Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ideas for a Sustainable, Multi Modal Transportation System

The American Bus Association (ABA) posts a link to a report of the Mobility Choice Coalition, of which ABA is a member. Taking the Wheel: Achieving a Competitive Transportation Sector Through Mobility Choice discusses the history and biases of current transportation infrastructure and policy, with recommendations for a multi-modal future that incorporates the public and private sectors.

Recommendations include:
* Transparent pricing - paying for the road services one uses;
* Fair allocation of costs based on use, savings of oil and damage to roadways;
* Moving authority for decision making to metropolitan level with national performance standards - to encourage more competition among mode choices; and
* Technology upgrades for a more efficient system.

A Menu of Suggestions

Though the report calls for transparent pricing, it includes only transportation costs and not many of the external costs of a car-dependent lifestyle, such as public health consequences. It does call for mileage-based insurance premiums to account for the high rate of injury and death that automobile travel results in and the increasing odds of accidents that come along with increases in mileage. Among the strategies mentioned are congestion pricing, HOT lanes, truck-only lanes, fees to reflect oil's national security costs, telecommuting, high-speed and inter-city rail, transit vouchers for low-income riders, apportioning transit dollars for realizing fuel savings through high-load routes and modes, and changing land-use rules to satisfy demand for mixed-use walkable communities.

The coalition estimates that by 2030, the recommended strategies could save 779 million barrels, "or more than 10 percent of projected on-road oil consumption." The estimates are based on "the Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2010, and includes all of AEO’s assumptions regarding vehicle miles of travel (VMT) and vehicle fuel efficiency to 2030."

DC's Sustainability Plan

The Department of Transportation for Washington, D.C., the equivalent of a state department of transportation that also has jurisdiction over local roads, releases its Sustainability Plan 2010, which promotes transit, biking and walking and seeks to reduce energy consumption.

In the section about linking land use to transportation, the plan announces that "[t]he program revitalizes major urban corridors by improving transportation options, increasing streetscape attractiveness and attracting businesses and residents to the area. It also provides environmental benefits through smarter and more efficient use of land resources."

In terms of its strong endorsement of a multi-modal approach, the program is progressing with:

* Expanding and increasing transit services, such as designing and constructing a streetcar system and a water-taxi system.
* Developing multimodal transportation projects that consider roadway, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit improvements.
* Implementing TDM strategies, such as car sharing, carpool, vanpool, transit subsidies and parking management programs.

The plan also covers economic and social justice impacts. It envisions itself as a tool to spur economic activity and to save on infrastructure costs. It also seeks, without concrete details, to equitably serve low-income communities.

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