Bill, what can we say when even a place as forward-looking as Portland insists on pursuing a climate-busting highway mega-project like the new Columbia Crossing? Why don't people get that we'll be driving less, in ten and twenty years, not more?
In Eugene, largely because of the relatively low carbon content of our electric generating sources, transportation represents fully half of the community carbon footprint - compared to about a third for most of the US.
This gives us an especially clear opportunity to focus effectively on the pivotal American issue of driving - as long as we don't get seduced by the mirage of forest biofuels.
Calculations made by environmental planning consultants working with Friends of Eugene show that the distribution of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita, in our metropolitan area, is dominated by geography - in particular, by the radial distance of residences from the metropolitan center.
Yet national think tanks, from the Urban Land Institute, in its generally-excellent "Growing Cooler," to the Transportation Research Board with its just-released "Driving and the Built Environment" continue to promote meta-analyses of planning data which are based on a badly flawed methodology.
The details are beyond this already way-over-technical posting. But the result is a primary focus on density of development for reducing VMT, when density is actually a secondary factor, while simple geography - distance from the core - is the primary determinant.
Bill, do you have any suggestions on how people in Oregon might engage the national conversation around land use planning strategies for reducing VMT, on a technical level?
The subtle error systematically embodied in the prevailing analyses of land use and VMT appears to cause a dramatic under-estimate in the amount of VMT reduction available through appropriate planning.
Because buildings are such long-term committed investments - and with our carbon levels too high already - it seems urgent to turn around the old patterns of building in higher and higher VMT locations, and to focus instead on (re)developing (in dense high-quality green and nature-integrated mixed use formats, of course) in the right places, just as soon as possible.
posted 3 years, 8 months ago
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