Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sprawl crash nowhere near over

Get ready for the dreaded double-dip. $3 trillion in commercial real estate is about to go [poof]:

Why do you think banks have stopped lending in this arena? The market is completely saturated with vacant real estate. Commercial real estate either has a market or sits empty. At least with residential real estate if you drop prices low enough you will get buyers. With CRE if you built a complex with no foot traffic you can’t give the stuff away. The loan is only one aspect of costs. You have utilities and other fixed overhead. The fact that banks have pulled back from this market tells us no good deals are coming to the table.
How's that sprawl working out for you? I've always loved the idea of business park. Not loved as in liked, but loved as in amused that people thought they might work.
Walkable DFW

Thursday, May 27, 2010

UK Public and Commercial Services union joins fight for free public transport

Colin Fox

Huge boost for SSP's free public transport campaign

by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson

Whilst the political parties at Westminster were all agreeing to decimate public services the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) passed a resolution at its annual conference in Brighton to support the introduction of free public transport to combat global warming, reduce pollution and road traffic accidents and improve social inclusion.
The plan was initially developed by Alan McCombes and pioneered by the SSP in the Scottish Parliament and has been described as ‘the most imaginative and audacious’ policy put forward by any party in the entire climate change debate. I was delighted to accept an invitation from the PCS’s Department for Transport conference to outline our specific policy objectives in detail to delegates.
If Scotland is to meet our target for reducing CO2 emissions by 2020 we must persuade people to use their cars less. Cars are responsible for 80% of the greenhouse gases attributable to transport.
In adopting the free public transport policy the PCS was influenced, as indeed we were, by the remarkable success of the scheme implemented by the authorities in the Belgian city of Hasselt. They introduced free public transport in 1997 in response to chronic traffic congestion. But instead of building more and more roads to accommodate more and more cars they took an alternative route. They abolished fares on their buses, trains and trams. Their aim was to provide people with a better alternative to using their cars. Critics scoffed at their idea and said it was madness, that people wouldn’t leave their beloved cars just because the bus was free. Yet in the space of three years passenger numbers in Hasselt increased tenfold from 330,000 in 1996 to 3.7million. 
The SSP aims to replicate that remarkable success this time on a nationwide basis advocating free travel on buses, trains, Glasgow’s underground system, Edinburgh’s trams and for foot passengers on our ferries. We are confident this measure, never conducted on a national basis before, would act as a huge incentive for people to leave their cars at home.
According to the Scottish Government the cost of introducing free public transport would be £500m per annum. This figure arises as the income presently received from fares.
In a debate in the Scottish Parliament in 2006 I pointed out to the then Transport Minister Tavish Scott that whilst this figure did not include the additional cost of extra buses and trains necessary to cope with the inevitable upsurge in demand it also failed to recognise the considerable savings which would arise.
The Confederation of British Industry in Scotland for example estimates the economy losses £2.2bn per year through congestion as workers sit in cars, vans and lorries grid locked by traffic every day in our towns and cities.
The tourist agency ‘Visit Scotland’ also spoke out in favour of the measure by concluding it would also boost  the number of people likely to come here on holiday. Similarly the NHS and emergency services say the cost of dealing with road traffic accidents annually exceeds £1bn in Scotland.
Then there is the benefits which the NHS receives in not having to treat the escalating numbers of patients admitted, particularly in summer, with respiratory illnesses cause by traffic fumes and associated pollution.
We would also benefit as a society from reducing poverty as low paid workers can pay anything between £50-£100 per month in travel to work costs.
And to those who might be tempted to argue that spending £500million on free public transport in Scotland is pie in the sky in the current economic climate I would point to the conclusion in Sir Nicholas Stern’s report as the Chair of the Inter-Governmental Committee on Climate Change [ICCC]. Stern was at pains to point out this threat –of global warming and its consequences -  is not about to go away and he stressed that every step we must take carries significant costs, but most importantly of all ‘the cost of doing nothing is the highest price of all.’
The Scottish Socialist Party’s National Council on June 12th will discuss plans to work with a broad range of organisations on this policy - trades unions, climate change campaigners, health groups and other sympathetic bodies- in order to progress the policy further in light of the PCS’s support.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cost of gridlock higher than free transit

...In the end, Komanoff found that every car entering the CBD causes an average of 3.23 person-hours of delays. Multiply that by $39.53—a weighted average of vehicles’ time value within and outside the CBD—and it turns out that the average weekday vehicle journey costs other New Yorkers $128 in lost time. At last, urban planners could say just how big the externalities associated with driving are, knowing that the number was backed up with solid empirical analysis.... Wired Magazine

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cars are unnecessary

In almost every instance where we rely on a car, we could be using an alternative mode of transportation.

...There is no such thing as a green car, and there never will be.

And a third: There is no such thing as a safe car, and there never will be.

Finally: Cars may be the biggest drag on our budget, and the one we could most easily do away with.

Cars are unnecessary:  ... read more on DailyKos

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Massachusetts - SRTA - fare-free for summer

...Starting June 1, the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority will offer free bus service on its entire fleet for all routes through the end of August.
The authority, which serves New Bedford, Fall River, Dartmouth, Fairhaven and several other nearby towns, is taking advantage of federal stimulus money and budget savings to help its current riders during difficult economic times and attract new riders.
"It helps kids with summer jobs and summer school," said Joseph L. Cosentino, the authority's administrator. "It helps the elderly get out. It helps people that are less fortunate."... SouthCoastToday

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Getting Hot

(Degrees C away from 20th century global average temperature starting at 1880)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Can you picture the post-oil world?

Most schemes for a post-oil technology are based on the misconception that there will be a technological infrastructure for such future gadgetry, similar to that of the present day. Modern equipment is dependent on specific methods of manufacture, transportation, maintenance, and repair. In less abstract terms, this means machinery, motorized vehicles, and service depots or shops, all of which are generally run by fossil fuels. In addition, one unconsciously assumes the presence of electricity, which energizes the various communications devices, such as telephones and computers; electricity on such a large scale is only possible with fossil fuels. Countercurrents

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Scottish free-public-transport advocate to address trade union conference

"PCS is one of the most important unions in the country with 240,000 members and I am delighted to be taking our groundbreaking message to hundreds of activists at their 2010 conference.

"Almost 90% of our transport generated greenhouse gases come from cars. If Scotland is to meet our target of reducing CO2 emissions by 2020 we need to persuade people to leave their cars at home. The best way to do that is to offer them a better alternative. The evidence shows that free public transport will achieve that objective if the network is reliable and interconnected. Cities all over the world are examining this approach, cities such as San Francisco, Melbourne and Copenhagen. Colin Fox SSP

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More smoke and subsidy - American Power Act

The following analysis from EarthTrack
Just last week, the Economist magazine noted in an editorial that:
However you measure the full cost of a gallon of gas, pollution and all, Americans are nowhere close to paying it. Indeed, their whole energy industry—from subsidies for corn ethanol to limited liability for nuclear power—is a slick of preferences and restrictions, without peer. The tinkering that will follow this spill will merely further complicate it.
As if on cue, out comes "The American Power Act."  For some reason, idle hands in Congress always find particular comfort in working on energy bills, and an early summary of the latest of a long line of government energy initiatives has just been released.  A short summary of that summary can be accessed here.  The American Power Act will dole out all sorts of goodies, with some huge potential gains to coal and nuclear power. EarthTrack

And this from free-public-transit advocate Charles Komanoff  [commenting on StreetsBlog]

It's both bizarre and disheartening that Transportation for America would endorse the miserable Kerry-Lieberman bill ... a bill so lacking in genuine mechanisms to significantly reduce CO2, and so larded with giveaways to every inch of Big Energy: oil, coal, utilities, nukes. (For particulars, see Earth Track's excellent and easy-to-digest analysis.)

I guess it shows the capacity of desperate constituencies to be easily seduced by a few crumbs, and to cast a blind eye to the enormous adverse consequences elsewhere.

The fix is in, of course, and it's asking too much for otherwise worthy outfits like TfA to pry themselves loose from the Kerry-Lieberman monstrosity. Please, though, let's desist from calling it a climate bill? It's not. It's an energy bill (and a terrible one), plain and simple.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

CTAA EXPO to have workshop on fare-free transit

The Community Transportation EXPO heads west in 2010, arriving in Long Beach, California, May 23-28. The nation's premier community and public transportation event comes to California for the first time ever, complete with EXPO's always stellar training sessions and workshops, the Trade Fair, the Community Transportation National Roadeo, special speakers and three unique conferences within the EXPO. The Long Beach Convention Center and our EXPO hotels are within easy reach of three airports and within driving access to all of Southern California. Mark your calendars for EXPO 2010!

Sunday, May 23, 2010 8:00 AM - Friday, May 28, 2010
4:00 PM Pacific Time Zone
Long Beach Convention Center
300 E Ocean Blvd
Long Beach, California 90802-4893

Community Transportation Association of America     Brochure[pdf]   Twitter

Much green talk. No green progress.

If rising middle classes of emerging economies were to emulate the consumption patterns of rich countries, two planets would be needed by 2040

The reports also show the growing weight of the developing world not only in the global economy but also in global chemicals production, resource extraction and use, and transport demand. It highlights the rapid growth of automobile ownership and e-waste generation and trade as major challenges. UN Report via Share the Worlds Resources

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It is starting to sink in... the problem is autosprawl, not just fossil fuel

But in practice there is some tension. Perhaps the most horrifying thing I heard at the conference was from Honda VP John Mendel, whose presentation was full of canned auto industry weaseling and dissembling. After reviewing all of the technological options Honda is pursuing, he said that the one they're most committed to is fuel cells, because (paraphrasing from memory) "fuel cell cars most accurately replicate the characteristics of internal combustion engine cars."
Is that really the extent of our ambition? To switch out the internal combustion engine for some other widget and otherwise keep on motoring as usual? To maintain the patterns of land use and development we have, simply with cars that emit less pollution? The poverty of that vision is tragic .Grist

Monday, May 3, 2010

Helium site debate attracts intelligent free transit advocacy

I am a 49-year old man who rejected the norm of possessing and utilizing a privately owned, fossil-fueled motor vehicle in 1987. As such, I have a clear and obvious vested interest in promoting the idea of "free" public transportation. However, I do believe that there would be significant benefits to all, whether they personally use such a service or not. By "free" here, we are referring to no direct charge to the passenger, the service itself will obviously still cost money to provide. Money that will need to come from taxes paid to the national or local government, or occasionally from a local business association.

Many central business districts provide a localized free bus service paid for by the area's local governing body or its retail business association, offered as an incentive to attract customers to their area. Some cities, particularly in Europe, offer public transportation on a "no charge to users" basis to facilitate ease of movement in narrow city streets that were first created before the motor vehicle was even dreamed of. Others do so to promote a green, environmentally friendly attitude or a people friendly perspective to encourage tourism. Many do so for all three reasons.

The primary objection to "free" public transportation in today's societies is the capitalist ideological concept of "user pays". This presupposes that the only people benefiting from public transportation systems are those who use them. As long as the financial benefits are comparative to the loss of convenience and comfort "costs", public transport usage will be primarily limited to those who have little or no choice. Under these circumstances, those not using public transport do indeed receive little benefit from it. It is only when the financial benefit significantly outweighs the comfort and convenience costs, thus increasing public transport usage, that non-users will see significant personal benefits.

The fallacy that single-occupant privately owned motor vehicles are an effective form of urban transportation is demonstrated daily on the roads of most of the cities of the world. Many of which no longer have "rush hours" simply because many of their major streets have traffic that moves at no more than a snail's pace all day long now.

Public transportation without user charges would be a very strong incentive to people struggling to get by economically to restrict their car usage to occasional trips rather than the daily commute. While they benefit financially, those road users who would never dream of using public transport will also benefit, from the reduction in vehicles crowding the roads, giving them a speedier and more pleasant drive. And not only from the reduction in road traffic, but because the buses would flow more rapidly since the drivers would not need to collect passengers' fares at every stop.

Road building and road widening costs within an urban area are astronomical; alleviating the necessity by reducing road usage would save far more money from local taxes than providing the "free" public transport is likely to cost over the long-term. Properly evaluated accounting would show this, so local taxes should not need to be increased to pay for the service.

The reduction in car usage would reduce the associated pollution, offering health advantages to the city's population. Respiratory illnesses such as asthma have been on the increase in our young for decades and car exhaust fumes are considered a major contributing factor.

It would also be nice to see the sunrise or sunset without a haze of smog distorting it. In a world where our recognition of the impacts of our technology on the environment we depend on for our existence is steadily growing, it is time to utilize the benefits of public transportation to their maximum potential. The quickest and most effective way of doing this is to eliminate direct charges, thus encouraging people to use these services. Perry McCarney on Helium