Los(t) Angeles: Where Should Our Solar Panels and Wind Turbines Go?

In the United States, utilizing renewable solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources compared to nonrenewable coal and oil for energy is instrumental if the United States wants to cut its climate change contributions and sustain life on Earth today along with life in the future. In order to lead by example, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s passed strict climate change legislation by requiring that 20% of California’s energy come from renewable energy sources by the end of 2010. With 2010 right around the corner, and only 12% of California’s energy coming from renewable sources, energy companies have been coming out of the wood work to create renewable energy projects in California before government subsidizing funds run dry after 2010. Recently, The Bureau of Land Management has received 163 applications to build renewable energy sources on 1.6 million acres of federal land in California, most of which are being planned for the Imperial Valley. While housing one of the largest renewable power plant in the world near the Imperial Valley will definitely help conserve energy and therefore decrease California’s and the United States contributions to climate change, environmentalist lead by California Senator Dianne Feinstein are rejecting such plans in order to conserve the natural habitats and wildlife in California’s deserts.

While currently three of the largest renewable power plant companies have signed deals with Pacific Gas and Electric (Topaz Solar Farm, California Valley Solar Ranch, and Carrizo Energy Solar Farm), only one will be chosen to utilize the Imperial Valley to collect its sunshine, wind, and geothermal steam. While these renewable energy methods will be able to generate enough renewable electricity to power millions of homes in California, this power plant will degrade California’s deserts, its wildlife corridors, cactus gardens, the Amboy Crater, and destroy the habitats of countless animals. In order to investigate if the allocation of Southern California’s desert for renewable energy power plants is worth its possible environmental degradation, I have turned to the blogosphere to search for the pros and cons of both sides. In the NPR article: California Desert Becomes Home For Renewable Energy, author Rob Schmitz feels that the proposed renewable energy plants in the Imperial Valley will be more than a source of renewable energy, and that is employment. In the Los Angeles Times article: Feinstein Wants Desert Swatch Off-Limits to Solar, Wind Projects, it is clear that Senator Feinstein likes the idea of renewable energy but is taking a NIMBY (not in my backyard) stance on this idea. In other words, Senator Feinstein does not want to degrade California’s deserts to make way for renewable energy plants. My comments on both articles can be seen below.

California Desert Becomes Home For Renewable Energy: Comment

Thank you for this article, for it brings hope that California can actually start generating and utilizing renewable energy. With “high-tech sunflower” satellites that track the movement of the sun in order to optimize the sunlight captured to the un-tapped 2,300 megawatts of geothermal steam, it is very feasible that California will be able to reach Governor Schwarzenegger’s goal of generating 20%, California’s energy from renewable sources, even though it may be after 2010.

When reading this article, a few questions came up. How will the proposed renewable energy power plants, satellites, and geothermal steam turbines affect the environment? While it is clear that switching to renewable energy sources will ultimately help the environment by curbing climate change, are there any considerations being made on the immediate environment, habitats, and wildlife around the proposed power plants?

It is also a valid point to bring up that these renewable energy power plants will also create jobs within the Imperial Valley. The installation of 38,000 solar satellites, along with their maintenance and management will bring in hundreds of jobs to this small city and thus help Imperial Valley thrive. I feel that even if these renewable energy power plants do degrade Imperial Valley’s immediate environment, it would be a worthy sacrifice for the longevity of the overall environment. The Imperial Valley and California would act as a role model placing pressure on other cities and countries around the world to rely on sustainable and renewable energy and therefore help create a more sustainable world.

Feinstein Wants Desert Swath Off-Limits to Solar, Wind Projects: Comment

Thank you for posting this article. It is very interesting to see that environmentalist and the renewable energy industries do not see eye to eye on this issue. While President Obama has made renewable energy sources a priority, and Governor Schwarzenegger has required California to receive 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2010, it is interesting that Senator Feinstein may not want these projected renewable energy power plants “in her backyard.”

I can see that allocating the Imperial Valley to renewable energy sources can degrade the immediate environment, but is it not important to utilize renewable energy sources? While the “desert tortoise habitat, wildlife corridors, cactus gardens, and the Amboy Crater,” may be disrupted, these desert habitats would be disrupted for the right cause: helping curb climate change by using sustainable methods of living. There are many more animals, and wildlife habitats that are being disrupted due to climate change, drilling for oil, and burning coal for energy, and to disallow renewable energy power plants to set up shop in California’s deserts is selfish and can definably be seen as a NIMBY approach.

Bill Kovacks sums the situation up perfectly. If Senator Feinstein is not going to allow these power plants to inhabit California’s deserts, “where are you going to allow it—Los Angeles?” Renting the rooftops, or requiring all of Los Angeles’ residents to place solar panels on their houses and buildings without any sort of subsidization is unfeasible. This is why Senator Feinstein needs to allow the allocation of the vacant desert to the renewable energy companies.


Los(t) Angeles: Lessons Learned from London and Paris

While in my previous posts I have utilized various internet resources to research sustainable living practices used around the globe, for this week's entry I have decided to write about the sustainable techniques used in London and Paris that I experienced first hand while travelling through these two cities last week. Although during my travels I visited Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Gallery, the Tower of London, Harrods, countless Pubs, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Pompidou Modern Art Museum, the Arc De Triumph, and French cafes, the sustainable techniques employed in these two European cities, while they might be foreshadowed by the aforementioned historical monuments, are as impressive and innovative. More specifically, London’s clean and efficient public transit systems coupled with its congestion pricing plan helps deter automobile use, while the pedestrian orientation of public space in Paris also helps create a environment capable of sustainable living. With London’s clean and efficient transit system and Paris’ public space makes both London and Paris two of the most beautiful and sustainable cities in the world.

According to a 2006 report, the city of London holds around 7.5 million residents, while the greater Los Angeles area has a population of 9,878,554. Even though Los Angeles has more residents living within its city boundaries, the city of London is capable of housing almost as large of a population compared to Los Angeles and still maintain sustainable practices through the use of an effective mass transit system combined with the practice of congestion pricing. While Los Angeles’ public transit system is under utilized for a number of reasons (see recent posts regarding Los Angeles public transit) the city of London’s public transit system is very popular for it is clean, it is efficient, and it is affordable compared to driving a private car during congestion charging time slots. London’s congestion charging system was introduced into central London in 2003 as a way to reduce traffic congestion and raise revenues to fund transport improvements. The London Congestion Pricing Report states that “a basic economic principle is that consumers should pay directly for the costs they impose as an incentive to use resources efficiently.” This report explains further than if road space remains free then traffic volumes will continue to increase until traffic congestion limits further growth. By using a congestion pricing system people will be forced to pay a toll to drive to and through the city of London in order to help discourage the build up of congestion . Since February 2003, motorist driving through central London between the hours of 7 am and 6:30 pm during the weekdays are required to pay 8 Euros. Since the enacting of the congestion pricing system in London, traffic entering the original charging zones, marked by signs (see above image), remains 21% lower than pre-charge levels, there has been a 6% increase in bus passengers during charging hours, and 137 million Euros have been raised in the 2007/08 financial year alone according to the Transport for London website. All revenue created by the congestion pricing system is invested back in London’s transportation infrastructure to help better accommodate London’s future population. These numbers prove that congestion pricing can help discourage the use of automobiles and help encourage the use of more sustainable means of transportation while generating a sufficient source of transportation revenue.

With London’s congestion pricing system keeping travelers out of environmentally unfriendly automobiles, London’s efficient and clean double-deck bus lines help get pedestrians from point A to point B at reasonable prices. Compared to the buses used in Los Angeles, London’s double-deck buses seem to be manufactured by Rolls Royce. London’s double-deck buses are waste free, graffiti free, are equipped with two wide doors to expedite loading and unloading time, along with an Oyster card sensor to expedite the time it takes riders to pay their fare. Upon entering the bus in London every rider pays their fare of two Euros before taking their seats. The other benefit of using double-deck buses in London is that double-deck buses take up less space than the regular elongated buses used in Los Angeles, which further alleviates congestion problems during peak driving hours.

Compared to London, Paris too has clean and efficient mass transit systems that allow Parisian travelers t0 get to and from their destinations by sustainable modes of transportation. While getting around Paris is extremely easy even for the non-French speaking traveler, what really stands out in Paris is the amount of public space allocated to the pedestrian. In 2001 Paris enacted a new Transportation Master Plan in order to reduce car traffic, improve public transit, and encourage walking and biking as important modes of urban transportation. Since 2001, Paris has been able "to increase its city’s public health and air quality, foster accessibility and social justice, boost the local economy, and to make the city more beautiful and enjoyable to live in,” by giving public space back to pedestrians, public transport, and bicycles. By re-allocating public space from the private automobile back to the pedestrian, Paris has enabled itself to become a pedestrian-oriented city, and therefore more sustainable. With more public space allocated to the pedestrian, Parisian commuters have more space to walk and bike, and are not stuck without a car. Since enacting the new Transportation Master Plan, across Paris, sidewalks have been widened, bikes lanes striped, trees have been planted, and there are currently around 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes in Paris. (See the separate automobile street, bike lane, and pedestrian walk way above). With all the public space allocated for the pedestrian in Paris, sustainable practice programs such as the Vélib bike-sharing program have been able to thrive within the city.

Since July 15, 2007 Paris has offered its citizens affordable public bikes to travel around the city. Around 20,000 Vélib bicycles are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and can be rented from one of the, 450 self-service rental stations placed conveniently around Paris. Renting a Vélib bike is relatively cheap, which makes using these bikes even more attractive than travelling by automobile. While one may be charged 150 Euros if the bike is not returned with twenty-four hours, the first half hour of renting a Vélib bike is free, with minimal charges after the first thirty minutes. The Vélib bicycle sharing program has been highly successful in Paris. In the first year the 2.1 million Parisian residents have made 27.5 million trips on Vélib bicycles, which is around 120,000 trips a day. While Los Angeles currently has around 320 miles of bike routes throughout its city, these bike routes are under utilized for they are unsafe and are not separated from dangerous, fast-paced automobiles, like they are in Paris. By following Paris’ lead by reclaiming public space for pedestrians and bike-users, more Los Angelinos may be willing to ride their bicycles to and from daily commutes like the Parisians, and in conclusion become more sustainable.


Los(t) Angeles: Substituting Free Parking For Fare-Free Transit

As I have referred to in previous posts, Los Angeles’ auto-oriented society along with Los Angeles’ dominating urban sprawl growth model creates difficult circumstances for Los Angelinos and the city of Los Angeles to become environmentally sustainable. With the decreasing revenues for mass-transit systems across the country leading to the contraction of current mass transit lines (see previous post “How the Vehicle Mileage Tax System Can Save President Obama’s Transportation Stimulus Package”) it is clear that turning Los Angeles into a sustainable, pedestrian oriented city is no easy task even with President Obama’s transportation stimulus package.

For this week’s post, I have decided to search the blogosphere in order to find new easily implemented solutions that can help Los Angeles reverse its urban sprawl growth model and in turn help Los Angeles head into the direction of becoming a pedestrian oriented city. The first feasible solution that I came across comes from an article found on the planning and development blog Planetizen, titled: “Why Is Fare-Free Transit The Exception Rather Than The Rule?” In this article, author Dave Olsen explains that using fare-free transit is the only effective way to promote mass transit ridership resulting in a shift towards sustainable living. Olsen explains that comprehensive mass-transit research demonstrates that the cost of operating a mass transit system is similar to its projected revenues. Olsen further explains that, “collecting fares is as or more expensive than the revenue it brings in.” With no stable source of income for mass transit systems, even when these systems collect fares, Olsen argues that public transit systems should then shift their priority from making a profit to prioritizing the main mandate of public transportation systems, that is getting people to use public transit. Olsen highlights the previous success achieved in cities that use fare-free transit systems like Hasselt Belgium, which increased public transit ridership by 1223% after switching to fare-free transit in only four years.
(See above image: a bus with no fare box).

The second solution to Los Angeles’ urban sprawl and car-oriented problems that I found is from the article: “Putting Parking into Reverse,” found on the Planetizen blog post: Cities Begin To Rethink Parking Policies. The solution identified in this article helps put an end to the negative urban sprawl cycle that is created with the allocation of required parking spots for existing and new developments. When a new development is built, city planners require a minimum number of subsidized on-site parking for that development. For example “office buildings [require] 2.79 [parking spaces] per 1,000 square feet; large shopping centers require five spaces for every 1,000 leasable square feet; and even apartments often have a minimum of two spaces.” (See left image: lost public space caused by required amount of parking). By requiring a minimum amount of parking spaces for each new development, these spaces facilitate and promote the use of cars, which causes an increase in private automobile use, decreases the use of public transit, and pushes buildings farther and farther away, leading to further urban sprawl and the need of more parking spaces. This article prescribes that city planners decrease the amount of public parking, increase the cost to use public parking based on current demand and congestion, and to allocate parking maximums rather than parking minimums for new developments, all in order to discourage the use of automobiles. By increasing the cost of public parking, and decreasing the amount of public parking available, urban citizens would choose to use other means of transportation over the use of private automobiles. My insight about these articles can be found on their websites, and below.

“Why Is Fare-Free Transit The Exception Rather Than The Rule?”

Thank you for this interesting post, I find the idea of fare-free public transit to be a perfect solution of promoting mass transportation ridership in the auto-oriented city of Los Angeles. With the decreasing revenue created by the sales and gas tax, the Federal Highway Trust Fund is being forced to cut mass transit service routes and is laying off employees. While the VMT tax system has been suggested to help generate revenue for the Federal Highway Trust Fund, switching to a fare-free transit system seems to be an even easier easy solution to implement.

It would be interesting to see the actual numbers and evidence of the research conducted on the costs of collecting fares, but if these numbers do show that the cost of collecting fares is more than the revenue collected by these fares, then there is no reason not to use fare-free transit. I agree that public transit is a public service, and therefore the United States should follow the trend started by Washington State, and try and get people onto public transit for the sake of the public rather than making profit.

I am confused as why you say, “the refreshing absence of advertising anywhere in the [fare-free] system definitely adds a large part to that shine,” for I do not see the problem with offering advertisement space on fare-free transit. You discuss in this post multiple post-fare funding techniques, why cannot selling advertisement space also be a technique to help generate funds?

Also I would like to add that while I do agree fare-free public transit is a viable option to help promote mass transit ridership, it is definitely not the only effective option. Curitiba Brazil has one of the most successful public transit systems due to their integrated land use and public transit planning along with their sophisticated tube stations. Under Curitiba’s combined transportation and land use policies, Curitiba Brazil only allows high-density zones to be built along large avenues that are only used for public transit. The buses that run on these large avenues are not subject to traffic or traffic lights, and run every 90 seconds. Due to Curitiba’s tube stations, riding the bus is more similar to riding the subway. Riders pay one fare for unlimited bus trips before entering the tube station. And once inside the tube station buses with extendable platforms and extra wide doors, allow all of Curitiba’s bus riders to exit and enter the buses in 15-20 seconds. Therefore fare-free transit is not the “only” way to run a public transit system, however it might be the best way to operate a public transit system that is in an area confined to urban sprawl.

Putting Parking Into Reverse

This article offers great insight about the negative consequences created by the minimum rather than maximum parking spaces required for new developments. By decreasing the amount of parking spaces, increasing the costs to park in parking spaces, and requiring a maximum amount of parking spaces per new development, cities will be able to reclaim the public space that is currently being used up by public parking.

While I agree with all of the parking tenants Dr. Shoup prescribes in order to discourage the use of automobiles, I question what happens in a city that does not have an efficient public transit system that is able to transport citizens in a effective and timely manner? While progressive cities like San Francisco have been quick to enact as many of Dr. Shoup’s parking tenants as possible, San Francisco has a successful public transit system to rely on to effectively transport citizens around its city. Los Angeles on the other hand may be enacting some of Dr. Shoup’s tenants but only for the sake of easing street congestion and raising revenue. With urban sprawl in Los Angeles, all areas within Los Angeles County are poorly connected by public transit, for its inaccessibility and its exposure to private automobile congestion. While this article defends that by eliminating free parking that urban sprawl will be put to a halt, this solution provides no means of alternate transportation and therefore cannot be as successful in Los Angeles than in a high-density city like San Francisco. Due to this reason I feel that it is important that cities like Los Angeles that direly need to decrease the use of their automobiles in order to become more sustainable enact as many of Dr. Shoup’s parking tenants as possible in conjunction to creating an effective and efficient mass transportation system in order to become a sustainable, pedestrian oriented society.


Los(t) Angeles: Promoting Sustainable Living Through Incentives

With the growing concern for the degradation of the environment and the continual, yet slow development of the green revolution, one can find a plethora of sustainable replacement products anywhere in the market. The main factor that poses a problem is not whether we have the necessary means to live greener, but if those available means are affordable, efficient, and overall beneficial for mass lifestyles. For example, the sustainable Toyota Prius and 7th Generation’s post-consumer goods are all easily available but are not frequently bought because of their higher prices compared to more generic, affordable brands. In our current economic downturn, it is not surprising that people are more concerned with the economy than saving the environment or finding alternative energies. That being said, it is still important for Americans to live environmentally responsible lives in order to meet the needs of the present population without compromising the ability of future generations to live sustainably and safely. Instead of having the public view “living environmentally friendly” as a costly, luxury investment, the perception needs to shift so that the public sees living eco-friendly as a cost-efficient, financially benefiting lifestyle choice. Thus, the United States government needs to promote its citizens to live sustainable lives and can effectively do so by creating incentive and rebate programs. Already existing programs, like the ones currently being used in China, Sweden, and Brazil, would serve well as models.

This past month, China announced a rebate program to offer generous incentives for people looking to buy green vehicles. China has launched this program in order to help reduce emissions in major cities. The rebates handed out will be in cash amounts depending on the size of the green automobiles- ranging from hybrid passenger cars to fuel cell powered buses. While this reimbursement system does not help curb China’s record high car growth or transform China’s transportation system into more sustainable transportation growth methods, this rebate system will help China reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by advocating the use of more sustainable automobiles, like pure electric vehicle pictured above. Chinese cities like Beijing are going even further to support the use of hybrid vehicles by offering citizens up to $3,700 in incentives to give up their old gas-guzzling and heavy polluting cars along with subsidies to purchase new environmentally responsible cars. These incentives and subsidy programs not only promote the utilization of sustainable vehicles for all income levels, but also help lower income levels become able to afford fuel-efficient vehicles. Other sustainable programs can be see all over the globe. The recycling incentive programs used in Curitiba Brazil and Sweden have created some of the highest recycling rates in the world. In Curitiba, ex-Mayor Jaime Lerner invented an incentive program where residents collect, sort, and exchange their garbage for fresh vegetables, food delivered weekly, and travel vouchers to use for Curitiba’s mass transit system. In Sweden, legal motivation is used to promote recycling by taxing each Swedish citizen according to the volume of trash they place in landfills. With these two recycling programs in place, it is not surprising that Curitiba recycles 2/3 of its waste every day while in Sweden “70% of paper, 95% of glass, 71% of plastic bottles, 85-90% of aluminum cans and 75% of tin cans,” were recycled in 2003.

While currently there are no numbers that indicate the success of China’s rebate and incentive programs for fuel-efficient vehicles, the successful recycling rates in Sweden and Curitiba prove that with government motivation, comes active participation in using sustainable products. If the United States were to enact a similar incentive program to promote the use of fuel-efficient vehicles then the amount of people that would be willing to switch to hybrid cars would be astronomical. While there are current tax-break incentives for those who drive fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, these tax-cut programs do not make hybrid vehicles affordable to all Americans. Therefore, U.S incentives are less effective than China’s rebate and subsidy program, which pays its citizens money to give up their old gas-guzzling cars while offering subsidies on the purchase of new fuel-efficient vehicles. If the United States was serious in the promotion of fuel-efficient vehicles than they would need to mirror China’s program by presenting capital to all American citizens so that all income demographics within the United States would be able to afford and ultimately choose to drive fuel efficient vehicles. However, the United States did create the hybrid HOV incentive in 2005 which allows owners of fuel-efficient vehicles to drive solo in highway carpool lanes. Sadly the DMV in California has not issued any of these HOV stickers since 2007, as the California State Law had only allocated 85,000 of these sticker-incentives to be issued to hybrid owners.

Although California and Los Angeles do have existing incentives to promote sustainable living, they are not as well marketed and received as the programs used in China, Sweden, and Curitiba. China’s incentives were broadcasted over radio-channels, Sweden’s incentives are enforced by law, and Curitiba’s incentives continually give evident, tangible rewards to its citizens. California’s Public Utilities Commission and Energy Commission websites, Go Solar California, provides California residents with information about the incentives, rebates, tax credits, and possible capital gained by using solar energy for home or development. According to this website, not only does switching to solar power decrease an energy bill to up to 60%, but it produces income from extra energy produced by the solar panels. The only reason that these solar powered incentives are not being mass utilized is because programs such as this are not being publicized. If the California government was to invest in creating a campaign that advertised the benefits of using eco-friendly products such as switching to solar power will not only save money spent on energy bills, but also generate extra income from extra energy produced, then California families would be more apt to place solar panels on their homes to utilize solar energy. (Pictured above). If the United States wants to promote sustainable living then the United States needs to not only enact successful incentive programs, but also put effort and funding into publicizing these initiatives in order to create the mass utilization of these programs.


Los(t) Angeles: How the Vehicle Mileage Tax System can save President Obama's Transportation Stimulus Package

This past week President Obama has signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, allocating $60 billion out of $790 billion dollars to be spent on alternative and clean energy, scientific research, and various environmental projects. Out of this $60 billion dollars close to $36 billion dollars will be spent on transportation maintenance and fuel-efficient mass transit. While Obama has paid billions of dollars for fuel-efficient public transportation developments and current transportation infrastructure rehabilitation, transit systems across the United States will soon be dropping service routes and laying off employees due to the lack of revenue created by sales and gas taxes. The revenues created by sales and gas taxes directly supports the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which funds the United States transit systems, roads, and underground gas storage. With our nation’s current recession, revenue created from sale tax has decreased, while the increasing amount of hybrid cars on the road and the recent hike in mass transit ridership has been decreasing the revenue created by the gas tax. Due to the fact that no money from the $36 billion transportation stimulus can be spent on current public transportation operating costs, the United States needs to find new solutions in order to maintain the public transit systems that are in place today while increasing public transit ridership in car-oriented societies (Los Angeles).

In order to find a transportation policy that would not only save the public transit systems currently in use, but also increase mass transit ridership, I decided to search the blogosphere for the most viable options. One blog post titled, A Mileage Tax in Question from the blog titled Transportpolitic suggests that more transportation revenue can be generated if the gas tax was shifted to a vehicle mileage tax system. Under this tax system, people would pay taxes based on the number of miles they drive, rather than how much gas they purchase. Another post titled, $60 Billion for Green in the Stimulus Bill: Where the Money Will Go Found on the blog Treehugger suggests that Obama’s stimulus bill will not be enough to create a sustainable country that utilizes mass transit, and therefore will need strict transportation planning before the United States will see any improvements in its car-oriented societies. My insight about these articles can be found on their websites, and below.

A Mileage Tax in Question

I agree with your post that the Obama Administration should look further into adopting the VMT system in order to generate a steady source of income for the United States transportation system. Even with President Obama’s near $40 billion dollars allocated to the rehabilitation of current transportation infrastructure and to new developments for energy-efficient transit systems, without a steady source of income the current public transportation systems across the US will continue to drop service routes and layoff employees due to a lack of funding.

I personally feel that the VMT system, which has successfully been implemented in Oregon, is a perfect solution for our transportation funding problems. Not only will the VMT system create a reliable source of income, but the VMT system is also a policy that will promote the use of public transit. With the VMT system enacted, drivers will be more conscious about the amount of miles that they drive, for they will be forced to pay more accordingly. Americans will therefore start becoming more conscious about driving their cars to destinations that they can easily get to by more sustainable means of transportation.

While one draw back of the VMT system may be that there will be no incentives to drive fuel-efficient cars, the government can pay out refunds to those who own fuel-efficient cars in order to promote further sustainability. If the government does not offer these refunds to fuel-efficient car owners, than hybrid-owners will pay the same amount of taxes that a Hummer-owner will pay if these two drivers travel the same distance, which would contradict the governments plan to promote sustainable living.

$60 Billion for Green in the Stimulus Bill: Where the Money Will Go

This post is very insightful and answers many questions about where the proposed $40 billion dollars will be spent regarding public transportation. As an environmentalist and an advocate of sustainable living, it was very exciting to see President Obama’s stimulus package for it solidified the United States commitment to sustainability. However now that Mayor Pat Mccrory has explained that politicans do not share the same sustainable goals as the Obama administration, I am afraid that President Obama’s transportation stimulus plans will not be as successful as he planned.

While Obama has allocated a near $40 billion dollars to the United States’ transportation system, currently transit systems across the US are dropping service routes and laying off employees due to the lack of transportation income created by sales and gas taxes. According to this post, Obama's stimulus package may not ensure that the money allocated to state governments will be spent in the most sustainable and most useful way. I feel that if President Obama’s stimulus package is to be successful than President Obama will have to create a Master Plan , as suggested by Mayor McCrory, to serve as a guideline for our future transportation systems and growth models to ensure that the United States and its car-oriented societies become more sustainable and environmentally responsible.


Los(t) Angeles: How L.A can take a lesson from Curitiba, Brazil's Master Plan to reduce its greenhouse gases

According to the Environmental Patrol Agency the main factor leading to climate change is the greenhouse effect caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. Burning coal for energy and oil for gas contributes to over 80% of the greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, a vast majority of which is coming from Los Angeles County. Furthermore the United States holds only 5% of the world’s population but uses 23% of the world’s resources for energy, the most in the world.

If Los Angeles is to become a sustainable city than Los Angeles’ city planners will need to develop a solution to help slow down urban sprawl and implement an accessible and efficient mass transit system similar to the Bus Rapid Transit system used in Curitiba Brazil. With a halt in urban sprawl and the implementation of an accessible and efficient public transit system, Los Angeles citizens will be more likely to ride mass transit than riding in their own cars and therefore contribute to the decrease in global warming.

Curitiba Brazil is one of the most sustainable cities in the world due to their integrated transportation and land use regulation policies that legally bound Curitiba to sustainable growth. However, Curitiba Brazil has not always been designed to be a sustainable city dedicated to sustainable growth. In 1943 Curitiba adopted its first urban plan called the Agache Plan, named after the urban planner Alfred Agache. The Agache plan promoted urban sprawl by placing Curitiba’s central business district in the center of surrounding residential zones. These residential zones were connected to the business district by large right-of-way avenues that were created to help alleviate the congestion created by the people traveling to and from work in their private automobiles. While the Agache Plan’s design reflects basic planning concepts, and the plan currently being used in Los Angeles, Alfred Agache did not foresee the negative environmental affects created by urban sprawl along with the increased congestion that would occur with an increasing population. While Agache Plan seemed to be a successful design for city growth, in the 1950s Curitiba experienced a doubling of its population, which made Curitiba’s residents urge for a revision in the Agache Plan for it did not evolve in time or grow with the growing size of Curitiba’s population.

In 1965 Curitiba came up with its current Master Plan under the direction of Mayor and Architect Jaime Lerner. Under the new Master Plan, Curitiba’s planners successfully accommodated Curitiba’s rapid population growth without degrading their city or the environment by creating a public transportation system that “integrates transportation, street system, and land use.” With a current population of 1,797,408 with 5% growth, Curitiba does not need to worry about contributing to climate change for 75% of Curitiba’s residents use public transit every day. Curitiba has been able to promote high levels of public transit use by managing population growth and city development through their land use regulations and city design. By transforming the large avenues put in place by the Agache Plan into Curitiba’s current street systems, Curitiba did not have to pay for the restructuring of the current street networks, and instead uses these large avenues as “drivers of development.” The Master Plan also uses zoning and land use regulations to encourage high-density development along these structural roadways. For example, according to Curitiba's planning website, the IPPUC, law 5,234 passed in 1975 “restricts occupation and density in peripheral residential zones, and [stimulates] the occupation areas closer to the structural axes, where street level and first floor [are] to be used for business and services.” In other words law 5,234 discourages sprawling residential zones, by specifying the locations of high-density occupational developments. By only allowing high-density occupational developments to be built near public transit avenues, Curitiba’s planners are encouraging Curitiba citizens to use the easily accessible and highly efficient public transportation, by placing businesses along these large public transit avenues.

The success of Curitiba’s transportation system can be attributed to its accessibility and efficiency. Curitiba’s public transit system, which started out with 25,000 riders every day in 1974, now has 2,200,000 riders per day. Curitiba’s transportation system is composed of a hierarchy of buses. There are small buses that travel through smaller neighborhoods, bringing riders to the larger bus routes where they can transfer onto one of Curitiba’s express or direct bus lines capable of holding up to 300 people running every minute. Curitiba’s mass transit system is more popular than driving private cars for traveling by bus is more efficient and faster than travelling by car. Under Curitiba’s ternary street network system, Curitiba’s buses get to use exclusive bus only, free of congestion and traffic lights, wide avenues, while private cars can only use the more narrow, and congested parallel streets.

Curitiba’s public transit system is also highly efficient due to the tube station bus stops, which according to Jaime Lerner “gives buses the same performance as the subway.” These tube stations are clear-walled bus stations that cut down passenger loading and unloading time to 15 to 20 seconds. Passengers pay their fares before entering these tube stations and wait in this protected shelter until their bus arrives. Instead of each rider boarding and getting off the bus one passenger at time like on conventional buses, in Curitiba, buses are designed with extra wide doors and extendable ramps in order to expedite the time it takes to load and unload the bus. The single fare that the rider pays before entering the tube station is good for any

transfers that rider may need to take while travelling in Curitiba.

By combining public transit planning with land use regulations, Curitiba’s planners have created a system of coexistence between city growth and the city’s transportation lines. By creating land use regulation laws that only allow development along the avenues with public transit, Curitiba is allowing itself room to grow in a structured and controlled manner. With an increasing population, Curitiba will be able to continue to develop and grow along the avenues made for public transit. Because public transit and city expansion are growing together, no matter how large the city of Curitiba will grow, the strict zoning and land use regulation laws will always ensure that these new areas will be connected to the rest of Curitiba by the successful and efficient public transit system. Between 1970 and 1978 the population of Curitiba grew 73% while the population along the public transit avenues increased 120%, proving that Curitiba’s Master Plan can successfully accompany population growth.

Los Angeles’ current urban growth plan closely mirrors Curitiba’s failed Agache Plan. With many different central business districts surrounded by sprawling residential zones, Los Angeles residents are forced to sit in traffic to get to and from work everyday, further contributing to global warming. In order to help Los Angeles become more sustainable, Los Angeles city planners need to adopt a strict integrated transportation and land use regulation policy to reduce urban sprawl and create infill, smart, and sustainable growth. With an integrated transportation and land use regulation plan that is similar to Curitiba’s, Los Angeles can limit urban sprawl by only allowing new high-density zones to be built around mass transit lines. By creating high density, transportation oriented developments; residents in these smart growth and sustainable areas will be more apt to use public transit for it is easily accessible. Los Angeles city planners can then provide public transit to other highly dense transportation oriented areas to start connecting areas within Los Angeles by accessible public transit.

While Los Angeles does provide mass transit to its residents, the Los Angeles metro lines are inefficient for they are exposed to the same congestion that private automobiles are forced to drive in. In order to make Los Angeles public transit more efficient, reliant, and timely, Los Angeles needs to create a street system that allocates bus-only streets like the main large avenues used in Curitiba. By installing central streets for bus use only, Los Angeles residents would see the benefits of using mass transit over their private cars, for the buses would be able to travel throughout Los Angeles without being hindered by traffic.

Until Los Angeles implements an urban growth plan that encourages sustainable growth, and a public transit system that is more faster and more efficient to use than it is to drive a private car, Los Angeles residents will continue to use their cars no matter the price of gas, or its affects on the environment. This is why it is imperative that the United States government, along with state and local governments start implementing sustainable growth plans utilizing mass transportation in order to join Curitiba’s cause of being a solution and not a contributor to climate change.


Los(t) Angeles: Linkroll For a New City

As an active participant in the constantly evolving blogosphere, I have chosen to explore and contribute to the vital and continually controversial global and local issue of environmental sustainability. As a strong advocate of pursuing means to achieve sustainability, I have searched the Internet for environmental issue and aid websites that contain relevance to my topic of interest. I have incorporated the sites that I found useful and relatable in my Linkroll on my own blog, Sustainable City, as a means of enhancing my proposed ideologies.

I have created the Sustainable City blog to provide Los Angelinos with information regarding current environmental issues existent in L.A that other sustainable cities around the world have already started to help alleviate by living environmentally conscious and active lives. Through utilizing meta-engines such as Dogpile and Metacrawler, a blog engine called Blog Flux, and websites that I had previously used in real estate development and planning classes, I have compiled an informative and supportive Linkroll. This Linkroll is meant to supplement the posts presented in my blog, which will allow readers to easily access other supporting sites that refer to my blog’s argument and what actions should be used to alleviate these problems. By utilizing the Webby Awards and IMSA guidelines, I searched through the many websites and blogs that the web provided. I was then able to distinguish the sites that I found noteworthy, as they showed pertinent content and viable information along with clear structures, vivid visual designs, functionality, and were published by the scientific community, environmentalist, and sustainable planners.

One of the websites that I found particularly notable and included in my Linkroll is the Webby Award -winning website Treehugger. This site, which has been deemed the most popular eco website, is dedicated to creating a sustainable world by providing insight on environmental issues and provides readers with information on how they can help save the environment. Another website I included in my Linkroll based on its informative support and proper execution, is called the Sustainable Cities website and blog. This site presents information, cases, issues, and articles from experts explaining the important links between sustainable planning and curbing environmental problems in today’s world. I will continue to update my Linkroll as I pursue more websites and blogs that possess vital environmental issues and information that aid smart growth and sustainable planning and living in this quickly degenerating.

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