Author: Lindsay Reul

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High Speed Rail Won’t Save America

New York State has been marketing the idea of a state-wide high-speed rail network for several years now. High-speed rail, the acclaimed transportation system used in Europe, is a seemingly well adapted solution for New Yorkers, both Up & Down Staters, given the patterns of urbanization are largely linear up the Hudson Valley from NYC to Albany, and through the Mohawk Valley from Albany to Buffalo. Although very little on-the-ground construction has been accomplished at this point, the state plans to continue its support of the project into the future years.

After all – what a great idea, right? If New York can successfully move people around the state and through to major destinations like New York City, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, and Chicago at car-competitive speeds and prices, for a fraction of the ecological footprint that automobiles impose, shouldn’t they absolutely press forward with this project? I absolutely thought so. I believed this would make the State of New York a cut above the rest – a leader for the other 49 to follow – showing that a high quality 21st century expectation lifestyle is completely possible while simultaneously conserving the larger natural landscape, protecting water and natural resources, and contributing to the emission reduction levels of the global climate.

But Alan Berger, MIT Professor & Founder of P-Rex, has made educated statements against this plausible (and wishful) line of thinking. “So far, Berger says, two things are already clear: building high-speed,
European-style rail lines is not the solution for transportation in and
between American cities; and second, it appears that while urban
congestion is on the rise, total vehicle miles traveled in the States
has been declining for a few years. “More intelligent, systemic design
for the spaces in which we live and work is becoming critical,” Berger

So contrary to current urban planning theories – high-speed rail is not the answer to our future? Berger’s comments quoted above suggest systematic urban design holds the key. Without further elaboration, this statement leaves me unconvinced, very curious to understand more, and confused as to why he assesses high-speed rail as a non-variable in the efforts to fix our built environment.

….I guess I’ll just have to ask him myself.

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Capping Landfills With Nature Preserves

The Dirt (ASLA) covered this story a while ago, but I am still bothered by this solution to an old landfill in Brooklyn. They capped the landfill with a layer of plastic and applied 3′ of good soil over top. Andropogon did an excellent job (and should rightly be praised) for their push to use trees and naturalized meadow flowers and grasses rather than the traditional lawn. However, I would never call this a remediation or a solution.

Base flow and ground water is still going to be severely affected by the abandoned and buried trash. The water quality contributing to the local watershed is still going to be compromised and degraded. It’s nice that a habitat was able to form and wildlife is beginning to return to the site, but it’s still just a short-term solution.

Landscape Architects may have a bigger role in addressing closed landfills in the future. Now that the environmental movement is picking up real speed, reclaiming the land for cultural uses will be important. But is there no way of truly treating and remediating the site to reverse the footprint (instead of simply painting over it)?

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