July 20 2011

Models for Sustainable Transportation: Alternatives to the Automobile

When it comes to developing more sustainable methods of transportation for Americans, there is nowhere to go, but up. Americans emit nearly 4,500 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per person, per year. This is nearly double that of any other country in the world; not to mention four times as many emissions as Europe and eighteen times as many as China.

The heavy usage of private automobiles is the main cause of the disproportionate ratio of carbon dioxides emitted. For the past 60-years, urban design strategies have forced a heavy dependence on the automobile. Instead of zoning and creating policies for highly concentrated, dense urban centers, American planners have adopted policies that promote sprawl. It is unfortunate; then, that the only viable way of commuting around sprawling cities is via the most unsustainable combination of transport means the world has ever seen: the highway and automobile.

That being said, the best thing for planners to do in the future is allow for more compact development. Doing this, along with modifying and creating communities that contain transit-oriented development will assist the United States in achieving a more sustainable transportation infrastructure.

If the American government begins aggressively investing in compact development instead of spending vast sums of taxpayer money on subsidized highways, mass transit will become a more desirable form of transportation. With increased density, comes increased usage of bus, rail, and subway networks-plus, transit authorities will be able to concentrate their ridership to smaller areas, thus improving their overall effectiveness.

Current sustainable transportation models that the average American city could look into mimicking include:

All of these mass transit systems are both effective and sustainable means of transporting people over varying distances. The United States has the ability to create and maintain such infrastructure, but instead we choose to remain with the inferior carbon-emitting automobile.

What are your thoughts on America and sustainable transportation systems?

Daniel Sheehan

Dan Sheehan studied City and Regional Planning with a concentration in Urban Design at the Ohio State University. Dan has lived in several cities throughout the Midwest and is dedicated to exploring urban and environmental design issues as they relate to Midwestern cities of the United States. His passion for urban design and urban planning began during his studies in Columbus at the Ohio State University, and continues to pursue those passions in the realm of urban planning. Dan blogged for The Grid until October 2011.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 at 6:26 pm and is filed under Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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