Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Take a Walk Down To Electric Avenue

There was an article today in the New York Times discussing spending out infrastructure money wisely. So many times we've build freeways to nowhere and sports stadiums instead of things that will actually make our cities livable. It's kind of funny because the article really repudiates everything that Mary Peters is all about, yet she twisted it to her idea of funding. No Ma Pete, it's not about toll roading for new capacity. The article discusses what is wrong with the system:
It’s hard to exaggerate how scattershot the current system is. Government agencies usually don’t even have to do a rigorous analysis of a project or how it would affect traffic and the environment, relative to its cost and to the alternatives — before deciding whether to proceed. In one recent survey of local officials, almost 80 percent said they had based their decisions largely on politics, while fewer than 20 percent cited a project’s potential benefits.
This means most of those toll roads that she wants. It also means the sprawl roads that really have no environmental or fiscal benefits, such as the one we discussed yesterday. Yet Mary Peters still wants a cost benefit analysis done on projects. If it's the one that she's performing on the Central Corridor or the Dulles extension no thanks. We need better measures, and ones that put livability before driving fast or moving more cars.

But we also see articles like this, where the utilities are thinking about ordering electric cars. What the heck are you thinking? String up some wires on major corridors and order some buses that can be made fast. If they were so worried about making the shift to electric vehicles, they should start with modest changes now and public transport.
One interesting point the Journal piece gets into is that utilities want to play a much bigger role in managing the shift to electrified transport, to ensure that it doesn't put strain on the grid the way that the sudden burst in popularity of air conditioners did after World War II, taking the power industry by surprise.
On trunk lines this would be cheaper for the transit agency and the electric company, not diesel makers, would be pulling in more money. I'm ashamed we have such tunnel vision.


j said...

I saw this article today as well. One thing that I noticed that bugged me was that the author lumped rail projects in with useless highway projects as not having criteria based on usage or environmental or development concerns. Also another article of interest: Yesterday ‘s (19th) Observer had an article about some recent recommendations from NC 21st Century Transportation Committee. They proposed levying a VMT tax in the near future, possibly in the next legislative session.

Dave Reid said...

I find it interesting that the utilities are looking into transit because back in our history some of our current utilities were streetcar companies.