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May 20th, 2009
BLUEPRINT AMERICA
The Next American System
[VIDEO] Road to the Future

This video is no longer available.

Blueprint America goes to three very different American cities — Denver, New York and Portland, and their surrounding suburbs — to look at each as a microcosm of the challenges and possibilities the country faces as citizens, local and federal officials, and planners struggle to manage a growing America with innovative transportation and sustainable land use policies.

With roads clogged and congested, gas prices uncertain, smog and pollution creating health problems like asthma, cities that once built infrastructure to serve only automobiles and trucks are now looking to innovative new forms of transportation systems — like trolleys, light rail, pedestrian walkways and bike paths.

Whether it is talking to residents pushing sustainable development in the Bronx, smart growth in Denver, or a journalist in Portland whose beat is bicycling, Blueprint America finds a common theme: America’s love affair with the car may be a thing of the past, and that may be the road to economic recovery.

  • John M

    As someone who works in the transportation planning field and has studied both Denver’s and Portland’s Transit systems closely, I thought this was a very informative and enlightening documentary.

    Though Mike Cherry and Joe Simple make some good points. The documentary could have touched on Denver’s current mass transit plans that include over 120 miles of light rail to be completed in about 7-8 years. Though I still think that it is fair to compare Denver and Portland. While RTD and the FastTracks initiative put Denver in the vanguard of American cities creating a far-reaching mass transit system, they are relatively new measures enacted to combat the unsustainable land use practices that resulted from the highways that were built at all costs around the metro area. Whereas Denver and most of the surrounding communities did whatever they could to complete the 470 highway, Portland stopped the new highway construction through its community in its tracks and received permission from the fed. govt. to spend the highway money on alternative methods of transportation.

    It’s kind of ironic when today the fed. govt. is giving money that has to be used on certain kinds of transit projects just as they did in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s for highway construction. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the govt. financed a certain amount for highway construction and a certain amount for transit improvements and let the local govt. decide what exactly to spend it on: Highway, light rail, streetcars, commuter rail ect. Any thoughts?

  • Sheryl S.

    Very well done, and hits very close to the heart. As a Colorado native who lived 5 out of 35 of those years in Golden CO,(more power to Golden and Jacob Smith!) we now make our home in Bellingham WA. The CO part was difficult to watch. I love CO and it’s mountains dearly, but the sprawl breaks my heart. In Golden/Denver it was tough to stay out of my car. Here, I often don’t get in my car for days. My motivation is unchanged, the only difference is pedestrian/bike friendly planning. That’s not the only benefit- the community becomes very strong when people get out of their cars and walk and bike more. I’ve seen the difference firsthand. Pedestrian friendly communities, circumstancial or intentional, work!! I would bet that every town/city has examples of sprawl and walkability, this town included. What makes it work or not work, as this documentary makes clear, is the degree to which their has been consistent city AND statewide sprawl reduction and sustainability planning, not every man or city for him/herself. Keep fighting the good fight!

  • Heather moran

    Is there any way to purchase this program?

  • Scott Moore

    How does one purchase this program… or the whole series?

  • Will

    If Denver is unchecked sprawl, then bring on the sprawl. I happen to like Denver’s bikes lane, paths and ease of mass transit. But what do I know, I am just a Denver resident that bikes to work everyday. Though, I do know the light rail extends to Highland Ranch. Opps . . . I guess you missed that.

    Denver Rocks!!!!!

  • Robert Earl

    The City of Long Beach (CA) Public Works Department would definitely like a copy or two of “Road to the Future.” Please let me know if this is possible. Thanks!

  • Rob Jackson

    The aloof response from #35 is a bit typical from those who move to Colorado and the West in general, but do not realize the ramifications from unchecked urban sprawl. The primary issue of urban sprawl in the west and other areas of the country is water resources. New homes in the Denver subsurbs create undue stress on the water supply in an already dry climate. I would suggest the people of Highlands Ranch and other new Colorado Residents take a course in hydrology and natural resources before moving to the State and tauting urban sprawl. The other problem is stormwater management and pollution issues that occur as a result of installing pavement and concrete. It’s great that you are biking to work, but think a bit harder before saying “bring on the sprawl”.

  • Erv Klaas

    I have visited all three cities but I live in Iowa, a small state that includes 25 percent of the richest farmland in the world. Iowa has virtually no laws protecting this farmland and land speculators have become rich buying up farmland near our larger cities and then selling it to developers of urban sprawl for up to $40,000/acre. The state has done virtually nothing to protect farmland because it would be un-American to interfere with someone’s right to become an instant millionaire. Meanwhile, the tax payers get saddled with the costs of highways and infrastructure to make urban sprawl happen.

  • Mato Nanji

    I love Denver and Portland, Portland being my home town. Unfortunately Denver is a mess the transit system is not very reliable or easy to use relative to Portlands’ Tri-Met system. Its heartbreaking to see Denver get uglier and uglier everytime I go there…

  • Mitch Brown

    Love this doc – seen it twice. I live in Chicago and haven’t owned a car for over 10 years. Unfortunately, the rest of the Chicagoland region isn’t as luck as The City. Its amazing how long one has to DRIVE in order to get to the countryside. Its high time we STOP subsidizing OPEC and Detroit (and the German, Korean and Japanese automakers) and start building a BETTER country. The traffic guy and wife…I will never understand these sorts of people.

  • Linda Glass

    How can I purchase the Blueprint America: Motor City seen 02/08/10 on PBS?

  • James Gilbert

    Nice Job PBS & Blueprint America. I’d like to see more.There is much on the web-site that should be shown – or re-shown – on TV. Could be in short segments or full programs. There needs to be a shift in peoples imaginations. I believe we can build more compact cities and still have more workable, efficient and beautiful cities. Many presentations about the problems of sprawl and the use of energy mention the benefits of higher densities and more compact cities but they they often don’t elaborate and they don’t put out sufficiently grand images of what a compact city would be like. We need some architect-artists here. I would think that the potential efficiencies would be enormous. The energy, utility and communication distribution networks would be—- compact.
    Shorter distances between — everything. And, open spaces, landscaping – plenty of plants, trees, etc. Lots of glass. Terraces. Cities of the future.
    Books have been written – architects, landscape architects, artists have produced visions. We need to do much better than the real-estate section of the sunday paper. We need – as a start – beautiful images.

  • Google Instant

    The aloof response from #35 is a bit typical from those who move to Colorado and the West in general, but do not realize the ramifications from unchecked urban sprawl. The primary issue of urban sprawl in the west and other areas of the country is water resources. New homes in the Denver subsurbs create undue stress on the water supply in an already dry climate. I would suggest the people of Highlands Ranch and other new Colorado Residents take a course in hydrology and natural resources before moving to the State and tauting urban sprawl. The other problem is stormwater management and pollution issues that occur as a result of installing pavement and concrete. It’s great that you are biking to work, but think a bit harder before saying “bring on the sprawl”.

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