Monday, June 7, 2010

Sustainable Transportation Future

I found a website called the New York Times - Special Edition this weekend. Published in November 2008, it was put together by a group called The Yes Men who "correct" business and government identities at conferences, on television, and on the street. Anyway, they had a very interesting article about what our transportation future could look like:
As the $1.6 trillion Infrastructure Modernization Bill moves through Congress, a wide swath of public advocacy groups is assuring that the focus of rebuilding remains on proven, sustainable technologies that can move the country away from its dependency on fossil fuels.

One key to the Infrastructure Modernization Bill will be light rail in cities, as well as high-occupancy overland vehicles — i.e. buses — operating at higher speeds in segregated lanes and roadways.

“We can dig out some of our old streetcar tracks, which are now buried in asphalt, but new buses are also a good solution, and much less expensive,” Mr. Blumenauer noted.

In 1922 there were fourteen thousand miles of streetcar track in American cities, according to Colleen Burgess, a representative of the Surface Transportation Board. “Berlin had the most extensive network in Europe, but that was smaller than 22 American cities. Today, we’ve got next to nothing. But we’ve got to look forward.”
It goes on to talk about making national high speed rail a reality, improving cycling infrastructure, and supporting mixed-use zoning.

*Update: We got a call from the US Surface Transportation Board today and they wanted to make it clear that no one from their office way actually interviewed for this alternate reality article.*

Let's jump ahead a years to today. I'll start with the car capital of the world LA. This is from an article that appeared in Bloomberg:
Los Angeles: city of freeways, smog, and -- bike lanes?

That’s where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to take his town. In one of the less likely transformations in the global effort to cut carbon output, Los Angeles plans to spend $230 million on 1,700 miles of bicycle paths, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its June 7 issue.

“We have to make a change,” says Michelle Mowery, senior coordinator for the city’s bike program. “We can’t fit any more cars in.”
Closer to home, the City of Vancouver approved $25 million over the next 2 years to improve and increase the size of their cycling network. Some of the improvements include the installation of bike parking, installing cycling signals at intersections, and building separated bike lanes.

In some part of North America, cities are taking the steps towards a sustainable transportation future. In Canada, I think it's going to take support from senior levels of government to truly help all cities with the funding required for sustainable transportation initiatives.

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