It is abundantly clear that the personal automobile is clogging our streets, choking us with pollution and is threatening to take over our cities. The Bureau of Transportation recently released “BTS Special Report: Trends in Personal Income and Passenger Vehicle miles” in which they illustrate that the higher the income ($100,000+) the more trips taken per day, for longer distances and with more cars in the household. For the lower income group ($29,000) about 40% have one car in the household that they use to make daily trips (that are less frequent and shorter than the wealthier counterparts). To find out more about these statistics go to: http://www.bts.gov/publications/bts_special_report/2007_10_03/index.html
With that, let’s look at ways to discourage the automobile from living in our cities and the alternatives to using them at all. I read chapter 9 of “Towards Sustainable Cities” which was titled “ Transportation Planning and Traffic Management.” This chapter started out with car facts and then proceeded to lay out planning policies that offer some alternatives. A very astute observation by Mark Roseland ( the author) was that people spend the most time in their cars on the way to work. Therefore, if employers were targeted to make policy changes and offer incentives to their employees for biking to work, telecommuting, walking to work, carpooling, taking public transit, then this would truly be a comprehensive approach to reducing the amount of personal autos which only carry a single passenger and sit in traffic for 4 rush hours ( yes, it has officially increased from three hours to four hours according to BEST (http://www.best.bc.ca/resources/transportationFacts.html). Employers could offer telecommuting as a way to reduce the amount of trips made. An example of this approach can be seen in Ecovillage Ithaca where you can rent/own office space less than one minute walking distance from your home. Your employer could also help pay for the cost of taking public transportation, or even pay it in full! The university you attend could institute a UPASS system for its students ( ahem, CORNELL?? Way to drop the ball…). Federal agencies could even chip in to subsidize the cost of transportation for those in need of financial assistance. Why not just make it free?
Within the same vein of substituting cars for alternatives, the Community Cycling Center of Portland Oregon offers bikes to low income people in need of transportation. RIBS here in
While a walkable city is not quite in sight for
There countless ways to discourage the car. Re-designing the layout of our residential streets, charging for parking, reduce the required amount of parking for new developments, incentives to carpool, increase parking rates, and giving priory to high occupancy vehicles—just to name a few. My criticism of the increased parking rates is that the poor people who drive their one car to work are already charged more (proportionately) for driving to work, and those who can afford to pay current parking rates would not be discouraged from driving.
These may seem like piece meal strategies, but really, any comprehensive plan has an overarching objective with small policies that get us to that point. Changes can be made at all levels: personal choices (initiated by employers), neighborhood choices (re-design of residential streets, street reclaiming, etc), municipal choices (infrastructure changes) and regional choices (infrastructure and financing that connect people throughout the region). Many organizations exist around this country and the world that are pushing for these sorts of responsible choices to be made. Some approach the situation on the human level, like RIBS and the