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Transportation: The Leading Edge

Molly, ASPO Liveblog, Casaubon’s Book
Anthony Perl says America doesn’t have to wait for Congress in order to reduce oil consumption from the transportation sector.

Discussions on Capitol Hill over the need to reduce fuel consumption often end up offering solutions that require significant movement on the part of policymakers. Pass a climate bill that puts a price on pollution? Pass an energy bill that mandates a high renewables supply? Pass a transportation bill that shifts highway funding to public transit? Easier said than done.

But Dr. Anthony Perl, co-author of Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil, in an ASPO-USA panel today, suggested that the government could use its existing authority to make major strides in reducing oil dependence.

Perl’s talk focused on transportation, which he said is critical to heading off a peak oil crisis, in part because transportation leads all other sectors of the global economy in its dependence on liquid fuels, but also because it’s so interrelated with other sectors.

“Because [transportation]’s so embedded in so many other processes and elements in our economy, if we’re not able to deal with that leading edge, we’re in trouble,” he said.

Perl discussed a plan, laid out in his book, for establishing a new “transportation redevelopment agency” that he says wouldn’t require authorization from Congress.
(9 October 2010)

E-Car Scheme to Tackle Permanent Congestion in Paris

Thomas Hillenbrand, Spiegel Online
The French capital is notorious for its traffic jams. Now the mayor of Paris has come up with a bold new plan to rid his city of tens of thousands of cars. If he pulls it off, the e-car sharing scheme may become a trailblazer for other congested cities around the world.

… Driving in and around Paris is a nightmare. There are never any parking spaces available anyway, and on the Peripherique inner ring road it’s possible to wait for over an hour in traffic without having moved a hundred yards forward. Motor journalists, press officers and board members will once again be waiting for hours on end this week, sitting irritated in their shuttle limousines in a continuous traffic jam, on the way to the next car presentation.

Some people might consider that situation amusing. But one person who doesn’t find the congestion funny is Paris’s mayor, Bertrand Delanoë. The outspoken fan of electric cars is currently toying with the idea of a public car-sharing scheme with battery-powered cars.

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Autolib is the proposed name, after the Parisian bike-sharing project that began three years ago, Vélib. A total of 3,000 electric cars will be made available, distributed among over 700 stations in the city. Autolib is due to enter a test phase in June 2011, and Delanoë wants the scheme to be fully operational from September. Paris isn’t doing things by halves, says a spokesman for the city: “We want to make it a big success.”
(6 October 2010)

Going Car-Free? It’s On Us, Says Hoboken

Noah Kazis, Streets Blog
Hoboken is now offering incentives for residents to give up their cars.

When it comes to getting people to give up their cars, Hoboken is taking the direct approach. If you give up your parking permit, and with it your car, Hoboken will give you rewards worth more than $500.

Giving up your parking permit is equivalent to giving up your car in Hoboken, where there simply isn’t any spare room to park. “It’s exactly the same,” said Hoboken Transportation and Parking Director Ian Sacs. “You’ve got to give up your car.” That makes the “Surrender Your Permit” program an unambiguous attempt to reduce car-ownership in Hoboken.
(6 October 2010)

In Arabian Desert, a Sustainable City Rises

Nicolai Ourousoff, New York Times
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Back in 2007, when the government here announced its plan for “the world’s first zero-carbon city” on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, many Westerners dismissed it as a gimmick — a faddish follow-up to neighboring Dubai’s half-mile-high tower in the desert and archipelago of man-made islands in the shape of palm trees.

Designed by Foster & Partners, a firm known for feats of technological wizardry, the city, called Masdar, would be a perfect square, nearly a mile on each side, raised on a 23-foot-high base to capture desert breezes. Beneath its labyrinth of pedestrian streets, a fleet of driverless electric cars would navigate silently through dimly lit tunnels. The project conjured both a walled medieval fortress and an upgraded version of the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.

Well, those early assessments turned out to be wrong. By this past week, as people began moving into the first section of the project to be completed — a 3 ½-acre zone surrounding a sustainability-oriented research institute — it was clear that Masdar is something more daring and more noxious.

Norman Foster, the firm’s principal partner, has blended high-tech design and ancient construction practices into an intriguing model for a sustainable community, in a country whose oil money allows it to build almost anything, even as pressure grows to prepare for the day the wells run dry. And he has worked in an alluring social vision, in which local tradition and the drive toward modernization are no longer in conflict — a vision that, at first glance, seems to brim with hope.

But his design also reflects the gated-community mentality that has been spreading like a cancer around the globe for decades. Its utopian purity, and its isolation from the life of the real city next door, are grounded in the belief — accepted by most people today, it seems — that the only way to create a truly harmonious community, green or otherwise, is to cut it off from the world at large.
(25 September 2010)

Google tests cars that drive themselves

BBC News
Engineers at Google have tested a self-driving car on the streets of California, the company has announced.

The cars use video cameras mounted on the roof, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic, software engineer Sebastian Thrun said.

They remain manned at all times by a trained driver ready to take control as well as by a software expert.

Google hopes the cars can eventually help reduce road traffic and cut the number of accidents.
(10 October 2010)
Just what we need! -BA