By Karl Vilacoba
In "the snap of a finger,” energy costs have dramatically changed long-range planning goals and demographic expectations, according to Anne Canby, president of the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership and a member of InTransition’s editorial board.
Canby was among a half-dozen panelists at a June 26 symposium held as part of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority’s (NJTPA) effort to update its 25-year regional plan. (The NJTPA publishes InTransition in partnership with the New Jersey Institute of Technology.) Canby said the rising cost of energy means that people will decide where to live and work based on the combined cost of housing and transportation, rather than simply assuming transportation will be affordable, as in the past.
“Energy is clearly a front and center issue and has to be incorporated into anything we do with transportation from here on out,” she said.
While a few of the experts addressed specific local issues, others delivered presentations that were highly relevant to anyone in the planning and transportation fields, if not any resident of the country.
One of the most compelling speakers of the day was Daniel Lerch, author of the first major municipal guidebook on peak oil and global warming and a program manager at the Post Carbon Institute, which advises government officials how to end their reliance on fossil fuels. Lerch gave a thought-provoking presentation on how much trouble the country is in with its foreign oil dependence. The gas prices we’re seeing are just the beginning, he warned, and the time is now (if not yesterday) for America to fundamentally change its consumption patterns.
Public policy expert and Northeastern University (Boston) Professor Joseph Giglio advocated that the government widely reform how our transportation network is funded and administered. He discussed a number of interesting alternative funding strategies that have been tried or are under consideration around the country.
Audio files of the speakers are available online here. In some cases, Powerpoint files corresponding with the presentations were posted.