Monday, March 23, 2015

California takes on resiliency in new transportation plan

State DOTs are slowly beginning to address climate change resilience (AKA adaptation) in their statewide long-range transportation plans.  Why does that matter?  Yes, I know today’s flood/fire/storm demands urgent attention and total focus.  But what about all of the floods/fires/storms ahead?  Long-range planning can easily be overlooked but really needs to get serious attention if we are to succeed in mastering these challenges.
So it’s important that California’s new draft long-range transportation plan (California Transportation Plan 2040, available here) takes on this challenge pretty directly.  Perhaps that’s not so surprising in a state prone to sea level rise, drought, wildfires, tropical storms, and mudslides – not to mention avalanches and volcanic eruptions! 
California has been a leader in adopting policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is now set to become a leader in finding ways to protect the state and its transportation system from the ravages of sea level rise and extreme weather events. 
The plan makes a direct link between climate change and extreme weather events (some states are bashful about this) and between mitigation efforts (cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions) and resilience efforts (ensuring that reliable transportation routes are available despite extreme weather events and sea level rise).  Climate change – and especially sea level rise – poses “a serious threat to California’s infrastructure.”  The prescription is clear: “Incorporate system impacts from climate change, risk, and vulnerability assessments into collaborative and proactive planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance to provide affected agencies and freight partners with the ability to adapt and recover from rising sea levels.”
Some steps the plan puts forward:
·      Use science: “Use available sea-level-rise tools to prioritize and mitigate impacts to the multimodal system.”
·      Recognize uncertainties, which “create huge challenges for transportation managers who need to ensure that reliable transportation routes are available.”
·      Connect with land use planning: “Improve links between land use planning and climate adaptation planning by using tools such as the previous California Regional Blueprint Programs…to better integrate adaptation strategies into regional plans.”

There is still a lot to be figured out about how to incorporate climate change resiliency into long-range transportation plans, but California has helped to move us forward.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thomas Hart Benton and the New York Subway in 1930

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a terrific new installation of a Thomas Hart Benton mural, painted in 1930, called “America Today.”  If you’re a Benton fan (and I am), it’s terrific stuff.  Among the images of a nation in transition is this great “snapshot” of passengers on the subway in New York.  (We took the subway to the Met….and encountered an apparently mentally ill person in our car.  Wonder what they did with those folks in 1930?)