|REVVING UP THEIR ENGINES AGAINST THE SUV: "THE BIGGEST WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION IS PARKED IN YOUR DRIVEWAY"
The Washington Post reports that Los Angeles pundit Arianna Huffington, who until last year drove a gas-guzzling Lincoln Navigator, has joined forces with Hollywood producer Laurence Bender and environmental activist Laurie David, wife of comedy auteur Larry David, to produce television commercials urging patriotic Americans to get their SUVs off the road and, for the sake of national security, drive fuel-efficient vehicles instead.
Some of the scripts they are working on will include bits like these: "quick cuts of various people in their SUVs looking out the window talking to camera and driving away. . . . Their deliveries should be mindlessly cheerful -- Person 1: 'I helped hijack an airplane.' Person 2: 'I helped blow up a nightclub.' Person 3: 'I funded a terrorist training camp in a foreign country.' . . . Group: 'And we did it all just by driving our SUVs.' Super 1: 'Where does the money you spend on gasoline really wind up?' Stock footage of terrorist training camp. Super 2: 'The biggest weapon of mass destruction is parked in your driveway.' Read the full story
"SUVs UNETHICAL TO DRIVE" SAYS A MAJOR RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION AS THEY START ADD CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE SUV
The Evangelical Environmental Network, a "biblically orthodox" nonprofit working with groups including the large relief organization World Vision International and the International Bible Society are launching a barrage of ads, mostly on Christian radio stations and cable television, urging consumers and automakers to start thinking of gas mileage as an ethical statement, noting that auto emissions are significantly contributing to climate change.
The national campaign may be going against the consumer tide: gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans outsold cars for the first time in the United States last year. But the endeavor is part of a broader effort by some religious leaders in recent years to make ethical stands on environmental issues. Concern has escalated among some prominent religious leaders that politicians and voters alike are paying too little attention to the threat of climate change, which scientists warn could lead to more frequent and heavy storms, floods, and epidemics spread by mosquitoes migrating to warmer climes.
Last year, for instance, Roman Catholic bishops in the United States unanimously backed a statement calling for immediate action on the threat. And last February, more than 1,200 religious leaders of different denominations signed a letter to U.S. senators urging specific measures such as increasing vehicle fuel efficiency and regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Read the full story
THE SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH AIR TRANSPORTATION DEMONSTRATES MORE THAN EVER THE NEED FOR A NEW NATIONAL HIGH-SPEED TRAIN SYSTEM.
The shut down of all flights in America following the terrorist attacks demonstrates more than ever the need for a new national high-speed train network. Not only is a train network infinitely safer, but it would have been fully operational keeping America moving. Our country was nearly shut down without planes running to full capacity because we are so dependant on this single form of transportation. WHAT WE GET NOW are greater delays and hassles at our airports due to increased security checks. This further cripples our economy by slowing down our transportation systems, and forcing everyone to waste extra time at airports. This extra delay added with the already growing delays on runways and highways could reduce our nation's productivity by 30-40%, and the new security measures still won’t guarantee our safety in the air. INSTEAD OF MAKING OUR LIVES AND ECONOMY WORSE, we should greatly increase our investment in a new national train network. This is now a matter of NATIONAL SECURITY, and should become a national priority. A new high-speed train network should be built as quickly as possible across America to help make this country safe, to increase mobility, and to prevent a full-blown recession.
TIME MAGAZINE: WHY RAIL IS THE FUTURE
The August 26th issue of Time Magazine entitled How To Save The Earth presents a host of solutions to global problems including major investments in a national rail system. Highlights from the article:
-It is time to make very large changes to rearrange the mix of the three basic modes of mass transportation: air, rail and highway. The answer to the nation's transportation problems clearly lies neither in an expansion of aviation nor in putting more cars on additional highways. My choice would be the oldest mode of the three: rail. It is not a sentimental or nostalgic choice. The aviation industry, like the vast infrastructure for cars, is dangerously overbuilt.
-Airplanes are indispensable for long trips over oceans, over a continent or half a continent. But air travel makes no sense over short distances.
-Would it be possible for the U.S., with its great distances, to divide and organize itself for rail? To reinvent its railroads in order to make them fast, efficient and attractive in regional systems, aiming for a European scale and speed and coherence in each region? (For example: Sacramento-San Francisco-Los Angeles-San Diego; Chicago-Milwaukee-Detroit-Cincinnati-Cleveland-Minneapolis; Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington; and so on). Yes.
-Trains are two to eight times as fuel efficient as planes. As things stand, passenger trains receive only 4% as much in federal subsidies as the $13 billion given annually to the airline industry. Highways receive $33 billion in federal funds. Both airlines and highways have dedicated sources of federal funding: gasoline and ticket taxes. Rail systems should receive equivalent sources of income.
-A halfhearted, partly realized plan will only validate the criticisms and doom the new railroads. What is needed is leadership of the kind that Charles de Gaulle demonstrated in backing France's immensely successful high-speed rail, and vision on the scale of President Eisenhower's push for the interstate highway system. The 21st century paradox is that it is not railroads that are old-fashioned and retrograde but rather those essentially inefficient flying machines.
WASHINGTON POST: REGIONAL HIGH-SPEED RAIL THE BEST ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORTATION FOR AMERICA
There is a looming transportation crunch in America - with the airlines on the edge of bankruptcy, and highways overcrowded, rail may be the only solution to the growing mess we are in. Highlights from the article:
-Exasperated passengers waiting for the on-again, off-again Amtrak Acela express trains recently in Washington, New York and Boston were luckier than they knew. Unlike most of the country, the region at least has a rail alternative to air travel.
-Most Americans still rely on planes and automobiles, not just for long-distance travel but also for trips within their regions. But as the Northeast Corridor shows, air and road routes soon may not be enough for those parts of the country where large neighboring cities are relentlessly expanding toward each other. Congestion on highways and in and around airports was already a problem in these areas before Sept. 11, and for air travelers security checks have now added further delays.
-Trains used to be a dominant mode of transportation in America. However, the once reliable and efficient rail network languished after air travel and highway construction took off in the 1950s and '60s.
-When mass high-speed rail finally appeared, though, it was in Japan and Europe, not the United States. On vacations or work trips overseas, I took it wherever I could -- riding the TGV in France, for instance, and the ICE in Germany. As a confirmed rail enthusiast, I enjoyed riding such superb trains, which were much easier to take than planes over short distances. On vacation in the late '80s, my wife and I marveled as the TGV whisked us from Paris to Geneva to see friends, and then into southeastern France for a side trip to Carcassonne. On the return trip to Paris, we also came to appreciate the extent of Europe's essentially regional inter-city rail network as we boarded a conventional Spanish train for its regularly scheduled run north through France. The TGV, it turned out, was just one component of a cooperative and integrated network of both high-speed and conventional trains linking the cities of Europe.
-The concept of high-speed rail corridors works if you think of the United States as a network of smaller regions. And in fact the idea has found some eloquent U.S. proponents. Both Amtrak President David L. Gunn and Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) favor development of inter-city high-speed rail links.
-As both air and road travel come under increased pressure, expanded high-speed inter-city passenger rail holds the promise of much-needed local relief. The Northeast Corridor's experience proves it. Read the full story
WASHINGTON POST: LARGE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS FAVOR ONGOING SUPPORT AND EXPANSION OF AMTRAK
A new poll released by the Washington Post shows overwhelming support for Amtrak and its ongoing operations. A large majority of Americans favor continuing federal subsidies to Amtrak, and a substantial percentage would increase federal funding so the ailing passenger railroad can increase service. The survey showed that pro-Amtrak sentiment was somewhat stronger in the Northeast, which already has extensive train service, but all sections of the country were solidly in the Amtrak camp. All age groups, education levels and household incomes were in favor of Amtrak subsidies and the 18-to-34 age group supported the subsidies overwhelmingly.
The popular support demonstrated by the poll, as well as continuing congressional support for Amtrak, shows that the administration probably would have difficulty pushing through any program that leads to abandoning Amtrak routes or trains. Read the full story
CLEAN ENERGY’S MOMENT IS NOW!
It’s easy being green. The cover story of ‘Mother Jones’ magazine (August issue) is about how the world is turning to clean energy, and how nearly everyone except George W. Bush is all for it. Renewable energy is no longer the stuff of noble visions and pipe dreams: It’s available, inexpensive, and increasingly – normal.
Highlights from the article:
-It’s only in Washington, in fact, that nobody gets it. If you go to Europe or Asia, you’ll find nations increasingly involved in planning for a different energy future: Every industrialized country but the United States signed on to the Kyoto agreement at the last international conference on global warming, and some of those nations may actually meet their targets for CO2 reductions. Reducing fossil fuel use is an accepted, inevitable part of the political process on the Continent, the same way that "fighting crime" is in this country, and Europeans look with growing disgust at the depth of our addiction – only the events of September 11 saved America from a wave of universal scorn when Bush backed away from the Kyoto act.
-Recently an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the Senate rejected calls to increase the mileage of the nation's new car fleet by 2015 -- to increase it to 36 mpg, while the Bush administration was pressing ahead with its plan for more drilling and refining. The world was suffering the warmest winter in history, as more carbon dioxide pushed global temperatures ever higher. And people were dying in conflicts across wide swaths of the world, the casualties -- at least in some measure -- of America's insatiable demand for energy. The gap between what we could be doing about energy and what we are doing has never been wider.
-The Clinton administration gave massive funding for manufacturing hybrid cars that get 50-60 miles per gallon, yet Detroit can’t deliver one, and continues to sell gas-sucking SUVs that should by all rights come with their own little Saudi flags to fly from the hood.
-Bush wants to build more dangerous nuclear plants while around the world wind power is growing more quickly than any other form of energy. Denmark, Germany, Spain, and India all generate large amounts of their power from ultramodern wind turbines.
-What really haunts energy experts is the sense that, for the first time since the oil shocks of the early 1970s, the nation could have rallied around the cause of energy conservation and renewable alternatives last fall. In the wake of September 11, they agree, the president could have announced a pair of national goals – capture Osama, and free ourselves from the oil addiction that leaves us endlessly vulnerable. "President Bush’s failure will haunt me for decades," says Alan Durning, president of Northwest Environment Watch. "Bush had a chance to advance, in a single blow, three pressing national priorities: national security, economic recovery, and environmental protection. All the stars were aligned." If only, says Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, Bush had set a goal, like JFK and the space program. "We could totally get off oil in three decades." Instead, the president used the crisis to push for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a present to campaign contributors that would yield a statistically insignificant new supply 10 years down the road. -Even in state capitols and city halls around this country, local leaders are beginning to act as well. Voters in San Francisco last year overwhelmingly approved an initiative to require municipal purchases of solar and wind power; in Seattle, the mayor’s office announced an ambitious plan to meet or beat the Kyoto targets within the confines of the city and four suburbs. The Chicago city government signed a contract with Commonwealth Edison to buy 10% of its power from renewables, a figure due to increase to 20% in five years. The Salt Lake City mayor announced that his city too was going to meet the Kyoto standards – already, in fact, crews were at work changing lightbulbs in street lamps and planning new mass transit systems.
-In short, what pretty much everyone outside of the White House has realized is this: THE GREAT ECONOMIC SHIFT OF THIS CENTURY WILL BE AWAY FROM FOSSIL FUELS AND TOWARD RENEWABLE ENERGY. That shift will happen with or without George W. Bush – there are too many reasons, from environmental to economic to geopolitical necessity, for it not to.
VILLAGE VOICE: CLIMATE CHANGE REAL AND DANGEROUS, A CLEAR AND PRESENT THREAT – ENERGY AND TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRIES DIRECTLY IMPLICATED
Its time to start a war on climate change because the threat and dangers are far worse than terrorism, biological warfare, or any other enemy. Major controversy has begun about the recent release of the EPA report on climate change. In the June EPA policy paper "Climate Action Report 2002," the government admitted that climate change is not only real but getting worse, that human activities are the most likely cause, and that the negative consequences are real and dangerous, a clear and present threat. This may have been the reason conservative leaders have privately pressed to have EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman fired from her position—for producing a document that provides the most realistic, scientifically accurate picture of the problem available from current research.
The main reason President Bush is eternally trying to distance himself from this itchy environmental problem, this foreign cause touted by Russians, Europeans, and Japanese, is because of one word: liability. In terms of scale, the climate change issue will make any sort of environmental liability lawsuit filed in national or international courts to date seem like tarts and gingerbread. Human pressures on the global climate—what scientists call anthropogenic forcings—represent a problem orders of magnitude larger than the impacts of even the most notorious environmental catastrophes of modern times—the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, or even the disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, which suffocated 10,000 people in their beds.
The Netherlands faces undeniable threats from rising seas, and Bangladesh will not survive. Symptoms are already apparent in the daily headlines—islands in the South Pacific abandoned by their residents as their ground water turns salty; Connecticut-size bergs calving off the antarctic ice mass; record floods in Europe followed by more record floods. Across northern India this year, record-breaking heat storms arrived before the monsoon, raising the temperature to 123 degrees in the shade—so hot that the birds were dropping dead from the trees. Exactly as the scientists have been warning. And much earlier than most had expected, save those branded doomsayers only a few years ago. Considered in this context, the EPA document may represent the most important mea culpa of all time.
Over the course of the past decade, many interests have entered the melee of debate on the issue of ongoing anthropogenic climate change. Energy companies arguing that nuclear power is the only acceptable answer. Advocates of wind power, sun power, wave power, volcano power. Oil producers. Automobile manufacturers. Coal men. The stakes involved in the debate over climate change do not come any higher. The largest industries of humankind, energy and transportation, are directly implicated. Read the full story
AMTRAK NOW HAULS MORE NEW YORK-WASHINGTON DC PASSENGERS DAILY THAN BOTH DELTA AND US AIRWAYS COMBINED
The new Acela high-speed trains have increased interest and ridership along the Northeast Corridor, and have reawakened America's interest in trains. This new interest is now spreading to other parts of the country where a number of new high-speed train systems are in the advanced planning stages. The ease of travel along with the enjoyment of luxury trains has become a great alternative to highly congested highways and runways. This marks the start of a great train renaissance in America!
EPA REPORT: GLOBAL WARMING IS HAPPENING
A landmark report just released by the US Environmental Protection Agency states that global warming is no longer debatable, and is clearly happening. As reported in the Earth Island Journal, the report prompted immediate criticism from the US energy industry and a hasty disavowal of the document by George W. Bush. The US Climate Action Report - produced by the EPA as a "national communication" under the UN Framework - states that climate change is occurring, that a large part of that change is caused by human activity, and that carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels is a main cause of that change. THE GREAT MAJORITY OF THIS IS CAUSED BY OUR EXCESSIVE CAR USE, ESPECIALLY OUR OVERSIZED, INEFFICIENT SUV's. Within hours of the report's release, President Bush reacted in a manner characterized by the Associated Press as dismissive. "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy," is all Bush had to say.
At the same time, Japan and the member nations of the European Union ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, while Australia's Prime Minister pledged that nation would follow the US in continuing to reject the Kyoto accord. Among other requirements, the Kyoto Protocol binds signing industrialized nations to reduce emissions of "greenhouse gases" to 95 percent of 1990 emission levels by 2012. The United States' CO2 emissions are now about 112 percent of their 1990 levels. The US, which accounts for a quarter of the world's CO2 emissions, has rejected the protocol, claiming until the publication of the EPA report that the jury was still out on human contributions to global climate change, and that Kyoto would damage the US economy. Despite Australia's taking the US' side in the dispute, some long-time Kyoto Protocol observers have ventured that Bush's dropping out of the Protocol may actually speed the creation of effective climate change policies elsewhere in the world. In a February article in The American Spectator, Ross Gelbspan predicted that "Despite [Kyoto's] loopholes, minimal goals, and lack of an enforcement mechanism, it does at last provide an international framework for diminishing the climate crisis. And with the absence of recalcitrant, foot-dragging US delegates, other countries may find it easier to promote more aggressive approaches to reversing climate change."
Meanwhile, the global climate seems not to be waiting for the world's nations to make up their minds. The US National Climatic Data Center reports that each of the first four months of 2002 were either the warmest or second-warmest on record for the US. The Larsen B ice shelf collapsed during Antarctica's summer this year, and a giant iceberg calved from the southern continent's Ross Ice Shelf. Scientists with the British Antarctic Survey speculate that massive Antarctic bergs could disrupt the flow of the Gulf Stream, further altering the world's climate. Read the report
STUDY: SMART GROWTH LIMITS AUTO USE
A new study states that better urban design can reduce auto use and relieve the traffic congestion and pollution that come with it. The researchers' analysis of the San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago metropolitan areas found a direct link between the amount people drive and city attributes like neighborhood density, transit access, and pedestrian and bicycle friendliness.
"We now have empirical evidence that smart growth works," said David Goldstein, a coauthor of the study and director of the energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "This study shows that people who live in more convenient communities are less dependent on cars. These communities are not only more convenient, they're also more livable because they tend to have cleaner air and water and more protected open space." Read the full story
THANKS TO THE HIGHWAY LOBBY, NOW WE'RE STUCK IN TRAFFIC
A top story in the environmental journal 'E Magazine' states that traffic congestion is out of control, and will get a lot worse if something isn't done to drastically change the situation. Highlights from the article:
-Despite the fact that the national interstate highway system is fully built, governments spend $200 million every day constructing, fixing and improving roads in the U.S. What do we get for our money? The National Transportation Board predicts that delays caused by congestion will increase by 5.6 billion hours in the period between 1995 and 2015, wasting an unnecessary 7.3 billion gallons of fuel. Seventy percent of all daily peak-hour travel on interstates now occurs under stop-and-go conditions, and a measurable "rush hour" will soon be a thing of the past.
-According to Katie Alvord's book 'Divorce Your Car', a third of the average city's land is devoted to serving the car, including roads, service stations and parking lots. In 1970, Americans drove a trillion miles per year; it's been more than two trillion a year since the mid-1990s. There are more than 220 million registered automobiles in the U.S. alone, and their numbers will soon overtake the human population.
-If private cars were going to dominate American transportation after World War II, they needed newer and better roads to run on. GM stood behind the creation of the National Highway Users Conference, otherwise known as the highway lobby, which became the most powerful pressure group in Washington.
-GM President Charles Wilson, who became Secretary of Defense in 1953, used his position to proclaim that a new road system was vital to U.S. security. He was assisted by Federal Highway Administrator Francis DuPont, whose family was then the largest GM shareholder. Congress approved the $25 billion Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956. "The greatest public works program in the history of the world," as Secretary of Commerce Sinclair Weeks called it, was on, and with it were planted the seeds of our current gridlock.
-The highway lobby is very much still with us today. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, for example, represents all 50 state highway departments and has a $14 million annual budget. The Washington, D.C. based American Highway Users Alliance has a staff of 12 and a $2 million annual budget.
-If there's one lesson to be learned from the United States' current state of gridlock, it's that you can't build out of congestion. If that were possible, Los Angeles would be a traveler's paradise today. Don Chen, director of Smart Growth America, points to a University of California study showing that a 1 percent increase in lane miles will generate a just-under 1 percent increase in traffic congestion within five years. "If people see a free-flowing road, they'll use it," said Chen. "This has been well-documented in dozens of surveys going back 50 years." Despite the best efforts of the highway lobby, we've got to forget about paving over our problems and apply new solutions.
-The best way to reduce traffic congestion is to get people out of their cars and into alternative forms of transportation. And that is starting to happen. Last year, the Washington Post bannered an encouraging headline: "Mass Transit Popularity Surges in U.S." Read the full story
URBAN VILLAGES SPROUT NEAR DC METRO STATIONS
New Urban Villages are sprouting along the Washington DC Metro rail lines. Also known as Transit Villages, or Transit Oriented Design (TOD), these new communities offer the highest quality lifestyle for modern living.
-The walkable suburban community -- still a contradiction in terms to some -- has emerged along a four-mile stretch through Arlington's heart. Here, on Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards, once-sleepy commercial strips typical of older suburbs have been transformed into mini-metropolises clustered around five Orange Line Metro stations stretching between Rosslyn and Ballston.
-"Arlington has really been a successful model for what a lot of communities around the region and country are still trying to figure out: how to build around existing transit to give people more options for living in the suburbs," Robert Dunphy, a senior associate at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, said. "It's worked there so far, but other places are still trying to catch up."
-Not all of the transit-centered development is along the Orange Line, which has had ridership increases during the past five years along the corridor. Crystal City has similar origins, and now planners have used a similar model for the Pentagon Row development. With 500 apartment units, a dozen retail shops and a Harris Teeter, Pentagon Row sits a short distance from the Pentagon City Metro station on the Blue and Yellow lines.
-"We have 95 percent of our development on 5 percent of our land," said County Board member Jay Fisette (D). "If that's not a good way of developing, I don't know what is."
-Since 1980, the corridor has seen the addition of more than 12 million square feet of office space, 1.4 million square feet of retail, 800 hotel rooms and 15,000 residential units. All told, the commercial development along the two boulevards equals that in Tysons Corner, but on roughly half the land area, according to county statistics.
-The goal of getting people out of their cars and onto the trains and sidewalks has been more than met, county planners say. Surveys on travel habits across the region show that the Rosslyn-to-Ballston corridor has the highest rate of daily pedestrian trips, and one of the lowest rates of car use, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. "It's really the best of both worlds here," said Christine Malone, 32, a lawyer who lives a short walk from the Virginia Square Metro station. "You can walk to what you need [and] forget about the car if you need to and get in and out of the city with little hassle. It makes for better living." Read the full story
GETTING NOWHERE FAST: TRANSPORTATION CRISIS IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Major transportation crisis in South Florida: A regional approach is needed to solve the growing gridlock that is paralyzing South Florida, along with a whole new way of thinking about transportation and land-use planning. New rail systems are needed along with the planning of dense, walkable communities at the train stations. Read the full story
A REAWAKENING FOR RAIL - CITIES GET BACK ON BOARD
A growing world transportation crisis is driving government funding away from building roads and airports and toward a global rail revival. This investment is providing an economic boon to the regions involved. With airlines now in the red and road warriors stuck on jammed and crumbling highways, many are sounding the anthem for a renaissance in rail. European planners are creating a high-speed rail system connecting every major European city. China plans a $20 billion investment in rail expansion and upgrading. Germany will invest more in rail infrastructure than in roads through the year 2010. And India's rail passenger traffic has risen more than fourfold since 1950. Even the land of the car, Southern California, is building a 400-mile Los Angeles regional commuter rail system. Road building and car production still dominate transportation budgets worldwide. But in many places planners have discovered that continued building of more roads and airports worsens problems of gridlock, pollution and safety. Their computer models and practical experience show that a move back to trains and away from lopsided dependence on cars and highways can foster economic growth, save lives and energy, and stem pollution. Read the full story
RAIL SHOULD BE SUBSIDIZED; AMTRAK SHOULD BE SAVED
What a disgrace that the most advanced, wealthy and mobile nation in the world does not have a viable passenger rail system, much less a high-speed rail system. Amtrak was created in 1971 with the mandate to operate the national passenger rail system, which at that time did not exist. Amtrak inherited the worn-out passenger equipment from the freight railroads, rights to the freight rail network and meager annual congressional funding, and told to make a profit. How absurd! To this day, the high-speed systems of Europe and Japan recover only operational costs. Capital funding must come from other sources. IT IS WELL RECOGNIZED THAT ALL NATIONAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS MUST BE FEDERALLY SUBSIDIZED. As evidence of this fact, consider the following estimated 2002 expenditures for U.S. transportation systems: highways $33 billion, aviation $13 billion. Congress' budget for Amtrak has been $570 million a year - and is expected to make a profit? California, Oregon, Washington, a Midwest coalition consisting of 11 states and a group of Southeastern states are all pushing hard to add more trains or get a project in place. Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida just gave priority to track work, initially involving $23.5 million in Florida funds. Amtrak is the operator for these systems.
Congress is discussing how to dismantle Amtrak even though Amtrak has brought the only truly high-speed passenger rail to America at 186 mph, served as a role model for the many states that are starting high speed and for 30 years has continually operated a dependable national system of daily trains. America deserves no less than the Europeans and Japanese enjoy in terms of high-speed passenger rail. We have the resources and expertise to build such a system. Congress must be convinced by the traveling public to build on the successes of Amtrak and to fund a comprehensive national passenger rail system. Read the full story
WASHINGTON POST: KICK THE OIL HABIT
A recent article in the Washington Post wants President Bush to face the real energy situation, and get unstuck from Midland, Texas. Instead of marshaling America's national spirit and technical might to reduce dependence on foreign oil, the president remains wedded to the oil companies' longstanding, pre-Sept. 11 wish list -- one that would enrich the industry and endanger the environment, but would leave the country's Middle East oil habit undiminished.
After wars with Iraq and in Afghanistan in the space of a decade; after ignoring the rise of anti-Americanism in Saudi Arabia, spread by religious extremists and condoned by the monarchy, after repeated warnings that the tension between modern and radical Islam could upend the oil-rich regimes that provide 25 percent of our daily supply, America is still exposed to the economic, military and political dangers attendant on foreign oil. Yet, this month in New Orleans President Bush called yet again for passage of a bill based on the flawed premise that America can drill its way to energy security. The truth is different. No matter how much drilling we do at home, we cannot change one fundamental fact: 65 percent of world oil reserves lie under the Persian Gulf countries, compared with 3 percent in the United States and less than one-third of 1 percent in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The solutions include encouraging smart growth instead of suburban sprawl to increase our transportation choices and make communities more livable with less traffic. Raising the fuel economy standards for the combined fleet of cars and light trucks to 40 miles per gallon by 2012, and 55 mpg in 2020, could cut our oil use in half, or more. These steps would cut global warming pollution by more than a billion tons in 2020, and avoid more than a billion pounds of smog-forming emissions each year. This plan capitalizes on American ingenuity and technological know-how. It saves consumers money. It reduces the burden of oil on the environment. Read the full story
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES WARN THAT CLIMATE CHANGE LIKELY TO HAVE CATASTROPHIC IMPACT
A recent report issued by top US scientists on climate change suggests that catastrophe could be imminent if climate change continues at current pace. The massive burning of fossil fuels across the globe is the main cause of the rapid increase in global temperatures. America is the world's leader in burning fossil fuels, and the largest contributor to this problem. Excessive driving of oversized, inefficient vehicles (SUV's), and the spread-out nature of much of America (sprawl) is the reason for this. The report states that it is possible that the global warming trend projected over the course of the next 100 years could, all of a sudden and without warning, dramatically accelerate in just a handful of years - forcing a qualitative new climatic regime which could undermine ecosystems and human settlements throughout the world, leaving little or no time for plants, animals and humans to adjust. If the projections and warnings in this study turn out to be prophetic, no other catastrophic event in all of recorded history will have had as damaging an impact on the future of human civilisation and the life of the planet.
A year ago the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) issued a voluminous report forecasting that global average surface temperature is likely to rise by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees centigrade between now and 2100. If that projection holds up, we were told, the change in temperature forecast for the next 100 years will be larger than any climate change on earth in more than 10,000 years. The real fear is the possibility that temperatures could rise suddenly in just a few years' time, creating a new climatic regime virtually overnight.
Given the fact that human activity - especially the burning of fossil fuels - is expected to double the CO2 content emitted into the atmosphere in the current century, the conditions could be ripe for an abrupt change in climate around the world, perhaps in only a few years.
Global warming represents the dark side of the commercial ledger for the industrial age. For the past several hundred years, and especially in the 20th century, human beings burned massive amounts of "stored sun" in the form of coal, oil and natural gas, to produce the energy that made an industrial way of life possible. That spent energy has accumulated in the atmosphere and has begun to adversely affect the climate of the planet and the workings of its many ecosystems.
We have affected the biochemistry of the earth and we have done it in less than a century. If a qualitative climate change were to occur suddenly in the coming century - within less than 10 years - as has happened many times before in geological history, we may already have written our epitaph.
MAJOR CHANGES ARE NEEDED in our transportation systems to slow and reverse this process. Most essential is severely cutting back our fuel use, and rebuilding compact walkable communities across America connected by efficient, state-of-the-art fast trains. Read the full story
AVIATION LOSING ALTITUDE
A recent article in ‘The Economist' looks at the decline in the aviation business since September 11, and sees little hope for a speedy recovery. Highlights from the article:
-The aviation industry is facing the prospect that its recession, aggravated by September’s terrorist attacks, could drag on for three years. In November, domestic traffic for the main American carriers was down by more than a fifth on the previous year. Transatlantic travel has collapsed almost in half for some carriers, such as American Airlines.
-The bad news has now also gripped the two big aircraft makers: America’s Boeing and Airbus, both of which are lowering their delivery forecasts. The aircraft makers are keeping a particularly close eye on leasing companies, which are quick to cancel orders once it becomes clear that they cannot find customers for the aircraft they have bought. About 80% of the 1,129 outstanding orders by lessors for Boeing and Airbus planes are yet to be signed up by airlines. Leasing-company cancellations could do great damage to both manufacturers' order books.
-WITH NEARLY 2,000 AIRCRAFT PARKED IN THE ARIZONA DESERT (11% of the world fleet), the outlook for new aircraft is bleak.
This grim situation is added evidence of how little sense it makes to continue subsidizing a dying industry. The multi-billion-dollar subsidy could instead help finance the rapidly growing new train renaissance, and build real solutions to our growing transportation problems.
AIR DISASTERS SPOTLIGHT THE NEED FOR BETTER TRAIN SERVICE
September's terrorist attacks have uncovered America's soft underbelly of vulnerability in the lack of an integrated transportation system. But at a time when air tragedies have highlighted the role that passenger rail can play, why is the U.S. rail network still so hamstrung? How could it possibly be under renewed political attack? The problem is especially striking compared to the situation in many other countries, where trains regularly run faster -- well over 100 mph in many cases -- and far more conveniently. The answer is a complicated mix of factors, not least of which is a long-running deliberate government effort to promote modes of transportation like highway and air travel at the expense of rail. But there has also been a basic failure on the part of some politicians to understand a basic point about rail travel: It doesn't have to make money, or even break even, to be an important cog in a healthy economy. Amtrak supporters argue that criticism of transportation subsidies is fine -- it just needs to be spread around. "There's nothing wrong with this argument if you apply it evenly, but if we apply that principle only to rail and not to aviation and highways, you have a tremendous skewing of investment," says Scott Leonard, assistant director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). Leonard and others point to a longstanding "investment gap": in fiscal year 2001 federal highway investment totaled $33.5 billion, while aviation spending was $12.6 billion. Intercity rail got only half a billion. Amtrak also lacks a predictable mechanism for capital investment, such as the taxes on gasoline and airline tickets that provide a ready source of funds for road and airport infrastructure. The railroad goes begging every year. Read the full story
NEW JERSEY FIRES PLANNERS, DECLARES WAR ON SPRAWL
In an effort to halt the state's runaway sprawl, governor McGreevey of New Jersey signed a sweeping new anti-sprawl executive order. Environmental and other groups battling sprawl were quick to praise the order and deem it the most comprehensive attack on overdevelopment ever initiated by a governor. As part of this new plan, he authorized the state attorney general to provide legal assistance to towns battling development proposals that do not conform to the new plan, a statewide blueprint for channeling growth into cities, suburbs and newly defined rural centers. For the first time, McGreevey also ordered that new school construction consider the elements of "smart growth", whose proponents consider large school campuses built on cornfields to be one of the advance scouts of sprawl. The executive order went well beyond McGreevey's campaign promises on sprawl and attempted to reverse the inconsistency within state government on the subject. Environmentalists have complained that state government too often encouraged over-development by building or approving highways and sewer lines in rural areas. To move the anti-sprawl campaign forward, a newly constituted Smart Growth Office would be created and include a scaled-down Office of State Planning -- as required by statute. This appears to be the first of many visionary governors taking the lead in promoting smart growth state-wide. Read the full story
STREETCAR REVIVALS HAPPENING ACROSS THE NATION
In an effort to revitalize urban areas, planners are working to revive historic streetcar systems in a number of cities. The latest one is in Washington DC where one of the nation's most extensive trolley systems operated for nearly 100 years. It was killed by Congress with the help of GM, Firestone and others just 40 years ago, and was replaced by diesel buses. The explosion of downtown traffic and the pollution belched by buses and the difficulty of traveling across town on a hub-and-spoke subway system have forced city leaders to reconsider urban transportation.
On the 40th anniversary of the last trolley's final trip in the District, officials are looking to the past for a solution for the future: They want to revive the electric streetcar. The District's revived interest in trolleys comes during a national renaissance of streetcars, also known as light rail. In 1975, seven cities operated light-rail systems. Today, that number is 19, with 10 extensions or systems under construction. An additional 43 systems are proposed or have been approved in places as diverse as Arizona and Hawaii. Even in New York, the U.S. city best served by transit, residents want a river-to-river trolley to link the East Village, the West Village and Greenwich Village.
"It's not just in the U.S.; it's worldwide," said Tom Larwin, general manager of the transit system in San Diego, which was built in 1981 and was the first in the new wave of U.S. light-rail systems. "Light rail offers a lot of capacity, speed and performance like your Metro, but you can do it a lot cheaper." Read the full story
THE END OF THE FOSSIL-FUEL-BASED, AUTOMOBILE-CENTERED, THROWAWAY ECONOMY & THE COMING OF THE ECO-ECONOMY
‘The Ecologist' just published an excerpt from the new book "Eco-Economy" by Lester R. Brown, director of the Worldwatch Institute and described by the ‘Washington Post' as ‘one of the world’s most influential thinkers'. Here are some highlights:
-Economists look at the unprecedented growth of the global economy and of international trade and investment and see a promising future with more of the same. Ecologists look at this same growth and realize that it is the product of burning vast quantities of artificially cheap fossil fuels, a process that is destabilizing the climate.
-While economists see booming economic indicators, ecologists see an economy that is altering the climate with consequences that no one can foresee. Ecologists view the market with less reverence because they see a market that is not telling the truth. They know that a stable relationship between the economy and the earth’s ecosystem is essential if economic progress is to be sustained. Although the idea that economics must be integrated into ecology may seem radical to many, evidence is mounting that it is the only approach that reflects reality.
-SUPPORT SYSTEMS IN DECLINE
As we begin the 21st century, our economy is slowly destroying its support systems, consuming its endowment of natural capital. Demands of the expanding economy, as now structured are surpassing the sustainable yield of ecosystems. Easily a third of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil at a rate that is undermining its long-term productivity. Fully 50% of the world’s rangeland is overgrazed and deteriorating into desert. The world’s forests have shrunk by about half since the dawn of agriculture and are still shrinking. Two thirds of oceanic fisheries are now being fished at or beyond their capacity; over-fishing is now the rule, not the exception. And over-pumping of underground water is common in key food-producing regions. Water tables are falling under large expanses of the three leading food-producing countries: China, India, and the US. Under the North China Plain, which accounts for 25% of China’s grain harvest, the water table is falling by roughly 5 feet per year! At the same time, world deforestation is causing record flooding, as well as extensive soil erosion, and an increase in destructive dust storms.
-LEARNING FROM CHINA
The flow of startling information from China helps us understand why our economy cannot take us where we want to go. Not only is China the world’s most populous country, with nearly 1.3 billion people, but since 1980 it has been the world’s fastest-growing economy expanding more than fourfold. In effect, China is telescoping history, demonstrating what happens when large numbers of poor people rapidly become more affluent. As incomes have climbed in China, so has consumption. The Chinese have already caught up with Americans in pork consumption per person and they are now concentrating their energies on increasing beef production. Raising per capita beef consumption in China to that of the average American would take 49 million additional tons of beef, requiring 343 million tons of grain a year, an amount equal to the entire US grain harvest.
In 1994, the Chinese government decided that the country would develop an automobile-centered transportation system and that the automobile industry would be one of the engines of future economic growth. A group of prominent scientists, including many in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, wrote a white paper questioning this decision pointing out that China does not have enough land both to feed its people and to provide the roads, highways, and parking lots needed to accommodate the automobile. They also noted the heavy dependence on imported oil that would be required and the potential air pollution and traffic congestion that would result if they followed the US path. If China’s auto-centered transportation system were to materialize and the Chinese were to have one or two cars in every garage, and were to consume oil at the US rate, China would need over 80 million barrels of oil a day - slightly more than the 74 million barrels per day the world now produces. To provide the required roads and parking lots, it would also need to pave some 16 million hectares of land, an area equal to half the size of the 31 million hectares of land currently used to produce the country’s 132-million –ton annual harvest of rice, its leading food staple.
-IMPOSSIBLE TO SUSTAIN
We are learning that the western industrial development model is not viable for China, simply because there are not enough resources for it to work. Global land and water resources are not sufficient to satisfy the growing grain needs in China if it continues along the current economic development path. Nor will the existing fossil-fuel-based energy economy supply the needed energy, simply because world oil production is not projected to rise much above current levels in the years ahead. Apart from the availability of oil, if carbon emissions per person in China ever reach the US level, this alone would roughly double global emissions, accelerating the rise in the atmospheric CO2 level, and speed up global warming.
-THE NEED TO CHANGE THE MODEL
If the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy will not work for China, then it will not work for India with its 1 billion people, or for the other 2 billion people in the developing world. In a world with a shared ecosystem and an increasingly integrated global economy, IT WILL ULTIMATELY NOT WORK FOR THE INDUSTRIAL ECONOMIES EITHER. China is showing that the world cannot remain for long on the current economic path. It is underlining the urgency of restructuring the global economy, of building a new economy - an economy designed for the earth - an Eco-Economy. A redesigned economy can be integrated into the ecosystem in a way that will stabilize the relationship between the two, enabling economic progress to continue. It will have to be designed with an understanding of basic ecological concepts such as sustainable yield, carrying capacity, nutrient cycles, the hydrological cycle, and the climate system.
-In simplest terms, OUR FOSSIL-FUEL-BASED, AUTOMOBILE-CENTERED, THROWAWAY ECONOMY IS NOT A VIABLE MODEL FOR THE WORLD. The alternative is a solar/hydrogen energy economy, an urban transport system that is centered on advanced-design public rail systems and that relies more on the bicycle and less on the automobile, a comprehensive reuse / recycle economy, and agriculture based on healthy organic processes without the use of toxic chemicals.
-The question is not how much it will cost to make this transformation, but how much it will cost if we fail to do it. Oystein Dahle, retired Vice President of Esso for Norway and the North Sea observes, "Socialism collapsed because it did not allow prices to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow prices to tell the ecological truth."
-Building an Eco-Economy is exciting and satisfying. It means we can live in a world where energy comes from wind turbines instead of coal mines, where recycling industries replace mining industries, and where cities are designed for people, not for cars. And perhaps most important of all, we will have the satisfaction of building an economy that will suppport, not undermine, future generations.
EXPERTS: OIL WILL RUN OUT SOON. PRESIDENT BUSH IN DENIAL
Top oil experts confirm what petroleum geologists have been warning about for nearly a decade - that world oil is running out, and drilling in America’s last pristine wilderness and coastal areas will do very little to delay the inevitable. The latest high-profile warning comes from veteran oilman and Princeton geology professor Kenneth Deffeyes, whose new book "Hubbert's Peak: The impending World Oil Shortage" - gives ample cause for alarm. Unlike earlier warnings of imminent depletion however, the more recent ones have science and a century of experience on their side. The evidence is complex, but petroleum engineers have been warning for several years that global oil production will likely peak in this decade and began an inexorable decline.
Our political leaders are in denial. For the past two months, our leaders have been greeted by cheers and applause whenever they have stood before crowds and pledged to pursue "American energy independence," a phrase that generally has preceded promises of expanded subsidies, tax breaks and regulatory relief for the fossil-fuel industry. Since Sept. 11, this pledge has been repeated like a mantra by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their fellow crude-oil champions in Washington, D.C. Dependence on foreign oil, they say, threatens national security and the remedy is to encourage increased domestic production by giving the energy industry whatever it wants.
Achieving independence - a legitimate national security objective in a troubled world - can logically be achieved by only one thing: reducing demand by increasing efficiency and developing alternatives. Our leaders are delusional thinking that we can continue to consume oil as frivolously as we do. With less than 3 percent of the world's oil reserves and 5 percent of the planet's population, the United States accounts for more than 25 percent of global oil consumption. The majority of the US overuse of oil is due to our excessive daily driving habits, our sprawling communities, and the high number of gas-guzzling SUV’s on the roads.
NO SUCH THING AS A CLEAN CAR
One of several fossil fuel-lite vehicles emerging as the latest panacea for all that ails us, the Prius' eco-hip engine is intended to compensate for everything from car-dependency and carcinogens, to habitat loss and road deaths, and more. To be sure, the notion of driving guilt-free through scenic Appalachia highways or Yosemite park is attractive. The pleasure principle of consume without guilt, is a message that goes down easily in what Worldwatch calls our "all you can eat society." Pleasure passes over the edge into frivolity these days when concern for renewable energy - from conservation to wind turbines - heightens as our labor to cut oil from hostile Middle East nations or lessen nuclear power from vulnerable plants proceeds. Environmentalists offered prizes of clean cars at the last Earth Day celebration, and promises of a pollutant-free fantasy world, but they have yet to make any realistic assessment of the total impact of the automobile. For openers, even with the perfect emission-free engine, thirty percent of the car's lifetime resource and energy consumption occurs in production - before it ever even sees a strip mall dealer lot - to complete the maze of bodywork, bumpers, handles, seats, windshield wipers and the rest. Granted, it's not easy getting around without an automobile in a car-dependent society, especially with a car-committed government spending its 53 billion transportation dollars on auto-age enhancement. Beyond the government's post 9/11 bailout to the airlines ($15 billion), some $35 billion will be given to highways and $l2 billion more to airlplanes while Amtrak struggles for its existence as a free-market enterprise. Why do so many environmentalists seem content to change the tailpipe rather than challenge the system? It is fine for Detroit to applaud its profit maker, but it is California dreaming to think of a truly clean car as a possibility. On a planet under siege, could any miracle machine stop sprawl with its farm loss and wetland takeover, its road kill and ecological desecration? How could "clean" cars free the Americans now immobilized by auto-dependency spending eight billion hours a year stuck in traffic; help the 55 million school age children on bike or foot threatened by racing roadsters; aid the dependent elderly unable to drive, or the 9 percent of our households - the poor, women and minorities--who can't afford a car?? What would a dream machine do for the quality of life of the overworked American needing a ton of steel and wheel to buy a quart of milk? Read the full story
WORLD'S LARGEST WIND ENERGY FARM PLANNED IN UK
A Hebridean island is set to become the global capital of renewable energy with advanced plans for the world's largest onshore wind farm acting as a catalyst to attract wave and tidal power stations. This is a great example for the United States how we can generate energy from renewable, sustainable, pollution-free sources, and free our addiction to middle East oil. Instead of building deadly nuclear plants and drilling pristine wilderness areas, we can generate plenty of energy from greater efficiency, wind, waves, tidal movements, and the sun. Read the full story
NUCLEAR POWER'S TOXIC DANGERS LAST MORE THAN 10,000 YEARS
According to 'The Economist' December 22, 2001 issue, Nuclear Power is extremely dangerous, hazardous to human health, and is a deadly target for terrorists. The Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Maine was decommissioned 11 years before the projected end of its useful life due to some 3,300 "maintenance infractions" which were reported, some 300 of which were deemed hazardous to public safety. The plant is now officially closed and is being dismantled. More than 900 tons of radioactive spent fuel, more than at any other decommissioned nuclear power station in America, are still stored there. A federal report posted on the website of the National Council on Radiation Protection estimates that if a tenth of 1% of the spent fuel's radiation were released into the air it would produce lethal doses over 1,000 square miles. The stuff is dangerous for 10,000 years! Much of it is covered only by a metal shed. According to the Department of Energy, it will be removed in 2020, at the earliest. The station's officials used to say the spent fuel was so safe that armed guards were unnecessary. Ignoring all reason, President Bush wants to build more nuclear power plants!
PRESIDENT BUSH PUSHING FOR NUCLEAR REVIVAL
The Bush Administration is putting its weight behind a full-scale revival of the moribund nuclear power industry. Along the way, it wants to streamline plant licensing, reduce citizen input, and even hide low-level waste in consumer products! Bush's Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill told 'The Wall Street Journal' "If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear power really is good." Read more
IS THIS ANY WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD?
'Time' magazine's December 3rd story about Amtrak highlights how little funding trains receive in America compared to highways and airports. Trains receive less than 4% of federal transportation subsidies while airports receive $13 billion annually, and highways receive $30 billion in free handouts every year. Now, Amtrak's tiny subsidy is under threat, while the big money continues to flow for highways and airports without question. This makes little sense because trains are by far the most efficient and environmentally friendly form of transportation, while promoting smart growth, and the creation of livable, walkable communities. Highlights from the article:
-Why can't the U.S. have speedy trains like Europe and Japan?
-Speedy, reliable passenger trains could help relieve congestion on the nation's
highways and at its airports, especially for trips of 100 to 500 miles. If their
railbeds were upgraded and widened to allow them to run faster, they could speed
travelers between the business districts of cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, or Chicago and St. Louis, as quickly as the tag team of taxi-airplane-taxi. Trains are also two to eight times as fuel efficient as planes.
-Passenger trains, after all, didn't die a natural, market-driven death. In the 1930s and '40s, a consortium of General Motors, Firestone, Standard Oil and others bought up popular electric street trolleys in various U.S. cities only to shut them
down, and lobbied for highways at the expense of rails.
-Both airlines and highways have dedicated sources of federal funding: gasoline
and ticket taxes. Until rail gets its own lifeline like an extra penny of federal
gasoline tax, which would bring in more than $1 billion a year, Amtrak may have
to continue "fighting for table scraps," as CEO George Warrington puts it.
-Since 1996, 21 states, led by California, have invested almost $1 billion in intercity rail projects in conjunction with Amtrak. Illinois, for instance, is helping finance a $400 million high-speed link between Chicago and St. Louis. If Congress would provide matching funds, the states would have added incentive to invest. In high-density parts of the Midwest, Florida, Texas and the West Coast, intercity rail could gain 20% to 30% of the travel market just as Amtrak commands 40% of mass-transit trips between New York City and Washington. Read the full story
SUPPORT FOR TRAIN FUNDING GROWS IN CONGRESS
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent drop in airline travel may have a silver lining for rail advocates around the country. The attacks have increased already-growing support in Congress for rail projects that can serve as an alternative to air travel - and not a moment too soon, said Ron Diridon, who is trying to keep a fledgling high-speed train project alive in a cash-strapped state. "It is absolutely imperative," said Diridon, chairman of California's rail board. "Every industrialized country in the world is building 200 mph-plus high-speed rail." Congress is considering several options for expanding high-speed rail, said Kevin Johnson, a spokesman for Amtrak, the national passenger rail service. Read the full story
LOS ANGELES AIRPORT PROJECTS 35% REDUCTION IN PASSENGERS, CANCILS $12 BILLION EXPANSION PLAN - MONEY NOW AVAILABLE FOR HIGH-SPEED RAIL
Los Angeles International Airport officials are projecting a 35% drop in annual passenger traffic in the current fiscal year, a 25-million-traveler falloff that will seriously challenge the airport's finances in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks. With fear of flying keeping passengers away and airline flight schedules being slashed accordingly, total passenger traffic at LAX could fall from a projected 70 million annually to 45 million this fiscal year, the same level as a decade ago.
Airport officials recently announced that they do not want to proceed with the $12-billion airport expansion plan favored by the previous director, Richard Riordan. Rather than building new terminals and expanding passenger capacity, they want to emphasize security improvements. Read the full story
SIERRA CLUB ISSUES MAJOR REPORT ABOUT HOW SPRAWL HARMS OUR HEALTH
Poorly planned development is threatening our health, our environment and our quality of life. Land-use decisions-where we build offices, homes, shops, schools and other buildings-influence the building of roads, transit and other transportation modes, and vice-versa. It is a relationship that can lead either to safe, walkable, diverse, vibrant communities-or out of control, poorly planned suburban sprawl. Unfortunately, sprawl has been winning out. As we sprawl farther from community and city centers, Americans are forced to drive more often and greater distances. As we sprawl more, we drive more. And as we drive more, we pollute more. Vehicle smog is one of the main pollutants increased by sprawl. Smog. It looks bad. It smells bad. In the short term, living with smog-filled air causes burning eyes, throat irritation and difficulty breathing. Over the long term it can lead to chronic lung disease, asthma attacks, debilitation, even death. Smog is a public health problem plaguing America's cities. Sprawl and a lack of transportation choices force people to own and drive cars in order to reach most destinations. In communities across America, sprawl-scattered development that increases traffic, saps local resources and destroys open space-is taking a serious toll on our health, our environment and our quality of life. Sprawl lengthens trips and forces us to drive more often. The average American driver spends 443 hours per year-the equivalent of 55 eight-hour workdays-behind the wheel. Residents of sprawling communities drive three to four times as much as those living in compact, well-planned areas. ADDING NEW LANES AND BUILDING NEW ROADS JUST MAKES THE PROBLEM WORSE. STUDIES SHOW THAT INCREASING ROAD CAPACITY ONLY LEADS TO MORE TRAFFIC AND MORE SPRAWL. Read the full story
PUBLIC TRANSIT: A MUCH BETTER INVESTMENT THAN HIGHWAYS
Researchers who analyze the comparative costs of public transportation and car commuting say that with even the barest of financial comparisons, each dollar spent on public transit gives back much more than a dollar invested in highways and other car-conducive infrastructure. Drivers can't even enjoy the smug satisfaction that they themselves are paying for the convenience of their cars. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that roadway-user fees and taxes (such as the gas tax and vehicle registration fees) pay for only about 60 percent of public expenditures for roadway construction and repairs. The rest has to be paid for by the public at large through sales and property taxes. Cipriani says the road warriors are losing the battle to provide an urban infrastructure that allows us the freedom of movement we cherish as Americans. "The current system of financing transportation, both roadways and transit, is not serving us well. It is an overly complex and inefficient financing system, which does little to provide the public sector with adequate resources to expand and improve all forms of transportation," says Cipriani. Any way you slice it, says Transportation Choices' Hurley, it's far cheaper to add a bus or rail rider to the daily commute than another driver. "People who tend to be ideologically opposed to paying more for public transit don't have good economic arguments that stand up," says Hurley. Read the full story
Historic trolley lines are making a big comeback in a number of cities across America. Dismantled in the 1940's and 50's and stored away in warehouses, many trolleys are now being put back into use. Considered an eco-friendly alternative to noisy, polluting buses, trolleys offer many benefits. Luckily, miles of old rail track remain preserved in place under many city streets, and can easily be uncovered for inexpensive re-use. Read the full story
NEW STUDY LINKS SPRAWL WITH HEALTH PROBLEMS
What was already obvious to many is now well documented in this new study from the Centers for Disease Control. A broad spectrum of experts in public health, land use, transportation, and the environment released a national CDC report that for the first time links land use and public health. Creating a Healthy Environment: The Impact of the Built Environment on Public Health Report compiled data from across disciplines and from multiple sources into a single comprehensive report that examines the effects of health on the broad physical and social environment, which includes housing, urban development, land use, transportation, industry and agriculture. The conclusion is that suburban sprawl and our car dominated lifestyle is dangerous to our health. Read the full story
U.S. ANTI-TERRORISM STRATEGY - FIRST KILL ALL THE SUVs
Any time a new SUV rolls out of a U.S. car dealership, the leaders of those countries which are often referred to as "state sponsors of terrorism" must be laughing all the way to the bank. After all, global terrorism is partially funded through the sale of essentially one commodity: oil. To counter the all-too-real threat that terrorism poses for the future, Americans need to fundamentally rethink their nation's energy policy.
With their unquenched thirst for gas-guzzlers and energy-intensive appliances, U.S. consumers have to confront an uncomforting reality. As they pay the bill for filling up their behemoths with some of the cheapest gasoline in the developed world they may ultimately be feeding the very mouth and hand out to destroy them.
The biggest gains in oil efficiency can be made in the transportation sector, by requiring higher gas mileage and more efficient engines, by subsidizing and investing in public transportation and by changing land development patterns to reduce the country's dependence on cars. The United States accounts for only 5% of the world's population, but consumes 43% of the gasoline. Read the full story
BIKE USE JUMPS 900% IN BOGOTA
A combination of new bike paths, and strong car restrictions have drastically increased the use of bicycles in Bogota. New policies include a crack-down on cars parking on public space, and the "Ciclovia", a policy by which all cars are banned from 120 kilometers of the city's main arteries on Sundays and holidays, opening the streets to 2 million cyclists, walkers, and roller-bladers. Read the full story
HIGH SPEED RAIL: THE SOLUTION TO CONGESTION IN AMERICA
High Speed rail is considered the solution to sprawl problems across America. City after city suffer from the same problems with traffic, and are realizing trains are the solution. They are also realizing that trains are less costly to build then either roads or airports. Read the full story
300 US MAYORS CALL FOR MAJOR NATIONAL RAIL INVESTMENT
More than 300 mayors from across the nation gathered for the U.S. Conference of Mayors' 69th Winter Meeting held in Washington , D.C. to rally for increased investment in a national high-speed rail network. As part of the conference, the results of a national survey on passenger rail was released. Some of the highlights of the survey include:
-80% of respondents said they supported the idea of building light rail and commuter rail as alternatives to driving
-68% agreed that spending public funds to build or improve rail systems to reduce traffic congestion was a convincing reason to invest in rail
-69% of those surveyed favor creating high-speed train service to serve their communities. Read the full story
SUPPORT FOR HIGH-SPEED RAIL BUILDS IN THE SOUTHEAST
A groundswell of support for high-speed rail is spreading through Congress, the nation and the Southeast. The support was growing before Sept. 11, but the terrorist attacks and the current challenges to the airways have made rail a much more viable transportation option for the future. "High-speed rail is the wave of the future," Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) said. "We now see that it's not just for fun or travel or something unique. It's something we need for our national safety and security as well." The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce has become a leading business organization in the Southeast pushing for high-speed rail. It helped form the Southeastern Economic Alliance, a group of 14 chambers of commerce from six Southern states. Alliance leaders are pushing for a high-speed rail triangle connecting Washington, Savannah and Atlanta with extensions to Jacksonville, Chattanooga and Birmingham. Read the full story
CALIFORNIA HIGH SPEED RAIL IN THE WORKS
A new high-speed rail system is the solution to California's clogged roads and airports, and the politicians are finally getting it. Planners of the new train system forecast that the system will be carrying 42 million passengers a year by 2020, and even as many as 60 million per year. The first segment of the track could be carrying passengers - and producing revenue by as early as 2011. Read the full story
THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF CARS
A movement sweeping the US and cities worldwide to redesign urban spaces for people, not automobile traffic, converged in Chicago Saturday, September 29, 2001.
In Milwaukee, they are depaving a downtown expressway. In Paris, downtown roads have been severely narrowed to provide more room for walkers and cyclists. In Bogota, Colombia, all city streets are closed to private automobile traffic during regularly scheduled car-free days. And the cites of Boston, Cincinnati, Fort Worth, Hartford, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Seattle are all removing, relocating or concealing downtown highways to allow for new buildings and attractive open space.
"In the United States, close to half of all urban space is paved to accommodate the automobile," says Jan Lundberg, founder of the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium and a featured speaker at the Break the Gridlock conference. "More land is devoted to cars than even to housing!"
Lundberg will join other international urban design luminaries at the Break the Gridlock Conference to share innovative urban case studies and to help jumpstart a number of Chicago redesign initiatives. Featured speakers will include: Former Bogota, Colombia Mayor Enrique Penalosa will describe car-free days in Bogota. Milwaukee Planner Brian O'Connell will tell how depaving a downtown expressway is leading to a social and economic rebirth in his city. Toronto architect Jacob Allderdice will unveil his design for a car-free Grant Park. Chicago Aldermen Mary Ann Smith and Eugene Schulter will describe innovative local projects promoting transit, walking and biking.
Among the proposals expected to emerge from the conference is a July 3, 2002 car-free "Automobile Independence Day" for Grant Park. Break the Gridlock is a grass roots organization working to reduce Chicago's dependency on the private automobile through initiatives such as the Campaign for a Free and Clear Lakefront, Chicago Bike Winter, Chicago Blue Ways, and educational efforts such as Transit for Beginners classes. For more information contact: Jim Redd, (773) 486-4861 or Michael Burton, (773) 278-1367 Read more
AMERICAN GRIDLOCK - US NEWS COVER STORY - "A MUST READ"
Traffic congestion has reached epic proportions, is getting worse, and is costing us dearly. The only solution is to build walkable communities and alternative transportation systems such as new trains.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE ARTICLE:
-Brand-new data confirms just how bad congestion has become. Since 1982, while the U.S. population has grown nearly 20 percent, the time Americans spend in traffic has jumped an amazing 236 percent. In major American cities, the length of the combined morning-evening rush hour has doubled, from under three hours in 1982 to almost six hours today.
-Congestion costs Americans $78 billion a year in wasted fuel and lost time–up 39 percent since 1990.
-Truckers and the businesses that depend on them say clogged roads are choking off economic growth and reducing the nation's competitiveness.
-Many businesses, when deciding where to locate, now give increased consideration to traffic conditions and commuting times. Boeing Co., which just announced the relocation of its headquarters from gridlocked Seattle to Chicago, recently warned that its remaining jobs in the Seattle region are in jeopardy unless traffic congestion eases. In Atlanta, where a survey of local corporations found an overwhelming majority reporting "traffic congestion" as the most serious impediment to growth, BellSouth is consolidating all its suburban offices into three downtown locations convenient to the city's mass-transit system.
-Catch-22. Will building new highways help people who don't want to use mass transit or who can't afford to live where it's available? Not really. Consider what it would take just to accommodate the projected growth in traffic in San Diego over the next 20 years if auto dependency isn't reduced. San Diego is expected to grow by 1 million persons by 2020. If current patterns continue, that would mean an additional 685,000 cars. Today, there are five parking spaces available for every car in San Diego and parking is still a problem. To find sufficient parking spaces for another 685,000 cars, the city would need an additional 37 square miles of parking lots!
-What to do then? In the past decade, highway construction in major American cities outpaced population growth, and still congestion worsened–and worsened most precisely where the most new roads and highways were built. According to a study issued earlier this month by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, residents of the 23 American metro areas that added the most new road capacity per person in the 1990s saw the annual number of hours spent stuck in traffic increase by 70.4 percent. Meanwhile residents of the 23 metro areas that added the least new road capacity per person experienced a mere 61.9 percent increase in congestion. Why do cities that build lots of highways wind up with more congestion than those that do not? Economists call it "induced demand." Build a new road, and sprawling new development will soon spring up to take advantage of the land that becomes accessible. Read the full story
ROAD PROJECTS CANCELLED
A new trend in transportation planning is starting to make an impact on communities. Harford County, Maryland, which has been a leading example of run-away suburban sprawl for the past 20 years, has decided to make major changes to it’s draft Regional Transportation Plan by removing two proposed road widening projects. County planner Pete Gutwald announced the deletion of widenings of Rt. 22 and the portion of Rt. 152 from I-95 to Rt. 1 at a regional transportation board work session on the plan on July 24. Together the projects would have cost over $100 million in taxpayer funds, and accomplished very little in the overall county transportation picture. County officials have expressed interest in using some of those funds for more innovative ways of managing transportation demand, including boosting transit service and expanding park-n-ride facilities. Citizen groups in the county hailed the decision as a model of responsive government.
THE STREETCAR CONSPIRACY - HOW GENERAL MOTORS DELIBERATELY DESTROYED PUBLIC TRANSIT
The electric streetcar, contrary to Van Wilkin's incredible whitewash, did not die a natural death: General Motors killed it. GM killed it by employing a host of anti-competitive devices which, like National City Lines, debased rail transit and promoted auto sales. This is not about a "plot" hatch by wild-eyed corporate rogues, but rather about a consummate business strategy crafted by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., the MIT-trained genius behind General Motors, to expand auto sales and maximize profits by eliminating streetcars. In 1922, according to GM's own files, Sloan established a special unit within the corporation which was charged, among other things, with the task of replacing America's electric railways with cars, trucks and buses. A year earlier, in 1921, GM lost $65 million, leading Sloan to conclude that the auto market was saturated, that those who desired cars already owned them, and that the only way to increase GM's sales and restore its profitability was by eliminating its principal rival: electric railways. For their crime, GM was fined $5,000! What they should have been forced to do was rebuild the rail systems they destroyed. Read the full story
WAKING UP TO DRIVE
Drivers have awoken from the American Dream to find themselves trapped in traffic and suffering from the hazards of daily commutes. The effects of the suburban sprawl, statistics have found, are felt most by those driving to and from the suburbs. At the end of a fifty-year spell cast by the Dream of Suburbia, America has awakened to find commuting, concrete and a Wal-Mart where their neighborhood market used to be. Suddenly, the Dream has gelled into the unpleasant reality of cardio-vascular disease, obesity and stress. Although surely not entirely car induced, there are some alarming correlations between the daily commute and a decreasing quality of American life. Read the full story
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC UNVEILS NEW URBANISM DYNAMIC WEBPAGE
National Geographic Magazine unveiled their exciting new flash webpage recently to help explain New Urbanism and how it differs from sprawl by showing a town and the various components, complete with sound and animation. View the site
BUSH'S ENERGY PLAN TO SET AMERICA BACK 20 YEARS
President Bush's fossil-fuels-forever energy plan promises to enhance our image as the world's energy gluttons and major polluter of the earth. America has only 5% of the world's population, yet consumes over 25% of the world's energy, and in turn, puts out over 25% of the world's pollution. According to the latest issue of Worldwatch Magazine, "it is the United States itself that will pay the highest price if President Bush's energy plan is enacted - leaving the country vulnerable to growing oil imports, air pollution, and radioactive waste. The U.S. Administration's energy vision, combined with the decision to abandon America's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, has put at risk a decade of efforts to protect the world from climate change. Other countries are alarmed by the fact that the increase in U.S. emissions over the last 10 years equals the combined emissions increase from China, India, and Africa, which together have a population more than 10 times that of the United States." Bush's energy plan is considered a sell-out to big oil, and reads more like Exxon's marketing plan. Read more about the Worldwatch Institute
BUSH'S SCORCHED EARTH POLICY
President Bush's environmental team has proven friendly to corporate polluters, lax on enforcement, and antagonistic to international cooperation. Read the full story
NEW URBANISM ON THE RISE
New Urbanism projects are booming, and are being driven by the convenience and enjoyment of living an urban life withouth the deadly commute. Read the full story
NEW URBANISM TAKING HOLD
New Urbanism is spreading across America more rapidly than ever. City after city are adopting New Urbanist codes to help put a stop to sprawl and encourage a more compact, pedestrian-friendly form of development. Currently there are over 500 New Urbanist projects in the planning stages or under construction. Read the full story