Cities

High-speed rail transit in the Midwest

It can be done

ModeShift has an intriguing post on a proposed regional high-speed rail transit system for the Midwest. Here’s the wow bit: In essence, for the same cost as building less than 120 miles of new Interstate freeway, the Midwest could design, construct, and operate a 21st Century passenger rail network that would make the region’s transportation system competitive with that of western Europe. Moreover, the feasibility study predicted that the system would generate so much passenger traffic, over 10 million riders a year, that annual revenue by 2014 ($528 million) would exceed the operating and maintenance expense ($453 million). Old-school public …

Wondertoys and change avoidance

The seductive lure of toys that promise solutions without change

Reading about the sunken tidal turbines -- which seem interesting -- I got an overwhelming feeling of "here we go again." Why is it that people who know that "eat the foods you love and lose weight without exercise!" is hokum can't resist spending hours and hours hyping and being hyped about technotoys that promise "abundant low-cost clean energy that lets you lose carbon without reducing consumption!"

Giuliani v. Bloomberg

Who’s the biggest fattest liberal?

Over at National Review, Deroy Murdock is eager to assure his fellow right-wingers that Rudolph Giuliani is no liberal! What’s his evidence? Why, when he was mayor Giuliani doused the city with toxic insecticide! He built dirty power plants in poor parts of town! He privatized the management of Central Park! No liberal would ever do that stuff, right? Meanwhile, current NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg just unveiled a visionary plan to make NYC the “the first environmentally sustainable 21st-century city,” with traffic congestion charges, transit improvements, more public spaces, lots of new trees, and more. Guess that sinks his hopes …

A quick partial overview of green building techniques

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) What follows is a table with a (very) incomplete list of means of reducing material intensity in building. These means alone could reduce the impact of constructing buildings by about 75 percent or more, and thus greenhouse-gas emissions from construction and destruction of buildings by about half. Since we have green builders on this site, I invite additions to the list, especially if you can cite sources for impact reduction. I also invite comments on whether any of these are not as green as they appear at first blush. Note that operations account for a great deal more of the impact of building than construction. So these are green only to the extent they do not compromise operating efficiency. Table below the fold.

Urbanism and the environment

Can we live with skyscraper farms?

I find ideas like this stimulating, if only because it shows some creativity: skyscraper farms. Basically, the idea is to build multi-story enclosed greenhouses near the cities where most food is consumed, thus reducing the acreage required to grow the crops and the energy needed to transport them. Some of the work done by Columbia University suggests the "vertical farm" could produce at least twice as much energy as it consumes from burning the biomass wastes.

The Gothman Prophecies

New York City mayor unveils ambitious sustainability plans New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used Earth Day to announce plans to make his burg bloom. The comprehensive “PlaNYC” outlines 127 green dreams, including a congestion charge for lower Manhattan that would — like programs in London and Singapore — see drivers cough up a fee for entering the city at peak traffic hours. Bloomie also wants to improve public transportation, plant more than 1 million trees, and clean up 7,600 acres of polluted brownfields. The plan would make the Big Apple “the first environmentally sustainable 21st-century city,” he said. British …

Meeting notes

The lost art of conversation

I passed a big rabble of bikers on my way to downtown Seattle yesterday evening. Several complimented my bike as I passed. There were a couple of talls in the mix. I assumed it was another Critical Mass ride, but maybe not. Sure looked like fun. I need to participate in one of those someday. I periodically attend a monthly gathering of Seattle atheists. There are always new faces, and they pick a different restaurant every month for variety's sake. We chatted about things like global warming, the recent shootings in Virginia, diesel verses hybrid cars and, of course, the American propensity for religiosity.

Super-adobe

Using earth to save the earth

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) In my last post on material intensity, I mentioned green building as an example of how to indirectly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, before building one wind turbine or making one factory more efficient. Because green building is more familiar than most types of material intensity reduction, I'll use it for my first examples. After all, building construction worldwide uses about 40% of mineral and metal products, and 25% of forest products*. And we have experts in green building on this blog who can comment on the examples that follow. Let's start with "super-block" or "super-adobe" construction, invented by Nader Khalili, California architect/author and founder of the Hesperia, California-based Cal Earth Institute. It is similar to rammed earth: Wet soil under pressure (mixed with a little cement) turns into a sturdy and long-lasting building material. Khalili's innovation is to pump the soil into bags that are continuous coils and bind them with barbed wire.

Bullets flying in Brazil?

A bullet train, that is

According to this article, Brazil's transport ministry is considering whether to tender bids for a high-speed train linking São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Once (OK, if) the bullet train goes into operation, travel time would be just under an hour and a half, compared with the five hours it currently takes to drive between the two cities.

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