June 30, 2009

How are our federal stimulus funds being spent on transportation?

Of the $336 million in federal transportation money Massachusetts received from the federal stimulus program, one-fifth is being spent on building new roadways, according to a report from Smart Growth America examining how transportation Stimulus funds are being spent. That's the second highest portion in New England (only New Hampshire is using more).

On the plus side: A solid 14% will be spent on "non-motorized" projects, and another 17% on transit-related programs.

Massachusetts ranked 29th in the portion of money being used to repair existing roadways as opposed to build new ones, but third in the percent of funding being used on public transportation and "non-motorized projects" (District of Columbia was first and Delaware 2nd).

Overall, Smart Growth America concludes that "states failed to make as much progress as possible on pressing transportation needs."

In addition, the group claims, the billions in federal transportation stimulus money will create and save jobs but not "as many or as quickly as they could have," arguing data show another $2 billion on repair would have created 4,300 new jobs more quickly. And while the funds will help shore up crumbling infrastructure, there will now be "$6 billion more miles of roads to maintain ... When they could not afford to maintain the ones they already have."

The report also says spending falls far short of providing a more balanced transportation system, improve public transportation, help reduce energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions or not contribute to additional sprawl.

More than half of the roads in Massachusetts were not in good condition as of 2007, costing the average driver about $300 a year. In addition, 345 bridges and roadways in the state were "structurally deficient" last year, the report says.

June 18, 2009

Urban mobility planning in Barcelona: Lecture in Cambridge

What are the results of implementing better transit networks, traffic calming zones, and a bike sharing program? Are these measures always environmentally-friendly? Are they enough to create better places to live and enjoy? Learn about the development of urban mobility plans in Greater Barcelona and Catalonia, Spain, from Marius Navazo, Urban Planner, Barcelona. See what the Catalan Government is encouraging municipalities to do.

The lecture is Thursday, June 25, 7 to 9 pm at LivableStreets office space, 100 Sidney Street, Cambridge. The event is free and open to the public (although donations are suggested). Beer and soda provided compliments of Harpoon Brewery and delivered thanks to Metro Pedal Power.

Marius Navazo is a geographer who has been working for the last 10 years in town and regional planning, focused on transportation and its impacts to improve cities from a social and environmental perspective. He has been working at the Catalan Government for the last 4 years, and now he is a freelancer working for different municipalities in the Barcelona area.

For more information, go to www.livablestreets.info/node/2154.

June 16, 2009

Hospital hypocrisy

Does anyone else find irony in a company that brings for-profit capitalism to healthcare complaining about "unfair competition" if another institution invades what it considers its monopoly-protected turf?

MetroWest Medical Center is owned by Vanguard Health Systems, a multi-billion-dollar company that turned a $16 million profit from the (continuing) operations of 15 hospitals around the country in the last quarter. Vanguard Health Systems' Web site boasts that the company brings "the business acumen of a privately owned organization" and "the strengths of a for-profit corporation" to its hospitals (although good luck finding anything about that on the MetroWest hospitals' own site).

You can't have it both ways. You can't take advantage of free-market capitalism to earn a profit for investors from treating people's injuries and illnesses, and then complain about competition.