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Earth Day Voices Bay Area: Stuart Cohen and Seth Schneider

by the Worldchanging San Francisco local team:


Californians Driving toward Global Warming: The Solution? Smarter Land Use.

In the Bay Area, we drive the equivalent of 300 times to the moon and back each day. It is no wonder that the transportation sector accounts for a staggering 50 percent of all Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions -- which is even higher than California's average of 40 percent.

Fortunately, California is leading the way to improve fuel efficiency and reduce the carbon content of our fuel. The problem is that regulators and legislators often forget the number that drives the equation: 154 million miles of driving in the Bay Area each day.

If we only focus on fuel efficiency and carbon content, as California continues to grow it may add another 10-15 million clean fuel vehicles. And if we continue to use the same suburban design standards for our land use planning, each of these vehicles will demand seven parking spaces (at homes, offices, grocery stores, etc.). So 100 million new parking spaces, or some 300,000 acres, will be paved over in California.

Even worse, we will need to spend our limited transportation dollars on widening our freeways and intersections to accommodate these vehicles, instead of investing in public transit. These vehicles will also threaten children on their way to school, seniors out for a walk, and any of us who walk or bike.

Increased fuel efficiency is necessary, but not enough. We have to get to the source of the problem: our addiction to driving, which is rooted in bad land use planning and auto-oriented communities that are not conducive to walking or bicycling. Building a new coal plant locks us in to dirty energy for 60 years. Building auto-dependent sprawl communities locks us into excessive driving for the next 100 years or more.

We need to show California's regulators and elected leaders that it is possible to reduce driving by combining three strategies: fast, reliable, and affordable transit; walkable, bikable communities that are compact enough to protect our open spaces; and prices for driving and transit that really reflect their true costs, combined with education to get people to try alternatives to automobiles.

Is it a pipe dream that people can dramatically reduce the number of miles they drive? The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area's regional transportation agency, last year completed the most comprehensive study to date on transit use and location. The analysis validates the power of these first two strategies. For people that both live and work within half a mile of a rail or ferry stop, an amazing 42 percent of them commute to work by transit. For those who neither live nor work within half a mile, it plummets to just 4 percent.

Once people have options, the third strategy is key. Free employee transit passes have doubled ridership in some places, while a new intensive marketing program, called TravelChoice, reduced solo auto trips by 14 percent in the city of Alameda.

With California's breakneck pace of growth projected to continue, smarter growth can get us a 10-15 percent reduction in driving within 30 years.

Stuart Cohen is Executive Director and Seth Schneider is Communications Director for the Transportation and Land Use Coalition

Watch Stuart Cohen's Plenery Address from the 2007 TALC Summit: Bay Area Solutions to Global Warming

image credit: California Department of Transportation

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It is now well-established that sprawl complicates the traffic flow as the city does not split into many, but by its very essence keeps attracting people to travel to distant locations to the center and across. What's the way out? I offered a model that provides an alternative : Variegated System of Mass Rapid Transit: An innovation that changes the "Familiar World" of Urban Transport at . It substantially challenges the farce of mass private ownership of cars and freedom of movement as "stray and autonomus movement of private cars on public roads" on one end and the other extreme of "monolithic" capital-intensive Mass Rapid Transit like Metro Rail, High Capacity Bus which are only suitable for 5-10% of road networks in any city and pose particular problems of digging, demolition of "encroaching" buildings to create the corridor and massive construction that experts estimate will raise ambient temperatures by 1-2 degree celsius in a city like Bangalore.

Posted by: Chandra Vikash on 21 Apr 07



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