Thursday, August 31, 2006

Smoking Fires

Colorado Smoking

There was talk about Colorado's recently implemented smoking ban in the Denver Post today. Apparently a bar in Durango has won a preliminary injunction and don't have to abide by the smoking ban. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out. The legal issue seems to be revolving around the clarity of the law with it's provisions for cigar bars.

Freedom Sight also makes not of this article without much commentary on the issue.

Colorado Wildfires

Speaking of smoke, how do you think Colorado faired this year for wild fires yet? We're not out of the woods yet but considering how dry it's been, it doesn't seem to have been too bad. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Colorado Transportation Talk

With all the transportation new yesterday, I thought I'd bring up a few others that have been in the news recently.

Tolls...We mean, “Fees”

The Loveland Reporter-Herald recently ran an article on some of the transportation options being considered for Loveland. One part I noticed was something the Federal Highway Administration official mentioned. What caught my attention is that he was talking about creating toll roads only the FHA is referring to them as a user fee.

Capka talked about a program the state of Oregon is testing that places global positioning systems in the cars of its residents.

“When a certain car uses the (highway) system, it tracks the user and charges a fee instead of the gas tax,” he said.

It's All About Downtown

Another item that caught my attention was in an article on a proposed passenger train that would run along the front range. The Berthoud board of Trustees passed a resolution saying they want to be served by a commuter train rather than Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Why? They want to save downtown. This despite the rail option costing 2 to 3 times BRT. More so, there is no evidence that rail service is needed for a successful downtown.

More so it's interesting to see how downtowns still dictate our transit planning. It's been a couple a decades since their were more jobs in the suburbs than downtown, yet our transit systems continue to be little more than a downtown transportation system.

Besides widening the highway to six lanes, state officials are looking at adding either a commuter rail through cities or a Bus Rapid Transit lane down the center of the interstate, he said. The Berthoud Board of Trustees passed a resolution Tuesday stating its preference for the commuter rail alternative.

“It’s really, really beneficial to our downtown,” he said. The BNSF line runs through downtown Berthoud.

“Berthoud will be struggling to keep downtown the center of the community.”

A Decade Of Waiting

As Fastracks move forward, meetings are being held in order to finalize plans for each individual line. In a decade, the metro population will have grown another 30%. Most of that growth will be occurring in areas further out (that is, their rate of growth will be much, much higher). It will be interesting to see how cities along these lines such as the gold line will react. Growing up in Minneapolis, I watched the city lobby for decades to get a light rail line. But leading up to that and even once it was built, they did to change zoning along the line. Are cities like Arvada and Wheat Ridge, traditionally single family home bedroom communities, ready to allow for dense, multi-story, multi-unit construction along the gold line corridor? Will other cities along other routes do this?

The RTD FasTracks Gold Line is still about a decade away, but when it arrives, Wheat Ridge will be ready.

Superslab : Front Range Tollway

Front Range Transportation

When it rains it pours. Both the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post today were full of articles on transportation in Denver and the rest of Colorado.

Connecting Broomfield, Lafayette, and Thorton

The first was the article on the Northwest Parkway. For those who aren't familiar with it, basically it's part of the beltway around Metro Denver that connects I-25 and US36 in the NW corner. The 11-mile tollway was completed in 2003 for a cost of $416 million.

I-25 HOT Lanes

The second article I caught was more important to me. A little while back I mentioned the talk of building a train on the I70 corridor. I think the better solution is 3-person HOT lanes and beefed bus service in addressing the problem. The congestion occurs on the weekends, the very time we have all sorts of buses in the Denver Metro going unused. Anyway, the article mentions that in the first 3 months the HOT lanes on I25 had already collected the dollar amount of tolls they had projected for the first year. Does anyone know what they're going to do with the tolls they collect? Build more HOT lanes? Fund more transit?

Prairie Falcon Parkway Express

For many years there has been talk about building a new freeway in Colorado to link Ft. Collins and Pueblo while by-passing big population centers like Denver and Colorado Springs. It could make traveling through Colorado much easier. It will also include new right-of-ways for utilities and railroads. One thing I haven't heard talked about this project is the potential it has for ensuring that a new corridor is built from day one configured for transit. This will be especially important on the sections by fast growing Ft. Collins and the fastest growing metro on the Front Range, Greeley.

Some legislation was passed last fall that had those against the project thinking they had killed it. Then yesterday the new company, Prairie Falcon Parkway Express, announced they were moving forward with it according to the new law passed last fall. One of the articles on it can be found at the Rocky Mountain News, here.

The corridor stretches from north of Fort Collins to south of Pueblo, ranging up to 30 miles east of Interstate 25, the congested Front Range freeway the toll road seeks to relieve.

One of the blogs for those against the project can be found at this URL :

Monday, August 28, 2006

Illegal Immigration

In reading an article at the BBC on the problem of illegal immigration in South Africa it struck me that in many ways their situation is similar to the US. You have a neighboring country with has a lot of desperate people looking to survive sneaking into the country. It's funny for how much we hear about immigration in the news these days, we seem to rarely hear about countries with immigration issues getting together and talking about what has worked and what hasn't worked for them.

There are a few blogs that look at the issue more :

Modern Tribalist

This Scepter'd Isle

South Africa Info

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Flags in Colorado

The Denver Post is asking :

A geography teacher, suspended over flying world flags, resigned after being given a 6-week limit on how long those flags can stay up. What do you think about the way this case was handled?

How do we all think it was handeled? What do you think? I'd be surpised if many people thought it was the right thing to do. I think the school should've stood by the teacher and let the legal authorities raise a fuss if it really mattered to them. Seems like the principal was more concered about covering his own butt than worrying that the kids were learning. What do you think?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Crap and The Climate

I came across another horrible blog at This guy seems to think he's just being grump and somehow so grumpy that he's anarchistic. He's not. He uses terms like “sand nigger” “fagotts” and others. He's just a biggot taking advantange of the internet to yap.

On a brighter note, there is talk about the Colorado Climate Project. Coyote Gulch mentions it but doesn't get into the issue. It'll be interesting to find out more details on this proposal.

Speaking of things we haven't heard much about. For all the screaming and crying and yelling and shouting going on over global warming, we seem to hear very little over local climate changes. As we all know, weather can vary a lot depending on your locality. Western North Dakota tends to be very dry compared to cetnral North Dakota, let alone eastern North Dakota. In Colorado we see all sorts of localized climate differences and they're not simply dependent the mountains. If you're interested in reading more, some Colorado Climatoligists (note :for the most part, the only scientists who actually matter in this debate) write about it on their blog .

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Colorado and Coal

Colorado Matters had Jeff Goodell on the other day. His book "Big Coal : The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future" recently came out. It was interesting to listen to him. I haven't had a chance to read his book yet but he didn't strike me as overly sensational. He brought up some points that we don't hear a lot about energy issues. For example Tri-State [] wants to spend $5 billion to build 3 new coal plants. Jeff Goodell claims that $400 million spend in demand side management would eliminate the need for the additional energy. Checking SWEEP's web site [], I didn't see a verification of that specifically, but I did find :

“Promoting energy efficiency would be a lot more cost-effective than building new coal-fired power plants and transmission lines,” stated Howard Geller, co-author of the report and Executive Director of SWEEP. “Utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs could result in$760 million in net savings for consumers and businesses served by Tri-State, rather than billions of dollars in net costs,” Geller added.

I wasn't able to confirm if that $760 in net savings included that $400m in expenses or not. It wouldn't suprise me. Unlink mass transit, a lot of changes made for energy effenciency don't require major lifestyle changes. They simply involve updating the applliances or the buildings people use.

One point Goodell kept hammering away at was that we didn't know the true cost of coal. For example, he mentioned the American Lung Association had claimed there were 24,000 premature deaths each year in the US. Well, alcohol is involved in 18,000 premature deaths each year in the US. Additional taxation hasn't ended that problem. That's not to say it hasn't made a differenene. But one has to wonder how much carbon taxes would help to address the issue.

What's bothersome was that he didn't address at all the changes to the current situation coal gasification and carbon squestering bring to the use of coal. He did mention that 40% of total carbon emissions in the US are from coal. So why wouldn't someone who's talking about the high cost of coal and who recognizes that 40% of carbon emissions are due to it, not talk about technolgies that could cut it in half in the near future and 10 - 20 years from now reduce it by over 90%?

A lot of environmental groups and people avoid talking about any further use of coal. So it's nice to find one that does, Western Resource Advotactes [ ]. I understand why groups don't embrace coal. It has a lot of issues. But other power solutions do too. And considerin that IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) coal technology in it's early form can cut coal plant emissions by 40% to 60% with poential for 90% or more, it seems like a valid option. As the Durango Herald (Durango Herald; Aug. 18 ) points out in an article last week, it wouldn't require much additional money, $50 million. When you consider that in light of Tri-State wanting to spend $5 billion for 3 new plants, it's a very minor additional cost with a lot of clear, immediate benefits. Considering that coal power plants account for 35% to 40% of carbon emissions, this one technology has potentional to LOWER our carbon emissions by 25 – 30%. It's the closet thing we have to a silver bullet right now.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

3 decades ago 1976 winter olympics blocked by voters. They feared excessive growth and environmental damage. Lately the Metro Denver Sports Commision has been pushing to bring in smaller "major" sporting events as part of a push to bid for the winter olympics in 2018. Naturally the plans are not very concrete at this point. One thing we do know is that no modern Games have made money when all costs, including public money and land transfers, infrastructure costs, and security are factored in. Knowing this I was still suprised to hear the commission's chairman come out and say that ther is no linkage between growth and hosting of the Olympics. If Denver isn't going to have any economic gains form hosting the Olympics, why spend billions to do it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

During the 1990s the population along the The Front Range boomed. The Front Range as a whole added nearly a million people and grew by 30%. Some places like Greeley saw a faster rate but the other metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) all saw 30% growth. Well, except for Pueblo. Pueblso MSA only grew by 14%. Essentially they grew at the same rate as the rest of the nation.

Why didn't Pueblo experience the same kind of growth the the rest of the Front Range experienced? Are they not close enough to the mountains to have drawn in those technology companies? I wouldn't see why that would be a problem considering Greeley grew the fastest despite being the furthest from the mountains. And like Greeley, Pueblo has a 4 year college. The climate in Pueblo is a little nicer than places like Ft. Collins with it being further south, right? And Pueblo is in Colorado so it should more or less have the same type of laws and taxes that the rest of the Front Range has. Why has Pueblo, the old Pittsburgh of the West, not grown like the rest of the Front Range? Why has what was once the 2nd or 3rd most important city in the state 100 years ago fallen so far behind so many other cities?

Monday, August 21, 2006

There's been some talk again about a train for the I70 corridor that runs West through the mountains from Denver. One article address this can be found at at the Rocky Mountain News. Last January Environmental and Urban Economics did a nice write up on the background. Not only is Denver's population booming but the population in the mountains is growing fast. Many solutions have been looked at. A few years ago a monorail solution was wrote off as being too expensive. The groups are claiming that a new technology for trains in Switzerland has changed things enough that a train can be built for less than $4 billion.

I'm skeptical of the cost. They seem to be talking about a double-tracked elevated railway. Traditional monorails cost $125 million or more to construct when built in relatively flat areas. The I-70 corridor is anything but that. And there has been very little talk from these groups about what it will cost in terms of concrete numbers. They simply repeat claims that it'll cost less than $4 billion and even that it'll be less expensive than building additional freeway mileage. I wasn't able to find very much information on it looking on the Internet myself. If anyone has anything more concrete, please share it with us in the comments. Until then, it seem a bit like the kid that claims he's better than Pele but isn't willing to prove it.

What's more interesting about this development is the lack of public discourse over what the problems are and how important they are in the grand scheme of things. Today's Denver Post had an article pointing that Colorado's per student funding for it's public colleges and universities is the 3rd lowest in the nation. Issues like these are important to keep in mind because we're talking about congestion. Congestion is simply people waiting in line to get through a spot on the free. The problems it creates on the I70 corridor are arguably less important. One result can be a lack of growth in the tourism industry in those areas. While it's important to have a variety of jobs, how worried should we be about the lack of growth (or even the loss) of jobs that are relatively low paying for the most part? The other issue that the congestion adds to is pollution. A large part of that occurs from simply operating a car. Stop and go traffic makes the problem worse. But how much better would the pollution situation be if we spent $5 to $10 billion on addressing the congestion problem on that corridor? Even if we got ½ the traffic onto the train, we don't yet have the capacity to consistently produce green energy for the train to operate on. How much good would come from that? We'd be billions to simply shift the source of the pollution from the mountains to Ft. Morgan or Pueblo. Is it really worth it?

And what's with blogs that don't allow for comments? Are they afraid people may point out claims that aren't factual? Colorado Environmentalist is one of them. Apparently they don't want anyone pointing out that there is no proof that “the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is calling for strong immediate action” in regards to global warming. One thing that is true is that an overwhelming number of English teachers want a comma in that phrase.

And keep safe when the those scattered storms come through at night. As Walter in Denver points out, Denver's the 2nd most dangerous city for lightening.