Monday, October 26, 2015

Another thing Denmark does well

Bernie Sanders may have drawn some chuckles for suggesting the US use Denmark as a model, but the fact is that the Danes get a lot right.  Sure, it’s a much smaller and in many ways less complex country, but Denmark – like much of Europe – is way ahead of us on many measures of societal and political progress.
A case in point is climate change adaptation on the roadway network.  The Denmark Roads Directorate has set out a clear policy direction in a Strategy for Adapting to Climate Change document (available here).   The main impact they anticipate from climate change is increased rainfall, leading to increased flooding events on the highway.  The planned response is straightforward:
·      Better manage flooding when it occurs, through rapid response, information, detours, etc.,
·      Improve the roads where incidents have occurred, and
·      Prevent future problems where possible, using the best available science to “climate proof” roads where it makes sense to do so.
This is really straightforward stuff, as it should be for an organization that owns and operates a highway network.  The Danish approach has proven so popular that the Danes are leading an effort among all the EU highway agencies to develop a standard climate change adaptation strategy. 

AASHTO are you listening?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Go Canada!, or Why Justin Trudeau is important to the future of US transportation policy

So Canada has a new young, charismatic, JFK-style prime minister.  It will be fun watching the transition to a new Liberal government.  But what has this got to do with US transportation policy?
The Liberal platform has a bold plan for stimulating the economy while advancing policy goals.  The idea is to pump large amounts of money into infrastructure and human services ($5 Billion for each in the first year), financed by higher taxes on the rich (shocking!) and deficit spending (even more shocking!).  The infrastructure piece appears to be mainly transportation, although the plan is not very detailed at this point.  If successful, the plan will get the economy revved up while putting valuable public assets on the ground at relatively cheap prices.  It will be – in effect – a very large Stimulus package.

If the plan is implemented (and given the solid Liberal majority in Parliament it should be) it could provide a valuable model for the US.  Will it be successful?  Time will tell.  We know – despite the folk tales told in some circles – that the US Stimulus at the beginning of the Great Recession was a huge success, rescuing much of the economy will producing lasting benefits at bargain prices.  The Canadians have apparently not yet convinced themselves – as Americans have apparently convinced ourselves – that they are too poor, too old, too tired, too depressed, or whatever, to make bold plans to engage the 21st Century.  I wish them success!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Let’s Play “Find the Metro Station”

The poor Washington Metro system has gotten such a bad rap lately (here for instance) that I hate to pile on, but on a recent visit to DC I couldn’t help but notice how hard it is to find the entrance to a station you’re not familiar with.  Partly I think this is just lack of maintenance (as in the following photo) and partly it’s a matter of an overall design scheme that is “tasteful” and “muted.”  “Garish” isn’t what you want in our nation’s capital, but how about more pedestrian trailblazer signs?

In the long run, Metro needs more money for maintenance (who doesn’t?).  Also, to maximize its long-term value, the Metro system (in my minority-of-probably-one opinion) should double its inside-the-beltway network.