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“This is the 21st century, but our transportation systems are stuck in the 20th. One of four bridges in the U.S. is structurally deficient or obsolete, more than half the miles we drive on federal highways are on roads in less than good condition and our transit systems are stretched beyond capacity. This is a recipe for falling behind, not competing in the global economy. We can put men and women back to work building America, get our economy on track and leave behind real assets for taxpayers and future generations.”
—Terry O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.


 

America’s infrastructure suffers from decades of reckless neglect, what bureaucrats and policymakers conceal behind the euphemism of “deferred maintenance.” Decrepit describes the consequences. Myopic describes the attitude. This affects many realms—our public schools, our public health system, our electrical transmission grid and, despite how deeply we Americans treasure personal mobility, our transportation system.

Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River
in Minneapolis collapsed in August 2007.
 (Photo by Kevin Rofidal, United States Coast Guard)
This crumbling of infrastructure has been met over the years with a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. Even though all the infrastructure in the aforementioned areas is crucial to a thriving existence in the modern age, it has been treated as if it doesn’t really matter, insubstantially patched up or simply left to rot. That's been as much the case with transportation as elsewhere.

Occasionally, as happened in 2007 just a few miles from where Netroots Nation is just finishing its sixth annual convention, a bridge will fall down, a few people will die or be maimed, and everyone will ask what could have gone wrong. In this particular case, it was the inevitable result of having 75,000 U.S. bridges in the “structurally deficient” category. The problem is everywhere. In California cars are a sacred birthright, yet the state contains seven of the 20 U.S. cities with the worst major roads and highways.

But our transportation infrastructure is not merely plagued with antique equipment and battered pavement. Shaky old ideas predominate as well. In spite of the obvious purpose of transportation—connecting human beings, goods and services—we have allowed inefficiency, gridlock, lethal pollution and fiscal insustainability to rule the day.

According to one study, the average commuter was delayed a total of 34 hours in traffic in 2009, one full week of work. Inflation-adjusted congestion costs rose from $24 billion in 1982 to $115 billion in 2009. Wasted fuel from congestion hit 3.9 billion gallons—equal to 130 days of flow in the Alaska Pipeline. About half of Americans have no alternative to travel by automobile and no reasonable access to public transit. Like our roads and bridges, that public transit has been subjected to decades of deferred maintenance that would take $77 billion just bring into good working order.

Fixes matter. Decaying bridges can't be ignored. But too much of our attention in transportation is devoted to repairing and not enough to rethinking. Important improvements are being made. For example, light rail, a system prevalent in many cities in the days before the internal combustion engine reshaped our lives, is making a comeback a few urban miles at a time. But this is a small effort, piecemeal and underfunded. Vehicle drive-trains are being revamped, but ever so slowly.

 
Meanwhile, our major modes of transportation poison us, burn two-thirds of the oil we drill at home and import from abroad, make us less secure because of the geopolitics involved in maintaining access to much of that oil, gobble up a scarce resource essential for making other products, extract large hunks of household income and contribute a third of the CO2 we’re loading into the atmosphere.

Rethinking transportation means rethinking zoning and other aspects of how we build our cities and develop the land in between. It demands a hard look at subsidies that promote particular modes of transportation to the exclusion of others and broadening the definition of what a subsidy is. Rethinking transportation requires rethinking the currently inadequate public revenue streams that pay for most of its infrastructure. And, obviously, it means extricating ourselves from dependence on fossil fuel, not just the imported stuff but what we take out of the ground within our own borders and from beneath the continental shelves.

The good news is that rethinking and subsequently enacting policies for remaking our transportation system can spur us to build more bike- and pedestrian-friendly cities, make our vehicles efficient, cut pollution, lower CO2 emissions, reduce the size of our military budget, boost the use of alternative fuels (including renewably generated electricity), decrease congestion and help restore America’s manufacturing base, which, in turn, will supply millions of badly needed, high-quality jobs. The bad news is that there is stubborn opposition, local and national, to all of this.

Take, for instance, one small but important proposal that a coalition of environmental advocates favors: Setting an average 60 miles-per-gallon as the fuel-efficiency standard for all cars, light trucks and SUVs by 2025. (Sixty-two mpg was the original proposal, but we love our round numbers.) This would save motorists $16 billion a year (thousands of dollars each over the life of their vehicles), reduce oil use by 217 million barrels a year and cut carbon emissions by 6% a year. The Obama administration, which has already set 35.5 mpg as the standard for 2016, is studying options for a 2025 standard and will announce its conclusions in September.

Carhenge. (Photo by Marshall Mayer)
So who is lobbying against the 60-mpg standard? For one, General Motors. The GM that taxpayers bailed out. The GM that taxpayers still own 26 percent of. The GM whose executives dissed hybrid technology just six years ago. That GM wants the government to back off because 60 mpg supposedly isn’t doable and Americans won’t buy such cars. In spite of the overpriced, overweight Chevy Volt (with its Japanese-built electric drive unit) now rolling off the assembly lines, and despite the hybrids it sees as a “niche market,” GM still hasn’t learned its lesson. If seatbelts weren’t mandated, it would still be making cars without them.

Policy item No. 1: The administration should call for a 62-mpg standard.

No. 2: The government should not sell its shares in General Motors this summer as planned, but keep them and use them as other large shareholders do, to encourage and discourage certain corporate policies.

No. 3: As my colleague Mark Sumner has proposed: Implement a additional federal tax on gasoline and diesel fuel that begins at one cent per gallon and increases by one cent per month over the next 10 years. Direct all revenue from the increase into research and development of renewable energy and into rebates (or a "gas-stamp" program) for Americans in the lowest-income categories.

No. 4: Extend and increase federal tax credits for purchase of plug-in and fully electric vehicles.

No. 5: Offer a government-funded $5 billion-dollar award for the company that designs the first reasonably priced mass-producible automobile that gets 100 miles per gallon or its equivalent.

Getting people into more efficient cars, however, is only one piece of a good transportation policy. Getting them out of cars is just as important. That requires providing ample access to other convenient modes of getting around. And that requires a long-term reshaping of our cities to make cars less necessary. This will be expensive and politically tough, both at the national and local levels.

• • • • •

The BlueGreen Alliance is a coalition of 10 unions and four of the nation’s largest environmental groups. BGA, which will formally merge on July 1 with another eco-labor coalition, the Apollo Alliance, issued a policy brief the first week of June, . The document lays out some good general guidelines for what a reasonable new policy ought to include:

  • Modernize Transportation Infrastructure and Make It More Efficient
  • Make Our Transportation Networks Greener
  • Support Flexibility for Transit Operating Assistance
  • Build Cleaner Cars and Trucks Here In America
  • Support Cleaner Ports and Freight
  • Create Quality U.S. Jobs In Transportation

Let’s take a closer look at that last bullet point. Last October, before it became BGA’s partner, the Apollo Alliance produced Make It in America: The Apollo Clean Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan. Some great ideas there:

…TMAP calls for a comprehensive strategy to boost domestic transit and freight manufacturing that starts with increasing current federal investment to $30 billion per year for public transit and $10 billion per year for intercity and high-speed rail.

Bringing transit and rail investments up to these levels will create 3.7 million jobs, double ridership over the next two decades, and build out a comprehensive intercity and high-speed rail system. In addition, these investments will generate $60 billion in net annual gross domestic product, nearly $45 billion in additional worker income, and $14 billion in annual tax revenue, spurring additional growth throughout the economy.

Currently, the United States lags in meeting public transportation needs and falls far behind its European and Asian counterparts in modernizing public transportation systems. In this context, federal policymakers will consider future investments to modernize public transit infrastructure. If these investments are done correctly, they will create new opportunity for American manufacturers.

More than 600,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector alone would be created by increasing annual federal public transit domestic advanced transportation manufacturing industry. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investments in public transit put more than 12,000 new buses, rail cars, and paratransit vans into service, supporting over 175 jobs at the Gillig bus manufacturing facility alone. In 2009, United Streetcar Company produced the first 100 percent U.S.-made streetcar in 60 years. And targeted investments in clean transportation manufacturing from the Department of Energy will soon support 100 manufacturing jobs at a new Allison Transmission facility capable of producing more than 20,000 hybrid propulsion systems annually for buses and trucks.

In order to fully reap manufacturing job-creation benefits, transit investments must be accompanied by measures that strengthen domestic production capacity. Since the passage of the last transportation reauthorization, over $10 billion has gone toward the purchase of public transit vehicles, track, and supporting equipment manufactured abroad. With an estimated 27,600 transit buses, 4,000 passenger rail cars and locomotives, and 220 light rail cars in need of replacement over the next six years, America simply cannot afford to continue purchasing this equipment overseas.

That's a lot of jobs. And it's part of a good approach for rejuvenating U.S. manufacturing. Expanding rail and bus lines would provide more business for those growing domestic companies. More sales, more jobs.

No. 6: Set a precedent for other cities by approving Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's 30/10 initiative. A voter-passed measure in Los Angeles will raise $18 billion for public transit projects, much of it for an extension of the city's subway and light-rail lines. But that revenue comes in over 30 years, which means additional decades of congestion and pollution that the projects are designed to relieve. Villaraigosa wants to build the funded projects in 10 years by getting the federal government to lend the transit authority the money up front (to be repaid as the local tax revenue comes in).

No. 7: Establish a private-public national infrastructure bank to fund 30/10 initiatives in Los Angeles and other cities willing to provide the long-term revenue to repay the loans. Provide federal financial assistance to state infrastructure banks on the same model.

No. 8: Invest $2 trillion over the next 15 years to enhance rail transportation, adding electrified intercity high-speed rail lines for both passengers and freight. Too expensive? During World War II, though more deeply in debt as a proportion of its gross domestic product than ever before, the United States, having no choice, went deeper into debt and retooled and expanded its manufacturing base to produce the equipment that helped it win the war and lay the foundation for two generations of prosperity. We need to behave as if the current situation equals the emergency faced in 1941. Because it does. Transportation's use of fossil fuel is one of the largest contributors to climate change. Rail transportation is already extremely efficient, but taking it off diesel, speeding it up and building new lines that compete with air travel will make it even more so.  

Economist Bruce McF(arling) has been a tireless promoter of a project that would consume a good portion of that money in policy option No. 8: the Steel Interstate. It deserves to be capitalized. You can read the fine details about it in his Sunday Train essays, which are posted at several sites, including Daily Kos. You can also read about it at the website of the North American Steel Interstate Coalition, founded by the Virginia-based Rail Solution.

The short version: Steel Interstates would be publicly owned, electrified upgrades to the Department of Defense's Strategic Rail Corridor NETwork, or STRACNET. Freight trains would travel on both existing and new track up to 100 mph. This would "provide better loading dock to loading dock transit time than a direct long haul truck." Carrying cargo by electric rail is 90 percent more energy efficient than by diesel trucks, providing another reduction in the amount of oil we use and the pollution we cause.

Electrification of these lines could be from any sources, but obviously they should be green. Using ultra-High Voltage Direct Current transmission lines from remotely located solar and wind power installations would solve the "leakage" problem. Unlike existing transmission lines, HVDCs lose only about 5 percent of their electricity for every 1,000 miles.
Building the Steel Interstate should be viewed not as a cost, but a long-term investment, with financing eventually paid off through user fees.

No. 9: Implement federal mileage-based user fees. The social costs of highway use differ based on the type of vehicle. Passenger vehicles cause more congestion; trucks cause more pavement damage. If motorists were required to pay for all the costs their driving incurred, they would pay a lot more than they do now. In other words, they are being subsidized. Perhaps policymakers would want to continue some level of subsidy. But well-designed MBUFs would go far to increasing highway efficiency by encouraging motorists to consolidate trips and discouraging trips in which costs of driving exceeded benefits.

No. 10: Encourage densely populated cities to impose "congestion fees." London was the first city (in 2003) to enact a congestion fee of £10 for motorists who choose to drive their cars into heavily trafficked downtown areas that are supplied with adequate public transportation.

No. 11: Encourage cities by means of federal incentives to reduce the amount of parking required when new buildings designed. Today, whether for highrises or shopping malls, how much parking will be provided is frequently a major issue of contention. This produces acres of asphalt that not only cannot then be used more productively and that also adds to urban heat in the summer months.

No. 12: Provide federal matching dollars to deliver high-quality municipal and rural broad-band nationwide. One means of cutting down transportation congestion and fossil-fuel addiction that helps it thrive is telecommuting. Although this has yet to become quite the juggernaut that was once predicted for it, an increasingly large cohort of the population does "work from home," and more would no doubt do so if they were encouraged in various ways. One way to encourage them is to encourage the companies that hire them to make telecommuting more employee friendly.

Other policies should be developed as well. For instance, bike lanes should be an integral part of all new street construction. There's an obstacle, however. Such policies are the sole province, or almost so, of state and local authorities. Zoning is an important example. It has a powerful impact on transportation, but it's always been for counties and municipalities to determine what gets built where. Growth management policies that promote development in areas with high-quality transit service not only make sense, they are also crucial for 21st century transportation. But these are typically areas in which the federal government has had limited influence since the end of "urban renewal" schemes of the 1950s and '60s. The outcome of those schemes was often disastrous, particularly for poor and minority communities. We don't want to repeat that.

Some changes do not come from new policies but changes in attitude. For example, much of what we buy, particularly when it comes to food, comes from hundreds or more miles away. Buying local produce saves oil in the same way that riding a bike or walking to the grocery store does. Eating what comes from local harvests, however, means reducing sprawl that eats up farmland. Achieving that is a good deal harder to make happen than leaving the car keys on the table instead of driving two or three times a week. And yet far too few Americans are willing to ditch the car and walk, ride a bike or take public transit. Persuading them to do so, and to support policies that encourage other people to do so, will be, like so many other tasks progressives face, no easy task in the face of habit and propaganda.  

Especially these days with Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives, we’re told no-can-do when even the mildest new policy proposal is suggested. Can’t-do-it, can’t-get-enough-votes, got-to-be-practical, we’re told. But innovative ideas, in transportation and other arenas, shouldn’t wait to be presented until we have the power to implement them. Promoting these ideas can itself help us gain the political clout to make them happen.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and MIT Climate CoLab Proposal.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Stop it! (33+ / 0-)

    You are challenging conservative fantasy with reality. That isn't fair! Don't you know government is bad, bad bad bad badbadbadbadbadbadbadbadbbaaddbbbbbbaaaaaaaaaddddddd...

    Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan are the gods of America and they will throw you in hell (which is run by Stalin and FDR, the evil Demons of America) for all eternity you commie atheist Nazi treehugging heretic moran.

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. Read the PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT Newsletter

    by mole333 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:09:18 AM PDT

  •  Re:Oil and defense strategy (13+ / 0-)

    I can't help noting that with petroleum being the sole fuel burned in war; that control of oil is considered strategic at several levels (economic/military/national) that there would be some impetus to squelch as much as possible the development of effective alternatives.

    A world in which solar and battery storage have been largely perfected would have different strategies for defense and war. Monopolizing the sun would be out of the question.

    And in a  world with ample energy there would be less impetus for war insofar as war is about oil or energy protection, as we've seen in Iraq the last 9 years. There's be less defense spending overall. At least eventually - you can imagine how popular that would be....with capitalists.

    I also cannot imagine that there isn't also major effort to thwart upgrades - we've seen republicans killing train projects all over the country and friggin' bragging about it.

    Anything that increases energy efficiency spells lower obscene Prophets profits for Big Oil and they will fight it sooth and nail and the DOD will help them because they want to keep petroleum as the main fuel of war because it makes things easier to control.

    This is also why nuclear is popular with them - can be monopolized - not everybody can build a reactor and so on.

    Again, imagine if oil were plentiful, that almost everybody had a well and it was easy and safe to make your own gasoline: what would that do to oil profits?

    I think they are fighting this all the way.

    In capitalism, if it helps the common person, it costs some rich person something and that's inexcusable.

  •  Interesting on consumer preferences... (11+ / 0-)

    ..regarding Chicago's current apartment building boomlet.

    Perhaps shifting consumer habits — all those Zipcars and I-Go carsharing outlets — will change the mind-set that residents of Chicago need to have car at their beck and call. “The new generation sees [car ownership] as an encumbrance, not a luxury,” said Lahey. “There is a movement afoot to build less parking.”

    http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/...

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:23:39 AM PDT

    •  Hasn't owning a car been an encumbrance in NYC (7+ / 0-)

      for generations?  For what it costs to rent garage parking in New York, you can rent an apartment in some cities.  Chicago may be moving in that direction.  If Chicagoans want to know what it's like  when they get there, look at New York.  

      We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

      by david78209 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:48:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I hate cars. (6+ / 0-)

      I do love my truck, all beat up and old, paid off a decade ago.

      I have a car and I am probably going to sell it.

      We just got my wife a new Kia Soul + which is a very forward-designed thing with pretty good gas mileage and a much smaller environmental footprint, so I don't need it.

      I go back and forth to work....in Atlanta -  having a nice car just means it'll get beat up - people suck.

      You can hit my truck if you want - many have and it's destroyed their front ends while I am mostly unscathed.

      As I said in an earlier comment - I am all for a glorified electric cart to take me to work, since proper public transit is communism.

    •  Consumer preferences (0+ / 0-)

      There is a vast amount of difference between "city living" and "rural living" when it comes to transportation in the U.S.  True, Europe and other areas around the world that have high-speed rail and mass transit systems etc. also have rural areas much like America.  But, we're not Europeans.  We have learned to be very independent in our personal transportation needs (not defending this as being a good thing, guys).  Government isn't going to easily change those attitudes or take away what many of the rural people want (actually, anyone not actually living in downtown areas).  Chicago has the EL and many cities like NYC have subway systems and in NoCal there's BART and so forth (and BART isn't used as was initially believed it would be).  

      Saying all of that, I believe that a huge investment in a high-speed rail system in America would be a bust.  It'd create a ton of jobs to get-r-done...but it won't do much to reduce our dependence on foreign oil or in our use of fossil fuels....at least not in the short run (like the first 20+ years or so).  

      I'll let this one stand now because McIlroy just teed off at the U.S. Open at Congressional and that's on the top of my "priority list" right now :-).

      -- **Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.**

      by r2did2 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 12:32:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  transportation choices drive development (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Meteor Blades, Calamity Jean

        How people live in the U.S. now--mainly in suburbs and cities--is a reflection of the transportation developments of the 20th century (the automobile) and the earlier rise of rail & electric interurban transportation. Northern Virginia, where I live, is a clear example of this. Tyson's Corner, home to more offices than all of Denver, began when developers noticed that the proposed Capital Beltway intersected Routes 7 and 123, forming a huge--and highly desirable--triangle of land. The coming of Metro to Tyson's will accelerate its evolution into an "edge city".  When Dulles Airport was built in the late 1950s, it was surrounded by miles of farmland. But the mere presence of the airport drove a boom in warehouses, office parks, etc which in turn spurred residential development. High speed rail and mass transit improvements will provide the impetus to massive development, as people want to live and work close to transit. The more this happens, the more people will demand additional transit improvements. It isn't a mystery, it's a story as old as the Erie Canal in the 1820s. And these new settlement patterns will be far more energy efficient than sprawl, in addition to the energy savings provided by switching from oil-based transport to electric-based.

        •  True of O'Hare in Chicago (0+ / 0-)

          It was in the middle of fields when it was converted from a military airfield to a commercial field after WW II.  And the development boom continues to this day, extending out beyond what was even considered fringe ex-urban Chicago at that time.  Fox River Valley and southern Wisconsin, for example.

          The federal government is basically an insurance company with an army. Paul Krugman

          by Heart of the Rockies on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 07:06:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Except that the direct bribes ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Meteor Blades, Calamity Jean

        ... in the form of subsidies to driving overexplain American preference for cars.

        Which suggests that the preferences are the same, its just that the choices offered are different.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 04:26:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Chicago used to have a lot more than the EL, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        and the EL and subways were more intensely used.  During the 60's and 70's people moved to cars, and many of the tracks for light rail and regular trains were torn up.  And much of the remaining rapid transit became less safe, poorly maintained and therefore less used.

        The federal government is basically an insurance company with an army. Paul Krugman

        by Heart of the Rockies on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 07:03:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Too bad they ripped up the tracks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      for much of the public transportation available in the Chicago metropolitan area during the mid-20th century.  And discontinued reliable bus service that took you within about 6 blocks of anywhere you wanted to go in suburban towns like Evanston.

      In the early part of the 20th century the Los Angeles area had an interurban system that went throughout the LA basin.

      My rural town had regular rail service until the 1980's.  Like most small towns and cities.

      I'd be glad if we could go back to the 20th century transportation-wise.

      The federal government is basically an insurance company with an army. Paul Krugman

      by Heart of the Rockies on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 06:59:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Almost everything you said is an act of Congress. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zinman

    But I love how you close by snarking at anyone who dares ask "but how do you get it through Congress?".

    lols. Thanks, Representative Kucinich.


    "I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD"
    - hatemailapalooza, 052210

    by punditician on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:24:59 AM PDT

  •  Burn less oil (5+ / 0-)

    Which is why as long the GOP is around this will never happen.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:24:59 AM PDT

  •  MB (10+ / 0-)

    This is off topic but something I thought you would be interested in. A friend recently bought a house here in Texas and was surprised to see that the mineral rights included wind rights. That's a new one to me. So, thinking slippery slop style, is it too far out there to expect to see solar rights soon? Could the sun on your roof be owned by someone else since the wind blowing through your tree can apparently be?

    "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

    by just another vet on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:25:52 AM PDT

    •  Probably so. Haven't airports bought "air rights" (3+ / 0-)

      beyond the ends of the runways, compensating landowners for giving up the right  to  build skyscrapers in flight paths?  I think I even favor giving airports the power to take air rights by eminent domain -- paying 'just compensation', whatever that is, to the landowners.  

      I think some farmers in Texas are making a lot of money leasing out wind rights to wind farms; and it's steady income, which is probably appropriate since in much of Texas the wind is a lot more reliable than rain.  Especially this year.

      We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

      by david78209 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:55:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Military fields (0+ / 0-)

        have established crash zones and noise zones, but these restrict their flights, don't give them rights.  There are certainly commercial fields that have purchased land to create the equivalent:  Phoenix and LAX come to mind.

        Water and mineral rights are a big deal here in Colorado.  And when you buy land doing a search on the mineral rights is very difficult and expensive to do.

        The federal government is basically an insurance company with an army. Paul Krugman

        by Heart of the Rockies on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 07:12:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  That's already happening. (7+ / 0-)

      There are quite a few situations where a company will 'lease' space on your roof, set up solar panels, and either pay you a bit or give you 30% of energy produced towards your own electric bill. The balance, they own and sell, and rights get transferred with the house. Usually leases of 20 years, with the homeowner then able to buy out the lease for a hugely reduced price.

      And yes, mineral - and water - rights here in the West are rarely co-joined with the property. You may have a natural gas site on your property, but will only receive a fraciton of the value and have no say about what fracking fluids are pumped into your drinking well area....

    •  Maybe has something to do (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, just another vet

      with who can build turbines (or in the case of solar, collection panels) on the property -- the person who owns the rights would be able to do so, but not the land owner him/herself.

      It could be a good way to finance low-income developments that depend on green energy; since it's very possible that a solar installation or a wind farm would produce more energy than is needed by the development, the owner of the rights would be free to sell that excess energy to, perhaps, a city-owned utility for their use. (Still thinking of all the ramifications.) Perhaps have them expire after, say, 20 years (or maybe a bit more, long enough to allow the rights holders to recoup their investment) at which time the city utility would get the rights?

      Now to try to end the wars we ask our gay and straight soldiers to fight. -- Chris Hayes

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:50:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Two scenarios: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      just another vet

      1. The city/county/whatever mandates that all new construction be solar panel equipped. The building owner foots the bill for the hardware and engineering, but pays less in utilities as their meter spins backwards during the day.

      2. The city/county/whatever enforces solar rights and installs panels at their own cost. The owner is out nothing initially, but pays more in utilities (why would they get free power during the day from something that they don't own?).

      I'd prefer #1 but #2 is more likely as corporations have more foresight than voters.

  •  There are many people who could/would (8+ / 0-)

    ride a bike to work if they felt safer doing it, but too many in Congress view money for bike paths and bike lanes as "pork."  Despite lots of letters requesting them, there will be no bike lanes on the I-35 bridge replacement.  This is a part of the short-sighted thinking of people that we need to educate.

    If we could get the (currently) externalized costs to be considered by the planners as part of the cost of a project, more of these ideas could actually be put into place.

  •  'Pay me now....or Pay me later' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xxdr zombiexx, chrispadem
  •  I have spent most of my life in the (8+ / 0-)

    area between NYC and Philly. I ride NJ Transit to work in NYC (no thanks to our idiot governor who cancelled the work on a new commuter tunnel), and I take the subway to places in the city when it is too far to walk. Almost no one drives in NY. I did not get a driving licence until I lived in Philly as a graduate student.

    My son lives in LA, and I spent a few days there on my way to my archaeological field site. I had never been in LA before. I was struck by the near absence of public transit. If you want to go anywhere, you need to think about driving and parking first. The roads seem to be congested 24/7. Any solution to our transportation crisis has to focus on LA, which is America's second largest city.

  •  Job Creation! (4+ / 0-)

    Yes!

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:39:55 AM PDT

  •  Let's use the term "neglected maintenance" (8+ / 0-)

    That euphemism, "deferred maintenance," needs  to be re-framed.  

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:40:49 AM PDT

  •  I'd probably... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, JayinPortland, Dragon5616

    had attended NN this year if I could've caught a train to Minneapolis. Don't like to fly, and I don't care to drive for more than an hour. Put me on a train, and I'll go anywhere.

    "Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world." — Howard Zinn

    by blueyedace2 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:43:30 AM PDT

  •  shameless plug (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kj in missouri

    A dear friend of mine's book on the impact the Macellus Shale gas bonanza is having on life in rural Pennsylvania is due to be released next week by Random House. If you've read this post and this far down into the commens, you might find it interesting.

    http://www.amazon.com/...

  •  Interesting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus

    I spend about 2-3 hours in my commute every day. They could build a light rail from my house to where I work, or I could just move.

    "It is, it seems, politically impossible to organize expenditure on the scale necessary to prove my case -- except in war conditions."--JM Keynes, 1940

    by randomfacts on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:03:01 AM PDT

  •  How to build a political coalition for this? (3+ / 0-)

    We have to find candidates for public office (basically the House of Reps) who will first say "The deficit is not the big problem. Jobs are the big problem. Crumbling infrastructure is a big problem." Without push back on the "government deficit Armageddon" group think that is coming out of the elected and unelected serious people all good initiatives will stay in think tank world.

    Is there a single candidate for office - I'd limit it to Federal but at this point I'd settle for dog catcher - that is currently pushing back on the all deficit all the time accepted wisdom? Obama is rhetorically having it both ways by not giving specifics and he's already experienced "no shovel ready projects".

    We need some candidates down ticket that will open the debate up. A problem is the first ones will probably lose.

    If anyone knows any aspiring politicians that are pushing back on the deficit group think and towards an infrastructure new deal please post away.

    If you didn't like the news today, go out and make some of your own.

    by jgnyc on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:09:47 AM PDT

    •  What can help (10+ / 0-)

      at least from the infrastructure angle, is to have more civil engineers seek public office, particularly Congress.  I'm a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and have gone to DC the last 2 years as part of our legislative fly-in.  I live in Northeast Texas, and my Congressman is Louis Gohmert (yes, the terror babies guy).

      An infrastructure new deal is certainly necessary, and I'm all for it.  But I think that near-term legislation also needs to be a priority.  Surface transportation funding (including rail) is usually done with 6-year bills.  The last 6-year bill expired in 2009, and surface transportation funding has since been funded through continuing resolutions.  While the funding may stay the same during the same, planning cannot be done.  A 6-year bill allows planning, which then allows for more hiring and equipment purchases, among other things.  In other words, jobs are created with a 6-year bill in comparison to continuing resolutions.

      Currently, the House is considering a $230 billion 6-year bill, down from the last 6-year authorization of $275 billion.  John Mica (R-FL) is the committee chair.

      The Senate, meanwhile, has put together the framework of a $330 billion 6-year bill.  This is obviously a better bill, but will require a funding source for about $100 billion.  No one there seems crazy about increasing the gas tax, and I'm not sure what other solutions are being considered.  Barbara Boxer is the committee chair.  To my horror, Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member has been suggesting a 2-year extension, which is terrible.  The House bill, while deeply flawed, is still better than a 2-year extension

      In his budget, President Obama proposed a 6-year $500 billion surface transportation bill.  This is obviously the one that I favor the most, but given this congressional environment and the reluctance to raise revenues for even $100 billion, coming up with funding for $270 billion is that much harder.

      Also, we have legislation pending on a National Infrastructure Bank in both the House and Senate.  The Senate plan is loans only, while the House plans consists of loans and grants.  John Kerry is the lead sponsor in the Senate (with Mark Warner, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Lindsey Graham as co-sponsors).  Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is the sponsor of the House bill.

      Along with working on getting President Obama re-elected, I will be spending a lot of time over the next couple of years working on increasing infrastructure investment.  In October 2011, I will become the Vice-President Professional for the ASCE Texas Section, which deals with infrastructure issues among many things.

      What I have found is that local measures are often easier to make happen and can start the seeds.  My local branch, the ASCE Northeast Texas Branch, endorsed a $52 billion streets bond initiative in the city of Longview.  The bond passed with 61% of the vote.  Additionally, I served as the field director for the Kasha Williams for City Council campaign.  Kasha was part of the task force that put together the bond measure and its priorites and was a tireless advocate for its passage (the bond initative and her election were on the same day).  And it paid off handsomely -- Kasha won the election in a race for an open seat, and the bond measure passed.  The bond measure passed 1321-821,  In District 3, the tally on the bond was 679-160.  Excluding District 3, the bond measure would have lost.  The lesson in my view?  Having advocates on the front lines for infrastructre is priceless.

      Finally, speaking as a civil engineer, I urge those not in the engineering community to speak up and talk to their congresspeople about infrastructure.  I think it's easy for Congress to humor us engineers, and then just ignore us.  But a large grassroots community on the front lines is harder to ignore.  

      Finally, here is the 2009 ASCE Report Card on Infrastructure.  It is dismal to say the least.  Feel free to use it as ammunition when talking to people, whether it be your neighbors or your elected officials.

      Thanks
      Vik Verma

      Barack Obama for President '08

      by v2aggie2 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 10:16:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry, here is the link on the ASCE Infrastructure (5+ / 0-)

      Report Card -- I forgot it in my previous comment.

      http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

      Thanks
      Vik

      Barack Obama for President '08

      by v2aggie2 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 10:55:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Where was this discussion at NN? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    m00finsan, v2aggie2

    I looked at the schedule of NN events pretty hard and it was totally dominated by GOTV stuff.  Actually framing a Progressive agenda went missing.

    NN utterly ignored all the big issues like peak oil, the collapsing infrastructure, debt restructuring, bank reform, long-term joblessness, never-ending wars, climate change, peak food, the lack of a Progressive narrative, etc.

    Oh well, I hope everyone had a good time.

    •  There was a very good (4+ / 0-)

      transportation forum at NN10 in Las Vegas. It takes people with the interest and ability to put such a panel together, gather the proper people (we actually got Ray LaHood to participate!), and of course folks to show up.

      After the debacle of 2010, I'm not surprised that GOTV was a key topic; if we wait till June 2012 to start talking about it we'll miss the boat. Maybe next year my spouse and I will be sitting next to you as we talk about transit issues?

      Now to try to end the wars we ask our gay and straight soldiers to fight. -- Chris Hayes

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 10:06:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        I think the "debacle" of 2010 had almost nothing to do with GOTV efforts and everything to do with the fact that Obama was selling all his supporters down the river.

        Personally, I have never been so furious with a politician before in my life and I have lived through Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes.

        Give folks a progressive agenda and a leader who will stand up for it and the GOTV efforts will take care of themselves.

        •  Yes. My final paragraph: (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          techno, Mindmover, Calamity Jean
          Especially these days with Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives, we’re told no-can-do when even the mildest new policy proposal is suggested. Can’t-do-it, can’t-get-enough-votes, got-to-be-practical, we’re told. But innovative ideas, in transportation and other arenas, shouldn’t wait to be presented until we have the power to implement them. Promoting these ideas can itself help us gain the political clout to make them happen.

          Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 05:02:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  For a nation once priding itself on engineering (14+ / 0-)

    and competence we've become fumbling incompetents.

    I've seen and ridden high speed rail since 1967 when I blasted past the rice fields outside Yokohama on the faster of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen. Just in March I experienced local transit that was effortless, efficient and so clearly marked one would have to be completely unobservant to get lost.

    Ever since Japan one thing has glared as an idiotic fault in U.S. transportation. It is not a system! It is a thrown together mess due to misguided "free market" ideology. A "let everyone do their thing" cannot build a computer system. Interface control is a technical necessity--but it also allows freedom beyond the interfaces. Think of our electrical system. Because we have a standard interface, plugs in the wall of a certain type, voltage and frequency regulation by code and agreement, developers of all sorts of devices can safely prosper or fail. Imagine our world if every electric company and every appliance builder had the "free market right" to design its stuff with any plug, voltage and frequency requirement it felt like using!

    Most of those Japanese and European systems are public/private now. The huge difference is that some authority, government, imposes interface configuration control. Airports tend to have national and international rail, local subway and long distance and local bus stations integrated with the airport. Charles de Gaulle is not a particularly modern or pleasant airport, but a bus with a moving display takes one to the station at which you link with some of the world's fastest trains or the RER, Paris' commuter rail that is in turn integrated with Paris' Metro. One pulls into the station, either on the international or local platform on one's train and takes an escalator up to ticketing at Frankfort.

    In Washington, D.C.? There is a huge fight over whether to put a more expensive but more efficient and longer lasting Metro station under Dulles' terminal or have one outside with a long walk to the terminal. Yep, and the TP/gop is short term thinking again! Come from NYC on the bus, other than the Chinese bus, and you arrive at a bus station literally sitting under a concrete wall that separates intercity bus from both Amtrak and Metro--with Union Station in sight. To get there one either takes a taxi or crosses the street to a post with a Metrobus sign and waits upon broken sidewalk without shelter in hope one will come on some sort of schedule and that the one you get is the one that passes near Union Station. Meanwhile in Valencia, Spain shelters out in the country had digital displays showing when the next bus arrives.

    In computer systems the term for incomplete, nonworking, system crashing interfaces between components was "bloody interfaces" as in bloody stumps of arms and legs. Without even building high speed rail or other major projects this country could massively increase efficiency by suturing its damn bloody interfaces! International visitors have told me they simply cannot believe this "great power" leaves people standing at the end of some transport mode wondering "What the hell!" as to how to connect to the next.

    The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

    by pelagicray on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:14:08 AM PDT

  •  Recommendation #13 (9+ / 0-)

    Give business a tax break for every worker who "commutes" by internet.

    When high-speed internet became a reality, I thought to myself:  Great!  Now, people will be able to work at home, relieving some of the pressure on road systems and opening opportunities to people who live in remote areas, parents who can't afford child care, and people with disabilities that are incompatible with complex commutes.

    But, what did the corporations do?  They sent a high percentage of those jobs overseas where the work could be done cheaper.  We need those jobs back here for all of the reasons I outlined above.  One way to do that is to give businesses a tax credit...basically the money that would have been spent on building more roads and utilities to service more office buildings.  It wouldn't cost the government any more money, but it would help the environment and reduce dependance on oil.

  •  excellent post (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Odysseus, esquimaux

    I wonder if the mileage fee, however, might be an impractical irritating hassle for everything except the big trucks. A simple gas tax increase accomplishes essentially the same thing.

    Michael Weissman UID 197542

    by docmidwest on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:19:34 AM PDT

  •  excellent plan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chrispadem

    Change need to happen, one step at a time.

    thanks for spotlighting those steps.


    Got Time?
    Take ten, to find something else informative and fun to read. Thx.

    by jamess on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:24:05 AM PDT

  •  transportation, energy & please don't forget WATER (13+ / 0-)

    Our water infrastructure is also rotting from age as good chunk built right after WWII. 700 water mains break each day. We're talking property loss and threats to public health due to contamination from bacteria and viruses.  Experts give our water infrastructure a D-. While we have water shortages, each day 7 billion gallons of water lost to leaking. 25% of our treated water lost to leaking. Access to potable water is linked to the economic health of country.

    We need jobs. Here are jobs waiting to be created to upgrade our water infrastructure.

    Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:26:31 AM PDT

  •  Will never pass (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PatriciaVa, dirtfarmer, chrispadem

    Adding taxes to gasoline prices effectively increases the price of gas, and we know from history that when gas prices increase this
    a) kills the economy and
    b) never lasts long enough to allow alternatives to make economic sense in the short term.

    I cannot believe Congress would pass it.

    Increasing mileage on cars increases the cost of the cars.  We have already moved from buying a car like a loaf of bread to buying a car like a house.  It is now something you get a long term loan on, and something you often rent or lease instead of owning.  Zip car is more like a hotel room, a very short term lease.  Increasing the cost of owning a car any further will just prevent too many Americans from buying cars.

    If we want more people to use mass transit, the first thing to do is to make mass transit more useable.  This is an excellent beginning:
    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/...

    If we could offer grants so that every bus, subway, ferry and train could be monitored live, and could be used in an integrated trip planner, then more people could use the mass transit that we have.  This would be relatively inexpensive to do and make a big difference.

    A second reason that one cannot use the mass transit that we have is that the pieces do not connect well to one another.  In the Boston area if we extended certain bus routes to reach suburban train stations, and to travel between suburban train stations on different railway lines, then it would be less necessary for the trip to take so very long.  Once we have a live map showing where all the pieces go, it becomes more possible to think about how to connect them better.

    I strongly strongly disagree with making it impossible to park in places.  I know for example that it is almost impossible to park in Boston by design.  The result?  I almost never shop there.  I almost never go to the theater there.  I go to places that I can reach.  People are repeatedly trying to redesign the town where I live to make it impossible to park in the town center and I vote against it in town meeting every time.  We already have a dead mall in the town center and they would kill the other businesses.

    Since the American population is too dispersed to allow mass transit to make sense for a large fraction of the people, how about more car trains for long distances?  I drive 50 miles to the traing station, load up my car and travel by train 1000 miles, get off the train and drive 50 miles to my destination.  This exists for one route:
    http://www.amtrak.com/...
    How about extending the car train up the East Coast?  How about adding a New York to Los Angeles car train with stops in Chicago and Las Vegas?  I think it would be a lot cheaper and work for a lot more people here than a mag-lev train.

    Mary-Anne

    •  Great Comment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Time Waits for no Woman

      A comment from a Kossack who is aware that

      (i) Wealth and Income Inequality is a HUGE problem for the Dem core base, and this inequality would be EXACERBATED by an increase in the already REGRESSIVE gas tax.

      (ii) Cheap energy is necessary for economic development.  It's no secret why China prefers to export almost all its windmills and solar panels, while it prefers coal-fired power plants.,

      (iii) There are fundamental differences b/w population density in the US and Europe.

      For the Kossacks who want more infrastructure, I ask you the following.

      Why not champion a graduated wealth tax, targeting net capital of 50M at 1%.  The Buffets and Ellisons would contribute 8% of their net wealth to the Treasury each year.

      Why is it that so many Kossacks go after the working and middle-class?

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. http://www1.hamiltonproject.org/es/hamilton/hamilton_hp.htm

      by PatriciaVa on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:39:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Get the facts correct, faulty design led to the (0+ / 0-)

    Minnesota bridge collapsing.

    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    •  Conducting impact analysis on changes.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, esquimaux

      ....to an existing design is a fundamental maintenance task and integral in estimating the effort and total cost of every proposal to modify as well as just keep the lights on over time and decay. Thanks for the link...    

      Investigators said Monday that the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, which collapsed into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, killing 13, came down because of a flaw in its design.

      The designers had specified a metal plate that was too thin to serve as a junction of several girders, investigators say.

      The bridge was designed in the 1960s and lasted 40 years. But like most other bridges, it gradually gained weight during that period, as workers installed concrete structures to separate eastbound and westbound lanes and made other changes, adding strain to the weak spot. At the time of the collapse, crews had brought tons of equipment and material onto the deck for a repair job...

      The information released will be important to highway departments across the northern United States, which are now planning their warm-weather inspection and repair programs. Usually they inspect for corrosion and age-related cracking, but that was not the problem in the Minneapolis collapse, investigators now say.

      “This is not a bridge-inspection thing,” said one investigator, “It’s calculating loads and looking at designs.” The investigator spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the investigators’ findings before the announcement Tuesday.

      Saying it was not clear whether other bridges might have the same flaw, the investigator said, “This could well be a one-off thing. But you don’t know that.”

      The safety board may advise highway departments to re-analyze the design of bridges before carrying out major work on them. Previous practice has been to assume the design was sound, but to inspect for age-related deterioration.

      The phrase I bolded sounds like an insane maintenance policy, indefensible, certainly not done in medicine or information technology.

      Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

      by kck on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:45:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How could you possibly know if a plate was too (0+ / 0-)

        thin that joined the girders?  Inspections after the assembly would not catch that.   I am sure there was a design review and the design was approved.   It sounds like the design itself was acceptable the wrong plate was used.   There are "accidents" in medicine and IT.  How many times do drugs/equipment get recalled because an interaction was missed or the replacement hip cracks before it is supposed to.  The list is endless of accidents that take place.

        •  Agreed (0+ / 0-)

          It usually comes down to how much money is involved...Depending on how much money is involved each potentiality, accident or error is exploited to get  to zero errors.   When a bridge falls that's an unmistakable sign that there are maintenance changes to make and surely, hopefully, changes have been made to the procedures to reduce the chance of happening again anywhere.

          Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

          by kck on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 10:15:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  My rule against recommending FP diaries (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare

    has exceptions.  This is a huge one.  Hotlisted and shared.

    Clarence Thomas had a dump
    Weiner said "this guy's a chump"
    He was caught tweeting pix riské
    So Justice Thomas got away.
    (Temporarily.)

    by Seneca Doane on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:37:57 AM PDT

  •  The 34 hours stuck in traffic reference amounts to (0+ / 0-)

    41 minutes a week (50 weeks) or a whopping 8  minutes a day.  

  •  Superb (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    One Opinion

    Thanks once again for a clear summary of this important issue, your story and Mark's today are very inspiring. Reality is that these needed changes will not be politically easy, but as you both point out, we have little choice, the infrastructure is crumbling and we will have to do something.  I vote for Mark as Energy Secretary and you for Transportation Secretary!

    Thanks for the great work!

  •  strongly agree and (0+ / 0-)

    I recommend this History Channel story that is more like a PBS documentary:

    The Crumbling of America

    http://shop.history.com/...

    See user comments:

    http://shop.history.com/...

    "Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place." -- Mandela

    by agoldnyc on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:39:27 AM PDT

  •  Wow, that's the diary I love Dailykos for! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OLinda

    It helps reading this to forget my disappointment about the other movement building efforts yesterday.

    Someone said yesterday to me as a response to my disappointment "Pick a cause. Find a group".

    There is a lots of actions to support to pick from in your diary. Thank you for being so factual and precise in what you write out for us. Something to work with, Thank you.

    PS something is wrong with the links.

  •  The problem with re-thinking... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    m00finsan, neroden

    ...our transportation infrastructure is that it requires THINKING.

    When has that been our strong suit?

  •  All I can do (0+ / 0-)

    is give this a big fucking AMEN!

    Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks...Tom Petty

    by Ellinorianne on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:47:56 AM PDT

    •  Sorry my comment (0+ / 0-)

      wasn't more productive, I guess my enthusiasm wasn't enough for this amazing effort.  

      I am dealing with cries of OMG, Agenda 21 is going to end our lives as well know it when people have on concept that the environment is going to change their lives as they know it, peak oil, desertification, etc.

      We live far too sheltered lives in this Country and worry about such petty issues that it concerns me.

      People in America just don't understand how unsustainable our lifestyles really are and if you dare tell them, well, to hell with you.

      But we must start somewhere.

      Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks...Tom Petty

      by Ellinorianne on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 03:19:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent resource. Thanks... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux

    ...and thanks to all of the people who contributed. I will use this information.

    Also, for everyday use, I'm also looking for pointers to formulate a crisp response to "high speed rail does not pay for itself" argument I hear so much here in SoCal and which is even seeping into wikis. I can make a lay persons generic shot at it but I'm looking for some longitudinal data.  

    Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

    by kck on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:51:16 AM PDT

  •  we will not turn around climate change (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden, JayinPortland, pademocrat

    by buying more prius cars.  cities and towns need to be redesigned so people can get to work without driving.  and living downtown should not be only for rich people who can afford luxury condos.  there is no reason why a 4000 sq foot house on 1 acre in the exurbs should be cheaper than a 1500 sq ft row house downtown.

    •  Urban/suburban planners (4+ / 0-)

      are saying the same thing -- but in terms of the "graying of America"; as the population ages, and many of them lose the ability to drive due to disability or illness, we're going to need towns that people can get around in without a car, which means walkable sidewalks, local transit, neighborhood shopping and services, and the like.

      Now to try to end the wars we ask our gay and straight soldiers to fight. -- Chris Hayes

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 10:12:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Another thing that has to be considered... (0+ / 0-)

      ....is the availability of jobs - jobs tend not to all be clustered in downtowns, especially high-paying tech jobs.

      The volatility of jobs also adds to the problem - if you lose a job you can walk to, the mortgage has to be paid and the kids have to eat, and in this economy, jobs might only be available away from your neighborhood.

      9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

      by varro on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 12:03:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very good list ... (6+ / 0-)

    With some thoughts as to extending ...

    There are highly energy/transportation related that don't seem to be there but are critical:

    * Incorporate location and energy efficiency in mortgages -- encourages people to live in more energy efficient homes that require less transportation energy for life (walk to shops / work / public transit and have a lower interest loan because you are less likely to default).

    * Smart "growth" -- related to the first.

    * Flex-time, alternative work schedules, and telecommuting: get workers out of the traditional commute times and drive fewer commutes (shorter work week???)

    One thing that is not in your list but is important: invest in smart traffic management.  Better light timing / etc and we can reduce the amount of fuel wasted in congestion.

    What about a research agenda for improved transportation?

    Finally -- excellent that you included electrified rail even as the photo is of HSR.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:55:16 AM PDT

    •  PS ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, neroden, esquimaux

      My telecommuting comment relates to policies -- obviously, infrastructure like high speed internet facilitates, but also tax policy / etc (and government offices driving) telecommute would be great.

      While I greatly appreciate Nancy Pelosi, that she did not drive the Democratic House staffs toward telecommuting and flex time under the Greening the Capital program is yet another one of those missed opportunities.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:58:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Entertaining, though how your complaint of 20th (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus

    century transportation (autos) is accompanied by a picture of 19th century transportation (trains).

    Still, the basic point is valid.
    On friday, my wife and I got into the spirit of Bike to Work Week by riding the 11 miles up to Elgin, IL from our home (and back).  We couldn't help but notice how bike-friendly Elgin was (even the casino boat has bike racks) compared to our own town of St. Charles, where there isn't even a bike rack by the pool.

    A few weeks before, we did Bike the Drive on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. We were able to take the Metra train (with our bikes) back and forth, which was nice, but the bike accommodations are haphazard.  Bike space comes out of seating set  aside for handicapped patrons and isn't available at all during rush hours.  Still better than years ago.

    Some sensible planning could go a long way -- decent (safe) bike lanes, bike/train/etc hookups, Zip cars available near train/plane/bus stations.

    Etc.

    If we are remotely typical, there might even be some energy saved by hauling a little less poundage around.  Not only is biking/walking/doing stuff fun, it tends to tone you up and trim you down.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 09:57:22 AM PDT

    •  High-speed trains are 20th century technology. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux

      It's true that electric trains in general are OLD technology -- older than the internal combustion engine, and in fact the oldest predate the electric generator (they were kind of useless until it was invented) -- but what that means is that it's well-developed technology.

      None of the individual parts are the same between a modern electric train and an electric train of the 19th century.  None.  Everything has undergone over 100 years of improvement.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 11:33:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Same is true for cars, though. (0+ / 0-)

        The modern fuel-injected, computer-controlled, aerodynamically-refined, weight trimmed cars bear little relation to those in the early 20th century, and surprisingly little to those in the middle to late 20th century.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 11:39:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  maybe before we spend more on roads... (0+ / 0-)

    we figure out how long the paradigm of the individual driving an automobile will last. oil has peaked, baby, and it's time to give up on suburbia and the car and to quit building expensive infrastructure that won't be useful in the post-car world that's coming.  trains make sense and so do boats and canals.  interstates do not.  might as well let them fall apart.

  •  Interstate 35 bridge (0+ / 0-)

    would seem to be a bad example to illustrate this diary. My understanding is that its failure had little to do with maintenance and almost everything to do with poor design.

  •  Flying cars (0+ / 0-)

    Road construction is a giant tax giveaway to the terrestrial car industry at the expense fo the flying car industry.  how much of the country do we want to pave?  what sort of materials are being moved around in this anthropocentric land use experiment? how many ecosystems are we splitting up?

    With the 3 GPS systems (US, EU & Russia) we have triple redundancy navigation.  That should be enough for automated personal flight vehicles like flying cars and puffins.  

  •  Peak Oil will push this along (0+ / 0-)

    The higher gas prices spike thanks to Peak Oil, and the more people realize that "drill baby drill" won't do a dam thing to stop the price spikes the more politicians and the American public at large will demand major changes/alternative energy/transportation overhauls.  I just hope it happens before it's too late to stop global warming.

  •  give away cheap electric vehicles (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, Losty

    I read a proposal where some one suggested that the gov couild make better progress giving away cheap ultralight personal electric vehicles that cost under $3000.  rather than offering a $3000 tax incentive to people buy huge crappy overpriced luxury electric vehicles for the upscale market.  

    The auto industry is expert and selling the average consumer 1000x more car than they actually need. 97% of all fuel being burned is used to move the vehicle rather than the passenger.  Fast progress can be made in electrifying the US transportation fleet by the gov giving away cheap single passenger ultralight electric vehicles.

    also, automated driving software could increase savings by allowing people to share cars more effectively.  improve grid optimisation.  reduce the effect of bad driving. etc

  •  Lucky we won't have any of (5+ / 0-)

    those scary high speed trains down here in Florida!  Thanks, Rick Scott!  Only sixteen-lane interstates in our future, yessir!!!

    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 11:23:45 AM PDT

  •  #5: You need a range standard. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cordgrass, Calamity Jean

    Tesla's already done 116 mpge, I believe.  Any all-electric car can do that.  And the drivetrains are cheap.  The Teslas are only expensive because of the large range requiring a large expensive battery.

    Electric cars are the future.  The range will increase as batteries get better.  (I'm hoping the Kohn-Nerode battery, my father and his partner's technology, will be part of that.)  But the efficiency, that they already have solved.

    Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

    by neroden on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 11:26:22 AM PDT

    •  Do you have any clue as to when they might (0+ / 0-)
      (I'm hoping the Kohn-Nerode battery, my father and his partner's technology, will be part of that.)
      be available?  Two years, ten years?

      Renewable energy brings national security.      -6.25, -6.05

      by Calamity Jean on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 11:52:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary, MB (8+ / 0-)

    Thanks for the thorough look at this huge problem/opportunity. And great to see you using a Photo Co-op picture, yay!

    Here's to seeing things like this all over the U.S. in the near future:

    Intercity Express (ICE) high speed train arriving at Munich Central Railway Station.Photo by Sven Eberlein

  •  This is a national problem..not a political one (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux, Calamity Jean
    America’s infrastructure suffers from decades of reckless neglect, what bureaucrats and policymakers conceal behind the euphemism of “deferred maintenance.”

    It is easy to take a look at our country's plight in a way that is only current and to not look at how we got where we are from past neglect and inacted policies.  The situation with our infrastructure has no political affiliation.  Neither party has been any better at spending needed taxpayer revenue for preventative maintenance.  Anyone that has worked for a large industrial company knows just how much is spent on "PM".  Our highways and bridges and any number of other things involved in America's infructure have not been taken care of.  Most of those that were built were done so to give whatever politician that got the project done more votes.  Taking care of those things is not only not something politicians can laud in their re-election campaigns, it actually becomes a negative take-away for them in later years when money has to be allotted to take care of them.

    Now is the time to dedicate money...call it stimulus if ya want...to get our infrastructure back healthy again.  It will create long-term jobs and give the economy a huge boost.  It's just good policy and good leadership and, at the end of the day, good economics.

    -- **Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.**

    by r2did2 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 11:42:44 AM PDT

  •  Improvements are inter-related (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

     Consider why some people choose to live where they live, regardless of where they work.  When a couple w/ children buy a home, they look at the schools.  When an old coger like me buys a home they look at proximity to a hospital or doctor.

       So while I agree that infrastructure needs funds and local communities need adequate public transportation, one could posit that city planner's have failed to recognize any of the inherent problems that they perpetuated and failed to recognize in their "planning sessions".  

       Consider:   If all area schools were equal, then it could be a non-factor in choosing where to live.  
       I live in TX,  and some folks move just to get their kids on a specific football team!  Hopefully they are outliers, but here in TX, people can be really crazy and really stupid.

       In a more perfect US, people could live close / closer to work and if public transportation would actually run on a rational time table, then and sadly probably only then would raising the price of fuel to meet EU standards be used to motivate the majority of  metropolitan car-driving American's to get out from behind the wheel.

       BUT, baby steps are being made, I am seeing more and more "park and ride" stations popping up and they even appear to have cars parked in them!  Not all Texan's are crazy!

  •  Thanks for this! I was lying in bed... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    thinking about some of these issues last night. I was specifically thinking about how google decided to plow 100 Million into solar energy installation and how other large corps are sitting on some 1 trillion right now; that money's not moving; but, perhaps, with the right incentive, some of it could be freed up.

    For example if the US Gov came up with 50 B in matching funding (to be paid back through future revenues, if they are generated) to create a smart grid,  solar, wind, high speed rail, tidal/gulf stream, etc., green engineering, new light rail, etc., maybe they could convince very wealthy individuals and companies to create these new enterprises or, better yet, a consortium of wealthy individuals and companies to pool their money to start up some new companies dedicated to these areas.

    IN many countries, public-private partnerships have lead to very good transportation systems; Taiwan is a good example, despite the usual corruption and mismanagement one would expect. Its Taipei to Kaohsiung high speed rail system, about 10 miles shorter than NYC to DC, puts the latter route to shame, delivering passengers in 1:46 (about an hour faster than NYC to DC Acela express--- when it's actually on time, that is).

    •  Here's the whole problem (0+ / 0-)

      Government isn't going to get the "rich" entrepeneurs or wealth businesspeople or corporations or businesses to do ANYTHING.  Unless these people realize profits for what they do, nothin's gonna happen, y'all.  Get that through your head.  Government isn't going to "make" businesses hire people regardless WHAT they do.  Unless there's a good realization of profits, small/medium/large businesses aren't gonna hire people.  Government can't guarentee that...much as many people think they can.  

      The ONLY way people will be hired is through increased demand for goods and services withing the free market/private industry.  Otherwise, there's not gonna be a change in our unemployment rate.  1% here and there either way in the unemployment rate means squat.  

      If the U.S. government wants to get unemployment going down, they have to do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING they can to get private businesses to realize increased profits.

      Argue it all ya want with how the rich will get richer in this...but, it's just a fact.  

      Only other alternative is a huge government hiring plan for government jobs...and, where's that money coming from?  

      -- **Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.**

      by r2did2 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 01:41:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They're sitting on a freaking trillion (0+ / 0-)

        They have been making money hand over foot for two years now. Obama/Geitner & co. has been the greatest boon for big corps and for corporate profits in modern history, whether intended or not. They're loaded right now. It's really great be a large business. Just google some large Corps and look at their profits; start with oil companies but look at many other companies as well. They're making a ton of money.

        The fact is that when Google makes their 100M investment
        they certainly expect to make a profit. And well they should. There's good money in solar, wind, and rail.  

        The business people in Taiwan are starting to make a profit now on their HSR system 3 years after it was launched. They have a train every 15 minutes making the run, twice as many as we have on the NYC DC run. There are only 24 million in the whole country; we have more than that in the NYC to DC corridor.

        Business is wary of these green investments, but the fact is that all of these investments can generate profits for those businesses and simultaneously create jobs. If business believes that investing that trillion they're sitting on will make them money they'll do it in a flash. If the Gov makes it a lot easier to invest and they were sitting on the fence because of the risk, alone, then it makes it that much easier to get it. If they do get in the jobs created are not temporary; these are entire industries that will be ongoing concerns, not public works type jobs.

        I understand that businesses are rich because of their operations in other countries. I'm trying to think of better ways to encourage them to invest here and actually hire US workers. Telling General Electric they will pay LESS THAN NO TAXES won't make them invest more; they pay no taxes as it is. They will invest more here because their ROI is as high or higher here than it would be in a foreign country. Taking the risk out of the "startup" phases of that investment through a public-private partnership would make such investment more attractive to a company like GE or an oil company and it certainly would make it more feasible for a smaller company that wishes to expand its operations, branch out into smart-grid technology, etc.

        •  Reducing taxes on businesses (0+ / 0-)

          Isn't going to make them hire more employees.  Businesses hire more employees only if the demand for their produce/service increases.

          This whole discussion about taxes and jobs is ludicrous.

          There has be be something done to increase demand for consumer goods and services.  If that doesn't happen, jobs aren't going to increase.

          it's just a DUH issue.

          And, yes, I'm qualified to speak to this.

          -- **Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.**

          by r2did2 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 04:41:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not talking about reducing taxes (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Calamity Jean

            And I don't disagree with you. You can't increase consumer demand when consumers aren't in a position to demand anything. They have no money.

            Rich people with lots of money doesn't stimulate consumer demand for anything except maybe yachts.

            Finding ways to get large companies or wealthy individuals to invest in business that will create good jobs is what we need. I hope you can agree on that. And public-private partnerships have historically worked before in this country (especially in the 90s) and abroad. It's not a radical concept.

            Maybe my idea is a little radical in that it might involve a consortium of several companies and/or individuals but I think there are people who have billions who might wish to invest in a project which can make them both a hero and also make them much richer if it succeeds.

          •  Good public transportation IS (0+ / 0-)
            There has be be something done to increase demand for consumer goods and services.
            a "consumer service".  

            Renewable energy brings national security.      -6.25, -6.05

            by Calamity Jean on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 11:57:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  this should be an absolutely essential (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kj in missouri

    part of any political conversation today....we can vote for the politician that will speak about this need....the implementation of these projects will solve many of our national ills....

    The goal is not to bring your adversaries to their knees but to their senses. -- Mahatma Gandhi

    by Mindmover on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 01:41:28 PM PDT

  •  what about mandating a certain % of the military (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    budget to clean energy research?

    "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

    by kj in missouri on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 02:26:03 PM PDT

  •  Sherrod Brown's "Impact Act" (0+ / 0-)

    surfing a bit on him today and read some information on the Impact Act (creates a loan fund to help auto suppliers and small- and mid-sized manufactures retool for a clean energy economy).  why not expand it to re-tool existing gas stations to electric plug-in stations?

    (i'm also very curious as to what Brown is doing in Ohio with Michigan to develop a wind farm in Lake Erie... certainly it would use American manufacturing, ala Muskegan Critic's diary on the wind farm project in Saginaw?   but i digress, as usual).

    thanks for these diaries.  don't often get to them on the day they post, but they are read and i struggle to understand them.   :-)

    "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

    by kj in missouri on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 02:59:18 PM PDT

  •  Just a word of warning about the 60 mpg standard. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    I do no think this is achievable without a substantial number of electric cars and extended range electric cars (such as the Volt).  It is possible to have a 60 mpg gas or diesel car, but it would have to be very light, probably less than 2000 pounds, and only carry 2 passengers.  The crash safety standards make it difficult to make very light cars, especially when there are still a lot of very heavy SUVs still on the road.

    The Volt is heavy and expensive because the batteries are heavy and expensive.  Hopefully the batteries will get less expensive as production of electric cars increases.  But they are unlikely to get much lighter in the near future because of the fundamental physics of batteries.  One possible way to reduce the weight of extended range EVs would be to use a turbine engine instead of a piston engine.  Turbines are lighter than piston engines of comparable power, and using them to charge a battery allows them to run at their most efficient speed, eliminating the problem that caused turbines to never make it as an automotive engine in the past.  A bonus would be that it is easier to make turbines that can run on many types of fuel.

    The oil will run out.  I think that $10 a gallon gas will show up within the lifetime of many people alive today.  One possible model for the future could be autonomous electric vehicles for short trips, combined with rail for longer trips.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 03:03:17 PM PDT

  •  Too much is pure pork, not where needed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    Driving into NYC on a regular basis of late dealing with medical issues I'm astounded at how bad the roads and bridges are.  HUGE potholes and obvious issues with bridges and such.  The FDR is spalling concrete overhead with dangerous regularity.  The few places where work is 'underway' show little signs of actual workers - just parked equipment.

    I don't think the WestSide Hwy has been touched since the redo that occurred when I was working across the GW a few decades back.

    Driving down to Va a few weeks back we took the 'long way' down west through PA and tghen south from Harrisburg through Maryland.  I was blown away by all the new highway construction underway along our route - though the level of traffic on a busy Friday night was negligible (we were deliberately avoiding the 95 corridor insanity and the beltway craziness).

    I've noticed the same on vacations out west - HUGE projects underway in the - literal - middle of nowhere with multi-lane Interstates in superb condition - with NO traffic at all on them.  You can go for an hour on some of these roads and see less than a half dozen cars.

    Major urban areas - where LOTS and LOTS of people work and live desperaely NEED better mass transit and the extension of mass transit (ask all the schmucks who bought houses way west over the PA line who spend half their lives commuting into NYC - they wer told the trains were due in a few years...lol).   The roads in these areas are WAY oversued and literally falling apart.

    Yet Federal money goes not where the people and jobs are but where the political 'pull' is..........

    The rest of the country may bitch about NYC and LA but these areas get back a small fraction of the tax money they pay into Federal (and even State) coffers.

    Our political system IS BROKEN and our politicians spend OUR money NOT where it's needed - or rationally spent - but where ti does THEM and their corporate buddies the most good.

  •  I HATE the miles per gallon metric... (0+ / 0-)

    I know I'm seizing on one small piece of an epic long article...bear with me.

    Miles per gallon is such a mental sand-trap that I grit my teeth every time I see someone get on a pulpit and talk about increasing fuel economy from 25 to 60.

    It's the math, it drives me nuts.

    Here's a simple way to change things:

    Analyze vehicle efficiency like the Euros do...using our units of measurement.  That is: Gallons to go 100 miles.

    If a car gets 100mpg, that's 1 gallon to go 100miles.
    If a car gets 50 mpg, that's 2 gallons to go 100miles.
    33mpg for 3 gal/hm
    25mpg  for 4 gal/hm
    20mpg  for 5 gal/hm
    17mpg  for 6 gal/hm
    14mpg  for 7 gal/hm
    12mpg  for 8 gal/hm

    Why does this set me off?

    Look at the amount of fuel conserved if you improve a car from 25mpg combined to 50mpg combined (a HUGE undertaking needing carefully designed structure, aero, powertrain, etc.).  You save 2 gallons for every 100 miles traveled.

    You get the same improvement if you increase fuel economy from 17 to 25 or 12 to 17.   We're not talking about sedans, at this point, we're talking about trucks, vans, and SUVs.

    Specifically, getting people out of big gas guzzling trucks/vans/SUVs into smaller vehicles or upgrading their technology so they are more efficient.   That's a different task than "give me a car that gets 62mpg."  It's a change in the paradigm of the average car-buying public.

    Elevated gas prices got trivial truck owners out of the game because filling up a truck that needs 25 gallons at $4 and then realizing that the $100 you poured in will only get you 400 miles is galling.  

    If you need a truck, nothing else will replace it...but how do you regulate or control that???  Getting gas taxes in line with the rest of the world would be a big start on that path.  Europe somehow gets by without loads of huge pickup trucks.

    There will always be a need for some number of pickup trucks in the U.S. market.  So...how do you make them better?  Chevy's hybrid pickup truck was a fantastic idea in that it took a 12 or 14 mpg vehicle and got it up to 18 or 20mpg.  That's equivalent to taking a Ford Focus and making it a 100mpg vehicle in terms of the gasoline saved per 100 miles driven!  

    That's what we need more of...like it or not, trucks are a HUGE slice of the personal vehicle market and a small boost in their "MPG" will net the same benefits as making cars hugely more efficient.  

    Another thing we could do is stop allowing OEMs to blend truck and car sales for "average fuel economy."  Cars and Trucks are vastly different vehicles...it's time we treated them as such.

    A left-of-center blow-harded member of the goose-stepping blog-stapo since 2004.

    by floundericiousMI on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 03:11:35 PM PDT

  •  I (0+ / 0-)

    remember back when Amtrak was being create and one senator to another. Hell we don’t anything about running trains. For Christ sakes man we just landed on the Moon how hard can it be.

    This would be a win win but I don't see 0 taking on oil and friends.

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