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To get back to the topic of US exurban and rural populations. Everyone thinks this is an un-fixable problem because of the magnitude. But, actually the exurbans only comprise at most 10% of the population.

In the past single generation cities in the Rust Belt have declined by 50% in population (Detroit, Buffalo, etc.) so social and economic forces can cause a rapid shift when conditions are right.

Sprawl is the end stage of wasteful development, but the majority still live in fairly compact regions. The problem comes with the supply chain which even for food now stretches over 1500 miles on average.

Will people be willing to buy local, seasonal food when they have gotten use to peaches in January? How about substituting dried and canned foods instead of fresh and frozen?


Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Oct 31st, 2006 at 06:52:19 PM EST
The American transportation problem is grossly overstated. Electric trains are superbly suited for transporting food and for long-distance travel. Electric trolley-busses can solve America's local transportation problems with little real change in lifestyle, and the capital cost is not all that high. (Fewer Hummers does not equal "real" change, if you ask me, although others may not agree.)

Where does all the electricity come from? I think coal, but also possibly nukes or wind or your-favorite-renewable-resource.

What is understated is the effect of climate change, which might eliminate snowfall in the Rocky Mountains, making it impossible to live here or irrigate crops in California and Arizona (both fed largely by Rocky Mountain water). Of course there is desalination, and a big desert nearby...

The real problem is not in America, but in the Third World, where the economic resources to react to climate change and more expensive energy aren't available.

by asdf on Tue Oct 31st, 2006 at 10:24:24 PM EST
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America still outputs 25% World's CO2, more than the whole Africa (unless funghi and livestock are counted as a part of Third World's CO2 problem, I suppose). Here is a nice map.

I am curious how USA could solve the surburban transport problem. The infrastructure is so inappropriate, isn't it?

by das monde on Wed Nov 1st, 2006 at 02:09:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree about the U.S. putting out far more than its share of CO2.

The existing transporation infrastructure is almost entirely based on automobiles and airplanes. The railroad system in the Northeast carries a substantial fraction of the commuter traffice, and much of the railroad infrastructure built during the second world war is still in place so we could fairly easily implement a 1945-scale railroad transportation system. But even during the depression, most people had cars.

On the other hand, it would take no change to the roads to run busses. And electric busses powered by overhead wires are practical and not too expensive, so that would be a pretty easy step to take to cover transportation in the exurbs. Truly rural areas are more of a problem, but there aren't many people living in rural areas anyway.

by asdf on Wed Nov 1st, 2006 at 11:56:21 PM EST
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I heard that many surbubs are build on purpose without any public transport connection. Since you wouldn't put a bus stop by each gate, the switch to bus services would be far from elegant. And then you have shopping malls and all other services completely in other places. Reverse evolution of the sprawls might be very interesting... though hardly pretty.

In a parallel thread, I have an intermediate transportation proposal, where clients would submit their travel requests, and a transportation company would route its cars or minibuses to satisfy those requests. It is like taxi, but with different passengers served together. The idea is simple, actually, though possibly not implemented anywhere, due to complexities of routing and request communication. But with modern technologies of wireless communication and the internet, these problems can be handled. I believe this system could be acceptable to regular car users right now, and it would help to reduce traffic and its emissions substantially. Don't you think that this system can be viable somewhere in the US?

by das monde on Thu Nov 2nd, 2006 at 02:02:33 AM EST
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