Tag Archives: climate change

The Colossal Blunder of 800 New Parking Spaces at Eldora Ski Resort

 

By Dom Nozzi

Eldora Ski Resort here in Boulder County, Colorado is preparing to commit a colossal yet still all-too-common blunder. After getting furious, enraged pushback last year when the Resort proposed to charge for existing parking (which, as an aside, is exactly the correct tool for managing their parking), the Resort was just given unanimous approval from the County Planning Board to install approximately 800 new “free” spaces at the Resort — which will require the clearing of about six acres of forest (assuming 325 square feet of parking lot per space).

This new parking would be in addition to the existing large parking lot, as well as at least one overflow parking lot.

This additional parking will result in more air emissions in the region (undercutting climate change reduction efforts by our community), cause a lot of forest removal (which will aggravate stormwater pollution, erosion, and flooding), increase “heat island” problems, increase the number of single-occupant vehicles driving through Nederland and to the Resort, increase congestion in Nederland and the length of the backup of cars trying to enter the Resort on popular snow days, reduce the number of carpoolers, reduce the number of transit users, and increase the need for shuttle buses at the Resort.

As an aside, I should note that for decades, whenever the Resort planned to engage in various modest expansions of recreation areas on their property (or any action that might increase the volume of cars in the nearby town of Nederland), they almost invariably got strong opposition. But in this case, the prospect of a six-acre asphalt parking lot replacing a forest is met with a consensus of happy, enthusiastic support.

I should also note that the Resort imposes an indirect tax on those who ride the bus to the Resort. In addition to the hefty charge for a bus ticket, bus riders usually have to pay for a locker to store their non-ski items while skiing — unlike motorists, who are able to use their car as a storage locker.

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There is No Mystery About What Needs to be Done

 

By Dom Nozzi

A friend of mine recently told me, with regard to climate change and excessive energy use, that “[i]t does all seem so overwhelming. I think a lot of people say, ‘What the hell, we are doomed, so I am going to buy the biggest car I can and drive it as much as possible. We are all going to die anyway so why try to make a change? Noting I can do will make a difference anyway.’ I wish we could all do something to make a change, but it is just so complicated, no one knows what to do.”

Here is my response to my friend:

The problem is not that the solutions are a mystery.

A great many of us know what works:

*Adopting a Carbon Tax.

*Establishing “dynamic pricing” of utility charges so that the price per unit of energy goes WAY up after a certain amount is used over the course of a month.

*Creating much larger government subsidies for “green” energy such as solar.

*Cutting the US military budget drastically.

*Putting way more government money into environmental research and the construction of a lot of new passenger rail.

*Pricing much of the “free” parking we have created all over the US.

*Tolling roads that are currently “free” to use.

There are nearly endless additional, effective tools, but I’ll stop there.

No, the problem is not the lack of knowledge about what to do. The problem is finding the political will to do effective things. As it stands now, the two major US political parties (Democrats and Republicans) are almost completely failing to give us leaders to vote for. Corruption is an important reason for that, as are unfortunate government subsidies for detrimental things.

In America, corruption leads to the widespread belief that socialism is a God-Given right when it comes to a great many ruinous features in our society (such as roads and parking and corn and energy). Corruption also leads too many of us to believe that socialism is only bad for things that benefit society (such as education, health, etc.).

As an aside, it is highly unlikely that paying attention to the entertainment, fear, anger, and outrage machine (ie, the US media) will inform us about what to do, or cast such tactics in a favorable light.

The media is almost exclusively striving not to inform us but to enrage us or amuse us or terrify us.

How did the media become this way?

Because the US media is going bankrupt by having to compete with such things as the Internet. They have learned, much to the detriment of our society, that if their reporting ramps up our OUTRAGE TOWARD OTHERS, FEAR OF OTHERS, and ANGER TOWARD OTHERS, they will make a lot of money and therefore sometimes survive – for at least a short while — the factors harming their bottom line. Their mission: to write news that obligates a great many of us to say to others, “OMG, did you hear xxxxxxx in the news???? We must tell everyone we know, and tune in more, or read more to learn more details!!!”

The emotions of outrage, fear, and anger do that better than anything else.

 

 

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Filed under Energy, Environment, Politics, Transportation

Is Boulder, Colorado in Danger of Becoming Too Dense?

By Dom Nozzi

March 9, 2017

I hear it all the time as a resident of Boulder, Colorado: “Boulder is too dense!”

I beg to differ.

I support Boulder’s long-standing objectives, such as reducing the city carbon footprint (to ease global warming), reducing noise pollution, improving affordability, increasing the number of trips made by foot or bike or transit, slowing tax increases, ensuring the City has the fiscal capacity to engage in needed/ongoing maintenance of our infrastructure, protecting environmentally sensitive outlying areas from suburban development, reducing traffic injuries and deaths (in part by designing streets to be slower speed and obligate motorists to be more attentive), promoting small retail shops and discouraging large retail shops, encouraging diversity and creativity, improving public health, and retaining a lovable character rather than an Anywhere USA character.

Each of these worthy objectives are furthered by more compact (dense) development.

Unfortunately, despite the conventional wisdom, Boulder is actually quite dispersed. Shockingly so.

Indeed, Boulder is so extremely low-density suburban that if we don’t become more compact and add a lot more housing, we will continue to undermine each of the objectives I list here.

Besides the low density and short-statured nature of development I have observed in Boulder, there is another element that strongly signals that Boulder is suburban in character. sprawl
Christopher Leinberger has pointed out that in compact, walkable neighborhoods, “more is better.” That is, new, more compact development tends to be welcomed because it typically improves the quality of life of those living a walkable lifestyle (more things to walk to, for example). By contrast, says Leinberger, in a drivable suburban neighborhood, “more is less.” In such a setting, new and more compact development tends to be detrimental to the drivable quality of life of residents (roads are more congested and parking is more scarce, for example).

For decades, Boulder has had a near consensus that “more is less,” which is a strong signal that Boulder is a drivable suburban community. Indeed, stopping development – or, if not possible, at least minimizing the density of new development — tends to be the be all and end all of protecting or improving quality of life in Boulder.

Our very low-density, dispersed suburban character means that Boulder’s per capita environmental impact is, ironically, very large (being “green” means far more than engaging in curbside recycling or driving a Prius). Dispersed land use patterns found in Boulder are unsustainable, very environmentally destructive, and ensure that nearly all trips in Boulder will be made by motor vehicle.

There is a growing desire for compact, walkable, town center housing — particularly with the Millennial generation — yet Boulder provides very little if any of that sort of housing. Demand for such housing is substantially higher than the supply of it. Which severely amplifies the affordable housing crisis in Boulder.

Sustainability is far out of reach for Boulder unless we provide a lot more compact, walkable housing.

In sum, I think Boulder is quite far from being “too dense.” So far that a “too dense” Boulder will not happen in our lifetimes — if ever. Indeed, it seems to me that Boulder’s biggest concern should be that we are too dispersed.

I previously wrote about why I believe so many people in Boulder (like in so many other American communities) believe their community is “too dense,” despite the obvious signs I cite above.

It is enormously ironic that a great many Boulder residents — not to mention the millions worldwide — love the great historic cities and towns of Europe so much that they happily spend huge sums of money to visit such towns on a regular basis. Nearly all of us love Copenhagen. We adore Amsterdam. We are charmed by Perugia. We are delighted by Dubrovnik. We cannot get enough of Granada.

Yet each of these celebrated cities are far more compact – far more dense – than Boulder.

Why this disconnect?

I believe there are three important reasons. First, the contemporary modernist architectural paradigm we have been saddled with for several decades has thrown the inherently lovable 315-0722092524-NSA-building-and-parking-lotand timeless traditional building design into the waste can in favor of repellent, “innovative,” look-at-me design. Citizens are thereby conditioned to equate new compact development with hideous buildings. Second, local zoning regulations in cities such as Boulder have made lovable, human-scaled design illegal by requiring excessive setbacks, excessive car parking, and excessive private open space. Third, nearly all citizens live car-dependent lifestyles. And because their cars consume such an enormous amount of space, motorists are compelled to fear and oppose town design that they otherwise love as tourists. They have, in essence, become their own enemies by striving to improve their life as motorists (equating quality of life with easy parking and free-flowing traffic), not realizing that doing so is ruinous to a healthy city and a lovable quality of life.

For much of our history up until the 20th Century, citizens welcomed and celebrated new development in their communities because they knew that almost invariably, the new development would improve the quality of life in their community.  Steve Belmont has informed us that a densifying city is a sign of city health. But that welcoming of new development has been understandably inverted into a widespread opposition to new modern-architecture-Ronchamp-Chapeldevelopment, largely due to the modernist architectural paradigm, local car-friendly development regulations, and car-dependent citizens who have become cheerleaders for their cars rather than for themselves, their family, and their neighbors.

Boulder can comfortably house a great many more newcomers, and if our land development regulations are properly crafted to insist that new development be walkable, our community will be greatly improved in each of the ways I list above.

For the record, I generally dislike buildings taller than 5 stories (the limit set by city charter), but know that the city can be much better and provide a lot more housing by allowing buildings to be 3-5 stories in appropriate locations.

Note, too, that I do not believe that EVERYONE should be obligated to live in more compact, walkable housing. A community should always provide sufficient housing for the full range of lifestyle choices: walkable town center, drivable suburban, and rural.

Unfortunately, drivable suburban is about the only lifestyle option offered in Boulder. Because we have made the cities we love impossible to build.

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The Carbon Tax and the Poor

By Dom Nozzi

A great many intelligent people have pointed out the obvious in recent years about our climate change – a change driven by carbon emissions – and our fiscal crisis: It is screamingly obvious that an extremely effective, fair way to reduce carbon emissions (and raise desperately needed govt revenue) is to enact a carbon tax. Increasing the price of Global-Climate-Change3carbon sends a much-needed price signal to people that products, actions and services that directly or indirectly use carbon have an embedded carbon cost. That cost is the climate change and environmental/societal woes hidden by a lack of a carbon tax.

Underpriced carbon is rapidly destroying our world and the future of our species.

An important reason why a carbon tax is equitable is that people using more carbon pay more tax. Such a tax would raise much-needed government revenue by charging people for societally unsustainable behavior.

One would therefore think that political liberals and environmentalists would be 100 percent in favor of a carbon tax. Such people, one would expect, would find such a tax a no-brainer.

But as I often point out, a very large number of desperately needed societal actions are squelched because of the red flag too often raised by liberals and environmentalists: “WE CAN’T DO THAT BECAUSE IT WILL HURT POOR PEOPLE!!!!”

We can’t raise the gas tax…because it will hurt poor people.

We can’t put this four-lane monster highway destroying our downtown on a road diet (taking it from four lanes to three, for example)…because poor people won’t be able to get to jobs.

We can’t ease our parking woes, make our town centers more compactly walkable, and substantially reduce the amount of off-street, gap-tooth dead zone parking lots…because charging people money for parking will hurt poor people.

We can’t raise the tax on cigarettes to reduce excessive smoking…because it will hurt poor people who smoke.

We can’t adjust electricity prices to promote energy conservation…because it will hurt poor people.

We can’t charge a tax on sugar…because poor people won’t be able to afford to buy a Pepsi.

We can’t charge a fee for a background check…because poor people won’t be able to afford to buy a gun.

We can’t charge an impact fee on sprawl residential development…because it will hurt poor people who buy sprawl homes.

[I’ve heard all of the above complaints more than once.]

At the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder Colorado yesterday, I attended a session on how we need to learn to live with global warming because we have passed the tipping point and there is no way we can avoid catastrophic warming in our lifetimes no matter what we do (session title: “Climate Change: Get Used To It”). A question came from someone in the audience: “If we establish a federal tax [like has been admirably done in Boulder and a few European nations] on carbon, won’t it be a very bad idea because the carbon tax would be unaffordable for poor people??”

As you can imagine, the question made my blood boil.

I wanted to leap to my feet and scream to her: “We are driving a car at a high rate of speed towards a fiscal and environmental cliff (given our huge government fiscal woes and our huge climate change woes). Do you mean to say that we should not step on the brakes?? That we instead go over the cliff because poor people cannot afford to brake?????”

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Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

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