Monday, May 19, 2008

Krugman NYTimes

Stranded in Suburbia

"There have been many news stories in recent weeks about Americans who are changing their behavior in response to expensive gasoline — they’re trying to shop locally, they’re canceling vacations that involve a lot of driving, and they’re switching to public transit.

But none of it amounts to much."

Yes, none of it amounts to much as long as we're living in such isolated formats such as suburbia. Our entire transportation system needs reorganization into more clear hierarchies. Air travel will still be necessary for overseas flights and cross country (presumably), high speed rail connects cities within regionally, commuter rail connects metropolitan areas, light rail serves cities, buses and street cars serve locally and connect everything within 1 to 3 miles within each light rail station (Obviously, the smaller the MSA the fewer "shades of gray" there will(can) be).

"To see what I’m talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping. "

In short, we need to rebuild density. Unfortunately, we can't afford quality building materials to construct buildings to last. First step IMO, is for cities to set building standards to return to building with quality, local materials, which will allow us to return to cities having unique regional character rather than the boring (often terrifying) all glass and steel globalized architecture of today.

Second, funding mechanisms must be identified for residential to pay for long standing, sustainable buildings. LEED-ND is showing us that quality neighborhoods are more sustainable than any individual LEED-NC building. Currently, LEED residential buildings are essentially only being built for public housing and extreme high end product. So it only works at the two ends of the bell curve? What about the rest of us?

With some sustainable construction techniques beginning to pay returns on their investment in as little as 12 to 15 years, imagine a building that generates its own power with excess capacity to power its block or even neighborhood. This excess energy can be sold back to the grid. Germany has created significant incentive for buildings/home owners to sell power back to the grid. A city full of connected, localized power sources becomes infinitely safer and more secure than isolated power plants. And the returns, provide long term wealth generation for retirement plans in a country facing severe social security shortages.

...of course, this is coming from someone who was an infant within five miles of TMI, so I might be a bit biased.