Is reducing car use low hanging fruit for cities?
Good article over at the Guardian on how new approaches to urban mobility have the potential to reduce cities’ carbon emissions.
With transportation making up about 20% of a city’s carbon contribution, changes in how we move are critical to address climate change but also, if done right, can make our cities safer, cleaner, quieter and more livable. But this means reconceptualizing how we travel: simply exchanging 1 billion internal combustion powered vehicles with 1 billion electric or hybrid vehicles won’t reduce traffic or carbon (as making electricity is mostly carbon-based).
More than new technologies, we need new behavior patterns, which are emerging in many cities around the globe that may be caused more due to economic changes than government initiative. In Portland, there are now at least 5 car sharing companies. A phenomena that began 30 years ago in Europe as a cooperative movement, and began 20 years ago in the US with Portland’s Car-Sharing Cooperative, has proven its commercial success with many variants. (Some history here.) There is the venerable ZipCar that evolved from the first carshare co-op in Portland, with its business model being diverse options with fixed locations. Car2Go with SmartCars that move with their users all around town and are located with smartphone apps. Then the new idea of peer-to-peer carsharing with Getaround where car owners lease out their vehicles idle time directly to other people. Then there is also carsharing being offered by traditional rental companies like UHaul and Enterprise.
Then there is the growth in biking. And who is using these new services that don’t require the huge capital investment in ownership, operation, storage and insurance? As you might guess, when a newer car can cost almost $9,000 a year, its the young and urban (because that’s where these options are viable and available) who’ve been sidelined by wage stagnation and the jobless recovery.