15 Jan

Yes Virginia, roads are socialized and subsidized

Some people are beginning to realize that roads were subsidized to an amazing extent in the past, and it has them upset. But they are not paid for, and now some places are trying to figure out how to pass on the cost of the huge road boom:

“Hoyne opposes any move by the village to vacate public roads and rely on private property owners to maintain them. At the same time, he recognizes that roads need to be kept up and that he and fellow residents of the northwest suburb are likely going to get stuck paying more — whether in the form of a new tax or by taking on the road costs directly.

‘If you have a nice home and you like where you live, you don’t want to have the road in front of your home in disrepair,’ Hoyne said. ‘The road fairies don’t exist. They’re not going to come down and pave your road just because you’re a swell guy.'”

(Via Chicago Tribune – Long Grove plan may pave way to privatize public roads.)

15 Nov

AEP files plan saying only solar and wind from now on for new electricity generation

Wow. An interesting sign of a rapidly changing utilities market:

“On Nov. 1, AEP, one of the other five biggest coal-fired electric utilities, filed a plan to Indiana and Michigan regulators saying that the only new generating capacity it would need over the next decade would be wind and, starting in 2020, solar. The company said it ‘expects that utility-scale solar resources will become economically justifiable by 2020.’”

(Via Tennessee Valley Authority to close 8 coal-fired power plants – The Washington Post.)

AEP is still a dirty energy producer (they supply my energy, I used to buy their carbon offsets for their green program, until they shut that down, I’ve been trying to figure out how to hop over to a new provider that uses the wind power from the nearby wind farm but customer service on this front has been rather atrocious and I’ve been so busy I’ve been lax in follow through) but it’s an interesting marker to watch.

28 Aug

More data on road reconfiguring to allow non-car transportation access shows positive benefits

The pattern is getting stale. Bike additions and more multi-use road patterns are proposed, people go *nuts* about how it will slow down cars and create chaos and fire off nasty emails full anti-bike rage.

And then it turns out the roads don’t slow traffic down hardly and the whole area’s vibe is much improved and less dangerous.

“The ‘road diet’ on Fauntleroy Way in West Seattle was controversial when it was introduced, to say the least: Drivers, used to being able to speed along four general-purpose traffic lanes, feared that reducing the road to two traffic lanes, a turn lane, and a lane for cyclists would lead to total gridlock and chaos (sample comment from the West Seattle Blog: ‘They want to inconvenience 95 percent of the people who drive on Fauntleroy Way for the 5 percent who use bicycles? This can’t be allowed’).

Well, the data is in, and it turns out, the doomsayers were (once again) wrong.

How wrong? SDOT’s data show that the road diet has dramatically reduced collisions and reduced speeding in general on that corridor. The total number of collisions went down 31 percent after the road was striped for bike lanes and given a center turn lane, and collisions resulting in an injury went down 73 percent. Collisions between cars and cyclists went down to zero. “

(Via Fact: Road Diets Work. | Seattle Met.)

The kicker is, it not only doesn’t really slow down cars, it dramatically helps business and is more valuable by measurable means to business and foot traffic (by definition, right?):

“As Janette Sadik-Khan told the Women’s Bike Forum, businesses on Eighth and Ninth Avenues in New York saw a 50 percent increase in sales receipts after protected bike lanes were installed on the corridor. On San Francisco’s Valencia Street, two-thirds of the merchants said bike lanes had been good for business. If a business has a bike-share station out front, bike-share users are more likely to patronize it.

Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns told the story of a Memphis neighborhood where people, without authorization, spent $500 on paint and made their own bike lanes. Six months later, commercial rents on the strip had doubled, and all the storefronts – half of which had been vacant – were full.

Bike Infrastructure Is a Better Value Than Car Parking

Businesses in some cities are also beginning to see the spatial logic of the bicycle. After all, 12 bikes fit in one car parking space. Providing bike parking is also an extraordinary bargain compared to building structured parking: one parking space in a garage costs at least $15,000 to build and hundreds of dollars per year to maintain, while building a rack for two bikes costs $150 to $300.”

(Via Bicycling Means Business: How Cycling Enriches People and Cities | Streetsblog Capitol Hill.)

10 Jul

Impact of car-oriented design on health

I’m constantly stunned at the number of people who use a car to travel 1/2 a mile. But this article is right, some of that is because we live in environs that make even a 1/2 mile walk appear easier to do in a car.


“According to the Federal Highway Administration’s 2009 National Household Transportation Survey, 68 percent of the trips taken by U.S. residents between ½ and 2 miles in distance were made by vehicle. Only 23 percent of such trips were made on foot.

One-third of respondents reported no walking trips whatsoever in the previous week.

‘The greatest barrier to walking more is the perception of too much traffic, not enough street lighting, or wide road crossings,’ reports the FHWA. ‘People are also concerned about crime, had no nearby paths or sidewalks, and were too busy to walk more often.’”

(Via A treadmill desk or trip to the gym is not a substitute for the perils of a sedentary lifestyle – Quartz.)

03 Jul

Another article about the peak car idea

It could be recession. It could be that the middle class is paring back. It could be a change in attitudes. Either way, it’s happening, and if it continues over the next few years, will be a trend:

“When adjusted for population growth, the number of miles driven in the United States peaked in 2005 and dropped steadily thereafter, according to an analysis by Doug Short of Advisor Perspectives, an investment research company.  As of April 2013, the number of miles driven per person was nearly 9 percent below the peak and equal to where the country was in January 1995. Part of the explanation certainly lies in the recession, because cash-strapped Americans could not afford new cars, and the unemployed weren’t going to work anyway. But by many measures the decrease in driving preceded the downturn and appears to be persisting now that recovery is under way. The next few years will be telling.

‘What most intrigues me is that rates of car ownership per household and per person started to come down two to three years before the downturn,’ said Michael Sivak, who studies the trend and who is a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. ‘I think that means something more fundamental is going on.’”

(Via The End of Car Culture – NYTimes.com.)

19 Jun

AARP wants multi-use streets. They have a lobby. Now it gets interesting!

I’ve been saying for a long time now that when retiring baby boomers realize that the auto-only streets oriented world they’d subsidized becomes hard for them to navigate, it will be millenials and retirees both advocating for multi-use streets.

The AARP, one of the largest lobbying organizations in the US, has now thrown it’s weight into people-oriented streets design. Those over-65 commie hippies!

“One of the largest non-profit organizations in the world is on the side of city and suburban bikers. Boasting 40,000,000 members, the AARP represents the interests of people over the age of 50.

With an initiative launched in 2009, AARP called on city planners and public officials to design something it calls ‘complete streets.’

These streets feature sidewalks, transit facilities, signalized crosswalks, and — the kicker— in-road bike lanes.

The concept is not news. But this month an executive at the organization updated AARP members on the idea.

‘For years, U.S. transportation policy has focused almost entirely on construction and maintenance of roads to accommodate more cars,’ wrote Nancy LeaMond, executive vice-president of the AARP. ‘And while cars are obviously critical to our transportation network, they are only part of the equation.’”

(Via AARP Wants More Bike Lanes on Roads with ‘Complete Streets’ initiative | Gear Review | Gear Junkie.)

17 Jun

Interesting essay on hyperdensity


Fascinating look at hyper density. Worth reading, and also interesting because I think this will become a huge think to think about as Broad Group Manufacturing’s impact on cheap and rapid skyscraper building will change our skylines over the next generation or so.

“Because hyperdensity — defined as density sufficient to support subways — contributes to the health, prosperity, and sustainability of cities, the densification of our built and social environments will to a large extent determine our strength as a nation. [1] Compared to most forms of human habitation, dense cities are the most efficient economic engines; they are the most environmentally sustainable and the most likely to encourage joyful and healthy lifestyles. So, how do we build delightful cities that make us more prosperous, ecological, fit and equitable? Here I wil lay out the factors that impede hyperdensity in our cities today, and the conditions necessary to create hyperdense environments in the future, including great design, responsible preservation and sound urban planning. “

(Via A Country of Cities: Building Hyperdensity and Civic Delight: Places: Design Observer.)

On a completely personal level, after living ‘in the country’ the first time I visited NYC, I was a bit floored that I spent more time in ‘greenspace’ and walking than I had in all the time in the country. Turns out you can create more common green space in hyper dense areas in some scenarios than in suburbia.

I’m fascinated by the idea of both rewilding, getting more parks and hiking, while living in an ultra dense area.

17 Jun

Norway eyeing a tunnel for ships

NewImageThis is pretty badass, the Norwegians are planning to create a tunnel for ships:

“Now Norwegian seafaring prowess and tunnel-building expertise are expected to merge as the government plans to build what may be the world’s first ship tunnel, a passage large enough to enable cargo ships and commuter vessels to avoid the notoriously treacherous waters around the Stadlandet peninsula, which is north of Bergen slightly southwest of Ålesund, and experience safer, faster trips.”

(Via Norway Prepares for First Ship Tunnel.)

27 May

Failure to maintain infrastructure costs more in the long run

Penny wise, pound foolish:

“Now, instead of the $7 million in renovations and upgrades, the cost to replace the collapsed bridge will run $15 million and take up to a year. The collapse will cost an estimated $47 million in reduced productivity and trade. With the current average tax revenue from this total for trade and productivity in dealing with trade to Canada to be around 22%, the result is that this bridge collapse will cost the federal government $10 million in revenue for the period of repair, which when added to the $15 million pricetag means that we are looking at a total impact of $25 million. All in order to save $7 million.”

(Via So Much For Fiscal Hawks – Republicans Now Costing You Tens Of Millions To Save A Few Million | Addicting Info.)

20 May

Wisconsin to spend more on stacking an existing highway than it turned down for high speed rail

For more than the cost of speeding up rail infrastructure, the money of which it famously gave back to the federal government for fears of rail costing too much down the road, Wisconsin is going to stack some highways at a cool $1.2 billion.

Funny how a billion for rail is a boondoggle, but for roads that aren’t needed not a single conservative will blink at this:

“Milwaukee is a city that lost 0.4 percent of its population between 2000 and 2010. Over that time, the larger five-county region it anchors grew 3.5 percent, or at about a third the rate of the national average.

And yet, bizarrely enough, WisDOT wants to stack highways on top of highways, reports Gretchen Schuldt of Milwaukee Rising:”

(Via Next Boondoggle From Wisconsin DOT: Double-Decking Milwaukee Freeway | Streetsblog.net.)