The State Assembly of California, a state renowned for its sprawling suburbs, passed a bill last month with the intention of slowing increasing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging housing development near public transportation and work spaces to de-incentivize the use of private automobiles. This is not a small matter for the State legislature to quibble over. Over the past two decades, the amount of distance spent in automotive transportation has increased at a rate far greater than that of its population growth.
(Barringer, 2008a) This is problematic as not only do passenger vehicles generate a quarter of the greenhouse gases emitted by the United States, but about 20% of that is derived from personal transportation. (Steffen, 2008) The following weekend, the California Senate approved the bill, and it is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to put it into effect.
Effectively speaking, the bill would tie transportation subsidies both federal and state into regional planning and award them to development plans that have been deemed to meet emissions targets. (Barringer, 2008a; Barringer, 2008b) What this bill could do is address much of the blame accorded by environmentalists towards profit driven real estate development. It effectively targets the problems of sprawl which, by decentralizing place increases the amount of movement necessary for economic and human growth, making these forces woefully inefficient.
There are some who would argue that between increasing gas prices reducing private automobile use, the increased development of alternative fuels, and advancements in engine technology, the transportation industry is on its merry way to being green. However, Alex Steffen (2008) notes that emissions are only a fraction of the environmental impact that comes from automotive transportation. The bill addresses the matter of how we build communities and other ‘people spaces’ and their relationship with the environment by promoting the development of compact communities.
Rather than presuming that improved automobiles are the solution to the link between population growth and greenhouse emissions, it recognize the core problem of sprawl: they feed into the desire for individuals to live away from the places they work in; they capitalize on the convenience of the automobile in maintaining connections with the cities that supply the needs and wants of modern living.
Barringer, F. (2008, August 28) “California Moves on Bill to Curb Sprawl and Emissions. ” The New York Times. Steffen, A. (2008, January 23) “My Other Car is a Bright Green City. ” Worldchanging. Retrieved September 19, 2008: http://www. worldchanging. com/archives//007800. html Barringer, F. (2008, August 31) “In California, Sprawl Bill Is Heading To Governor. ” The New York Times.