Would you rather walk or ride?
In a modern transportation infrastructure, bicycles play a huge part.
Until we develop some cost-effective teleportation technology ("Beam me up, Scotty!"), the need to physically move goods and people from one place to another will always be a significant element of any economy or society we develop. That's why it's heartening to know there are organizations out there like Transportation for America.
TFA (www.t4america.org) is a coalition of national, state and local organizations working toward a massive updating of transportation systems, sufficiently modernized to support a robust economy as well as healthy communities. But for TFA, effective transportation is linked in with economic opportunity, climate protection, energy security, health, housing and community development. This should include modern and affordable public transportation, safe places to walk and bicycle, smarter highways that use technology and tolling to better manage congestion, reducing travel demand by locating more affordable housing near jobs and services, and long-distance rail networks, all with a view toward helping reduce oil dependency, slow climate change, improve social equity and public health, and fashion a vibrant new economy.
For TFA, lobbying is a major avenue of activity. They want, among other things:
More Accountability for Responsible Investment -- today, federal transportation dollars go to the states, with few questions asked about spending. But state DOTs focus largely on building highways rather than providing multiple options for mobility. Metropolitan areas are responsible for transportation planning, but lack the funds to implement their plans.
Invest for the 21st Century -- today, families spend 20 percent or more of their money for transportation, driving through congested areas in conveyances that leave us heavily reliant on oil, and finding few viable alternatives. TFA wants regional investments in smarter highway systems, more transit, better demand management, and improvements to bicycle and pedestrian alternatives.
Solutions to Energy, Air Quality, and Climate Challenges -- transportation investments should work to end our reliance on oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, clean up polluting ports and trucks, and help Americans save money. TFA wants to see petroleum used for no more than 20% of all transportation energy (today it's more than 95%), along with a broad program of energy conservation, air pollution, and greenhouse gas reduction.
Smarter Local Land Use -- transportation spending can encourage coordinated planning between transport systems and land use, bringing destinations closer to each other and to transit centers, thus reducing the need for driving.
Improved Public Health and Safety -- traffic deaths in the United States hover around 43,000 people per year, with disproportionate deaths among older Americans, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Meanwhile, millions of Americans face asthma and other health problems caused by transport-related pollution. Yet innovations in roadway design and operations have reduced death and injury on some streets, and should be encouraged across the country.
Improved Sources of Funding for Transportation -- instead of relying almost exclusively on taxing each gallon of gasoline, Congress should explore sustainable and equitable funding sources for transportation, such as carbon tax programs, land-use taxes based on the increased economic value created by the placement of transportation infrastructure, and public-private partnerships such as toll roads and congestion pricing systems.
Improving the planet's transportation technology and usage patterns involves changing a big chunk of human behavior and social conventions. It won't happen overnight, but it probably won't happen at all without the strenuous and consistent efforts of activists like those at Transportation for America.
Here's a Justmeans Sustainable Development "Hat Tip" for them, and for everyone else who wants to see life on Lifeboat Earth go a little smarter, and a little farther.
More later ...
Photo Credit: Stefan