Tropical Paradise or Transportation Paradise?
Morro de Sao Paulo is a small village on the island of Tinhare in Bahia, Brazil which is located about 40 miles south of Salvador, Brazil’s third largest city. It is only accessible by a 2 hour boat ride or on a 25 minute puddle-jumper. It has a small population of about 3000 local residents which rely predominantly on tourism in order to fuel the local economy. Up until about 15 years ago, Morro de Sao Paulo was a fishing village.
The real beauty of Morro de Sao Paulo is not just the beaches, but the fact that no cars are allowed to enter the village center. To get around, your only real transportation option is your feet. In fact, during my 4 days in Morro de Sao Paulo, I saw only 4 bicycles, a couple of donkeys, and a tractor that collects garbage early in the morning. I saw my first car when I was on the way to the airport while riding on the back of a tractor-bus.
Getting around on two feet was not difficult, but rather pleasurable. The development of the village has grown naturally on a human-scale; meaning most distances within the village are no longer than a half-hour walk. The inaccessibility of Morro de Sao Paulo is certainly a major contributing factor to its organic growth.
Particularly inspiring is the manner in which supplies are transported within the village. Whether a refrigerator, cement bags, computers, alcohol bottles or food, all goods are transported within the community by wheelbarrow. It is astonishing to see the small supermarket in the village was fully stocked with first-rate amenities. Approximately 200 men wheelbarrow all the supplies from the arriving boats to the village. The car free village generates jobs by employing wheelbarrow operators that do not pollute.
There are some valuable lessons to learn from Morro de Sao Paulo. This tight knit community has shown that with a little hard work and planning, a car free community is possible and desirable, as can be evidenced by the thousands of tourists that visit this remote village every year. The community’s low reliance on motor-vehicles, combined with a transportation infrastructure which is predominantly reliant on human power will allow it to adapt more easily to an oil starved future. As our cities become more densely populated, perhaps we will need to turn to working examples such as Morro de Sao Paulo. This small village illustrates that with an emphasis on human power we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Okay, this one was sent to me from Dave Hull, via the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals’ listserv. The University of Minnesota’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute has released a “Gridlock Buster” traffic game, which helps students understand the “fundamentals” of controlling gridlock. Says the Institute of its new product:
“Gridlock Buster” is a traffic control game that incorporates tools and ideas that traffic control engineers use in their everyday work. Players must pass a series of levels while acquiring specific skills for controlling the traffic and ensuring that delays don’t get out of hand. For example, a player might need to manage a high volume of traffic passing through an intersection, where long lines form if vehicles don’t get enough green-light time. The more drivers are delayed, the more frustrated they get—causing the game’s “frustration meter” to rise. Sound effects and animation simulate cars honking and drivers’ fists shaking to illustrate the realistic results of backed-up traffic queues.
Of course, the sole focus of this hyper annoying and stressful game is to move as many cars as possible through the grid so that one may obtain an acceptable score and move to the next round-where one is expected to move even more cars through the grid. With no options to actually decrease the traffic with mobility options such as bicycle facilities, transit, or infill the blatantly exposed surface parking lots-a pockmark on any potentially walkable street- I am left with one question: what’s so intelligent about that?
I don’t know much about the ITS or the University of Minnesota’s traffic engineering curriculum, but if this game is any indication of it ethos, then it is clear that we livable streets advocates need to infiltrate the education system too.
New research from Professor Charles Courtemanche of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro demonstrates that even a 1$ rise in gas prices can have a very positive effect on America’s health. Unsurprisingly, Courtemanche determines that as pump prices rise, more Americans walk, take transit, bicycle, eat out less, and in general think about moving to more places where they can do such activities more easily-like in cities. Courtmemanche correlates this behavior to our national wallet, which would be fattened by not having to pay so much in health care costs for the obese. Courtemanche puts it this way:
Our fatness costs us a lot of money: $117 billion per year in early mortality and extra medical expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s enough money to buy all of Nike ( NKE - news - people ), Yahoo! ( YHOO - news - people ), Boeing ( BA - news - people ), and Starbucks ( SBUX - news - people ) with billions to spare. And, of course, our fatness costs lives: 112,000 deaths related to complications and diseases stemming from obesity. That’s the same number of people who live in Ann Arbor, Mich., or Peoria, Ill., people who die every year because they’re fat.
Courtemanche research reveals, too, that as gas prices surge past $4 gallon on to $6 and up, our savings and health will increase exponentially. If that kind of savings is not justification for a national gas tax hike, I am not sure what is. I encourage you to read the rest of the article, and look into his research. It’s good stuff.
The State of Florida is moving forward with high-speed rail plans, this time with the full support of the governor. In its bid, the state is asking for $2.53 billion, just over a quarter of what the feds have set aside for such initiatives. While we, and others, have reported some skepticism on Florida’s ability to be selected, today’s Herald article paints a positive picture for the auto dependent state. For the more wonky among us, you may read the state’s application here.
Charlie Christ had this to say about the plan: ”We are very excited about the potential for passenger rail service in the state. We believe these projects will enhance the transportation choices of our growing resident and visitor populations.”
At present, a segment from Tampa to Orlando would comprise the first phase, at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion. The second phase would then connect Orlando to Florida’s east coast, and on down to Interstate 95 to terminate at the Miami new Intermodal Center. This segment would cost another $8 billion, putting the total somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 billion, or $5 billion more than the Stat’es orignal plan in the late 1990’s. The message? If we don’t build it now, its only going to cost more later.
Good luck Florida. This important project would be a real game-changer for a state that is so lacking in its existing rail service.
The blogs are aflutter with Ray LaHood’s visit to Portland, Oregon yesterday. Among other things, he was stopping in to help celebrate the completion of an American made streetcar. The car made by the Oregon Iron Works is the first to be produced in this country in the last sixty years. We can all hope this points to a burgeoning industry.
Oh, and the car will be used for the city’s new streetcar line, which received $75 million dollars in stimulus funds so that it may come to fruition. At least some cities are spending wisely…
photo by mexiwi
Apologies for the late notice, but the following information was just sent to me.
There will be a South Florida East Coast Corridor study workshop tomorrow in Overtown at the Culmer Neighborhood Center (1600 NW 3rd Avenue). The workshop will take place from 9:30am-1:00 and be held in the multi-purpose room. This is one of many meetings to discuss the potential for transit along the FEC, with workshops happening at each potential station stop-Overtown obviously being one of them.
Alfonso Chardy of the Miami Herald writes that Florida transportation officials are “reviewing interim guidelines issued by the Federal Railroad Administration with a view to applying for a share of $8 billion in federal stimulus money for high speed rail.” However according to Florida Today, the Sunshine State is not a likely candidate. Instead, California and the midwest are cited as front runners. California, remember, has already committed $10 billion of bond money in pursuit of 800 track miles, while the midwest boasts an impressive amount of interstate regional cooperation.
Since giving up on regional high speed rail 10 years ago, thanks Jeb Bush, Florida has done nothing to push the agenda. This will likely not favor the state as the feds decide how to allocate the stimulus cash. As proposed, the line would connect Miami, Orlando and Tampa, with a possible extension to Jacksonville.
Tomorrow is national Dump The Pump day, an annual event started by the American Public Transportation Association to encourage people to try transit, walking, or bicycling to their daily destinations. As Miami-Dade Transit Director Harpal Kapoor says in this Miami Herald article on the subject, with gas prices rising again (49 days straight) now might be a good time to become familiar with alternative modes of transportation in the region.
Transit Miami congratulates all who make the switch, if only for a day, especially those in City and County leadership positions. Walking the walk commands no higher respect from me.
Today’s New York Times profile for US Transportation Secretary is garnering a bit of attention from the blogosphere today. Particularly, Mr. Lahood’s self-recognition that he is not a transportation expert. However, Lahood is proving to be an admirable champion for a more balanced transportation approach, especially as it relates to high-speed rail and bicycle infrastructure.
For more on Mr. Lahood, you can read Hugeasscity’s conclusion that he has definitely drunk the Kool-Aid, or check out The Infrastructurist’s approval of Lahood’s performance to date. And if that doesn’t convince you that a Republican can get down with the pro-transit folks then read the quote below, lifted directly from a testimony Mr. Lahood gave on the future of surface transportation policy. Despite our initial bellyaching, it seems we transit advocates have a friend in Ray Lahood.
In the past, population and economic growth have always led to large increases in highway travel. This is because most communities’ have built transportation systems that only allow people and goods to move by road. This Administration believes that people should have options to get to work, school, the grocery or the doctor that do not rely solely on driving. We want to transform our transportation system into a truly multimodal system with strong alternatives to driving in order to maximize highway capacity, combat traffic congestion, reduce our reliance on oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Biden seems to think that the way to avoid getting swine flu is to avoid the subway, airport, or any form of public transportation; and NYC mayor Bloomberg and others are striving to counter his arguments. With all this back-and-forth, you may be left wondering about the safety of public transit. While there are still no confirmed cases in Florida, the Sun-Sentinel reports that one Broward County sample is currently being tested by the CDC to see if it is swine flu.
We would be the last ones to tell you to avoid public transportation. Use good judgment and keep your hands clean. But we will recommend what you should do if you’re scared to take transit or if you’re feeling a little sick yourself: ride your bicycle. The exercise will help you keep healthy anyway, and you’re in the open air with no worries about sitting beside someone coughing and sneezing.
Photo by Flickr user Bill Liao.
Update 5/1: You probably heard that the one case was confirmed, as reported at the Sun-Sentinel. Broward County Transit posted a pretty generic news release about Swine Flu (or H1N1 as it’s now being called in order to save the innocent pigs). Check it out on their website. The point still remains, just be careful and sanitary and you’ll be fine.
This from Transportation For America, along with a blog post covering the irony of Rep. Oberstar being forced to miss a press conference on innovative transit solutions because he was stuck in traffic. Said Oberstar:
Reinventing Transit makes the case that reinventing the transportation bill to fund transit innovations in Minnesota and nationwide will deliver new jobs, new connections to jobs and economic development for communities of all sizes. Given our economic and environmental challenges, ‘business as usual’ transportation investments are not good enough. Reinventing Transit sets the standard for transit investments in the upcoming transportation bill to fuel America’s economic recovery.
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