Moving DOTs to Innovation

Transportation planning is in need of an overhaul. The system that has evolved is unsustainable and  wasteful.  Traditional highway planning has played a key role in many undesirable and unintended consequences that have shaped many of the nation’s challenges for the 21st century. A potentially hopeful change is taking place with a partnership between Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Inititative that has published a new handbook, The Innovative DOT..

Smart Growth America has partnered with the State Smart Transportation Initiative to develop The Innovative DOT, a resource for state transportation officials. This handbook provides 31 recommendations transportation officials can use as they position their agencies for success in the new economy. The handbook documents many of the innovative approaches state leaders are using to make systems more efficient, government more effective and constituents better satisfied.

The handbook contains 8 focus areas: Revenue Sources, Revenue Allocation and project selection, Pricing, Increasing Transportation System Efficiency, Improving Options for Mobility and Access, Providing Efficient Safe Freight Access,Iintegrating Transportation and Land Use Decision-Making, and Improving DOT Processes.

Community Ownership of Transmission Lines?

Germany is making significant investments in upgrading its elecricity grid to include renewables and distributed generation. Their concept includes ways for ordinary citizens to participate in the investments and economic benefits. John Farrell published a November 15, 2012 article on the ILSR Energy – Democratizing the Electricity System web site, Community-Owned Transmission? 

In Germany a partnership between Volkswagon and German energy supplier LichtBlick are building a system of distributed power that will put Micro Combined Heat & Power (CHP) Units in 100,000 homes, with a combined 2,000 megawatt capacity powered by natural gas. Residents have the opportunity to be paid for power they add to the grid beyond their individual use. Here is a presentation on the German CHP law.

Growing Wealthier by reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled

Growing Wealthier – Smart Growth, Climate Change & Prosperity, by Chuck Kooshian and Steve Winkelman is a 2011 publication of the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP). Here is an excerpt from the introduction.

“Transportation is vital to the production and exchange of goods and services. But we think it isimportant to distinguish between more economically productive travel and what CCAP hasdubbed “empty miles” that contribute less to, or serve as a drag on, the economy. In fact, over the last few decades most Americans drove substantially more but did not shareproportionately in income growth – overall household VMT increased by 70% from 1969 to2001, but incomes for the bottom three quintiles (60%) of U.S. households onlyincreased 18%.”

Infrastructure Cost Savings through Smart Grwoth

Here is a September 2012 report from the Victoria Transport Policy Institue, Understanding Smart Growth Savings. Todd Litman provides information that helps better understand how commumity development patterns impact the quality of place. Sprawling patterns reduce the ability of a community to make investments as the cost of infrastructure is not supported by public revenues. More compact development patterns improve the sustainability of communnities at lower cost with the ability to invest in higher quality. Here is an excerpt from the abstract of this paper.

Land use patterns affect various costs to consumers and society. Many of these costs tend to increase with sprawl (dispersed, urban fringe development), and can be reduced with smart growth (more compact, mixed, multi-modal development). Smart growth tends to reduce the costs of providing public infrastructure and services, and by improving accessibility and reducing per capita vehicle travel, tends to reduce direct and indirect transportation costs. Current development fees, utility rates and taxes fail to accurately reflect these location-related cost differences, which encourages consumers to choose more sprawled locations than is optimal. This paper summarizes estimates of smart growth savings, and critiques analyses which claim that such savings are insignificant.