Many communities have reached a crossroads. If they build a new
highway, traffic will stop backing up--at least thats the initial rationale.
Citizens will stop calling to complain. Everyone presumably will be satisfied--for a
while. This "solution," however, is short-lived.
When pavement is laid, more vehicles come. With more vehicles, comes
more smog. Autos are a major contributor to global warming. Their pollution also causes
severe health problems for many. Traffic congestion, already costing us an estimated $168
billion annually in lost productivity, is expected to triple in coming years, wasting more
productivity and fuel and worsening our air quality.
Our auto habits have caused increasing dependency on oil imports, much
of it coming from unstable parts of the world. In 1970, 23 percent of Americas
petroleum was imported. Today, we import more than 54 percent of our petroleum needs, and
this number is estimated to reach more than 60 percent by 2010. The cost of oil imports to
U.S. consumers totals some $50 billion annually. And in addition to the cost of oil
imports, the cost of productivity loss, and the cost of congestion, we must add other
social costs of transportation, such as traffic deaths and injuries, and pollution
Some communities have found a promising new course for handling growth
and their transportation problems. Planners refer to these ideas as "livable" or
"sustainable" communities. By whatever name, these plans focus on people, rather
than on cars.
|"Creating sustainable transport systems that meet
peoples needs equitably and foster a healthy environment
requires putting the automobile back into its useful place
as a servant. With a shift in priorities, cars can be part
of a broad, balanced system in which public transport, cycling,
and walking are all viable options."
--Marcia Lowe, Worldwatch Paper 98, Alternatives to the
Automobile: Transport for Livable Cities, 1990, Worldwatch Institute
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