To Halt Climate Change, Planners Need To Help People Drive Less

New vehicle technology won't prevent global warming unless urban sprawl is curbed, argues a new book to be published by the Urban Land Institute.

"In a comprehensive review of dozens of studies, published by the Urban Land Institute, researchers conclude that urban development is both a key contributor to climate change and an essential factor in combating it.

They warn that if sprawling development continues to fuel growth in driving, the projected 59 percent increase in the total miles driven between 2005 and 2030 will overwhelm expected gains from vehicle efficiency and low-carbon fuels. Even if the most stringent fuel-efficiency proposals under consideration are enacted, notes co-author Steve Winkelman, "vehicle emissions still would be 40 percent above 1990 levels in 2030 – entirely off-track from reductions of 60-80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 required for climate protection."

"Curbing emissions from cars depends on a three-legged stool: improved vehicle efficiency, cleaner fuels, and a reduction in driving," said lead author Reid Ewing, Research Professor at the National Center for Smart Growth, University of Maryland. "The research shows that one of the best ways to reduce vehicle travel is to build places where people can accomplish more with less driving."

Depending on several factors, from mix of land uses to pedestrian-friendly design, compact development reduces driving from 20 to 40 percent, and more in some instances, according to the forthcoming book Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change. Typically, Americans living in compact urban neighborhoods where cars are not the only transportation option drive a third fewer miles than those in automobile-oriented suburbs, the researchers found."

Full Story: Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change



Gasoline is too cheap in the US

A significant increase in the gasoline tax would help to achieve both a reduction in VMT per capita and more compact, mixed-use development. By making driving everywhere more expensive, consumers would increasingly demand smart growth, new urbanism, TODs, etc., not to mention better mass transit. Unfortunately no mainstream politician will go near this issue, as VP Cheney has said, "the 'American Way of Life' is non-negotiable." At least not yet.
(I have no issue with better land use planning that doesn't encourage and/or require automobile use for virtually all trips, so the gas tax thing is more of an "in addition to" rather than "instead of" comment)

The idea might have a chance

The idea might have a chance if it could be shown how much the gasoline/carbon tax would offset income taxes, and emphasize that instead. "Income Tax Reduction Act" has a nice ring to it.

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