Ride the Drive success!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Thanks to Lisa Koch and Morgan Sims, the Madison Peak Oil Group (MPOG) made an impression at the Ride the Drive festivities, August 30.

Lisa and Morgan created a t-shirt design to promote World Carfree Day, bought all the supplies, and silk-screened t-shirts while members of MPOG promoted World Carfree Day and explained peak oil to people waiting to get a design on their t-shirts or just watched the process.

Nothing but yawns over $43M for five miles of road

Friday, August 28, 2009

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

The news earlier this month that the five-mile stretch of Interstate 94 from its junction with I-90-39 east to the Cottage Grove exit will immediately be expanded from four to six lanes caused barely a ripple.

I point this out because those five miles will eat up $43 million in federal stimulus money to make it faster and more convenient for cars and trucks to travel those five miles -- about the cost, coincidentally, of the $47 million that Gov. Jim Doyle has decided to spend on two high-speed train sets that he hopes someday soon will speed passengers from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and back.

While tens of millions being spent to widen an already wide ribbon of concrete drew nothing but yawns, Doyle was beat over the head by Republican legislators, talk radio and several newspaper editorials for signing a deal with a Spanish firm to provide the trains and open a maintenance facility in the state.

But such has been the fate of passenger rail for decades now. The naysayers proclaim that we don't want to "waste" money on train travel, sounding as if we don't waste money on wider highways that only encourage more inefficient travel by automobile. To paraphrase the admonition in "Field of Dreams" -- build those highways and they will come. Just look at the relatively new South Beltline here in Madison: gridlock nearly every day in the morning and early evening.

Grant to boost alternative fuel and advance technology vehicles

Thursday, August 27, 2009

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle announced today the U.S. Department of Energy is awarding Wisconsin $15 million to assist local governments and private fleets in converting to alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. The funding will create jobs, help communities and businesses improve their energy efficiency and save money. . . .

The $15 million award is from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program to reduce petroleum use in transportation, which is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The clean energy transportation program aims to achieve significant reductions in fuel and emissions in Wisconsin by supporting the increased use of alternative-fuel vehicles and advanced-technology vehicles, and the installation of infrastructure necessary to directly support these new vehicles.

The program also aims to maximize job retention and creation by investing in the technology and training necessary to continue to develop a strong alternative fuels industry here in Wisconsin.

The funds will be used to replace more than 500 municipal vehicles through at least 119 fleets across the state. The program also provides funds for increased refueling infrastructure for technologies such as Compressed Natural Gas, Gasoline/Diesel Hybrid Electric, Plug-In Hybrid Electric, Neighborhood Electric and biofuels. The Governor thanked the Office of Energy Independence and the Wisconsin Clean Cities program for working together to move forward the project.

Bus to catch? Enjoy the commute!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

From a commentary by Sean Kittridge in The Badger Hearld:

On July 7, the Madison City Council moved to have the Badger Bus depot, located near the Capitol on West Washington Street, demolished in favor of apartments and retail shops. The depot, which currently serves as the hub for Greyhound and Badger Coaches, is Madison’s only true bus station, with the Megabus stopping at the Dutch Mill Park-and-Ride off the Beltline on Stoughton Road and other buses meeting at the Memorial Union. The question then becomes: Why?

Of the few things Madison and Dane County do a great job of amassing, taxes, apartment buildings and incarcerated black people are at the very top. A quick glance at our city’s skyline will always reveal at least two cranes towering over new building projects, yet we feel the need to continuously be in construction mode. It’s like Babel with an underground, heated parking garage. And we’re doing it all at a time when no one can afford to move into a new, luxury apartment. Conversely, the Badger Bus depot provides an essential service in a convenient location to people who make good use of it.

Nobody likes a conspiracy theorist, but there’s always something a little unsettling when a space used by lower-income people, like a bus station, is torn down in favor of new apartments or retail space. And it’s not as if Madison is dealing with an overabundance of transportation options. Amtrak long abandoned its Madison hub in a move many still regret today. At a time when social awareness is supposedly at an all-time high and we all need to work together to save our planet from greenhouse gases and secret Muslims, marginalizing mass transportation looks like a bad idea.

The Badger Coaches will continue to use the Memorial Union to pick up passengers, as well as the Mobil station across the street from the old bus depot — which is a relief, because now you won’t need to walk anywhere to buy some Skoal. Unfortunately, the Greyhound does not have any solidified plans. Word is they may try and use the same Park-and-Ride as the Megabus, which leads to some admittedly poor college logic: You can’t drive yourself home because you don’t have a car, yet you need a car to get out to the bus stop. And Eddie Van Halen won’t join Wyld Stallyons until Bill and Ted produce a triumphant video, for which they need Eddie Van Halen. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Although, I guess you could take the city bus out to the Park-and-Ride. That is, until we get rid of those too.

Petroleum Council: Crude has a "finite life"

Monday, August 24, 2009

From an editorial in the Green Bay Press Gazette:

The U.S. State Department Thursday approved a permit to build a pipeline from Canada's oil sands to refineries in the United States, including one line that crosses Wisconsin. The approval is an important step in the attempt to rebuild our economy.

Environmentalists tried to convince Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deny the permit — the Web site dirtyoilsands.org says the oil-rich sands of Alberta "produce the world's most harmful type of oil for the atmosphere, emitting high volumes of greenhouse gases during development, which contribute to global warming."

This "dirty oil" is not the most environmentally friendly source of energy. But as Erin Roth, executive director of the Wisconsin Petroleum Council, told the Green Bay Press-Gazette editorial board last week, the alternative is even less friendly: increased imports of oil from the Middle East, Venezuela and other sources that do not necessarily care about American interests.

"We all believe crude has a finite life," Roth said. That's true — and so the search for alternative, renewable fuels must continue as swiftly as possible.

Brown bag lunches on climate change

Friday, August 21, 2009

From Clean Wisconsin:

Senate and Assembly leaders are currently drafting clean energy legislation based on the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force recommendations.

Bring your lunch to this series of policy briefings that will provide overviews of those policies and allow legislators and staff to have their questions answered by some of the state’s leading experts on these topics.

August 26: Energy Efficiency, 12-1 pm Capitol - 400 SE
The Governor’s Global Warming Task Force recommends that Wisconsin reduce its electricity use by 2% per year. Energy efficiency experts will discuss how that goal and other Task Force policy recommendations can be achieved in Wisconsin.

Keith Reopelle, Senior Policy Director, Clean Wisconsin
Susan Stratton, Executive Director, Energy Center of Wisconsin
Clay Nesler, VP, Building Efficiency, Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls

September 2: Renewable Electricity Standard, 12-1 pm Capitol - 425 SW
Current Wisconsin law requires utilities to produce 10% of their energy from renewable resources, and the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force recommended an increase to 25% by 2025. Renewable energy business, utilities and environmentalists will discuss the importance of this higher standard for Wisconsin.

Peter Taglia, Staff Scientist, Clean Wisconsin
Kristine Krause, Vice President – Environmental, WE Energies
Curt Bjurlin, EcoEnergy LLC, Project Developer

September 30: Midwestern Governors Assoc., Greenhouse Gas Accord, 12-1 pm Capitol - 425 SW
At the direction of six Midwestern Governors, a roadmap was developed for a Midwest cap and trade program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions throughout the region. Members of this MGA process will discuss the recommendation process and what it would mean for Wisconsin.

Keith Reopelle, Senior Policy Director, Clean Wisconsin
Roy Thilly, CEO, Wisconsin Public Power Inc.

October 14: Low Carbon Fuel Standard 12-1 pm Capitol - 425 SW
A Low Carbon Fuel Standard ensures that oil and fuel distributors begin switching to the cleanest, most efficient fuel sources including biofuels and renewable electricity. Discussions will focus on the impacts of an LCFS on Wisconsin.

Peter Taglia, Staff Scientist, Clean Wisconsin
Mary Blanchard, Director of Marketing, Virent Energy Systems
Gary Radloff, Director of Policy and Strategic Communications, DATCP

Speakers are subject to change. For more information, please contact Keith Reopelle at (608) 251-7020, ext. 11 or kreopelle@cleanwisconsin.org

Mayor recognizes the high cost of driving

Thursday, August 20, 2009

From a post on the Madison mayor's blog:

There was an "Eggs & Issues" forum this morning on the proposed Regional Transit Authority. It was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and it featured Kathleen Falk, Verona Mayor Jon Hochkammer and myself. It was a very good discussion, but we got the inevitable question from an audience member who I guess listens to too much talk radio. He went on for awhile about how expensive transit is and how drivers pay their own way.

He's wrong and here are the facts. The general City of Madison taxpayer support for Madison Metro's bus routes weighs in at about $8 million a year. The riders themselves pay over $11 million more and the rest of Metro's budget comes from state and federal sources. Compare that to what we do for drivers. The total Traffic Engineering budget is $8 million and this year we're spending $32 million on general fund support for building and rebuilding streets.

So when you add it all up we're spending a minimum of about $40 million on things directly related to driving while we spend about $8 million on Metro transit. Moreover, none of the costs attributable to driving are paid for directly by drivers. Instead those costs are borne entirely by general taxpayers, mostly property tax payers, while a fifth of the bus budget comes from actual users.

Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing, Oct. 6-8, Milwaukee

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Wisconsin Machine Tool Show (WMTS) features an Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion to introduce show participants to energy efficient, lean, green, and sustainable manufacturing processes.

The American Wind Energy Association will have a presentation on the wind industry supply chain.

Dave Jenkins from the Office of Energy Independence will update show attendees on ARRA programs and funds.

The German-American Chamber of Commerce will make two presentations:
+ Energy Efficiency in Germany: How U.S. Manufacturers Can Benefit;
+ Supply Chain Opportunities in Renewable Energy.

Focus on Energy will be the Gold Sponsor of the Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion. They plan to make a presentation each day of the show:
+ Controlling your Energy Costs - An overview of Focus on Energy;
+ A Case Study on Energy Efficiency;
+ Save Energy, Save Money - Getting started with energy self-assessments for small-mid size industrial facilities.

MATC’s Center for Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing and RENEW are also sponsors.

Fare rise reduces ridership

Monday, August 17, 2009

From an article by Dean Mosiman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Since a controversial bus fare hike in April, Metro Transit ridership has dipped and revenue is below projections.

Metro, which had a 30-year peak in ridership in 2008, saw monthly ridership increases from January through April over last year.

But since April, when cash fares rose to $2 from $1.50 and the cost of ticket packages and passes also increased, ridership dropped 1.3 percent in May and nearly 1 percent in June.

Metro’s revenue is increasing but is $440,000 behind projections for the first six months of 2009.

Metro general manager Chuck Kamp said he is confident ridership will increase about 1.4 percent to 13.5 million by the end of the year — about what was projected. But that’s far below a 6 percent projected increase if there had been no fare hike.

Meanwhile, revenues are estimated to be about $400,000 short of projections by the end of the year, Kamp said.

But Metro expects to get savings through fuel prices, wages and other means and will balance its budget, he said.

"We’ll get back on track," he said. "It might take a little bit longer than we thought."

But Metro’s ridership and revenue report for the first six-months of 2008 is causing concern.

Where should the Madison train station go?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

An article by Jeramey Jannene in Urban Milwaukee gives a Milwaukeean's point of view:

Things look good for high-speed rail (110mph max speed) to be connecting Milwaukee and Madison courtesy of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The state has actively drafted plans for the route and conducted environmental assessments to put Wisconsin as close to first in line as possible if and when capital funding were to become available. The stimulus package provides just the perfect opportunity.

While we won’t know if Wisconsin gets the funds until the final months of the year at the earliest, the announcement that Talgo will locate in Wisconsin and that $47 million in train equipment will be purchased from Talgo seems to indicate that Governor Doyle is either extremely confident we’ll get the money, or has received a verbal promise.

Milwaukee has recently invested in an excellent, centrally-located intermodal station that will provide an excellent hub on the line. The Milwaukee Intermodal Station itself is near a number of bus transit routes, will likely be served by the coming streetcar, and is even within walking distance of numerous destinations. It also features a lot of available, low-cost parking, which encourages many to take the Amtrak Hiawatha to Chicago from further off neighborhoods and suburbs. Also important, the development potential of the site is limited only the looming presence of Interstate 794, something that eventually be overcome. . . .

What does Madison have? Well at the moment, nothing. The plan is, however, for the stop to be located at the Dane County Airport in Madison.

What does the airport provide in terms of opportunity? For starters at least a $12 cab ride to the Capitol. Sure it provides parking, but at a cost greater than the parking in an urban location in Milwaukee.

There are few to no development opportunities at the airport itself, which of course enforces building height restrictions. The proposed station site is a big parking lot shared with the airport that can never be developed, and it is constrained by a creek and other wetlands. Without connections to an urban context or a street grid, walking to the station will never happen, and taking a bus isn’t much better. The current single bus route that serves the airport requires a transfer at Madison Metro’s North Transfer Point to reach downtown.

Stoughton homeowners begin net zero energy pursuit

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From a news release issued by WPPI Energy:

STOUGHTON, WIS., August 12 - Homeowners John and Rebecca Scheller are constructing one of the region's first net zero energy homes (NZEH) in the WPPI Energy member service territory of Stoughton Utilities. Together with Stoughton Utilities and WPPI Energy, John and Rebecca Scheller celebrated the kickoff of their environmentally responsible building project Wednesday, August 12.

A NZEH is one that produces at least as much energy as it consumes. Through WPPI Energy's GreenMax Home initiative, the Schellers' NZEH will combine renewable energy technologies with advanced energy-efficient construction, generating more power than it uses for a net zero impact on the nation's energy supply. The Schellers' home will raise awareness of the NZEH concept while demonstrating practical ways to save energy and use renewable resources at home.

"We are excited to support the Schellers as they begin the pursuit of net zero energy use and demonstrate their commitment to environmental
stewardship," said Senior Vice President of Customer Services and Administration Tom Paque. "With their GreenMax Home, the Schellers will showcase how normal construction practices, lifestyle and behavior changes, and an eye for details can enhance the efficiency of any

Paque presented the Schellers with initial GreenMax Home funding in the amount of $18,000. WPPI Energy will provide a total of $42,000 in GreenMax Home funding for the Schellers' project. An additional $18,000 payment will be awarded once construction of the home is complete, and a final $6,000 will be awarded after the Schellers have demonstrated net zero energy use for one year.

Although unique in its goal of net zero energy use, the home's construction methods are similar to most average homes today. Attention to basic details, such as insulation and air sealing, will help make the home far more efficient. The Schellers will work with Shaw Building & Design, Inc. and WPPI Energy to construct their NZEH, advancing the home's status from highly efficient to net zero.

Key design features of the home include:

- All electric home
- Two ground source heat pumps that will extract heat from the ground and provide heating, cooling and hot water
- Two pole-mounted 2.88 kilowatt arrays of solar photovoltaic panels
- Simple New England Saltbox design making the house easy to insulate and seal
- Structural plumbing with advanced designs and controls to reduce hot water waste and energy use
- Building shell improvements, including ENERGY STAR windows, special attention to air sealing, and increased insulation levels.

Sun power heats Verona aquatic center

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From an article by Kevin Bargnes in the Wisconsin State Journal:

It’s not just the campers and sunbathers soaking in the rays at Verona’s Goodman Aquatic Center anymore.

Joining them are 45 new solar panels installed this summer to heat the 5,500-square-foot pool.

The $80,000 project, funded in part with a $7,500 grant from the state’s renewable energy initiative, Focus on Energy, will eventually pay for itself.

Heaters at the pool are constantly running and are kept particularly high on cloudy days and at night. As a result the pool has spent an average of $18,000 on propane each summer since it opened in 2002.

"These are special," says Jamie Gepner, management and marketing director for the Goodman Jewish Community Campus, which owns the pool. "We’re not the first to do it, but we’re one of the first pools open to the public in (the) Madison (area) and even in Wisconsin to do this."

Program restarts: Badgers love 'Clunkers' cash

Monday, August 10, 2009

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

The experts continue to debate the pros and cons of the "Cash for Clunkers" rebate program, but Wisconsin car buyers have already given it a big thumbs-up.

Wisconsin is 10th in the amount of cash requested from the program based on figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation released this week.

Of the nearly $775 million in clunker cash requests so far, more than $24 million came from Wisconsin. Michigan, California and Ohio were the top three states.

The U.S. Senate has approved another $2 billion for the program, which was initially funded with $1 billion.

Officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System Act, the measure provides up to $4,500 in taxpayer subsidy for those who trade in an old vehicle for a more efficient model. To qualify, the old car needs to get 18 miles per gallon or less while the new one must get at least 22 mpg.

Madison needs train service to major airport

Friday, August 07, 2009

A letter to the editor of The Capital Times by Steven Rockwell:

Dear Editor: It's great to see all the articles on upcoming rail travel possibilities in Madison. I do think the planners are sometimes missing the mark.

I travel to Switzerland eight times a year on business and always travel from Zurich to Basel via train. The trains run every hour, on time, are spotlessly clean and run directly from the airport to the center of Basel about 60 miles away. I never fly from Madison unless I have a direct U.S. destination; I always drive to O'Hare as the connecting flights from Madison are not dependable enough.

I would love to board a train in downtown Madison and be delivered directly to Mitchell Field or O'Hare, but the trains would have to run on a frequent, on-time schedule and at a reasonable price.

In reality, we don't need an airport in Madison as much as we need good train service to a major airport.

A regional transit authority should include more than just trains

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A letter to the editor of the local newspapers sent by Susan De Vos, Madison Area Bus Advocates:

Back in April, an opinion letter in this paper asked for clarity as to what a regional transit authority (RTA) here meant. We reiterate that call for clarity. Many people seem to mistakenly believe that an RTA in the greater Madison Area would initially only be about commuter rail. In fact, an RTA here should be multi-modal. Initially, it should oversee a vastly improved and expanded bus system.

An RTA’s main focus should be on improving urban transit within the Madison RTA area. In fact, Madison Area Bus Advocates believes that we should have an RTA whose priority is to improve and expand our current transit system first. We feel it is essential that bus transit be expanded to include express buses (buses stopping infrequently to make transit more time-competitive with cars). Only after our existing bus system is improved and expanded to include express or rapid buses should we consider rail. Furthermore, the system needs to be expanded to serve the entire RTA area, not just Madison.

Another important function of the RTA should be to build and operate a multi-modal terminal (a hub) which would tie intercity bus (e.g., Van Galder, Badger Bus, and Greyhound) and expected intercity passenger rail to our local transit system. Note that the Madison Area will no longer have an intercity bus terminal after the closing of the Badger terminal at the end of this month.

Before we are asked to vote on whether we want an RTA in this area, we need to know what we are voting on – and that must include a vastly improved and expanded bus system.

Ride in the Election Cycle, Sept. 27

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

From an announcement issued by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:

A bike ride for the conservation majority

Help to raise awareness, funds and fun for the conservation majority
Sunday September 27th, 2009
Registration: 12:00 pm

Depart: 1:00 pm

Ride Closes: 5:00 pm
Departure / Return Point: WLCV office parking lot at 133 S. Butler Street, Madison, WI

•Choose from two tours:
◦A short ride of 25 miles along the well known Capital City Trail with 90% on bike trails. Ride includes trail access fee.
◦A long ride of 51 miles departing the Capital City loop (trail access fees included) and heading out on some challenging roads to Paoli then looping back [ Click here for a map of the long ride ]

•Warm-up laps and photo ops around Capitol Square at 1:00 pm
•Finish line fun
•Amazing prizes for the three riders with the highest sponsorship
•Water and snacks provided

Wind siting legislation expected to pass Senate committee

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

As predicted in the news release below, issued by Clean Wisconsin, the Senate committe voted 6 to 1 to recommend passage of the wind siting reform bill (Senate Bill 185):

MADISON — Wisconsin could soon see greater economic growth in the promising wind energy industry after the Senate Committee on Commerce, Energy, Utilities and Rail votes on Senate Bill 185 Tuesday. This bipartisan bill replaces the chaotic patchwork of local regulations with sensible statewide standards for permitting wind farms. The bill is scheduled for a committee vote at 2 p.m.

“Wind energy holds the potential to address many of the greatest problems facing our state — it can help our environment while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and creating jobs for Wisconsinites,” says Ryan Schryver, clean energy advocate for Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “With so much to gain, we’re extremely encouraged that the legislature is poised to eliminate administrative barriers holding up the development of this industry.”

While wind developers stand ready to invest in Wisconsin’s economy and put Wisconsinites to work building wind farms, a complicated system of over-stringent local regulations currently puts our state at a disadvantage to neighboring states, stalling dozens of proposed wind farm developments in Wisconsin. As other industries have struggled in poor economic times and cut workers, the wind energy industry grew immensely in 2008, increasing its national workforce by 70 percent to over 85,000 workers.

Senate Bill 185, companion legislation to Assembly Bill 256 which passed the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities by a vote of 11-2 in early June, would charge the Wisconsin Public Service Commission with studying and determining permitting standards for wind farms to replace the current disorganized system that discourages the growth of the wind energy industry with sensible statewide standards.

Advocates make last-minute pitch to site Amtrak depot on isthmus

Monday, August 03, 2009

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

Fast forward to 2013.

President Barack Obama, fresh off a narrow re-election victory over Sarah Palin, is celebrating the opening of new Amtrak service between his hometown of Chicago and Madison.

Obama is riding with Gov. Jim Doyle and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz as the train rumbles past East Towne and under Wisconsin 30 and starts across East Washington Avenue.

"There's the Capitol," says Obama, looking out the window of a new Spanish-built Talgo passenger car. But instead of slowing, the train sweeps around the corner at First Street and starts heading back out of town.

"Wait a second," says the confused president. "I thought you promised we'd stop in Madison for a beer?"

Doyle looks sheepishly at Cieslewicz before answering.

"We will eventually stop, Mr. President, but the new Madison train station is actually out at the airport," an embarrassed Doyle explains. "We'll have to get a ride back into town."

"Forget that," says Obama, grabbing his briefcase and ordering the engineer to stop at East Johnson Street. "I'm thirsty. You airport guys can meet me later."


With federal funding for rail service between Madison and Milwaukee tantalizingly close, a group of downtown advocates -- including a prominent real estate developer and a successful restaurant owner -- is making a pitch for locating a new train station at First Street and East Washington Avenue rather than the Dane County Regional Airport.

The so-called "Yahara Station" is on the existing mainline route that would bring Amtrak trains in from Milwaukee. Supporters note that the tracks at that point are just 1.7 miles from the Capitol, compared to 5.1 miles for the airport site.
Moreover, they argue a First Street location has unlimited potential for sparking "transit-oriented" development of apartments, stores or offices that could generate millions in new property tax revenues while providing a catalyst for the long-awaited overhaul of the blighted East Washington Avenue corridor.

"Compare that to the airport, where you have zero opportunity for anything like that," says Barry Gore, a Madison-based urban planner who has previously worked on transit issues in Chicago and the Twin Cities.