Linklist: November 27, 2011

LA Times: Renewable power trumps fossil fuels for first time: “Renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments, shaking off setbacks from the financial crisis and an impasse at the United Nations global warming talks.”

USA Today: Feds open probe into post-crash fires in Chevrolet Volt: “Federal safety regulators said today they are opening a formal safety investigation into whether the batteries in the Chevrolet Volt plug-in extended-range electric car catch fire after crashes. The probe could have far-reaching implications for all electric cars and other devices powered by advanced batteries.”

Strib: Downtown Minneapolis dropped off shoppers’ list: “But the downtown exodus did not stop. In 1998, there were 183 retail establishments in the 55402 ZIP code, which encompasses much of the central business district. By 2009 there were 94, a trend that might exhaust even the most tireless downtown booster.” Mass Transit: Could Raising Fares Increase Ridership? : “Conventional wisdom dictates that keeping transit fares as low as possible will promote high ridership levels. That isn’t entirely incorrect. Holding all else constant, raising fares would have a negative impact on ridership. But allowing the market to set transit fares, when coupled with a number of key reforms could actually increase transit ridership, even if prices increase. In order to implement these reforms, we would need to purge from our minds the idea that public transit is a welfare service that ought to be virtually free in order to accommodate the poor. Concern about poverty should drive welfare policy, not transit policy. Persistent efforts to keep public transit fares as low as possible are a big part of the reason that public transit ridership in North America has hit record lows. To increase ridership, transit agencies have to convince people who can afford to drive that transit is a better option. Convenience, and not lower prices, is the key.”

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space: Happy anniversary, zoning!: “This year marks the 85th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court case Euclid v Ambler Realty, which upheld the basic constitutionality of local zoning. Given the current debate between liberals and conservatives about the appropriate role of regulation in shaping our economy and our communities, it seems timely to ask the question: do we still need zoning?

The Antiplanner: New Concept: Compare Benefits with Costs: “The San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is considering the possibility of using benefit-cost analyses to decide how to spend federal and state taxpayer dollars. This “new” technology dates back to 1848, so you can see why regional planners might be just discovering it now.”