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What Are the Pros and Cons of Motor Vehicles?

Only about 8% of the world's population own cars, but due to increased economic growth and the aging of the human population, this will greatly increase; increased congestion, pollution, land disruption and use of energy resources. The United States has 4.6% of the world's people, but 35% of it's cars and trucks. It is used for 98% of all urban transportation. One of every four dollars spent and one of every six nonfarm jobs are connected to the automobile. In the United States, 16 million accidents kill about 42,000 people each year and injure almost S million. More Americans have been killed by cars ihan in all the country 5 wars. Motor vehicles are the largest source of air pollution (22% of global CO2 emissions). Gains in fuel efficiency and emission reduction have been offset by the increase in cars and a doubling of the distances Americans travel.

Automobiles and freeways have caused social fragmentation by disrupting neighborhoods, increasing congestion, noise and stress. They have also helped create urban sprawl and reduced use of more efficient forms of transportation. In the United States, more land is devoted to cars (roads, parking, gas stations) than to housing. In agricultural countries like China and India, increased car use could decrease food security and lead to dependence on imported oil.

U.S. motorists will spend an average of two years of their lifetimes in traffic jams, and the economy loses $100 billion a year because of it. Other costs include deaths and injuries, air pollution, threats of global warming and the costs of a military force to insure access to Middle East oil.

Congestion will continue even if road capacity is increased. Some suggest drivers should pay directly for the cost of automobile use - a user-pays approach. U.S. drivers pay low gasoline taxes compared to most developed countries. These taxes cover 60-69% of the cost of road building and other infrastructure, with federal, state and local government subsidizing the remainder. Workers can also deduce mileage and other car-related expenses on their tax returns. Heavy trucks cause 95% of the damage to U.S. highways, but their subsidies drain public funds and give them an unfair advantage over more efficient rail freight. An average automobile subsidy is $1600-3200 per vehicle, which taxpayers pay unknowingly. It would take a gasoline tax of $5-6 to pay these costs. This and toll fees, pollution emission charges and higher parking fees would be a user-pays approach based on full-cost pricing. including these hidden costs in the market prices of vehicles makes sense, but faces opposition from the public and transportation industries. Use of mass transportation will not work unless reliable and efficient forms are available. Developing countries can avoid the "car trap" by not subsidizing motor vehicle transport. They can invest in public transit systems and bike paths.

Are Riding Bicycles and Walking Alternatives to the Car?

Worldwide, there are twice as many bicycles as cars, and more than half are in Asia. Bicycles are inexpensive to buy and maintain, produce no pollution; rarely have few resources and is the most energy-efficient form of transportation, including walking.

In urban traffic, cars and bicycles move about the same speeds. Many residential cities provide exclusive lanes for bicycles and ban automobiles in shopping areas. Studies have shown that creating automobile zones in city centers increases local business sales by 25% or more.

Bike-and-ride systems provide secure bike spaces at mass transit stations. and buses and trains can be equipped to cram bicycles.

The number of Americans bicycling to work (the "no plloute commute") rose between 1977 and 1994; still only represents 2% of all commuters. But, 20% say they would bicycle to work if safe lanes were available and employers provided showers at work.

Many developing countries are discouraging bicycle use. viewing it as a sign of backwardness. If mass transportation is not in place, residents in developing countries all abandon bicycles as soon as they can afford a motorbike or car.

Case Study: Mass Transit in the United States

Mass transit accounts for only 8% of passenger travel in the United States. In 1917, all major U.S. cities had efficient electrical trolly or streetcar systems. In 1950, National City Lines (formed by General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil Phillips Petroleum, and Mack Truck) purchased the streetcar systems in the cities. The systems were dismantled to increase sales of buses and cars. The courts found the companies guilty of comspiracy, but the damage has already been done National City Lines also worked to convert electric-powered commuter locomotives to diesel-powered locomotives, which led to the decline of the nation 5 railroad system.

In the U.S., only 20% of federal gasoline tax goes to mass transit; the remaining 80% goes to highways. Only 10% of commuting employees pay for parking because employers can deduct the expense.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Rail Systems?

  • rapid rail - on exclusive rights-of-way in tunnels or elevated tracks.
  • suburban or regional trains - connect the center city with other areas.
  • light rail - modern versions of streetcars.
  • Rail systems are more energy-efficient. produce less air pollution, cause fewer accidents, take up less land and are available to those who cannot drive. But, people need to live in reach of rail stations. A light rail system costs about one-tenth per kilometer to build as a highway or heavy rail system. After start up cost, light rail systems are cheaper to operate than buses, cleaner and quieter. It does not require exclusive right-of-way; it can run down the side or middle of roads, utility corriders or even alleys.

    What are the Pros and Cons of High-Speed Regional Train?

    In western Europe and Japan, high rail (HSR), or even bullet trains on upgraded tracks at 300 kilometers (200 miles) per hour. They are good for long distance trips, and make it possible to travel between major cities in less time than it takes by a plane. But, they are expensive to operate.

    The magnetic-levitation (MAGLEV) train is still under development. It uses electromagnets to suspend the train on a cushion of air above a rail. They travel at 400 kilometers (250 miles) hour, make little noise, require maintenance, and can ve elevated over existing highways. High construction costs, safety concerns, and health concerns from exposure from electromagnetic field have held back development.

    Sandia National Laboratories has developed "Star Wars" technology for a bullet train that does not require an expensive track. Locomotive carries its own electromagnet propulsion coils, powered by gas turbine engines.

    What are the Pros and Cons of Buses?

    Bus systems require less capital, have lower operating costs and are more flexible than rail systems. They can run throughout cities and be rerouted overnight, if needed.

    But, bus systems costs more to operate than they bring in, causing cuts in services and maintenance. Buses also often get caught in traffic congestions. Bus systems are often supplemeted with carpools, vanpools, jitneys (minibuses that run along regular routes), and dial-a-ride systems.

    12 - 4 Urban Land-Use Planning and Control

    What is conventional land use palnning?

    Land-use planning makes decisions on the best present and fututr of each parcel of land in the areas. Zoning regulations are then used for controlled. Land-use planning is complex and controversial with competing values and power struggles.

    In the United States, Property taxes-taxes on building and property proportional to their value - provide 90% of local revenue for schools, police, and fire protection, and public services (including water and sewers). When an ara is developed, property taxes increase.

    However, the costs of providing more servoices to accomodate the growth often exceed the tax revenues. Local governments may promote more growth to meet expanding needs, causing a long-term desstructive positive feedback loop. If taxes get to high, businesses and residents move, reducing tax revenues. This causes more environemental decay as the qunatity and quality of services are cut.

    What is Ecological Land-Use Planning?

    Environmetalists urge ecological land-use, in which additional variables are integrated into a model designed to anticipate a refions's presnt and future needs and problems. Six basic steps are required:

  • Make an environmental and social inventory - a tiop priority is to identify and prtect areas citical for preserving water quality, reducing erosion, and are most likely to suffer from toxic wates or natural disasters.
  • Identify and prioritizegoals - economic develoment, population growth, preserve cropland, forests and wetlands, and reduce erosion.
  • Develop individual and composite maps - one each for geological, ecological, and socioeconomic factors.
  • Develop a master composite - shows how the variables interact and indicate the suitability of different areas for different types of use.
  • Develop a master plan - master composite is evaluated and a master plan is drawn up and approved.
  • Implement the master plan - monitored, updated and revised.
  • But, local officials focus on short-term problems and are influenced by powerful developers (need to be re-elected). There is an unwillingness to pay for costly ecological land-use, even though it can money on the long run. It is difficult to get local governments to cooperate.

    How Can Land Use be Controlled?

    Zoning designates parcels as commercial, residential, induatrial, utilities, transport, recreation, bodies of water, wetlands, floodplains, and wildlife preserves. Zoning can control growth and protect areas.

    Portland has used zoning to create large areas of green space. To reduce auto use the city has:

  • Develop an efficient mass transport system.
  • Use zoning to develop high-density development along transit lines.
  • Allow mix development of offices, shops, and residences.
  • Placed a ceiling on parking spaces.
  • Local governments can control the rate of developmet by limiting the nuber of building permits, sewer hook ups, road and other services. They can require an environmental impact analysis for proposed projects. Land can be taxed on its actual use, rather than its profitably potential use (would protect farmers from high taxes). Tax breaks can be given for certain types of land use.

    Land trusts can be used top buy and protect ecologically valuable land, by private groups like The Conservancy or The Audubon Society, non-profit, tax exempt, charitable organizations and by private agencies.

    Changing zoning laws to encourage integration of homes, workplaces and shopping areas would reduce urban sprawl, energy waste and loss of community - a corrective or negative feedback loops.

    Japan and western Europe have the world's strongest land-use controls, and north America and Australia the weakest. Only Oregon has a comprehensive land-use plan. China began a program to achieve zero net lossof farmland to residential and industrial development.

    12 - 5 Solutions: Making Urban Areas More and Sustainable

    What Urban maintenance and Repair Problems Does the U.S. Face?

    America's older cities have enourmous maintenance and repair problems - most them made worse by years of neglect.

    Sewage backs up in 25% of the homes in Chicago when it rains. 46%of Boston's water supply is lost through leaky pipes. 395 of bridges in America are unsafe and 56% of the highways need repairs.

    Maintenance, repair and replacement of bridges, roads, mass transit, water treatment and sewers could reach $2 trillion in the next decade. The bill for years of neglect are coming due in a time of deficits and federal cutbacks.

    How Can Urban Open Space be Preserved?

    Some cities have preserved open space in the form of parks (Central Park in New York City), but older cities did not have little hope of getting them now. As newer cities expand, they can develop parks.

    Another way to provide open space and contol urban growth is to surround a city with a greenbelt - an open area used for recreation, forestry or other uses. Satellite towns can be linked with public transport (Toronto, Canada). Or, a city can set up an urban growth boundary - a line surrounding a city beyond which new development is not allowed.

    The typical approach to housing in the U.S. has been to bulldoze farms or woods, and then name the streets after the trees and wildlife they displaced. A recent trend is cluster development - shares areas of open space.

    Some cities have been converting areas into greenways - bicycle, hiking, and jogging paths.

    What are the Pros and Cons of building new Cities and Towns?

    Building new cities could take some pressure off overpopulated and economically depressed urban areas. These are three basic types:

  • satellite towns - located close to an existing large city.
  • freestanding new towns - located far from any major city.
  • in-town new towns - located within existing urban areas.
  • new towns arely succeed without governmental financial support. in 1971, Department of housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided $300 million in federal loans for developers to build 13 new towns. By 1980, nine of the proects went bankrupt. HUD no longer funds new towns.

    Private developer must put up large amounts of money to buy land and install facilities, and it may take decades before they see profits.

    How Can We Make Cities More Sustainable and Livable?

    In an ecocity or green city, people walk or cycle for short trips; they walk or bike to bus or metro stops for longer trips; rapid-rail transport between cities replace long drives and airplane flights.

    These sities would rely on renewable energy resources, recycle or reuse, encourage biodiversity, and compose to help create soil.

    But, some cities can never be sustainable, because they do not have a countyside around them, or near them, to provide ecological "income".

    Ways to make existing suburbs more sustainable include:

  • giving up big lawns
  • building in small dense clusters so open community space is available.
  • A town center as the focus of civic life
  • planting lots of new trees
  • discourage dependence on the automobile
  • Examples: Davis, California, Curitiba, Brazil, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

    Case Study: Chattanooga, Tennessee

    In the 1950s, Chattanooga was one of the dirtiest cities in the U.S. People had to turn their headlights on during the day at times due to air pollution. In 1984, leaders began a Vision 2000 process to build a concensus about their city at the turn of the century. the goal was to show how environmental improvement and economic development can coexist.

    Citizens and civic leaders identified the city's main problems, set goals, and brainstormed ideas for dealing with the problems. The concensus nwas for a greener, cleaner, safer city, with low-income housing and nonpolluting jobs.

    Approaches and projects used by the city include:

  • convincing zero-emissions industries to relocate in Chattanooga.
  • renovating and building low-income rental units.
  • building the nation's largest freshwater aquarium as the centerpiece of the downtown renewal.
  • replaced all diesel buses with electric buses made by a local firm.
  • developed a riverfront park (22 miles) on both sides of the Tennessee River.
  • launched a recycling program
  • By 1992, 29 of their 34 goals had been met. however, Chattanooga is not close to to being an ecocity. One environmetal problem is the handling of 11 Superfund toxic waste sites on the once heavily industrialized Chattanooga Creek, where many African-American communities are located. Pter Montague contends that Chattanooga should not be considered a model environmental city until it improves environmental conditions for all its citizens.

    How Can We Improve Urban Living?

    Increased urbanization and urban density are better than spreading people out over the countryside, which would destroy more of the planet's biodiversity. The problem if our failure to make cities sustainable and livable.

    Urban areas that fail to become more ecologically sustainable are inviting economic deperssion, increased, unemployment, pollution and social tension. Half of the world's people will live in urban areas by 2000; we need to make them better places to live and work, with less stress on natural systems and on people.

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