Thursday, May 25, 2017

Poundbury at 30

Poundbury, Prince Charles’ experimental new town in southwest England, has turned 30 years old (story here) and deserves a fresh look.
The town is an urban extension of Dorchester (population 20,000) and currently has 3,000 residents and 2,000 jobs.  Its design concept was developed by Prince Charles himself as a way to implement the neo-traditional architecture and planning ideas he set out in his book A Vision of Britain in 1989.  (The book attracted a lot of snark, as does virtually everything Prince Charles does.  See my review of his recent climate change book here.)  Still not built out (not sure why it’s so slow), Poundbury is notable for its walkability, mixed uses, and use of traditional building designs and materials.  Its “retro” look has drawn scorn from modernist architectural critics, although a few are now beginning to appreciate the livability of the town (see Witold Rybczynski’s account from a few years ago here). 
From a transportation standpoint, Poundbury underscores the point that the best transportation is “already being there.”  Residents have access to a wide variety of shops (a local grocery store, pub, florist, photographer, post office, farmers’ market, gift shops, etc.), amenities, and green spaces, all within easy walking distance.  An electric bus carries people into the center of Dorchester, including the train station, although with unsatisfactory (to me) 30-minute off-peak headways.  Cars are permitted, though kept relatively tame (see Rybczynski’s review for details).

All in all, I think Poundbury is a wonderful experiment, and I look forward to seeing its continued growth and success.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

BC’s carbon tax: Once again no political opposition

I have written before about the remarkable (at least to Americans) political resilience of the British Columbia carbon tax, and the current general election campaign there underscores that phenomenon (my comments on the last general election here).  Voting is on May 9 (story here) and none of the three major parties contesting the election wants to eliminate or roll back the tax. 
The BC Liberals (despite the name, the most conservative party in the race, and not affiliated with the federal Liberal party) form the current government.  Their platform calls for a continuing carbon tax freeze, which they argue will support the principles of affordability, competitiveness, and revenue neutrality while advancing the goals of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change.
The New Democratic party (basically a labor/social democratic party) anticipate that the carbon tax will need to increase to meet federal targets and promise that when it does, they will use the increased revenue to fund climate change projects and to send “climate action rebate checks” to lower and middle class families.  They want to position themselves as “leaders in climate change solutions.”
The Greens (self-explanatory) want to increase and expand the scope of the carbon tax, while eliminating the principle of revenue neutrality and using at least some of the revenue to fund climate change investments.
My summary may be an oversimplification, but I think the overall picture is clear.  The BC political parties are arguing over how to use the carbon tax and whether to increase it.  No one is arguing for reducing or eliminating it.

Is there a takeaway for US observers?  I’m not sure, but at least it’s refreshing to see political arguments that don’t include the anti-scientific, flat earth viewpoints we see here.