Friday, June 6, 2008

A great blog to get to know

Low Tech Magazine


Excerpt from an article on why electric (wireless) cars have no future:

So, then, we have green cars, right? Alas, no. The electric car has a serious environmental drawback compared to a car running on a combustion engine: the battery. The ‘fuel tank’ of an electric car consists of hundreds of connected batteries, each of them comparable to the battery of a mobile phone (the Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car, has more than 6,000 of them). After some years, they all have to be replaced, and already before that time there is a reduction in storage capacity.

The environmental profit gained by a higher efficiency (or by green electricity) will be negated completely by the massive amount of batteries required. Batteries have to be manufactured, and that process is very energy-intensive and environmentally harmful. Batteries also have to be discarded or recycled - both processes again require extra energy and inflict environmental harm.

A history of what we've lost

Great two-part series in the Oregonian on what we've lost -- a rational transportation system that let people get around without having to own a car.

Part 1

Part 2

Kunstler's "Farewell to Suburbia"

James Howard Kunstler is an incisive observer who, years ago, started warning that our devotion to carburban design was going to come to a bad end (See The Geography of Nowhere). A couple of years ago he wrote a terrific book, The Long Emergency, expanding on the themes of TGON and tying into the emerging recognition that we are at an energy transition point (called "peak oil," after the shape of a plot of oil supply vs. time) that is going to be most wrenching to those places that have gone the deepest into the madness of converting themselves into carburbia -- the sprawlscape that defines much of Salem (and especially West Salem) today.

The effort to build a third Willamette Bridge crossing is probably the last gasp of the disease, as carburbia is expiring before our very eyes. A culture built on cheap energy -- literally built around the premise that, in your every decision, you would not have to think much about the cost of energy -- cannot long survive when energy costs start to approach its true value.

The essential question is whether we blow two-thirds of a billion dollars on a bridge that would be like the great pyramids of Egypt: monuments to the egos of the builders and their waning ability to extract the necessary wealth to do so from the masses. Or can we be foresighted enough to recognize a tsunami before it hits?

Anyway, good article from Kunstler in an Ottawa paper:

Farewell to suburbia

Car-dependent communities, the greatest misallocation of resources in history, have no future -- but that's just one of the shocks the global oil crisis is going to bring

James Howard Kunstler
Citizen Special

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Huge efforts are being made, and hopes invested in, what are called 'alternative fuels' in a desperate effort to keep all the cars running by means other than gasoline, writes James Howard Kunstler.
CREDIT: Peter J. Thompson, Reuters
Huge efforts are being made, and hopes invested in, what are called 'alternative fuels' in a desperate effort to keep all the cars running by means other than gasoline, writes James Howard Kunstler.

The fog of cluelessness that hangs over North America about the gathering global oil crisis and its ramifications seems to thicken by the hour. One reason for all the fog is that the key part of the story is so broadly misunderstood -- namely, that it's not about running out of oil; it's about how the complex systems we depend on for everyday life begin to destabilize as the global demand for oil starts to outstrip the supply.

By "complex systems" I mean very precisely:

- the way we produce and distribute our food;

- the way we do commerce and manufacturing;

- the way we move people and things around the landscape;

- the way we accumulate and deploy capital investment;

- the way we get and allocate energy resources (i.e. the oil markets themselves);

- plus many other activities such as education, medicine, governance, and so on.

All these systems are visibly wobbling these days, and mutually reinforcing each other's instabilities, multiplying and accelerating our problems. For instance, our ventures in bio-fuels are affecting worldwide grain prices so severely that food riots have broken out in several poor countries. Whoops! Bitten by unintended consequences.

The capital markets have been faltering conspicuously for half a year now and the failures occurring there are not so mysterious if you understand that a major implication of the oil story is the prospect of industrial economies being unable to generate the kind of regular "growth" that we've become used to. Hence, a loss of faith infects the common investment "instruments" that represent the conventional idea of growth. Under these conditions stocks, bonds, and currencies themselves lose legitimacy and a desperation sets in among the financial community to find some other way to make money.

It is no wonder, then, in the face of this crisis of confidence, that sharp minds on Wall Street turned to the creation of unconventional new "engineered" securities -- based on algorithms and equations incomprehensible to non-insiders -- and that many of these new paper investment vehicles, such as mortgage-backed-securities, have turned out to be badly engineered, shall we say. These failures, in turn, amplify the instability in the financial markets and make things worse, with banks now fearful of each other's holdings and the regular operations of credit falling into a state of paralysis -- with further ramifications for the mortgage markets, for the house-builders, the suppliers of lumber and sheet-rock, the furniture-sellers, the strip-mall builders, and a long chain of other participants in the so-called "regular" economy.

That economy is not so regular anymore in light of the oil predicament.

Look at it from another angle. The big builders and the realtors seem to think that we've entered the lower arc of a cycle that will turn up again sooner or later. I think they are mistaken. This is not a dip in the real estate cycle, it is the end of the entire suburban program in North America as we have known it.

The new reality of the oil situation informs us that we will not have the energy to run this automobile-dependent infrastructure for daily life. The material assets of suburbia are destined to lose both their monetary value and their sheer usefulness as 100-kilometre daily commutes become economically insupportable, not to mention the cost of heating 3,000-square-foot houses.

We're going to discover the hard way that the project of suburbia represents the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. We will have to occupy the landscape differently in the years ahead. Yet, the enormous sunk costs of suburbia are very likely to provoke a furious campaign to sustain the manifestly unsustainable. The political implications of that are pretty unappetizing.

As in our living arrangements, so in our manner of moving around the landscape, a.k.a. transportation. Start by recognizing that the entire system of Happy Motoring is unlikely to continue as we have known it. This should be taken for granted by anyone seriously reflecting on our future. Unfortunately, the wish to rescue this system trumps the desperate need for us to make other arrangements. Thus huge efforts are being made, and hopes invested in, what are called "alternative fuels" -- the desperate wish to keep running all the cars by other means than gasoline.

I think the stark truth of the matter is that no combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run the North American highway network, Wal-Mart, and Walt Disney World -- or even a substantial fraction of those things. Because of our sunk costs in Happy Motoring, we will surely try everything -- solar, wind, nuclear, bio-fuels, used french-fry oil -- and we will surely be disappointed by what they can actually do for us. The problem is that they don't scale.

Indeed, the whole question of scale is another key element of the larger story. I would state categorically that the energy predicament implies we will have to downscale all of the systems of daily life named above, and that we will also have to live far more locally and self-sufficiently than has been the case in recent history.

The notion that the global economy is a permanent condition of life -- famously touted by Thomas Friedman in his book, The World Is Flat -- will prove to be erroneous. The world will get rounder as our energy diet ramps down. Globalism will prove to have been a set of transient economic relations that came about because of special circumstances during a particular period of history: five decades of cheap, abundant oil, and relative peace between the powerful nations. The first of those two conditions is now palpably over, and the second may fade as the great nations commence a contest over the remaining oil resources in the world, which is sure to affect our economic relations.

The public discussion in both the United States and Canada about how we will manage this epochal transition out of the oil age ranges from incoherent to delusional these days. For instance, among the "other arrangements" we must make, which I alluded to, is the desperate need to revive the North American passenger rail system.

In case you haven't noticed, the airlines are dying. In mid-April alone, four smaller airlines declared bankruptcy: Frontier, ATA, Aloha, and Skybus. I happened to be in Minneapolis the other day when Northwest and Delta announced their planned merger. Minneapolis happens to be the headquarters of Northwest, and all the local chatter concerned fear that Delta would cut service to small cities all over the upper Midwest. Of course, this geographically large region has almost no railroad service (besides the daily Amtrak run through Minneapolis to Seattle).

There is no project we could take up right away that would have a greater impact on our oil use than reviving the passenger rail system. The infrastructure is already in place, rusting in the rain, waiting to be fixed. It would employ scores of thousands of people at good jobs, at every level. It would benefit people in all ranks of society. It would take enormous pressure off the airlines in serving short-hop routes that are much better allocated to rail. Most of all, it's a doable project that would build our confidence to address the many other systems that will require re-scaling and reform in the years ahead. The fact that there is almost zero political discussion about restoring the passenger rail system shows how un-serious we are.

Right now, with transport, finance, and food production in disarray, we have entered the period of history that I call "the long emergency." Despite the techno-triumphalism rampant among our governing classes, we are not likely to see (nor are we entitled to) an orderly transition from where we are now to where we are heading. We are unlikely, for instance, to "come up with" a miracle rescue remedy for motor transport. We will have to confront the sheer loss of capital that is at the heart of the financial fiasco rather than continue to play a shell game with loans from central banks to cover up for failed securities. The crisis in grain prices is an early warning that our current methods of food production are hostage to the petroleum markets.

In the absence of a coherent political discussion, we are fated to a merely reactive response to the linked failures of all these systems. One product of the long emergency will be the creation of a new social phenomenon called "the former middle class." They will be a large group of people who have lost jobs, vocations, and incomes. Quite a few are just now in the process of losing their homes. They will be full of anger and grievance and they will demand political action to return their "entitlements" to well-paid jobs, comfortable houses, and limitless mobility.

There is no telling how they will behave when they discover that those things are gone forever. We are not doing ourselves a favour by ignoring these issues.

James Howard Kunstler is the author of The Long Emergency, and a new novel of the post-oil future, World Made By Hand, both from The Atlantic Monthly Press. He lives in upstate New York.

Destroying Minto to Serve Commuters?

One of the best---if not THE best parts of Salem is Minto Island, a wonderful sanctuary ... or, according to this letter to the Salem paper from a reader who lives in Dallas, Oregon, it's merely a convenient platform for yet MORE concrete designed to serve cars:

Address traffic woes with third bridge
April 18, 2008

I am amazed by the persistent plans to build a new bridge in north Salem to connect to some part of Wallace Road NW and its congestion.
Indeed, that sort of traffic could be handled by a morning and evening one-way transit over a modification of the existing railroad bridge.

Consideration should be given to a bridge crossing onto Minto Island from the area of Mission Street SE. Such a bridge system would then connect with Highway 22 in the vicinity of Capital Manor or any suitable place before the river turns to the south.

Such a plan would cost more but would address the real problem of reducing traffic over the existing bridges by commercial traffic in and out of Polk County and the increasing volume of travel between I-5 and Highway 22 going to the coast.

The Mission Street plan would also accommodate a portion of the present commute traffic and open up the flow over the existing bridges.

Sleazy Public Process Lesson 101: Never give the suckers an even break

Now we really see the Salem River Crossing revealed for what it is --- a scaled-up version of a bad used car sales lot, where the hustle is intended to get the mark (that's us, folks) on the hook before he can even realize he's been had.

The first lesson they teach salesmen in boiler room operations and payday loan parlors is "Never ask the mark a question that has the wrong answer as a possible response." Thus, you never get asked "Would you like to finance that here?" Heck no, it's always "How long would you like to finance that for?"

So too with the Salem River Crossing -- they've come up with a spiffy new "funding tool" designed to get you to "interact" with it around the idea of figuring out how to pay for this boondoggle --- leaping right over the "Do you even need one of these?" or "What else could be done with all that money?" or "Does a new auto bridge conflict with the need to dramatically reduce vehicle miles traveled?" questions. Here's the latest "important update" on the hustle:

Important updates on the Salem River Crossing Project
In early 2008, the range of alternatives recommended by the Task Force and Oversight Team was modified to respond to advice from the Federal Highway Administration and the Oregon Department of Justice. View the revised alternatives now.

The project is also continuing to work on how to pay for the alternatives. Check out the new Funding Tool to learn more about these different funding options then take a survey.

What a surprise! A hand-picked "task force" steered by a "steering committee" of public officials bent on destroying a low-income neighborhood in NE Salem in order to ease the daily life and the commute for the wealthy white zip code on the other side looked at alternatives and recommended a new bridge! Imagine that! Now the only step left if to somehow persuade the rubes not already being foreclosed from their homes that they should tax their property even more to pay for it --- because the people the new bridge is supposedly going to serve have made it clear that it's not worth more than a buck to them.

Same Sprawl Monster, Different City

Great website on the Columbia River boondoggle, the spiritual twin to the third bridge idea for Salem. Virtually every bit of this applies in Salem in exactly the same or only a slightly different way.

The Plan of Attack -- How the Sprawl Lobby Proposes to Overcome Common Sense

Here's the memo about the financing discussion you (nor any other member of the regular public) weren't invited to, although "business leaders" were:

Funding workshop summary

TO: Salem River Crossing Project Management Team
FROM: Kristin Hull, CH2M HILL
DATE: April 7, 2008 (REVISED)


The Salem River Crossing Project hosted a workshop to consider potential local funding sources for the project on March 5, 2008. The workshop was attended by more than 50 local elected officials, business leaders, and senior-level staff from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and local jurisdictions. The workshop agenda included:

* Presentation on local funding options and considerations.
* Breakout groups to develop and discuss potential funding scenarios.
* Large group discussion of next steps to advance development of a local funding plan.

This memo provides a summary of the key themes that emerged during the small group work and large group discussion at the workshop.

Funding analysis tool

To support discussion at the workshop, CH2M HILL developed an Excel spreadsheet tool that allowed participants to test different tax and fee structures for funding of a new bridge. Participants were given a goal of raising $30 million each year, the annual debt service on bonds to support a theoretical $500 million bridge project. The $500 million cost was used as a placeholder for the cost of a the project since the project location and design, requirements for developing detailed cost estimates, and the amount of state and federal funding have not been determined.
The spreadsheet tool allowed participants to input amounts for the following potential local funding sources:

* Vehicle registration surcharge (Marion or Polk counties)
* Local gas tax (cities of Salem or Keizer, or Marion or Polk counties)
* Property tax (cities of Salem or Keizer, or Marion or Polk counties)
* Toll on new bridge
* Toll on existing and new bridges

Participants could enter a range of values for each tax or fee type, or geography to explore different ways the project might be funded. The 2012 annual total in the upper right portion of the input sheet indicated the surplus or deficit associated with each funding scenario.

Breakout groups

Participants were divided into six groups. Each group included a Project Management Team member who acted as the table’s scribe and facilitator. The goal of the breakout groups was for each group to develop one or more possible funding scenarios and to discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with each potential funding source. The breakout groups each shared one scenario and a summary of their discussion with the larger group.

Discussion summary

The breakout groups developed a range of funding scenarios that included different funding mechanisms. As part of the local funding scenario:

* All six groups identified a toll on both bridges, though the toll amount varied among groups.
* Four of the six groups identified a vehicle registration surcharge.
* Three of the six groups identified a local gas tax.
* Two of the six groups identified a property tax.

The large group discussed the key issues associated with each funding source. Some people noted that a property tax would be more progressive than other sources because it is keyed to property values and not a flat fee, and that a property tax would give people a voice in the decision about how to fund the bridge because it would require a vote. Some participants noted that a vehicle registration surcharge or fuel tax would unfairly tax low-income people. Other participants preferred vehicle registration surcharges and fuel taxes because those fees are directly related to transportation.

The group discussed how to involve the public in making decisions about funding and concluded that community members should have the opportunity to use the funding analysis tool to understand the funding choices and challenges. Some participants noted that it might be too early to ask the public to weigh in on funding choices since a bridge location has not been determined and detailed cost estimates are not available.

Many participants said that the community must be educated
[emphasis added] about the funding need and choices and why local funding sources are needed before they are asked to weigh in on a funding package. The group discussed the need for public opinion research on the acceptability of different funding sources and discussed the idea of an advisory question on a ballot during a regular election as a way to take the pulse of the community.

Group 1
Group 1 noted that they were not satisfied with any of the alternatives because they did not allow for asking West Salem, the part of the community that would benefit the most, to pay a larger share than the rest of the area. This group suggested that a Local Improvement District (LID) contribution from West Salem should be considered in conjunction with other sources. Group 1 noted that if a property tax in the cities of Salem and Keizer was part of the strategy that the taxing district should take in the entire urban growth boundary, not just each city’s limits. Group 1 also suggested that more distant jurisdictions that might benefit from a new bridge, such as Lincoln County, should contribute to funding the bridge.

Group 2
Group 2 identified a combination of a tiered property tax and tolls as the most equitable way to fund the new bridge. The tiered property tax would levy a higher tax rate on properties in the cities of Salem and Keizer and a lower rate on properties in Marion and Polk counties (outside the cities). Group 2 suggested charging a $0.75 toll per crossing, but exempting residents and businesses in Salem, Keizer, Marion County, and Polk County. [In other words, the people the third bridge -- the cross-river commuters -- would cater to would not pay any more than their neighbors who oppose the bridge entirely and refuse to use it. emphasis added.] Group 2 said that this type of system would ask both users and the area’s residents and businesses to help pay for the bridge. The group also noted that the public could easily understand how much they are paying to construct a new bridge.

Group 3
Group 3 identified a combination of sources including a fuel tax, vehicle registration surcharge, property tax, and toll to fund the bridge. This group noted that a property tax is likely to be the least popular part of this scenario since it is not related to transportation. [Amen -- although they forgot to note that it also requires people who are trying to avoid making climate change worse support a project that does exactly that. Emphasis added.] The group noted that it was important to consider sources beyond tolls because the bridge would benefit people and businesses beyond those who actually use the bridge and because it is important to have more than one source of revenue as a risk management measure. The group suggested variable tolling as a way to reduce the negative impact to downtown businesses. The group also noted that some state funding such as lottery bonds might be available to help fund the bridge and that it might make sense to consider a larger city/county transportation funding package that would pay for the bridge as well as other needed projects.

Group 4
Group 4 suggested a combination of tolls, fuel taxes in both counties and a vehicle registration surcharge to fund the bridge. The group suggested that any funding package should raise more money than is required for capital costs and create a funding stream for bridge maintenance. The group said that a property tax should not be used to fund the bridge because property taxes are needed to fund other important services, but that the City of Salem could look to urban renewal districts to fund some pieces of the project. The group noted that a $1 toll/per crossing would not be palatable to the public. [Emphasis added]

Group 5
Group 5 developed a scenario in which one-half of the costs would be paid by tolls and one-half of the costs would be paid by residents through a combination of fuel taxes and vehicle registration surcharges. The group noted that this scenario would be fair to both users and area residents and would have relatively low collection costs since the state already collects these taxes and could easily collect the surcharges in the identified jurisdictions. The group noted that property taxes should be reserved for other needs in the cities and counties that do not have other funding sources.

Group 6
Group 6 suggested a vehicle registration surcharge and tolls to fund the bridge. The group suggested that the toll vary by time of day, be different for the old and new bridges, and be reduced for residents of Marion and Polk counties. The group noted that fuel taxes are not equitable and are generally quite regressive. [Emphasis added] The group discussed how a local gas tax, as opposed to a statewide gas tax, could penalize gas station owners inside the taxing district by making their gas prices higher than stations outside the district. The group noted that, while tolls are fair because users pay for the new bridge, a funding package that includes other sources needs to be developed to reduce the burden on commuters. [! -- Emphasis added]

Next steps
The group directed staff to move forward with the following next steps:

* Develop a strategy about how best to engage community members in discussions about local funding sources for the project. Consider when and how public opinion research might be used to test acceptability of local funding options.
* Post funding analysis tool to the project web site to allow community members to explore funding issues.
* Use the analysis of local funding options that will be completed as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement as a basis for further funding discussions.

Why More AutoSprawl Infrastructure is NOT an Option


TREE HUGGER A new report funded by the Natural Resources Defense Council has confirmed . . . that the U.S. West has been heating up much more rapidly than the rest of the world. Analyzing temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for 11 states, the authors, part of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, recorded average temperature rises in the Colorado River Basin that were 2.2 degrees warmer than the historical average for the 20th century - or more than twice the global average rise for the same period. If these trends continue, that will spell especially bad news for southwestern cities, particularly those in Arizona and New Mexico, which have been growing at a fast clip and have already suffered through some of the region's worst droughts.

As study author Stephen Saunders points out, the droughts have dealt the region a heavy economic blow, depriving it of over $2.7 billion in crop revenues and revenues from recreational activities, such as fishing, hunting and skiing.

What if all road users were treated as if they mattered?

I've been thinking a lot about how screwed up our thinking about energy and transportation is lately, as the signs of peak oil and the permanent transition to a much lower energy economy become stronger and stronger.

A post about bikes as tools vs. bikes as toys at a bicycling blog helped crystallize something I've been mulling over -- how do we undo the damage caused by the "Driver's Ed" moment that serves, for most people in our society, as the only clear dividing line between childhood and adulthood? That is, people think of bikes as kids' toys and cars as "adult" because you have to take a special class and pass a test to drive a car.

How about we reorganize our thinking and start licensing people to use the roadways instead?

That is, instead of giving people a license to drive, we create a single roadway user's license with various endorsements for various modes -- so if someone wants to use the roads on a bicycle, they get the basic roadway user's license; if they want to add a motorcycle endorsement, they can use the roads on a motorcycle; and if they want to add an automobile endorsement, then they can drive a car (and so on up through commercial vehicle licenses ...).

The point being that everyone (except those waived due to physical disability) who wants to get one of the motorized endorsements has to get the basic license first, which teaches how to be a basic non-motorized road user and tests the person's ability to ride a bike safely. We wouldn't have to use the DMV -- schools and community groups (YMCA, Scouting organizations, neighborhood centers) could be trained to administer the tests and grant the basic license to anyone 10 or older, upon completion of a basic course of instruction, and it would provide safety training, basic rules of the road, explain the helmet and its use, etc.

You could exempt current motorized license holders if you think teaching older folks how to be bicyclists is too much to ask (although I think we should not).

I think this would help people's thinking a lot -- they would start to see that bikes are valid road users, and it would sure help bike safety if every motorized road user had firsthand experience as a bike-only user.

A comment further down in the original thread made some interesting points:

As a Dutchman it is very strange to read something like this. For us a bike is first a mode of transport and then a toy, not the other way around. I guess that’s because bikes were an established mode of transport here long before cars became affordable.

To get people to use bikes as tools you need more than available utility bikes. You need a change of mind.

In the Netherlands where I’m from school kids can voluntarily enroll in a theoretical and practical traffic course and test. The practical test is of course done on a bike. In the Netherlands most kids take the bicycle to school, so most of them take the test. This early start is invaluable, because it teaches the bike as a mode of transport.

It is a fact that cyclists are more vulnerable than car drivers. So car drivers need to be very aware of cyclists, and/or you have to separate bicycle and car traffic. We’ve done both.

Holland is riddled with separate bicycle paths, which makes for much safer and nicer cycling. Even if the drivers are mindfull of cyclists, it is unnerving to have cars zoom past you with a 40 mph speed difference.

The best ways to make drivers aware of cyclists are driver education and to give the latter enhanced legal protection. In the Netherlands in case of an accident between a car and a bike, the driver of that car is assumed to be responsible for the accident unless he can prove that the cyclist acted recklessly. This makes drivers much more mindfull of cyclists.

Build your way out of congestion and other fairy tales

A member of the "River Crossing Task Force" has a letter in the Salem Statesman-Journal today, selling that same old snake oil of "Build your way out of congestion." The best part is his suggestion that some readers "object to us seeking solutions to the problem."

It's interesting to note that Mr. Erickson specifically fails to mention telecommuting, flex-time, and ride-sharing, choosing to focus his scorn purely on bikes and buses. Nor does he mention the blindingly high cost ($670 million) of his preferred "solution," the devastating impact on the neighborhood chosen to bear the brunt of the approach to the four-story monstrosity, or the repeated American experience of building new highway capacity only to have it immediately used up by people moving further and further out, producing the same levels of congestion at higher overall levels of traffic flow.

Nor does he address how a third bridge would affect the state's greenhouse gas reduction goals--no surprise there, because the city governments staffing the project have ignored this elephant in the living room as well.

Bridge ideas would improve traffic flow, not clog city streets

March 24, 2008

For years, bridge congestion has been a way of life for residents on both sides of the river. Several of your readers object to us seeking solutions to the problem.

For three years, a die-hard group studying crossing options has reviewed ideas, including the suggestion not to build a bridge.

Sure, more bikes and buses would reduce the load, but we found those two ideas alone can't fix the problem. It is simply not practical to think tens of thousands of people are going to ride bikes or walk to work every day rain or shine — just because they live on the other side of the river.

Especially noteworthy is the large volume of traffic simply passing through Salem on state Highway 22. There are growing communities, popular casinos and tourist attractions on the coast west of Salem. This traffic, combined with freight trucks hauling goods east and west, equals a very busy highway that is forced to a halt because it passes right through downtown Salem.

Nearly all popular bridge ideas include a connection that allows regional traffic and freight to pass through our community without plugging up our streets. That would help everyone — even those who don't cross the bridge.

— Scott Erickson, Salem

Auto addiction as a socially offensive habit

A fantastic piece at the Reality-Based Community blog highlighting the amazing similarities between our addictions to tobacco and our addiction to automobility. A truly mind-expanding piece.

It's not just fossil fuels

Let's play a kids' riddle game. My short-term benefits on first use are positive, and can be obtained at very low up-front cost. In your social circle, I indicate coolness and status. Once you use me, you find that the (again, short-term) benefits of using are increasingly greater than not using, even if you start to wish you had never started in the first place. After an extended period, the deferred costs begin to come due, but they are due whether or not you keep seizing the short-term "bargain." What am I?

I intended this to sound like an addictive drug, of course, perhaps cigarettes. But everything in the riddle applies to cars, and the analogy has some lessons for dealing with global warming and energy. Consider: to start driving, you need a car. But you can buy a car for almost nothing down, parking space at your curb is free, and it allows you to make some trips for which it's really much more convenient than any other way to move around, like going to the mall to shop. You can fill the tank with your credit card, which feels free. The recent history of cigarettes has a lot to teach us about cars.

No-one decides to smoke for the rest of his life, just to smoke the next cigarette and then stop; similarly, no-one decides to drive everywhere forever, just to drive down to the 7-11 for a quart of milk this time (it's raining, or it might rain, or my bicycle tires aren't inflated, or it's uphill coming home, or I'm really tired tonight, etc. etc.). After all, the insurance is paid for, the gas is in the tank, parking is free at the store, there won't be noticably any more global warming or even local pollution if you drive your car this once, etc. Because you usually drive, you're increasingly overweight and out of shape, so the walk is a real effort. And because all the streets are lined with garages to house everyone's cars, the walk will be really boring. So the marginal immediate cost of a car trip, to you, once you have the car (which psychologically "needs driving" as much as a TV "needs watching") is very low.

. . .

Social institutions and infrastructure make it very easy to get and use cars, though kids generally need to conscript parents to chauffeur them. Outside a very few dense cities, like New York, the competition for driving is bicycling through car traffic; public transportation that's crummy, expensive immediately, far away, and doesn't run at night; and walking down streets that are boring, and scary because no-one else is walking. The walk is long, because all those cars, both in use and parked, take up lots of space and push everything far from everything else, and because zoning laws exclude commerce from almost anywhere people live.

Schelling also noted, twenty years ago, that "now they empty the ashtrays into an ashtray" and of course by now the ashtrays aren't there in the first place. I remember well a time when, if a guest lit a cigarette in someone's home, it was incumbent on the host to apologize if he wanted the guest to stop and to have an adequate excuse, such as an allergy; a properly furnished house had cigarettes set out on the sideboard and coffee table. This is an astounding transformation in the use of a powerfully addictive drug; how did it happen?

The history of de-smoking western society is complicated and quite interesting, but among the essential elements were:

(1) Aggressive publicity for the scientific facts about the delayed costs.
(2) Extensive public education about the externalities of second-hand smoke.
(3) Regulations and constraints, putatively in the interest of non-smoking victims like airline flight attendants and restaurant waiters.
(4) Constant, steady price (tax) increases making the externalities internal and immediately visible.
(5) An education and social pressure campaign directed at Hollywood and TV to get the cigarettes out of its products.
(6) Publicly and charitably funded programs to help people quit.
(7) Legal action against the supplying industry to collect external costs in judgments.

By now, smoking is shameful and rude. Barack Obama has never, to my knowledge, been photographed or filmed with a cigarette. Marriott and Best Western make a nice living in the competitive hotel business with no smoking allowed anywhere.

Every one of these steps, especially (3), (4) and (5), proceeded in the face of confident assertions by people who should know that (i) smoking prohibitions could never be enforced, (ii) no-smoking restaurants would mean the complete collapse of the economy of one city after another, (iii) bleating about individual rights, (iv) pseudoscientific denialism.

It strikes me that this list is a pretty good template for the assault on our addiction to cars. I say cars, because the social costs of cars do not go away even if they are fueled with the greenest, no-carbonest, most renewable fuel you can imagine (though an electric car fueled by the current generating mix is a lot better than one that uses gasoline). The problem is that a car of any size using any fuel takes up about the same space on the road and almost the same parking space. That's two parking spaces, of course, on the average; one at home and one at work or shopping so you can park when you get there. As a result, everything is so far apart and we live so diffusely that only cars can practically get us around. Then there are all the accidents, and the carbon and economic costs of just making all that physical stuff like the concrete of the freeway, and the cars themselves.

But the most important cost of cars is that they completely prevent casual social interaction with strangers: people wearing two-ton iron suits cannot engage with each other in any way. A slight bump, that would lead to two "excuse me's" on foot, instead winds at best up on the side of the road exchanging papers and maybe worse; don't even think of scratching a friendly dog behind the ears or exchanging a few words about the weather. This cost is underappreciated: the automobile convention has made us afraid of each other and lonely. We are hard-wired to trust our tribe and mistrust strangers and outsiders.
After years of never passing anyone different from ourselves on foot within conversational distance, we see anyone other than the people who live on our very segregated suburban street, work in our homogeneous office, and shop at our demographically targeted mall, as dangerous strangers. That is, going about in cars prevents us systematically from something that is common in real cities: coming close enough to people not like us that they might hurt us and not being hurt.
You don't need to be mugged by someone of a different race or social class to fear them; Hammerstein had it exactly wrong. Without the reassurance and learning that a pedestrian environment, and only a pedestrian environment, affords, the hard-wiring takes over. Petroleum-fueled cars are toxic to the climate; but any cars are as toxic to the social climate as cigarettes are to the people around smokers, because they are the agents of ethnic, social, and economic cleansing.

We need to make it rude to drive, especially rude to drive a big car. Also, come to think of it, rude to live in a big house with rooms we occupy hours a month or never, full of stuff we don't have time to play with. Can we? Let's see: (i) Americans will never give up their cars, it's impossible; (ii) do you know how important the car industry, and road and home construction, are to the economy? Not living in car suburbs will impoverish the entire nation; (iii) it's my right as an American to drive wherever I want and park near the door when I get there; (iv) sprawl and suburbs are actually good (remember the doctors in the Chesterfield ads?); the science on global warming is uncertain and alarmism.

It is the voice of realistic, hardheaded, experienced counsel, but it was all wrong about cigarettes and it's wrong about cars.

Using logic to fight the Sprawl Monster

A Portland businessman takes a scalpel to the proposed new I-5 bridge, which would consume over $4 billion--before overruns, and before noticing that the costs of steel and concrete are skyrocketing as energy prices explode worldwide.

The Columbia project obviously gets a lot more attention in the Oregonian, partly because a third bridge over the Willamette in Salem would "only" squander $670 million while helping to defeat Oregon's response to the climate crisis. Here's some choice bits from the article--all of which could easily be applied to Salem:

I-5 bridge proposal ignores big picture

[Referring to an op-ed to defend the replacement I-5 bridge by Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, Fred Hansen of TriMet and Gail Achterman of the Oregon Transportation Commission:]

The trio admits that it is a "valid concern" that greenhouse gas emissions will increase with the proposed bridge because 40 percent of such emissions are caused by fossil fuel for vehicle transportation. But these environmentalists blithely sweep aside the true impact of the 12-lane bridge they are promoting. That impact is a 40 percent increase by 2030 in vehicle-miles traveled over the crossing. That means more than a 40 percent increase in global warming pollution with any of the alternatives the bridge task force is proposing.

To be on track to meet standards passed by the Oregon and Washington legislatures, a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is required by 2030.

It's tempting to say that no individual project makes a big difference in the huge challenge of global warming. But this expensive project is clearly a step in the wrong direction. There are catastrophic consequences for continuing to ignore climate change -- in Oregon a 5 percent change in temperature, expected by 2050 if we don't change current trends, would have a dramatic impact on our snowpack in the Cascades and our water supply. It would put much of the Oregon coast underwater with the melting of the Arctic icecap.

And here's a part that EXACTLY describes Salem's situation:

Everyone wants a big new bridge if you suggest it is free to them and you don't tell them you are dramatically expanding greenhouse gas emissions, and you don't tell them you are just moving the congestion down the road a few miles, and you don't tell them what you are not doing in the region in order to be able to create this stranded investment.

This is a fairy tale told by the auto, oil and trucking lobbies.

The people supposedly screaming for a new bridge don't even think it's worth a buck to have

"Project consultants also have found that tolls of more than 50 cents would result in a decline in revenues because people would likely use the existing bridges instead."

(Gee, I thought there was no additional capacity on the existing bridges or that the sky would fall if people had to wait one more minute to cross the river. If the people the bridge is supposed to serve don't think a faster crossing is worth more than fifty cents, why should anyone else?)

A very important article and sidebar summary in today's Statesman-Journal.

First, it's worth noting that Saturday is by far the day of the lowest newspaper readership (which is why government media folks universally use Friday as "Take out the trash day" -- the day you release the news for the Saturday news cycle, so that the fewest people will see it).

Certainly one thing they want hidden is the time and place of the Wednesday funding workshop for "officials and community leaders" -- key facts from Journalism 101 curiously omitted from the story. Clearly, the last thing ODOT and Salem want is a lot of residents thinking about the staggering cost of this bridge before it's too late to head it off. This story may also appear today to set up an editorial on funding in the paper on Sunday or early next week.

But, either way, this piece merits attention now because it reveals that -- even aside from the consequences of promoting more greenhouse gas emissions and sprawl -- there is no case for the bridge, because even the prospective users don't think a faster river crossing is worth more than four bits.

Bridge funding in question
Local, regional sources include gas tax, bond, toll

Eunice Kim, Statesman Journal
March 1, 2008

They have determined where it could go, what it could look like and how it could affect neighborhoods.

Now, planners need to figure out how to pay for Salem's third bridge across the Willamette River.

"There's no money now," said Dan Fricke, a senior transportation planner with Oregon Department of Transportation.

Unable to rely on state or federal money, officials say local or regional funding sources must largely pay for the construction of a new bridge or expansion of the existing ones.

State and local officials are considering several options: a fuel tax, vehicle registration surcharge, property taxes and tolls.

"The days of getting large projects funded by the federal government are over," Fricke said. "There has to be a significant local contribution to make things happen."

Officials working on the Salem River Crossing Project have estimated that a new bridge will cost $667 million to $680 million. The other "low-build" option, which only would expand the existing Marion and Center street bridges, is expected to cost about $270 million.

Officials said they must determine how the project is going to be funded to get federal approval to build it. The funding strategy can include a mix of options.

Julie Warncke, Salem's transportation planning manager, said officials don't know how much money they can expect the federal government to pitch in. The largest federal earmarks for Oregon transportation projects have been in the $20 million to $30 million range.

"When you compare that to the total cost, it's not very much," Warncke said.

To help narrow possible funding options, officials and community leaders from across the region plan to participate in a finance workshop Wednesday. They will run through an exercise that will allow them to see how much money each option or any combination could raise.

"The goal is to get feedback on different funding sources to see which ones people in the local and regional area want to pursue," Warncke said. "It's not to choose the funding sources."

To build a $500 million bridge, those sources would have to raise about $30.7 million per year to repay 30-year bonds, said Samuel Seskin, a transportation planning director with the engineering and consulting company CH2M Hill.

A toll of 50 cents per crossing on the new bridge would generate about $5 million per year in revenue, officials said. The problem, though, is that it would cost about that much to collect the tolls. Project consultants also have found that tolls of more than 50 cents would result in a decline in revenues because people would likely use the existing bridges instead.

Tolling the new and existing bridges 50 cents per crossing could bring in $15 million per year in net revenue, officials said.

"It seems to me we have to toll both bridges to (pay for a new bridge)," said Lloyd Chapman, a member of the oversight team of officials working on the project. "The question is how much do we want to put the burden on users versus others?"

If officials went with a local fuel tax, it would be assessed at the pump. Such taxes in Oregon range from 1 cent to 5 cents per gallon.

A 1-cent tax would raise an estimated $515,400 per year in Salem and $59,000 in Keizer, officials said. That same tax would raise an estimated $1.06 million in Marion County, and $111,600 in Polk County.

The other options -- a vehicle registration surcharge paid every two years or a property tax levy -- also would bring in varying amounts of money depending on who was charged. For example, officials estimate that a $20 vehicle surcharge would raise $3.3 million per year in Marion County where there are about 309,642 registered vehicles, but only $800,000 in Polk County where there are about 71,377 vehicles.

There also could be variations to some of the funding options, like charging higher tolls during peak hours.

"The basic question is what funding package are (people) willing to vote for," said Dan Clem, an oversight team member and Salem city councilor.

The funding discussion is part of a step-by-step study that the city of Salem and ODOT are conducting as required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. It will result in an environmental impact statement that identifies the preferred alternative, which officials expect to select by the end of the year. If funding can be secured, a new bridge could be built in seven to 10 years.

Bridge corridors under consideration include a crossing from Salem Parkway and Pine Street NE to Wallace Road and Hope Avenue NW, or from Hood and Shipping Streets NE to Wallace and Orchard Heights Road NW. The other option would not include a new bridge but instead would expand the existing bridges by two to three lanes each.

Interesting (intentional?) error--one of the "other options" is to do nothing at all with the existing bridges, recognizing that the thousands of people who drive across them alone Monday through Friday are saying that they don't think the delays are a problem--at least not enough of a problem to cause them to do something that would save them both time and money (riding the bus, carpooling, telecommuting, adjusting their work hours).

More on the eerie parallel sprawl monsters stalking Portland and Salem

As with the story below, this piece focuses on the proposed new bridge over the Columbia but applies precisely to our situation in Salem -- where the Legislature passed and the Governor hailed a bill requiring Oregon to cut greenhouse emissions by 80%.

Yet when you ask people working in the Salem sprawl machine (ODOT/SKATS) what they plan to do about all the extra emissions that this new Willamette Bridge would produce, they reply by saying that the environmental impact statement will assess "all regulated pollutants" -- in other words, because CO2 is not yet a regulated as the pollutant it is, they plan on doing exactly nothing in the way of considering how this bridge would undermine the urgent task on reducing emissions while using up the resources we will need to provide transportation alternatives. Pitiful.

This issue alone -- the stable climate that is needed to feed, clothe, and house people -- is sufficient grounds to stop the third bridge proposal in its lanes. No new auto lanes across the Willamette, period.

Bridging the global warming gap
CO2-friendly - Planners of a new I-5 span juggle ideas on tolls and prices, looking for ways to slow the growth in trips
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The Oregonian

. . . No law requires this of Oregon and Washington, builders of the $4.2 billion Columbia River Crossing. But climate change is such a concern that Northwest officials have asked that federal environmental reviews take into account how much greenhouse gas would be produced by the thousands of cars and light rail trips that would occur daily if the bridge is built.

"It is an extremely important concern for all of us," Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard said. "Oregon and Washington should be setting an example for the rest of the country on how to be green and sustainable."

. . . Now technicians from both states have estimated CO2 levels from anticipated traffic volumes through 2030 for inclusion in a federal study of the project due out in two weeks. But experts and politicians disagree on exactly how to decide whether the bridge project would, in fact, have an impact on global warming.

Scientists have warned the world could face catastrophic floods and other warming impacts by 2050 if worldwide temperatures continue to climb. Oregon's governor and Legislature last year agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050. Gasoline-powered cars and trucks produce CO2, making the transportation sector a leading contributor to the CO2 linked to global warming.

Though the study isn't quite finished, Columbia River Crossing analysts have concluded that the new bridge would produce more net carbon but make greater volumes of traffic more CO2-efficient by removing the stop-and-go congestion now clogging approaches to the spans. Result: CO2 emissions would grow more slowly with a new bridge than if officials did nothing and let the old bridges collect yet more congestion, which causes more greenhouse gases.

That's not good enough, said Jill Fuglister, co-director of the Coalition for a Livable Future, a Portland-based sustainability group. She contends the project should reduce the amount of vehicle traffic across the bridge -- currently about 134,000 trips a day on average. "Any transportation investment we make today . . . should not contribute to the growth in driving, which equals growth in greenhouse gas emissions," Fuglister said.

. .

"Cheapest, greenest"

Metro Councilor Robert Liberty said the region should scrap the proposal entirely. Toll the existing bridge -- and change nothing else for a while -- to see how that reduces congestion and carbon emissions, he urged. Follow up with light rail and river navigation enhancements that would be less costly than the $4.2 billion proposal on the table.

"Stage it, so we can figure out what's the cheapest, greenest way of doing it," Liberty said.

. . . "There would be a lot of people that would be really frustrated," Gundersen said.

Not nearly as many as will be apoplectic after we blow billions on new highway capacity that we can't afford to use because we have to radically reduce driving. We need to spend the money on alternatives to auto domination, not enabling it.

The Sprawl Lobby is the Same Everywhere

Virtually every bit of this critique posted at Bike Portland of the $4.2B+ bridge project for the Columbia applies perfectly to Salem and the proposed new Bridge Over the River Willamette, just at a bigger scale -- although Portland/Vancouver's congestion is far more than seven times the level in Salem, so spending $666 million on a pure auto bridge here (with no provision for rail transit) is even less defensible.

Economist contends new I-5 bridge will “induce traffic,” use up transportation budgets “for a decade or more”

Economist Joe Cortright, who reported last June that Portland’s “green policies” add $2.6 billion into the local economy, has once again set his sights on debunking the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project.

Cortright’s five-page analysis (PDF available at link above) raises red flags around several “key issues” surrounding the effort to build a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver.

Cortright believes that a new bridge will “induce” more traffic, that it won’t reduce congestion, and that tolling the existing span could cut trips “by as much as half”. He also questions the financing of the project saying that, “$4 billion is a lot of money we don’t have” and that the huge expense will mean the region’s other transportation needs will go unmet “for a decade or more”.

“The big bridge will make traffic worse, not better, by overwhelming capacity in other parts of the I-5 system.”
–Joe Cortright

Cortright also questions the CRC’s financing plan, calling it “shaky and speculative” and reliant on tax increases that haven’t yet been approved. Writing about the concept known as induced demand, Cortright says a new bridge will encourage more trips and lead to sprawl:

“The presence of larger transportation facilities encourages people to take trips they would otherwise avoid, or re-route. Over time, transportation facilities lead to more dispersed commuting and business and housing locations – sprawl – and produce more and longer trips. The 20,000 additional trips is a minimal estimate because it does not take account of induced land use changes (and settlement patterns) that will develop over time if capacity is expanded.”

In addition, Cortright contends that, “The big bridge won’t reduce congestion.” Instead, he says, it will make traffic worse by “overwhelming capacity in other parts of the I-5 system.” From his analysis:

“…How do I-5 and North Portland road networks handle the additional 13,900 peak hour trips that will be generated by the new bridge? Why does a 10% increase in the peak cause catastrophe on the bridge [according to CRC’s own analysis], but a 40% increase on the rest of the system create no problems at all? This is not explained in their analysis.

So, in sum, the CRC position is:

Going from 35,800 to 39,400 on the I-5 Bridge brings the system to a grinding halt; But Going from 35,800 to 53,300 can be accommodated with very high speeds with no bottlenecks elsewhere on I-5 or in the Bridge Impact Area.”

Cortright also contends that if consumers had to pay a toll to cross the Columbia, “traffic volumes would fall substantially.” Citing polls that suggest I-5 bridge crossings would fall by as much as half with a toll, he writes, “if resolving congestion is the problem… tolling the existing facility alone could reduce congestion, and probably do so at a far lower cost.”

On the topic of finances to pay for the project, Cortright says we simply don’t have the money. He points out that the $4 billion cost of the bridge (which would make it the largest public works project in the region’s history) is equivalent to 80 OHSU Aerial Trams and that the it works out to nearly $2,000 per capita from all 2 million residents of the region.

More troubling, according to Cortright, is that the project would drain our region’s transportation budgets “for a decade or more.” He writes,
“…according to Metro’s Regional Transportation Plan, the I-5 and I-205 corridors account for less than 10% of the expected growth in daily travel in the region over the next 25 years. If we spend $4 billion here, how will we meet the other 90% of the expected growth?”

Sing a Song of Sustainable Cities!

The Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil presents an outstanding talk about how to make cities work.

The illogic of trying to fight congestion with more capacity

A bridge-backer wrote an op-ed for the Salem Statesman-Journal this week, and as the brief excerpt below wonderfully verifies, the logic of sprawl is this: You can never build enough.

That is, as your city sprawls, more and more trips require the use of a car, which leads to more and more traffic problems, and more and more pressure to address those problems with the same "solutions" that have been failing all along (more infrastructure to support cars).

New Salem bridge is only part of solution


February 21, 2008

There have been letters recently that support stopping the bridge project across the Willamette.

Can anyone other than me remember when the Salem population was less than 50,000? Growth will not stop simply by killing a bridge project.

In fact, what is needed now is a fourth bridge across the Willamette.

There you have it folks -- this $700 million proposed for this third bridge is really just a down payment on completely paving over the Willamette, the better to allow people to live away from the bankrupt city in the center of the sprawl-plex in what was once recognized as one of the loveliest places in the world.

Make your voice heard!

Dear Friends-

It’s time to band together in a letter writing campaign so that city and state leaders receive a more balanced picture of citizen concerns regarding the idea of spending almost $700 million on a third bridge across the Willamette.

Recently a Salem city councilor shared that they had only received one letter in opposition to the bridge proposals. That councilor went on to say that if other citizens felt the same way, the impact of individual letters would certainly be a catalyst for leaders to have a broader conversation regarding the future work of this project.

So --- listed below (in the Model Letter post below) are all the addresses you would need to let city and state officials know how you might feel about this issue. A standard form letter has also been composed that you can print and sign, edit to better reflect your personal thoughts and feelings, or use to spark a letter of your very own.

Agree with the form’s first point but not the others?
Delete them and send in a shorter version.

Not want to send out 15 letters?
Feel free to choose just one address on the list and send it there.

Out of stamps?
Email addresses are also included so you can cyberspace do the work for you.

Let your voice be heard and encourage others to do the same!

Model Letter and links for you to send your own

Below is a great letter written by a concerned Salem resident. Polite, clear, and concise, this is a terrific model letter.

Dear Mayor Taylor,

I’m writing today to tell you that as a Salem resident I oppose the building of a third bridge across the Willamette River in Salem. I encourage local and state government to devote the time and energy needed to develop viable no-build or low-build options.

I have three areas of concern regarding another bridge crossing:

1) Need
Although the morning and the evening commute are crowded and can be lengthy, the current downtown bridges serve the bulk of the day’s traffic without problem or delay. Three busy hours each day out of a total of twenty-four hours does not mandate an immediate or costly solution. Flex time, mass transit, and other strategic urban development could help immensely. The proposed renovation of the old train trestle including a bike path and roadway for emergency vehicles will address needed safety issues.

2) Quality of Life
Rising oil prices, our nation’s call for energy independence, and the growing alarm concerning global warming seem in direct opposition to the building of a third river crossing in response to heavy traffic. America’s future looks different than its past. Our traffic solutions need to be different than those used in the decades behind us.

3) Cost

$670,000,000 is a very expensive price tag for another bridge crossing, particularly one that solves a small current problem but may cause even larger problems in the future. I believe money would be more wisely used if dedicated toward local issues of poverty, education, health services, neighborhood redevelopment, or needed social services. While I could support a bond measure to maintain current roadways, I do not wish to fund a single expenditure of this size. Such funds should benefit a broad number of Salem citizens rather that just those who use the bridge during a standard daily commute.

Respectfully submitted,

CC: City Councilors Chuck Bennett, Laura Tesler, Brad Nanke, TJ Sullivan, Kate Tarter, Bruce Rogers, Brent DeHart, Dan Clem.
Your Neighborhood Association
Salem River Crossing Task Force
Salem River Crossing Oversight Team
Dan Fricke, ODOT Project Manager
Julie Warncke, City of Salem Deputy Project Manager
Gail Ackerman Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission
Governor Kulongoski
Congresswoman Darlene Hooley

Now send your own letter about the Salem River Crossing proposal and let your voice be heard!

Honorable Janet Taylor. Mayor of Salem
555 Liberty Street SE, Room 220
Salem, OR 97301

City Councilors Chuck Bennett, Laura Tesler, Brad Nanke, TJ Sullivan, Kate Tarter, Bruce Rogers, Bob Cannon, and Dan Clem.
Mayor/City Manager's Office
555 Liberty St SE, Room 220
Salem, OR 97301

► Salem Neighborhood Associations (Listing here)

Salem River Crossing Task Force & Oversight Team
c/o Dan Fricke
455 Airport Road SE, Building B
Salem, OR 97301-5395

Dan Fricke, ODOT Project Manager
455 Airport Road SE, Building B
Salem, OR 97301-5395

Julie Warncke, City of Salem Deputy Project Manager
555 Liberty Street SE, Room 325
Salem, OR 97301-3503

Gail Ackerman, Oregon Transportation Commission Chair
355 Capitol St. NE, Rm 135
Salem, OR 97301

► Governor: Honorable Theodore Kulongoski
160 State Capitol
900 Court Street
Salem, Oregon 97301-4047

► 5th District Representative:

Congresswoman Darlene Hooley
315 Mission Street SE #101
Salem, Oregon 97302
(scroll to bottom of page- click on ‘Email Darlene’)

Outstanding Comment

A 30-year Salem resident has penned an outstanding op-ed piece that should be read by every person in Salem, Marion County, and Polk County. A few choice bits:

Commuting can affect growth

. . . I learned that the vast majority of the traffic [across the Willamette bridges in Salem] does not comprise trucks running between Interstate 5 and greater Polk County or the coast, but rather automobiles commuting from the West Salem suburbs to the downtown core. This is much more a local problem than a regional problem.

As a result, their traffic modeling shows that the further away from the downtown core the prospective bridge is located, the less effective it becomes. My previous thoughts of a Lockhaven/I-5 connection would be largely ineffective in relieving congestion downtown.

Portland's tight urban growth boundaries have fostered redevelopment near the urban core, as one formerly blighted neighborhood after another is rejuvenated. Mississippi, the Pearl, etc., are very different places than they would be without that tight boundary, and these very neighborhoods are no small part of Portland's attractiveness to employers.

Salem's inner neighborhoods, on the other hand, are neglected while the city instead chooses to emphasize growth around its outer fringes. Is this really a sustainable model for our city, as transportation costs soar for those in increasingly outlying areas while inner neighborhoods, with their shorter commutes, decay? What will that model look like if gas is $6 or $10 per gallon? Can we even predict what transportation costs might be in 30 years?

Choosing to live in an outlying area always has brought increased commute times and related expenses -- it's a package deal. People choose to commute downtown from West Salem, Silverton, Stayton, etc., balancing those downsides with the benefits they find in those areas.

If we could, by spending between $500 million and $900 million, shorten the commute for residents of, say, Hayesville or Battle Creek, would it be in the best interest of the city as a whole to do so? Living in West Salem is a choice, and the commute is a factor in that choice. . . .

Salem, for various reasons, is in no position to impose the sort of tight urban growth boundaries that have altered the face of Portland, but should we consider the possibility that the absence of a third bridge provides a de-facto equivalent, an equivalent that saves the community well over $500 million?

Steve Emerson has lived in Salem for more than 30 years. He can be reached at

Spokane Shows the Way

Published on 14 Feb 2008 by Energy Bulletin. Archived on 14 Feb 2008.

World first: U.S. city fights climate change and global oil depletion together

by Daniel Lerch

growing number are planning for declining global oil production. But the northwestern U.S. city of Spokane (pop. 199,400) has become the first to tackle climate change and global oil depletion together, marking a new step in local government responses to these increasingly urgent challenges.

Announcing a new strategic planning effort to identify and address the impacts of climate change and energy security, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said: “By aggressively pursuing strategies now that prepare us for future energy and climate uncertainties, Spokane will manage challenges while increasing our competitive advantage over other cities. It just makes sense.” A citizen task force will lead the strategic planning effort, supported by work groups and technical assistance from city staff and other experts.

Spokane, the second-largest city in the state of Washington, has built on previous sustainability efforts to emerge as a new leader in the fight against climate change and global oil depletion. With the launch of this initiative, Spokane joins more recognized sustainability leaders in the U.S. like Seattle, which in 2005 launched the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and Portland, Ore., which in 2006 pioneered the nation’s first “Peak Oil Task Force” to identify the local risks posed by global oil depletion.

Both Seattle’s and Portland’s efforts have since served as models for other cities across the United States. Spokane’s new initiative promises to similarly blaze new trails for local governments.

Speaking to an overflow crowd at the February 6th launch of the Spokane initiative, Daniel Lerch of Post Carbon Institute said, “We’re entering uncharted territory with world oil production plateauing and atmospheric carbon reaching record levels. Cities need to identify the new risks they face, because there isn’t any state or federal government agency that’s going to do it for them.” Lerch, a national expert on local government responses to global oil depletion, authored the first major government guidebook on the subject, “Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty” (

Spokane’s initiative is part of a growing movement of local government leaders concerned about the local economic and social ramifications of global oil depletion. In the last few years, as oil prices have surged past historic highs, at least 10 cities in the U.S. and Canada have started task forces or released studies on the risks to local economies and local government services; in addition to Portland and Spokane, Oakland (Calif.), Austin (Tex.), Brattleboro (Vt.), San Francisco (Calif.) and Berkeley (Calif.) have all created task forces within just the last year.

With General Motors Chairman Rick Wagoner and President George W. Bush both making groundbreaking statements last month about global oil demand outpacing global supply, and with concerns about energy prices growing among both local and state officials, 2008 may well be the year that global oil depletion joins global warming as a mainstream economic and political issue.

Additional information:
"City Seeks Applicants for Sustainability Project Citizen Task Force"

Two Questions You Might Want to Ask Your Public Servants

Q1: Given that the overwhelming majority of scientists have called for aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in response to human-caused climate destabilization, how do you explain the city-driven push to spend 2/3 of a billion dollars on a third auto bridge, supposedly to address a brief period of congestion twice a day?

Q2: Salem's own Oregon PeaceWorks has started a "5% Solution Project" aimed at spreading awareness of the threat of global heating and at getting individuals and communities to commit to making a 5% reduction in their own carbon footprint each year from now until 2050, producing a total reduction of almost 90%, the level that scientists say is required to avoid the worst catastrophic consequences. Would you support a city commitment to the 5% Solution, and if not, why not?

New infrastructure to serve cars make Oregon's climate goals impossible to reach

Governor notes that responding to climate change danger involves doing something about how we get around and the transport infrastructure we provide

Oregon's Governor, Theodore R. Kulongoski, issued a presser today (1/24) calling for a "2009 Climate Change Agenda."

"The mission of the Global Warming Commission becomes more urgent every day," said Governor Kulongoski. "From rising waters during winter storms to raging forest fires and drought that threatens the future of our farms, vineyards, and orchards, global warming is already threatening Oregon's economic prosperity and quality of life." . . .

The Governor also took action today to support the state's climate change efforts by signing on to a letter, along with thirteen other states, to the Environmental Protection Agency expressing frustration with the EPA's refusal to grant a waiver for tailpipe emissions standards that would allow Oregon to reduce greenhouse gasses emitted by automobiles by implementing stricter standards. The clean tailpipe standards are a key part of the Governor's existing climate strategies.

This letter follows one sent by Oregon's Attorney General urging the EPA to move forward on the Massachusetts v. EPA case where the court ordered the EPA to determine if greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles cause air pollution that endangers public health.

Every word that officials in Oregon use to argue that climate change is a serious threat to Oregon (and it is) is an argument against dropping $500 million dollars into a third auto bridge in Salem, the sole purpose of which is to make it easier for people to live further away, drive more, and continue to sprawl even more.

Help Wanted!

Do you want to live your values for the beautiful environment of Salem, Oregon? Then join the revolution--the LOVESalem revolution.

Where do you live, what do you love about Salem, and how can you help us Oregon-ize Salem so that we put the needs of people in our community ahead of cars!

Meet the Sprawl Monster that threatens Salem

It is hunting in our city now, and it hungers. It wants to grow endlessly, and so it endlessly needs new fuel: new greenspaces to destroy, new families to displace, and most of all a neverending stream of property tax revenue to devour. What does this monster look like? See it HERE.

New Home for LOVESalem blog

The prior home for this blog was in a Google beta test site for its web hosting service. The site keeps failing badly, looking me out from updating it. Thus, I'm moving Living Our Values Environmentally in Salem (LOVESalem) to this new site, which will also let others post. I'll be moving content from the other site here as I am able.