Public transit advocates and road warriors have always competed for funding and attention, but now electric vehicles have introduced a sort of third choice, one that industry, government, and (most) environmentalists support. The 2009 federal stimulus package set aside $2.4 billion for electric vehicle investments – that’s in addition to $30 billion for roads and bridges, while mass transit got about $13 billion. Electric vehicles generate less greenhouse emissions and reduce our reliance on oil. But they’re also typically plugged into a coal-fired grid and, well, they’re still cars. So is the promotion of EVs just a supposedly “green” path that will keep us stuck in traffic? Next American City editor-in-chief Diana Lind says yes. Plug-In America co-founder Marc Geller says there’s room for electric buses, trains, and automobiles.
By Diana Lind
As Editor in Chief and Publisher of Next American City, Diana Lind is constantly looking at ways to make cities sustainable. She also produces NAC’s signature events, Next American Vanguard and Open Cities.
Who wants to argue against the positive impacts of small steps toward sustainability? I don’t – but I have to.
There’s no doubt that small efforts are meaningful. Using compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent ones lowers humanity’s carbon footprint. Recycling instead of throwing away plastic and paper saves acres of trash from landfills, and using plant-based detergents instead of harsh chemicals keeps harmful toxics out of our ecosystems. But taking a long view, these are minor ways to counter monumental climate change and the degradation of our natural environment.
What if, instead of promoting slight modifications to our behavior, we created new systems that led us on a radical path toward sustainability? What if, instead of promoting recycling, we taxed disposable items that could not be reused, making a plastic bottle of water cost $5 instead of $1? Think about how many bottles of water would never be purchased and instead how much more urgently the public would fight for clean tap water. …more…
by Marc Geller
A veteran advocate for electric vehicles, Marc Geller is on the board of directors of the Electric Auto Association and co-founded the association’s San Francisco chapter and the San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association, as well as DontCrush.com and Plug In America.
Greater support for mass transit and appropriate land use policies that make mass transit accessible are essential. They are essential for more livable communities and more efficient use of resources, including energy. However, we have created a nation that is dependent, for the foreseeable future, upon the automobile. And many of the rest of the world’s inhabitants aspire to automobile ownership. China has opened up high-speed rail lines while the United States fiddles. Yet simultaneously, China has overtaken the United States in the number of automobiles sold annually.
Despite billions of dollars of investment, in most of the United States only a tiny percentage of people use mass transit regularly. The latest report by the American Public Transportation Association documents a 3.8 percent decline in ridership overall in the first nine months of 2009. Designing our cities and regions around mass transit is something we must do, but it is a multi-generational project. …more…
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