New Infrastructure: Designing for Green Transportation

Last week, I discussed how retrofitting the nation's infrastructure with sustainable resources is one option for stimulating the economy. Similarly, carrying this concept through individual real estate projects is being tested. Like cities, developments are planned with transportation in mind. The difference being that they revolve around parking while cities are influenced by streets and highways. Forming green transit systems is the most difficult task considering new urban ideals look down on oil-based transportation. This idea tends to fail because it does not coincide with the general population's dependence on automobiles. Since the necessity of movement is arguably the most important aspect of design, it is vital that we begin promoting change on both the macro and micro levels. As a result of change in transportation, a foundation for maintaining sustainable communities will be created. Using the blogosphere, I found two relevant posts that discuss green infrastructure and further investigate the issue. The first entry is titled "LEED and Parking - Lessons Learned", and it discusses the blogger's process of incorporating privileged parking for environmentally efficient cars into his building scheme. This specific piece is almost a forum where the author asks for advice from developers facing similar issues. Although the writer's identity is well-hidden, there is an obvious amount of knowledge that he shares through his personal experiences. To compliment the microcosmic piece, I reviewed a post that explores a general outlook on transportation. "At Least Some American Infrastructure Investment Doesn't Involve Cars" gives Lloyd Alter's view on the nation's current rail transit. In addition to writing for Treehugger's blog, Alter is a successful architect, developer, and inventor. Although he uses a single case study, his conclusions are generalized for a nation-wide perspective. I have added personal feedback via comments at each blog, but they are also displayed below.

"LEED and Parking - Lessons Learned"
Your project exposes some interesting difficulties that surface when providing restricted parking. I appreciate that you share the information that was found while researching in addition to your opinions. As a student studying real estate development, I have found that these guidelines are becoming more important as sustainability becomes a larger issue. You mention that "less parking than is typically required [and preferred] parking for both carpoolers and Low-Emitting Vehicles" will be offered. Is this to encourage the purchase of fuel efficient cars or do building codes allow less parking if more privileged spaces are available? I believe that your audience can better infer the motive if you mention the building typology. The scheme is described as "an enormous building", but stating what the structure will be used for might be helpful for readers. Whether or not the intention was to promote using efficient methods of transportation, this parking tactic suggests its importance. Additionally, the photograph that you have selected to compliment the text is a great resource (see photo left). It gives a visual reference and shows exactly what you have in mind in terms of painting as opposed to purchasing 200 costly signs. It is commendable that you are thinking about conserving materials. Despite the research that you have provided, defining low-emitting vehicles is still rather unclear. The average driver probably does not know what SmartWay Elite Certification or the American Council's rating system entail. Consequently, do you think that an honor system will take effect? It is obvious that a Prius is more likely to meet these standards than a Ford F250, but I think that a lack of general knowledge may lead to misuse of this privilege. Initially, I too thought of using MPG as a regulation, but the counter-argument that you present is strong. What do you think about using stickers similar to those which allow vehicles to use carpool lanes or handicapped parking spots? On a similar note, I am curious to know how carpool parking spots will be enforced. Is this too an honor system? I look forward to hearing your responses and kudos for the informative summary of a lesser known topic.

"At Least Some American Infrastructure Investment Doesn't Involve Cars"
I am thrilled to see more and more attention being given to non-vehicular transportation. It is great that your post has attracted meaningful responses from its readers. Although you offer a limited amount of text, I believe that your background and unique insight allows for this style of round-table discussion with the audience. In addition, I find that the images support the content nicely. Specifically, the rendering of the Poughkeepsie railroad bridge as a pedestrian overpass is vital in understanding the project's goal (see rendering right). While the thoughts behind the change are respectable, I hesitate to think that it will draw a crowd "equivalent to the Eiffel Tower, or the Golden Gate Bridge". Giving some input on this assumption might alter the way the project is perceived. It is credible that local residents will take advantage of the walkway, but difficult for me to believe it would draw worldwide attention. I would like to hear more personal opinions considering you have an extensive knowledge of the industry. I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on the rebirth of the rail system. You mention that we need to start "thinking of every railway bridge and right-of-way as a national asset to be maintained and restored, and not left to rot." It seems to me that the railway system is not fixable based on public perception. Do you think that it is possible to encourage people to take advantage of a restored rail system, let alone invest millions for its rejuvenation? On the other hand, it is commonly accepted that trains can be helpful in displacing "fuel-inefficient [service] trucks." Here in California, Proposition 1b demands the construction of a high-speed railway that will run from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Being a student in Southern California, I have heard few, if any, who oppose the idea. Will creating a new system be as effective? It is necessary to turn to alternative modes of transportation, but preserving railroads on a national level seems costly and may yield less-than-desirable results. Perhaps I am simply unaware of its demand. Thank you again for presenting an informative post and I will be anticipating your future entries.

1 comment:

Lauren Ford said...

Thanks so much for this post! The measures that were presented on the ballot on Tuesday as well as the increase in productivity of fuel-efficient "green" vehicles point to the extreme (if controversial) importance of transportation reform in Los Angeles. As someone who doesn't know much about the interworking of the real estate sector, I appreciated that your introductory paragraph grounded your post in relevant background information and explained why transportation is such vital aspect of development. However, I am a little unclear why you chose to juxtapose commercial vs. residential transportation in your introductory paragraph when the blogs you commented on seem to be mostly concerned with commercial infrastructure.

The second aspect of your entry that I really enjoyed was that the questions I had after reading each blog post were the questions you addressed in your comments to the authors. I always find it tough to maintain a balance between a professional tone and the conversational style that a blog comment demands. You did an excellent job of this. Using quotations to provide evidence and then asking follow-up questions allowed for your comments to target specific aspects of the author's post that were ambiguous.

I had a difficult time trying to formulate criticism! The only little thing I might recommend for the next time is to smooth out your comments a little. Each point that you brought up was distinct and seemed to be separate from the other points-almost like a list. While the points were well organized, it was a bit of a choppy read and I think I could have rearranged the sentences within the comment and not lost the general meaning. For example, after asking your question about the motive behind having preferred “green car” parking, you provide a criticism and then change the subject by adding “Additionally, the photograph that you have selected to compliment the text is a great resource (see photo right). It gives a visual reference and shows exactly what you have in mind in terms of painting as opposed to purchasing 200 costly signs.”

Overall I think you did a great job and I look forward to reading your future posts!

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