New Year News – Trains, Plans, and Automobiles (miles traveled)

What with the holidays and all, Net Density has been on a bit of a hiatus.  Many pieces of news dropped while I was enjoying some relaxation, and in order to catch up I simply don’t have time to give them all the detail they deserve.  So, instead of skipping them altogether, I’ll try to cover them all, giving a few of my editorial comments for each.

A draft of the Minneapolis North Loop Small Area Plan was completed and put out for public comment, with a twist.  You can edit the document directly using a wiki, which the city and the neighborhood hope will encourage more participation.  Put me in the skeptical camp. Wikis work best when with a small audience who is very knowledgeable about the topic, or a really large audience (see Wikipedia) where the size of the audience enables content to be vetted and inaccurate information to be weeded out.  The North Loop plan wiki may see a small audience, which will mean little peer review, and they will also likely be unaware of the requirements for plan content.

TransForm, a transportation policy advocacy group from the Bay area, has released its GreenTRIP rating system to fill the gaps in LEED ND and rank developments based on their ability to reduce VMT.  I say hoorah for the premise, we need to tackle VMT to address climate change and other issues, but do we need another rating system?  How about some regulation?

Saint Paul adopted a requirement that all new buildings projects which receive $200,000 or more in city funding must meet the standards of one of seven ratings systems such as LEED. Projects must meet Minnesota Sustainble Buildings 2030 energy standards.  Saint Paul is a model.  Any development that receives public dollars should at least meet these basic energy requirements when the payoffs (and paybacks) are so obvious and available.

Last, but certainly not least, MNDOT released its statewide Passenger and Freight Rail Plan.  The plan lays out near and long-term corridor priorities and shockingly (or maybe not shockingly) does not clearly pick the river route as a winner for high-speed rail to Chicago.  The alignment saga will continue, but if MNDOT’s cost-effectiveness figures are correct, building a link to Chicago makes good sense (and not just because of the lack of full-body scanners).

Welcome to 2010!  I hope your best laid plans all reach the implementation stage this year!

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