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Public Transportation Fri Sep 03 2010

The Right Fix

As the coffers of all forms of public agencies continue to bleed, there's a growing movement of adopting common sense strategies towards maintaining transit infrastructure. Philip Langdon over at The New Urban Network has looked into a growing chorus of concern in D.C. that calls to change the way maintenance is scheduled and delivered across D.C.'s Metrorail and Metrobus service. Echoing the Obama administration's call for preventive health care, Greater Greater Washington blogger Ken Archer suggests a more pro-active approach to upkeep by utilizing a "maintenance-as-you-go" system. By outfitting trains and buses with diagnostic sensors, such a program would work to identify when vehicles are in actual need of care, and not simply, to quote Langdon quoting Archer himself "either too late and a breakdown has already occurred, or it is way too early and thus wasteful."

In rural communities across the Dakotas, Michigan, and other states as well, some cash-strapped counties and state DOTs are doing way with repaving roads and replacing them with gravel. The cost of asphalt and constant maintenance is simply something small, cash-strapped highway departments are not equipped to handle at present. While it would seem almost counter-intuitive to allow roads to go "back to nature," for communities such as the 78-population strong Spiritwood, N.D., it is actually a corrective in providing infrastructure that is appropriate for a town of its stature. It's more evidence of structural changes happening everywhere in forcing Americans to address the notion that one-size-fits-all approaches to growth are not, and never were, the answer to the myriad needs of the diverse makeup of the nation's communities.

A burgeoning highlight of the Great Recession is slowly starting to reveal itself, in that we are recognizing growth, in expansionist terms, will not be the way out of our current morass. Rather, the new growth will be a right-sizing approach of doing what's rightful for our individual communities, thereby strengthening their assets, and not implementing mismatched and long-term destructive plans.


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