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Monday, February 11, 2008

Buying a hybrid isn't enough

It is easy being green - but in the grand scheme of things simply going green by recycling or purchasing a hybrid vehicle is not going to do much to offset climate change. That is the message I got when I read Michael Maniates Washington Post article from this past November. Maniates, a professor of political and environmental science at nearby Allegheny College, states that we need change on a massive scale if we want to have a real impact on saving the planet. He says that all of the marketing of books and shows about how easy it is going green is doing disservice to the movement . I totally 100% agree with him. Listen - I want to do my part in reducing my carbon footprint - and I have already begun doing so, but in the end me taking public transit to work is not going to make a difference when our entire society and communities are centered around automobile transportation.

Big changes have to happen in cities and suburbs throughout America and it is going to take changes from the top down to move our culture away from gasoline powered automobiles towards mass transit and alternative forms of transportation like biking and.......and walking. Yes, walking can be a form of transportation too! With smarter design and emphasis on new urban and sustainable development people can live, work, and play all within walking distance. I get all crazy eyed when I hear of people who just have to drive their car a quarter of a mile to a grocery store or those who won't take the light rail because the nearest station is a half mile away from their office building. To them I say this: "It is time for us to wake up and stop being fat lazy Americans!!!!"

He concludes:

The time for easy is over. We're grown-ups who understand the necessity of hard work and difficult choices. We're ready for frank talk about how we best confront -- in ways rewarding, confusing, creative and hard -- the planetary emergency before us.

If we can send a man to the moon, can't we quit our dependency on foreign oil?? If we don't need foreign oil then we shouldn't have to get involved in middle east conflicts like the Iraq War, do you not agree? If we have billions to spend on new transportation infrastructure - like more light rail, commuter trains, and even high speed rail - instead of spending it on the war we will have enough infrastructure work to generate a sustainable boom in our economy and also freedom from being at the mercy of the airlines - who also guzzle up gallons and gallons of oil, once the rails are completed. Also, as a result of using more mass transit, we would spend less time in our cars and more time walking, which will make us healthier and happier. If we all have to walk more, we'll lose weight and we will live longer, resulting in a lower price tag for universal health care , much lower than what they've initially calculated.

Isn't it something that these big issues - energy independence, transportation, health care - are all interrelated? I now walk at least one mile per day when I get to take the light rail into work. The estimate is probably closer to one and a half to two miles if you include walking on my lunch hour and walking to and from my car in the massive lot by the rail station. My wife recently said she noticed that I was losing weight. I have not been going to the gym, and I sit behind a desk at my job pretty much all day. I am losing weight because I no longer drive my car into work 5 days a week.

This got me thinking - what if we were paid to take mass transit into work, or what if mass transit, like the light rail system I use, is free? Assuming there would be enough capacity for such a move (there isn't here in Pittsburgh), the results of this experiment would, I assume, shock a lot of people. A project like this would take a massive federal subsidy since fare revenues could not be used to fund the system's operations - but there could be alternative revenue streams to make up for it. How about print and video advertising in the rail cars and stations to offset the loss of fare revenues? I think this works since free rides would equal more riders and more eyeballs for the ads. What do you think about this idea?


Fountainhed19 said...

Very interseting blog! It looks like we have similar interests on both sides of the border.

There is only one practical way to provide safe pedestrian and cyclist crossing over major road highway overpasses. I have suggested in the first part of my Walkers & Cyclists’ Manifesto, an elevated trail on top of the road median. For protecting people from the elements, the trail could be enclosed with a light tunnel similar to the one proposed by Architect Chris Hardwicke for his Velo-City in Toronto, in 2006.
The structure to support this trail can be easily prefabricated, and then erected with minimum modifications to the existing road, and little traffic disruption.
Considering that crossing at highway overpasses is so widespread in North America, it would make sense for the states and provinces to invest into one or several manufacturing facilities which would produce all necessary components. This could be done in a cost effective way in partnership with major contractors, precast manufacturers and steel fabricators. The long term savings from reduced maintenance of sidewalks will recover the initial investment. In addition, such facilities will create permanent jobs. Politically, this concept also offers the government an opportunity to prove it’s serious about promoting healthy, clean, accessible, convenient and affordable transportation to all citizens.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post +1

Olivier Sanar said...

When I decided that I'm fat, I ust bought appetite suppressant and lose 10 extra pounds. That's all.