Cities

Walkable in Irvine

Let’s hear it for floor area ratio

There’s an interesting exchange going on between Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias regarding the reasons that some communities may or may not be walkable. It seems that the Woodbridge section of Irvine, where Kevin Drum lives, is quite walkable, but hardly anyone does it. Yglesias seems to feel that if an area is made fairly accessible to driving, then driving will takeover. Since I grew up in southern California and my father and stepmother live in Irvine, I thought I would second that sentiment. For instance, my parents, both of whom grew up in New York City without a car, …

White roofs could help keep climate change at bay

This whole climate-change debacle could be significantly slowed down if the world’s 100 largest cities thing installed white roofs and more-reflective pavement, says a new study to be published in the journal Climatic Change. It may sound like greenwhitewashing, but physicist Hashem Akbari crunches the numbers: By bouncing heat away from the Earth, a 1,000-square-foot white roof offsets 10 metric tons of greenhouse gases. Roofs account for 25 percent of the surface of most cities, and pavement makes up some 35 percent. Thus, going White-House-style could offset 44 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases — more than is emitted by …

EPA puts kibosh on wetland-destructive Army Corps project

The U.S. EPA has vetoed a giant, expensive plan to build the world’s largest water pump in the Mississippi River delta. The so-called Yazoo Pump flood-control project would have sucked 6 million gallons of water a minute from 67,000 acres of wetlands along the Yazoo River. The scheme, proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and first authorized by Congress in 1941, would have cost $220 million. The EPA concluded that maybe, just maybe, sucking all that wet out of the wetlands would have been damaging to fish, wildlife, and migratory birds. “The EPA truly deserves our thanks for …

London mayor releases plan for adapting to climate change

London Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled a draft plan Friday to help the city mitigate and adapt to climate change. Johnson put special attention to water conservation, calling for mandatory metering, increased efficiency, improved drainage, and rainwater harvesting. He also envisions more trees and green space. Environmentalists said the adaptation strategy was a good step, but said measures to cut carbon emissions were missing from the equation. “It is essential that the capital prepares for the impacts of climate change,” says one Friends of the Earth campaigner. “But Boris Johnson is also committed to cutting London’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60 …

California to offer pay-as-you-drive insurance plan

Californians who minimize their driving could shell out less for insurance under a pay-as-you-go plan proposed Wednesday by Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Under the voluntary plan, annual insurance rates would be based on miles driven, incentivizing Golden Staters to stay out of their cars. “As a strong advocate of healthy market competition and a healthy environment, I am especially pleased to encourage this kind of innovation and additional options for consumers,” says Poizner. A recent study found that two-thirds of California households could save an average $276 per vehicle by opting for the plan; participation by 30 percent of Californians …

California bill aims to curb sprawl

Hopes are high that a bill aimed at curbing California sprawl will pass the state legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill, SB 375, would channel transportation funding toward projects that encourage smart growth. Each of California’s 17 metropolitan regions would create a “sustainable community strategy” to encourage compact development; projects included in the strategy would get first dibs on transportation funds. In order to meet California’s goal to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, “our communities must change the way they grow,” says bill sponsor Darrell Steinberg (D). He adds, “You can’t meet …

Mayor has big clean-energy goals for NYC

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted clean energy Tuesday at, aptly, the National Clean Energy Summit. He said his city has issued a formal request to companies for ideas on how to source electricity from the wind, sun, and waves. “Perhaps companies will want to put wind farms atop our bridges and skyscrapers, or use the enormous potential of powerful offshore winds miles out in the Atlantic Ocean,” Bloomberg said, adding, “I think it would be a thing of beauty if, when Lady Liberty looks out on the horizon, she not only welcomes new immigrants but lights their way …

Anti-bike crusader halts San Francisco’s cycle-friendly plans

With a claim that bike lanes increase pollution, a San Francisco resident has managed to put the brakes on the city’s pro-biking plans. In 2004, San Francisco unveiled a proposal to create more bike lanes and bike parking, aiming to have 10 percent of city trips taken on two wheels by 2010. Enter Rob Anderson, who doesn’t own a car but is no fan of cyclists. “The behavior of the bike people on city streets is always annoying,” he says. “This ‘Get out of my way, I’m not burning fossil fuels.'” Anderson sued the city to make it do an …

Electric-car visionary would overhaul the way we get around

Could the global auto infrastructure be overhauled in a way that’s profitable for business, cheap for drivers, and easy on the planet? Meet Better Place‘s Shai Agassi and his plans for an electric-car future, featured in the latest issue of Wired. In Agassi’s vision, gas stations are replaced with omnipresent recharging spots for electric cars. Vehicles are cheap, perhaps even free; money is made off electricity, and renewable energy is incentivized. Drivers purchase electricity on subscription, paying for unlimited miles, a certain number of miles per month, or pay-as-you-go. No time to recharge? Head to your nearest battery exchange station …

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