Oregon Road User Fee

Since 2001 Oregon has been exploring ways to fund transportation using a use fee.  Sometimes called a VMT (vehicle miles traveled) tax, this kind of funding mechanism is much more equitable than the current combination of gas and sales taxes that do a lot of our state and local funding.  As electric vehicles proliferate, and fuel economy increases, we’re going to have to find another way to fund our transportation infrastructure.  This mechanism is much more fair, and would also allow time of use congestion pricing and pay by the mile insurance.  If you’d like to see this kind of funding in Colorado, get in touch with your state legislators.  In 2013 Oregon finally went ahead with a 5000 person opt-in trial, to see how the scheme affects behavior and work on scaling the system up.

And since we’re all being tracked at all times by the NSA via our phones and local police via license plate scanners anyway, there’s no additional erosion of privacy… bittersweet, that.

Traffic down with rising population in Vancouver

Streetsblog DC has a good roundup on Vancouver, where by some miraculous intervention unseen in the rest of North America, they have a rising population (up 4.5% since 2006) and decreasing traffic (vehicle counts 20-30% in the same time span).  Impossible, you say?  It’s pretty freaking straightforward — increase population density and the mix of land uses, give people walking, biking, and transit options that work, and stop prioritizing automotive uses of the streets.  Seriously.  It Works™. Nobody should be surprised by this.  Refusing to allow the population and density of your city to grow because you fear traffic congestion and knife fights over curbside parking spaces means you’re hell bent on providing a crappy car-centered transportation system.

The Ecuadorian Library

Bruce Sterling has posted a great, almost purple rant entitled The Ecuadorian Library, on Manning, Assange, Snowden, and the future of the surveillance/leak game that’s only now just beginning to be played with modern equipment.  The information wants to be free, but the governments of the world will crush your sniveling, naked meatspace body in a cold, hard cell afterward.  And yet miraculously there’s more to come.  Maybe lots, lots more.

Refining Steel Without GHG Emissions

Refining metal ores is one of those things that’s really, really hard to do without emitting a huge amount of greenhouse gasses.  The energy sources behind our material economies are not as easily substitutable with renewables, because what they often require is extreme heat, and sometimes the carbon itself (in the case of steelmaking and concrete).  Researchers at MIT are looking at a way of directly refining molten iron oxide directly into pure iron electrolytically that results in very pure iron, and virtually no emissions, and it might work for other oxide refining processes as well.

Quantifying the Cost of Sprawl

Sprawling single-family suburban development is more expensive than compact land use.  There’s more infrastructure per capita and per unit area (pavement, power lines, water and sewage lines, etc), in conjunction with much lower tax revenues per unit infrastructure.  This is true if you look at either the capital (up front) costs or the ongoing operational costs.  Most subdivisions aren’t actually prepared to pay their own way when the bill comes due.

The Fight Against Small Apartments in Seattle

A bizarre account of the NIMBYs fighting against tiny apartments in Seattle.  They fear that small living spaces must necessarily end up filled with sketchy-ass meth-heads.  But it turns out they’re more often young professionals, retirees, and other completely normal folk who either don’t want or can’t afford the canonical American Dream of yesteryear… and would rather live downtown and have access to the city.