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California’s high-speed rail as an energy lifeline
Chris Nelder, Smartplanet
California has affirmed its commitment to building the nation’s first high-speed rail system, but among the justifications for it, the most important one was scarcely mentioned: energy.
Yes, it will be wonderful to be able to travel from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles in a little over two and a half hours. That’s faster than driving or even flying, once you take into account the travel time to SFO or LAX, arriving there at least an hour before your flight time in order to get through security, sitting on the tarmac waiting for a gate or a runway slot, and all the rest of the actual time commitments not included in the nominal hour-and-a-half flight time.
Under the system’s targeted fare structure, the SF-LA trip would also be about half the price of airfare, or about the same price as buying $4 gasoline for a car that gets 20 mpg and driving those 500 miles. But it would be a whole lot safer, more comfortable, and more productive.
The alternatives of building more airport capacity or more freeway lanes would be even more expensive than the system’s $68 billion price tag on a full lifecycle basis, including operational, maintenance, and fuel costs. New readers may want to revisit my calculations from last October, in which I found that merely remaining committed to our existing road-and-car transportation infrastructure costs the U.S. around $1.6 trillion annually, and that US High Speed Rail Association’s $600 billion price estimate for a high-speed rail system connecting all our major metropolitan cities is decidedly cheap
And yes, my beleaguered state, with its $15.7 billion budget deficit and declining tax revenues, could certainly use the 450,000 permanent jobs that the HSR system will bring…
(11 July 2012)
DIY speed bumps: Traffic control for neighborhoods
Alexandria Abramian Mott, LA Times
Take note, drivers who treat pretty much any stretch of asphalt as a highway despite the kids, the pets or the speed limits: Throughout neighborhoods far and wide, fed-up residents are reclaiming their streets, or at least trying to. It’s something of a global obsession, actually, and the solutions go far beyond the much derided speed hump, which some traffic experts say actually encourages bursts of speeding between the braking.
In West Vancouver, Canada, traffic safety groups painted holograms on the ground so that as cars approached, a child appeared to rise from the ground. (Never mind that detractors have said the holograms could cause cars to swerve and hit something real.)
In London, artist Steven Wheen converts potholes into miniature versions of English gardens. The idea: guerrilla landscaping as traffic-calming tool…
(6 July 2012)
NYC’s Hottest Commercial Districts Are Awash in Livable Streets
Noah Kazis, Streetsblog
Which parts of Manhattan have seen the healthiest commercial real estate markets since the economic collapse of 2008? It’s the Meatpacking District and the area around Broadway between Union and Herald Squares, according to a new report by broker Janet Liff [PDF], covered by Crain’s last week. Notably, says Liff, both of those neighborhoods have received significant improvements to their streets, adding more public space and increasing safety for walking and biking.
Of course, there are other factors at work, and we still don’t have enough information to isolate the effect of livable streets on these neighborhoods’ economic performance…
But Liff’s work shows once again that there’s no reason to heed the sky-is-falling headlines when the city reshapes streets to enhance the pedestrian environment.
(10 July 2012)