Greenhouse gasses are the number one cause of environmental havoc, and transportation is responsible for one seventh of these toxins. Emissions are also very harmful to our health. “The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that each year 2.4 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution could be avoided.”
With Cascadia being home to Seattle, WA, Boise, ID, Portland, OR, and Surrey, BC, the four largest cities in our bioregion, transportation density has made itself well known as a problem- causer. There are now more cars with less people in them, driving shorter distances.
However, the importance of transportation to our daily lives cannot be overlooked. It allows us to access our work, schools, shopping centers, and distant family and friends. Our well-being and productivity is inextricably linked to our access to reliable transportation.
As a result, no one is going to tell you to stay at home to save the earth and reduce greenhouse emissions, but there are many steps that can be and are being implemented to make transportation more sustainable for the Earth while still providing us with its many benefits to our lives.
Mass-transportation such as bus’s improve safety by reducing the number of traffic incidences. It also reduces the total number of cars on the road, thus, reducing the amount of emissions.
The American Public Transportation Association reports, ” If an individual switches from driving a 20-mile roundtrip commute to using public transportation, his or her annual CO2 emissions will decrease by 4,800 pounds per year, equal to a 10 percent reduction in a two-car household’s carbon footprint.”
Cycling and Walking
Aside from the physical benefits that cycling and walking has on our health, both modes of transportation bypass all aspects of motor transportation that has harmful effects on the environment such oil extraction, petroleum processing and transportation, and the emissions from driving a car.
“Increasing the mode share of all trips made by bicycling and walking from 12% to 15% could lead to fuel savings of 3.8 billion gallons a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 million tons per year. This is equivalent to replacing 19 million conventional cars with hybrids.” Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 2008 – Active Transportation for America.
Cascadia Makes It Work: Interview with Seth Stark from the Washington State Department of Transportation
We had a chance to talk to Seth Stark from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) about what they are doing to implement sustainable transportation in the Cascadia Bioregion. The mission of WSDOT is to “provide and support safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation options to improve livable communities and economic vitality for people and businesses.”
The team at WSDOT lists sustainability as one of their core values. They describe sustainability as, “Making decisions and taking actions that promote the conservation of resources for future generations by focusing on the balance of economic, environmental and community needs.”
We asked Stark to tell us why at WSDOT they find sustainability so important. He said, “By operating the system efficiently and managing demand, we create travel reliability. By considering the impact of the state’s system on the economy, the environment and communities in a cost-effective and resource-responsible manner, we act responsibly and sustainably.”
WSDOT has already had a significant impact on the environment and reducing emissions. Stark provided us with some great links to look in to some of the goals that they have accomplished.
WSDOT’s Sustainable Transportation Action Plan Close Out 2013-2015: