Thursday, January 29, 2009

GREEN PARTY OFFICIAL REMAKES PARIS STREETS

International Herald Tribune - For his efforts to reduce the privilege of car drivers in Paris, Denis Baupin has been saddled with nasty nicknames, including "Monsieur Embouteillages" (Mr. Traffic Jam), Khmer Vert and worse.

As the transportation chief of the French capital for seven years, Baupin, who has written a book called "All Cars, No Future," was the force behind the development of Paris's hugely successful bicycle-sharing program, Velib'. He introduced a tramway, minibuses, rider subsidies, more bus lanes and faster bus speeds. He reduced auto speed limits to 30 kilometers an hour, or just under 19 miles an hour, from 50 kilometers an hour on 1,000 streets and closed many to cars altogether.

In short, Baupin has changed the face of mobility in Paris, making it, by most accounts, easier for users of public transportation, pedestrians and bikers, and less accessible to car drivers.

Since March 2008, the Green Party member has had a new but related charge: fighting climate change.

Under his plan, ?2 billion, or $2.6 billion, of taxpayers' money will go towards renovating a quarter of the city's 220,000 subsidized apartments to receive better insulation and more efficient heating. The program would eventually extend to all of Paris's 3,000 public and 100,000 private buildings, nearly half of them built before 1915.

Financing for the plan has not been set, though Baupin is in talks with the Caisse des Depots et Consignations, the French state-owned bank. . . .

Baupin is expanding the city's car-sharing program, even as his boss, Mayor Bertrand Delanoƫ, prepares a competing plan to place 2,000 electric cars throughout the city in 2010. Baupin happens to oppose the mayor's AutoLib' idea and fears its ease of use will prompt residents to abandon public transportation.