They’re starting to step up. Eight states that represent, according to the New York Times, “a quarter of the national car market” just announced they’re going to work together on creating a better system for drivers of electric vehicles. They are, in descending order of population size, California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and they say their goal is to help get 3.3 million new EVs sold by 2025. With a combined population of 79 million people, that means one EV for every 24 people.
How are they going to do it? By creating a system that will give EV owners something only gas-guzzling car drivers have now: certainty about where and when and how they’ll be able to fuel up.
I’m all for things that help improve the environment, but I’ve got to say, I’m a little sad that the environmental press is not being more thoughtful on this story. Reduced carbon emissions are wonderful, but it is not simply the carbon which is problematic, it is safety (for people inside and outside of cars) land-use, household budgets, and more. These are among the things states are supposed to do to encourage electric cars:
- More charging stations
- Building codes that require chargers at workplaces and “multifamily residences”
- Reduced tolls
- Better parking
- Cheaper electricity prices
These are all things that encourage more driving; encouraging sprawl, paving land, putting pedestrians and cyclists in conflict with auto-traffic (I don’t think you’re any less dead after getting run over by an electric vehicle than you are getting run over by a gas powered one), and leaving individuals and families tied to the expense of a car (granted, made less so by reducing the costs of powering the vehicle).
Rhode Island seems quite proud of itself for being part of this group of states, but Rhode Island continues to poorly support alternatives to automobile use, namely mass transit and cycling infrastructure.
The Boston Globe: Worcester’s downtown vision
The city needs sizable apartment and condominium complexes to deliver the number of bodies that will anchor the rest of the neighborhood. Sizeable residential buildings are also very difficult to build in Worcester, because they cost more to build than they’d generate in rent. Cheaper wood-frame apartments could have gone up a year or two ago, but these low-slung buildings wouldn’t generate anywhere close to the kind of residential density the CitySquare vision hinges on. It’s a sign that the city gets it, that it’s avoiding shortcuts and holding out for the kind of density it needs to create a downtown that isn’t just full of buildings, but actually feels alive.
The per-gallon tax of 18.4 cents for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel hasn’t been increased since 1993, so the trust fund’s buying power has steadily eroded with rising prices. Taxing a percentage of wholesale motor fuels costs would boost revenue as prices rise without forcing lawmakers to revisit the question with politically painful votes to raise taxes.
In fact, Virginia did away with its statewide 17.5 cents-per-gallon tax at the gas pump entirely, in favor of a new wholesale tax of 3.5 percent on gasoline and 6 percent on diesel, along with an increase in the state’s general sales tax. In the heavily populated Washington suburbs and Tidewater area, motorists pay an extra 2.1 percent sales tax on gas purchases. Drivers of electric [and hybrid] vehicles pay a $64 annual fee.
Total traffic deaths have declined nationwide in recent years, but the same has not held true for the most vulnerable people on the streets: cyclists and pedestrians. In 2011, 130 more pedestrians were killed in traffic than the year before, a 3 percent increase, while 54 more people lost their lives while biking, an increase of 8 percent. The same year, overall traffic deaths declined 2 percent.
As for the reasons why, good data has been scarce, but that hasn’t stopped major media from blaming victims for “drunk walking” or “distracted walking.” Now a new study published in Public Health Reports, the journal of the U.S. Public Health Service and the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, reveals that distracted driving — particularly driving while texting — partially explains the rising death toll.
The Kansas City Star: Streetcar prompts plan for Crossroads apartments
In what may be the first new downtown project directly attributed to the planned streetcar line, a Colorado developer is proposing to replace a parking lot with a five-story apartment building in the Crossroads Arts District.
“The streetcar is the big thing that drew us, absolutely,” [developer Scott Richardson] said. “We like the demographics and the economic trends. I walked the area and liked the site.”