I am glad that Focus will be focusing on reducing traffic volumes. A recent California Air Resources Board climate report says California needs to reduce per capita car travel by 25 percent in just 11 years to meet their climate targets, even with a 10-fold increase in electric car sales. We need to achieve at least as great a reduction, just to meet BC’s inadequate targets.
However, it is important to understand how the carbon footprint of transportation can be reduced in cities. Automobile traffic, and the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution expands and contracts with the amount of available road capacity and parking. Therefore projects like the McKenzie Interchange make congestion and the climate emergency worse. Conversely, anything that reduces road capacity for cars makes traffic disappear – and the climate pollution disappears with the traffic. This does not depend on generosity, just common sense decisions by people.
Numerous experiences of disappearing traffic have been documented. In the latest installment the Seattle Times reported “The cars just disappeared” after Seattle’s Alaska Way elevated freeway, which carried 90,000 cars per day, was closed in January and the predicted traffic chaos didn’t happen.
Making Government Street a pedestrian priority zone would be an effective climate action, as would replacing parking with trees. Measures like bus lanes and protected bicycle lanes both make traffic disappear, and provide low-carbon mobility.
The carbon footprint of construction is also an important issue. Reducing the amount of concrete and steel used to build underground parking garages, by replacing parking minimums with parking maximums as Mexico City recently did, is one way our municipal governments can make a big difference.
Cities cooperate globally on climate action. If we stand out from the crowd (as Mexico City just did in parking policy) the power of Greater Victoria’s good example will be felt around the world.
Eric Doherty, Registered Professional Planner, Victoria