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So That’s What Those Trains Are For

Beijing enacts four-day ban on vehicles, pushes public transportation Today marks the start of an experimental four-day vehicle ban in Beijing, China. While the motivation for the scheme is finding ways to clear the air for next year's Olympics, its execution is a lovely reminder that change is possible. Home to 16 million people, Beijing has about 3 million registered vehicles; today and Sunday, license plates ending in even numbers must stay parked, with odd-numbered plates banned on Saturday and Monday. The experiment will see 1.3 million fewer cars on the city's busy streets, and officials hope for some change …

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Subsidizing drivers needs to end

This article in the NYT highlights the absurdity of current transportation policy. While New York City is trying to get federal funding to help it pay for a congestion pricing and traffic congestion policy, the federal government is, at the same time, handing out large tax breaks to help people reduce the costs of driving to work. It's yet another example of government policy gone awry, badly. The solution isn't sexy, won't get you on TV, and doesn't make for great headlines that will earn prestige: eliminate all government subsidies, and either cap pollution or tax it. It's not rocket …

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More high-tech solutions for low-tech ideas

I first mentioned "neighborrow" a few weeks ago, in a column on the virtues of sharing. This week, we've got an interview with neighborrow founder Adam Berk, who gives us some background on how and why he started the site in his New York apartment building. The basic premise of neighborrow is that it makes no sense to buy stuff when you can get it from your neighbors for free. The site allows you to pool resources with the people who live near you. Everyone can list what they have to loan out, and what they're looking to borrow -- …

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In which the author finds his dream neighorhood restaurant

In Mad Flavor, the author describes his occasional forays from the farm in search of exceptional culinary experiences from small artisanal producers. Recently, Mad Flavor was on the ground in Chicago -- the author's ancestral home city -- a veritable garden of delightful food. I've long dreamed of a very particular neighborhood cafe/restaurant. It would lie in the middle of a dense urban neighborhood, looking onto the chaos of the sidewalk. It would be open from early morning until late at night, and seem to transform itself with the hour of the day. It would serve multiple functions: a place …

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Economist goes over to the dark side

Some facts to hang your hat on: Good governance might save the day. Bad governance could just make things worse. I generally agree with Galbraith's opinions. However, there is always a reasonable probability that some of his opinions are wrong (as is true of anybody's opinions, including my own). He's quoted in David's post: "Planning" is a word that too many in this debate are trying to avoid, fearful, perhaps, of its Soviet overtones. But the reality of climate change is that central planning is essential, and on a grand scale. History has a bad habit of repeating itself. In …

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We still heart Rocky Anderson

Rocky Anderson is in the news again, reminding us why we all love him. Now he's taking on idling autos, calling for city-owned vehicles and personal vehicles on city business to limit their idling to five minutes, except in emergency situations. Fifty percent of air pollution in Utah comes from cars and trucks, and Rocky wants the city to do their part in cutting down on the smog-creating emissions. His environmental adviser, Jordan Gates, says this latest executive order is part of the mayor's comprehensive plan to improve air quality, encourage alternative fuels, reduce driving, bolster alternative transportation, and reduce …

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But still no actual decision on whether it will happen

The federal government has agreed to allot $354 million to New York City to help it launch its congestion pricing plan. Yeah, that one where state legislators were first like "Hmmm, I dunno," and then they were all like "no way," and then some enviros were like, "Eh, maybe it's not that great anyway." Not that federal funding guarantees that the state will approve the plan, so stay tuned.

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Comin’ ’round the bend

Coming to a showroom near you: a $30,000 all-electric sedan with a top speed of 80mph and a range of 120 miles per charge. Why the low price? It's made in China, with cheap labor and advanced lithium ion batteries that came out of government-funded research. There's competition: Phoenix Motors has a four-door utility truck with similar performance capabilities that it's planning on selling to the public around the same time. And Tesla Motors, makers of the $100,000 all-electric Tesla Roadster which is expected to enter limited production by the end of the year, has plans to enter the sedan …

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Watch out for that flaming bag of McNuggets

I'm so spoiled now that I live in bike-path-licious Boulder, Colorado. I hardly have to interact with cars anymore when cycling to most points in the city. But just a few weeks ago, before I moved here, I was out there with all the other Colorado cyclists in traffic getting assaulted. Sure, most assaults are verbal and harmless-ish, but then there are the ones that aren't. This article from today's Los Angeles Times leads with a list of one guy's experience in L.A.: Scott Sing has had a tire iron hurled at him, a water bottle thrown at his head …

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Debunking the notion that walking is bad for the planet

Sheesh. Wouldn't you know it, the "walking is bad for the planet" meme has reared its head yet again, this time in a British newspaper: Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk ... than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. This made its way to the top of Digg over the weekend, and it's little wonder. It's got all the characteristics of a "sticky idea": it's simple, it's memorable, it seems credible, …