December 1, 2015

Public Works: How The Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up

By Dave Johnson

Campaign for America’s Future

“Investing in infrastructure makes our economy more productive and competitive across the board.”
– Hillary Clinton

Dec 1, 2015 - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has announced a plan for infrastructure investment. How does her plan stack up against that of her chief competitor, Bernie Sanders?

Also, how will Clinton and Sanders pay for their plans? On that question, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently came up with a set of principles we can use to judge this.

Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan

Clinton on Monday announced a plan for investing in infrastructure improvements. Meteor Blades laid out the need for infrastructure investment at Daily Kos in “Clinton proposes $275 billion spending for infrastructure“:

… 11 percent of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and a fourth of them are functionally obsolete. Similar deficiencies can be found in schools, dams, levees, railroads, the electrical grid, and wastewater facilities. In its 2013 quadrennial report card on U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the nation would need to invest an additional $1.6 trillion by 2020 to put its infrastructure into good repair. And that doesn’t include innovative infrastructure like universal broadband.

Clinton’s infrastructure plan is detailed at her website in “Hillary Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow’s Economy Today.” Here is a distillation:

? $250 billion dollars in infrastructure investment, spread out over five years as additional spending of $50 billion each year.

? An additional one-time $25 billion to seed a national infrastructure bank. The bank will support up to an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement. These are loans to states and cities which will require tolls, fees, etc. to pay off.

? Spending priorities include “smart investments in ports, airports, roads, and waterways”; “giving all American households access to world-class broadband and creating connected ‘smart cities'”; “building airports and air traffic control systems”; “a smart, resilient electrical grid”; “safe and reliable sources of water”; “a national freight investment program”; “upgrade our dams and levees to improve safety and generate clean energy”; safe, smart roads and highways that are ready for the connected cars of tomorrow” and “the new energy sources that will power them.”

? A promise of “a faster, safer, and higher capacity passenger rail system.” But the plan does not mention high-speed rail. (Note that a single high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco is expected to cost up to $60 billion, which alone is almost one-fourth of Clinton’s entire five-year infrastructure investment for all infrastructure needs.)

Sanders’ Infrastructure Plan

Clinton’s $275 billion infrastructure plan offers modest spending and contains few specifics. Contrast that with candidate Bernie Sanders, who has proposed a highly detailed, $1 trillion plan.



November 10, 2015

Transforming Cities: Baltimore to DC in 15 Minutes.

by @ 2:15 pm. Filed under High Design, High-Speed Rail, Mass Transit


Maglev Train in Shanghai

Maglev Train in Shanghai

Maryland's Maglev Train Gets First Round Of Federal Funding


By Mary Beth Griggs

Popular Science 

For the past forever, high-speed rail in the United States has existed as a sugarplum dream, sweet to think about, but dissolving instantly upon contact with reality. One of the sweetest and fastest of these dreams is maglev trains, a super-high-speed rail system that already exists in other parts of the world, reaching speeds of 373 miles per hour in Japan. Soon, our high-speed aspirations might become reality thanks to new funding for maglev research here in the United States.

On Saturday, the office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that the state had received a $27.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to assess the feasibility of a superconducting maglev (also known as SCMaglev) train line between Baltimore and Washington DC.

Currently, the trip between Baltimore and Washington DC takes about an hour by car, approximately an hour and 15 minutes by commuter rail, and 40 minutes via the only current high-speed option, the Acela Express. A new maglev route could reduce that down to 15 minutes.

“The ability to travel between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. in only 15 minutes will be absolutely transformative, not just for these two cities, but for our entire state,” Hogan said in a statement. “This grant will go a long way in helping us determine our next steps in this transportation and economic development opportunity.”

$27.8 million may seem like a lot, but it's just a drop in the bucket. The final cost of such a project is still unknown, but Hogan and the Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail group, which is leading the project, expect to receive a lot more funding from private donors and the Japanese government, which already has maglev trains in use. Last April, Japan pledged to fund half of the anticipated $9.75 billion cost of the project, and license the maglev technology at no cost to the United States.

Maglev is short for magnetic levitation. A maglev train hovers above the tracks, suspended by magnets embedded in the track repelling magnets onboard. The lack of contact between the train and the track means that the train can fly between cities at ridiculously high speeds, without any friction to hold it back. There are other high-speed rail options, like the Acela, which can technically reach speeds of 150 miles per hour on conventional rails, but usually travels at speeds of 64 miles per hour.

The ride on existing maglev trains is smooth and exceedingly quick, but that doesn't mean that there are no downsides. There have been a few crashes, and maglev technology is very expensive. The cost of building a completely new infrastructure system is so high that it is hard to muster the political will to push big projects through. In 2011, Vice President Biden pledged that over the next six years, the United States government would invest $53 billion in high speed rail. That was four years ago. Between 2009 and 2014, the United States dedicated a grand total of $11 billion to high speed rail projects, which is a lot, but nowhere near $53 billion, even with the new $27.8 million grant. There are some private companies trying to step in and fill the high-speed void, but whether they get very far remains to be seen.

Here at Popular Science we've been writing about maglev trains since 1973, and there are some very cool possibilities for the technology, including trains across the Atlantic, trains to space, and even maglev elevator cars. A train between Baltimore and DC? It's a good place to start.

Visit Website


November 7, 2015

Working Toward Zero: In Greece, Driverless Buses Are Now Accepting Passengers

by @ 8:00 am. Filed under Cybernation, High Design, Mass Transit

A local resident takes a photo of the tiny CityMobil2 driverless bus in Trikala, Greece. Each bus can fit 12 passengers.

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis


By Lydia Chain

Popular Science

Greek commuters have a new way to get to work: a completely driverless bus that operates within normal traffic. The buses are part of a program that has been running in Trikala, Greece, since earlier this summer, but so far they’ve only been tested without passengers--up until last Saturday, that is. Now people will be able to use the buses to get around. The trip is completely free of charge, and could be safer and more efficient than buses driven by humans.

“It’s the first time someone dared to bring a totally automated vehicle into open traffic,” Angelos Amditis tells Popular Science. Amditis is the research director at Greece's Institute of Communication and Computer Systems, which is handling the technical side of the project. Previously, automated vehicles in Greece were either operated only in segregated lanes or exhibition areas, or under the supervision of a professional driver in case of emergency. There’s no human backup for Trikala’s six automated buses, which operate surrounded by other cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

New laws had to be passed to make way for the project, and even so the buses operate under strict limitations. The maximum permitted speed is around 12 miles per hour. While other drivers can merge into its lane, a bus isn’t allowed to change lanes or make turns—it just drives a short circular route. And if there’s any obstacle in its path, it sits there and waits for the object to move. “We have to be strict,” says Amditis. When humans crash, it’s an accident, but a crash involving an automated vehicle would be a political mess, “even if there’s a hundred less accidents overall.”



November 4, 2015

High Design: Tiger Stone Paving Machine Makes Brick Roads Like Laying Carpet

by @ 10:52 am. Filed under Cybernation, High Design

Tiger Stone Paving Machine 6

Living labor takes a nosedive in relation to well-designed machines

By The Engineer - December, 28th 2013

Engineers are always busy finding simpler solutions to problems and strive to decrease the time that a particular activity requires. One such endeavor has resulted in this particular machinery which is more than just a symbol of great engineering, it is frikkin’ cool and awesome.

Tiger Stone Paving Machine 5

How much paving you reckon, a paver is able to accomplish in a day? The right answer is 100 sq. meter. How do you think this compares to achieving a minimum paving of 400 square meter in a day? So what does this machine do exactly? You provide it with cobblestones and it will lay them down in a pattern to build a road that would require a couple of hours if done manually.

Tiger Stone Paving Machine 4



October 24, 2015

Cincinnati: Labor, Churches, Schools Making Waves with Coops

Xavier students are both studying and helping the Community Blend Coffee co-op in nearby Evanston

Xavier students are both studying and helping the Community Blend Coffee co-op in nearby Evanston

Building Engaged Communities: Why Xavier is promoting the cooperative movement


By Kristen Kranke

Oct 20, 2015 - When I spoke with Timothy Kraus, interim director of Interfaith Business Builders, he was in the middle of a history tour of the South, exploring significant landmarks related to abolition, the Civil Rights movement and blues music.

As a key player in Cincinnati’s cooperative movement, Kraus made a conscious decision to tour the South. Visiting these towns and landmarks is a part of his attempt to understand the history of a community strategy that is already taking flight in our city.

“People are slowly beginning to realize that cooperatives are not necessarily a new idea,” Kraus says. “Co-ops in the South were one of the strategies newly freed slaves used to sustain themselves. They have always been critical to pulling people through hard times.”

Today, Cincinnati’s role in the cooperative movement is rapidly expanding. Over the next year, by teaming up with a number of co-op organizations around town, Xavier University will host a three-part conference to spread the word about cooperative influence in Cincinnati and beyond; the first gathering is Nov. 12.

'Businesses rooted in the community better the community'

By definition, a cooperative business is one that exists for the benefit of those using it services. “User-owners” distribute profits and earnings among themselves. Cooperatives are often created for a specific cause or need, creating jobs for disenfranchised individuals or contributing to overall sustainable community development.
“Cooperative businesses can be great tools in low income neighborhoods to keep the money in the neighborhood,” Kraus says. “There’s a lot of money that flows through every neighborhood, but it never stays in the neighborhood.”

He says the number of “absentee landlords and business owners” in economically stressed communities is part of the problem cooperatives hope to solve.

“Businesses rooted in the community better the community,” Kraus says. “They're a way to bolster a struggling economy in a local neighborhood.”

After a long career in teaching, Kraus retired in the hopes of putting his energy into something completely different. Enter Interfaith Business Builders, one of Cincinnati’s most established worker-owned cooperative builders. Since 1983, IBB has worked with over 400 underemployed or chronically unemployed people to help them find a place in their community’s economy.

According to Kraus, IBB began as Jobs for People, the religious community's attempt to find the root causes of unemployment and poverty. The organization recognized that solution required more than employment opportunities. They needed to create ways for chronically unemployed people to find pride and ownership in their work.

“Marginalized people should be able to be participants in the economy,” Kraus says.

One of their longstanding businesses, Cooperative Janitorial Services, has been in existence for 20 years and supports 15 individuals and their families. These same families are user-owners of the profitable cooperative, which boasts an impressive client base ranging from churches and social services agencies to Towne Properties apartment complexes.

Another example of IBB's influence is
Community Blend Coffee, an Evanston-based coffeehouse that's been in existence for about a year and a half. Like any brand new business, Community Blend is still fighting for break-even status, though its impact on the neighborhood is already apparent.

Xavier's involvement

Community Blend's impact is exactly why Xavier University has turned its attention to the cooperative movement.

“Through that co-op in particular, Xavier became more interested in what was going on,” says Gabe Gottlieb, philosophy professor and director of Xavier's Ethics/Religion and Society program. “We saw it as both an educational opportunity and an opportunity to support and help out the blossoming movement.”

Xavier's newfound mission to educate both students and the community about these economic business models stems from the school's longstanding values. Its Ethics/Religion and Society Department as well as its Sustainability Department have been studying the impacts of co-ops for years; members of Xavier’s own Board of Trustees are actively involved in cooperative organizations across the country.

Not only that, but as a Jesuit institution, Xavier is always looking for more ways to provide service to those in need.



October 11, 2015

High Design: Get Your Fresh Veggies from Farmerless Farms

by @ 2:46 pm. Filed under Green Industry, High Design, Technology

This Robot-Run Indoor Farm Can Grow 10 Million Heads Of Lettuce A Year

This massive Japanese vegetable factory saves water and energy—along with human labor.

By Adele Peters via Fast Comany

When a sprawling new "vegetable factory" opens near Kyoto, Japan in 2017, it will be the first farm with no farmers. Robots will plant lettuce seeds, transplant them, raise the vegetables, and automatically carry the fully-grown lettuce heads to a packing line, where they can get ready to be sent to local grocery stores.

In a single day, the farm can harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce. On a traditional farm, a field of the same size can grow about 26,000 plants—but only harvest two or four crops a season.

Spread, the Japanese company planning the factory, opened its first indoor farm in 2006, and already supplies lettuce to 2,000 stores around Tokyo. But it saw the opportunity to make its process even more efficient. It sees the new farm as a model for the future of farming.

"There are several reasons vegetable factories will be needed in the future in order to create a sustainable society," says Kiyoka Morita from Spread. Like other indoor farms, Spread's new factory uses far less water than traditional agriculture; the factory's new technology also allows them to recycle 98% of that water. Because the factory is sealed, there's no need for pesticides or herbicides. The ultra-efficient lighting system can run on renewable energy. Japan imports about 60% of its food each year, but the factory can supply it locally.



October 8, 2015

High Design: Meet The Electric Bus That Could Push Every Other Polluting Bus Off The Road

by @ 4:59 pm. Filed under Green Industry, High Design, Mass Transit

On a single charge it can already travel farther than a typical city bus does in a day.

By Adele Peters via Fast Company

Electric cars might be sexier. But Ryan Popple, who was an early employee at Tesla, is now convinced that electric buses are more interesting.

Proterra, the startup Popple runs, designed a sleek new electric bus that drove 258 miles on a single charge in a recent test. That's farther than most tiny electric cars can go and also farther than a daily city bus route.

That means it's ready to start to replace the hundreds of thousands of diesel buses in the country, most of which average less than five miles to the gallon and pump out carbon pollution, soot, and carcinogens like arsenic.

Because the bus saves on fuel, it's actually cheaper over a lifetime of use than alternatives, including hybrid-diesel buses or those running on natural gas. And it's something that anyone can use, democratizing the most advanced alternative transportation technology.

"We're taking a technology that's used to power $100,000 sports cars, and we're putting it into the absolute most accessible transportation asset in the country," says Popple.

Like Tesla, Proterra designed its vehicle from scratch. "I think it's important to cut ties with the legacy technology," he says. "If you tell your engineering group one of the rules they have to stick by is they have to use all the old parts from the parts bin, you're going to end up with a terrible product."

Because electric vehicles work in a fundamentally different way than something that runs on gas or diesel, the old designs don't make sense. The engine is no longer the heaviest part, and you don't have to worry about exhaust or a tank of flammable liquid. New parts—like battery packs—need to go in different places.

Some parts of the new design that were optimized for electricity also have other advantages. The bus is made from carbon fiber so it's ultra-lightweight, so the battery system doesn't have to be as big. But because it isn't made of metal, it also doesn't rust and lasts longer on the road. The weight is distributed more evenly than on a regular bus, so it's also better at acceleration and turning.

It's even easier to manufacture. "Long term, we have a huge advantage over steel bus manufacturers," Popple says. "They're building buses like you'd build a house. They build a steel frame, they rivet things onto it. At our factory, we take in a composite body just like an aircraft fuselage."



October 7, 2015

Radical New Economic System Will Emerge from Collapse of Capitalism

Political adviser and author Jeremy Rifkin believes that the creation of a super internet heralds new economic system that could solve society’s sustainability challenges


By Jo Confino via The Guardian UK

Nov 7, 2014 - At the very moment of its ultimate triumph, capitalism will experience the most exquisite of deaths.

This is the belief of political adviser and author Jeremy Rifkin, who argues the current economic system has become so successful at lowering the costs of production that it has created the very conditions for the destruction of the traditional vertically integrated corporation.

Rifkin, who has advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and heads of state, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, says:

No one in their wildest imagination, including economists and business people, ever imagined the possibility of a technology revolution so extreme in its productivity that it could actually reduce marginal costs to near zero, making products nearly free, abundant and absolutely no longer subject to market forces.

With many manufacturing companies surviving only on razor thin margins, they will buckle under competition from small operators with virtually no fixed costs.

“We are seeing the final triumph of capitalism followed by its exit off the world stage and the entrance of the collaborative commons,” Rifkin predicts.

The creation of the collaborative commons

From the ashes of the current economic system, he believes, will emerge a radical new model powered by the extraordinary pace of innovation in energy, communication and transport.

“This is the first new economic system since the advent of capitalism and socialism in the early 19th century so it’s a remarkable historical event and it’s going to transform our way of life fundamentally over the coming years,” Rifkin says. “It already is; we just haven’t framed it.”

Some sectors, such as music and media, have already been disrupted as a result of the internet’s ability to let individuals and small groups compete with the major established players. Meanwhile, the mainstreaming of 3D printing and tech advances in logistics – such as the installation of billions of intelligent sensors across supply chains – means this phenomenon is now spreading from the virtual to the physical world, Rifkin says.

Climate change

The creation of a new economic system, Rifkin argues, will help alleviate key sustainability challenges, such as climate change and resource scarcity, and take pressure off the natural world. That’s because it will need only a minimum amount of energy, materials, labour and capital.

He says few people are aware of the scale of danger the human race is facing, particularly the growing levels of precipitation in the atmosphere, which is leading to extreme weather.

“Ecosystems can’t catch up with the shift in the planet’s water cycle and we’re in the sixth extinction pattern,” he warns. “We could lose 70% of our species by the end of this century and may be imperilling our ability to survive on this planet.”

Convergence of communication, energy and transport

Every economy in history has relied for its success on the three pillars of communication, energy, and transportation, but what Rifkin says makes this age unique is that we are seeing them converge to create a super internet.



October 5, 2015

Why Nuclear Power Is a Bad Idea: A Case in Point

by @ 8:08 am. Filed under Green Energy

Fukushima Four Years After The Nuclear Disaster Is A Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

In these amazing photos, a photographer gets rare access to document the both extraordinary and mundane images of the Fukushima cleanup.Seven years ago, photographer and filmmaker Arkadiusz Podniesi?ski visited Chernobyl. This year, four years after the nuclear disaster in Japan, he took his camera to Fukushima to document the similarities between the two post-nuclear-disaster sites, and see how the cleanup was progressing.

Fukushima is divided into three zones: red, orange, and green. In the green zone, the cleanup has almost been finished. The topsoil has been removed and cleaned. Homes have been decontaminated, and soon residents will be allowed to return.

But Podniesi?ski was more interested in the orange and red zones. In the orange zone, where residents can visit but not stay overnight, he found farmer Naoto Matsumura, who returned illegally to live because "he could not bear to see whole herds of cattle wandering aimlessly in the empty streets when their owners had fled the radiation."

The red zone is deserted, but for the police who regularly checked Podniesi?ski’s difficult-to-secure permits. The place is eerie and peaceful. The earthquake and the tsunami that sent the nuclear plant into meltdown didn’t damage the entire town, so many deserted buildings stand intact. An abandoned motorbike stands tangled in weeds that have grown up through cracks in the concrete floor, and dumped cars are hidden in overgrowth.

Stopped clocks in a primary school still show the time they stood when the tsunami cut power to the region. Inside the school, computers remain on desks, while trophies are piled haphazardly inside glass-fronted cabinets after the earthquake shook them off their shelves. The gymnasium remains almost untouched, perfect except for deep hollows where the floors collapsed into the earth below. (Continued)



September 24, 2015

Dublin Considers Modular Homes for the Homeless

by @ 1:24 pm. Filed under Economic Democracy, Urban Problems


The DRHE is part of Dublin City Council and is responsible for tackling homelessness across the ... 

The DRHE is part of Dublin City Council and is responsible for tackling homelessness across the city's four local authorities (Credit: DRHE)

Image Gallery (23 images)


By Stu Robarts via Gizmag 

According to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), there were 607 families in emergency accommodation in Dublin during August this year. One means of reducing this, it says, could be the use of modular housing. It can be built quickly and inexpensively to house homeless families temporarily.

Modular housing is already being used to accommodate the homeless elsewhere. Only recently, for example, the Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners-designed Y:Cube was opened in London, having been developed by the YMCA charity. As is the case with Y:Cube, the DRHE hopes that modular housing could provide an interim solution between people being homeless and getting back into the housing market proper.

The DRHE is part of Dublin City Council and is responsible for tackling homelessness across the city's four local authorities. As part of a conversation about how to get families in homeless accommodation back into normal housing, it has produced a demonstration development of six modular houses.

The scheme is aimed at showing what modular homes look like and how they are designed. Its purpose is to inform the discussion about the viability of modular housing as a solution to homelessness.



September 21, 2015

Montana: Free Transit Attracts Riders, Helps Communities in More Ways Than One


By Monique Wahba

Mobility Lab via

Sept 16, 2015 -In January, Missoula, Montana’s transit agency, Mountain Line, began a three-year, “zero-fare” demonstration project on its fixed-route and door-to-door services, meaning boarding passengers no longer pay to use the bus.

Implementing a zero-fare system was part of a larger transit improvement package that includes late-night service on its four most popular routes, increased frequency on key routes, and more door-to-door service to help senior and disabled residents.

The demonstration project costs $460,000 per year to operate. The University of Missoula and the city are its biggest funders, annually contributing $205,000 and $100,000, respectively. The balance is made up of 12 other community partners, including Missoula County, the metropolitan planning organization, hospitals and medical centers, public schools, the department for aging, downtown and parking associations, a shopping mall, and an affordable-housing provider.

According to a 2012 Transportation Research Board (TRB) report, Missoula is one of more than 35 communities in the United States that have implemented fare-free public transit systems. Mountain Line cites its inspiration as Corvallis, Oregon, where the Corvallis Transit System ridership grew by 37.9 percent in its first year of fare-less operation.

Mountain Line is aiming a bit higher. It serves just under one million bus riders each year and hopes to grow its ridership by 45 percent within three years. This would be an annual ridership increase of 400,000 or 1.4 million riders by the end of three years.

According to Bill Pfeiffer, Mountain Line’s community outreach coordinator, “In June 2015, just our 6th month of zero-fare service, we gave 50 percent more rides than in June of 2014. Before this February, Mountain Line had never broken the 100,000 ride barrier. We’ve broken 100,000 rides every month since, setting ridership records in every month of 2015. As of July 31st, overall ridership has already increased 26 percent from the previous year, and for the first time ever, our ridership increased during the summer months.”

Overall, throughout the country, zero-fare systems have resulted in many benefits, including:

   Lower administrative costs: The costs associated with charging and collecting fares, like acquiring fare boxes, issuing various tickets (transfer passes and monthly passes, for example) and enforcing the payment of  fares.

    Savings in travel time : With no fares to collect, passengers can board more quickly. Less time spent at the stops (known in planning lingo as “dwell time”), in turn, helps reduce travel time.
    Fuller buses: As current customers ride more often, ridership in the off-peak hours increases.

    Improved quality of life: Reductions in traffic yield less pollution and congestion, improving overall health and quality of life

    Enhanced community pride: More than just an amenity, having fare-free transit service is a source of community pride. It has even helped communities earn recognition, like state and national awards as “best places to live.” Missoula Mayor John Engen called the fare-free service “a feather in the community’s cap.”

   Modal shift: Up to 30 percent of the additional trips generated from operating with no fares come from people switching from other motorized modes. This is really significant because in my experience, transportation planners seem to always be talking about attracting “choice riders,” that is, riders who can afford to drive but choose to use other modes like transit. Typical suggestions center around providing nicer buses or more amenities at transit stops, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest offering reduced fares, let alone free ones. Isn’t it ironic that the way to entice those who have money to use transit is to offer them free service?

    Transit equity: By removing the fare requirement, transit service becomes accessible to everyone, regardless of income. I have heard of transit systems providing reduced fares for their low-income residents. To qualify, a person must submit documentation to prove their income falls below the stated threshold and must provide verification of income periodically to remain eligible for the subsidy. Just think about the bureaucracy this generates and the humiliation for the recipient. A fare-free system disposes of all of this.

    Improved transit image: According to Mountain Line, “When zero-fare community bus services are properly funded and maintained, the image of the buses changes from being the clunky transportation choice of last resort to the service that connects all elements of the community and provides equal opportunity to access all that a community offers.”

    Increased productivity of public investment: With zero-fare, the funding per passenger drops significantly and the effectiveness and productivity of public investments in transit are enhanced.

    Increased support from bus operators : Bus operators are reportedly very supportive of zero-fare policies in almost all locations where such service exists. Not having to collect and enforce fares frees them to answer passengers’ questions and focus on safe bus operation.

So with all these benefits, why don’t all transit agencies operate fare free? According to the TRB, fare-free public transit makes the most sense for systems in which the percentage of fare-box revenue-to-operating expenses is low.



September 17, 2015

‘Greener’ Plastic Recycling Uses No Water and Only Half the Energy

by @ 12:53 pm. Filed under Green Industry, High Design

Discarded plastic items await recycling (Photo: Shutterstock)

By Dario Borghino

Sept, 2015 - Mexican startup Ak Inovex has developed a new method of recycling plastic that does away with water and only consumes half the energy of previous systems. At the same time, it produces plastic pellets of equal or better quality, ?resulting in an environmentally friendlier process that also promises to be significantly cheaper.

Plastic recycling can turn discarded bottles and other scrap into a myriad of useful objects, helping produce anything from polyester clothes to 3D printing filaments and even diesel. However, it is a long, laborious affair that consumes plenty of resources? – ?especially water. Among other things, the plastic needs to be thoroughly washed to get rid of impurities, carefully dehydrated inside an oven, and then water-cooled once again as the newly-formed plastic filaments are cut into small pellets.

According to Marco Adame, the new method that his startup has come up with can produce pellets of equal or better quality using just half of the energy by getting rid of the need for these temperature extremes, while also doing away with the need for water altogether. The system uses special walls that, on contact, are able to both mold the plastic into the desired pellet shape and cool those pellets at the same time. (Continued)



September 3, 2015

Study Shows How the US Could Achieve 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

by @ 9:23 am. Filed under Green Energy, Solar, Wind Power


A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years

A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years (Credit: Shutterstock)


By Chris Wood


A team of researchers led by Stanford University's professor Mark Z. Jacobson has produced an ambitious roadmap for converting the energy infrastructure of the US to run entirely on renewable energy in just 35 years. The study focuses on the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal solutions, claiming that the transition is both economically and technically possible within the given timeframe.

As a starting point, the researchers looked at current energy demands on a state-by-state basis, before calculating how those demands are likely to evolve over the next three and a half decades. Splitting the energy use into residential, commercial, industrial and transportation categories, the team then calculated fuel demands if current generation methods – oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewables – were replaced with electricity.

That already sounds like a mammoth task, but its true complexity comes to light when you consider that for the purposes of the study, absolutely everything has to run on electricity. That means everything from homes and factories to every vehicle on the road.

As it turns out, while the calculations might be complex, the results are extremely promising.

"When we did this across all 50 states, we saw a 39 percent reduction in total end-use power demand by the year 2050," said Jacobson. "About 6 percentage points of that is gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure, but the bulk is the result of replacing current sources and uses of combustion energy with electricity."

In order for each state to make the transition, it would focus on the use of the most easily available renewable sources. For example, some states get a lot more sunlight than others, some have a greater number of south-facing rooftops, while coastal states can make use of offshore wind farms, and for others geothermal energy is a good option.

Interestingly, the plan doesn't involve the construction of new hydroelectric dams, but does call for improved efficiency of existing facilities. It would also only require a maximum of 0.5 percent of any one state's land to be covered in wind turbines or solar panels.



August 18, 2015

Australia’s Vast Geothermal Energy Resources Represent Thousands of Years Worth of Untapped Power

by @ 12:09 pm. Filed under Green Energy

Temperature readings taken in existing oil and gas bore holes indicate a huge amount of geothermal energy below the surface of Australia.

By Loz Blain via Gizmag

July, 5 2015 - Temperature readings taken in existing oil and gas bore holes indicate a huge amount of geothermal energy below the surface of Australia. (Credit: Australian Geothermal Energy Association)

Australia is sitting on top of some of the world's most potent geothermal energy sources, according to government estimates. Just one percent of the hot rock energy less than 5 km under the surface would be enough to meet the whole country's entire power needs for 26,000 years if it was tapped. So why aren't we seeing more movement on it?

Geothermal energy is a very handy, virtually inexhaustible clean energy source for those areas lucky enough to find themselves on top of it. Massive amounts of hot rock just below the Earth's surface can be used to heat water and drive steam turbines for reliable electricity generation with virtually no emissions or environmental impact.

Where wind and solar tend to generate power at inconvenient or uncontrollable times, geothermal can be easily regulated and is ready to go 24/7. Surveys testing the available heat in existing bore holes down to a depth of 5 km (3 miles) below the surface indicate that Australia is sitting on some seriously large hot rock resources, as shown in our lead image.

So why is this enormous resource apparently so underdeveloped?

Part of the answer is geographic. Much of Australia's hot rock is simply not conveniently located close to major cities. The big red splotch of prime red geothermal activity to the centre right of the map is more or less on top of a large, barren desert area several hundred kilometres from Sydney or Adelaide, and large scale power transmission can be an expensive proposition.

Another part is geological. Australia has a ton of hot rock, but not a lot of the highly porous rock that makes for easy power extraction. To generate power, you need to be able to pump large amounts of water into a deep rock hole and let the water filter through pores and cracks in the rock, picking up heat as it goes, and then pump the heated water back to the surface on the other side.



July 1, 2015

Brick-Laying Robot Can Build a Full-sized House in Two Days

by @ 5:54 am. Filed under Cybernation, High Design

The Hadrian robot can lay up to 1,000 bricks per hour

High Design Revolutionizing Productive Forces in Construction

By David Nield via Gizmag

June 30, 2015 - As robots get smarter, cheaper and more versatile, they're taking on a growing number of challenges – and bricklaying can now be added to the list. Engineers in Perth, Australia, have created a fully working house-building machine that can create the brick framework of a property in just two days, working about 20 times faster than a human bricklayer.

    Hadrian is expected to go into action next year
    The boom is auto-corrected 1,000 times per second
    The robotic arm will eventually sit on a truck

Named Hadrian (after Hadrian's Wall in the UK), the robot has a top laying speed of 1,000 bricks per hour, which works out as the equivalent of about 150 homes a year. Of course there's no need for the machine to sleep, eat or take tea breaks either, giving it another advantage over manual laborers.

At the heart of Hadrian is a 28 m (92 ft) articulated telescopic boom. Though mounted on an excavator in the photo below, the finished version will sit on a truck, allowing it easier movement from place to place. The robot brick-layer uses information fed from a 3D CAD representation of the home for brick placement, with mortar or adhesive delivered under pressure to the head of the boom.

The boom auto-corrects itself 1,000 times per second to prevent interference from vibrations or sway. The concept is similar to the additive manufacturing process used by 3D printers, and it's several steps up from the Tiger Stone paver we've featured in the past, which is able to lay out a pattern of bricks on a flat road.



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