All the news that’s fit for you (VII)

9 12 2009

“Are Central Texans ready to drive less so that we can become a more sustainable region? Well, about half of us are, suggests a recent survey by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. So correspondingly, the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board – which decides how federal transportation funds get spread among local road and transit projects – agreed this month to pursue a long-range plan that devotes about half of its future budgets to more “sustainable” projects. (That is, projects that support density over sprawl and that create alternatives to driving – in the interest of air quality, the environment, climate action, and citizens’ pocketbooks.) As logical a policy as cutting the baby in half? Perhaps. But the Nov. 9 board commitment does signal a sea-change shift for Central Texas away from our historical top three transportation priorities: new roads, big roads, and more roads”: http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A921491

“The City of Austin’s push toward a November 2010 passenger rail referendum could pick up speed Thursday, when the City Council will consider a $1 million contract to design a route and refine what has been a rough $600 million cost estimate”: http://www.statesman.com/services/content/news/stories/local/2009/12/08/1208rail.html?cxtype=ynews_rss

“Analyzing Federal Highway Administration data dating back to 1957, the dawn of the Interstate system, Subsidyscope researchers found that non-users of the highway system contributed $70 billion for nationwide road construction and maintenance in 2007. In 1982, by contrast, highway contributions from non-users totaled just $35 billion (in 2007 dollars). Today’s study also found that the share of road funding generated by user fees fell to 51 percent in 2007, down from 61 percent just a decade earlier…What has caused the government’s increasingly rapid dependence on non-road user fees — which more often than not take the form of direct transfers from the Treasury — to pay for roads? Subsidyscope points out that the federal gas tax has stayed stagnant since 1993, rapidly losing value as inflation climbs, but the growing popularity of bond issuances as a way to pay for new roads is also a factor”: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/010807.html

“Forty, fifty years ago, (pedestrian safety was an afterthought).” “U.S. 40 is classified as a principal arterial highway – a category of road that was identified in a recent report as especially hazardous for pedestrians. These are the heavily used, generally four-lane or more highways where pedestrian traffic is not separated from vehicular traffic as it is on interstates. They are typically roads that preceded the interstate system and evolved in an era where the car was king. The report earlier this month by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Project identified highway design as one of the main culprits in pedestrian fatalities. Entitled “Dangerous by Design,” the study said an analysis of federal data showed that more than half of the 9,091 pedestrians killed on U.S. highways in 2007-2008 died on principal or minor arterial roads. According to the report, such roads are especially dangerous when they run through urban areas – accounting for 56 percent of pedestrian deaths…”It’s the fact that everything is so spread out that it’s hard to know where pedestrians are really going to want to cross the roadway,” said Andrew E. Ramisch, a consulting engineer with the Product and Highway Safety Institute in Montgomery Village”: http://ow.ly/HyEV

“In general, intersection density in metro Portland needs to grow about six-fold to achieve the walkability, mobility, and environmental benefits that the smart growth movement is aiming for, according to Gwin. If that happens, people will drive less.  Carbon emissions will fall. The goal, as he sees it, is creation of ‘transit-oriented communities’ — something broader than ‘transit-oriented development,’ which tends to be concentrated close to the transit stations. ‘For us to have the kind of environments we want, we have to find a way to fund the local street network…I can’t see any other way than through federal policy.’ Federal funds are allocated mainly to highways and arterial roads, with the intention of increasing mobility and reducing congestion. Gwin thinks a portion of this money should be shifted to local street networks. ‘We’re going to have to recognize there’s not as much importance in creating state networks as in creating local streets — to make good cities'”: http://www.newurbannews.com/14.8/lackofmoney.html

“Prior to the financial crisis, our study and others had concluded that the current baby-boom cohort of near retirees were surprisingly well-prepared for retirement compared with similarly aged households over the past quarter century. Unless there is a strong recovery of asset values in the next few years, that favorable assessment is no longer true”: http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2009/1118_wealth_bosworth.aspx

“The latest surveys of employers and households both show continued deterioration in the U.S. job market. For the 22nd consecutive month the number of payroll jobs fell. In view of the turnaround in GDP statistics in the July-September quarter, the continuing decline in both manufacturing and service-sector employment is especially disheartening. The combination of rising output and shrinking payrolls means that employers are still scrambling to find ways to produce more output with less labor input. The latest productivity numbers, released yesterday by the Labor Department, confirm that U.S. output per hour is rising strongly. This is good news for companies’ costs and possibly for future wage gains, but it is bad news for job seekers”: http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/1106_unemployment_burtless.aspx

“Today’s youngest Americans are likely to be worse off than their parents”: http://www.newsweek.com/id/217356

“In the debate over climate change legislation, most of the attention to date has focused on cleaner energy sources, and more efficient technologies like electric cars. Surprisingly little attention has gone to one of the largest drivers of climate-changing emissions: the urban structure of our cities, towns and suburbs. There are important reasons why this is so – and why it must change”: http://www.planetizen.com/node/41801#comment-11097

(Propaganda from elsewhere) “With 20,000 delegates, advocates and journalists jetting to Copenhagen for planet Earth’s last chance, the carbon footprint of the global warming summit will be the only impressive consequence of the climate change meeting. Its organizers had hoped it would produce binding caps on emissions, global taxation to redistribute trillions of dollars, and micromanagement of everyone’s choices”: http://townhall.com/columnists/GeorgeWill/2009/12/06/earths_next_last_chance

(A quick sidenote:) “Osama bin Laden was “within the grasp” of US forces in late 2001 but escaped because then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements, a hard-hitting US Senate report says”: http://rawstory.com/2009/11/rumsfeld-decision-bin-laden-escape-senate-report/

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