I can get as excited as the next TreeHugger about Tesla's battery swapping stations or community-owned solar gardens, but it's important to remind ourselves that many solutions don't need new technology.
As Lloyd argued (again!) when he asked how much energy living in a walkable community saves, fixing our cities should be number one priority for anyone who cares about climate change, fossil fuel dependence, or human happiness for that matter.
Recent statistics suggest things may be moving in the right direction.
Earlier this month we learned that more Americans are riding transit than at any time since 1956, and now CleanTechnica reports that the number of Californians choosing to bike, walk or ride transit has doubled since 2000:
There are now twice as many Californians walking, biking, or using public transportation on an average day as there were in the year 2000, according to the most recent results from the California Household Travel Survey (CHTS).
To be exact, almost 23% of household trips were taken by walking, biking, and public transportation during the recent study, as compared to “just” 11% back in 2000. A large part of this increase was the increased prevalence of walking as a means of transportation — walking trips nearly doubled, from 8.4% of trips in 2000 to 16.6% of trips in 2012.
This, in itself, should be a note-worthy statistic. But what's really interesting to me is that, despite undoubted progress in many communities in the last decade or so, we've hardly gotten started in the monumental challenge of making American cities more pedestrian-, bike- and transit-friendly. Just take the caption posted by ubrayj02 on flickr for the photo above. Admittedly, this was posted in 2008—but it could be a scene from almost any city in America today:
This old man started at the beginning of the green light, and didn't make it halfway across the intersection, before the light started to change from green, to yellow, to red. This was taken with the Boyle Heights Sears behind me, looking across Olympic Blvd. at this old man's retirement home. The truck started turning before the poor old guy made it across. Clearly, our priorities (moving cars vs. safety, quality of life, and access to businesses) are a bit out of whack.
But back to the California Household Travel Survey. There's another reason to be hopeful about what these trends represent—and it's summed up perfectly by James Ayre's closing sentence over at Cleantechnica:
California’s state transportation agency, Caltrans, will be using the new CHTS data to forecast future travel demands, and develop appropriate responses to these demands.
Imagine if California decided to take human-scale transportation really seriously, and used this as a turning point to definitely move away from car-centric planning and infrastructure.