Mass-Transit Oriented Smart Growth

Great article by Jon Walker at FDL Action on Mass-Transit Oriented Smart Growth.

Recently there has been a lot of focus on a possible “blue/green alliance” among the political left in this country. The idea is that union workers would build the new equipment for the green economy. Things like solar panels and wind turbines. Clearly the idea appeals to those who long for the glory days of organized labor, when this country was still a manufacturing powerhouse.

Unfortunately, as long as this country maintains its strong anti-manufacturing policies, I don’t see the blue/green alliance manifesting itself in that way. I suspect the nation’s demand for solar panels will be met by imports from Germany, and our wind turbines will be made in China. There is no reason to believe this green manufacturing jobs will not suffer the same fate as previous manufacturing jobs.

Where I do see the blue/green coalition really coming to fruition is on the issue of smart growth or transit-oriented development. (Arlington VA is a prefect example) The idea is to build a series of walkable communities around a mass transit system. Within each neighborhood, people find it easy to fulfill most of their needs by walking to nearby stores. By connecting many such walkable neighborhoods with a mass transit system, it encourages people to not use cars as their primary means of getting around.

The many environmental benefits of transit-oriented development is self evident. By encouraging people to drive less they produce less CO2. Living in higher density communities allows more land to be left undeveloped. Having people live closer together also promote several types of increase efficiency. Less money and energy is wasted when providing services like water, sewer, electricity, and trash collection in higher density communities.

This is a key example of how you can combine long term needs to build sustainable communities and land use patterns with short term needs to create employment. The public option is an important policy and I’m glad people are fighting so hard for it, but this is an area were we can make a big impact if we really fight for good policy.

-Chris

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