Mainely Planning

Why plan for an uncertain future? Our world is changing in ways that we can hardly comprehend. The planning we have been engaged in over the last 100 years, is geared to a world with abundant energy, a stable climate, and a dwindling natural resource endowment that is reliant on cheap energy for extraction. That world is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Oil price spikes due to supply/demand and geopolitical concerns, water shortages (Google Lake Mead, Central Valley, CA or the Ogallala Aquifer for details), and soil depletion are just a few of the problems we face. As we move forward, the notion that we can continue with business as usual (BAU) is not going to sustain us.

Thinking creatively and making difficult decisions will test our abilities, push our cultural boundaries and hopefully shape a world where these uncomfortable realities can be dealt with in an equitable and meaningful manner. I write about things I see, think, and work on as I transition from being a planning student into the world of planning. I am neither a technological optimist, thinking we can invent our way out of all our problems, nor a doomer, believing in returning to a world much like pre-industrial times. I believe that our creativity combined with the lessons from the past will be instrumental tools for laying the foundation for the path forward. Some of my ideas may seem radical, others are just based on common sense and keen observations.

Links of Note

Mainely Rural
The Old Pine Tree
Strong Towns
Project For Public Spaces
Streets Blog
Cap'n Transit Rides Again
Human Transit
Pedestrian Observations
The Broken Sidewalk
Maine Architecture
The Vigorous North
Depot Redux
Reason and Rail
Car Free Maine
Walk Around Portland

Transportation for America State Fact Sheets

A Reason to Plan

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Posts tagged "carbon"

Below is a picture of a bus stop on USM’s campus. Can you see it? To the uninitiated it is tough to find. It is indicated by the yellow sign. For a campus that has signed onto an initiative to become carbon neutral by 2040, this is making little headway to reducing auto dependency.

How important is reducing auto dependency to achieving these goals? USM’s faculty and staff (estimated at ~2000 people) create 12% of the carbon emissions on campus by their commutes. The report doesn’t include students in its carbon assessment, but considering that there are 8,000 students, it is easy to see that emissions from students could increase that 12% figure substantially considering commute patterns and location choices.

Back to the bus stop and how this all ties in. If you want to become a climate neutral campus, you have to make some steps towards improving transit. Portland, ME has bad weather, so what about a shelter? There are steps being taken to use GPS transponders to track buses and through the QR Codes on signs, allow smart devices to pinpoint exact times buses are to arrive. That is a great step in the right direction at getting people the information they need to use transit more effectively. However, once you are at the stop, you need a dignified place to wait. Some place out of inclement weather.

I am sure there are questions about who would pay for such a shelter, but considering the asphalt parking lot and its high costs, a decent, artfully designed shelter would be pocket change to the University that wants to be carbon neutral by 2040?

Would people walk more if they knew how far (long) it was? In Raleigh, NC tactical urbanists put up (gasp) signs indicating how far it was in minutes to popular destinations around town. Town got grumpy, town took down signs, town got ridiculed, town put signs back up.

A lot of Maine towns are small towns, and walking presents a real option for getting around much of the year. Heck, if you are a tough Mainer, you can do it all year round. What if we started by walking or cycling 1 trip a week, that was usually taken by car? A little exercise, some fresh air, less tailpipe emissions…couldn’t be so bad? Would some signs help? Not sure, but they couldn’t hurt.