For The Climate And Fairness, Take Buses And Sidewalks Before Electric Cars

  • Date: 06/24/2021

If you have a car in Cleveland, you can get anywhere in the county in 15 minutes. And that is both the blessing and curse of the area's road network, says Freddy Collier, the city director of planning.

Convenience is one clear blessing. But when a city is built for cars, those who can't afford one or who can't drive get left behind. In Cleveland, almost a quarter of all households don't have access to a vehicle. And the reliance on cars over public transportation means more carbon dioxide pumped into the air, warming the planet.

So Collier wants to create a less car-centered city. "We're looking at transportation as a huge opportunity to really address some equity issues that we've seen here in our city," he says. "But also, on the climate action front, to help get people out of their cars."

Getting people out of cars rarely happens in America, yet planners in most U.S.cities are thinking about how to make it happen. Cars and trucks account for roughly a quarter of all the country's greenhouse emissions, and stopping climate change requires that those emissions sink to almost zero. Electric vehicles are only part of the answer, climate experts say. Focusing on electric vehicles as the primary solution can actually make racial and income disparities worse, and undercuts more broad-based solutions.

A fairer approach would be expanding and rethinking public transportation, and getting people to use it after building most cities, including Cleveland, around cars. Still another is building and attracting people to dense neighborhoods where people can walk to more destinations.

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