The Sustainable Transportation Divide

Grist's David Roberts attended a national conference on the future of transportation at Ohio State in early May and noticed a divide in the concluding discussion on how panelists approached the issue of sustainability in transportation.

1 minute read

May 10, 2010, 11:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Roberts attended Moving Ahead 2010: Sustainable Transportation Solutions for the 21st Century from May 2-4. An impromptu panel discussion prompted by the Deepwater Horizon calamity and our oil dependence closed the conference. Roberts was struck by the two distinct approaches to transportation sustainability revealed in the discussion.

"On one side, you have people like Scott Bernstein of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Geoff Anderson of Smart Growth America, or Tom Murphy of the Urban Land Institute, who are focused on using land and urban assets more effectively, which means increasing density and walkability, which means driving less, which means fewer cars.

"On the other side you have people whose focus is on reducing the ecological impact of individual cars." Their focus: "People are going to keep driving like they do now; how can we make their cars cleaner?"

After listening to the Honda spokesman discuss what he sees as the auto company's future presented by fuel cell technology, Roberts concludes: "Is that really the extent of our ambition? To switch out the internal combustion engine for some other widget and otherwise keep on motoring as usual? To maintain the patterns of land use and development we have, simply with cars that emit less pollution? The poverty of that vision is tragic."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 in Grist

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