Providing more transportation choices — including transit, biking, and walking — is one of the most important things we can do to make our communities more livable and sustainable. So I’m glad that NOACA is promoting this discussion about multimodal transportation.
Our current transportation system is unsustainable in multiple ways. It forces us to spend more and more time moving around instead of providing convenient access to what we need. It is increasingly unaffordable, as the high cost of cars and fuel consumes a larger proportion of household budgets. It is not maintainable, as hard-pressed governments can't afford to maintain the far-flung transportation infrastructure built in the past 50 years. It is damaging the natural systems that support life. And it often degrades the public realms of cities and towns where most people live.
The sustainable alternative would be a transportation system based on the following:
Walkable communities: Transportation depends on land use patterns. We need to change land-use planning, zoning, and development incentives so that Northeast Ohio builds more places that are compact and walkable—places where it’s convenient to live a car-free lifestyle. This will require reinvestment in the cities and towns that are the region’s historic clusters of development, and, it will require a new regional political consensus to stop facilitating low-density, automobile-dependent development.
Real choices: There are signs, especially among young people, that the so-called American love affair with the automobile is ending. More people want cheaper, healthier alternatives--walking, biking, transit. We need to invest more of our transportation dollars in the services and facilities that will make this possible. A good goal in Cleveland, for example, would be to increase bike commuting from less than 1 percent to 5 or 6 percent of trips, on par with leading U.S. cities.
The green, healthy, sustainable cities of the future (a model is Vancouver) are turning the conventional “transportation hierarchy” upside down. Instead of building infrastructure for cars first and then giving the left-over scraps of funding to other modes, they are making walking, biking, and transit the priorities. That is the future. And that is the transition we should be making for the cities in Northeast Ohio.
I look forward to seeing what other people have to say.