Less Vehicle-Dependent Development Key To Combating Climate Change, Says Report - Southern Maryland Headline News

Less Vehicle-Dependent Development Key To Combating Climate Change, Says Report

ANNAPOLIS (September 20, 2007) - Meeting the growing demand for conveniently located homes in walkable neighborhoods could significantly reduce the growth in the number of miles Americans drive, shrinking the nation's carbon footprint while giving people more housing choices, according to a team of urban planning researchers.

In "Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change," a report released today by the Urban Land Institute, researchers conclude that development patterns are not only a key contributor to climate change, but an essential factor in combating it.

Maryland's residents are driving more than ever, fueling increases in vehicle emissions, one of the leading sources of global warming pollution. Spread-out development is the key factor in that rate of growth, the research team found. Maryland's environmental leaders, including Audubon Naturalist Society, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Environment Maryland, 1,000 Friends of Maryland, and Sierra Club, all of whom co-released the report, believe that Maryland can make changes to make it easier for residents to drive less, including better-located and designed development, and better transit options.

"This is our biggest and most important challenge in addressing global warming," said Brad Heavner of Environment Maryland. "We haven't done our job on global warming until we make honest changes to our growth patterns and transportation system. Spending less time behind the wheel will benefit both our pocketbooks and the environment."

"It is clear that the state of Maryland must combat global warming by addressing all pollution sources, including cars and our driving patterns," said Kim Coble, Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Maryland Executive Director. "How we grow, where we live and work, and how we choose to live will directly influence our progress in fighting global warming. Clearly, there are actions the state can take and actions we can personally take. In both cases, we need to act now."

The co-releasers of the report believe that the state of Maryland must take the following actions in order to combat global warming:

-- Increase funding for public transit to expand MARC capacity, build the Purple Line, advance the Baltimore Rail Plan, and put Metro across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

-- Connect the above-mentioned major rail lines with efficient, local bus service.

-- Offer incentives so new development focuses around transit stations, has a mix of jobs, housing, schools, and recreation, and uses designs that are pedestrian and bike friendly.

-- Create strong disincentives for low-density, car-oriented development.

-- Not build infrastructure which has the major effect of, and/or whose goals include, increasing vehicle miles traveled, such as the Inter-County Connector.

"Climate change is a threat to all Marylanders: a threat to our economy, our health, our environment," said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Maryland. "We can make smart development decisions today that will make our state more efficient for generations to come. It would be irresponsible not to take these actions that we know will work."

The report warns that if sprawling development continues to fuel growth in driving, the projected 59 percent increase in the total miles driven between 2005 and 2030 will overwhelm expected gains from vehicle efficiency and low-carbon fuels. Even with those technological improvements, vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide would be 41 percent above today's levels, well over the goal of reducing CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2050, according to the report.

The paper recommends changes to make green neighborhoods more available and more affordable. It also calls for including smart-growth strategies as a fundamental tenet in climate change plans at the local, state, and federal level. With such changes, the report predicts that some 85 million tons of CO2 annually could be saved, by 2030.

The study is a collaboration among leading urban planning researchers at the University of Maryland, the University of Utah, Fehr and Peers Associates, the Center for Clean Air Policy, and the Urban Land Institute.

The full report can be found at: http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/

Source: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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