More pieces of IKEA’s sustainability puzzle come together

November 25, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

More pieces of IKEA’s sustainability puzzle come together Deonna Anderson Wed, 11/25/2020 – 08:00 Black Friday is upon us. For IKEA, that marks the expanded launch of a program to buy back furniture in an effort to curb consumption . “We don’t want to encourage people to overconsume. That’s one of the challenges we’ve identified that we feel like we can make a big impact on within our whole strategy,” said Jenn Keesson, sustainability manager at IKEA U.S.  As part of the program, the home furnishings company, widely known for its flat-pack packaging and ready-to-assemble furniture, will be taking back a range of IKEA products: bookcases and shelf units; small tables; chairs and stools without upholstery; and chests of drawers. When a customer returns an item, they’ll receive a voucher to use for future purchases. If IKEA can’t resell an item, the company plans to recycle it or donate it to community organizations.  The effort, which will be running in 27 countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia are on the list), is temporary for now, running from Nov. 24 through Dec. 3. But it is part of a larger circular approach being pioneered by the company.  While the U.S. is not on the list of countries for this year’s Black Friday buyback initiative, IKEA U.S. has done some experimenting with such a program in the past, in partnership with Goodwill. And Keesson said the company is working to get a buyback program launched in the country. There are 374 IKEA stores in 30 countries around the world. “We just have a few other complexities when it comes to legislation and around different municipalities that we’re in,” she said about developing the plan to launch in the U.S. Here are a few of IKEA’s other recent waste reduction and circular economy efforts: The retailer plans to remove all non-rechargeable alkaline batteries from its global home furnishing offerings by October 2021. For context, IKEA calculates that if all its customers switched to its rechargeable batteries and charged them 50 times, its global waste could be reduced by as much as 5,000 tons on an annual basis. Earlier this month, IKEA opened its first secondhand IKEA store in Sweden. The store initially will be open for six months, and it is a sort of experiment. According to the news release about the collaboration with ReTuna Shopping Center , a recycling mall, the initiative “will help IKEA understand why some IKEA products are turned into waste, what condition they are in when thrown away, why do people choose to donate or recycle products, and if there’s an interest in buying the products that have been repaired.” And in June, IKEA announced a strategic partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , which will build on the company’s commitment to become fully circular by 2030. What would it mean for IKEA to be fully circular? “I think in a dream world, it is that every product that you would buy is coming from recycled materials that are closed-loop in our own supply chain. And that [with] everything we’re utilizing in a store, there is no waste going to landfill,” Keesson said. “We’re finding alternate ways to reuse it or we have partners that we’re working with who can reuse the materials or recycle materials in some way. But getting there is a long journey.” But getting there could make a big impact because of how large the company is. There are 374 IKEA stores in 30 countries around the world. Aerial view of IKEA Baltimore location and Maryland solar car park. Photo courtesy of Distributed Solar Development. Beyond circular Over the years, IKEA has made a number of bold commitments to address the impacts of its operations on the environment, outside of its recent circular economy efforts. In 2018 , for example, the retailer pledged to having electric vehicles complete the last-mile portion of delivery to its customers by 2025.  In IKEA’s 2019 fiscal year, its e-commerce sales grew by 46 percent, according to website for Ingka Group, its parent company. And based on current trends — e-commerce revenues are projected to grow to $6.54 trillion in 2022 from $3.53 trillion in 2019, according to Statista — IKEA’s growth is likely to increase.  Ingka announced in September that it was investing more than $715 million over the next 12 months for IKEA to become ” climate positive” by 2030 , in addition to past investments . “We believe it’s good business to be a good business. Despite the significant challenges we’re facing in the world, we still have it in our own hands to change the direction of the climate crisis. We want to be part of the solution, which is why we will continue to focus our future investments to ensure a cleaner, greener and more inclusive recovery,” said Juvencio Maeztu, deputy CEO and CFO of Ingka, at the time of the announcement. Despite the significant challenges we’re facing in the world, we still have it in our own hands to change the direction of the climate crisis. In recent years, Ingka has invested in companies such as Optoro , a software startup that provides reverse logistics for retailers; RetourMatras, a company that makes it possible to recycle more than 90 percent of the materials in a mattress; and Winnow, a company that has developed an artificial intelligence-enabled food waste tracking solution to help reduce food waste in commercial kitchens. Tangentially related to food, this week, the company announced several food-related commitments . One goal: By 2025, IKEA plans for 50 percent of the meals offered in its restaurants to be plant-based and 80 percent to be non-red meat. Because it touches everything from furnishings to food, IKEA’s reach is wide. And with all the commitments the company has set, it still has a lot of work to do to continue its work as a corporate sustainability leader. “We have a lot of goals by 2030. We have the ambition to be climate positive and fully circular,” Keesson said. “We’re super excited and energized to see how we can continue to make impacts and continue to be this leader.” Pull Quote There are 374 IKEA stores in 30 countries around the world. Despite the significant challenges we’re facing in the world, we still have it in our own hands to change the direction of the climate crisis. Topics Circular Economy Retail IKEA Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off IKEA Baltimore location. Photo courtesy of Distributed Solar Development.

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More pieces of IKEA’s sustainability puzzle come together

Old bathhouses get new life via NPS adaptive reuse program

November 19, 2020 by  
Filed under Green

After Rose Schweikhart, an avid homebrewer, settled in Hot Springs,  Arkansas , she began to wonder if the mineral-rich hot spring water that made “Spa City” famous could be used to brew beer. Since the springs are government-owned as part of Hot Springs National Park, she called the park superintendent to ask permission to use the water. Next thing she knew, she was filling out the long application to be part of the National Park Service’s adaptive reuse program for the crumbling, once-opulent bathhouses that line the city’s main drag, aka Bathhouse Row. Now, the 9,000-square-foot  Superior Bathhouse  finds new life as a restaurant, event space and the world’s first microbrewery to use hot spring water for brewing beer. This project represents one of the success stories revitalizing both the town of Hot Springs and the overlapping national park. Water is the soul of Hot Springs As you could guess from its name, the town wouldn’t exist without its natural hot springs.  Hot Springs National Park  is tasked with protecting 47 springs in the downtown area. “We’re really strict about the park,” said park ranger Ashley Waymouth as she led a walking tour of Bathhouse Row. “We don’t use herbicides. We don’t use pesticides. We’re really conscientious about what we do. Because we know everything that goes on the ground ultimately makes its way into the  water .” Waymouth explained the long route the water takes, how time, depth and pressure heat the water for thousands of years before it bursts through a geologic fault line in the park. Rain from ancient Egyptian times now comes out of the hots springs 4,000 years later, Waymouth said. “It really instills in us long term thinking.” Keeping that water safe requires daily monitoring by a team of hydrogeologists. Archeological evidence shows that people used the springs here for thousands of years, and early inhabitants considered them a neutral ground and a place of healing. Many Americans first learned about the springs when President Jefferson sent the Hunter-Dunbar expedition to check out this part of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase in 1804. Explorers returned with news of the wonders of Hot Springs’ healing waters, which soon began to attract people from all over. In 1832, the U.S.  government  proclaimed the area a federal reserve. Related: These adaptive reuse hotel suites in Amsterdam are built inside old bridge houses By 1900, Hot Springs was a major  health  destination. In addition to bathing, some of the bathhouses offered gymnasiums, physical therapy and medical professionals who would prescribe hikes and other exercises. The surrounding area was cultivated as a beauty spot, with gardens in front of the bathhouses, a series of trails groomed on the hills behind and cute little parks dotting the town. The earliest bathhouses burnt in fires. Built between 1892 and 1923, the eight huge buildings standing today feature a mishmash of Spanish, Italian, Roman and Greek styles. The Fordyce, built for the town’s wealthiest visitors, features sea-colored stained  glass  and carved Neptune heads on its facade. The Ozark is mission style, in a possible nod to the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who searched for the fountain of youth. Hot Springs accommodated a variety of people, though facilities often reflected issues of the time. While the town hosted a free government-run bathhouse, Black visitors could only use a segregated bathhouse until the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. Of course, there were also upscale options for the rich and famous, especially those with an ailment they hoped to heal. Australian-born international opera star Marjorie Lawrence made  Hot Springs  her home after contracting polio. Gangster Al Capone also frequently visited, hoping to cure his syphilis. But over the course of the 20th century, enthusiasm for public bathing faded. By 1980, Americans preferred to relax in backyard hot tubs than public bathhouses. All bathhouses but the  Buckstaff  closed down, some remaining vacant for decades. Since Bathhouse Row is part of Hot Springs National Park, the Park Service had to figure out what to do about the empty buildings. On one hand, the buildings were historical, architectural and cultural treasures. On another, they were hulking behemoths ranging from 9,000 to nearly 30,000-square-feet inside — expensive to retrofit, heat and maintain. In 2004, the National Park Service devised an innovative adaptive  reuse  program that has preserved the bathhouses, drawn more visitors and enriched their experience, and reinvigorated downtown Hot Springs. Hospitality and adaptive reuse Of the eight bathhouses, only the Maurice remains empty. The Buckstaff has continuously operated since opening in 1912. The other six have either been repurposed by the  National Park  Service itself or entered into public/private partnerships. Fortunately, the park had the foresight to turn the opulent Fordyce into a bathhouse museum. The men’s wing is much grander than the women’s, with a stained-glass skylight featuring topless mermaids and a statue in the center of a kneeling Native woman presenting de Soto with a jug of water. The best part is all the weird and fascinating hydrotherapy equipment. While this equipment — such as steam cabinets where people sat with just their heads sticking out, and a hydroelectric tub that somehow combined electricity with water for stunning results — must have been cutting edge in its day, it now looks more like a  medical  torture chamber. At the Superior Bathhouse Brewery, Rose Schweikhart has worked wonders with both the old bathhouse and the water itself. Under the NPS adaptive reuse program, Schweikhart got a 55-year lease on the  building . Built in 1916, the Superior is the smallest bathhouse on the row, but it still has 9,000 square feet that had to be improved and now require maintenance. Currently, Schweikhart is saving for a new roof. Since the building is a historic structure in a national park and has the federal government as a landlord, Schweikhart needs approval before changing the structure. “Usually they say yes, because a vacant building isn’t doing anyone any good,” Schweikhart said. The building closed as a bathhouse in 1983 and sat empty for 30 years before Schweikhart gave it a new life. Still, the NPS drew the line at letting her install a roll-up door. This meant Schweikhart had to carefully bring all the brewery equipment through the front  window , the historic building’s largest opening. “I had to get the manufacturer to measure everything very carefully,” Schweikhart said. The water is piped in at about 144 degrees, then heated to 160 degrees to make the beer and sell it locally in growlers. It’s a bathhouse-centric operation with no canning, bottling or distribution. So, you’ll have to go to Hot Springs to experience the Superior’s Goat Rock Bock or Desoto’s Folly. Next door, Ellen and Pat McCabe repurposed the Hale Bathhouse into a nine-room boutique  hotel  with a beautiful dining room open to all. The duo incorporated touches that appeal to aficionados of historic buildings, such as exposed rough brick walls and the original pine floors. But the  Hotel Hale’s  modern touches make it a very comfortable place to stay — coffee service delivered to your door at your chosen time every morning, signature orange-vanilla scented toiletries made by a local soap maker and, best of all, hot spring water piped into your own private bathtub. Hotel Hale is also known for laying out a fabulous brunch. If you’re really lucky, the McCabes might unlock a door in the corner of the dining room and let you peek into the old natural steam room cut into the mountain. It’s hot, muddy and too much of an insurance liability for modern use, but is a fascinating glimpse back into Spa City’s history. The  Quapaw  reuse project remains truest to the original bathhouse spirit. Constructed in 1924, the 24,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial building is now a modern  spa . Its 2007 makeover earned a LEED Silver certification and won the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas’ 2009 Excellence in Preservation through Restoration Award. The Quapaw offers both private services like massages and facials and public bathing in a series of shared pools of different temperatures, ranging from comfortably warm to roasting. A visit to either the Quapaw or the even more historic Buckstaff baths is the closest visitors can get to the old days where everybody from movie stars to gangsters made healing pilgrimages to Hot Springs. Images via Teresa Bergen

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Old bathhouses get new life via NPS adaptive reuse program

Hard truths about tough times

November 18, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Hard truths about tough times Kathrin Winkler Wed, 11/18/2020 – 02:00 I’m struggling. Back in the day, I had a reputation as someone who always offered to my team a positive interpretation or hopeful outcome to supposed bad news. A Pollyanna, perhaps. It wasn’t deliberate. In fact, I didn’t realize I was doing it until a senior engineer on my team told me, “You’re always so [expletive deleted] positive, it makes me want to puke.”  I wasn’t trying to spin the truth, either. When there is change — that is, nearly always — people often imagine the worst possible outcomes and the most deplorable motives by those in power. People help bring one another down as they wallow in the fear and anger, and sap their own and each other’s energy. I was just trying to get people to consider alternative possibilities, to help them find their motivation, stay focused and know that their work was valued. Play devil’s advocate to their negativity. And maybe convince myself, a bit, too.  My husband thought the accusation was funny, though. Because when I was at home and I wasn’t feeling the weight of responsibility for the team, I gave my own negativism free rein. The angel on one shoulder went to work; the devil on the other came home. The thing is, I’m home all the time now.  I’m impatient with those ‘fighting the good fight.’ They (you!) are undeniably heroes. But it’s not enough. And we’re not often telling the whole truth. I’m not sure how to characterize exactly how I feel. Impatience is a big part of it. We’re obviously not doing enough fast enough to address climate change and systemic societal issues. I can see evidence with my own eyes every time I walk out the door (masked, of course) and encounter the homeless struggling on the street. But I’m also impatient with those “fighting the good fight.” They (you!) are undeniably heroes. But it’s not enough. And we’re not often telling the whole truth. That’s creating a cognitive dissonance in me that is literally keeping me up at night. I know we have to show optimism, but I also see us avoiding the bare facts. People talk about “stopping” (or worse, “stopping and reversing”) climate change. The more circumspect just say “addressing” climate change. But in addition to the climate damage that already has occurred, more is locked in even if we were to stop emitting today. Will the next generation feel betrayed if we “win” the fight and things keep getting worse anyway? People do need hope and to feel that they have agency — that what they do matters. Every degree of global temperature rise that we prevent reduces the long-term risk. No matter what, I know we cannot stop acting and encouraging others to join us. I don’t know how to square this circle.  As for agency — I’m feeling pretty helpless. Not that I tell people that. I absolutely mean it when I passionately express how important it is that they vote, make thoughtful decisions about what to buy and from whom, think about the sources of their food, raise their voices against injustice. But it just doesn’t feel like enough. Once I get going on a task, I’m all in. But when I settle down to work, I find it hard to get started. That’s just me, of course. There are people out there doing critically important things — innovating in technology and business, running for office, motivating others and changing minds. Thank goodness for them. But we’re not all extraordinary, and I imagine I’m not alone.  I am also experiencing huge frustration from the Manichaean nature of public discourse on, well, everything. Truth is gray, but we only discuss black and white. Both sides tick me off. Op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal interpret reduced emissions during the most stringent lockdown as proof that major personal sacrifice is required if we (“the greenies”) act on climate. The sustainability community argues that we can make the changes we need without sacrificing. As usual, the truth is somewhere in between (depending, I suppose, on how you define “sacrifice” — and “happy,” for that matter). For me, the pandemic has highlighted what’s really valuable: human connection; love; health; safety. But yeah, there are things people will have to give up. They are mostly things that won’t truly make them happy in the long run, but that can feel pretty good about in the moment (flying off to the tropics, buying a new car, chomping down on a juicy burger, going to the movies), and relinquishing some of those will feel like a sacrifice for many.  Yet, I’m disgusted with selfishness. There’s a woman in our building who complains that, when the sun is at a certain angle, she can’t get the temperature in her unit below 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Climate change is making air conditioning a matter of life and death in some parts of the world, but 71 degrees in Seattle? Sheesh. Talk about privilege. Maybe I’m just afraid to be optimistic; afraid of a huge disappointment. Scared. Not that I’m not hopeful — I fervently hope things will move, and move quickly, in the right direction. I’m just reluctant to expect it. The political situation isn’t helping. I don’t know the answers. I hate not knowing the answers. It makes me grumpy.  I do find real moments of joy. They come from my friends, my colleagues, my family and nature. From humor and beauty. From gratitude for all that I have been given in life. So, I am coping. I hope you are, too.  Pull Quote I’m impatient with those ‘fighting the good fight.’ They (you!) are undeniably heroes. But it’s not enough. And we’re not often telling the whole truth. Topics Leadership Health & Well-being Featured Column Getting Real Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Hard truths about tough times

It’s time to bridge the clean energy partisan divide

November 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

It’s time to bridge the clean energy partisan divide Sarah Golden Fri, 11/13/2020 – 00:30 Partisanship runs deep in America.  We’ve self-organized so our neighbors, friends and social media agree with us, and we gravitate voices who are increasingly vitriolic towards those who don’t. Is it any wonder our empathy muscles have gone into atrophy? But we might be on the precipice of a new era. Last week, the United States elected a new commander-in-chief who is less shouty and divisive. Joe Biden leaned into this brand during his first speech as president-elect Saturday, declared that now “is the time to heal.”  The clean energy sector is not immune to divisions. So let the healing process begin — starting with our own house.  The clean energy divide: the pragmatists versus the enviros A rift is deepening within the clean energy sectors: those who advocate for steady, incremental change; and those who demand urgent transformational change. For lack of more precise terms, I’ll dub these two camps “pragmatists” and “environmentalists,” aka “enviros.” Enviros have long been marginalized by the powers that be, labeled as elitist, unreasonable and/or not understanding how the system works. I’d expect that from incumbent energy forces, and I’m disheartened to hear the extent to which these judgments have infiltrated clean energy spaces.  With increasing frequency, I hear clean energy and corporate sustainability professionals publicly dismiss enviros, implying they have an ax to grind against big business, big agriculture, big oil — as though environmentalists are irrational, rather than responding to decades of corporate malfeasances that allowed an elite few to profit through unsustainable extraction and a disregard for the communities they affect. We need environmentalists to be unflinchingly clear on what is needed to have a chance at a safe climate future. This despite the fact that big green groups, from Sierra Club to Greenpeace to the Natural Resources Defense Council, regularly produce rigorously researched and prescient reports that often foreshadow where mainstream thinking follows.  Likewise, I’ve seen environmental organizations categorically demonize pragmatists, despite ultimately wanting the same thing: a safe climate future. Of course, fringe enviro groups peddle misinformation and anger, but they are truly the minority. Defining the group by its outliers is how we got into this partisan mess in the first place. We can do better.  The importance of a moral compass  Here’s the thing: Enviros are usually right. The pure moral compass isn’t about being holier than thou; it’s because physics is poor at compromises.  Corporations often look at the demands of climate activists and call them unreasonable, pointing to the speed of adoption of technologies and development of markets. But enviros are in no better position to change the rules of climate change than the Lorax was to change the ecosystem needs of the truffala tree. We need environmentalists to be unflinchingly clear on what is needed to have a chance at a safe climate future. And it will feel unreasonable, because in reality we need to move unreasonably quickly to get to where we’re going.  Let’s be more than the sum of our parts The Biden administration has the most bullish climate plan America has seen, and the clean energy sector is about to be thrust into the limelight. Instead of infighting, clean energy factions should use this moment to push and pull each other towards rapid decarbonization. Enviros aren’t an impediment; they’re an asset. They provide a guiding light to push all companies and communities to do more, to move faster and to never pretend half measures are complete solutions. They provide cover for politicians to be ambitious. And they remind all of us that anything less than a holistic solution isn’t a solution.  After all, if we can’t heal the fissures separating us from those working towards the same goals as us, what chance do we have of healing anything else?  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote We need environmentalists to be unflinchingly clear on what is needed to have a chance at a safe climate future. Topics Energy & Climate Policy & Politics Clean Energy Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock KieferPix Close Authorship

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It’s time to bridge the clean energy partisan divide

The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

November 12, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people? Alan Hoffman Thu, 11/12/2020 – 00:01 Are your transportation plans letting you down? Regions everywhere have adopted ambitious goals for their long-range plans, from climate change to land use to reductions in automotive dependency. Yet even with decades of spending on creating new transit and bicycle infrastructure, many cities still struggle to see the kinds of changes in their travel and growth patterns that point toward resilience and sustainability. COVID-19 has highlighted these issues, upending travel patterns and choices with what may be permanent reductions in office commuting, as well as big impacts on transit and shared ride services. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our use of public space, much of which has been dedicated to automotive movement (roads) and storage (parking). Transportation planning can lead to better outcomes by focusing on three parallel strategies: Identify what solutions look like Invert the order of planning Update your computerized planning models 1. Identifying solutions Too often, transportation projects are pushed through with no clear sense of whether they will be able to solve the problems for which they are intended. Planners and politicians jump to efficiency and expansion before effectiveness can be established. Once planners learn how to produce a desired solution, then they can engage in value engineering by asking how they can achieve desired results more efficiently. A perfect example of this is Curitiba, Brazil, famed as one of the innovators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Curitiba didn’t set out to develop a BRT system. What it did was identify, up-front, what its ideal transit network should look like. In its case, it was a subway (metro) system with five arms radiating out of downtown and a set of concentric ring routes surrounding the center. Curitiba’s “solution” to creating an effective transit network was based on five major corridors radiating from downtown and a set of concentric rings linking major transfer stations (“integration terminals”). Subways are incredibly expensive to build. So Curitiba’s leaders asked themselves how they could replicate the functionality of their ideal network as quickly as possible with available resources. They decided to create their ideal subway system on the surface, running extra-long buses along dedicated transitways in the centers of their major roads. Enclosed stations with level boarding were spaced every 500 meters (three to a mile). Major integration terminals, about every 1.2 to 1.9 miles apart, serve surface subway lines, an extensive regional express network, and local buses. They also feature government services, recreation centers, shops and eateries. This transit corridor in Curitiba features a dedicated center-running busway with auto traffic and parking relegated to the sides of the boulevard and to parallel roads. Besides moving passenger loads normally associated with rail systems, the strategy was tied to a land use plan that placed most of the region’s denser land uses within one block of surface subway lines. Use of transit for commuting rose from about 7 percent in the early 1970s to over 70 percent by the 2000s. As a look at the skyline of Curitba reveals, the city literally and conspicuously developed around its transit network. By restricting high densities to “surface subway” corridors, Curitiba literally grew around its transit system. Besides preserving more land for single-family homes, this strategy reduced the impacts of new growth substantially. 2. Invert the order of planning The order of planning reflects the priority assigned to different modes as solutions to your goals. It is fair to say that most regional strategies today embrace the importance of modes such as transit and bicycling, yet this is rarely reflected in the order of planning. Most cities begin or center their transportation planning by focusing on optimizing their automotive systems: expanding capacity; improving signaling; building new roads, often dictated by where road congestion is at its worst. The logic is impeccable: the auto is the primary mover of people, and too many new transit and bicycle projects have shifted only a relatively small number of trips, highlighting popular preferences. Once the automotive system is optimized, transit planning is then asked to fit around the automobile. In most places, transit either shares the right of way with cars or is delayed by traffic signals and cross traffic. In some cases, corridors are identified which could support rail or BRT infrastructure. Pedestrian circulation is then asked to fit around car traffic and transit. Finally, the bicycle is asked to fit around everything else. This bicycle lane along an 50 mph expressway in California puts cyclists at great risk from distracted drivers. The alternative is to engage in Advanced Urban Visioning, a process that identifies what optimized or ideal systems look like, much as Curitiba did decades ago. You get there by inverting the order of planning. You begin with transit, allowing an ideal network to emerge from a detailed analysis of urban form (how your region is laid out) and trip patterns. An optimized transit system focuses on three key dimensions: network structure (how you connect places); system performance (how long it takes to get from origins to destinations); and customer experience (essentially, what a person feels and perceives while moving through the system). The goal is to connect more people more directly to more likely destinations in less time, with an experience that makes them feel good about their choice of transit. The transit network at this point is still diagrammatic, a set of nodes and links more than a set of physical routes. Even so, it likely looks little like your current transit plan. This aerial of central San Diego shows many principal nodes of the zone and the likely connections between and among them. The rapid transit map, meanwhile, looks little like this network. Why does transit go first? To begin with, transit often requires heavy infrastructure, be it tracks, transitways, bus lanes, stations or garages. Stations, in particular, need to be located where they will do the most good; even short distances in the wrong direction can make a big difference in public uptake of transit. Second, transit otherwise takes up relatively little urban space when compared to the car. For example, two-lane busways in Australia move as many people during the peak hour as a 20-lane freeway would move. Third, transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Getting from an idealized transit network to an actual plan happens through a staging plan that focuses on “colonizing” whatever existing road infrastructure is needed, and specifying new infrastructure where necessary to meet strategic goals. In practice, this means identifying locations where new transitways, surface or grade-separated (free of cross-traffic or pedestrian crossings), can meet performance and connectivity goals. Planners also need to devise routes that minimize travel time and transfers for core commuting trips. Transit at this stage is free to take space from the auto, where warranted, to meet performance goals subject to expected demand. Brisbane, Australia’s, Busway system includes many grade-separations (bridges and tunnels) so that buses can operate unimpeded by traffic. Once an optimized transit plan is identified, the next step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to develop an idealized bicycle network. Drawing on the lessons of the Netherlands, perhaps the global leader when it comes to effective bicycle infrastructure, this network is designed and optimized to provide a coherent, direct, safe, and easy-to-use set of separated bikeways designed to minimize conflicts with moving vehicles and pedestrians. This approach is a far cry from the piecemeal incrementalism of many cities. It also gives the bicycle priority over cars when allocating space in public rights of way. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities have some of the best-developed bicycle infrastructure in the world, providing cyclists with an extensive network of separated bike lanes. The third step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to use major transit nodes to create new “people space”: walking paths; public plazas; parklands; and open space trail networks. These may colonize land occupied with motor vehicles. These new spaces and parklands also may be used to organize transit-oriented development; the combination of optimized transit and bicycle networks; and park access can increase the value of such development. In this example, from a conceptual plan developed for San Diego, a strategic investment zone (SIZ), supporting high-density residential and commercial uses, wraps around a linear park and two proposed community parks. The proposed underground transit and surface parks together add significant value to the SIZ, some of which may be captured through an Infrastructure Finance District mechanism to help fund much of the project. Only after transit, bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated is it time to optimize the automotive realm. But something happens when these alternative modes are optimized to the point that they are easy, convenient and time-competitive with driving: large numbers of people shift from personal vehicles to these other travel modes. a result, the auto is no longer needed to move large numbers of people to denser nodes, and investments in roadways and parking shift to other projects. The power of Advanced Urban Visioning is that it gives you clear targets to aim at so that actual projects can stage their way to the ultimate vision, creating synergies that amplify the impacts of each successive stage. It turns the planning process into a strategic process, and helps avoid expensive projects that are appealing on one level but ultimately unable to deliver the results we need from our investments in infrastructure. San Diego Connected, a conceptual plan developed at the request of the Hillcrest business community, demonstrates Advanced Urban Visioning in action, combining bicycle, transit, pedestrian and automotive improvements that optimize their potential contribution to the region. Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network. 3. Update your models For Advanced Urban Visioning to make its greatest contribution to regions, analysis tools need to measure and properly account for truly optimized systems. Most regional agencies maintain detailed regional travel models, computer simulations of how people get around and the tradeoffs they make when considering modes. Many of these models work against Advanced Urban Visioning. The models are designed generally to test responsiveness to modest or incremental changes in a transportation network, but they are much weaker at understanding consumer response to very different networks or systems. Regions can sharpen the ability of their models to project use of alternative modes by committing to a range of improvements: Incorporate market segmentation. Not all people share the same values. Market segmentation can help identify who is most likely to respond to different dimensions of service. Better understand walking. Some models include measures as of quality of the walking environment. For example, shopping mall developers have long known that the same customer who would balk at walking more than 492 feet to get from their parked car to a mall entrance will happily walk 1,312 feet once inside to get to their destination. Likewise, people are not willing to walk as far at the destination end of a trip as they are at the origin end, yet most models don’t account for this difference. Better measure walking distance. Not only do most models not account for differences in people’s disposition to walk to access transit, they don’t even bother to measure the actual distances. Better account for station environment and micro-location. We know from market research that many people are far more willing to use transit if it involves waiting at a well-designed station, as opposed to a more typical bus stop on the side of a busy road. Incorporate comparative door-to-door travel times. No model I am aware of includes comparative door-to-door travel time (alternative mode vs. driving), yet research continually has demonstrated the importance of overall trip time to potential users of competing modes. Conclusion Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals. Pull Quote Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility Urban Planning Public Transit Meeting of the Minds Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off New York City subway Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

November 12, 2020 by  
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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people? Alan Hoffman Thu, 11/12/2020 – 00:01 Are your transportation plans letting you down? Regions everywhere have adopted ambitious goals for their long-range plans, from climate change to land use to reductions in automotive dependency. Yet even with decades of spending on creating new transit and bicycle infrastructure, many cities still struggle to see the kinds of changes in their travel and growth patterns that point toward resilience and sustainability. COVID-19 has highlighted these issues, upending travel patterns and choices with what may be permanent reductions in office commuting, as well as big impacts on transit and shared ride services. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our use of public space, much of which has been dedicated to automotive movement (roads) and storage (parking). Transportation planning can lead to better outcomes by focusing on three parallel strategies: Identify what solutions look like Invert the order of planning Update your computerized planning models 1. Identifying solutions Too often, transportation projects are pushed through with no clear sense of whether they will be able to solve the problems for which they are intended. Planners and politicians jump to efficiency and expansion before effectiveness can be established. Once planners learn how to produce a desired solution, then they can engage in value engineering by asking how they can achieve desired results more efficiently. A perfect example of this is Curitiba, Brazil, famed as one of the innovators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Curitiba didn’t set out to develop a BRT system. What it did was identify, up-front, what its ideal transit network should look like. In its case, it was a subway (metro) system with five arms radiating out of downtown and a set of concentric ring routes surrounding the center. Curitiba’s “solution” to creating an effective transit network was based on five major corridors radiating from downtown and a set of concentric rings linking major transfer stations (“integration terminals”). Subways are incredibly expensive to build. So Curitiba’s leaders asked themselves how they could replicate the functionality of their ideal network as quickly as possible with available resources. They decided to create their ideal subway system on the surface, running extra-long buses along dedicated transitways in the centers of their major roads. Enclosed stations with level boarding were spaced every 500 meters (three to a mile). Major integration terminals, about every 1.2 to 1.9 miles apart, serve surface subway lines, an extensive regional express network, and local buses. They also feature government services, recreation centers, shops and eateries. This transit corridor in Curitiba features a dedicated center-running busway with auto traffic and parking relegated to the sides of the boulevard and to parallel roads. Besides moving passenger loads normally associated with rail systems, the strategy was tied to a land use plan that placed most of the region’s denser land uses within one block of surface subway lines. Use of transit for commuting rose from about 7 percent in the early 1970s to over 70 percent by the 2000s. As a look at the skyline of Curitba reveals, the city literally and conspicuously developed around its transit network. By restricting high densities to “surface subway” corridors, Curitiba literally grew around its transit system. Besides preserving more land for single-family homes, this strategy reduced the impacts of new growth substantially. 2. Invert the order of planning The order of planning reflects the priority assigned to different modes as solutions to your goals. It is fair to say that most regional strategies today embrace the importance of modes such as transit and bicycling, yet this is rarely reflected in the order of planning. Most cities begin or center their transportation planning by focusing on optimizing their automotive systems: expanding capacity; improving signaling; building new roads, often dictated by where road congestion is at its worst. The logic is impeccable: the auto is the primary mover of people, and too many new transit and bicycle projects have shifted only a relatively small number of trips, highlighting popular preferences. Once the automotive system is optimized, transit planning is then asked to fit around the automobile. In most places, transit either shares the right of way with cars or is delayed by traffic signals and cross traffic. In some cases, corridors are identified which could support rail or BRT infrastructure. Pedestrian circulation is then asked to fit around car traffic and transit. Finally, the bicycle is asked to fit around everything else. This bicycle lane along an 50 mph expressway in California puts cyclists at great risk from distracted drivers. The alternative is to engage in Advanced Urban Visioning, a process that identifies what optimized or ideal systems look like, much as Curitiba did decades ago. You get there by inverting the order of planning. You begin with transit, allowing an ideal network to emerge from a detailed analysis of urban form (how your region is laid out) and trip patterns. An optimized transit system focuses on three key dimensions: network structure (how you connect places); system performance (how long it takes to get from origins to destinations); and customer experience (essentially, what a person feels and perceives while moving through the system). The goal is to connect more people more directly to more likely destinations in less time, with an experience that makes them feel good about their choice of transit. The transit network at this point is still diagrammatic, a set of nodes and links more than a set of physical routes. Even so, it likely looks little like your current transit plan. This aerial of central San Diego shows many principal nodes of the zone and the likely connections between and among them. The rapid transit map, meanwhile, looks little like this network. Why does transit go first? To begin with, transit often requires heavy infrastructure, be it tracks, transitways, bus lanes, stations or garages. Stations, in particular, need to be located where they will do the most good; even short distances in the wrong direction can make a big difference in public uptake of transit. Second, transit otherwise takes up relatively little urban space when compared to the car. For example, two-lane busways in Australia move as many people during the peak hour as a 20-lane freeway would move. Third, transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Getting from an idealized transit network to an actual plan happens through a staging plan that focuses on “colonizing” whatever existing road infrastructure is needed, and specifying new infrastructure where necessary to meet strategic goals. In practice, this means identifying locations where new transitways, surface or grade-separated (free of cross-traffic or pedestrian crossings), can meet performance and connectivity goals. Planners also need to devise routes that minimize travel time and transfers for core commuting trips. Transit at this stage is free to take space from the auto, where warranted, to meet performance goals subject to expected demand. Brisbane, Australia’s, Busway system includes many grade-separations (bridges and tunnels) so that buses can operate unimpeded by traffic. Once an optimized transit plan is identified, the next step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to develop an idealized bicycle network. Drawing on the lessons of the Netherlands, perhaps the global leader when it comes to effective bicycle infrastructure, this network is designed and optimized to provide a coherent, direct, safe, and easy-to-use set of separated bikeways designed to minimize conflicts with moving vehicles and pedestrians. This approach is a far cry from the piecemeal incrementalism of many cities. It also gives the bicycle priority over cars when allocating space in public rights of way. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities have some of the best-developed bicycle infrastructure in the world, providing cyclists with an extensive network of separated bike lanes. The third step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to use major transit nodes to create new “people space”: walking paths; public plazas; parklands; and open space trail networks. These may colonize land occupied with motor vehicles. These new spaces and parklands also may be used to organize transit-oriented development; the combination of optimized transit and bicycle networks; and park access can increase the value of such development. In this example, from a conceptual plan developed for San Diego, a strategic investment zone (SIZ), supporting high-density residential and commercial uses, wraps around a linear park and two proposed community parks. The proposed underground transit and surface parks together add significant value to the SIZ, some of which may be captured through an Infrastructure Finance District mechanism to help fund much of the project. Only after transit, bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated is it time to optimize the automotive realm. But something happens when these alternative modes are optimized to the point that they are easy, convenient and time-competitive with driving: large numbers of people shift from personal vehicles to these other travel modes. a result, the auto is no longer needed to move large numbers of people to denser nodes, and investments in roadways and parking shift to other projects. The power of Advanced Urban Visioning is that it gives you clear targets to aim at so that actual projects can stage their way to the ultimate vision, creating synergies that amplify the impacts of each successive stage. It turns the planning process into a strategic process, and helps avoid expensive projects that are appealing on one level but ultimately unable to deliver the results we need from our investments in infrastructure. San Diego Connected, a conceptual plan developed at the request of the Hillcrest business community, demonstrates Advanced Urban Visioning in action, combining bicycle, transit, pedestrian and automotive improvements that optimize their potential contribution to the region. Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network. 3. Update your models For Advanced Urban Visioning to make its greatest contribution to regions, analysis tools need to measure and properly account for truly optimized systems. Most regional agencies maintain detailed regional travel models, computer simulations of how people get around and the tradeoffs they make when considering modes. Many of these models work against Advanced Urban Visioning. The models are designed generally to test responsiveness to modest or incremental changes in a transportation network, but they are much weaker at understanding consumer response to very different networks or systems. Regions can sharpen the ability of their models to project use of alternative modes by committing to a range of improvements: Incorporate market segmentation. Not all people share the same values. Market segmentation can help identify who is most likely to respond to different dimensions of service. Better understand walking. Some models include measures as of quality of the walking environment. For example, shopping mall developers have long known that the same customer who would balk at walking more than 492 feet to get from their parked car to a mall entrance will happily walk 1,312 feet once inside to get to their destination. Likewise, people are not willing to walk as far at the destination end of a trip as they are at the origin end, yet most models don’t account for this difference. Better measure walking distance. Not only do most models not account for differences in people’s disposition to walk to access transit, they don’t even bother to measure the actual distances. Better account for station environment and micro-location. We know from market research that many people are far more willing to use transit if it involves waiting at a well-designed station, as opposed to a more typical bus stop on the side of a busy road. Incorporate comparative door-to-door travel times. No model I am aware of includes comparative door-to-door travel time (alternative mode vs. driving), yet research continually has demonstrated the importance of overall trip time to potential users of competing modes. Conclusion Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals. Pull Quote Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility Urban Planning Public Transit Meeting of the Minds Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off New York City subway Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

November 12, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people? Alan Hoffman Thu, 11/12/2020 – 00:01 Are your transportation plans letting you down? Regions everywhere have adopted ambitious goals for their long-range plans, from climate change to land use to reductions in automotive dependency. Yet even with decades of spending on creating new transit and bicycle infrastructure, many cities still struggle to see the kinds of changes in their travel and growth patterns that point toward resilience and sustainability. COVID-19 has highlighted these issues, upending travel patterns and choices with what may be permanent reductions in office commuting, as well as big impacts on transit and shared ride services. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our use of public space, much of which has been dedicated to automotive movement (roads) and storage (parking). Transportation planning can lead to better outcomes by focusing on three parallel strategies: Identify what solutions look like Invert the order of planning Update your computerized planning models 1. Identifying solutions Too often, transportation projects are pushed through with no clear sense of whether they will be able to solve the problems for which they are intended. Planners and politicians jump to efficiency and expansion before effectiveness can be established. Once planners learn how to produce a desired solution, then they can engage in value engineering by asking how they can achieve desired results more efficiently. A perfect example of this is Curitiba, Brazil, famed as one of the innovators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Curitiba didn’t set out to develop a BRT system. What it did was identify, up-front, what its ideal transit network should look like. In its case, it was a subway (metro) system with five arms radiating out of downtown and a set of concentric ring routes surrounding the center. Curitiba’s “solution” to creating an effective transit network was based on five major corridors radiating from downtown and a set of concentric rings linking major transfer stations (“integration terminals”). Subways are incredibly expensive to build. So Curitiba’s leaders asked themselves how they could replicate the functionality of their ideal network as quickly as possible with available resources. They decided to create their ideal subway system on the surface, running extra-long buses along dedicated transitways in the centers of their major roads. Enclosed stations with level boarding were spaced every 500 meters (three to a mile). Major integration terminals, about every 1.2 to 1.9 miles apart, serve surface subway lines, an extensive regional express network, and local buses. They also feature government services, recreation centers, shops and eateries. This transit corridor in Curitiba features a dedicated center-running busway with auto traffic and parking relegated to the sides of the boulevard and to parallel roads. Besides moving passenger loads normally associated with rail systems, the strategy was tied to a land use plan that placed most of the region’s denser land uses within one block of surface subway lines. Use of transit for commuting rose from about 7 percent in the early 1970s to over 70 percent by the 2000s. As a look at the skyline of Curitba reveals, the city literally and conspicuously developed around its transit network. By restricting high densities to “surface subway” corridors, Curitiba literally grew around its transit system. Besides preserving more land for single-family homes, this strategy reduced the impacts of new growth substantially. 2. Invert the order of planning The order of planning reflects the priority assigned to different modes as solutions to your goals. It is fair to say that most regional strategies today embrace the importance of modes such as transit and bicycling, yet this is rarely reflected in the order of planning. Most cities begin or center their transportation planning by focusing on optimizing their automotive systems: expanding capacity; improving signaling; building new roads, often dictated by where road congestion is at its worst. The logic is impeccable: the auto is the primary mover of people, and too many new transit and bicycle projects have shifted only a relatively small number of trips, highlighting popular preferences. Once the automotive system is optimized, transit planning is then asked to fit around the automobile. In most places, transit either shares the right of way with cars or is delayed by traffic signals and cross traffic. In some cases, corridors are identified which could support rail or BRT infrastructure. Pedestrian circulation is then asked to fit around car traffic and transit. Finally, the bicycle is asked to fit around everything else. This bicycle lane along an 50 mph expressway in California puts cyclists at great risk from distracted drivers. The alternative is to engage in Advanced Urban Visioning, a process that identifies what optimized or ideal systems look like, much as Curitiba did decades ago. You get there by inverting the order of planning. You begin with transit, allowing an ideal network to emerge from a detailed analysis of urban form (how your region is laid out) and trip patterns. An optimized transit system focuses on three key dimensions: network structure (how you connect places); system performance (how long it takes to get from origins to destinations); and customer experience (essentially, what a person feels and perceives while moving through the system). The goal is to connect more people more directly to more likely destinations in less time, with an experience that makes them feel good about their choice of transit. The transit network at this point is still diagrammatic, a set of nodes and links more than a set of physical routes. Even so, it likely looks little like your current transit plan. This aerial of central San Diego shows many principal nodes of the zone and the likely connections between and among them. The rapid transit map, meanwhile, looks little like this network. Why does transit go first? To begin with, transit often requires heavy infrastructure, be it tracks, transitways, bus lanes, stations or garages. Stations, in particular, need to be located where they will do the most good; even short distances in the wrong direction can make a big difference in public uptake of transit. Second, transit otherwise takes up relatively little urban space when compared to the car. For example, two-lane busways in Australia move as many people during the peak hour as a 20-lane freeway would move. Third, transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Getting from an idealized transit network to an actual plan happens through a staging plan that focuses on “colonizing” whatever existing road infrastructure is needed, and specifying new infrastructure where necessary to meet strategic goals. In practice, this means identifying locations where new transitways, surface or grade-separated (free of cross-traffic or pedestrian crossings), can meet performance and connectivity goals. Planners also need to devise routes that minimize travel time and transfers for core commuting trips. Transit at this stage is free to take space from the auto, where warranted, to meet performance goals subject to expected demand. Brisbane, Australia’s, Busway system includes many grade-separations (bridges and tunnels) so that buses can operate unimpeded by traffic. Once an optimized transit plan is identified, the next step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to develop an idealized bicycle network. Drawing on the lessons of the Netherlands, perhaps the global leader when it comes to effective bicycle infrastructure, this network is designed and optimized to provide a coherent, direct, safe, and easy-to-use set of separated bikeways designed to minimize conflicts with moving vehicles and pedestrians. This approach is a far cry from the piecemeal incrementalism of many cities. It also gives the bicycle priority over cars when allocating space in public rights of way. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities have some of the best-developed bicycle infrastructure in the world, providing cyclists with an extensive network of separated bike lanes. The third step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to use major transit nodes to create new “people space”: walking paths; public plazas; parklands; and open space trail networks. These may colonize land occupied with motor vehicles. These new spaces and parklands also may be used to organize transit-oriented development; the combination of optimized transit and bicycle networks; and park access can increase the value of such development. In this example, from a conceptual plan developed for San Diego, a strategic investment zone (SIZ), supporting high-density residential and commercial uses, wraps around a linear park and two proposed community parks. The proposed underground transit and surface parks together add significant value to the SIZ, some of which may be captured through an Infrastructure Finance District mechanism to help fund much of the project. Only after transit, bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated is it time to optimize the automotive realm. But something happens when these alternative modes are optimized to the point that they are easy, convenient and time-competitive with driving: large numbers of people shift from personal vehicles to these other travel modes. a result, the auto is no longer needed to move large numbers of people to denser nodes, and investments in roadways and parking shift to other projects. The power of Advanced Urban Visioning is that it gives you clear targets to aim at so that actual projects can stage their way to the ultimate vision, creating synergies that amplify the impacts of each successive stage. It turns the planning process into a strategic process, and helps avoid expensive projects that are appealing on one level but ultimately unable to deliver the results we need from our investments in infrastructure. San Diego Connected, a conceptual plan developed at the request of the Hillcrest business community, demonstrates Advanced Urban Visioning in action, combining bicycle, transit, pedestrian and automotive improvements that optimize their potential contribution to the region. Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network. 3. Update your models For Advanced Urban Visioning to make its greatest contribution to regions, analysis tools need to measure and properly account for truly optimized systems. Most regional agencies maintain detailed regional travel models, computer simulations of how people get around and the tradeoffs they make when considering modes. Many of these models work against Advanced Urban Visioning. The models are designed generally to test responsiveness to modest or incremental changes in a transportation network, but they are much weaker at understanding consumer response to very different networks or systems. Regions can sharpen the ability of their models to project use of alternative modes by committing to a range of improvements: Incorporate market segmentation. Not all people share the same values. Market segmentation can help identify who is most likely to respond to different dimensions of service. Better understand walking. Some models include measures as of quality of the walking environment. For example, shopping mall developers have long known that the same customer who would balk at walking more than 492 feet to get from their parked car to a mall entrance will happily walk 1,312 feet once inside to get to their destination. Likewise, people are not willing to walk as far at the destination end of a trip as they are at the origin end, yet most models don’t account for this difference. Better measure walking distance. Not only do most models not account for differences in people’s disposition to walk to access transit, they don’t even bother to measure the actual distances. Better account for station environment and micro-location. We know from market research that many people are far more willing to use transit if it involves waiting at a well-designed station, as opposed to a more typical bus stop on the side of a busy road. Incorporate comparative door-to-door travel times. No model I am aware of includes comparative door-to-door travel time (alternative mode vs. driving), yet research continually has demonstrated the importance of overall trip time to potential users of competing modes. Conclusion Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals. Pull Quote Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility Urban Planning Public Transit Meeting of the Minds Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off New York City subway Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

Denmark to cull millions of minks to prevent spread of mutant coronavirus

November 6, 2020 by  
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The Danish government has announced plans to cull all of the minks in the country’s mink farms to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus to humans. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that the minks are transmitting a new form of the coronavirus to humans, a situation that could spiral out of control. According to Frederiksen, a coronavirus-mapping agency has detected a mutated virus in several patients. Twelve individuals in the northern part of the country were diagnosed with a mutant form of the coronavirus, which is believed to have been contracted from the minks. Related: 1 million minks culled in Spain, the Netherlands Denmark is among the leading countries in mink farming. Its minks are used to produce fur , which is supplied to other parts of the world. These animals have been found to be a cause for concern relating to the transmission of the virus. According to Health Minister Magnus Heunicke, about half of the 783 humans infected with the coronavirus in northern Denmark have links to the mink farms. “It is very, very serious,” Frederiksen said. “Thus, the mutated virus in minks can have devastating consequences worldwide.” The government is now estimating that about $785 million will be required to cull the 15 million minks in the country. According to Mogens Gensen, Denmark’s minister for food, 207 mink farms are now infected. This number is alarming, considering that by this time last month, 41 farms were infected . Further, the virus has began spreading throughout the western peninsula. To date, Denmark has registered 50,530 confirmed coronavirus cases and 729 deaths. It is feared that if the situation is not contained, the numbers may get worse. To avoid this, Denmark started culling millions of minks last month, and the same is expected to continue for some time. Via Huffington Post Image via Jo-Anne McArthur

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Denmark to cull millions of minks to prevent spread of mutant coronavirus

EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me

October 26, 2020 by  
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EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me Terry F. Yosie Mon, 10/26/2020 – 01:45 The American people always have possessed a very personal relationship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Like all personal relationships, the EPA and its public have their share of successes and shortcomings, adjustments of expectations to realities, and recognition that the daily grind of complexity reveals our own values however much they end up being compromised. Few institutions exhibit such a pervasive daily presence in American life as the EPA. Its decisions impact the air we breathe (indoors and outside), the water we drink, the food we eat, the health of the children we give birth to and raise, the cars and fuel we purchase, the beaches where we swim, the chemicals we consume (voluntarily or involuntarily) or the quality of nature that we enjoy. The public health and environmental benefits of the EPA’s actions have been enormous, even while controversial. As one example, a draft report to Congress from the current administration estimated that, over the past decade, annual benefits from EPA regulations ranged from $196 billion to $706 billion, while yearly economic costs were between $54 billion and $65 billion. On Dec. 2, the EPA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its establishment, not by an act of Congress but through an executive decision of President Richard M. Nixon. It has carried out its mission through the various statutes enacted by Congress beginning in 1970. The 50th-anniversary commemoration will not be widely celebrated because the EPA has become a political lightning rod among anti-regulatory conservative groups — who have dominated the national narrative about environmental policy during most of the past 40 years — and the toxic management of the current administration has weakened numerous health and environmental safeguards. However, the anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from the EPA and ourselves if we are to successfully resolve the mounting domestic and international challenges that have placed the biological systems of our planet in various stages of collapse. The anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from EPA and ourselves. A good place to begin that reflection is a new book by former senior EPA officials, “Fifty Years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Progress, Retrenchment and Opportunities,” edited by A. James Barnes, John D. Graham and David M. Konisky and soon to be published by Rowman & Littlefield. (I am co-author of the chapter on environmental science.) Long-term environmental policy observers will note that the EPA’s beginning coincided with a burst of public interest and participation to clean up America’s degraded skies, water and land. Often led by idealistic college students and affluent citizens of a growing middle class, a mass movement catalyzed new research, advocacy and media attention that greatly affected decisions in Congress and the executive branch and pioneered new judicial interpretations supportive of the EPA’s decisions. Fast-forward 50 years to the present. Both America and the EPA have experienced what author George Packer described as the “unwinding” of American life. The phenomenon of the unwinding means that people who have been on this earth since at least the 1960s “have watched structures that had been in place before your birth collapse like pillars of salt across the vast visible landscape … the order of everyday life … changed beyond recognition.” Unwinding support  America’s relationship to the EPA and environmental policy also has experienced an unwinding that has manifested itself in four distinctive ways: Environmental decision-making became less connected with core values and more focused around technocratic solutions. This understandable outcome resulted from a growing recognition that environmental problems were more complex than originally perceived and more costly to resolve. The resulting investments in science, technology and economic analysis, and debates over which scientific data and cost/benefit analysis met acceptable professional standards, moved the environmental conversation away from citizens and towards scientists and engineers and lawyers that knew how to craft or oppose regulations to support their positions. At times, these “insider” debates became dysfunctional (EPA’s scientific review of dioxin risks went on for about 20 years) and detracted from the ability to continuously engage in a broader public conversation about environmental priorities and the benefits of EPA policies to enhancing the quality of life. Bipartisan politics largely died. The bipartisanship present at EPA’s founding generally persisted through subsequent decades until the mid-1990s and the unveiling of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. Deregulation was a central feature of this Republican agenda and has remained so to the present day. Democrats also abandoned the idea that the EPA should remain as an independent agency and, beginning with the Clinton administration, centralized much of environmental policymaking as part of the White House political operation. The financial advantages that Republicans and their corporate allies enjoyed supported their deregulatory agenda at all levels of government through gerrymandered congressional districts, volumes of commissioned studies conducted by their ideological supporters and more conservative judicial appointments. Both parties used environmental policy, and the EPA, as a weapon against their political opponents. A debilitated and insecure middle class led to weakened support for environmental protection. Beginning in the 1970s, America’s post-World War II economic success buckled through a series of recessions and depressions, oil embargoes, high inflation and low inflation, de-industrialization and free trade policies and financial collapses that eroded the affluence of the middle class. As a result, the widespread societal consensus for environmental protection fragmented across social and economic class lines as middle- and lower-income voters focused more directly on job security, health insurance and the broader social safety net. Advocacy groups opposed to taking action on climate change, strengthening controls on particulate matter or controlling non-point sources of water pollution were able to exploit the economic anxieties of workers in America’s industrial states and the farm belt. Environmental organizations, and other members of the center-left and progressive communities, have been slow to recognize that enacting their agenda necessarily depends upon building a new political coalition to build hope and job opportunities for those whose incomes have not kept pace in a changing economy. Public values have changed. Over several decades, public opinion polls consistently concluded that Americans support environmental protection as a second-tier priority (generally below health care, jobs and economic security, and education). These surveys, however, do not reveal that awareness of environmental problems necessarily motivates people to act upon this information, endorse specific policies or support EPA as an institution. The changing arc of the Baby Boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964) is a case in point. Boomers provided the tip of the emotional and advocacy spear for a host of environmental and social reforms while in their 20s and 30s. By the time they reached their 40s and 50s, their values and priorities had taken a decidedly more conservative turn in favor of tax cuts and more skepticism towards government intervention in the economy. They have represented a core part of the constituencies that elected the Reagan, Bush and Trump administrations and Republican control of Congress. As this generation, now proceeding into its retirement years, experiences the COVID-19 pandemic, its receptivity towards government taking preventive public health actions and securing a broader economic and social safety net appears to be evolving yet again. Regenerating and refocusing Renewing support for environmental protection, and for the EPA specifically, critically depends upon reviving America’s democracy. Such renewal depends upon success in three areas: Expanding voting and other forms of civic participation across all income levels and social groups so that environmental policymakers and legislators hear from a more representative range of voices across society; Assuring that future abundance is distributed more equitably and that the risks (environmental or economic) generated from such abundance are reduced and managed more effectively; and Rethinking the EPA’s role in advancing environmental and social justice. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. A regeneration agenda for the environment and EPA can advance through the following initiatives: Re-establishing the EPA as a science-based, professional, independent agency whose decision-making processes are decoupled from any White House or campaign political operation. While the agency’s senior leadership will continue to be political appointees who will generally seek to reflect any specific administration’s priorities, supporting the professionalism and diversity of EPA staff and its adherence to widely accepted scientific and economic methods and peer standards can significantly augment its effectiveness, reputation and legitimacy. Investing in and broadening public access to environmental data and decision-making. This should include expanding research to understand the impacts of pollution upon minority populations and supplementing the array of risk reduction tools beyond traditional regulation to expedite decision making. The EPA also must embrace more direct and extensive public engagement to listen to public concerns and explain its actions through community outreach, talk radio, town hall meetings and social media. Most EPA administrators and their leadership teams have not conceived these actions as a vital responsibility nor have they possessed the critical communications skills for success. Re-establishing the public’s relationship with the EPA is a vital factor in restoring the agency as a credible and effective — and non-political — public institution. Integrating environmental protection within the economic renewal agenda. Expanding health care, investing in more innovative infrastructure (digital technologies and more equitable access to broadband) and decarbonizing the economy all provide unique opportunities to unify environmental and economic policies. Well-paying job opportunities, greater economic security, healthier lifestyles, more prosperous communities and a more sustainable planet are measurable outcomes of such a strategy. Being explicit about the values that environmental policies support. Oftentimes, public policy decisions are submerged in a barrage of models and concepts that are impenetrable, even to many of the most senior leaders of the EPA and other agencies. If the outcome of an environmental decision will increase the cost of a consumer product as a means of protecting children’s health or reducing hospital admissions from pollution — then say so. Over time, and more often than not, the public will support such reasoning and appreciate the honesty and integrity through which it is offered. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. Even more, unfortunately, our present moment is experiencing four simultaneous crises — public health, economic, race relations and global climate change. The current unwinding largely was predicted and has been long in the making. It, too, can be resolved if economic investment, science-based policies and public engagement expand although the process will take time and be noisy and sometimes disruptive. As for those Baby Boomers, many of whom have entered their retirement years, it’s time to pass the torch to the millennials and their idealism, new skills and alternative outlooks on life and the planet we inhabit. Pull Quote The anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from EPA and ourselves. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me

Rethinking the role of sustainability reports

October 20, 2020 by  
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Rethinking the role of sustainability reports Mike Hower Tue, 10/20/2020 – 01:00 Corporate sustainability has a reporting problem — it always has. Companies typically don’t enjoy creating them and investors, customers, employees and most other stakeholders don’t revel in reading them. Yet, with investors more interested in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues than ever before, this long-standing problem has become an immediate liability for companies looking to maximize shared value. Today, some 90 percent of companies in the S&P 500 produc e corporate sustainability reports, and the practice has become so ingrained in corporate sustainability culture that few question its purpose or efficacy. Reporting has risen to prominence for good reason — there never has been a more critical time for companies to communicate their strategies and actions for corporate sustainability. Many investors evaluate nonfinancial performance based on corporate disclosures, with most finding value in assurance of the strength of an organization’s planning for climate and other ESG risks. Meanwhile, consumers increasingly are demanding responsible products, and attention to sustainability issues has become an employee expectation. But something isn’t right with the status quo of reporting. “By trying to meet the demands of multiple stakeholders, sustainability reports have become bloated, overly complex and expensive to produce,” said Nathan Sanfacon, an ESG expert at thinkPARALLAX , a sustainability strategy and communication agency. “This results in companies spending scarce resources on a report that doesn’t quite satisfy the needs of any stakeholder group.” To be more effective at engaging investors and other critical audiences on ESG, companies ought to shift towards communicating relevant data in a more agile and real-time format. This is particularly problematic for large, publicly traded companies seeking to attract and retain institutional investors. “To be more effective at engaging investors and other critical audiences on ESG, companies ought to shift towards communicating relevant data in a more agile and real-time format,” Sanfacon said. Addressing this disconnect is at the core of the new thinkPARALLAX white paper, ” The New Era of Reporting: How to Engage Investors on ESG ,” which examines the pitfalls of sustainability reporting in the past and present and offers a better way forward for corporate sustainability practitioners. A short history of sustainability reporting While reporting might seem a recent phenomenon, its origins go back nearly half a century — emerging first in Europe in the 1960s and later in the United States in the 1970s after the first Earth Day launched the modern environmental movement. Many of the earliest reports were strictly environmental and more about addressing public image problems than communicating anything that might resemble a proactive sustainability strategy. What we might call the modern era of sustainability reporting began in 1997 when public outcry over the environmental damage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill compelled Ceres and the Tellus Institute to create the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) . The aim was to create the first accountability mechanism to ensure companies adhere to responsible environmental conduct principles, which was then broadened to include social, economic and governance issues, GRI says on its website. “Prior to GRI, there was no framework to ensure that reporting was consistent or reflective of stakeholder needs,” said Eric Hespenheide, chairman of GRI, in an email. “First through versions of the GRI Guidelines and since 2016, the GRI Standards, we have been furthering our mission to use the power of transparency, as envisaged by effective disclosure, to bring about change.” Since then, multiple other reporting frameworks have emerged to cater to the ever-growing list of corporate sustainability stakeholders, such as the investor-focused Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) . “While sustainability reporting has come a long way, a lack of standardization means that there is a disconnect between what investors are looking for and what companies are communicating,” Sanfacon said. Giving investors what they want Here’s a billion-dollar question: What do investors look for when evaluating companies on ESG? The simple answer: data; data; and more data. “Investors tell us they’re looking for raw ESG data that is consistent, comparable and reliable — data that is focused on the subset of ESG issues most closely linked to a company’s ability to create long-term value,” Katie Schmitz Eulitt, director of investor outreach at SASB, wrote in an email. Schmitz Eulitt regularly engages with the investment community on disclosure quality, including with members of SASB’s 50-plus member Investor Advisory Group, who collectively manage more than $40 trillion in assets. “When companies more explicitly connect the dots between how they manage sustainability-related risks and opportunities and their financial outcomes, it’s both an opportunity to enhance transparency and strengthen performance,” Schmitz Eulitt added. When companies more explicitly connect the dots between how they manage sustainability-related risks and opportunities and their financial outcomes, it’s both an opportunity to enhance transparency and strengthen performance. But this is easier said than done because corporate leaders, investors and other stakeholders must work with two separate and disjointed reporting systems: one for financial and the other for ESG performance. “Companies can be screened in or out using various criteria, but there is no way to integrate the data into earnings projections or valuation analysis,” wrote Mark Kramer et al. in a recent piece in Institutional Investor. “The result is two separate narratives, one telling how profitable a company is, the other highlighting whether it is good for people and the planet.” The new era of reporting Investors, of course, aren’t the end all, be all of corporate sustainability communication — companies also want to reach customers, consumers, regulators and employees, among others. But limited time and money often results in corporate sustainability practitioners attempting to use annual or bi-annual reports as a one-size-fits all solution. More often than not, these reports are heavy on human-centric stories and light on quantitative information. While non-investor stakeholders tend to appreciate the human stories, they also typically aren’t taking the time to download and devour a portly PDF. Meanwhile, while investors are people too and can enjoy a good human story, they ultimately aren’t getting enough of the hard data they desire. In the new whitepaper, thinkPARALLAX proposes addressing this problem by dividing sustainability communication into two drivers — demonstrating performance and building reputation — so that companies can better invest time and resources to better engage investors and other stakeholders. Demonstrating performance involves conveying the effectiveness of a company’s sustainability strategy and management of material ESG issues, such as disclosing data around carbon emissions or diversity and inclusion through a digital reporting hub. Building reputation focuses on showing that a company is acting responsibly, limiting its environmental impact and delivering societal benefits. This could take the form of communications activities such as social media campaigns, microsites, videos, speaking or op-eds, among others.  “Companies most interested in engaging investors should focus more on demonstrating performance by communicating the hard ESG data they are looking for, as opposed to human interest stories,” Sanfacon said. “But if non-investor stakeholders like consumers, employees or customers are a primary audience, the company should invest more in building reputation by bringing the data to life through inspiring stories.” While this won’t single-handedly solve corporate sustainability’s reporting problem, it’s a start. As companies shift away from massive PDF reports and toward more targeted, real-time investor communication, they’ll free up time and resources to better engage consumers, employees and other key stakeholders on corporate sustainability. Pull Quote To be more effective at engaging investors and other critical audiences on ESG, companies ought to shift towards communicating relevant data in a more agile and real-time format. When companies more explicitly connect the dots between how they manage sustainability-related risks and opportunities and their financial outcomes, it’s both an opportunity to enhance transparency and strengthen performance. Topics Reporting ESG Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Kan Chana Close Authorship

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