Climate Change

the space between black and white

Here’s what I wanted to say

Here is what I wrote in response to a request to join an advisory board for a journal,

Thanks for your email. I did a bit of reading in the journal. While I applaud the journal’s focus on sustainability and engineering – I don’t think I would be a good match.

Best wishes, and again, thank you for the email.

Deb Niemeier

Here is what I wanted to say,

Thanks for your email. I did a bit of reading in the journal. While I applaud the journal’s focus on sustainability and engineering – I don’t think I would be a good match. Unless we (civil engineers) are writing about how to increase solar, wind, or hydro, then we are not really sustainable. Unless we are writing about climate change and ways to mitigate it, we are not really sustainable. Unless we are writing about ways to reduce energy consumption, we are not sustainable. Unless we are doing everything we can – everything – to get people out of their cars and walking, biking, riding the bus, we are not sustainable. Read the just recently release IPCC Climate Change report – the world in a crisis and we are partially to blame. Articles by civil engineers about adaptation largely, in my mind, reflect opportunism.

I don’t think I would be a good match for the journal.

Climate change is the perfect welfare act for civil engineers. The world will be screwed, but we’ll never lack for a job.

Transit is greenwash says Marin’s Spotwood

This kind of editorial really makes me nuts. We subsidize roads and they work for us (Marin commuters, just consider the new Presidio Parkway). We won’t subsidize transit, so it’s inconvenient and doesn’t work for us. Therefore, transit oriented development is “greenwash”.

Okay, well let’s expand transit operating support so that the mode becomes clean, reliable, and.. ta-da.. convenient. It’s a whole lot more flexible (and cheaper) than putting down new roads.

ARB Board: A failure of social justice…and imagination

The Governor has proposed to put $850 million of Cap and Trade revenues into the 2015 budget. There are three general categories of funding. The first slug of money (the largest) goes to “rail modernization”. Remember that tunnel that Chris Christie cancelled? You know, the one that actually had high social benefits. Jerry Brown — the anti-Chris Christie — is using this money to shore up the high speed rail, a project with no benefits!

The second category of funding is for low carbon transportation. This money helps to get zero emitting vehicles on the road and to clean up freight emissions.

The last category of funding is going to sustainable communities. This includes things like transit-only development and other things that support SB 375.  Apparently, spending money on transit operating support is not on the table. The history of funding for transit operations in California is not that complicated: Schwarzenegger eliminated all state support in the early 2000s. It’s never been replaced. As a result, it costs more to ride transit, there are fewer buses running in the cities, and most systems have whopping deferred maintenance cost.

San Francisco’s Muni Scott Wiener told the HuffPost recently that “We’ve been so negligent as a city in terms of our lack of investment in Muni that the system doesn’t have the capacity to meet our existing needs…The solution isn’t to stop adding housing, the solution is to be much more serious about making Muni work.”

ARB, namely Mary Nichols, has argued that putting money into transit operations would not “move the needle” enough on GHG reductions. Brilliant, really. Other than buying middle income families electric vehicles, what exactly does ARB propose that will ‘move the needle’, a big gas tax hike?  image

The fact is that ARB’s own research shows that it doesn’t matter all that much if you live in neighborhoods in the inner city or in nearby suburbs: in today’s world, you drive about the same. We subsidize freight, the private sector, why not subsidize transit, the public sector? And why not start with people who actually need it?

While ARB is wringing their hands over ways to reduce transportation GHG emissions, we have Google buses going in and out of downtown San Francisco, which are clean, safe, and arrive on time, and are packed.

What else does ARB have in their pockets — today — except transit?