Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Transportation is ALWAYS in the Global Warming News

Paul K. Haeder

James Howard Kunstler in his writing, including The Long Emergency and the Geography of Nowhere, puts it simply when he attacks sprawl – our gutting of our inter-urban trolley and train system in the 1920s through the 1940s allowed GM, Ford and Big Auto to push the single occupancy vehicle and the SUV and mini-van as America’s people mover. The rise of the highway culture and suburbs was fueled by artificially deflated gasoline prices. We ended up building the wrong houses, the wrong commercial buildings, wrong schools, heck, the wrong neighborhoods and in some cases cities because of car culture. We in land use planning dread the transportation planning classes because they entail this union between engineers and pro-suburb growth developers and the constant study of departments of transportation reports and research projects on how much roads cost, how much gridlock impinges on quality of life, and how those freeways bifurcate and destroy cities and neighborhoods. It’s a lot about parking lots, widths of roads, speed limits, multi-modal transportation, and many times the walker – pedestrian – and bicyclist get the short shrift in planning.

Cars, traffic, where we work in comparison to where we live, all of these factors, and many more, are the huge underpinnings of land use planning.

Hybrid, electric, veggie oil, fuel cell, solar? These are the proposals for a new car culture, while others are looking to infuse billions into alternative ways of transporting goods and people, as well as building infrastructure that create great mass transportation. Right now, Exxon is hiring one of the world’s foremost experts on genetics and algae, putting in $600 million into biofuel research (compared to $29 billion for fossil fuel research and discovery). It was announced Tuesday that Exxon is making a deal with privately-held Synthetic Genomics to research and develop next generation biofuels from synthetic algae -- $300 million in internal costs and $300 million to SGI. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/14/business/energy-environment/14fuel.html?_r=1

There is $2 billion in US federal grant monies to help America’s battery innovators, large and small companies, to come up with a decent battery for transportation. http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/release.cfm?id=306529

  • $1.0 billion in competitive grants to expand the US manufacturing base for advanced batteries and other essential components.

  • $295 million for R&D on new battery technology.

  • $90 million in grants for state and local business and governments to build the infrastructure and other resources such as rapid recharging stations to support plug-in and other technologies.

  • $95 million in grants for near-term truck and maritime port electrification, which saves energy and dramatically cuts dangerous pollution.

  • $150 million for research and development of smart grid technology that can save consumers money and help integrate plug-in vehicles while improving capacity and reliability of the nation’s aging electric system.

    Transportation choices are more than just getting us from point a to point b. It's about tying together communities -- work, play, home life, school life, recreation, shopping, and mental and physical health of humanity and alike animals. Buses, rails, trails. We in Washington State have many cool organizations working on planning and transportation choices. Check out one, Transportation Choices Coalition -- http://www.transportationchoices.org/

    Check out the Victoria Institute’s encyclopedia on transportation demand management. Here we have the entire A to Z transportation challenge, information on how transportation links to everything in American life. The reason food is so important today -- farm to fork miles are now around 1,560 miles. All the plastics, fertilizers, pumped water, energy inputs, and all the fuel and roads needed to move food and the other consumer goods. Many are wondering why we as a country haven't become serious about rebuilding and kicking into gear a new next generation of rail transportation. http://www.cascadiaproject.org/

    The Online TDM Encyclopedia is the world’s most comprehensive information resource concerning innovative transportation management strategies. It describes dozens of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies and contains information on TDM planning, evaluation and implementation. It has thousands of hyperlinks that provide instant access to more detailed information, including case studies and reference documents. http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm5.htm

    TDM programs can include some pretty particular and also holistic areas of study and traffic mitigation:

    · Transit Improvements and Fare Discounts

    · Ridesharing

    · Shuttle Services

    · Parking Pricing and Parking Management

    · Commute Trip Reduction programs that include Alternative Work Schedules, Telework and Guaranteed Rides Home

    · Traffic Calming and Car Free Planning

    · Marketing and Promotional Campaigns

    · Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements

    · Bicycle Parking

    · Universal Design (transportation systems that accommodate people with disabilities and other special needs)

    · Programs to Address Security Concerns of pedestrians and cyclists

    · Recreation activity and Special Event transport management

    · A Transportation Access Guide that concisely describes how to reach the campus by walking, cycling and transit

    · Applying Smart Growth and New Urbanist principles to on-campus development that reduces the need for travel

    Autodesk is part of the transportation planning game with its Inventor software. Planning rides, ride sharing, and the frequency and capacity of busses and parking spaces, making public transportation easier and user friendly can cut down on private vehicle use, cut down on greenhouse emissions and save money. Universities are using these ITS and “realtime” management systems to route students, staff and faculty into a better serviced transportation network.

    Read on --


    UC San Diego Saves Millions with “Realtime” Management

    By John Addison

    Like all great universities, the University of California at San Diego, must either spend millions for car parking or spend millions for improved transportation. Using transportation demand management, UC San Diego is spending millions less in both areas.

    27,500 students attend the university. “We encourage commuters to use alternate forms of transportation,” said Brian d’Autremont, TPS director. “Approximately 43 percent of UC San Diego commuters use some form of alternative transportation, including, bikes, buses, trains and vanpools.” In addition, last fall UC San Diego reduced the number of single occupancy vehicles on campus by 800 cars.

    UC San Diego uses AlterNetRides as a platform, making it easy for staff and students to be matched with the van pool or carpool that best meets their destinations and schedules. Use of HOV lanes and access to preferred parking make shared rides considerably faster. Zipcar on campus makes cars available by the hour, helping students avoid the need for owning a car.

    In 2006, UC San Diego doubled the number of people riding buses on campus. A key to this growth was establishing the best routes and schedules. UC San Diego uses “realtime” tracking and demand management software to do this. The University uses a hosted customized application from Syncromatics, which performs real time tracking with GPS and cellular communication to determine the location and speed of each bus.

    The system develops a database showing the number of passengers at any stop at anytime. By querying the database, routes and schedules can easily be adjusted. UC San Diego’s Director Brian d’Autremont summarized, “Syncromatics’ system has saved us over one million dollars in fiscal year 2006, after being installed for just a little over 6 months. We typically buy 5 buses each summer, this year we were able to increase the effectiveness of our system enough that we didn’t have to buy any. The system paid for itself several times over in bus, fuel and driver costs, while increasing our ridership and improving customer service ratings dramatically.”

    [Note: Autodesk Inventor of the Month for June 2009 went to Syncromatics, for the company's innovative real-time tracking and intelligent transportation systems. Since running power lines to bus shelters isn't always an option for cities -- or is too cost prohibitive to undertake -- Syncromatics' solar-powered signs represent an efficient new way to bring smart transit information directly to the rider at the bus or shuttle stop.

    The Inventor of the Month program recognizes the most innovative design and engineering advancements made by the extensive community using Autodesk Inventor software, which takes manufacturers beyond 3D to Digital Prototyping. With Inventor software, manufacturers can create a single digital model that gives them the ability to design, visualize and simulate products before they are built to reduce the need for physical prototypes.]

    Another big payoff of UC San Diego’s alternative transportation is a reduction in needed parking spaces. Each spot in a parking structure costs the university $22,000 to $29,000.

    More people will ride on transit if they know how to get to their destination and if long waits are not necessary. The Syncromatics “realtime” tracking system which integrates with Google Maps to show actual bus locations on an LCD in the student lounge, on arrival signage, on mobile devices, and even in text messages. Ridership continues to grow.

    Information technology is becoming invaluable in making transportation efficient as well as appealing to more riders. Fleet managers can now implement custom applications and “realtime” services without investing in hardware, software, and hiring specialized technologists. Hosted applications such as Syncromatics and AlterNetRides are run by the service provider. Middleware such as XML and Java allow these applications to be integrated with databases, billing systems, and other fleet applications.

    UC San Diego is supporting energy independence and climate solutions by encouraging clean transportation. The university fleet also is becoming more fuel efficient. Over time, the university’s 50-plus buses will be converted to hybrid CNG, reducing their emissions. The University is also purchasing 225 electric vehicles and 32 hybrid vehicles for its fleet.

    The importance of climate solutions is integral to the institution. UC San Diego evolved from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography under the leadership of Roger Revelle, who with Charles Keeling first measured the growing atmospheric concentration of CO2. Revelle College is one of six of the university’s colleges. The National Academy of Sciences recognizes UC San Diego as one of the top ten science universities in the nation. Professors include Nobel Laureates Paul Crutzen and Mario Molina whose chemistry research with Sherwood Rowland lead to the discovery of the ozone hole and the Montreal Protocol.

    The University of California has made a system-wide commitment to reduce carbon emissions, energy consumption and reliance on imported fossil fuels. The University supports and adheres to the UC Policy on Green Building Design, Clean Energy Standard, and Sustainable Transportation Practices.

    Universities and Colleges are leading in many areas of transportation demand management. An encyclopedia of best practices is available at the Victoria Institute. John Addison’s new book is Save Gas, Save the Planet .


    1. Wonderful information on the future of transportation. I like to keep a watchful eye on this topic as it's often the barmoter for people's general interest and enthusiasm for alternative energy sources, climate change work and overall eco-awareness. With all of the positive advancements talked about in this post, it appears the interest and enthusiasm levels are high. I hope we as citizens can help influence our elected officials to feel the same way.
      Bart Mihailovich
      Down To Earth

    2. Transportation is always this nice package of ideas for planners and developers, but we need to demand paying those tens of millions now for light rail, multi-modal rail-bus-train systems, and for alternative transportation allowances, like pedi-cabs for businesses in downtowns, rickshaws for cabs and restaurants, limited traffic zones in downtowns, you name it. In any case, if you look at the cost per 100 yards of four- lane street -- labor, materials, CO2 emissions -- plus all the impacts that are externalities -- dangerous neighborhoods created by speed, rolled-up window philosophy, and the heat island effect of asphalt and the plain sore-eye factor created by 99 percent of streets, then this road building is a pathetic proposition. Early 20th Century technology.

      We need changes, so Down to Earth, keep posting those green posts.

      Peace out, Paul


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