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TheBostonian

Making Car Dominated America Sustainable

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What would make suburbs and exurbs with low densities, little to no public transit and segregated zoning, sustainable? I can think of a couple possibilities.

For pollution: Cars change their fuel source.

For congestion: Congestion tolling is implemented.

One of these things could be implemented tomorrow while the other might very well happen gradually. I have other problems with sprawl, but these are the big ones.

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For pollution: Cars change their fuel source.

For congestion: Congestion tolling is implemented.

Well, GM has announced a production Hydrogen fuel cell car goal of 2011 and BMW also is promising one in a similar time frame. It will take some time however for the infrastructure to support this to get off the ground.

As far as congestion, I know tolling has worked well in London and I "might" support this. But in this day and age of high speed internet everywhere why can't we have more suburbanites telecommute 2-3 days per week? If you could make it financially attractive to businesses to embrace that think of the cars you could keep of the road everyday.

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Well, GM has announced a production Hydrogen fuel cell car goal of 2011 and BMW also is promising one in a similar time frame. It will take some time however for the infrastructure to support this to get off the ground.

As far as congestion, I know tolling has worked well in London and I "might" support this. But in this day and age of high speed internet everywhere why can't we have more suburbanites telecommute 2-3 days per week? If you could make it financially attractive to businesses to embrace that think of the cars you could keep of the road everyday.

Interesting. That could also mean room for nearly zero-impact economic growth. An individual would save a couple hours of transit and dressing up. That would have an overall economic benefit. Yeah, I guess it should be encouraged. I have an urban geography textbook from 1993 that predicts this move toward "telematics" and "cybernetics."

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Wouldn't telecommuting bring more sprawl?

People could then live 70 miles out, or further.

True, but we currently have far flung suburbs in our largest cities. This could help alleviate traffic congestion and make the suburbs more "viable." Also, you could change the whole office scenario, maybe your main office is your home and you share a "common" area at work. Less office development, less parking spaces, less traffic. I telecommute on occasion, and interestingly by your comment, I live 73 miles from my office, mainly because I prefer my hometown over where my company's office is located.

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Having both tried it myself and tried to support it (from a technical standpoint), I think telecommuting isn't a real alternative. While in some cases it is viable (sales, designers, etc.), these companies already do that. It's called freelancing. Otherwise, there's too much that is missed by simply working on documents on your home computer. Technology is no substitute for face to face interaction, and in many cases what happens is people have to make multiple trips to have different meetings in different places.

Part of the problem is truly identifying what the problem really is. If it's a matter of simply cutting down on car use, than the easiest thing is to spread businesses around so you don't have to go into the city to work. But obviously that is not what we are after. I think the two largest issues are to make personal vehicles more efficient and cleaner, and to make our places more attractive. Things like making it easy to get from the major routes to where people want to go, but centralizing parking so that they are not driving between every point. Spending the money on garages which use less land and have less surface area than a large expanse of blacktop. And provide attractive public areas.

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The title of this topic seems paradoxical. I think sustainability has to start with government. City and county planning bodies need to control growth better. From there it's up to individuals to make use of our resources at (hopefully) a conservative pace. We shouldn't wait for General Motors and their promise of hydrogen fuel cells. Last I checked General Motors was part of the problem.

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1. Renewable fuel sources for cars.

2. Implement Greenbelts around all metro areas to curb any further sprawl. Portland, Oregan is an example.

3. Federal, State and Local funding of the construction of mass transit options to reduce dependance on the automobile.

4. Changes to masterplans of suburban communities to infill low density into med to high density areas. No more subdivisions. The closest thing to a subdivision one will get is a collection of British style town home. They biggest atribute of a subdivision home that people look for is a backyard for the kids to play in. Alot of British townhomes I've seen have backyards large enough to run around in. The changes to masterplans would force big box stores to build in multistory formats with parking structures instead of the usual 1 story sprawlers with asphalt seas.

5. Tax incentives for residences and businesses to move back into core cities to revitalize them. A healthy core city means a healthy metro and the slowing of further sprawl.

6. The US's largest and most congested cities would see the enactment of congestion tolls which would fund road maintainance and the construction of mass transit options thoughoit the metro area.

7. Tax incentives to encorange companies that have a high number of employees to run a fleet of buses to bring employees to work and back home, ala school bus style. Alot of large companies in China does this, so can we. Would work best in dense areas

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Three things: attitude change, attitude change, and attitude change. I think with a major shift in the public attitude toward sprawl and development it wouldn't be such a monumental task as it seems. It would have to be a REAL major shift though, at the national level and through all areas of society. Then it would just be a matter of changing the environment, adding infill here, a bicycle lane there, green space, transit and so on until you have a sustainable situation. Unfortunately the public opinion just doesn't seem to be headed that way.

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I strongly disagree with strict land use regulations. They drive up home prices faster than salaries. The overall standard of living is diminished and the city's economy is hurt as a result. It seems smarter to just make the suburbs "greener" to curb the environmental damage.Maybe neighborhoods that blend in more with the natural setting or incorporate more plants and trees. Here is an interesting article about overpriced housing from strict land use regulations.

http://www.demographia.com/dhi-ix2005q3.pdf

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My thing has always been that the high cost of housing in urban areas is offset by the lower cost of transportation. For instance, if I lived in Boston, I'd probably be paying $300-400 more in rent per month, but I'd be saving $160 per month by not paying car insurance and probably around $100 per month by not having to pay for gas and instead just buying a transit pass. Then tack on car repairs and such and you pretty much break even and your quality of life is much better and you're getting more exercise.

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That may be but in many cities there is not enough transit to make that possible. If you lived in suburban San Francisco you still have to DRIVE to the BART. Most places would require an extensive overhaul in infrastructure to make this possible. Boston suburbs are very spread out. They are unaffordable as well. How can they make public transportation reach everyone?

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That may be but in many cities there is not enough transit to make that possible. If you lived in suburban San Francisco you still have to DRIVE to the BART. Most places would require an extensive overhaul in infrastructure to make this possible. Boston suburbs are very spread out. They are unaffordable as well. How can they make public transportation reach everyone?

I meant if I lived in the actual city of Boston, obviously near transit so I wouldn't have to own a car at all.

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I want to speak to those who see hydrogen as the great savior of both our energy problems and pollution issues.

To be blunt, the promise of Hydrogen is, perhaps, the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the American people.

It is true that burning hydrogen causes zero emmisions, save water vapor. However, here is the catch. Hydrogen, although it is the most abundant element in nature, doesn't exist by itself. In other words, you can'y just go out and drill for hydrogen, it must be created. As of now, "creating" hydrogen,most likely by splitting the H from H2O, uses enormous amounts of energy. Where will the energy needed to do this come from? Probably not wind, solar, or thermal which would be the only way to make hydrogen technology truly sustainable.

Remember this, hydrogen is NOT an energy source, it is an energy carrier. The last statistics I saw on this, is that it takes close to 1.5 units of energy to create 1 unit of hydrogen energy. It is a net energy loser. Same with biofuels.

The person who said that the only way to change things is to change attitudes is 100% correct. There is not a single new renewable energy source on the horizon that could replace the amount of energy we generate from the burning of fossil fuels. The only way out of this predicament is to change the expectation of the "American" dream.

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^ You are correct, we cannot yet make this a fuel source efficiently, however, I see that as a "yet", and the real problem being in our attitude. There seems to be no sense of urgency in trying to develop any kind of alternative fuel source. By urgency I mean devoting more resources to this, making it a higher priority, funds, etc. I think we can all, whatever our political, moral, socioeconomic status/beliefs, see that we aren't doing our planet or children any favors the way we consume and treat the world. The urgency will not come naturally - we will need to be scared deeply before it does.

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The person who said that the only way to change things is to change attitudes is 100% correct. There is not a single new renewable energy source on the horizon that could replace the amount of energy we generate from the burning of fossil fuels. The only way out of this predicament is to change the expectation of the "American" dream.

Bravo. Couldn't have said it better myself.

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Three things: attitude change, attitude change, and attitude change. I think with a major shift in the public attitude toward sprawl and development it wouldn't be such a monumental task as it seems. It would have to be a REAL major shift though, at the national level and through all areas of society. Then it would just be a matter of changing the environment, adding infill here, a bicycle lane there, green space, transit and so on until you have a sustainable situation. Unfortunately the public opinion just doesn't seem to be headed that way.

I think somthing on the order of $10.00 a gallon at the pumps would be very effective at prompting attitude adjustments or tank the economy which ever comes first.

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I think somthing on the order of $10.00 a gallon at the pumps would be very effective at prompting attitude adjustments or tank the economy which ever comes first.

People would believe it was a temporary spike, and they'd know in their hearts that by September of the next even-numbered year, they'd be back down again. Get it? :lol:

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I would love to be able to link manipulation of gas prices to the Bush team, but knowing what I do about fundamental economics, there is no way one person, even the most powerfull person on earth, could accomplish this. The only people that can manipulate prices are the producers (OPEC), and then only through collusion (...again, OPEC).

As for $10 a gallon gas, we may never see it. Society will either have to find some miracle energy source or radically alter our way of life before we get to $10 per gallon. Once either of those scenarios plays out, the demand for oil will plumet, and with it the price.

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I would love to be able to link manipulation of gas prices to the Bush team, but knowing what I do about fundamental economics, there is no way one person, even the most powerfull person on earth, could accomplish this. The only people that can manipulate prices are the producers (OPEC), and then only through collusion (...again, OPEC).

As for $10 a gallon gas, we may never see it. Society will either have to find some miracle energy source or radically alter our way of life before we get to $10 per gallon. Once either of those scenarios plays out, the demand for oil will plumet, and with it the price.

I heard the gas was around the equivalant of $10.00 a gallon in England. I also remember sombody posting eleswhere on UP that in the Netherlands gas was as high as $17.00 a gallon. No wonder more people in Europe opt. for mass transit than in the US to get them hither, dither, and yond.

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