Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Colorado Cooling

Here's an interesting study in light of all the recent global warming talk in Colorado lately.

Researchers with the Russian Academy of Sciences warned Wednesday that the Earth could be headed for a 60-year cooldown, the news agency Interfax reported.

Scientists based at the academy's Pulkovskaya Observatory in St Petersburg, Russia, said they expected a gradual decrease in global temperatures in 2012-15, followed by a more dramatic, 60-year period of cold to come in 2055-60.

Khabibullo Abdusamatov, chief researcher at the observatory, said the predictions were based on solar cycles, and that after the 60-year glimpse of the Ice Ages warmer weather could be expected.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Averages [Non-Colorado Specific]


Averages are nice to know but sometimes I feel like a lot of people don't realize how limited they are. For example, realators seem to love using averages when talking about housing prices. Even though the median price would much better reflect what's going on in the market. I ran across this discussion of averages with an excellent example that both addresses why they're tricky and more so how a dropping average wage would have a limited meaning.

The same problem with averages arises when discussing average wage rates. The average wage rate can fall even though everyone's wages rise. Here's how. Suppose that America's average wage rate is now $18 per hour. Now suppose that many low-skilled immigrants arrive and find employment here at wages higher than they could earn in their home countries. Possessing lower-than-average skills means that the wages these immigrant workers earn will likely be lower than the U.S. average -- say $10 per hour.

America's average wage rate will be pulled down even though no individual's wages fall. Indeed, it is possible for every American's wages to rise and the average still fall.

Let's be clear: A change in an average might be evidence of changes in the fortunes of the individuals who compose the group for which the average is calculated. But it need not be so.

Statistics seem like straightforward, unambiguous facts; they're not. Care is required not only in their gathering but also in your interpretation of them.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Colorado Family Planning

Colorado Confidential is reporting that Govenor-elect Bill Ritter could restore family planning funding. Has anyone seen any recent polling on this? I'm curious if this is a more accurate reflection of what the Colorado electorate would want.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Colorado Energy And Electricty

The Pueblo Chieftain has a nice article about energy in Colorado. It looks at some of the issues the state faces if it's to expand it's renewable energy industry or simply meet the needs of it's growing population. One of the mundane issues we don't hear about often is building new transmission lines. These aren't cheap to build, they're definitely not sexy and frequently face NIMBY opposition. But without these new lines, we won't be able to reliably get energy to Colorado households, let alone expand the renewable energy industry to meet those needs and even the needs of other states.

The main action at this time the state seems to be taking is as follows :

The chief recommendation in the study, called for under a bill introduced during this year's session by Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, is to loosen Colorado Public Utilities Commission rules governing when utilities can pass infrastructure costs to users, said PUC director Doug Dean.

Under current rules, utilities aren't usually allowed to recover such construction costs until after a project is completed and power is being sent, although exceptions have been made in some cases.

That's why the study is calling for a Transmission Cost Recovery Rider to be approved by the Legislature, which would allow utilities to recover costs while construction is under way.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Colorado I-70 Expansion : Part 1

What do with the I-70 corridor in the mountains (Jefferson, Clear Creek, Summit counties) is an issue that affects most Coloradans. To help people better understand the issue, I want to bring together some sources of information and some different opinions on the subject.

Yesterday's Colorado Matters has a nice show looking that issue. You can listen to it by clicking here. Their overview for the show is as follows :
Officials at the Colorado Department of Transportation are considering plans for reducing traffic along I-70 from Denver to Glenwood Springs. They expect to announce their first choice for a solution by the end of the year. Ryan Warner talks to CDOT engineer Brian Pinkerton and Idaho Springs Mayor Dennis Lundbery, who fears that widening the interstate—one of the plans under consideration—could take a toll on his community.
Colorado Confidential took a look at this issue this past July. They don't focus on one solution. They do call for something to be done now rather than putting the issue off any longer.

There are groups like Mountains to Plains Transportation Solutions that advocate what their names says, building a train on the I-70 corridor. Trains Not Lanes is another one of these groups. Fight I-70 Congesting is yet another one of these groups.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has a web site dedicated to this issue. Beside review the PEIS and other information, you can sign up for their I70 mailling list.

If you know of other good sources on the subject, please share them.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New T-Rex Experiences

Seeing all the articles trumpeting the opening of the SE light rail line in Denver, I'm wondering what experiences people have had with it so far. Has it worked well? Do you now find yourself having to transfer during your commute when you didn't have to before? Are the trains frequent enough? Anything else?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Milton Friedman - Not Colorado Specific

With Milton Freidman passing away this last week it seem appropriate to share a few of his quotes.

“Currently more than 40% of our income is disposed of on our behalf by government at federal, state and local levels combined. One of us suggested a new national holiday, "Personal Independence Day" - that day in the year when we stop working to pay for the expenses of the government, and start working to pay for the items we severally and individually choose in light of our own needs and desires. In 1929, that holiday would have come on Feb 12; today it would come about May 30; if present trends were to continue it would coincide with July 4.”—Milton Friedman

"The “social security” program is one of those things on which the tyranny of the status quo is beginning to work its magic…. [I]t has come to be so much taken for granted that its desirability is hardly questioned any longer. Yet it involves a large-scale invasion into the personal lives of a large fraction of the nation…." —Milton Friedman

Mr. Friedman also was a virtuoso debater. When, to endorse conscription over the volunteer military, Gen. William Westmorland said that he did not want to command "an army of mercenaries," Mr. Friedman piped up and asked, "General, would you rather command an army of slaves?"

Milton Friedman was one of history's greatest champions of liberty and human dignity.

Colorado Smart Growth

For those of you who haven't seen it, there's an intersting look at Smart Growth and it's affects on housing prices in Colorado here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

NW Denver Light Rail

A recent op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News calls for better tranist service for northwest Denver. Specifically it calls for better light rail (LRT) service as part of Fastracks. And what is the reason given for LRT as opposed to other choices?

While buses and other transit modes may seem to be viable options, one need only to experience the convenience, speed and connectivity of light-rail transit to know that the other modes are not equivalent.

This may seem compelling but think about it. What constitutes convenience? How do we know it's faster than other modes? And what is meant by connectivity?

Keep in mind that light rail costs 3 times as much up front to build as Bus Rapid Transit (assuming dedicated right-0f-way for both, et al.) Improving regular bus service would cost far less. So how is LRT more convenient to residents of northwest Denver than having 2 or even 3 BRT lines? Seems like the latter would be 2 to 3 times likely to be within walking distance for residents and would have 2 to 3 times as many businesses (jobs + shopping) within walking distance of transit. How is having less choices more convenient?

Speed is one form of convenience. As anyone who has used transit on a regular basis, a lot of time can be consumed by getting to the stop and waiting. It stands to reason that the closer to home or work the transit service is, the less time you spend doing that. I do not know of any studies showing that BRT service along the a route is actually slower than LRT. I do know of examples of where LRT is 15-20% slower than the bus service it replaced such as Minneapolis' Hiawatha line. And it stands to reason that if you simply beefed up bus service, that having more express buses where riders could ride directly or with only one or two stops downtown would be faster, especially for people further along the line in Arvada and Wheat Ridge.

What is meant by connectivity is ambigous. Could greater connectivity actually mean that somehow it's easier to step off an LRT train and wait on the platform for another LRT train than other choices? Is Mr. Copeland actually implying that LRT service would be more frequent than other forms? That's not true since if anything because of their lower costs, more frequent transit service from BRT or traditional buses is the probable outcome.

But what this doesn't address is the lack of flexibility light rail has in addressing the transit needs for the community as a whole. Fastraks is for the most part a downtown transit system. For those who work in downtown Denver, and there are no more jobs downtown than there were 20 years ago, it will work well. But what about people in NW Denver that are working in Golden, Broomfield, Boulder, Littelton or the Tech Center? Naturally no form of transit can perfectly account for everyone's travel needs. But by spending less money up front on light rail there are several options that would help better meet everyone's transit needs. For example, express buses on Sheridan could help connect riders to either the BRT or LRT lines that will serve the US 36 corridor (Boulder, Interlochen, etc). By forgoing the huge investment that LRT requires, it would be possible to have the BRT line run to Golden instead of ending in Wheat Ridge. This would not only offer more convenient, speedy transit service for Northwest residents that work there, but also open up more options for others in Wheat Ridge, Golden and other areas along the line. There are lots of other options that would be available by putting resources into express buses and even dedicated right-of-ways for BRT. People could have the option to travel by transit directly to their jobs in the Tech Center or the Federal Center instead of facing lengthy transfers downtown.

Having said this, why exactly is it again that Mr. Copeland believes that realigning the Gold Line to better server northwest Denver is the best option? Exactly how would that be more convenient, faster and give better connectivity for both those residents and, just as importanly, everyone in metro Denver?