Re: [carfree_cities] Planning & Development (was: Urban Sprawl Makes Americans Fat, Study Finds)
- On Tue, 2 Sep 2003 15:10:46 -0700 (GMT) Richard Risemberg
> >(Richard:) But today, it will be much easier to buildRichard says:
> > 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.
> Yep. That's been going on for decades. ButMike responds: Driving is less now less subsidized in states that charge
> in how many cities has this changed
> development patterns? Where has sprawl
> declined? In what states is driving now less
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
I'd still be interested in any and all comments on the proposal.
"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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