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Re: [GreenYes] Cars
In response to Peter Anderson's post from the Gallon Newsletter article about the impact of cars on the environment:

Jonh Lively posted:

"Focus people... don't kill the car.  Kill the crappy design."

To which John Waddell added:

"Instead of talking about cars or any other links to the Gulf War past or Gulf 
War future might we just cut to the chase and in the subject line just put 
"Gulf War" or "Anti-Bush?"  It makes it easier for us to sort through 
Greenyes postings that have to do with recycling and those that have to do 
with other issues that can sometimes be informative but other times be real 

My two cents:

During the gulf oil crisis of the 1970's, the federal government gave large cities money to install computerized traffic control systems.  These systems were designed to minimize the amount of idling of cars at intersections by creating 'green bands' along major thoroughfares where, if you went the speed limit, you could go long distances without catching a red light.  The City of Greensboro, NC and Winston-Salem, NC both got federal money to install these systems.  They not only save fuel, they save us time and agony when driving.  It's nice to be able to drive from one side to the other of a major metropolitan area in 15 minutes or less.  And it's efficient.  As cities grow and the number of major thoroughfares with them, the ability of these systems to provide a real benefit decreases.  This is due to the need for the system to give 'green band' preference to the more heavily travelled thoroughfares than the side streets.  Where two large thoroughfares intersect preferences are difficult to determine, so everyone waits and idles about the same period of time.  In Greeensboro, where I live, there is an intersection near my home that has a 2 minute cycle time.  That means if you arrive at the signal just as it turns red, you will have to wait 2 minutes for it to turn green again.  (I know most of us think the time is more like 10 minutes when we're in a hurry!)  Most intersections with a thoroughfare and a minor side street have cycle times of under 1 minute.  Imagine, if you will, how many intersections there are in the United States with cycle times of 2 mintues or more.  Imagine a line of traffic 10-20 cars in length in each of 2 or more lanes in every direction, plus an equal number in 1 or 2 turning lanes.  At a typical intersection then, you may have 120 cars, 110 of which might be idling waiting for the light to change.  Not very efficient.  And,  I'm not aware of federal money that's available to cities for these types of systems today.

It's not just the 'crappy design' of our cars that has us in this dilemma, it's the design of our entire transportation system.  More cars beget more roads, more roads beget more cars.  Bigger transportation corridors beget more urban growth which, in turn, beget more growth of large intersections.  Although there have been some token improvements recently, for the most part we have a car-friendly, pedestrian-unfriendly transportation system.  Driving your car is explicitly encouraged by the amounts of money we spend on streets, roads, highways, bridges and fueling infrastructure while other forms of travel are implicitly discouraged by the relative dearth of bike trails, sidewalks, mass tranportation systems and alternative travel corridors.

In this country, the politics that shape energy and transportation policy is the same politics that shape environmental policy.  Whether one chooses to support polluting and inefficient energy sources (environmental destruction) or to support cleaner and more efficient energy sources (environmental preservation), the poltics acrrue accordingly.  It is our current Adminstration's choice to continue to give unqualified support to an extremely polluting energy source.  While it might not be possible to make the changeover to a hydrogen or other cleaner energy source within our lifetimes, to continue to spend trillions of tax dollars on protecting a polluting energy source and spending and a trifle on clean energy research only lengthens that development curve.  So, while we lobby to support more on clean energy research, we should also lobby to spend more on making our current transportation system more efficient and therefore less polluting.  And let the politics accrue as they will.

"Pave paradise, put up a parking lot" - Joni Mitchell



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