Saturday, August 30, 2008
While neither Silver Spring nor Bethesda are incorporated places and therefore don't have definite boundaries, one can use common sense to define the places. I work in Silver Spring (note: not "Silver Spring") and I can really call it Silver Spring. But if you live in Kensington, a place which is incorporated and has definite boundaries, you shouldn't call it "Silver Spring." I've even heard of people calling Langley Park and Burtonsville "Silver Spring."
I certainly understand why people want to call most of Montgomery County "Silver Spring." It's a phenomenon repeated across the Country. For instance, if you are marketing housing to anyone from Atlanta, you should bill it as being in "Vinings" (even if it's in Denver).
But when it comes to having a sense of community, it seems that people won't claim the places they actually live. In the District, it seems, people have a much stronger connection to neighborhoods so what is driving the lack of community in the suburbs?
What are your thoughts?
Monday, August 25, 2008
After Montreal, a short stop-over in Ottawa was in order. Spending just under 12 hours in Canada's capital city was not much time to explore, but it was enough time to see the main sights. Parliament was particularly impressive. It's siting is also an example of good planning, on a bluff overlooking the Ottawa River.
But I want to focus this planning discussion on a different aspect of Ottawa.
My recent post on Montreal focused on large greenspaces, which are essential to creating a vibrant urban environment. Just as important are green corridors linking small and large greenspaces and knitting the city together.
Ottawa's Rideau Canal fits this role nicely. Completed in 1832, it was built to defend Canada from a potential attack by the United States. The waterway is 125 miles in length, connecting Ottawa to Kingston, on Lake Ontario. Only about 12 miles of the route was man-made, the remainder of the journey is made using rivers and lakes.
One can still traverse the canal today. It is run by Parks Canada, which charges a small fee to operate the locks along the journey.
Through Ottawa, the canal is the centerpiece of a greenway which connects neighborhoods to the city center. Flanked by multi-use trails, it is a wonderful linear greenspace. In the winter, the canal becomes one of the world's longest ice skating rinks, and people from Ottawa will commute to work by ice skate.
Connecting parks is important to ensure that everyone has access. They can also become alternative transportation corridors, as is clearly the case with the parks along the Rideau. And while Ottawa is certainly doing a good job in this corridor, Washington is also doing well.
Here in the Metropolitan Washington Region, we have several good green corridors. Most notable are the C&O Canal and Rock Creek Park.
The C&O Canal is similar to the Rideau. From Georgetown, the canal runs up the Potomac in a mostly forested setting. Because it is down in the Potomac Valley, there aren't too many communities directly on its path, and access is more limited than it is to the Rideau.
The setting, however, is beautiful and offers a wonderful way to escape from the city when one needs a breath of fresh air. The canal offers an glimpse of a slower time and a more bucolic America.
over the C&O on an old railroad trestle
Today, like the Rideau, the C&O Canal provides an alternative transportation corridor. Bikers and joggers use this sylvan corridor to get exercise or to get to jobs in the District.
Another good example of a green corridor is verdant Rock Creek Park. I introduced Rock Creek Park late last year on Track Twenty-Nine. Linking the National Mall to Rockville in suburban Maryland, this large park also provides a place for recreation and transportation in DC and her suburbs.
The history of the Cabin John Trolley goes back to 1892, when the Washington and Great Falls Electric Company was chartered. In August of 1895, streetcars were running from the Aqueduct Bridge in Georgetown to a loop just east of the MacArthur Boulevard bridge over Cabin John Creek.
From Georgetown to Cabin John the line operated in a private, semi-exclusive right-of-way. Within the City of Washington, the line traversed city streets from Union Station to Georgetown University. In later years, the route was number 20.
Route 20 had the honor of serving Washington's trolley park. Like Pittsburgh's Kennywood and New York's Coney Island, these early amusement parks were built to garner transit ridership. In this region, Washingtonians took the trolley out to Maryland to spend the weekend at Glen Echo Park.
Today, the notes of carousel music still drift through the trees, but the clang of trolley bells can no longer be heard. The glory days of the trolley park went the same way of the golden era of the trolley. Glen Echo Park only survived 8 years after the demise of the Cabin John trolley. Recently, a PCC streetcar was brought back to the restored park. This vehicle was a part of a fleet of streetcars running on Philadelphia's streets, and it's good to see this relic at the park. It's in bad shape, though.
Streetcars have been absent from Glen Echo for 48 years, but traces remain.
Yesterday, I when into the Potomac Valley to trace this artifact before it is forever washed away. The photographs here are the record of my adventure. The former right-of-way is easily accessible by bicycle. From Georgetown it's a short bike ride up the Capital Crescent Trail to the tunnel under the C&O Canal at Foundry Branch. Once on the north side of the canal, a few steps up Foxhall Road leads to a vista of a rusting trestle. I continued up the C&O to Cabin John and returned along MacArthur Boulevard, which shadows the old streetcar line.
In a few places, the ROW is visible as an extra wide median in neighborhood streets. I wonder if the residents of Brookmont realize that streetcars used to ply the center of Broad Street or if those living along Sherier Place in Northwest can remember streetcars gliding by?
Brookmont in Montgomery County
but their legacy remains in this green space
In Georgetown, on O & P Streets between Wisconsin and 35th, rails are still embedded in the cobblestones. Here, one can see the unique third rail conduit exclusive to DC. Congress forbade the use of overhead wires, so streetcars had to use an underground power source. The resulting trench was hard to maintain, but Washington made do.
After Georgetown, Route 20 streetcars stopped at a plow pit and changed to overhead catenary for the remainder of the trip to Cabin John.
Except for a segment through the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant, the right-of-way is moslty still intact. I'm not sure about the ownership, but the grading for the streetcar is clearly visible all the way to Cabin John Creek. The line is quite overgrown in places, and a few decaying bridges remain as the last vestiges of this piece of history.
The cut for the streetcar loop at Cabin John is also quite noticeable. The outbound half of the loop is quite clear of underbrush, and seems to be in use as a walking path. The inbound part of the loop is very overgrown and is not really accessible. The loop falls entirely within the Cabin John Regional Park of Maryland's M-NCPPC.
I think it has a lot of potential as a heritage streetcar line, but it would also be expensive--perhaps prohibitively so.
Yellow Line trains will operate between Greenbelt and National Airport and between Huntington and Braddock Road.
Blue Line trains will operate between Largo and National Airport and between Franconia-Springfield and Braddock Road.
Shuttle buses will operate every 5 minutes between Braddock Road and National Airport.
Metro advises adding 30 minutes to your travel times through the area.
See their press release here.
UPDATE: 8/25: 3:12P
I just noticed that on my map, Stadium-Armory's dot does not appear. This is just a typo. Stadium-Armory WILL BE OPEN as usual this weekend.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Thursday I asked you to guess where the above photo was taken. I was surprised not by the accuracy of the responses, but rather by the lack of "Europe" as an answer.
Quebec City is perhaps the most European place this side of Europe. Arriving at Gare du Palais, one is treated to quite a wakeup call. You're supposed to have to arrive at an Airport to get to Europe from North America, not a train station.
I've always found Canada's bilingual nature attractive. From cereal boxes to street signs, the Canadians do it in two languages. Except in Quebec. Here in la belle province, French culture is almost overwhelming. Montreal is cosmopolitan enough to be bilingual and while many of the Quebecois in Quebec City speak English, many don't (or won't admit it).
But that's not what makes this place feel European.
The urban form is breathtakingly European. Quebec still has its city walls, still has its winding narrow streets, still has its connection to its past.
This connection is something that I think many American cities lack. In today's world of global media and trade, it is extremely difficult to keep everything from clothes to speech unique. But the urban form is something which should be harder to change than one's jeans. Unfortunately, in the name of progress, we have torn down culturally significant buildings and wiped neighborhoods like those in Vieux-Quebec off the map.
Perhaps we can restore some of these areas. But I think it is significant to note that it is not impossible to sustain a European urban from in North America. Canada's gasoline prices are only slightly higher than ours, so the pressure to suburbanize is probably strong there too. And sprawl does exist in the Great Lone Land. Perhaps policy is where the difference lies.
Regardless, I think many lessons from the urban form in Quebec can be taken. Nowhere else in North America will you find such a place as this.
The license plates in Quebec proclaim "Je me souviens." I remember.
It seems we would also do well to remember our past too.
I am a huge supporter of new urbanism, although admittedly it has its flaws. I am an even bigger supporter of old urbanism. Quebec is a great example of this.
Some work is already being done in the Tysons Corner area. This work is utility relocation and was not technically part of the Metro project, although it is necessary before Metro construction can commence. The work authorized by FTA is not a formal go-ahead. They could still say no to the $900 million in federal funding, but allowing construction to start is very promising of final approval.
Phase one of the Dulles Metrorail Project will create a new Metro line, the Silver Line running along with Orange Line trains from Stadium-Armory to East Falls Church. It will also construct new track from East Falls Church to Whiele Avenue along the Dulles Toll Road. In Tysons Corner, the line will detour through the business district.
For other posts on the Silver Line, click here.
Friday, August 22, 2008
From Halifax, my trip took me to Montreal, a charming city on the Saint Lawrence River (proncounced san la ranh). It's almost hard to believe that Montreal is a North American city, but as European as it is, it is also clearly of the new world.
In the center of the Island of Montreal stands Mount Royal from which Montreal gets its name. This entire mountain is a beautiful Olmstead-designed park. The park appears wild, which is often a feeling Olmstead often tried to create. It offers a great place to get away from the city without actually leaving. Once under the tree canopy, one can really almost forget that one is surrounded by one of Canada's largest metropolises.
And of course, no visit to Montreal would be complete without a visit to Parc Jean-Drapeau, site of the 1967 Montreal Exposition. This park is on two islands in the middle of the Saint Lawrence. A short Metro ride from the city center, the park has its own stop. Of course in this case, the Jean-Drapeau Metro Stop was built to serve visitors to the Montreal Expo, but even if it weren't for that, I think access to parks is a worthwhile use for transit. I wonder if the FTA would look so favorably on a stop like Jean-Drapeau?
Parc Olympique is the precise opposite of what Jane Jacobs would consider good urban form. The park is bleak and desolate, dominated by concrete. There were a few tourists about, but by and far the park was far to quiet to feel secure. Perhaps it was different during the Olympics, but the park should have also been designed for the post-Olympics.
This park is part of Montreal's Olympic legacy as much as Munich's is, but in my opinion, Olympiapark in Munich is a far better remnant than what we see in Quebec. Of course, it's not too late for the park in Montreal. A number of changes would dramatically improve the atmosphere. More greenery would be an excellent start, and so would moving some of the walkways back down to street level where the "eyes on the street" concept would add a better feeling of security. Additionally, bringing more uses to the area would result in the park being more peopled.
All in all, it seems that Montreal would be a good place to take a lead from when it comes to park building.
Michael, you got it right first, it is in Vieux-Quebec.
Dustin, Bravo! You got the location and time just about perfect. Amazing. The photo is indeed a picture of Rue du Petit-Champlain taken from the bottom of the stairs, actually up a few, looking toward the Saint Laurent. It was taken around 2:30 in the afternoon.
I'm going to have to be cleverer next time, eh?
Thursday, August 21, 2008
(Hint: It's not actually LA)
Have fun! I'll post the answer tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It has been quite an adventure.
Since the Metro map is one of Washington's most recognizable symbols, I've decided to use a modified version to illustrate where I've been in the city. Metro has 86 stations, which is quite a lot when you think about it. My last home was Atlanta, where MARTA has only 38 stations. It took me almost 4 years to "use"* every MARTA station.
*I define use here as having entered or left the faregates at a station. It's
not enough just to ride through or even get off and walk around the platform.
Ironically enough, the last station I used on MARTA was Medical Center. It's ironic because that station is closest to by birthplace, Northside Hospital (of course the station didn't open until 11 years after my birth). It's also fitting because I haven't yet used the Medical Center station here in Washington. Perhaps I can save it for last.
But while it took me the better part of 4 years to use the 38 MARTA stations, I've already used 56 stations here in Washington. But I still haven't covered all of the line segments. I've never ridden the Green Line south of Southern Avenue and I have yet to go beyond Rockville on the north side of town. Riding the entire MARTA system was one of the first things I did after moving to Atlanta. It was also one of the first things I did when living in Munich, but I suppose I just haven't had a chance. After all, WMATA's 106 miles of track certainly dwarf MARTA's 48.
But while my explorations of the areas around 56 of Metro's stations have been many and varied, my explorations beyond its reach seem woefully inadequate. Being carless has trapped me inside the Beltway for the most part, it seems. Having a bike helps--indeed it is one of the sources of a couple of visited Metro stations. I once biked from Rockville to Foggy Bottom and also from Southern Avenue to Bening Road, but I've yet to venture up to Great Falls.
So I suppose the long and short of it is that while I've certainly seen a lot of Washington in my year here, I sometimes feel that I haven't even scratched the surface.
How do your adventures compare?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
And it has been quite a year for this little blog. 130 posts and over 8000 page loads later, and Track Twenty-Nine is still chugging along with a full head of steam.
I had no idea where I was going to take Track Twenty-Nine when I started typing last August. I'm not sure I know where I'm going to take it now, but I do have some rough ideas. You can look forward to a continuation of several of the series I've started and there are some more transit maps in the works. Trust me, those are the most popular things on the site, by far. Indeed, my Streetcar plan, has drawn more visitors than ever to the site! Yesterday, there were 705 page loads, more than double the second highest date since I started keeping track on October 1.
I am impressed with the support and compliments I have gotten from my readers. I check the URLs referring to Track Twenty-Nine a couple of times a week and I'm happy to see a growing number of blogs linking here. I'm also quite happy to note that I'm sometimes referred to in other bloggers' posts.
I have intended all along to inspire a discussion. And it is wonderful to note that I'm finally succeeding. I value the input of others and input is precisely what I've been getting with my Streetcar plan. I hope the comments continue there as well as in my future posts.
But, I pontificate enough as a blogger. Now it's your turn. Where would you like to see this blog go over the next year?
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Hopefully this map will be easier to read and understand.
For more details on my streetcar plan, visit:
Hopefully, this map will look better. If not, I'll make some revisions to make it more readable.
Thank you for your patience.
But I’m not the only one working on these plans. According to the New York Times, 40 cities in the
Some notes about the plan: This a version 1.0 plan. Based on comments, I’ve changed my other plans, and I’d love to hear from you. Please tell me what you think.
This plan, like my others, represents what I think the region can support right now—not what will be needed in 2030. In 2030, I would hope that this network exists as a small portion of something rivaling
I chose lines based on connection commercial nodes. I know that some of the lines are long. Not very many people will ride from
Many of the corridors I picked were once streetcar lines in DC’s past. The
Streetcars would mostly operate in traffic, like the Portland Streetcar (pictured at top). Stops would be similar to bus stops, but would include more streetscaping.
So, without further adieu, the Plan:
This line starts in
Wisconsin Avenue/Rosslyn Line:
The Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar starts at
The Rosslyn Branch continues along M Street, turning south to cross the
The Wisconsin Branch turns north from M Street onto
This line starts at Oklahoma Avenue Metro. Proceeding west along
The Mid-City/Crosstown Line follows the Connecticut Avenue Line downtown, diverging to follow
Boundary Street Line:
Parallel to the Crosstown Line, the Boundary Street Line follows historic
This line starts at Q and 20th NW, near
This branch of the Georgia Avenue Line also runs into
Here’s a Google map of my proposal:
View Larger Map
The streetcars need a place to be stored overnight and also a venue where maintenance can be performed. If other cities examples can be followed, new development along the corridor could be made to accommodate a trolley barn as a condition of zoning approval.
At least two locations do seem to have immediate potential, however. At Oklahoma Avenue Metro, the parking lots at RFK will be redeveloped. However, it seems possible that room for Trolleys could be left somewhere on site. Additionally, if non-revenue tracks led south from Rhode Island Avenue along Eastern Avenue near Mount Rainier, a Trolley storage/maintenance facility could be constructed on the industrial sites south of the
Additionally, it might be possible to return WMATA’s Northern Bus Garage in
What other corridors do you think would support a streetcar?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
And now that I've once again become a bike commuter, I really have to wonder: why so hurrious?
And while DC is more bike friendly than Atlanta, it's drivers aren't. I love the fact that DC has a network of bike lanes and trails. The city is also flatter and has a great street network. But the drivers here are very aggressive.
But what's the rush anyway? It seems to me that people are in far too much of a hurry these days. They can't wait for me to clear an intersection before turning, they whiz by with mere inches to spare, and they gun their engines as they pass--as if to demonstrate their superiority.
Perhaps these motorists are just insecure. They are ashamed of themselves, perhaps? They race out of traffic lights like horses out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby only to have a bicycle--a bicycle--catch them at the next light. Perhaps they regret the expense of their Ford Enormous and wish they too had the ability to cycle to work.
Perhaps they're just rude or ignorant of the law.
They wouldn't be alone in that, though. According to the WashCycle, recently an MPD (DC) officer followed an injured bicyclist to the hospital to give him a ticket for riding on the sidewalk after being struck by a right-turning vehicle on Independence Avenue. Biking on the sidewalk isn't even illegal in the District (except in the CBD).
If the cops don't even know the rules, why should we expect motorists to? And let's not forget that in DC, bicyclists have to know three sets of laws (DC, MD, VA) regarding bicycles.
But education aside, we'd all be a little better off if drivers (and bicyclists) just calmed down and took it easy. We need to respect our fellow road users and remember that we all have a right to use the transportation infrastructure.
And drivers: before you intimidate a bicyclist, remember that that's one less driver to congest your route. And even if we're slow-moving, we're usually at least as fast as you in an urban area, and we'll be out of your way as soon as possible.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
For those of you who haven't seen the movies, the characters are time travelers whose situations keep getting them stranded in the wrong year. The range of the movies stretches from 1885-2015, with the Doc and Marty visiting 1885, 1955, 1985, 1985 Alternate, and 2015. All of the events take place in the fictional Hill Valley, California, a small town, presumably on the edge of a metropolitan area (at least by 1985).
If you look carefully at scenes from Hill Valley in 1955 ("they've really cleaned this place up"), you can see how vibrant the town square is. By 1985, they've paved over the square itself for parking and most of the businesses are run down. The bench on which Marty and Jennifer sit near the beginning of the film (#1) advertises that Zales is 'now in Twin Pines Mall'. In 1955, it was on the square. By 2015, however, Hill Valley's downtown is experiencing a renaissance. The shops are occupied, there is a little cutrification (Cafe 80s, the Antique Shop), but it appears vibrant. The square is now a reflecting pool for the Courthouse and houses an underground shopping mall.
It is certainly interesting to the town transform. We see the prototypical 1950s town square through the eyes of a child of the baby boomers. A kid growing up in the 1980s, who has no idea of what his town used to be. While his parents' generation hung out at Lou's Diner on the square and frequently walked or biked home, Marty's generation presumably hangs out at the Mall and have a much greater attachment to their cars (hence the drag races).
And even the costs of sprawl are noted. We discover after Marty makes it back to 1955 for the first time, that in 1985 Doc is living in his garage. If you read the newspapers framed on the walls, you'll note that Doctor Brown sold the Brown estate to developers, presumably to finance the Delorean. That explains why in 1985, Marty leaves the Doc's place, and steps right into the parking lot of a Burger King. The typical suburban strip is visible in the background.
But what is most interesting is the movies' prediction of the future, only 30 years distant from the movie-present, 2015 is drawing nearer. And it seems that the writers predicted gentrification and reurbanization. While I don't think we'll have flying cars within the next 7 years, it's not too far-fetched to see the continuing tide of revitalization in our urban areas (including small towns).
And that brings me to my question:
What does the future hold for America's Cities and Suburbs?
I recently commented on a post at Atlanta Fifty-Forward about increasing diversity in the suburban counties. Atlanta Fifty Forward is a forum about Atlanta's development over the next 50 years. It was started by the Atlanta Regional Commission to serve as a discussion of the issues facing the region. But the issues facing Atlanta are not unique to Atlanta. While I regard increasing diversity (in the suburbs or elsewhere) as a good thing, I sometimes wonder if it's too late for the suburbs. Anyway, I've included my comments on Atlanta Fifty-Forward below:
Kudos to Gwinnett for its diversity.
I have long valued living in the city for the diverse nature of the populace, and Gwinnett’s homogeneity is one of the reasons I wouldn’t have considered living there. I still won’t, but it looks like even cookie-cutter, sprawl-poster-child Gwinnett is on the right track.
Or is it?
In 1998, Tom Toles, cartoonist for the Buffalo News, drew this cartoon:
Titled “The Plan,” Mr. Toles editorializes it as “The Vast White Ring Conspiracy.” The six step plan is as follows:
1. Whites live in cities, saying “The growing glory of civilization.”
2. Minorities move into cities. They say “hello,” whites say “goodbye.”
3. Whites flee to suburbs, saying “Ah, this is better.”
4. Whites move into second-ring suburbs, saying “Cities are dead, this is better still.”
5. Minorities move into first-ring suburbs, saying “This is better — I guess.”
6. Whites move back into cities, noting that “It worked!”
And that seems to be precisely what’s happening. Recently it was reported that Atlanta is growing whiter. The article, published in Governing Magazine, shows that while the *City* of Atlanta is growing whiter as a percentage, the *Region* of Atlanta is growing less white. And Atlanta is leading the nation, with only Washington even close to a similar rate.
And let’s look at the suburbs. For the first time in decades, VMT is dropping. People are driving less, Gwinnett turned down MARTA in a 1-1 vote, quite a bit smaller of a margin than the 1990 3-1 no vote. With new urbanist developments sprouting across the country, the rolling hills of North Georgia’s suburbs are no exception.
Because while the suburbs are finally becoming diverse, they’re also becoming less popular. They’ve always been unsustainable, it’s just that before now, Americans didn’t care.
Loudoun County, Virginia is not dissimilar to Gwinnett. In the Washington Region, it is characterized by single-family estates and strip shopping centers. And, until recently, it was one of the nation’s fastest growing counties. But an article in yesterday’s Washington Post is very telling. In the first half of 2008, Loudoun’s number of foreclosures was only slightly less than the number of new houses approved.
The mortgage crisis, economic downturn, rising fuel prices, and (I believe) a dissatisfaction with the urban form of the suburb is leading to a change in where Americans want to live.
The question is, I suppose, is Mr. Toles 1998 prediction coming to pass?
In a similar vein, the Freakonomics Blog at the New York Times has a quorum up regarding the fate of the suburbs (Hilldale, you are my density). James Howard Kunstler opens the piece with his predictions for the end of life as we know it. Other writers are not so pessimistic about our future, with some writing just about demographic shifts and the like. Some predict a more urban suburbia with better transit.
What do you predict? What do you think the suburbs will look like in 40 years?
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I believe that the single most important issue facing this country right now is Energy Policy. While I mention energy quite often in this forum, I am, as you know, primarily focused on transportation and urban growth issues. These, while worthy of their own discussions, are really a subset of energy policy and they merit discussion by the candidates.
At this point in the election cycle, the candidates are still firming up their positions, and certain aspects of their policy goals may change (as happened last week), I will probably look back over energy later in the campaign along with other policy areas.
Right now I am very disappointed. I understand that people running for public office have to first be elected before they can influence policy, and that sometimes they have to be soft on certain issues in order to win.
At the same time, I feel that Americans need some straight talk from our public officials and candidates. Many here have been living the American (pipe) Dream made possible by cheap oil and bad policies in the post-war era. They regard the recent energy shocks as light turbulence. It's time for the captain to interrupt the in-flight movie, however. We haven't gotten to the point where we deploy the oxygen masks yet and if we act soon, we might not have to; however, if we continue to pretend that it's business as usual, we will soon find ourselves in an even worse predicament.
That's why I was proud of Senator Barack Obama for calling out Senators Clinton and McCain on their suspend-the-gas-tax proposal. Not only would suspending the gas tax not lower gas prices, but it would also increase consumption and hasten the date of crisis, but the suspension would also forfeit $1 billion in revenue. Incidentally, just two weeks ago, the US Department of Transportation announced that the highway trust fund is going to run out in October due to lessened gas tax revenue from the drop in demand. I'm certainly glad that we didn't forgo that revenue; we would have run out even sooner.
But the Junior Senator from Illinois is beginning to seem less prescient. The New York Times reported last Tuesday that Obama has proposed releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and has softened in his opposition to offshore drilling.
The quandary for progressive politicians like Senator Obama was pointed out by the Washington Post's cartoonist, Tom Toles, on July 30th. In his cartoon, two Uncle Sams are sitting on a see-saw. One is trying to reduce global warming, the other is trying to reduce gas prices. For some strange reason, the see-saw isn't moving in either direction.
Senator Obama is under extreme pressure to reduce gas prices, and their height is certainly a major problem for most Americans, but as we are seeing, the market is causing them to drop as we speak. As of August 10, CNN was reporting that gas was down for the 24th day running. CNN also points out that the drop in oil prices is a mixed blessing, blaming the drop in prices on reduced demand due to the recession. According to the article, the drop in May was the third largest drop in prices since 1942.
But despite that pressure, I had hoped that Mr. Obama would tell Americans what they needed to hear rather than what they wanted to hear. Still, it's not all bad. Mr. Obama has many progressive elements in his energy policy, and while I disagree with a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, his policy is still much better than maintaining the status quo as proposed by Senator McCain.
The esteemed Senator from Arizona wants to increase off-shore drilling of oil--a move which wouldn't have an impact before 2030, and whose benefits would not significantly reduce the price or be long-lasting, according to a report by the US Energy Information Administration.
The only way America will be able to permanently solve its energy problem is by reducing its demand for fossil fuels. The only way we will get Americans to reduce their usage (demand) is to use market forces, which means that in the long run, high gas prices are better. Even Time Magazine has pointed out that high gas isn't all bad.
So, to compare the candidates:
Senator Obama's Energy Policy
(list is not exhaustive)
Reduce Demand for Oil:
- $150 billion over 10 years to develop clean energy sources.
- Put 1 million hybrid cars on the road by 2015.
- Increase amount of energy from renewables.
- Greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system.
- Increase fuel economy standards.
- Create tax credit for purchasing "advanced" vehicles.
- Increase energy efficiency.
- Weatherize 1 million homes annually.
- Develop clean coal technology.
- Support Amtrak funding.
- Develop high-speed freight and passenger rail.
- Invest in public transportation.
- Greater incentives for transit usage.
- Strengthen metropolitan planning.
- Ensure that transportation planning process considers Smart Growth.
- Require energy conservation be considered as a part of transportation planning.
- Release oil from SPR.
- Promote responsible domestic production of oil and natural gas.
- Cut down on traffic congestion.
(list is not exhaustive)
Reduce Demand for Oil:
- Tax break for buying clean cars.
- Prize for Commercially viable battery.
- Encourage automakers to manufacture more flex-fuel vehicles.
- Expand alcohol-based fuels.
- Enforce existing CAFE (fuel efficiency) standards.
- Advance clean coal technologies.
- Build more nuclear power plants.
- Tax credits for renewable energy production.
- Create a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases.
- Open up areas for off-shore drilling.
- Support for gas-tax holiday.
- History of animosity toward transit.
- History of animosity toward Amtrak.
Addendum, 11 August, 9:45 AM:
Thomas Friedman wrote an op-ed
for the New York Times which was published Saturday. I just discovered it this
morning. It's certainly a more concise way of saying what I've said over several
posts here. It's well worth a read.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
It feels great to be back in the city. I spent 4 years living in inner city Atlanta and my year in the 'burbs was not nearly as much fun. I commuted to work today by bicycle, something I couldn't have done from my old place very easily. And while I'm still getting to know DC's street network, the commute when off without any major glitches. I did almost get rear-ended once this morning, and I won't be taking New Jersey Avenue home in the afternoons anymore--the drivers there seem to think they're actually in New Jersey.
I just find cities so marvelous. It's a great feeling to live in a place where you can chat with your neighbors and walk to the corner market. There's a great little park less than a block from my place and traffic is pretty calm this far north of Downtown. At the same time, I have all the amenities I could ask for: Target, two supermarkets, restaurants, and some great bars are all within a 15 minute walk. I can get downtown in a little over a half hour on the Metro and biking there takes about the same time.
So, now that I've gotten most of the painting and unpacking done, I'll do my best to get back to a more regular posting schedule. Thanks for sticking with me!