Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Don't Need 55

I live about 6 miles from where I work. The place I lived before that was about 10 miles from work. Most of the people I work with live less that 45 min away. The car I use to go back and forth is just a beater. It was my grandfather's last car. For the most part, it goes back and forth to where I work, and otherwise just takes up space in my driveway. You could replace it with a glassed-in golf cart, and I would barely notice. (Actually, a golf cart might ride smoother...) When I go out with my wife and kids on the weekend, we take the family car.

My point here is, the ongoing litanies about how hard it would be to reduce emissions by replacing gas-powered cars just doesn’t wash. We could replace quite a few gas-guzzlers by simply making affordable electrics available. The trick is, they don’t need to be high performance. I don't need a car that will do 0-60 in under a minute to get back and forth to work. In fact, the highest speed limit between work and home for me is 45mph.

Now I know this isn't the case for many other folks out there. I also know people who spend over an hour on the highway to get to work every day. But if these disparate groups represent thirds or even quarters of the driving population, there’s an opportunity to put a big dent in our carbon footprint. I don’t think the solution to these problems is one-size fits all. It’s obvious that we need more fuel-efficient cars, better public transport, and more emphasis on pedestrian traffic. Beyond that, we could reduce emissions with more careful city planning. Traffic circles would reduce commute time, and cut down on idling engines. And, incidentally, the only reason grandpa’s beater hasn’t been replaced with a bicycle is the lack of sidewalks or bike lanes on very busy roads between here and work.