Thursday, March 19, 2009

Remedy for Global Warming: Cities yes, Suburbs, no

Imagine your child having to ride a school bus two blocks to school because there is no safe way for her to walk there.

In the words of Tevye the Milkman: "Sounds crazy, no?"

An insightful article from Jon Hilkevitch in the Tribune earlier this month chronicles the absurdity of the design of new suburban communities that make little or no accommodations for transportation other than the motor vehicle.

As for the havoc this is causing to the environment, here are a some interesting stats from the article:
  • "Transportation accounts for two-thirds of all the oil consumed in the U.S. and one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA"
  • "The number of vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. is doubling every generation, according to the Federal Highway Administration."
Meaning that the stringent emission controls on automobiles these days are offset by the increase in the amount of miles driven by Americans.

In other words, we're polluting now as much or more than ever.

The sad fact is that while the detriments of automobiles vs. the benefits of alternative modes of transportation are well known and appreciated throughout society, we continue to design our communities around the private automobile.

The solution some say, are new technologies that make cars more fuel efficient with cleaner burning engines. But in a telling quote from the article, “It’s not what car you drive, but how you do not drive a car”

And where is it still possible in the United States to lead a normal life without driving a car? I can think of only a handful of places, and they're all big cities whose basic layout and infrastructure dates back at least 100 years. In cities like New York, Boston, and San Francisco, public transportation is much more practical than the absurd hassles involved with car ownership.

In other older cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia, it's more of a tossup with both adequate public transportation, and plenty of amenities for drivers.

That's about it. virtually everywhere else in this country, driving is not seen as a choice but a necessity.

Now if we could convince our fellow Chicagoans to make the choice to scale back their driving, we'll be on the right track.

More to follow...

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