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The Black Budget

I sometimes suspect that China, for all the hue and cry of this being the “Chinese century” and how cities like Shanghai represent the future, is actually going to look obsolete and untenable in a number of decades (in a sort of Kunstlerian way, and the future really belongs to places like Denmark.

Via City Fix comes this interesting number:

“Last Thursday, the Danish government agreed to invest 94 billion kroner ($16 billion) to improve the nation’s roads, railways and bike lanes by 2020.

Traffic Minister Lars Barfoed was quoted by The Copenhagen Post as saying, “The shape of the agreement is clear: two-thirds green, one-third black,” meaning that most of the budget will go towards public transit infrastructure and the rest will be spent on asphalt road projects.

The U.S., by contrast, does things a little differently:

Government regulations and spending priorities have favored driving as the means of moving people and products since the Eisenhower administration and the advent of the Interstate Highway System. More than 80 percent of transit money from gas taxes supports highways and bridges, with the remainder, less than 20 percent, allocated for mass transit. Moreover, federal contributions to highway projects often cover more than 80 percent of the total construction costs, compared with only 50 percent of the typical cost for a transit system. Rail freight, which uses one-third as much energy per mile as trucking to ship a pound of cargo, has no federal funding at all.

In other news, Amsterdam residents on two-wheels have now eclipsed those on four.

People are using their bikes just a bit more than their cars, the figures from 2005-2007 show. Inhabitants of Amsterdam used their bikes .87 times per day during that time, while they used their cars .84 times a day. Amsterdam measured the traffic on its inner-city ring road, and found car trips falling nearly 15 percent since 1990, while bike trips during that same time period rose 36 percent.

One of the reasons: “restrictive parking practices enacted since the 1990′s.” Who says you need congestion pricing?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 at 4:30 pm and is filed under Energy, Etc.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “The Black Budget”

  1. Daniel Says:

    But wait, there’s more! The highway expenditures barely represent enough to finance urgent repairs to bridges (a la Minneapolis). I live in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where all truck traffic must be rerouted through dense city to avoid an unsafe bridge on Interstate 95, the major corridor from New York to Boston. That’s not unusual right now. I hate to sound like an “it’s always better in Europe” guy, but Sarkozy is heading a French stimulus package that spends buckets on rail, ports, and universities, plenty on needed road work, and little on the self-serving social programming that our US stimulus is going to wind up featuring. We need freight revivals, we need prioritization of transit in metro areas, we need prioritization of bicycle transit (as opposed to goofy recreational “rails to trails” projects).

  2. Jack Says:

    Dan is right in his prescription for change. In too many communities across the US, highways through urban cores are expanded to serve the loud and dangerous semis which dominate our rush to subsidize delivery time. Our quality of life suffers dramatically (as we waste more fuel so our air can be more polluted) while other countries continue to improve life for their citizens.

  3. David Hembrow Says:

    Remember of course, that Amsterdam’s cycling rate is only around average for the Netherlands. Groningen passed the mark of more cycle journeys than car journeys a long time ago. Nearly 60% of journeys in that city are by bicycle. Easily the highest rate in the world.

    And yes, it is “futuristic”. Not “electric cars and monorails” pretend future style, but what is really needed. What’s more, the social policies that go along with (and are inextricably linked with) the transport policies have resulted in a very high level of contentedness within society. Rates of drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and all types of crime are amongst the lowest. Only a small percentage of the population is in prison. Rather than having a national debt, the country is in credit. And children are the happiest in the world.

    Since moving here some time ago I’ve still not found a downside.

  4. David Hembrow Says:

    Oh, and the figure for trips per day is 1.4 in Groningen, 1.2 here in Assen where we live (i.e. both more than the car figures). The equivalent figure for the entire country is around 0.8.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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