Photo by Oran Viriyincy

In the world of transportation politics, you might hear people criticize public transportation for failing to reduce congestion.  In a nutshell, they’re right.  With a lot at stake politically, transit agencies trying to sell large capital projects to the public tend to make haste on quick on-the-fly marketing schemes, and often slip up with the claim that their project will help reduce congestion.

There’s a lot of geometry and complex science behind why major public transportation improvements tend not to yield significant declines in congestion, but getting into how many vehicles you take off the road is really just a distraction from the real advantage that transit holds over private automobiles– the power of choice.

With a tug-of-war going on between the ways in which we spend public funds on transportation, choice is conceptually important.  Congestion reduction rarely ever occurs as a direct result of infrastructure improvements (i.e., expanding highways, improving transit, etc.)– rather, it almost always happens because of phenomena that we tend to disdain as a society.  Economic recession, high oil prices, and tolling are three known causes of reducing overall traffic volumes and are usually far more effective at it than any kind of construction project.

The important thing to keep in mind is that transport agencies typically have no direct control over transportation demand.  If they make a promise to reduce congestion, it’s almost always a lie.  The best promise that agencies can keep, however, is to provide alternatives to congestion, whether they’re transit-only lanes that help buses bypass traffic jams, or grade-separated rail lines that allow trains to run consistently, regardless of conditions on the roads.

With this outlook, we can characterize real transportation choice as the ability to freely choose between modes as they become convenient, a luxury that isn’t possible with a automobile-dominated transport network.  Commuters that might face a long and tiresome commute in an automobile stuck in congestion should always have the choice to get around it.  And as we move more trips away from one dominant mode, our transportation network becomes more robust and mobility gets a little bit easier.



Cool debate on upzoning in preparation for the installation of the light rail in Roosevelt – with a letter to the mayor signed by our very own Sherwin!

Check it out here:


Check out how DEDON makes a commitment to the environment. Ecological Design and Social Corporate Responsibility mesh together perfectly in this design company’s commitment to sustainability. Read more after the JUMP!


Check out this cool, innovative design for urban vertical gardens called URBIO

More after the JUMP!

California Dreaming

I found this short documentary on California’s economic woes and opportunities via the GOOD website. It’s a Dutch-produced short film tracking people of varying economic and social backgrounds and how they are tackling life’s challenges post-recession in the city of Los Angeles. Subjects include homeless (formerly lower-middle class) families living out of their RV’s, ex-gang members, immigrants, and new bohemians in Silver Lake and Los Feliz. Some of the hipsters / bohemians featured around the 39:00 mark really struck a chord with me. The subject is an architect who starts an urban communal farm in the middle of the city. She has much to say about “the way forward” out of California’s mess, even giving a shout-out to bike infrastructure, food systems, and other topics my fellow CEPsters would find intriguing. Very interesting stuff, the video is about 40 mins long, I highly recommend you check it out and post your thoughts!

Via: Green My Fleet
Here’s the intro:

“California is a strong brand, the state of new beginnings, dreams and movie stars, of surfers and a wonderful climate. But the Golden State is bankrupt and the city of Los Angeles is running out of cash. Public services are being cut and unemployment keeps rising. At the same time, optimism, entrepreneurship and the belief in the power of America are stronger than ever.
In Los Angeles, we meet five people who are going through a transformation in their lives during this crisis. Justin and Christine lost their jobs and are now living in a van with their two young sons. Charles has gotten out of prison after fourteen years. Mizuko prepares her children for the future by making them at ease in virtual reality. Laura has taken advantage of the crisis by buying land cheaply and starting an urban farm and artists collective Fallen Fruit maps the abundant free ‘public fruit’ available in the city. Who are the pioneers who are reinventing the new America and how do they see the future?”

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photo © David Franck

Designed by J. Mayer H. Architects, Metropol Parasol becomes the largest wooden structure in the world. CLICK HERE to read more.

On April 21st-23rd, an event called Common Spaces Northwest (CSNW) is taking place at the UW that ought to be of interest to CEP students. CSNW is an event organized largely by students for both student and community activists, around a diverse range of social and environmental issues. The event aims to highlight intersectionality, to foster greater 

awareness of the important organizing work taking place all around us, and to promote communication and understanding of social and environmental problems in general.

Common Spaces Northwest kicks off with Free Lunch in the Quad, 11-2pm on Thursday (4/21). Come eat and chat with people involved in a variety of student and community organizations. The rest of the three days will consist of a series of activities and workshops, a few of which I have listed below. More information and a full list of events is available at www.commonspacesnw.org. Or find Common Spaces on facebook.

Community Alliance for Global Justice AGRA Watch Project (Teach-In) – Thursay 3-5pm – Location TBA

A participatory examination of the Gates Foundation’s problematic participation in the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and the sustainable, socially responsible, and indigenous African alternatives. One of central researchers is a CEP Alum.

Selecting Society: Selecting Society: Disability Issues and Intersectionality – Thursday 5-7pm – CHID Lounge

This workshop will present disability as a social construct, differentiating between the medical and social models of disability. We will explore the history of the disability rights and eugenics movements, and discuss intersectionalities of disability and other social groups, the future of disability rights, and the implications of current “eugenic” practices

Stories and shared insights on food activism, student organizing, and collaborative learning – Thursday 7-9pm, CHID Lounge

This part-conversation/part-workshop will reflect on common experiences of student organizing at the University of Washington and will offer some strategies for transforming sites of education and activism into personal and empowering collaborative learning spaces. Drawing from their experiences with food activism at the UW, we (the facilitators) have been moderating a focus group this spring that explores various perennial themes surrounding student learning, organizing, and empowerment.

Towards a Just Local Food System: Rooting Local Food Economies in Diversity – Friday 3:30-5:30, Gould 110

Increasing access to local, healthy and affordable food presents us a challenge in how to sustainably grow our local food economies.  At the heart of this challenge lies the economic trade-off between scale efficiencies and diversity.  In this workshop for business and economic development practitioners, we will co-develop through small group discussion the case for sustaining diversity in all of its forms throughout the food value chain.    In this workshop we hope to critically explore the relationship between local food systems, justice making and diversity.

Urban Development, Displacement, Equal Housing: Creating Strategies for Power – Saturday 11-1pm, Gould

This will be a participatory discussion on history and the current status of public space in the city, the availability of low-income housing, resistance to gentrification, empowerment of the homeless, and strategies for equitable and sustainable living. Whether personal accounts, research, or grassroots tactics, a diversity of knowledge is appreciate from all those who attend.

“Know Your Neighbor” U District Potluck – Saturday 1-3pm, ROOTS Young Adult Shelter

We are having a potluck to reunite different parts of the U District community: workers, homeless youth, students, and anyone else. The more we distrust each other, the more easily we can be divided from each other and react as if we don’t care about each other. Come bridge this gap, hang out together for the afternoon and share food and conversation! 

“Waste of Time: Capitalism, Consumption, and The Quest for Renewal” Film Screening – Friday 7-9pm, Gould 100

A screening of the documentary “Waste of Time: Capitalism, Consumption, and The Quest for Renewal,” by local filmmaker Shaun Scott. The 95-minute film is about garbage, food, fashion, suburbanization, consumer capitalism, and the search for sustainability at a time of conspicuous consumption and the prodigious, if tragic, use of natural resources. Mr. Scott may be able to attend.