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Infra Views

Fueling Road Spending with Federal Stimulus

Thursday, August 28th, 2014
Figure 1: Federal Highway Grants and Spending

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF SAN FRANCISCO
ECONOMIC RESEARCH DEPARTMENT
During the Great Recession, a surge in federal government spending was one option frequently called for as a means to sustain and stimulate the economy. Given the substantial perceived need for infrastructure improvements, many commentators argued that highways should be near the front of the line for any stimulus dollars. It is no surprise then that the 2009 fiscal stimulus package known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) contained $48 billion in transportation funding, $27 billion specifically for roads. These funds generally took the form of grants to state governments and were in addition to the usual federal transportation grants sent to state governments every year from the national Highway Trust Fund. Thanks to ARRA, federal highway grants to states jumped nearly 75% in 2009. Still, road spending by state and local governments nationwide—which is the source of virtually all road spending in the United States—was roughly flat between 2008 and 2011.

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The External Costs of Fossil Fuels; Environmental and Health Value of Solar

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
U.S. Net Electricity Generation

ENERGY & POLICY INSTITUTE
Ratepayers and customers have been led to believe that a power plant burning coal or natural gas is the cheapest form of electricity and therefore, should be prioritized over renewable energy generation. However, ratepayers are paying for more than the cost of the fossil fuel that is used to generate electricity. Utility customers pay for the cleanup of toxic spills and health costs associated with burning dirty energy sources. Furthermore, ratepayer’s money spent importing fossil fuels from other states causes unforeseen negative economic impacts when local renewable energy systems could provide economic benefits. Utilities have little economic incentive to reduce fuel costs since the cost of coal and natural gas are passed directly through to customers. Finally, customers ultimately pay for the impacts of climate change, including water scarcity, both of which are fueled and exacerbated by the burning of fossil fuels.

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Los Angeles County: Profile of Clean Energy Investment Potential

Monday, August 25th, 2014
Mid-century Warming in the Los Angeles Region

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND
UCLA LUSKIN CENTER FOR INNOVATION
The Environmental Defense Fund commissioned the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation to profile the potential for clean energy investments in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER): An Atlas of Investment Potential is multi-faceted. The LASER Atlas begins with this particular profile of clean energy investment potential at the county level. Other profiles that comprise the LASER Atlas are at the sub-regional level…This county level overview is designed to help community stakeholders identify areas of high potential for solar energy and the benefits of green economic investment. These benefits include capitalizing on incoming state and local funding while creating jobs and building community resilience to current environmental health and energy threats that climate change will exacerbate.

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OIder Pedestrians at Risk in the Tri-State Region: NY/ NJ/ CT

Friday, August 22nd, 2014
Figure 1. Tri-State Average Pedestrian Fatality Rate by Age Group (2003-2012)

TRI-STATE TRANSPORTATION CAMPAIGN
TSTC’s analysis clearly shows that across the tri-state and in the U.S., pedestrians 60 and older are at higher risk of dying from a car collision than their younger neighbors.

Why is this? A larger proportion of older adults may choose not to drive or may be unable to drive than younger adults, leaving a great number of older adults reliant on walking and taking transit. Also, as AARP explains, “With advanced age, bone density declines, making serious injury or death more likely if one is hit by a car.[. . .] Falls among people 65 and older are an equally significant public health concern and cost more than $19 billion annually in total direct medical costs. Inadequate sidewalk maintenance increases older adults’ risk.”

Simple roadway improvements, such as clearly marked crosswalks, longer crossing signals and wider pedestrian islands can help older pedestrians cross the street. Well-maintained sidewalks also help older adults get around safely without a vehicle.

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Back in the Fast Lane: How to Speed Public Transit Planning & Construction in California

Thursday, August 21st, 2014
Figure 1. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sector

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES
EMMETT INSTITUTE ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE ENVIRONMENT
This brief seeks to explain some of the causes of the planning and construction delays and escalating costs for major public transit projects, such as rail and bus rapid transit. Among the factors are counter-productive regulatory processes, lack of coordination among overlapping agencies and entities, poor agency oversight of construction, and political compromises meant to appease powerful neighborhood groups and automobile drivers at the expense of the regional good.

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2014 Strategic Directions: U.S. Electric Industry

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
FIGURE 1  TOP 10 INDUSTRY ISSUES

BLACK & VEATCHExecutive SummaryThe Black & Veatch 2014 Strategic Directions: U.S. Electric Industry report tracks how electric utilities are managing the accelerated pace of change and transformation of many traditional elements of their business. Black & Veatch predicts that this disruption, propelled by a confluence of market dynamics and shifting technologies, will result in a […]

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Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development

Monday, August 18th, 2014
Figures 1-1 and 1-2: Location of employment activity in Arlington County &  Bicycle and pedestrian networks in Arlington County

NATIONAL COOPERATIVE HIGHWAY RESEARCH PROGRAM

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The Southern Megalopolis: Using the Past to Predict the Future of Urban Sprawl in the Southeast U.S.

Friday, August 15th, 2014
Figure 1. Business-as-usual urbanization scenario for the Southeast US.

DEPARTMENT OF APPLIED ECOLOGY
NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY
Cities are expanding, and as they do urban sprawl–low-density urban development outside the urban core–is expanding even more rapidly. In some regions, expansion of suburban habitats as a result of shifts to automobile-dependent living has led to increases in the urban footprint even where populations have not shown large increases. Urban sprawl increases the connectivity among urban habitats while simultaneously fragmenting non-urban habitats such as forests and grasslands. These changes have a variety of effects on species and ecosystems, including impacts to water pollution, disturbance dynamics, local climate, and predator-prey relationships. Urban sprawl will also, almost certainly, influence the ability of species to respond to climate change, in as much as it creates barriers to the movement of species that cannot survive in cities and corridors for those who can. Knowledge about the potential future character of urban sprawl is thus useful to a variety of stakeholders, including resource managers, conservation organizations, and urban planners.

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Five Years of Learning From Communities and Coordinating Federal Investments

Thursday, August 14th, 2014
Figure 1: Many Americans prefer to live in more convenient, walkable neighborhoods. Source: National Association of Realtors 2013.

PARTNERSHIP FOR SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
Many of our communities and housing options, built for a different time, are not what Americans want today. Research from the real estate industry shows that more people want to live in more convenient, walkable neighborhoods (Figure 1). A National Association of Realtors survey showed that half of Americans prefer a neighborhood with a variety of housing types, including multifamily and single-family homes; shops, restaurants, and amenities within walking distance; and nearby public transportation over a neighborhood with only single-family homes and few transportation options besides driving. Walkable communities are particularly important to millennials, who make up the largest percentage of the U.S. population; one research firm estimates that about 70 percent of them see walkability as “important” or “vital” when choosing a home.

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Strategic Top 100: North American Infrastructure 2014 Report

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
Spotlight on Infrastructure: Los Angeles

CG/LA INFRASTRUCTURE
North America is currently experiencing the highest rate of urbanization in history. The way that infrastructure is developed in cities in the coming years is critical. The 2014 Strategic Top 100 highlights cities that are getting it right by making long-term investments into the right projects. These cities are shifting resources towards Transport- Oriented Development (TOD) and sustainable practices; exploring innovative methods of financing and value capture; while applying a keen understanding of public life and its importance to planning and design. Public sector leaders in the cities highlighted below are creating a sustainable vision for transportation that will benefit not only the local population, but also increased economic competitiveness in the region.

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