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.
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.
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.
From the all-too-rare genre of mathematical-political satire: Using Metadata to find Paul Revere. Highlighting for the uninitiated just how much actual information is really contained in even a wee sliver of the so-called metadata we smear all over the digital universe in our wake. Applied to the Founding Fathers.
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.
An interesting Sankey representation of global GHG emissions, from Ecofys, updated with data from… 2010. Yowza. Would be good if we could get much more timely reporting of this stuff.
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.
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.
The fossil waters underlying the Great Plains, left over from the Pleistocene, are giving out. We done sucked ’em dry. Any hydrologist could have told you it was in the works. We’ll see the end of fossil ground water pumping in the 21st century, whether we like it or not.
Boulder’s QuickLeft is hosting a Bicycle Hackfest, the evening of Tuesday, May 14th, from 6-9pm. Unfortunately, I can’t make it, but it would be great if someone could work on getting our Mark-A-Spot Open311 testbed built out… contact me if you’re interested!