Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

Highways Kill

April 14, 2007

Want another reason to abandon our automobile-dependent, sprawling communities? How about “because it’s killing our kids”?

Yes, a bit of hyperbole. But the reality is that a 2004 report by the Sierra Club (yes, I know this will be dismissed by many on the right simply because of the sponsor) indicates that sprawl and the network of highways that service sprawl seriously contributes to serious health problems. A study recently published by a team of scientists lead by James Gauderman of USC shows a relationship between the proximity to major traffic arteries and the rate of respiratory and heart problems in children. KCPW recently talked about these issues with a representative of the National Sierra Club. Listen Here.

I find this reason for concern when the Utah legislature seems consumed with scarring every available spot of land with roads to enable our automotive mania. Legacy Highway, West-Side Highway, Mountain View Corridor Highway, et al. Sure, highways are awfully convenient for getting around to wherever you want to go at any time on any whim (assuming you’re not stuck in a jam due to accidents, construction, rush-hour, or any number of common traffic problems). But putting aside the enormous financial costs of construction and maintenance, are they worth the risk to the health of our families? Is the privilege of hour-long commutes, traffic snarls, road rage, and thirty-dollar stops at the gas station every week worth the risk of a lifetime with an inhaler—or worse?

Luckily for us, this isn’t inevitable. We don’t have to accept the current paradigm of sprawl and roads. Organizations such as Envision Utah have provided blueprints to developing more centralized communities along the Wasatch Front with better transportation planning (including walkable community planning!) and less need for the rats-nest of roads across our state.

Condition Red! Air Quality Problems

July 20, 2006

Don’t worry, I haven’t died, nor given up social pontification. In addition to the general business of life, I’ve been composing an entry on a subject that is very thorny, and about which I want to express myself very carefully. Hopefully it will be ready soon.

In the meantime:

The Utah Division of Air Quality declared today yet another red air pollution day for Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties. I haven’t kept an exact count, but I believe we’ve had about a week straight of red alert days.

The innate climate and geography of the Wasatch Front create an environment ripe for this situation. The bowl created by our high mountains make it difficult for air to circulate and disperse.

But the cause of the hazardous air quality? Our extremely decentralized communities, our dependence on automobiles and our highly mobile and independent lifestyle.

How can we possibly insist that the decentralization, transportation system, and lifestyle are perfectly legitimate if they cause periods in which we are encouraged not to breath the air?

If we value the health of ourselves and our children—if we believe that our bodies are temples and that we should take care what we put into them—we should carefully reflect upon our communities and lifestyles and their impact on our particular environment. If they are not conducive to those things we really consider valuable (such as breathable air), we must show some small measure of responsibility by considering long-term solutions and changes rather than mindlessly perpetuating poor choices.