Aug 10 • 1HR 11M

Volts podcast: how to get urban improvements done quickly

A chat with transportation planner Warren Logan.

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Volts is a podcast about leaving fossil fuels behind. I've been reporting on and explaining clean-energy topics for almost 20 years, and I love talking to politicians, analysts, innovators, and activists about the latest progress in the world's most important fight. (Volts is entirely subscriber-supported. Sign up!)
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When it comes to reducing transportation emissions, two main ideas compete for mindshare in the climate space. First is switching out internal combustion engine vehicles for electric vehicles. Second is improving the built environment to make walking, biking, and public transit easier, to reduce the amount of miles traveled in cars and trucks altogether.

The conventional wisdom is that the former is faster. There are a few key policy levers that can be pulled to get massive numbers of EVs on the roads, whereas urban improvements proceed one at a time, each facing its own bespoke set of challenges.

But there are people out there at the city level working to increase the speed of those improvements. One of them is Warren Logan, currently a partner at Lighthouse Public Affairs, but before that, policy director of mobility in the Oakland, California, mayor's office, a senior transportation planner for San Francisco, and an intern in the transportation office at Berkeley, California.

In his time working on transportation projects, Logan has given a lot of thought to, and done a lot of work on, improving city processes to make safety and walkability improvements faster and less capital-intensive. He wants cities to free themselves up to make fast, cheap changes that can have big impacts without an enormous investment of time and money.

As listeners will have noticed, I have been somewhat obsessed lately with urban design and transportation issues. I hope you will indulge me in another conversation about the nature of resistance to urban improvements, the kinds of changes that can be made quickly to dramatically improve safety, and the larger need to avoid over-reliance on EVs.