Sam Rockwell, president of the Minneapolis Planning Commission, suggested in a recent op-ed for The Star Tribune that in order “to save the planet, we have to get over cars.”
“The way we live our lives is how we got into this climate catastrophe in the first place. Of course we have to change. And that means driving less, not just switching which model sedan we buy. It means transforming how our personal needs relate to stewardship of our Earth and our communities,” Rockwell said in the article.
He was responding to a May 20 article published in The Star Tribune that “paints a picture of an electric-vehicle-filled world,” which he doesn’t think would be enough.
Rockwell pointed to Minneapolis’ “2040 Plan,” which explains that “even with the adoption of electric cars, a 38% reduction in passenger miles traveled by automobile is needed.”
“If we are obliged to reduce car travel—and perhaps even ownership—does that mean we’re stuck with Jordan’s ‘dreary post-apocalyptic future’? Only if you believe Paris, Vancouver, and New York fit that description. These communities and many others are built around comprehensive transit systems,” Rockwell continued. “Success of these systems, and the dense land uses that support them, discourage car travel and facilitate naturally low-carbon alternatives.”
He went on to state that “these transit-centered cities show that the most efficient way of cutting emissions can be to simply cease those activities that produce emissions in the first place—in this case, driving.”
“Yet we’ve doubled down on automobile investments, making transportation the highest [greenhouse gas]-emitting sector in Minnesota and in the U.S. more broadly,” Rockwell said. “We must reverse this trend, and fast. The slower we reduce emissions, the more difficult the path to a stable future becomes.”
Rockwell concluded by noting that he doesn’t believe “electric cars are bard,” but “just that electric cars are not enough.”
“We need to embrace a transformation in social values—not just product types—that elevates stewardship of our communities as our highest priority. This includes promoting non-automobile transportation options and compact land uses that support those options,” he said.
Isaac Orr, a policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, said “Mr. Rockwell’s column is perhaps the perfect embodiment of the urban planner who is utterly detached from the desires and needs of the general public.”
“Minnesota is a state where people rely heavily upon cars to get from Point A to Point B. In fact, most households in the state have more than one car, and this trend is especially pronounced in Greater Minnesota, where driving a car isn’t a luxury, it is a necessary part of life,” Orr recently wrote.
“Forcing Minnesotans to make due with less is a feature, not a bug, of plans to radically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In the end it means fewer options, and fewer opportunities for Minnesota families,” he continued.
As The Minnesota Sun recently reported, Rockwell and the Minneapolis Planning Commission are also looking to ban all new drive-thru windows citywide in order to cut down on carbon emissions produced by idling cars.
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