Thursday, October 12, 2017

UK: Accelerating the Shift to Low Carbon Transport

Not long after I commented on plans in England (here) and Scotland (here) to advance the electrification of the transportation system, the central (UK) government has put out a report covering much of the same ground.  The report (news story here, link to text here) is actually much broader in scope, detailing a laundry list of initiatives to advance “clean growth” and meet statutory targets for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.
The transportation section – “Accelerating the Shift to Low Carbon Transport” – doesn’t offer much that is new.  But it is useful in reminding us of the commitment of the UK government – a Conservative government – to major GHG reductions.
Some highlights of the transportation policies and proposals list:
·      Reiterates the commitment to ending the sale of conventional gasoline and diesel cars by 2040,
·      Allocates funding to support the Highways England goal of installing EV rapid chargers at 20-mile intervals on 95% of the strategic highway network,
·      Advocates legislation to require new charging stations to be “smart enabled” to encourage off-peak charging,
·      Funds development and implementation of Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans,
·      Establishes subsidies for alternative fuel taxis, and
·      Supports research and development of alternative fuel propulsion for heavy trucks, trains, and airplanes.

Oh, and did I mention this is the policy of a Conservative government?


Thursday, September 21, 2017

New England Villages: Guilford CT

As noted in recent posts, I have been working on a project which looks at the viability of using historic New England village centers as a framework for supporting 21st rural development.  The idea is that the village model can be updated to support sustainable development in the countryside and to serve as a counterweight to large-lot, exurban sprawl.  I did some field visits recently and thought I would share some highlights.
Guilford CT is a town of some 22,000 people, about 15 miles east of New Haven, on I-95 and Shore Line East.  It isn’t really a village, but it does have one asset that many people in Connecticut view as the epitome of a New England village – a magnificent green.

Now as people who have studied New England village greens will tell you (especially see the definitive book on the subject: The New England Village (Creating the North American Landscape) by Joseph Wood, available here) they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  The Guilford green is notable for being big (nearly 12 acres) and rectangular.  It is mainly open space (used as an outdoor concert venue), with only a few monuments – the main one a handsome Civil War monument dedicated to the men of Guilford who died in the war.  The streets bounding the green are home to churches, the town hall, private homes, and a nice business district of small shops.  The look and function of the town green have changed over the nearly four centuries it has been in use (see an interesting history here), but it has continued to be the iconic center of town and by serving as a sort of archetype of the town green it has shared its symbolic value with other New Englanders.







New England Villages: Chester CT

As noted in recent posts, I have been working on a project which looks at the viability of using historic New England village centers as a framework for supporting 21st rural development.  The idea is that the village model can be updated to support sustainable development in the countryside and to serve as a counterweight to large-lot, exurban sprawl.  I did some field visits recently and thought I would share some highlights.
Chester CT is a town of about 3700 (1500 in the center), some 12 miles north of Old Saybrook, in the Connecticut River Valley.  The village center is notable mainly for its collection of art galleries, craft shops, and boutiques along Main Street in the valley of the Pattaconk Brook.  It’s about a 20-minute drive to the Old Saybrook train station on the growing Shore Line East commuter rail line (there is also a bus, which takes twice as long, with two-hour headways).

Chester may not have much to teach us about village form, but it definitely shows that the right, picturesque setting can attract a vibrant arts community and the tourists that that brings.  What economists call the “agglomeration” effect can be seen in villages as well as cities.






Sunday, September 17, 2017

New England Villages: Storrs Center CT

As noted in recent posts, I have been working on a project which looks at the viability of using historic New England village centers as a framework for supporting 21st rural development.  The idea is that the village model can be updated to support sustainable development in the countryside and to serve as a counterweight to large-lot, exurban sprawl.  I did some field visits recently and thought I would share some highlights.

I have written about the Storrs Center “new town” project in Mansfield CT a number of times, most recently when the town was officially built out (here).  The very short version is that a new, village-like, mixed-use development has been built across the street from the University of Connecticut campus in rural eastern Connecticut.  Now having had a chance to revisit Storrs, I have to say that using my eyeballs and legs confirmed what I had seen online.  It is a first-rate piece of urban design, with human-scale architecture, a great mix of activities (including the only state puppet museum in the US!), and a welcoming vibe.  Storrs is a great working model that I – and I’m sure others – will continue to follow closely in the years to come.






Thursday, September 14, 2017

New England Villages: Storrowton Village Museum

As noted in recent posts, I have been working on a project which looks at the viability of using historic New England village centers as a framework for supporting 21st rural development.  The idea is that the village model can be updated to support sustainable development in the countryside and to serve as a counterweight to large-lot, exurban sprawl.  I did some field visits recently and thought I would share some highlights.
Storrowton Village is a recreated village, located on the grounds of the “Big E” exposition in West Springfield MA.  It was created in the 1920s by philanthropist Helen Storrow, who organized and funded the purchase of nine historic New England buildings, dated from the late 18th and early 19th century, and their relocation to the fairgrounds, where they stand today as a living history museum.  Her intent, as stated in the museum’s current literature, was to recreate “a village such as our forefathers built on hills, crossroads and along rivers. Although Storrowton’s buildings come from different states and are of different periods of construction, together they form a typical New England Village and include a Meeting House, Schoolhouse, General Store, Blacksmith Shop, Tavern, Law Office and historic homes all surrounding a traditional village green.”
The museum is at its most active during the Big E fair (in 2017 from September 15 – October 1), but also hosts educational programs for children and a year-round restaurant (Storrowton Tavern).  (See the museum’s website here.
So what does Storrowton Village teach us about the possibility of a 21st Century “New” New England Village?  It displays, in three dimensions, the archetypes of ideal village buildings and, to a lesser extent, the archetype of a village layout (around a very geometric “green”).  These archetypes resonate over time and are powerful still.

If you like fairs (especially if you have younger kids), the Big E (website here) is terrific.  The Storrowton Village Museum is worth a visit any time you are in western Massachusetts.






Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New England Villages: Collinsville CT

As noted in a recent post, I have been working on a project which looks at the viability of using historic New England village centers as a framework for supporting 21st rural development.  The idea is that the village model can be updated to support sustainable development in the countryside and to serve as a counterweight to large-lot, exurban sprawl.  I did some field visits recently and thought I would share some highlights.
Collinsville CT is a classic New England mill village, located in the town of Canton, in the lovely Farmington River Valley, about 15 miles west of Hartford.  Canton has a   population of about 10,000, while the Collinsville census area has about 2,700.
Collinsville was a “company town” serving the Collins Axe Company, which finally went out of business in 1966.  The village has survived and even thrived.  To quote the town’s master plan:  “The business district of Collinsville is a wonderful mix of small retail shops, quasi‐industrial service businesses, restaurants, offices, arts culture, and residential units.  The residential housing includes single family houses, two family units, multi‐unit residential buildings, and residential housing above business establishments.  Most of the area is very pedestrian friendly. In many respects, Collinsville represents the mixed‐use vision that many communities are looking to re‐create in their own village centers.”

So, Collinsville has a lot of the ingredients we are looking for in a 21st-century New England village.  What it could really us now is redevelopment of the beautiful (but dilapidated) mill buildings.  There are some antique shops there now, but one can envision loft housing, incubator businesses, craft shops, etc.  Know any buyers/developers?






New Report Summarizes New Jersey Transportation Dilemmas

The Fund for New Jersey has been publishing a major series of issue papers ahead of next year’s state elections and has now taken on transportation.  “Transportation Must Again Be the Backbone of New Jersey Economy” crisply outlines the key dilemmas facing state policymakers (full report here, two-page summary here; full disclosure, I contributed to the development of the report).
The four main issues:
First, although New Jersey enacted a 23-cent (!) increase in the gas tax in 2016, there are still major funding shortfalls and misallocations.  The funding influx staves off bankruptcy for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund but doesn’t solve long-term problems.  Operations and maintenance are starved for funding on both the highway and transit sides, made up for in part by transfers from capital to operating and by damaging fare increases. 
Second, the massive Gateway rail projects connecting New Jersey to New York are in desperate need of more funding and an accelerated schedule.  These projects are needed not just to cope with the massive growth in rail traffic but to prevent a transportation nightmare.  While our attention is understandably and appropriately concentrated on the human misery and costly damages caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, New Jersey and New York are still dealing with the effects of Superstorm Sandy.  To quote the report:
“Corrosive salts left by Superstorm Sandy’s flooding are eating away at the concrete walls and electric-traction and signal systems in the tunnel. Engineers project that, in the next 10 to 20 years, each of the two tubes will have to be taken out of service for overhaul. If either tube goes out of service before a replacement is operational (estimated to be in 2026), today’s peak commuter and intercity service of 24 trains an hour (21 NJ Transit and three Amtrak) would shrink to six.”
Third, the governance structures of New Jersey’s transportation agencies (NJDOT, NJ Transit, the toll authorities) have lots of tangled inefficiencies, often a result – as the report notes – of politicians focusing on the perceived “optics” of government at the expense of actual good practice.  At NJDOT there are chronic staff shortages in key areas, and the management structure has been hollowed out by years of salary compression.  The report makes several recommendations for better governance.
Fourth, New Jersey – like other states – needs to catch up with rapidly evolving transportation technology.
If you read the transportation report and wonder: where is a discussion of land use?  and climate change?  The answer is that those discussions are in an earlier report in the series, “Climate Change Adds Urgency to Restoring Environmental Protection” (see my posting, with links, here).

Congrats again to the Fund for New Jersey for taking on this daunting task!