Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why is Providence So Bad at Non-Car Transportation?

Pronk, SharkcycleI've talked about how Providence's local inter-city transportation is terrible.

Today, Transport Providence points out it's no better at helping Providence residents get around by bike:
Mayor Jorge Elorza bikes to work everyday, and takes part in frequent night rides with community members. By all accounts the mayor is supportive of bicycling. However, Providence has made next to no progress on bike infrastructure during the two years the mayor has been in office. This needs to change. [...]

Where is the bike infrastructure, Mayor Elorza? We cannot expect mass cycling to take root in Rhode Island without our core cities establishing bike routes that are suitable for eight year olds, eighty year olds, and everyone in between. If we’re going to provide routes that are safe for people in wheelchairs and rascals, we need bike routes, like what the Dutch and Danish have. Doing this can help us make more efficient use of our school bus funding, our sidewalk funding, our parking, and improve business outcomes for small business.
Bike infrastructure - like protected bike lanes and bike racks - and makes for a more vibrant community. People can get around while exercising, smelling the fresh air, and seeing each other, rather than stuck inside expensive, noisy, polluting cars that take up tons of space through roads and parking.

It's also smart economic policy. One study showed every dollar invested in separated bike lanes returns $24 in avoided pollution, health care costs, and traffic, according to Adele Peters at Fast Company's Co.Exist. Another study showed investment in bike infrastructure returns a huge payoff compared to car infrastructure in longer lives, lower health care costs, less spending on gas, and just plain cheaper infrastructure.

If Providence, or any other aging city, is going to thrive in the 21st century, it needs to be more than just a commuter destination, or a highway pass-through for people traveling from Boston to New York. It needs to be a great place for people - not just for cars.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

5 Years After DC Earthquake, We're Still Cutting Quake Monitoring Budgets

Hey, it's 5th anniversary of the Virginia earthquake that shook DC! Back then, we pointed out the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey had been slashed by austerity measures.

What about in the five years since? Surely as our economy has rebounded, we've restored investments in protecting every single American from major earthquakes, especially quake-prone economic engines like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, right?
  • FY 1997: $1.19 billion, which is $1.76 billion in 2015 dollars 
  • FY 2015 enacted budget: $1.04 billion 
  • That's an effective cut of: 41%
Clearly a nation with a $16.77 trillion annual GDP can't afford frivolities like trying to give its citizens advance warning of major earthquakes and volcano eruptions.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Trump's Taxes & GOP Science Denial: Morals Are For Losers

Today's Republican Party is less about any particular principle or set of values than it is about being willing to completely abandon any morals whenever the party machinery demands it:
Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said Sunday morning that she does not want the Republican presidential nominee to release his tax returns until an audit by the Internal Revenue Service is completed, abandoning a position that she took five months ago, when she didn't work for the campaign and urged Trump to "be transparent" and release the filings.
We've seen similar courage of convictions from Republican senators like John McCain and Lindsay Graham. They spoke out on global warming when it served their maverick images, but that was the high water mark of their climate courage. They abandoned the cause when the party feared a climate & clean energy bill might actually pass in 2010 and have stayed quiet on carbon pollution limits ever since.

As Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times today, "climate denial has become a sort of badge of right-wing identity, above and beyond the still-operative motive of rewarding donors." And now so is denying that Americans have a right to know what a presidential candidate is hiding in his tax returns.

Meanwhile, as Trump demands Hillary Clinton release every email she ever wrote, his new campaign CEO calls it a "smear" when Greenpeace uses the Freedom of Information Act to access some of a polluter scientist's emails. Morals are for losers!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Farmers' Almanac Winter Forecast is Malarkey

The Farmers' Almanac just released its winter forecast for 2017, so I thought it would be a good time to see how their winter 2016 forecast did last year. From August 2015:
It’s not what Bostonians want to hear: The Farmer’s Almanac says another rough winter is in your stars.

A year after Boston was pummeled with the snowiest winter on record, editors of the Maine-based publication have dubbed their latest forecast a “winter deja vu,” hearkening to last winter’s misery across the Northeast.

Using a formula built on sunspots, moon phases and tidal action, the 199-year-old almanac that hits newsstands this week predicts cold and snowy weather from Maine to Montana.
Though meteorologists immediately blasted the Almanac forecast as about as accurate as a Magic 8 Ball, even PBS covered it as news. Meanwhile, scientists at NOAA predicted a winter that was warmer and wetter than average. So did AccuWeather.

So what actually happened?
December through February, a three-month period known as "meteorological winter," has shattered warm and wet records in 2015-2016 from New England to the Southeast, Midwest, Plains and West.
Basing your long-range weather forecast on sunspots is like basing your climate change outlook on the moon. When journalists repeat those guesses as news, they're doing a disservice to actual science.

News outlets also uncritically repeat the Almanac's claim to 80% accuracy. But that assertion is no more reality-based than its actual forecasts:
The Old Farmer's Almanac claims "many longtime Almanac followers claim that our forecasts are 80% to 85% accurate." This is simply a claim and not the actual accuracy. John Walsh, University of Illinois Atmospheric Sciences professor emeritus, reviewed the accuracy of five years of monthly forecasts from 32 weather stations around the county and found 50.7% of the monthly temperature forecasts and 51.9% of precipitation forecasts to correctly predict a deviation from averages.
50 percent - you could get just as accurate a guess by flipping a coin.

What do the fortune tellers at the Almanac have to say about winter 2017?
[Y]ou better start preparing because according to the Long Range Weather Forecast released by The Old Farmer's Almanac, this one is going to be a real doozy.

Every region of the U.S. will be hit with a different type of terrible. The Northeast and Midwest can expect "colder than normal" temperatures and precipitation is supposed to be "above normal."
Here in New England, the Farmers' Almanac is geared toward a certain type of yankee who, every single year, thinks god will surely punish us for our sin of enjoying summer by smiting us with a horrible winter. To get those folks to buy your almanac, you need to make sure every winter forecast fulfills that fervor.