CategorySchool Assignments

A collection of assignments I turned in to professors at UIC.

HOT lanes and equity

The following is extracted from a paper I wrote about I-15 Express Lanes (first phase in 1998) and Managed Lanes (second phase, still under construction). Read the paper, Implementing value pricing on a highway in Southern California.

Equity

Political support is necessary for any value pricing application. Mayor Jan Goldsmith’s story of political maneuverings gave that indication. Implementing value pricing is politically difficult to implement because of the high opposition from the public. This is because of the costs borne by the user. In the case of I-15 Express lanes, all users have the opportunity to use the express lanes if they ride the bus, a motorcycle, ride with a friend or coworker, or drive an exempt low-emission vehicle. There are several tollways around the United States and the world which don’t have a free alternative.

Weinstein and Sciara (2006) suggest that we should avoid defining whether or not the HOT lane concept is equitable, but instead how to address perceived equity issues. The pair have written two reports for planners who will potentially work on value pricing projects. Both reports are cited in this section.

It has been found in the I-15 Express lanes application that users who never use the express lanes, and only use the main lanes (free lanes) occasionally benefit from the lane shift of users to the Express lanes. (Supernak, et al. 1998)

Another concern is that low-income drivers, who cannot afford to pay for the express lanes, will disproportionately benefit high-income drivers (Weinstein and Sciara 2006, 179). This debate between rich and poor drivers has emerged under the title of “Lexus lanes”, but the arguments calling HOT lanes a fast lane for the wealthy are unfounded:

a. Users from all income groups use the express lanes on I-15 and find it fair. The final report’s (Supernak 1999) attitudinal survey found that within all income groups, a majority of respondents approved of the FasTrak tolling of solo drivers in the I-15 HOV lanes.

b. As a mitigation measure to this perception, the Express lanes operation is paid for entirely by toll revenue, which also pays for increased express bus service. Oddly, though, Calfee and Winston (1996) found that the way toll revenues are used does not affect commuters’ willingness to pay (WTP), suggesting that these two mitigation measures do not affect public perception.

Works Cited

Calfee, John, and Clifford Winston. “The value of automobile travel time: implications for congestion policy.” Journal of Public Economics 69 (1998): 83-102.

Supernak, Janusz, Jacqueline M Golob, Kim Kawada, and Thomas F Golob. “San Diego’s I-15 Congestion Pricing Project: Preliminary Findings.” Institute of Traffic Studies, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, 1998.

Weinstein, Asha, and Gian-Claudia Sciara. “Unraveling Equity in HOT Lane Planning: A View from Practice.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 26 (2006): 174-184.

I’ve graduated

Say hello to Chicago’s newest planner. ME!

Instead of walking at my school’s graduation ceremony on May 7, 2010, I was busy at work making sure bike parking in Chicago is equitably distributed, visiting the Pacific Northwest, and generally having fun.

Me having fun riding a Volae recumbent bicycle at the Rapid Transit Cycleshop grand opening in University Village at UIC’s South Campus.

Did I say something about bike parking equity? Oh, yeah, I’ve only blogged about it here a couple of times before and it comprised my entire master’s project (which thankfully was approved and deemed “satisfactory” by my wonderful adviser, Vonu). You can read the entire project on my website. I wrote my project in a wiki called DokuWiki – it’s a text-based, lightweight application that encourages writing and doesn’t stand in the way of a creative masterpiece (like Microsoft Word does).

It’s a huge project (there are over 35 webpages that come out to 139 printed pages). I realize that most people won’t read it, but in the course of preparing for a short presentation I recently gave to some staff members at Active Transportation Alliance, I created a short summary to aid me.

Read my project, Bike Parking Equity, or the summary.

A photo of my cheaply printed project. I printed to PDF each and every webpage in the project and then combined them all, using the Mac’s built-in functionality and Preview application.

CTA bus operators should not strike

The assignment: Attached is a press clip from the Chicago Sun-Times on November 5, 2009, with the headline, “Bus driver strike over layoffs an ‘option’.” Also attached is an arbitrators ruling establishing the provisions of the current contract. Do you think the CTA unions should strike over the issue of layoffs? List and explain your reasons.

The class: Transportation Management

I think it is too early to form an opinion on the situation with the facts given. The newspaper article states that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has not yet communicated to the bus operator union what concessions it wants from the members.

However, I have developed a preliminary opinion based on the arbitration agreement and the contract between employer and employee.

The CTA has an obligation to honor its contract and the binding arbitration agreement (AA). The contract and AA stipulates that the CTA provide specific raises in specific years to all employees in the two unions (Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 241 and 208). I believe that for the CTA to continue honoring the terms of this contract, that is, to continue providing raises to the bus operators, then the CTA must reduce its workforce (along with other “balance modification” measures like cutting service and raising fares).

I am not often supporting of unions and I have never been a member of one, I believe the bus operators union will do itself a disservice by striking. It signals to City and State representatives they’re unwilling to continue negotiations with the CTA or a mediator, and that they cannot accept that the CTA, while working hard to increase organization and operational efficiencies, will be unable to pay the salaries of so many “extra” employees because there will be less buses and routes to operate. I shouldn’t have to mention the ill will the CTA’s customers might develop towards the bus operators and the transit agency.

The union must also follow the procedures in their contract that, according to the newspaper article, requires them to submit to binding arbitration. Additionally, this may also harm the union and its members by requiring them to accept a less-than-desirable situation about their jobs.

I found that the Chicago Civic Federation, a non-partisan organization of citizens concerned about the city’s financial well-being, supports the CTA’s plan to reduce service and raise fares, as announced in the CTA’s fiscal year 2010 budget (press release). The Civic Federation calls the cuts and increases a fair approach that balances responsibility on management, union staff, and customers.

I agree with their position that all parties “must make sacrifices.”

In these trying budgetary times, all parties, to garner the most effective support, must ensure they reference only facts so as not to deceive or confuse the public. Facts will also allow the parties to communicate effectively and keep the public’s suspicion at bay. I wrote in the fourth assignment that the CTA should launch a marketing campaign (in order to improve their public image) that seeks to inform the public with simple facts about the agency, the breadth and cost of services it provides, but most importantly describes how it receives funding from Illinois residents through sales and real estate taxes, but also through grants. Additionally, they would discuss the efforts they’ve undertaken in the past few years to increase efficiency in all aspects of the agency.

Lastly, I would like to suggest that the unions spend an equal amount of time, effort and money on persuading elected officials to work on a plan that fixes our regional transit issues and keeps bus operators employed. Transit can be an economic and community development tool when looked at in the context of total transportation management that recognizes the economic detriment of traffic congestion, dangerous streets, pollution, and carbon emissions.

The magic of the RFID card: Applications in transit

The Chicago Transit Authority should convert the U-Pass program from using magnetic stripe fare media to an RFID, or proximity, card.

Several times on weekdays on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, a crowd of up to thirty students waits for the 8/Halsted bus after a class period ends. A very high percentage of the students will use a U-Pass to pay for the bus fare. All U-Pass users have to dip their cards. According to the Transportation Research Board’s Transit Capacity and Service Manual, each passenger with a dip card will take 4.2 seconds to pay their fare whilst users paying with contactless cards will take 3.0 seconds each to pay their fares.

Converting the U-Pass student fare program to use the same contactless fare collection as the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus will improve the Chicago Transit Authority’s quality of service on all bus routes, especially those routes used heavily by program participants.

Contactless fare collection technology (also known as Radio Frequency Identification, RFID, or proximity cards) gives customers additional options to pay and manage their transit fares. It keeps prepaid fares secure against theft and loss. The customer can easily switch payment methods – between a credit/debit card online and debit card/cash at vending locations – and fare types – pay-per-use or 30-day unlimited use. What is most important is how contactless fare collection speeds boarding onto buses and passing through turnstiles at rail stations. This aspect of the technology most discernibly improves the CTA’s quality of service. Taking into consideration all these benefits, contactless cards provide the greatest passenger convenience for fare payment.

Quality of service is the customer’s perception or assessment of performance. The first percept would be the increased boarding speed at key bus stops. The improvements, visible to the boarding passengers and which positively affect the route, cascade from there: increased boarding speed reduces dwell time, which can help keep buses operating on their posted schedule and shrink the rate of bus bunching. The performance gains are measurable – there would be a half-minute decrease in dwell time at UIC bus stops, amongst other gains.

Contactless fare cards are more durable than the U-Pass, which is surprisingly less durable than the CTA’s paper Transit Cards. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the U-Pass card material is more prone to cracking and tearing than the Transit Card material. Currently, UIC students who require a replacement card must pay a $35 fee – an exorbitant amount that does little to deter the anger or frustration of those students who use their cards daily.

A secondary benefit in convenience for the student, the participating colleges, and the CTA, is that producing the U-Pass as a contactless farecard could be permanent: students would keep the same fare media through their entire tenure at the school. Each and every semester, the schools and CTA would spend less labor hours for temporary U-Pass farecard printing and distribution. Alternatively, the U-Pass program could be applied to the existing Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus system, similar to how London Oyster cardholders can add 7-day, monthly and annual passes, giving transit passengers more options than 30-day unlimited use or pay-per-use. During the semester and the U-Pass activity period, no fare would be deducted from the student’s contactless farecard. When the semester is over or the U-Pass activity period is complete, the contactless farecard would automatically switch to the user-defined fare choice and payment plan.

Converting existing fare programs to work like the CTA’s Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus would be a prudent and appropriate step for the CTA to take to improve the quality of service for U-Pass eligible students and the bus system alike.

Comparing the Portland and Seattle bike plans

The assignment:  Find two plans written on a common theme from cities with similar attributes and compare them. The purpose is to start reading plan documents produced by firms, agencies, and organizations around the country. Furthermore, the comparison should include a critique of each plan. For this assignment, I compared the bike “master” plans for Seattle and Portland. The cities have a similar population, and are geographically close.

The class: Making Plans, Making Plans Studio. This class has a lecture and a lab. The assignments are due in the lecture session, which have little to do with the single assignment for the lab. In the lab, students write an actual plan. I took this class in Spring 2009 and each of the four labs independently write an economic development plan for Blue Island, Illinois.

Portland and Seattle are very closely located cities and have a population difference of only 20,000. Portland is recognized as the bicycling capital of the country, but Seattle desperately wants to compete. I reviewed each of their bicycle master plans, but Portland’s is in need of an update. Seattle released their bicycle plan in 2007.

Organization and Design

Portland is definitely known around the country and world as the United States’ premier bicycling city. The leading hobby magazine, Bicycling, identified Portland as such back in 1995 (according to their Bicycle Master Plan). As such, I was expecting their plan to be near perfect. I found that its organization was haphazard and difficult to follow.

Portland installed its first bike boxes in 2008 in response to deaths caused by right-turning trucks.

For example, the plan is 159 pages long but does not use paragraph or section identifiers (i.e. Objective 1.2) or page headers or footers that can tell the reader where they are in relation to the other sections of the plan. The only understandable section identifiers are in the table of contents and the objectives labels. The objectives labels are taken straight from Portland’s comprehensive plan and all come from the same section of that plan (section 6). Eventually you may find that the Portland bicycle plan does have a chapter for each subsection of section 6 in the city’s comprehensive plan. Unfortunately the label is written once at the beginning of the section and is blurred into a black and white photo.

The Seattle plan smartly follows the Chicago example of heavy sectioning and sub-sectioning. This method makes it easy to reference, locate and describe an exact strategy in the plan. In this way, each strategy, or action item as Portland calls them, has a distinct identifier. By following the Chicago example, plans can also more easily internally cross-reference. The one cross-reference in the Portland plan tells me to find Section IV B3. Section IV is only labeled at the beginning of that section, so a reader first has to find that page. Then within Section IV, “B3” is nowhere to be found. There’s no way to infer what B3 could mean. It could mean “benchmark” but Section IV has no benchmarks for the strategies described. Cross-referencing in the Seattle plan is helpful: the links usually take the form of, “For more information, see Chapter 4.” Sometimes the Seattle tells visitors to go online.

Both the Seattle and Portland bicycle plans have great initiatives to improve bicycling, but Seattle’s document surely makes their future work much easier to find!

Bicyclists are the first customers off the ferries in Seattle. On an average day, over 50,000 trips are taken by ferry.

Content

Both the Seattle and Portland bicycle plans provides a lot of extraneous but relevant information, including tips on safe cycling, traffic laws, maps, facility design guides, and crash data. This makes for a long plan but provides governmental and transit agencies the information they need to make decisions available in a central place. The plan document can also act as a self-promotional tool: information contained within the plan is identical to the information that the plan makers want to educate people. For example, within the Portland plan, safe cycling guidelines are included. The necessity of its inclusion in the plan document is debatable, but it doesn’t distract from the plan’s reason for existence.

Portland also includes in its plan a streets and bikeways design guide. This is a separate document that explains to traffic engineers and roadway constructors and planners how to design and build streets, including signage, that make it safer for bicyclists to ride upon.

Both plans have very similar strategies, but because of Seattle’s more recently developed plan, it includes recently accepted innovative traffic calming techniques as well as new bikeway designs (like bicycle-only left turn lanes).

The Portland plan’s age might become a disadvantage to the city and its bicyclists if uninformed agencies are strictly following its guidelines. The Portland Bureau of Transportation, in which sits the Bicycle Program, has fortunately not stuck to strategies listed. PBOT has installed several bikeways and bike parking facilities that are not mentioned in the plan, namely colored bike boxes between pedestrian crosswalks and motorist stop bars, as well as on street bike parking.

UPDATE: Portland closed on November 8, 2009, the public comment period for the 2009 Bike Master Plan Update. Read the draft plan.

Increasing the City of Chicago’s tree canopy

The assignment: You are on a team working with the City of Chicago on increasing the City’s tree canopy from just under 15% to 25%. What would you recommend? Please bear in mind that most city staff feel that they have covered most city owned land and that to reach the goal they will have to get private landowners to plant the trees. How can we get them to do this? What types of parcels present opportunities?

The class: Sustainable Development Techniques

How the class works: The professors invite working professionals to speak to the class each week. After the lecture from these guests, a short discussion ensues. The guests design the homework questions. The following week, the class discusses their responses with each other and the professors.

I’ve identified four parcel types that present opportunities to increase the City of Chicago’s tree canopy from 15% to 25%.

1. Existing surface parking lots, both private and public
2. New surface and multi-level parking lots, both private and public
3. Schools, both public and private
4. Condemn private lots

1. The team will inventory private and public surface parking lots. Using demand survey data, the team will identify specific lots and direct them to reduce the number of spaces by half the difference between demand and availability. The team will select the spaces where trees will be planted at no cost to the parking lot owner. Alternatively, the parking lot owners can choose to purchase and install secure, sheltered bicycle parking on the spaces where trees would have been planted. Owners must install this facility at their own expense but may charge for its use.

The owners choose between a no cost option that potentially reduces their income, or a cost option that potentially reduces their income. Both options would potentially reduce carbon or carbon emissions associated with the parking lot.
2. The team will recommend zoning code changes that reduce the number of required auto parking spaces for new parking lots, increase the number of bicycle parking spaces, and improve the zoning code’s accommodations to alternative fuel, hybrid and shared car spaces. The code will require that builders plant trees in the space that would have been built as auto parking. The code will specify best tree planting practices so the builders plant trees in places on the parcel where it will live.

Parking lots will become useful to a larger number of users, and reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

3. Many schools have land paved with asphalt, acting either as a playground or parking lot for staff. Under a district (or diocese) and City-wide plan to reduce carbon emissions and improve the health of staff, schools will install sheltered bicycle parking on a small portion of the asphalt, and then remove a large area of asphalt. They’ll replace the removed asphalt with grass and trees. Principals will make up the first group of staff to adopt alternative commute methods (which can include carpool, vanpool, transit, walking or bicycling), starting with at least two days per week.

Students will receive a kid-friendlier playground. School staff will reduce their carbon emissions. Schools will help reduce their contribution to the urban heat island effect. New trees will reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

4. Lastly, the City will condemn private lots and convert these to urban forests. The team will first identify residential areas, and then commercial areas. Communities identified by the team to receive urban forests can choose to have and operate a farm or garden instead. The City will provide relocation assistance to all residents of a blighted or energy inefficient building who decide to move to a denser part of the city. The City would then condemn the lot and building, aggregating it into the forest. A variation of this plan includes strategic placement of the trees: The trees can be planted in such a way on the parcel’s perimeter that would permit a new parcel owner to build a new, energy efficient home on the lot.

I feel unclear about the consequences of this strategy. Will the new urban forests raise, lower, or leave alone property values? Will property owners appreciate a rise in property values? Will they feel their neighborhood has improved? How will the forests affect crime and other neighborhood activities?

A map of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park

I would like to hear feedback on the design of this map I made for school. It shows the location of buildings in Oak Park, Illinois, by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The map is accurate; the building listing is from Oak Park Tourist. Feel free to print out the map and go on your own walking tour!

I created this map based on data provided to me by my GIS for Planners class instructors. Also in the assignment they gave limited background on who is commissioning the map, who will use the map, and the information it should describe and display. As the class has progressed, the assignments have become more open ended.

However, in making maps, there are always certain elements you cannot do without. Map makers include a scale bar, north arrow, and source information so that their map appears trustworthy. A legend is most often required, but many times maps can be designed intuitively so that users do not require a legend. I have attempted to design this map like that: I excluded a legend. Map users should be able to discern that the black and gray lines represent streets and also that the larger map with the gray background is a zoomed in portion of the smaller map.

I have posted other maps to my Flickr that you can also browse, some I made because of assignments, and others for personal interest and practice.

Impacts of Intelligent Transportation System elements on bus operators

The assignment: “Describe the impact of the following ITS components on the bus operator.”

The class: Transportation Management

Background: Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) is the application of computers and electronics to vehicles, highway and transit systems to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of the systems. Many elements of ITS are “behind the scenes” (like centralized dispatching or traffic monitoring), and others are “front line,” in view of the users or customers (like Bus Tracker/NextBus or paying a fare with a proximity card). Some of these elements will have an impact on the bus operator themselves. In this assignment I describe what those impacts are, organizing the short paper by each element and their intrinsic advantages and disadvantages.

The following Intelligent Transportation System components each have multiple advantages (A) and disadvantages (D) for the bus operator (driver).

  • In-Vehicle Automated Announcements
  • Transit Signal Priority
  • Security Cameras
  • Emergency Alarm
  • Centralized Dispatch
  • Internet “Bus Tracker”

In-Vehicle Automated Announcements

A: This component allows the operator to concentrate on driving the bus as well as the safety and comfort of the passengers. It may reduce the stress of the operator because they are no longer responsible for keeping track of the street names, activating the public address system, and announcing stops.

D: Some bus operators, particularly those who have been with the company for a long time and own embrace certain traditions, may feel this technology is a way to make their job obsolete. Some bus operators may feel it erodes the personal relationship bus operators have with their customers. Others may feel that announcing stops required a certain skill on which they could compare or compete with others; new bus operators won’t develop this skill or find alternate ways to develop customer relationships.

Transit Signal Priority (TSP)

A: This component can reduce the tedium of a bus operator’s job of accelerating and decelerating because the bus can sustain higher speeds and stop less often (at signals, but passenger stops) when it is given priority at traffic signals.

D: This component may eliminate the bus operator’s job. If the transit agency can operate fewer buses on a route with TSP at the same headways and level of passenger convenience, bus operators could be reassigned to other routes, or laid off completely. Operating a bus at a higher speed could increase the potential for traffic collisions without having time to adapt or appropriate training.

Security Cameras

A: Security cameras can help protect the bus operator in case of an on-board incident that harms them by either exonerating them, rewarding them for their exemplary behavior in handling the incident, or by assisting law enforcement and prosecutors in pursuing justice against the perpetrator.

D: Recordings may catch bus operators not performing as required and could be used against them in disciplinary proceedings.

Emergency Alarm

A: The emergency alarm has the capability of calling for help from the agency’s control center and from local law enforcement to come to the aid of the bus and operator. Depending on the simplicity of activating the alarm, this ITS component has the potential to speed aid to the bus operator and allow the operator to concentrate on the incident at hand instead of spending time communicating to the dispatcher; the incident could be crucial requiring the bus operator’s full attention.

D: Agency management may feel that the presence of an emergency alarm reduces the need for law enforcement or security patrols on buses while the bus operators would prefer to have a high level of security patrol to deter vandalism or potential criminal incidents that either harm the operator or their customers. To ensure this ITS component doesn’t influence an increase in crimes, the agency must base any decision about change in the level of law enforcement and security patrols on factual data and studies and collaborate with all parties (bus operators included) about recommendations or proposals.

Centralized Dispatch

A: This component provides a single point of communication, to and from which all messages will be sent. The bus operator will most likely communicate with a single person (or staff position) at the control center, who will be responsible for answering the operator’s questions en route, handling emergencies by calling the appropriate personnel, and ordering live route or operation changes.

D: The bus operator may have a poor relationship or lack camaraderie with their assigned dispatcher that might place a strain on the effective operation of the bus and the route. For example, the bus operator might not fully follow the dispatcher’s directions if there exists a mutual or one-sided distrust or dislike. However, this would most likely have a negative impact on the bus operator’s performance rating.

Internet “Bus Tracker”

A: The “Bus Tracker” system is based on automated vehicle location (AVL) technology, which includes a geographic positioning system (via satellite) to pinpoint the bus’s exact location. AVL can create a timeline of the bus’s travel and identify the times at which the bus stopped and started. The data from this timeline could be used as evidence to exonerate the bus operator in an incident in a situation where a customer or other person accuses the bus or its operator of doing something wrong.

D: The Bus Tracker could also be used against the bus operator by showing evidence that they did do something wrong. The timeline data (which would show schedule adherence and could identifying running ahead or behind) can be used as a measure of the operator’s work performance and serve as evidence in disciplinary proceedings. AVL could also determine if the bus operator took an unscheduled break or went off the route.

Additionally, I see a case where customers who follow and come to depend on the Bus Tracker website are influenced by their dependence to change their relationship with the bus operator or the transit agency. For example, if the Bus Tracker displays inaccurate time information (one time, or consistently), the customer may become upset with the bus operator (who would most like not be at fault for any delays or inaccurate time information) or the transit agency. Bus operators aren’t always equipped or trained mentally or physically to handle upset customers.

Do you have any other ideas about the impacts of these ITS elements on bus operators (drivers)?

A LEED-related homework assignment and my response

The assignment: Write a mock letter to the editor responding to this New York Times article: Some Buildings Not Living Up to Green Label (published August 31, 2009).

The class: Sustainable Development Techniques

How the class works: The professors invite working professionals to speak to the class each week. After the lecture from these guests, a short discussion ensues. The guests design the homework questions. The following week, the class discusses their responses with each other and the professors.

Dear Editor,

Buildings, as a category, consume more energy than any other category in the United States. The USGBC: U.S. Green Building Council (GBC) took the right steps by mandating an energy efficiency minimum to receive LEED certification. As it increases the standard building designers and owners need to reach to achieve the image of “green” or environmental responsibility, we should look for ways to make green building design cheaper and easier.

I have a few suggestions for how we can make that happen, but first I want to encourage your newspaper and its readers to send a message to their Congresspersons: They should pay attention to the fact that buildings consume the most energy of any category of energy use and include a section in climate change legislation that reduces buildings’ impact on the environment and their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change legislation will not be effective unless it mandates and encourages changes in buildings and how they use energy.

So how can we make LEED certification (or other similar certification programs) easier to achieve? First of all, do not reduce the ease of certification. This will have an ill effect on climate change and reverse the positive advances LEED and its certified buildings make.

  1. Certify buildings who meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements with a new label. Some building owners or developers may not care to receive full certification or medal, or create green roofs or offer alternative transportation to building workers, but would rather be recognized for making bona fide improvements to their energy systems and use. Hold the buildings to the same reporting standards as all other certification levels.
  2. Support and fund research that will be used to continually refine the certification process and identify the best and worst energy system changes and upgrades. The Center for Neighborhood Technology and the New Buildings Institute have researched LEED-certified buildings to gauge their energy use and determine how effective the buildings are in reducing energy use (not all buildings were able to reduce energy use).
  3. Offer short-term rewards when people make long-term changes that provide long-term benefits. Provide instant or near-instant tax rebates when residents who live in or own “energy poor” buildings and make upgrades that are proven to increase the building’s energy efficiency by a minimum amount. When people can see immediate benefits, they may be more likely to make the changes. Make the rebate requirements easy to understand – consult with retailers like CVS and Walgreens who provide some rebates immediately to their customers after a purchase is made. However, consult the best universities and researchers to ensure the program managing this system will not allow rebates for window installation when home insulation negates any positive effect the new windows would provide.
  4. Continue to provide support and funding for “green jobs” that will further these legislated programs. Jobs like researchers, product development, engineering; also, new jobs like “energy efficiency inspector” and consultant.
  5. Mandate programs that reduce the Top 10 energy wasters in offices so that individual workers must play a part in their building’s energy reduction. This might mean automatic computer suspension overnight and on the weekends, or eliminating paper intensive processes, or installing automatic hand dryers and lights. These programs should apply to every building with at least 10 workers. Be imaginative, though, to work around corporate resistance; perhaps a cap & trade element would satisfy some building lessees.

Please continue writing about this issue. I want all workers to be aware of how they use energy and contribute to their building’s energy use and how it relates to carbon emissions.

-Steven Vance

I believe that most letters to the editor are written in mind for the newspaper’s other readers. Many letters to the editor are indeed directed at the editor, the article author, or the newspaper as a company. I chose to write my letter in the former style because if I was going to be published where 800,000 people might read what I wrote, I want it to be something they will find interesting and can have a personal response.

Why did I write what I did? Two LEED experts at Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, Illinois, came to speak to my class about their research project that analyzes energy and water usage for 27 LEED-certified buildings in Illinois (find buildings on the USGBC’s website). The twofold purpose is to provide a report back to the study participants about their consumption, but also point out exactly what the NYT article mentioned: there’s a disparity between LEED certification and energy efficiency. Should LEED standards be more stringent about energy reduction (for existing buildings) or efficiency (for new buildings compared to other buildings in its class)?

It turns out that U.S. Green Buildings Council will soon require that new buildings must meet a certain minimum number of points in the Energy Efficiency category. I agree with this change, and my suggestions in my letter to the editor complement that change and encourage making energy efficiency easier and something that individual homeowners and workers will take part in.

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