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Social engineering, Soviet style

There’s more to freedom than free parking

I keep seeing the phrase "social engineering" used to describe policies that don't kowtow to the car. See, for example, this inexplicable subhead about a third of the way through this Seattle newspaper story. Not only is this usage annoying, it's exactly backward (as others have noted before me). First, let's look first at specifics. The paper reports that the city will put parking meters on some formerly-free spots in a rapidly urbanizing district near downtown Seattle. The newspaper calls this "social engineering." I suppose that's right, at least to the extent that parking meters alter the incentive structure for …

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Medal to the pedal

People-powered transit makes you happy

Transportation uber-geek Todd Litman looked at studies of people's satisfaction with their commutes (PDF). The results: transit isn't all that popular, compared with a car commute: The leftmost bar represents a car-only commute; you can see that it gets higher satisfaction ratings (the green part) and lower dissatisfaction (the orange) than both transit and car+transit commutes, which are the next two bars. (Despite the popularity of park-and-rides, there are lots of yucky orange feelings towards a mixed commute.) But, wait! If you dive into the numbers, it turns out there's another side to this story. As it turns out, people …

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People know how to get out of cars

It’s like riding a bike …

What happens when a major urban freeway burns down? Chaos, right? Gridlock! Except not: Traffic congestion was down Monday and Tuesday. The amount of time drivers were stuck in traffic moving slower than 60 mph was down 8 percent around the entire Bay Area, according to Caltrans data. Congestion on Oakland freeways, meanwhile, was down by more than 50 percent, the data showed. ... BART ridership, meanwhile, spiked dramatically, hitting an all-time record on Tuesday. The number of BART commuters was up 10.4 percent Tuesday and 5.2 percent Wednesday morning; no figure was available for Monday, when fares were waived. …

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WSJ on bike living in Europe

Excellent writing

About eleventy-hundred people have written to draw my attention to an article in the Wall Street Journal about bike living in the Netherlands and Denmark. It's worthy of the attention -- it's rare to see biking taken so seriously and written about with such an eye for detail and color, at least in a U.S. paper. Hats off to Nancy Keates. I think WSJ free access ends after a week, so I'll post a big chunk of good excerpts below the fold. People bike while pregnant, carrying two cups of coffee, smoking, eating bananas. At the airport, there are parking …

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Madrid, May I?

Spanish activists up in arms over unchecked urbanization This weekend, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Spain to voice their fury over ... rampant urbanization. Yes, it's true, residents of la piel de toro have had it with the bull. A building boom that started in the 1960s is overrunning rural areas and coastal cities, say observers, and corrupt politicians are only too eager to make illegal deals that can increase pollution and limit water supplies. "Too often, construction in Spain represents the plundering of a community and a culture," reported a European Parliament delegation after a trip …

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Microgrid porn

You know you love it

This AP story is a bit old but it's incredibly significant so I'm going to go ahead and get in a tizzy about it. It's about efforts by the city of Stamford, Conn. (among other places) to establish a micro grid district. What's that, you ask? Within these special zones, sometimes referred to as "energy independence districts," businesses, government buildings and office buildings can design and create their own power source, such as a fuel cell or natural gas generator, using the electric grid only as a backup. They might also tap into underground aquifers and use that water for …

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Putting a price on congestion

Realizing that freeways are not free

Every once in a while there's a truth that everybody knows, but that no one will acknowledge. And when someone finally says it aloud, it sounds shocking. Like this: ... what we're doing now isn't working. Not for drivers, taxpayers or the environment. We can't tax and build our way out of this. That's Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat in his column this week, talking about what most people in Seattle already know: the area's freeway system is flat broke and busted. Even the biggest package ever to go before voters -- this fall's $16 billion roads-and-transit measure -- won't …

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Another refreshing change: Taming the auto

Cities find that people like not being killed by cars!

Good story in the Christian Science Monitor about places that are taking steps (albeit tiny, tiny baby steps) to take back some of the public space given over to cars and letting people use it: The auto's demotion at Golden Gate Park follows dozens of similar moves in at least 20 American cities in the past three years. It's a trend that is gaining ground rapidly in the US, say urban planners. New York is proposing to shut down perimeter roads of Central Park and Brooklyn's Prospect Park all summer long. Atlanta plans to transform 53 acres of blighted, unused …

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Making sure the green wave lifts all boats

New report from Apollo Alliance on good green jobs

The Apollo Alliance and Urban Habitat have a new report out today on the coming green economy and the immense job potential for traditionally excluded groups -- low-income, heavily minority urban communities. The report sets out a vision for green jobs in the U.S. and outlines the green industries that already exist in the country, offering policy guidance for creating better jobs for more people. It also details programs that are working, like apprenticeships, job training, and local hiring policies, and profiles worker and career pathways in the green job market. And it presents some strategies and policies to help …

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Six months to a trimmer footprint

How to reduce your household energy consumption, easy-like

Last Sunday's New York Times honed in on the dubious practice of Americans buying carbon offsets to brand themselves carbon-neutral. Andy Revkin, the paper's global-warming reporter, quoted me saying, "There isn't a single American household above the poverty line that couldn't cut their CO2 at least 25 percent in six months through a straightforward series of fairly simple and terrifically cost-effective measures." My claim has hit a nerve. Despite the absence of a link, already a dozen readers have tracked me down on the web and written to ask what measures I have in mind. This article is for them …

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