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Re: [carfree_cities] Planning & Development (was: Urban Sprawl Makes Americans Fat, Study Finds)

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    On Tue, 2 Sep 2003 15:10:46 -0700 (GMT) Richard Risemberg writes: ... Mike responds: Driving is less now less subsidized in states
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 3, 2003
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      On Tue, 2 Sep 2003 15:10:46 -0700 (GMT) Richard Risemberg
      <rickrise@...> writes:
      Turpin says:
      > >(Richard:) But today, it will be much easier to build
      > > a subway as a public-works project than to
      > > de-subsidize auto use. .. And once the
      > > alternative is in place, then you can
      > > justify depaving to a limited extent.

      Richard says:
      > Yep. That's been going on for decades. But
      > in how many cities has this changed
      > development patterns? Where has sprawl
      > declined? In what states is driving now less
      > subsidized?

      Mike responds: Driving is less now less subsidized in states that charge
      higher than average fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, but I
      realize that answer hides the right answer to the question, which is that
      people who drive excessively are being greatly undercharged for the
      damages they're inflicting socially, environmentally and economically.

      So we have to go on and accept that that is true. But we don't have to
      allow the mistakes of the past to dictate the options available to us
      now. At least that was the principle I followed back a few years ago,
      when I made my attempt at changing the status quo of transportation
      planning in Wisconsin. Needless to say, it backfired on me. But I still
      consider it to have been a worthwhile attempt, and therefore I raise it
      here as an item for potential discussion. Here we go...

      While working as a long time State of Wisconsin Department of Natural
      Resources (DNR) employee from 1980 - 1999, in the field of environmental
      review of highway plans and projects, I was offered the job of
      coordinating the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)'s review
      of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's (DOT)'s long term
      (20-year) state highway plan in the spring of 1999.. It was a massive
      plan, of course, which had originally recommended the State of Wisconsin
      spend $24 billion on highway construction improvement projects over the
      20-year planning period.

      I decided I would take on the review as an environmental advocate, a
      position consistent with the DNR's mission and purpose.

      The DOT's highway plan proposed 2,800 miles of new highway lanes be added
      to the state highway system to provide additional vehicle capacity, along
      with hundreds of new and wider bridges, interchanges, etc.. After having
      worked in the field of environmental review of highways for numerous year
      before taking on this assignment, I knew the kind of damage such new
      construction could inflict on the environment and the additional
      environmental "bads" that would result from the increasing usage of the
      expanded highways by countless more vehicles driving more and more miles
      everyday in the future.

      So I decided to proposed an alternative that I thought might measurably
      reduce the growing need for more highway capacity expansion in Wisconsin.
      The proposal I made was as follows.

      The DOT should use the money collected it collects from gas taxes for the
      highway expansion projects it was proposing (over $8 billion worth) to
      instead rebate Wisconsin households who signed up for a program to drive
      significantly less than average miles per year on the highway system (all
      public roads), as measured by their vehicle odometers, and then went
      ahead and accomplished their objective. One of the main reasons I
      thought it could be done was that, at that time at least, one of every
      ten cars used in the state to travel to work had solely the driver on
      board. Certainly, people could due better that and reduce their annual
      mileage accordingly. Plus, the two major cities in Wisconsin where most
      of the annual driving mileage is racked up both have half way descent
      transit systems - so people had transit alternatives to driving. Also,
      both Madison and Milwaukee have ample vacancy rates in the city where
      most people work, and sufficient ancillary facilities (grocery stores,
      hardware stores, malls), so those who really wanted to make an effort to
      drive less could do so by renting apartments or buying second/third,
      etc., hand houses located within the city. Bicycle use is also becoming
      more popular in the larger cities of Wisconsin, as the Bicycle Federation
      of Wisconsin heavily promotes bicycling to work on a regular basis, in
      combination with using transit during periods of inclement weather.

      So when it came time for the Final highway plan to be endorsed and
      brought to public hearing, I decided to go before the public with my
      proposal. During a meeting I attended with several environmental
      agencies and local governmental officials, I decided to lay out the
      "transportation demand management" (TDM) alternative to highway expansion
      (which I had already gotten the DNR Secretary's support on).

      They public officials appeared flabbergasted, but seemed to like the
      idea. One of them must have notified the newspaper reporters, as my plan
      was printed as the lead story on the front page of the Milwaukee
      Journal/Sentinel paper the very next day. Needless to say, I had no idea
      Wisconsin's largest newspaper (in terms of circulation numbers) was going
      to print my proposed alterative to the highway plan, and label it as "the
      DNR's plan that pays people not to drive". When the road builders and
      the DOT and the Governor and everyone else who had been lobbying for new
      highways read the proposal, the crap hit the fan (so to speak).

      I had earlier costed the alternative out before I proposed the
      alternative plan for consideration in the environmental impact statement
      on the 20 year plan, and determined funding the rebates would have "cost"
      8 billion total ($400 million/year), for ten years of full implementation
      of the rebate program, statewide. ("Cost" is in quotes, because the
      rebates to the public are really not "costs" in economic terms -- they
      are simply transfer payment from people who drive excessively throughout
      the year to the others who try (and succeed) in not driving as much.

      Following are a few newspaper reports from that time, which show what
      happened in the media. I don't have the original Milwaukee
      Journal/Sentinel story on a URL link, but these reports tell the story
      fairly well I thought:


      You can also read about the initial proposal I made (which the DNR
      Secretary approved) on page 10 of the Wisconsin DNR's 20-page comment
      letter on the plan, issued back in May 1999:

      Comments on WisDOT Draft State Highway Plan, 1999:

      Summary Paper (earlier draft went to Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel,
      published in newspaper November 30, 1999):

      Submittal to Bicycling Newsletter, April 4, 2000:

      I later wrote the proposal up, added elements to reduce air travel (a
      significant contributor to global warming and air pollution), and to
      encourage more efficient energy use in the home, attached a cover letter
      addressed to public office holders representing me in Government, and
      mailed it:

      I'd still be interested in any and all comments on the proposal.

      Mike Neuman

      "If you live within walking or bicycling distance of work, you can reduce
      the global warming impact of your commute to zero."
      Denis Hayes, http://www.rambles.net/hayes_earthday.html

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