities win, we all win. But most people don’t realize that. They think, like, “Oh, well, this is only helping a small, select part of society.” But I love the way that you dug deeper into it than I would have and said that it represents more than just that; it represents hope and this idea that the U.S. can be something to aspire to, which, I think, in many ways is just going back to, like, the American dream in reality and, like, seeing it in these infrastructure projects.

Cohen: Well, but I want to dig into that just a little bit more though, which is, you know, part of what I think we’re missing here is that these projects are complex. I feel like the political process doesn’t recognize some of the nuance. There are some light rail projects—I think the Durham one actually was a good one. Right? It was connecting three of the top-10 job centers in the whole state—right—like, along one corridor. So, like, there was—I think that was a really good one. But there’s other ones that aren’t. Right? And so how do you, like, tease that out in such a way that, like, we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater? I don’t even know if that’s a good thing to say, I guess. But, you know, you know my point. It sounds horrible now that I said it. [LAUGHTER] Anyway, you know what I’m saying. But—

Wood: Metaphors are weird, man. [LAUGHTER]

Cohen: Yeah, metaphors are weird. Right? That’s the lesson we should pull from that. But what I feel like we’re missing there is the nuance to be able to have a conversation about a complex topic in a way that can be reasonable—right—that reasonable people could, like, say, “You know what? I’m concerned about this,” or, “I’m concerned about that.” I don’t know. Any thoughts on that?

Wood: It’s interesting because, you know, we had Clayton Nall on the show a number of years ago. And he wrote a book about kind of the politics of highways—right—and how building the interstate highway system out led to a lot of suburban flight and the kind of polarization of discussion about transportation. And so, I think, it goes kind of back to that, where, you know, you have this politics that, you know, people fight over whether you should have roads or transit rather than, “We should have everything, but we should do it in a more nuanced way.” And so, I think, that kind of colors the way we look at transportation and some of these projects. You know, in order to get somewhere, we need to kind of fight tooth and nail to just get the funding, and so, “Who cares what we build?” That’s kind of the theory that we might have these days.

And rather than having these metrics that set up what’s a good road and what’s a good transit line, “Where should it go? How many jobs should it connect? What type of system should you have? Should you have dedicated lanes? Should you try to get the politics to, you know, get the dedicated lanes?” Like, we have this huge streetcar discussion, obviously, in the last 10 years or so. I was guilty of helping to write a book about streetcars that might have helped that along. But one of the things that doesn’t get talked about a lot is that a lot of the places we’re trying to cut costs and move politically because they were having this problem trying to get dedicated lanes for light rail. And so they’re like, “Oh, let’s do a streetcar in the middle of the street with all the other vehicles and stuff.” And, you know, obviously, the streetcars have been, you know, quote-unquote—I don’t know if they would call it a failure, but it’s just kind of gone in the direction that we might not have wanted to see them go. But that’s kind of the—what we’re thinking of is looking at this process of building transit over time. And you get—you go down these corridors where you have this kind of wrong turn. You took a wrong turn, and the reason why is because of the politics.

So I guess I’m kind of running around in circles a little bit, but that’s kind of what I’ve been thinking about in that sense, is that, you know, we don’t have the right discussions because we’re having these other discussions that are bigger and, you know, kind of bigger fights that we shouldn’t be having. We should be having these smaller discussions about the technical details, about, you know, where lines should go. I don’t think in France when they’re building a light rail line they worry so much about, you know, whether the other side of politics is going to just cut off their funding in the middle of building a line. So I think that’s kind of our bigger problem, is the politics. The technical details get lost in the shuffle because of it.

Cohen: Yeah. Jamelle Bouie talks about that a little bit on The War On Cars Podcast in the last—I think it was last week or so, talks specifically about the politics of that.

Wood: Also to your—kind of going back to your point about accessibility and talking with Sunday. And we had Sunday on a few years ago, but we also had Sara Hendren on taking about her book, What Can A Body Do? And that was one of the ones where I really thought people were going to kind of latch onto it. And they did to a certain extent but not as much as I maybe thought that they might. But, you know, she—her biggest thing that was really interesting to me was thinking about, you know, people who are labeled disabled aren’t necessarily disabled, they just have a different view on the world than we do or we don’t have the exact same view. They might actually be more abled than we are because we have these restrictions that we place on ourselves.

So, you know, there’s also one of the things that I’ve learned from the show is actually to kind of turn your brain around a little bit and think outside of your own shoes and put yourself into other shoes, because, I think, if we start thinking about people, you know, in their own shoes rather than our shoes only and maybe try—you know, sometimes we put ourselves in other people’s shoes, but we’re not really; we’re just, you know—we’re not putting ourselves in their body; we’re putting ourselves in their shoes, which is not quite the same thing.

Jensen: So, speaking of people you’ve had on the show and who have helped change your views, Josh and I recently had the two-year anniversary of The Movement—Josh, because I’ve been here for less than a year, but—[LAUGHS]

Wood: Still an anniversary.

Cohen: That’s right. That’s right.

Jensen: Well, you know, we put together, like—we pulled out some quotes and caught up with some of our favorite guests, some of our favorite episodes. What have been some of your favorite episodes or some of your favorite guests that you’ve had or that have just really stood out to you in the 325 episodes or over 400 total that you’ve done?

Wood: Yeah. Well, congrats to you all. I mean, that’s a milestone, getting this far. I don’t think—I think that most podcasts get to, like, five to seven episodes and then they’re done.

Cohen: Yeah.

Wood: And then they sit in the graveyard. So, you know, it’s a big accomplishment whether you’ve done for a year or two years.

Cohen: I remember when we started. When we started, our marketing director at the time said, “The key thing you have to do is consistency.” He said, “That’s the number one thing with podcasts; you’ve got to do consistency.” And for some reason that stuck with me, so it’s like every week come hell or high water you’ve got to put out a podcast. You know? And I know you take some breaks occasionally, which I think is good, but we’ve been really lucky that we’ve been able to put this together every week and mostly with L’erin’s help behind the scenes and now in front of the scenes. So I’m really grateful to her and the rest of our team as well.

Wood: Yeah, it’s a big accomplishment. I mean, you know, claps for you guys because it is hard. You know, I’ve had a lot of people come up and ask, you know, “What do I need to do to start a podcast?” or, “What do I need to do?” And I think I tell them the same thing, it’s, like, consistency but also, you know, you’ve just got to do it every week. One of the things that I—I ran track in high school and college, and I was a distance runner. And so, you know, you have this situation where you see the results that other people get, and you see your own results, but it’s not day-to-day, it’s annually or biannually that you actually see a faster time. It’s not necessarily going to come because you ran a 10-miler one Sunday. It’s because you ran a 10-miler every Sunday for the last year. So it’s this process of going through every single day and putting something out, you know, into the world. And not every single day for the podcast, obviously; it’s every single week, but the same kind of, you know, rules apply in that sense, that if you’re going to do something like this, you have to be consistent, and you have to keep going even if some days you really don’t want to get out and do it.

But to your question about favorite episodes, you know, I’ve had a number of folks that have come on the show, and some of my favorite episodes are the ones that I’ve produced kind of like a This American Life style where it’s kind of more storytelling. I’ve had one on water that I really liked. We talked about, you know, the water that drains into the ocean and why you shouldn’t surf after a certain, you know, after a rainstorm in San Diego because you might get some really bad, you know, crap that makes you sick or even die. People have died for surfing after the storm because of the runoff from the rainwater that goes directly into the pipes. And we did that with folks from NRDC. That was maybe three or four years ago, maybe five years ago. Four years ago? It was a while ago. But that was an awesome episode. We did one of those about Walt Disney as a planner. That was really fun.

Cohen: Oh, interesting.

Wood: And so I had my friend Tim Halbur on to talk about that. And, you know, Disney is a really interesting guy, and his thoughts about transportation and planning are really fascinating. And so him and Victor Gruen who was, you know, known as the grandfather of the mall got together and, you know, he basically thought about Disney World as a cruise ship—right—Disneyland as a cruise ship. You can go and get everything you want inside this place, and you don’t have to leave. And he also thought about it like a channel changer. Right? So if you’re going into Disney theme park, if you’re going to Disneyland, going to every single part of the park is like changing the channel on a television. Right? You’re changing your themes; you’re changing your ideas. And so thinking about that from a city context is really fascinating. And I loved doing that show and talking with the experts who have been studying Disney and cities forever. That might be one of my favorite episodes.

And then recently we had Germaine Halegoua on to talk about her book The Digital City. And, I think, that was maybe one of the ones that stood out to me the most in the last couple years. Her talking about the idea of who gets broadband, who gets access, who gets to benefit from—and sometimes when a big company like Google partners with a city like Kansas City, thinking about how people ingest broadband. You know, if you live in an apartment house and you have a broadband connection and you have a wireless connection, everybody in the house can get it, but that’s not how the companies see it. They want to sell each individual unit a $60-subscription a month. Whereas, you know, low-income households, they can’t afford that, but they can afford the larger one. So how can we change our mindset to actually stop being kind of more of a kind of a sales-and-consumption culture and be, like, an access culture. So, you know, those types of conversations are ones we’ve had that I’ve been really kind of interested in having.

And it’s fun to read through—you know, we do a lot of book reports. I hated book reports in school, but now I do them, like, almost every other week it seems like, where we’re reading a book and then we’re talking to the author. But ultimately a lot of these folks, they’ve been writing these books, they’re subject-matter experts. They put it into words that you can really understand, and what comes out is this really rich discussion about a single topic. And I love it, and I love talking to them, and it’s so much fun, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Cohen: Wow. I really like what you’re saying there as far as the way you’re communicating there and what we’re prioritizing and so forth, because I think we can reflect that back to what we we’re just talking about with transportation. Right? It’s like, “How are we selling these things? What are we valuing?” When you’re talking about the broadband, it’s like, “What are we valuing here?” Right? Are we valuing the access to the jobs or are we valuing, you know, the trillion-dollar, billion-dollar numbers that are coming out of the bills or worrying about, you know, is our funding going to get pulled from the opposite party when they get in power? Right? And so it’s like—

Wood: Yeah.

Cohen: I worry about that.

Wood: Yeah, I mean, the idea that, are we valuing the jobs created by building the infrastructure, or are we valuing the jobs that people can access by building the infrastructure? That’s an interesting dichotomy there. Right? Because we talk about, “Oh, this will create 5 million jobs,” or, “This will create this, and this will do this,” but really the goal of transportation, as Karel said on the show last week, is to get people between A and B. All the other stuff is kind of tangential. And if you do the access correctly, everything else will fall into place.

Cohen: Yeah, that’s a good way to end it. I love it. If you do the access right, everything else will fall into place. Remind us where everybody can find The Overhead Wire and Talking Headways Podcast.
Wood: Sure. You can find me on Twitter at @TheOverheadWire, at, or you can find the podcast at or Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, SoundCloud, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. [LAUGHTER]

Cohen: All your favorites, all your favorites.

Wood: That’s right.

Cohen: Well, good. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, and keep up the great work.

Wood: And thanks for having me. I really appreciate being on the show.

F: Thanks for listening. If you like what you hear, head to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can find out more at or follow Josh Cohen on Twitter at @CohenJP. Be sure to join us next week for another episode of The Movement.