Friday, April 11, 2008

Car Free Cascadia!

Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, courtesy of Wikipedia

The Oregonian published this great interview with Australian Professor, Peter Newman. He studies what he has dubbed, "car culture" in America and Australia. Here are a few excerpts:

Q: We have a $4 billion proposal to replace a six-lane highway bridge on Interstate 5 with a new bridge that would have six highway lanes, plus six auxiliary lanes. It would also extend light rail to the northern suburbs and have generous pedestrian facilities. It's been billed as having a little bit for everyone. Is that kind of project worth pursuing?

A: Four billion dollars is what you're going to need for building these transit lines and subcenters.

Keeping the traffic moving is what you have to stop doing. VMT (vehicle miles traveled) reductions are not going to be promoted by that bridge.

There will be a whole series of freeways taken down when they reach the end of thei life in cities around the world. The one in Seoul (South Korea) came down. Now it's a beautiful river, and a park with transit. The mayor who did it is now the president.

Q:What's the difference between a sustainable city and your latest term, a resilient city?

It's moving more directly into this climate change and oil agenda. In many ways, the sustainability word is being made to mean "green." But the agenda of oil and greenhouse gases -- the consumption of resources -- is about resilience in the city.

Resilience means you can have options so that we can achieve a 50 percent reduction in VMT, so that we've got capacity in the transit system, you've got destinations clos by that you can reach biking and walking, and if you need to use a car you don't need to go far.

Suburbs on the fringe built with all the certainty of the future are now very uncertain, because people living there sometimes have to spend 40 percent of their household budget on transport, and 40 percent is not sustainable.

If you're going from $3.50 a gallon gas to $6 a gallon, which is the price of fuel in Europe ... many of these suburbs will be abandoned. They are not resilient.

Q:Every month or so, another magazine names Portland the most sustainable city in America. They tend to cite the renewable energy we use, the commuters who don't drive to work and the number of green buildings. What should the next challenge be for us?

On those sustainability ratings, it comes out on top, and I would agree with that. But on a resilience rating, it's not. New York comes out on top.

There are whole regions of New York that are just as bad as Atlanta. But the core of Manhattan is very resilient. It's got enormous ability to take people other than by car.

Portland now needs to lead the way in the exponential decline in VMT, and there can be no complacency anymore in saying, "Well, we're already there."

Check out the whole interview with some videos here.

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