Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Links o' the Day - Now with Less Gasoline

In Amsterdam, Bicycle trips have surpassed Car Trips.
"The bicycle is the means of transport used most often in Amsterdam," reports Bike Europe. "Between 2005 and 2007 people in the city used their bikes on average 0.87 times a day, compared to 0.84 for their cars. This is the first time that bicycle use exceeds car use."
Brown Air, Gray People. The State of the Air: A report on air quality. Ya know, another one of those things we can't assign a value for, so it finds no place in modern economics, so we ignore it...until we're all dead.
Houston, which ranks number five in ozone this year, is a very unusual city. Its mayor Bill White has done something few, if any, mayors nationally have done: confronted both the state and federal environmental agencies himself for their failure to address the dangers air pollution poses to his residents. At issue is benzene, a known carcinogen. Texas does not have a legal limit for benzene, and because of it, cities with concentrations of oil refineries and chemical plants, such as Houston, suffer staggering benzene emissions. Last year, White filed a petition to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for their lack of responsiveness to industry when it comes to benzene emissions. He’s also appealed to the EPA to address the state’s Flexible Permit, which he believes is at the root of the issue for plants finagling their way past emissions limits.

Some of the key health stats from the report include:

* Six out of ten people (61.7%) in the United States live in counties that have unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.
* Roughly six out of ten people (58%) live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone.
* Roughly three out of ten people live in an area with unhealthy levels of short-term levels of particle pollution, which is an increase from last year’s report.
* One in six people lives in an area with unhealthy levels of year-round particle pollution
* Just under one in eight people lives in the 37 counties with unhealthy levels of all three: ozone and short-term and year-round particle pollutio.
More than tossing crumbs to the rabble, building Good Parks are Good for the Economy. (Ignore the grammatical error):
By offering free or inexpensive recreation, parks also save residents money. In Boston, for example, the study determined that the economic value of direct park use was $354 million.

The health benefits of exercise in parks offer further savings. The study calculated $19.9 million in medical savings realized by residents in Sacramento because of active recreation in parks.

According to the report, "numerous studies have shown that the more webs of human relationships a neighborhood has, the stronger, safer and more successful it is." Well-used parks offer many ways for neighbors to get to know each other, and efforts to create, save, or care for parks create further community cohesiveness. This "social capital" can reduce a city's costs for policing, fire protection and criminal justice. Because the economic value of social capital can't be measured directly, the report cited as a proxy the amount of time and money residents contributed to "friends" groups and other park-oriented organizations and agencies.
But, of course, in Neo-classical economics we can't valuate "social capital" so it gets "externalized".

Making the Car-Free Choice. Hint: It's much easier in San Francisco than it is in Dallas and their challenge is to drive less than 125 miles in a month??!! Wimps. Or as Tyler Durden says, "LET GO!"
That's the idea behind the annual Car-Free Challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit TransForm (formerly TALC -
transportation and Land Use Coalition)
. The Challenge's over 160 participants pledged to drive less than 125 miles in June, much less than the Bay Area average of 540, or the U.S. average of over 1,000. Many participants contributed blog posts about their experiences on the Challenge website. More than just a group of footloose young professionals living in The Mission, challenge participants were remarkably diverse group living mostly in the Bay Area but also Sacramento, Los Angeles, and cities outside of California.
And expanding on my assumption that the Love Affair with the Car is much like Stockholm Syndrome, planetizen examines the axiom, is it a marriage or a fling?
Developers have been keen to capitalize on the advantages of car-sharing for their projects. Over 30 developments in the New York City area have recently incorporated Zipcars to their parking plan, providing a much-appreciated service to residents, and acquiring marketing benefits, tax deductions, and LEED credits along the way. With typical ratios of one car-share vehicle replacing the need for 10 to 20 privately-owned vehicles (when located adjacent to sufficient transit facilities, please see this post for more details), new residential and mixed-use developments can significantly reduce the amount of materials and land devoted to parking.
This is key as I show in my old presentation on Housing the Millennials, there are several ways to save on parking which I've been suggesting to local developers in the DFW market and in NYC developers are doing just that by providing car sharing services. Other ways might include offering bikes with units, vespas, zip car memberships, transit passes, etc.

The key is the realization that the car is not necessary for mobility and the parking provision was created strictly for said mobility.