Salon published an excerpt from Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.” He argues density is better for the environment than sprawl. It all comes down to location and cars.
You can have a LEED-certified house in the suburbs with solar panels, green toilet bowl cleaner and a hybrid car in the driveway, but if you have to drive everywhere, your carbon footprint is way worse than the guy who lives in a downtown loft and walks to the office. If a company builds a sustainable office in the suburbs and its employees have to drive long distances to work, it’s not an environmentally-friendly project.
The Rochester metro area ranks poorly on the density meter. Census data shows us we have an average of 2,000-2,999 living in each square mile. Buffalo has 4,000-4,900. The walkability of the region varies widely. Some neighborhoods are very pedestrian-friendly, with nearby amenities. Others require cars for almost everything.
I live in Corn Hill, one of the more dense and walkable neighborhoods. Even though I drive fewer than 10,000 miles a year, I want to be able to drive less. My opportunities for walking to amenities are limited to the YMCA, Corn Hill Landing and East End. I have to drive 4 miles to East Ave. Wegmans, 6.5 miles to 13WHAM-TV, and 15 miles to Eastview Mall.
I have always believed 13WHAM-TV could reduce its carbon footprint and save on gas if it was centrally-located. After driving to work, I usually get into a news car and head back downtown to cover the news of the day. Some days require multiple trips downtown. It all seems like a giant waste of time and gas.
When I posted the Salon article on Twitter, one person said we can’t abandon the already-built suburbs. No, but you can plan for future population growth by building on infill lots. You can encourage companies to locate near workers. You can discourage building on green space and places far away from the urban core.
Several people said they couldn’t imagine moving to the city because of the state of the schools. The city’s problems were caused by people leaving. So, please, come back.
Links of the Day:
– Gas prices in Western New York are not expected to be impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
– The Democrat and Chronicle published a hugely embarrassing story on cops getting their own parking tickets voided.
– The Rochester City School District is closing schools in poor neighborhoods while strengthening ones in middle class strongholds.
– Shopping local really does help the local economy.
– The strange, true story of a Buffalo bank robber turned crime novelist.