It would be hard to find many people these days who would disagree with the fact that the amount of ‘severe’ weather events has seemed to increase in the past few years. Whether or not we subscribe to the theories of climate change, we would most definitely agree that both severe temperatures and large amounts of precipitation have affected many of our lives. This past fall, the UN Climate Council made the stark recommendation that the world must mitigate the effects of global warming within the next 10 years before the negative effects (like sever weather) will be irreversible. And carbon emissions are the largest contributor to this global warming phenomenon.
If polled, most of our communities here in the greater Philadelphia region would show that most of us reach out intended destinations by using our cars…and if polled further—by driving alone for most of our trips. Our region has experienced measurable growth over the past 8 years---adding over 200,000 commuters to our region. Of those commuters, 58% commuted by driving alone in their cars. While other modes of getting to work have also increased (public transportation, carpooling, walkers/bikers)…their growth has been minimal at best compared to the use of the car. There are few who would argue that ‘getting out of the car’ has measurable health and environmental benefits. But can we really imagine getting around and depending less on a car to do it? And is the car really the most equitable form of transportation across the socio-economic spectrum?
Transportation and planning professionals from across the world and right here in our own metropolitan area meet regularly to discuss ‘how’ and ‘what’ different transportation options might look like.
The trend toward ‘urbanism’ (people and jobs moving toward walkable communities) is very apparent in the growth of cities like Philadelphia. But even suburban communities are seeing the increase in the popularity of multi-family and mixed-use developments where life does not always depend on a vehicle.
The huge advances in communication technology combined with equally huge advances in eco-friendly (electric) modes of transportation like electric cars, scooters, mopeds, and electric bikes—have all combined to allow for choices in how we all might choose to travel the 20-50 miles a day that we must travel. Are we ready for all that technology right now? Does it really apply to suburban life where many of us live in the U.S. 422 corridor? The answer might be practically be ‘no---not yet’. But the fact of the matter is that changing modes and infrastructure of how we ‘get there’ affects the very core elements of all our lives---economic, health and environment. Planning for changes to our infrastructure that allows for growth without the huge monetary investments needed to support the car are worthwhile.
Here are some of the interesting questions that 500 transportation professionals who gathered in Washington DC this past January 2019 for the Transportation Research Board (of the National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine) Annual Meeting discussed in an informal setting called the Transportation Camp:
• Are scooters here to stay?
• Will ‘congestion pricing’ be commonplace in US cities in 5-10 years?
• Should transit agencies pro-actively partner with Lyft and Uber to offer higher quality service?
• Are the latest transportation options (shared bikes/scooters/rides) creating a more equitable transportation system?
• Will autonomous vehicles doom cities to a future of congestion?
• Will streets in cities need to be re-designed due to the popularity of shared scooters and bikes?
• Do Lyft and Uber alleviate congestion?
• Should cities get revenue from shared scooters and bikes to assist with transportation needs?
Think about your next car trip. Is it possible that we could all strive to remove one single-occupant trip in our busy lives once per week? As Dr. Seuss says…”unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
GVF can help. If you are a business or municipality that could benefit by learning more about ‘transportation demand management’ (TDM) and how you and employees could improve commutes, please contact us for more information. www.gvftma.com or 610-354-8899.