By Steve Levy
More Cars do not mean More PollutionUploaded: Apr 17, 2016
On Monday April 18 the council will review the city’s sustainability and climate action plan (S/CAP). I support many of the proposals and am proud to be a resident in a city that takes global and regional issues seriously.
And I hope the discussion can take place in an atmosphere where people who drive cars are respected. I have never been able to drive and support sensible public and private sector mobility/transportation investments and improvements (many are sensible but not all). But I believe great improvements can be made in the air quality and emission characteristics of cars and believe in freedom of choice.
I was recently shown a petition that had the headline
MORE LANES=MORE CARS=MORE POLLUTION
The first part is correct but could also be written
MORE LANES=MORE MOBILITY
The second part is simply false—false on history and false as a guide to policy. More cars need not and have not historically meant more pollution.
Here is a link to the California Air Resources Board mobile source strategy. Look especially at page 6.
ARB link. The report notes
California has made significant progress in improving air quality through existing State and local air district control programs.
But the main point I want to make is that while policy is working to provide alternatives to driving, the thrust of state policy is to 1) improve fuel efficiency, 2) increase the penetration of lower emission vehicles, 3) reduce the emissions of existing fossil fuels, 4) reduce the emissions at refineries and 5) a strong emphasis on the use of technology to improve mobile source efficiency.
Note also that while transportation remains a major source of pollution and emissions, that transportation includes trucks, airplanes, and ships as well as cars and for these last three categories all the emphasis is on increasing efficiency not lowering the use of these vehicles.
While I support many transportation investments and initiatives public and private including land use initiatives to reduce car use, I put even greater hope in reducing the negative environmental effects of existing mobile sources.
One of the reasons I am hopeful about the S/CAP is that it too places great emphasis on increasing efficiency in our buildings, in our daily life and in the way we design and organize our city.
As a final note I hope we can replace the language of transit oriented development with “mobility oriented development”. For example our experience of living downtown increases my mobility substantially without ever taking a train or bus and the same is true for people who are given ways to make biking a more attractive mobility option.