Sunday, April 27, 2008

Allen Demling: a focus on alternative transportation, and a sweet beard

With the Austin city elections coming up, I thought it would be appropriate to use this blog to spotlight Allen Demling, who is running for Austin City Council, Place 1. I do this because a cornerstone of Mr. Demling’s platform is his fixation on improving city transportation through the use of alternatives such as walking, bicycling (especially bicycling), busses, and trains. This ideal translates to Austin becoming a less energy-intensive city, among other positive benefits, which is the focus of this blog entry.

A quick disclaimer: Although I thoroughly agree with Allen Demling’s views on city transportation and many of this other goals for city council, I am still undecided for whom I will vote. Mr. Demling is running for Place 1 against the Lee Leffingwell, who is an experienced, principled incumbent, and I have not yet seen a convincing reason to vote him out of office. Even if I decide to vote against Mr. Leffingwell, the other challenger for this position, Jason Meeker, is a very good candidate in his own regard. There are three good candidates vying for one position. On a more personal note, Allen Demling graduate UT with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, which is something that appeals to me. Furthermore, the guy’s got a sweet beard.

Allen Demling supports the general goal of diversifying transportation in our cities. Currently, our society is centered around the automobile. Just a few of the ramification of this are that (a) automotive traffic and pollution are recurring and growing problems, (b) our productivity and happiness is very sensitive to petroleum prices and availability, and (c) our cities are spread out over large areas to accommodate our automobile-centric lifestyles. If more options existed for transportation, especially in and around downtown, and if people used these options because they were affordable and reasonably convenient, then (a) traffic and pollution would be reduced, (b) our society would better able to absorb high costs of fuel, and (c) our cities would tend to become more concentrated closer to town, resulting in shorter commutes for most people and a less-energy-intensive way of life for the city. The way to achieve this is through the creation of the infrastructure to support various forms of transportation.

Alternative transportation infrastructure includes sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes and paths, innovative bus systems, and well-planned local train systems. This costs money up front, sometimes a huge amount of money, but it has enormous benefits in the long term. Cities grow around transportation, and transportation infrastructure goes a long way to define a society. Allen Demling is one of a rapidly growing group of citizens who realize this and put alternative transportation high on the list of priorities for our government. These are long-term projects that effect the growth of our cities over generations. Our society has neglected transportation diversity for too long, and we are seeing the symptoms of this. It is urgent that our society makes substantial steps towards diversifying our transportation system.

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