While John McCain and Hillary Clinton are looking to a summer gas tax holiday to ease the pain Americans are feeling at the pump, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, a leader in the push to get cities to adopt the Kyoto Protocol, has taken a different approach: incentivizing drivers to ditch their cars with a "give your car the summer off" campaign, while at the same time actively promoting alternatives such as cycling, walking and public transit. Here are just a few of the incentives being made available:
summer discounts at Woodland Park Zoo, the Museum of Flight, the Burke Museum, the Seattle Art Museum and the Pacific Science Center for patrons promising to drive their cars less.
There also will be drawings for cash and gift certificates for residents pledging to reduce their car trips, stop commuting alone, sell or park their car for a month, and for those already biking, busing and walking.
Okay, so clearly people can take advantage of this program by pledging to ditch their cars without ever actually doing so. However that's missing the point: when gas costs $4 a gallon, many people are actively looking for ways to avoid driving.
Furthermore, it sends a very strong message when the mayor of a city encourages alternatives, and it doesn't hurt to have local businesses on board as well. Finally, Seattle has committed to meeting the Kyoto Protocol by reducing its emissions 7% below 1990 levels by 2012, a goal the city can achieve "If residents shaved 1,000 miles off their car driving annually."
In addition to announcing the incentive program, City officials also "touted programs. . . to increase the number of bike lanes, plans to occasionally close certain streets to vehicle traffic to make them more attractive to walkers and bikers, and proposals to expand the routes of streetcars into Seattle neighborhoods." In other words, drivers aren't being asked to simply stop driving in order to win a prize or get a discount to go to the zoo; rather, they are being made aware of the alternatives to driving, and the incentives are just a fun way to make those alternatives more visible.
See Also: ::In Seattle, A Ride on the S.L.U.T. is Good For the Earth, ::City of Seattle Gives Bottled Water the Boot, ::Keeping the Emerald City Green, ::Seattle Garbage Trucks to Spew Less Garbage Into Air, ::Seattle's Bike to Work Day is Taking Place on May 16, 2008, ::Seattle Could Recycle Food Waste, and ::Bicycle Master Plan for Seattle