Amtrak arrests its own contest participant

Getting a grip on climate chaos is going to require a functioning rail system -- one that people will willingly use. Would such a system arrest photographers participating in its own annual photo contest? Every time Amtrak falls apart -- which typically occurs on days ending in "y" -- it hurts us all. If Obama wants to make concrete change fast, he could do no better than to make rail revitalization a high priority. He should aim to create a system that he would be happy to have Malia, Sasha, and Michelle use. Meanwhile, we've got Amtrak ... because the federal government doesn't think the DMV inflicts quite enough suffering.

Got resolutions?

Some ideas for green resolutions that are achievable, meaningful, and maybe even novel

New Year's resolutions, as we all know, are almost entirely pointless -- made in one breath, forgotten in the next. So in that spirit of general futility, I offer a few ideas for green resolutions that, either through novelty or just ease of use, may inspire more than a passing commitment. Please leave your own ideas below. Idea #1: help make "livable streets" a reality in your community All politics is local, said Tip O'Neill, but most of us still don't pay much attention to local politics. Issues at a community level are often driven by the triumvirate of homeowners, business owners and car owners -- good people, no doubt, but narrow in their interests. This won't change if you don't help make it change. Happily, a thriving network of community organizers is doing great work to promote a people- and environment-centered development agenda, ranging from this new bus system in Cleveland to this bike-sharing program in Tulsa to this massive street festival in New York. Support their good work! A few ideas for getting involved: Get smarter about development issues by spending some time with the great resources at the Livable Streets Network. Subscribe to their blog, subscribe to an affiliated blog focused on your community, watch their films, or read and contribute to their wiki. Find or start a local group using the Livable Street Network's online tools. Get involved with a local organization like Transportation Alternatives (based in New York). Or support them financially by attending some of their fun events. Idea #2: eat more plants

Polishing turds is expensive

Great piece on why LEED-certified houses typically come at a premium. (h/t Sam Smith)

Stimulus spending going to roads?

Reason to worry about the stimulus bill: Missouri’s plan to spend $750 million in federal money on highways and nothing on mass transit in St. Louis doesn’t square with President-elect Barack Obama’s vision for a revolutionary re-engineering of the nation’s infrastructure. Utah would pour 87 percent of the funds it may receive in a new economic stimulus bill into new road capacity. Arizona would spend $869 million of its $1.2 billion wish list on highways. While many states are keeping their project lists secret, plans that have surfaced show why environmentalists and some development experts say much of the stimulus …

Making Bulgaria look good

James Howard Kunstler, oft derided as seeking to return America to a pre-industrial state, actually wants to return the country to the glory years of the industrial era, when the major components of our industrial infrastructure were in place and flourishing while Progressive Era reforms were making cities more habitable and humane. This allowed us to build great cities while ameliorating problems that had overwhelmed earlier cities, such as hypercrowded tenements, which were relieved greatly by the streetcar suburbs, which allowed people of modest means to escape. The cities "sprawled" a bit, but on the whole remained quite dense and …

Detroit goes green

If the automakers won’t, the city leaders will

Introducing the Detroit Office of Energy and Sustainability. Who woulda thunk it?

Fighting congestion, RAND-style

Study finds that tolls and parking charges are key to ease traffic

Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, put out a report on how to get traffic moving faster. They considered lots of the standard solutions — improving signal timing, clearing accidents quickly, encouraging telecommuting, and so forth — and found that many of them could, in fact, provide some temporary congestion relief. But here’s the rub: RAND found that over the long haul, these kinds of solutions simply don’t have much effect on congestion. They can briefly get traffic moving faster, but just about every improvement in travel time results in … more people taking to the …

Radiant Cities: What's old is green

Reintroducing regionalism to green building

Ever since green building was wrested from the hands of hippies and tucked safely in the technology sector — there are probably more articles about it in Wired than Mother Earth News these days — we’ve been under the impression that the greenest buildings are the newest buildings. Those nifty, skin-thin photovoltaic panels and that high-tech engineered mold-free sheetrock will surely edge you closer to LEED Platinum than some drafty old house with its oil heat and mahogany doors … right? Not necessarily. In fact, some of our oldest houses are the greenest houses, and Steve Mouzon, the architect who …

Fast v. green

The infrastructure tightrope Obama will have to walk

As I noted the other day, there’s something of a tension between the infrastructure investments that can be circulated into the economy quickly and those that are green — particularly when it comes to public transit. A Washington Post piece on Sunday addressed the issue: Most of the infrastructure spending being proposed for the massive stimulus package that Obama and congressional Democrats are readying, however, is not exactly the stuff of history, but destined for routine projects that have been on the to-do lists of state highway departments for years. Oklahoma wants to repave stretches of Interstates 35 and 40 …

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