Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Forget Golf Courses: Subdivisions Draw Residents With Farms

Paige Witherington is the farmer at Serenbe Farms, a 30-acre certified organic and biodynamic farm adjacent to a housing development outside Atlanta. It's one of more than 200 or so subdivisions with an agricultural twist nationwide. Courtesy of Serenbe

When you picture a housing development in the suburbs, you might imagine golf courses, swimming pools, rows of identical houses.

But now, there's a new model springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement: Farms — complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees — are serving as the latest suburban amenity.

It's called development-supported agriculture, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture — a farm-share program commonly known as CSA. In planning a new neighborhood, a developer includes some form of food production — a farm, community garden, orchard, livestock operation, edible park — that is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together.

"These projects are becoming more and more mainstream," says Ed McMahon, a fellow with the Urban Land Institute. He estimates that more than 200 developments with an agricultural twist already exist nationwide.

"Golf courses cost millions to build and maintain, and we're kind of overbuilt on golf courses already," he says. "If you put in a farm where we can grow things and make money from the farm, it becomes an even better deal."

In Fort Collins, Colo., developers are currently constructing one of the country's newest development-supported farms. At first blush, the Bucking Horse development looks like your average halfway-constructed subdivision. But look a bit closer and you'll see a historic rustic red farm house and a big white barn enclosed by the plastic orange construction fencing.

The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop.i
The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop.

"When we show it, people are either like, 'You guys are crazy. I don't see the vision here at all,' or they come and they're like, 'This is going to be amazing,' " says Kristin Kirkpatrick, who works for Bellisimo Inc., the developer that purchased the 240-acre plot of land.

The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop. Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When finished, Bucking Horse will support more than 1,000 households. Agriculture and food production are the big draws, Kirkpatrick says. Land has been set aside for vegetables. There will be goats and chickens, too, subsidized by homeowners. Soon they'll be hiring a farmer for a 3.6-acre CSA farm. There's also a plaza designed for a farmers market, and an educational center where homeowners can take canning classes.

In short, the neighborhood plan is infused with the quaint, pastoral, even romantic view of farming.

"Our public restrooms are in an old chicken coop, and it'll be half public restroom and half chicken coop," Kirkpatrick says.
After World War II, Americans escaping crowded cities flocked to the suburbs. Most suburbanites didn't want to be right next to a farm, and so restrictive zoning pushed livestock and tractors out of new residential areas. Now, says Lindsay Ex, an environmental planner with the city of Fort Collins, municipalities are being forced to change their codes.

"We used to have residential separated from agriculture, and now we're seeing those uses combined," says Ex.

And that can be a great deal for small-time farmers, says Quint Redmond, who runs a company called Agriburbia, which operates farms within suburban developments across the country. In development-supported agriculture projects, he says, the developer, or homeowners association, ends up making the big farm purchases — not the farmer.

"The best possible thing for a farmer is to have the infrastructure ready," he says. "That is where most farming goes upside down or goes broke."

Not to mention that the neighborhood is filled with people who already have an interest in local food, so "there's a real market for that farmer," Redmond says.

The marketing of these new neighborhoods appears to be working — at least at Bucking Horse, where the developer says 200 single-family lots were snatched up within days of going on the market. Values of existing homes have jumped 25 percent since construction began on the agricultural amenities.

"Once we saw this and the plans they had for it, we were really sold on the lifestyle," says Lindley Greene, who moved to Bucking Horse in March with her husband and two young sons.

Once the neighborhood farm is up and running, Greene says, she'll be volunteering to get her hands dirty.

"We love the idea of it," she says. "To have it right here — not have it in our backyard, but still in our backyard — is awesome."

This story comes to us via Harvest Public Media, a public radio reporting collaboration that focuses on agriculture and food production. by Luke Runyon

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Alternative Fuel Vehicles to Gain Traction Over the Next 10 Years

NACS Press Release | November 19, 2013

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The growth of vehicles running on alternative fuels will accelerate over the next decade, but diesel fuel- and gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to dominate market share, according to “Tomorrow’s Vehicles: What Will We Drive in 2023?” a new report released today by the Fuels Institute.
For light-duty vehicles (passenger vehicles and light trucks), gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the market, although overall market share could decline from 93% in 2012 to as low as 82% of vehicle inventories in 2023. Diesel-powered vehicles will potentially comprise nearly 7% of the market while flexible-fuel vehicles capable of using E85 could grow to more than 9% of the market.
Meanwhile, for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (commercial vehicles like trucks and buses), diesel-powered vehicles will prevail, representing at least 94% of the vehicle fleet in 2023.
“On the surface, it may not seem that significant change is occurring, because gasoline and diesel fuel-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the vehicle fleet in 2023, but alternatives are gaining traction,” said John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute. “Consumers appear to be more open to alternatives than ever before and vehicle manufacturers are offering a wider variety.”
Given that there are more than 250 million vehicles on the road today, it will take years of strong sales of alternative fuel vehicles to reshape the country’s vehicle fleet. In addition, a variety of developments — including cost reductions for alternative-fuel vehicles, conveniently available refueling options, expanded vehicle range and overall consumer familiarity and confidence with new fueling options — will need to occur before alternative-fueled vehicles can capture significant market share.
“We need to ask — and answer — some tough questions so that the vehicles and fueling markets can develop together and convert consumers to new type of vehicles, said Eichberger.”
The Fuels Institute, founded by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), is a non-profit, research-oriented think-tank dedicated to evaluating the market issues related to consumer vehicles and the fuels that power them. It commissioned Navigant Research to provide a forecast of the vehicles market through 2023 that captures approximately two generations of vehicle development, providing a reliable look into the future but not reaching so far into the future as to be rendered unreliable.

Gasoline Will Dominate the LDV Market

The report forecast the makeup of the vehicle fleet in 2023 based on two scenarios: a “base case” that incorporates current forecasts and an “aggressive case” that assumes more robust world economic conditions that further spurs demand and prices for petroleum products.
In both projections, gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the LDV market but lose significant market share, dropping from 93.2% of LDVs on the road in 2012 to between 82.6% to 86.0% in 2023. This decline in market share is driven by a shift in the sale of new vehicles, with gasoline-powered vehicles’ share of sales falling from 83.4% in 2012 to between 67.6% to 78.9% in 2023, a potentially dramatic change in consumer purchasing behavior.

Diesel Fuel Will Gain LDV Share and Maintain Medium and Heavy-Duty Share

Diesel-powered vehicles are expected to see strong growth in the LDV market, growing from 2.0% of all LDVs in 2012 to between 3.7% to 6.7% of the LDV fleet in 2023. This surge in market share will be led by the sales of new vehicles hitting the market. Diesel-powered LDV sales are expected to comprise between 7.2% to 17.8% of new LDV sales in 2023.
With respect to medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (M/HDV), diesel fuel will see a slight decline, with its market share dipping from a near-ubiquitous 99.4% in 2012 to between 94.6% to 97.5% in 2023. The primary competition to diesel fuel in the M/HDV market will be natural gas.

Even With Dramatic Sales Increases, Others Will Lag Behind

Despite increased attention from policymakers and public-opinion leaders, there are many hurdles to overcome before a robust market emerges for other types of vehicles. But some growth in the next ten years is projected:
  • Flexible-fuel vehicles: Flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV), which can use both gasoline or E85, show the most promise for growth. In 2012, only 4.7% of LDVs were flexible-fuel vehicles; however, automaker production is forecast to double FFV’s share of the market to 9.3% of the fleet by 2023. However, the potential for this alternative fuel is tempered by lackluster existing demand and limited availability of E85.
  • Natural gas vehicles: The number of light-duty natural gas-powered vehicles (NGV) is expected to see at least a ten-fold increase over the next decade, but will still only represent 0.43% in the aggressive case. However, in the M/HDV market, compressed natural gas is projected to capture up to 3.8% of the market in the aggressive case. The high cost of installing natural gas facilities at retail and the cost of vehicle conversion or production will be factors limiting additional growth by 2023.
  • Propane-vehicles: Propane-powered LDVs are expected to double market share, but will grow from only 0.04% to 0.07% of all LDVs by 2023. For M/HDVs, propane is currently the second-most-popular option after diesel fuel, capturing 0.38% of the market in 2012. However, its growth is considered limited to mainly medium-duty vehicles and will account for no more than 0.76% of the M/HDV fleet in 2023.
  • Battery-electric vehicles: Unless there are significant breakthroughs in battery-charging technology, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) will not break out of the niche category of LDVs over the next decade. Even with a projected 22- to 26-fold increase in annual sales over the next decade, BEVs are forecast to be no more than 0.72% of the LDV market in 2023.
  • Fuel cells: Fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs), electric vehicles that use an external fuel source like hydrogen, are also expected to remain a niche category. Sales are expected to increase significantly over the coming decade, but the reality is that there were only 500 FCVs on the road in 2012. Even in the most aggressive forecast, registrations are only expected to reach 70,000 vehicles — 0.02% of the LDV market — in 2023.
“Without coordination between the vehicle and fueling industries, successful market introduction of these systems will be characterized by starts and stops, booms and busts and a protracted — and potentially painful — market development phase that may or may not result in consumer acceptance,” said Eichberger. “Consumers have more vehicle options than ever and where they choose to invest their money will determine the future.”
The Fuels Institute’s governing structure incorporates a diverse set of stakeholders including, but not limited to, fuels retailers, fuels producers and refiners, alternative and renewable fuels producers, automobile manufacturers, environmental advocates and consumer organizations. It will continue to commission and publish comprehensive, fact-based research projects that address the issues identified by the affected stakeholders. These projects will help to inform both business owners considering long-term investment decisions and policymakers considering legislation and regulations affecting the market.
Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 149,000 stores across the country, posted $700 billion in total sales in 2012 and sells more than 80% of the motor fuels purchased in the United States. NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Dubai Will Host World Expo in 2020 with HOK-Designed Master Plan

Dubai Expo Bird's Eye

Dubai has been chosen as the host of the World Expo in 2020. HOK was the lead designer for a team that developed the master plan for the Expo, which is expected to draw more than 25 million visitors from October 2020 through April 2021. The design looks to the future while drawing on traditional Emirati community planning concepts. 

Dubai’s selection – themed “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” – was announced Nov. 27 by representatives of the 167 Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) member nations. Selected over three cities in Brazil, Russia and Turkey, Dubai will become the first Middle Eastern city to host the event in its 160-year history.
Dubai Expo Al Wasl Plaza
“This win is a testament to the commitment of the UAE citizens to create a prosperous future for their country and region,” said Daniel Hajjar, HOK’s management principal in Dubai. “We are proud to have been the lead designer of the Expo site and to be associated with producing a winning entry for Dubai so that this great country can continue to boost its reputation on a global stage.”
“Dubai’s win elevates its status as a global city with world-class infrastructure and highlights its commitment to sustainable energy,” added HOK President Bill Hellmuth, AIA.
“This is a well-deserved honor for the UAE,” said Tim Gale, PPLI, FRSA, director of planning for HOK inLondon. “With its mixture of education, innovation and entertainment, the plan reflects the wonderful qualities of Dubai and the form and spirit of a World Expo.”
Equidistant from the centres of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the 1,082-acre (438-hectare) Expo site is located next to the new Al Maktoum International Airport and in close proximity to Jebel Ali Port, the third busiest port in the world.
The design features three separate pavilions symbolizing opportunity, sustainability and mobility, with “innovation pods” and “best practice areas” in each thematic zone. These three zones emanate from a central plaza named the Al Wasl, the historic Arabic name for Dubai meaning “the connection.” Inspired by the layout of a traditional Arabic “souk,” or marketplace, the design places larger pavilions to the perimeter while clustering smaller exhibit spaces toward the center of the site. This creates a smooth pedestrian flow while encouraging interaction among visitors.
Dubai Expo Green Village
The team planned the Expo site and infrastructure to create a new sustainable benchmark for events in the Middle East. An iconic photovoltaic fabric structure covers the main walkways, acting as a solar-powered sun shade and combining with photovoltaic panels on building facades to capture enough sunlight to generate at least half of the Expo’s energy requirements onsite. At night, the fabric will be transformed into an illuminated display of lights and digital projections. The boulevards will be shaded by the iconic photovoltaic fabric structure. The smaller connective streets will be protected from the sun through the use of pavilions and strategic landscaping. The transportation plan includes a gondola that links each of the thematic zones and the main entrance while creating an additional viewing experience for visitors. Other sustainable strategies include recycling wastewater, reusing materials and monitoring the carbon footprint.
After the close of the Expo in 2021, three main pavilions – the Welcome Pavilion, the Innovation Pavilion and the UAE Pavilion – will be combined and transformed into a National Museum to celebrate the achievements of the Expo.
HOK teamed with Populous, which provided venue planning, shade structure and participant design guidelines, and Arup, which provided infrastructure and transportation services, on the master plan.
Dubai Expo Bird's Eye
World Expos are generally considered to be among the largest global events, ranking alongside the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
View more images from the Dubai World Expo 2020 master plan.
HOK’s projects in the United Arab Emirates include the Dubai Marina; the Dubai International Financial CentreDubai Festival City, a master plan and mixed-use development design comprising retail, leisure, hotel, residential and office facilities; the LEED Platinum Change Initiative store, a sustainable retail prototype in Dubai; EMAAR Opera District Master Plan in Dubai and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

"The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss

By: Dr. Seuss

At the far end of town
where the Grickle-grass grows
and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows
and no birds ever sing excepting old crows...
is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.

And deep in the Grickle-grass, some people say,
if you look deep enough you can still see, today,
where the Lorax once stood
just as long as it could
before somebody lifted the Lorax away.

What was the Lorax?
Any why was it there?
And why was it lifted and taken somewhere
from the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows?
The old Once-ler still lives here.
Ask him. He knows.

You won't see the Once-ler.
Don't knock at his door.
He stays in his Lerkim on top of his store.
He stays in his Lerkim, cold under the roor,
where he makes his own clothes
out of miff-muffered moof.
And on special dank midnights in August,
he peeks out of the shutters
and sometimes he speaks
and tells how the Lorax was lifted away.
He'll tell you, perhaps...
if you're willing to pay.

On the end of a rope
he lets down a tin pail
and you have to toss in fifteen cents
and a nail
and the shell of a great-great-great-
grandfather snail.

Then he pulls up the pail,
makes a most careful count
to see if you've paid him
the proper amount.

Then he hides what you paid him
away in his Snuvv,
his secret strange hole
in his gruvvulous glove.
Then he grunts, I will call you by Whisper-ma-Phone,
for the secrets I tell you are for your ears alone.

Down slupps the Whisper-ma-Phone to your ear
and the old Once-ler's whispers are not very clear,
since they have to come down
through a snergelly hose,
and he sounds as if he had
smallish bees up his nose.
Now I'll tell you, he says, with his teeth sounding gray,
how the Lorax got lifted and taken away...
It all started way back...
such a long, long time back...

Way back in the days when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean,
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space...
one morning, I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!
The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.

And under the trees, I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots
frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits
as they played in the shade and ate Truffula Fruits.

From the rippulous pond
came the comfortable sound
of the Humming-Fish humming
while splashing around.

But those trees! Those trees!
Those Truffula Trees!
All my life I'd been searching
for trees such as these.
The touch of their tufts
was much softer than silk.
And they had the sweet smell
of fresh butterfly milk.

I felt a great leaping
of joy in my heart.
I knew just what I'd do!
I unloaded my cart.

In no time at all, I had built a small shop.
Then I chopped down a Truffula Tree with one chop.
And with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed,
I took the soft tuft. And I knitted a Thneed!

The instand I'd finished, I heard a ga-Zump!
I looked.
I saw something pop out of the stump
of the tree I'd chopped down. It was sort of a man.
Describe him?...That's hard. I don't know if I can.

He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice
that was sharpish and bossy.

Mister! he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs--
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed--
What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?

Look, Lorax, I said. There's no cause for alarm.
I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm.
I'm being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed.
A Thneed's a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat.
But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!
The Lorax said,
Sir! You are crazy with greed.
There is no one on earth
who would buy that fool Thneed!

But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.
For, just at that minute, a chap came along,
and he thought that the Thneed I had knitted was great.
He happily bought it for three ninety-eight.
I laughed at the Lorax, You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy.

I repeat, cried the Lorax,
I speak for the trees!

I'm busy, I told him.
Shut up, if you please.
I rushed 'cross the room, and in no time at all,
built a radio-phone. I put in a quick call.
I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts
and I said, Listen here! Here's a wonderful chance
for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!
Get over here fast! Take the road to North Nitch.
Turn left at Weehawken. Sharp right at South Stich.

And, in no time at all,
in the factory I built,
the whole Once-ler Family
was working full tilt.
We were all knitting Thneeds
just as busy as bees,
to the sound of the chopping
of Truffula Trees.

Oh! Baby! Oh!
How my business did grow!
Now, chopping one tree
at a time was too slow.

So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker
which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker.
We were making Thneeds
four times as fast as before!
And that Lorax?... He didn't show up any more.

But the next week
he knocked on my new office door.
He snapped, I'm the Lorax who speaks for the trees
which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.
But I'm also in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots
who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits
and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits.
NOW...thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
there's not enough Truffula Fruit to go 'round.
And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies
because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!

They loved living here. But I can't let them stay.
They'll have to find food. And I hope that they may.
Good luck, boys, he cried. And he sent them away.

I, the Once-ler, felt sad
as I watched them all go.
business is business!
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.

I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth
to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering...selling more Thneeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.

Then again he came back! I was fixing some pipes
when that old nuisance Lorax came back with more gripes.
I am the Lorax, he coughed and he whiffed.
He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.
Once-ler! he cried with a cruffulous croak.
Once-ler! You're making such smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans...why, they can't sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.

And so, said the Lorax,
--please pardon my cough--
they cannot live here.
So I'm sending them off.

Where will they go?...
I don't hopefully know.
They may have to fly for a month...or a year...
To escape from the smog you've smogged-up around here.

What's more, snapped the Lorax. (His dander was up.)
Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp.
Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop
making Gluppity-Glup. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.
And what do you do with this leftover goo?...
I'll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man, you!

You're glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed!
No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.
So I'm sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary.
They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary
in search of some water that isn't so smeary.

And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Lorax, Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say, Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I'm telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Lorax, I'm figgering
on biggering
and Biggering
turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!

And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the fields came a sickening smack
of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.
The very last Truffula Tree of them all!

No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done.
So, in no time, my uncles and aunts, every one,
all waved my good-bye. They jumped into my cars
and drove away under the smoke-smuggered stars.

Now all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky
was my big empty factory...
the Lorax...
and I.

The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance...
just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance...
as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.
And I'll never forget the grim look on his face
when he hoisted himself and took leave of this place,
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.

And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks, with one word...
Whatever that meant, well, I just couldn't guess.

That was long, long ago.
But each day since that day
I've sat here and worried
and worried away.
Through the years, while my buildings
have fallen apart,
I've worried about it
with all of my heart.

But now, says the Once-ler,
Now that you're here,
the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not.

Catch! calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
It's a Truffula Seed.
It's the last one of all!
You're in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax and all of his friends
may come back.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

"Design for an Empathic World: Reconnecting People, Nature, and Self" by Sim Van der Ryn

Despite an uncertain economy, the market for green building is exploding. The US green building market has expanded dramatically since 2008 and is projected to double in size by 2015 (from $42 billion in construction starts to $135 billion). But green-building pioneer Sim Van der Ryn says, “greening” our buildings is not enough.  He advocates for “empathic design”, in which a designer not only works in concert with nature, but with an understanding of and empathy for the end user and for ones self.  It is not just one of these connections, but all three that are necessary to design for a future that is more humane, equitable, and resilient.

Sim’s lifelong focus has been in shifting the paradigm in architecture and design. Instead of thinking about design primarily in relation to the infrastructure we live in and with—everything from buildings to wireless routing—he advocates for a focus on the people who use and are affected by this infrastructure. Basic design must include a real understanding of human ecology or end-user preferences. Understanding ones motivations and spirituality, Sim believes, is critical to designing with empathy for natural and human communities.

In Design for an Empathic World Van der Ryn shares his thoughts and experience about the design of our world today. With a focus on the strengths and weaknesses in our approach to the design of our communities, regions, and buildings he looks at promising trends and projects that demonstrate how we can help create a better world for others and ourselves. Architects, urban designers, and students of architecture will all enjoy this beautifully illustrated book drawing on a rich and revered career of a noted leader in their field. The journey described in Design for an Empathic World will help to inspire change and foster the collaboration and thoughtfulness necessary to achieve a more empathic future.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Mythbusting: Exposing Half-Truths That Support Automobile Dependency

Some commentators recently expressed outraged that governments spend money on cycling improvements. Examples include Christopher Cadwell’s Drivers Get Rolled: Bicyclists Are Making Unreasonable Claims To The Road—And Winning, in the Weekly Standard, and Bob Poole’s A U.S. Bicycle Route System? in Surface Transportation Innovations #121. You could call them cycling critics, because they assume that bicyclists have inferior rights to use public roads and that cycling facility investments are wasteful and unfair, or call them automobile dependency advocates because their general message is that transportation planning should focus on facilitating automobile travel with little consideration for other modes.
Their arguments are largely wrong, I’ll call them "half-truths" to be charitable, presented with great certitude and self-righteous anger. These articles are published in ideologically-oriented periodicals for readers who share their prejudices, so they make little effort to justify their positions. However, it is important that people involved in multi-modal transport planning understand these issues because they often surface in policy debates.
I evaluate their arguments below. I consider walking and cycling together, called active or non-motorized transportation, since their planning often overlaps: separated paths, complete streets policies, and urban traffic speed reductions support both. These issues are discussed in more detail in my report Whose Roads? Evaluating Bicyclists’ and Pedestrians’ Right to Use Public Roadways, and you'll find more detailed information on their economic analysis in the report Evaluating Active Transport Benefits and Costs.

Walking And Cycling Are Unimportant

Critics claim that walking and cycling are unimportant, based on data indicating that about 90% of households own automobiles and 95% of all commute trips are by motorized modes. However, active transport is more important and more common than such statistics indicate.
Active modes play unique and important roles in an efficient and equitable transport system. They provide basic mobility, affordable transport, access to motorized modes, physical fitness, and enjoyment. Just as it would be inefficient to force travelers to walk or bike for trips most efficiently made by motorized modes, it is inefficient and unfair to force travelers to drive for trips most efficiently made by active modes, for example, if children must be chauffeured to local destinations because their communities lack sidewalks, or if people must drive to recreational trails due to inadequate sidewalks and paths near their homes. Improving walking and cycling conditions benefits users directly, and benefits society overall, including people who do not currently use walking and cycling facilities, by reducing traffic and parking congestion, accident risk, pollution emissions, chauffeuring burdens and health problems.
Conventional statistics tend to underreport active travel because most travel surveys undercount shorter trips (those within a traffic analysis zone), off-peak trips, non-work trips, travel by children, and recreational travel. Surveys often ignore active links of motor vehicle trips, for example, a bike-transit-walk trip is classified simply as a transit trip, and a motorist who walks several blocks from a parked car to a destination is classified as an auto user, the walking and cycling links are ignored. Statistics often reflect only adult commute modes, although walking and cycling mode shares are much higher for other types of trips, such as school commuting, local errands and socializing. More comprehensive surveys indicate that active travel is two to four times more common than conventional surveys indicate, so if statistics indicate that only 5% of trips are by active modes, the actual amount is probably 10-20%.
According to the 2009 U.S. National Household Travel Survey, 11% of personal trips are by walking and 1.0% by cycling, and for the 27% of trips less than a mile, 31% are by walking and cycling. Only about 5% of walking and cycling trips are for commuting, and about half are purely recreational, so for each active commute trip there are about nine other utilitarian active trips, and about ten recreational trips.
Planning should reflect potential demands. Optimal investments in a mode should be based on the level of use that would occur once the improvements are completed, including currently latent demand. For example, a corridor might currently have 5% bicycle mode share, but if improvements would increase this to 10% the investment should be evaluated based on this higher value.

Walking and Cycling Are Only Used For Recreation

Critics sometimes argue that walking and cycling primarily provide recreational travel, with the implication that this frivolous. For example, Poole asks, “Why should I—either as a highway user-tax payer or a general taxpayer—have to pay for someone else’s hobby?” But a significant portion of all travel is recreational: travel for vacations, to sport and cultural events, or to shop for recreational goods. Critics assume that automobile trips that serve recreational purposes are important but walking and bicycling trips that serve the same purposes are not. For example, they value a car carrying passengers to walk or ride on a trail, or to a gym to pedal a stationary bike, but not people who walk or bike directly from their home. This is arbitrary, inefficient and unfair, reflecting a bias against non-motorized travel.

Motorists Pay For Roadways So It is Unfair To Use Their User Fees for Other Modes

A commonly assumed half-truth is that, because various vehicle fees (fuel and tire taxes, and registration fees) are dedicated to roadways, motorists pay for roads. This is generally true for major highways, but most local roads -- the roads that pedestrians and cyclists use most -- and an increasing portion of regional highways, are funded by local property and sales taxes which residents pay regardless of how much they drive. Currently, only about half of total U.S. roadway expenditures are financed by motor vehicle user fees, a portion that is declining, a indicated below.
The portion of total roadway expenditures financed by motor vehicle fees is declining.
For example, in 2011, highway user fees totaled $127 billion, while $206 billion ($665 per capita) was spent on roadways, leaving $79 billion ($255 per capita) in general taxes spent on roadways. Because pedestrians and cyclists are small and light they impose lower facility costs per mile traveled, and they tend to travel fewer annual miles than motorists. As a result, people who drive less than average tend to subsidize the roadway costs of people who drive more than average.
Let’s put this into perspective. Portland, Oregon’s 40-year bicycle plan, considered one of the most comprehensive in the U.S., is projected to cost $138-605 million, which sounds like a lot of money, but averages just $3.5 to $15 million annually, or $6 to $25 annually per capita, a small fraction of the approximately $665 per capita spent annually on roadways. This suggests that in most communities only 1-2% of total transportation funds are devoted to walking and cycling facilities, far less than their mode shares. 
To be fair, Poole could argue that his criticism only applies to the Interstate Highway system which is largely funded by motorist user fees. However, if critics are to claim that it is unfair for cyclists to use motorist-funded Interstate Highways, they should be equally vocal in advocating that motorists pay more when using local streets and regional roads.

Pedestrian and Cycling Improvements Are Costly

Critics take active transportation project costs out of context to make them appear costly and inefficient. They seldom compare such projects with automobile facility costs. For example, Cadwell writes, “There are probably a million dedicated cyclists in this country, bent on taking over a quarter or a third of the nation’s road space, built at the price of, let us repeat, trillions.” 
What is he talking about? Pedestrians and cyclists do not require a quarter or a third of total road space. A typical urban arterial has a 60 foot width right-of-way. A typical bike lane is 3-4.5 feet wide, so two lanes require 10-15% of total width, and bike lanes are only required on a minority of total roadways, such as urban arterials.
Although I have found no cost estimate for the 50,000-mile US Bicycle Route System, it is likely to be modest. Most intercity cycling routes consist primarily of signs and maps, modest road shoulder improvements which are also justified for motorist safety and roadway durability, and some special paths and bridge improvements on links where cycling is currently difficult, dangerous or impossible. Their incremental costs are a tiny portion of total roadway costs.
As previously mentioned, Portland’s bicycle program costs $6 to $25 annual per capita. Similarly, the U.S. Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Project spent about $100 million in four communities with about 860,000 total residents, or about $12 annual per capita if depreciated over a decade. After just four years this program increased walking 22% and cycling 49%.  
This suggests that relatively aggressive pedestrian and cycling improvement programs only cost about 1-4% of the total per capita roadway expenditures, or just 4-10% of general taxes (taxes that all residents pay) spent on local roadways. Since walking and cycling represent about 12% of total trips, and a much larger share of short urban trips, and since most North American communities have underinvested in walking and cycling facilities for the last half-century (many neighborhood streets have no sidewalks, and many arterials lack bikelanes), much larger investments in walking and cycling facilities can be justified to meet user demands (to insure that people can walk and bicycle where they want) and for fairness sake (to insure that non-drivers have adequate mobility options).
Critics assume that sidewalks and paths are required to serve pedestrians and cyclists but it is equally appropriate to say that they are required to reduce risks imposed by motorists and reduce motorists’ delay, since motorized and non-motorized modes can safely share roadways provided that motorists drive slowly and yield as required. The problem is that motorists are often unwilling to do this. Sidewalks, bike lanes and separated paths are needed to allow motorists to drive faster. If we assume that all travelers have an equal right to use public roadways than it is appropriate that motorists bear some or all costs of special facilities.

Cyclists are Elitist and Selfish

Cadwell bases much of his criticism on the assumption that cyclists are affluent, indulgent and selfish Baby Boomers, insensitive to the more important needs of working class Americans. This is inaccurate and unfair.
Certainly, some cyclists reflect that profile, an increasing number of adults bicycle, but travel data indicate that bicycling occurs about equally among all income groups, with the highest rate, 1.3%, in the $20,000 to $40,000 range, 0.9% in the $75,000 to $99,000 range, and 1.1% for all other groups. There are certainly many lower-income people who rely on walking and cycling for basic transportation, and many more who could benefit from active transportation investments. Cycling facility improvements tend to attract more vulnerable cyclists: youths, women and seniors who could benefit significantly from healthy and affordable modes but are currently deterred by the hazards of cycling on roadways.

Us Versus Them

Critics assume a zero-sum game, in which improvements to walking, cycling and public transport harm motorists. But motorists also benefit from a more diverse transportation system:
Reducing traffic and parking congestion
Improving walking and cycling conditions can help reduce traffic congestion, both directly and in conjunction with public transportation. For example, a recent study found that Safe Routes To Schools programs can achieve up to 20-point mode shifts from automobile to active modes, for example, reducing peak-period vehicle trips from 300 to 200 at a 500 student school.
Or consider a typical commercial arterial strip where shoppers must drive even short distances from one store to another, due to inadequate sidewalks, crosswalks and bike paths. Such maneuvers, exiting and entering parking lots, cause traffic friction, contributing to congestion and accident risk. Improving walking and cycling facilities can reduce congestion delays, benefitting both local and longer-distance vehicle users.
Reduced Chauffeuring Burdens
In automobile-dependent communities motorists are often forced to spend considerable amounts of time chauffeuring non-driving family members and friends, a burden that can be significantly reduced with pedestrian and cycling improvements.
Improved safety and public health
Total traffic accident risk, including for motorists, tend to decline as walking and cycling activity increase in a community, an effect called safety in numbers.  

What Is Optimal?

So, what is the optimal level of investment in walking and cycling? Let me share some general thoughts which I’ll explore in more detail in a future column.
It is important to recognize the unique and important roles that active modes play in an efficient and equitable transportation system, and the various benefits that can result when walking and cycling are improved, including indirect benefits to people who do not currently use those modes.
It is therefore efficient and fair to invest in facilities that serve the demand for these modes, including latent demand. Although in North America only about 10% of total trips are by walking and 2% by cycling, communities that invest in appropriate facilities have much higher rates. For example, Portland’s bicycle commute mode share increased from 1.1% in 1990 to 6.8% in 2011, and here in Victoria, BC we have about 6% bicycle commute mode share, numbers which underestimate true cycling demand since bicycling tends to reflect much larger portions of errand and social trips than commute trips (a 5% bicycle commute mode share probably reflects 10% mode share of total trips, including travel by children and recreational travel, that tends to be undercounted in conventional travel surveys). This suggests that in most North American communities cycling demand (the mode share that would result after communities implement cost-effective improvements) is 5-15%. Communities should be willing to invest at least this portion of total transportation resources, money and road space, into cycling improvements, and sometimes more to make up for past underinvestment. Similar or even greater investments can be justified for pedestrian improvements.
Another approach is to recognize that in a typical community, 20-40% of residents cannot or should not drive due to age, disability, low income, or other constraints. Although they tend to have relatively low travel demands since some are unemployed or retired, they still have legitimate travel needs. Social equity suggests that much of the taxes they pay toward local transportation facilities and services should be devoted to non-automobile modes. Described differently, most of the approximately $250 that non-drivers contribute in general taxes toward local transportation facilities should be spent primarily on walking, cycling and public transit, so they receive a fair share of benefits.
It is also possible to perform benefit/cost analysis to determine the cost efficiency of specific pedestrian and cycling improvements. Several researchers have done this (Gotschi 2011Guo and Gandavarapu 2010Grabow, Hahn and Whited 2010), although they tend to focus on health benefits and overlook other important transportation benefits such as congestion reductions, parking cost savings and consumer vehicle cost savings, and so undervalue these investments.
Critics arguments that pedestrians and cyclists receive an excessive share of roadway resources is more evidence that automobile travel makes people selfish. Automobile travel requires expensive facilities and large amounts of energy, imposes significant risks on other travelers, and causes significant air and noise pollution, yet motorists only see the costs they bear, ignoring the costs they impose on others.

Shenzhen Airport Terminal 3 by Studio Fuksas opens

Reaching completion within three years, Studio Fuksas' Terminal 3 at the Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport in Guangdong, China will begin operation starting Nov. 28.

Architects Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas won the 2008 competition to design the terminal over finalists that included Foster + Partners, Foreign Office Architects, gmp, Kisho Kurokawa, and Reiser+Umemoto.

Studio Fuksas is also working on two additional stages for the airport's expansion, expected to be complete in 2025 and 2035.

Here are some photos of the new terminal.

Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport - Terminal 3. Interior panoramic view. Image © Studio Fuksas
Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport - Terminal 3. Interior panoramic view. Image © Studio Fuksas
Project description from Studio Fuksas:

"The terminal – the largest single public building to be built to date in Shenzhen - encompasses 63 contact gates, with a further 15 remote gates and significant retail space. It will increase the capacity of the airport by 58%, allowing the airport to handle up to 45 million passengers per year."
The client, Shenzhen Airport (Group) Co., is so pleased with the striking design that it is taking the unusual step of trying to copyright it."

 Exterior view. Image © Studio Fuksas
Exterior view. Image © Studio Fuksas

"The sculptural 500,000 sq.m. / 5,381,955 sq.ft (approx.) terminal, evokes the image of a manta ray and features a striking internal and external double ‘skin’ honeycomb motif that wraps the structure.

The focal point of the design is the concourse located at the intersection of the building. Consisting of three levels – departure, arrivals and services – they vertically connect to create full height voids, allowing natural light to filter from the highest level down to the lowest."

The 1.5km long terminal evokes the image of a manta ray. Image © Studio Fuksas
The 1.5km long terminal evokes the image of a manta ray. Image © Studio Fuksas

 "At 1.5 km long, with roof spans of up to 80m, honeycomb shaped metal and glass panels punctuate the fa├žade of the terminal allowing natural light to filter through."

Honeycomb shaped roof panels punctuate the roof to allow natural light to filter through. Image © Studio Fuksas
Honeycomb shaped roof panels punctuate the roof to allow natural light to filter through. Image © Studio Fuksas

"The honeycomb motif translates through into many aspects of the interior and at different scales – from the larger retail boxes to smaller 3D imprints in the wall cover."

The terminal is a total size of 500,000 sq.m/5,381,955 sq.ft (approx). Image © Studio Fuksas
The terminal is a total size of 500,000 sq.m/5,381,955 sq.ft (approx). Image © Studio Fuksas

"On the interior, the terminal is characterized by distinctive white conical supporting columns that rise to touch the roof at a cathedral-like scale."

Stylized ‘white trees’ serve as air-conditioning vents. Image © Studio Fuksas
Stylized ‘white trees’ serve as air-conditioning vents. Image © Studio Fuksas

"Stand-out features of the interior design include stylized white ‘trees’ that serve as air conditioning vents, and check-in ‘islands’, gates and passport-check areas with a stainless steel finish that beautifully reflect the honeycomb patterns from above."

Interior view with honeycomb pattern reflected from above. Image © Studio Fuksas
Interior view with honeycomb pattern reflected from above. Image © Studio Fuksas

"The Studio Fuksas designed Terminal 3 is of critical importance to the future of Shenzhen as a booming business and tourist destination, and will bring benefits to the region as a whole."

Images © Studio Fuksas