Category Archives: infrastructure

Solar Roads Next Bright Idea?

The next big idea in renewable energy might be right below our feet and under our tires. Idaho inventor Scott Brusaw has an interesting vision for the future of America’s roadways and it involves turning each one into its own powerhouse, the Associate Press reported last week.

While the millions of miles of U.S. roads work each day to transport people and goods, Brusaw came up with a new way to put them to work by replacing asphalt with solar panels. Brusaw’s invention involves hexagon-shaped panels that can replace traditional road surfaces and at the same time they function as normal highways, they can also use energy from the sun to create electricity.

The AP said the panels are quite durable and “can withstand the wear and tear that comes from inclement weather and vehicles, big and small, to generate electricity;” a seriously need when considering our traditional highways span mountains, valley, deserts and all sorts of terrain and weather. The product is already in use at Brusaw’s company headquarters in Idaho, where it’s parking lot is comprised of 108 panels that vehicles have driving on without damage, according to AP.

Brusaw’s company estimates that if every road was covered with solar panels, it would produce three times more electricity than the U.S. consumes each year. The company also highlights the added benefit of construction and engineering jobs to install the panels nationwide.

Solar roads could provide more services than just roadway and energy production though. The AP reports the panels are heated, which would melt ice and reduce hazards in colder climates, and each panel has LED lights that can be used to configure parking lots, lane lines, or notify drivers of upcoming hazards, reducing the need to repaint and re-asphalt roadways.

For Brusaw, the applications are endless and his company would like to see the panels installed not just on roadways, but bike paths, driveways, tarmacs and parking lots as well.

 

 

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Filed under Driving, economy, infrastructure

In Switzerland, A Program To Flash Charge Electric Buses

Switzerland is in the midst of a pilot program testing some of the fastest charging batteries on the planet.

These batteries aren’t being put in cell phones or computers, but being testing in fully electric buses. These buses have several advantages both in performance and cosmetics.

Most electric buses are powered through a series of cable lines running through cities, which the TOSA, or Trolleybus Optimisation Système Alimentation pilot project, could make obsolete, according to CNET. Continue reading

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Filed under infrastructure, public transportation

NPR’s Ted Radio Hour Focuses On Rethinking How We Get Around

Each week, NPR’s Ted Radio Hour, hosted by Guy Raz, explores unique topics based off Ted Talks, the short discussions on just about anything.

Ted Talks is a non-profit organization that holds conferences around the world with the slogan, “ideas worth spreading” in mind. Celebrities, scientists, philanthropists and more discuss topics of all types ranging from science and robotics to healthcare and disabilities.

This week, the Ted Radio Hour collected past Ted Talks focusing on how people move around. Speakers in this collection included New York City’s Transportation Director Janette Sadik-Khan as well as billionaire media mogul turned airline owner, Richard Branson, and more.

To listen to the Ted Radio Hour interview with the hosts and in depth segments, visit NPR.

Below is a video of Janette Sadik-Khan’s Ted Talk. It has a fascinating insight into the ways large cities can redesign their streets to make them more pedestrian and transit friendly, without spending billions of dollars for expensive renovation projects.

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Filed under infrastructure, public transportation, Technology, Uncategorized, urban planning

Public Transportation And America’s “Megalopolises” (Continued)

We continue our look into the country’s “Megalopolises” and what kind of transportation they provide. The Atlantic’s City Lab posted an article by Richard Florida in March defining these economic hubs of the United States, which combined create more than $13 trillion in economic output.

Yesterday, we looked at the four largest regions and how they are connected (view that post here.)

So-Flo: Home to 15 million people in the Miami, Orlando and Tampa regions of Florida, public transit riders have a brand new option of travel as Megabus began service there on May 15, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Service now runs daily between Miami and Orlando, and Miami and Tampa. Travelers can also use Amtrak, which according to the company had more than 400,000 boardings in Miami, Orlando and Tampa in 2012. Riders can use the Silver Star or Silver Meteor lines.

megabus orlando

Courtesy of @BenKennedyTV

Nor-Cal:  A very densely populated part of the country , this megalopolis combines San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland for a total of 13 million people and $900 billion in economic output, according to Florida. Much like the Bos-Wash region, travelers have a plethora options at their disposal. The BART system covers much of bay area, offering lines from the east bay in Richmond, Calif. south to San Francisco International Airport.

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Filed under cities, economy, infrastructure, public transportation, Rail, Travel

USDOT Reports High Demand For TIGER Funding

ARRA_sign_Baker_CAThe U.S. Department of Transportation says that the amount of stimulus money requested for transportation projects in 2014 far exceeded what the department has to give.

Applications for the sixth round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program totaled $9.5 billion. That is 15 times more than the $600 million that has been allocated for grants.

The DOT received 797 applications — 36 percent more than officials received in 2013.

The TIGER program was launched in 2009, which is the same year Congress voted to bail out the auto industry. Funded granted by the program are generally used for road, rail, transit or port projects. As we explain in the Curbing Cars e-book, new streetcar systems have been a very visible benefactor of TIGER funding. Continue reading

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Filed under economy, infrastructure, laws, public transportation

World Urban Forum Focuses On Improving City Design

Image via unhadb.org

Image via unhadb.org

The upcoming World Urban Forum, the largest, most diverse conference dedicated to cities, will address how urban design can create equitable, sustainable and livable cities for all residents.

In preparation for the event, which opened Saturday in Medellin, Colombia, and runs through Friday, some of the leaders of the World Resources Institute and EMBARQ, its sustainable transport and urban development initiative, discussed the challenges cities are facing and how they are overcoming them.

Cities bring a wealth of challenges, according to Manish Bapna, executive vice president of WRI, which has offices based in China, India, Brazil and the United States. Poverty is rampant and the urban poor often lack access to basic services, such as public transportation. Although cities currently account for 80 percent of the global GDP, they are also responsible for 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and 1.3 million people die prematurely due to urban air pollution every year.

“The spatial layout of a city has such a strong bearing on whether or not people remain segregated from public services,” Bapna said. “It is crucial to get the design right at the outset.”

EMBARQ, which has offices in Washington, D.C., Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, China and India, works with governments around the world to develop better access (mobility) and urban design by creating examples and working with legislators to improve finance and policy to make the projects possible.

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Filed under cities, infrastructure, public transportation, urban planning

Bike Lanes In Phoenix Are Easier To Spot

Phoenix is updating its bike lanes as part of a federal grant.

Phoenix is updating its bike lanes as part of a federal grant.

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Filed under bicycling, cities, infrastructure

A Growing Demand For Public Transit: How People Get Around In Hawaii

Honolulu once abounded with streetcars. Now, public transportation is in strong demand across Hawaii. Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin Archives

Honolulu once abounded with streetcars. Now, public transportation is in strong demand across Hawaii. Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin Archives

In this two-part report, Curbing Cars intern Matt Varcak lifts us out of the weather doldrums and takes us to Hawaii, a surprising hot spot for public transportation.

By Matthew Varcak

If you visit the Hawaiian Islands, you will likely enjoy beautiful weather, pristine bodies of water, ancient grounds, delicious food and happy people. I was lucky enough to be one of these people this past summer when I visited the Island of Hawaii (The Big Island).

What struck me the most — beyond that — was how affordable and extensive the mass transit was. Hawaii once had streetcars, and it soon will get a light rail system. Meanwhile, the main way people get around is on buses.

At roughly 4,000 square miles, the Island of Hawaii is the state’s largest island, but it is the second-most populous island behind Oahu. Its major cities are separated by long stretches of winding highways wrapping around Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two of Hawaii’s volcanoes, which stand at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level.

With a general fare only costing $1, it soon became clear that it would be much more affordable to ride the Hele-On Bus, Hawaii County’s Mass Transit system, rather than drive myself everywhere. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, Driving, infrastructure, public transportation, Travel, urban planning

A Day In The Life Of Montreal’s Transit System

By Micheline Maynard

I’m back from a week in Canada, exploring Toronto and Montreal completely by public transit (plus my feet and a couple of taxis). I’ll be writing more about my trip over the coming days.

But first, I’d like you to watch this mesmerizing video showing a day in the life of Montreal’s transit system. It was published last October, and shows one week day (from 4 am to 4 am) of transit activity in Montreal.

It is based on the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data made available by the three largest transit systems in the area — the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM), Société de Transport de Laval (STL), and Réseau de Transport de Longueuil (RTL).

You’ll see the system crank to life in the morning, and traffic grow busier throughout the day. Then, it fades in the evening, until only overnight buses are left.

That’s just one city, and one set of transit systems. Imagine if there was an activity stream like this for the whole world!

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Filed under infrastructure, public transportation

How Millennials Are Transforming Philadelphia’s Transportation

Philadelphia has been installing bike lanes for over a decade. They're a big draw for its young residents.

Philadelphia has been installing bike lanes for over a decade. They’re a big draw for its young residents.

Our latest student-written story comes from a master’s degree candidate in the Business and Economic Reporting program at New York University

By Carl A. O’Donnell
Philadelphia newcomers like Shane Smith, 24, wax rhapsodically about the city’s “deep sense of community” and “awesome nightlife.” For Smith, the city is an escape from suburbia where “there are always large gaps between where you are and where you want to be,” he says.

In Philly, Smith doesn’t need a car because “You can walk out the door and find ten great coffee shops or restaurants on every other block.”

Smith’s attitude reflects a broader generational shift. More and more young people are abandoning suburbs and cars, prompting a migration to cities, according to the advocacy group U.S. PIRG.

This has had a dramatic impact on Philadelphia. In the past decade, the city has gained 50,000 residents aged 20 to 34, spurring the first net gain in population since the 1950s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

By 2035, Philadelphia anticipates another 100,000 new residents, said Gary Jastrzab, executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

As this flood of newcomers gradually reshapes the city, alternative modes of travel are experiencing a renaissance. Biking, car sharing and public transit have all seen significant bumps in usage. In some cases, this is shifting political or market forces in favor of new transportation investments. In others, it’s simply placing strain on an aging system. Continue reading

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Filed under bicycling, infrastructure, public transportation, urban planning