In the April 3rd-9th 2010 issue of the Economist, the conservative British periodical ran a special report on Rebalancing the American Economy. In the article titled “Time to Rebalance” the Economist had this to say:
America’s economic geography will change too. Cheap petrol and ample credit encouraged millions of American to flock to southern states and to distant suburbs (“exurbs”) in search of big houses with lots of land. Now the housing bust has tied them to homes they cannot sell. Population growth in the suburbs has slowed. For the present this rise of knowledge-intensive global industries favors centers rich in infrastructure and specialized skills. Some are traditional urban cores such as New York and some are suburban edge cities that offer jobs along with affordable houses and short commutes.”
Just to clarify, by “rich in infrastructure”, the Economist means diversified infrastructure and that includes public transit. FDOT District 6 may interpret “rich in infrastructure”, to mean “expensive” such as the nearly $5 billion dollars we are spending on 3 megaprojects in South Florida; none of which really includes public transit.
If South Florida is serious about becoming a knowledge-intensive region, we need to build proper infrastructure to attract a populace with specialized skills, which also happens to be educated. Educated people are usually more mobile, and therefore can be more selective when choosing a city to call home. Most will choose a city that provides a good quality of life for their families and that includes cities that have good public transit, short commutes, and compact development.
On another note, Miami 21 was officially implemented today. Implementation of Miami 21 is the first step in the right direction.
For the past couple of weeks I have been eating, drinking, and biking my way through France. My wife and I spent a week honeymooning in Provence and another week in Paris.
We spent the first week of our honeymoon cycling through the heart of wine country in Provence. Our tour was organized by Headwater and was truly epic. When you travel on a bicycle you get to fully experience your surroundings. You smell the country side, you feel your environment and you interact with the locals. There is something about traveling on a bicycle; for those that have done it you know what I’m talking about. For those of you that haven’t, you should really consider it. You can find our itinerary here.
I can’t say enough about how wonderful this city is. Unlike Miami, most motorists actually yield to pedestrians. All intersections are clearly marked with wide zebra crosswalks. I also noticed that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are much lower than the pedestrian crosswalk signals here in the United States. Placing the pedestrian crosswalk signal closer to eye level makes it easier for both pedestrians and motorists to notice them. Also, traffic lights are placed before the crosswalk and not in the middle of intersections. By placing the traffic lights before the crosswalk it forces motorists to stop before the crosswalk, giving pedestrians the right of way they deserve. Another feature I also observed was the pedestrian fences. In areas where pedestrians should not cross the street, tasteful pedestrians fences have been erected to corral the pedestrians towards the large zebra crosswalk. Sidewalks, for the most part, are wide and inviting.
The Velib bicycle share system in Paris is absolutely spectacular. Because Paris is so walkable, I only used it once, but the system is very easy to use and is well connected to mass transit. I was amazed to see Parisians from all walks of life using the Velib bicycles. I saw stylish women and men using the bicycles, as well as businessmen, businesswomen and the elderly using the Velib.
Bicycles lane were clearly marked and in many areas were allowed to share the bus-only lanes. Buses are equipped with an electrical horn that sounds like a bicycle bell. Bus drivers use this electrical bicycle bell to politely warn cyclists and pedestrians that the bus is coming.
The metro and the bus system are easy to use. At the metro stations and bus stops there are electrical boards advising transit users when the next train or bus will arrive.
Most crosswalks have provisions for the blind and I even found a train station that had a textured path that could be felt with a walking cane.
Parks are scattered throughout Paris. The parks I entered were active and drew a wide array of people of different ages.
A new report from the National Research Council shows that compact development, if done correctly, can result in reductions of VMT’s of up to 25% - over the next 40 years.
Requested by Congress and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Special Report 298: Driving and the Built Environment: The Effects of Compact Development on Motorized Travel, Energy Use, and CO2 Emissions examines the relationship between land development patterns and motor vehicle travel in the United States.
According to the committee that wrote the report, the most reliable research studies estimate that doubling residential density in a metropolitan area might lower household driving between 5 percent and 12 percent. If higher density were paired with more concentrated employment and commercial locations, and combined with improvements to public transit and other strategies to reduce automobile travel, household driving could be lowered by as much as 25 percent. By reducing vehicle use, petroleum use and CO2 emissions would also be lessened.
You can read the full report here. The long time horizon means that while compact development will play an important role in mitigating our carbon footprint in the long term, it will not be enough to slow the brunt of climate change in the short term.
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