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Sustainable Transportation Systems

Sustainable transportation systems are difficult to improve because the current systems are so extensive. But by reforming transportation operations to eliminate waste, and developing a flexible public transit system for adaptation to meet changing needs and resources, sustainable transportation principles will save money and diversity transport methods.

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Transportation is more than vehicles. The transportation system involves roads and lights and traffic signals and signage and sidewalks and drainage and communication terminology...and people. Getting a handle of the core mission of transportation is at the heart of sustainability.

Our love affair with private cars instead of public transportation systems has woven a Gordian Knot of complexity. It will take some transportation system unwinding, some transport revitalization, and reprioritizing of transport system options to make transportation more sustainable.

A rebalancing of walkable cities, with bicycles and NEVs (neighborhood electric vehicles) and redesigned play spaces for children are all part of a sustainable transportation plan that is part of a sustainable community plan.

That sounds like a complex transportation system change. It is. We no longer have a density of 5 people per sq. mile. It's more like 3500 per mile. And that density creates exponentially more complexity that needs to be woven into a sustainable transportation system within the many urban systems.

Economic Impact of Transportation Systems

Some of the basic ways that transportation system investments affect the economic development of a state, region, or city include:
  • Transport systems boosts industry competitiveness
  • Robust transport systems enhance individual quality of life
  • Transportation systems strengthen local, regional, and state economies
  • Transportation boosts business travel and leisure travel
  • Public transportation systems reduce economic losses associated with accidents
  • Public transportation systems reduce economic losses associated with congestion

Sustainable Transportation System

Adding "sustainability" to a transportation system means that it seeks to achieve fairness and balance in the way government transportation organizations foster transport benefits:
  • How cities compensate public employees
  • How cities encourage and enhance the kind of robust competition that is essential to an effective, cost-efficient procurement system
  • How cities eliminate practices that undermine public confidence in the delivery of transportation services
When called for, transportation system reform is needed on several fronts:
  • Efficiency through transportation asset management. Asset management systems are a cost-effective way to spend limited resources on transit options.
  • Transparency and predictability in transportation project planning and delivery. Agree on a set of priorities, publish them, and measure performance to ensure accountability.
  • Reduction in transportation system costs. The cost to deliver transportation services must be reduced...such as a benefits package provided to employees that is modest and equitable with private and public competitors.
  • Eliminate bureaucratic roadblocks for public transportation and sustainable transit options while keeping cross-auditing transportation program funding and results.

Reforming Transportation Systems

Reform solutions include a wide variety of transportation strategies such as the following:

  • Transportation investments should use rational and transparent criteria
  • Transportation alternative procurement methods and public private partnerships (P3)
  • Transportation specific position of Private Project Ombudsman
  • end the practice of using bonded funds for operating personnel and expenses
  • Improve the predictability of highway transportation funding and coordination of transportation system projects funded by multiple entities
  • Rate of growth of fringe benefits costs should be reduced
  • Unnecessary constraints on transportation management should be removed
  • Before committing to a development project, the organization should demonstrate that adequate revenues are in place to operate and maintain the transit expansions
  • Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) should be forward-funded
  • RTAs should be allowed to borrow with the full faith and credit of the state
  • Exercise a stronger coordinating role with respect to RTAs
  • Institute a rigorous performance evaluation process
  • The majority of funds for the foreseeable future should be devoted to maintenance and rehabilitation of transportation systems
  • Transportation user fees must be dedicated to transportation system uses

Revitalization for Sustainable Funding for Transportation Systems

  • The gas tax should be indexed to inflation
  • Turnpikes should develop a balanced operating budget that does not rely upon spending down its reserve fund
  • Public transit fares should remain a meaningful source of revenue through regular and predictable increases to keep pace with inflation
  • Move to a transportation system of direct road user fees as the principal source of transportation funding using modern technology in transit systems
  • Investigate whether public private partnerships in transportation systems are appropriate for the development and/or funding of our transportation infrastructure

In summary, "cut the waste" and develop best practices for transportation systems that can be measured, evaluated and replicated across the organization. And adapt with changes in the economy, the environment, and in stakeholder expectations.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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