New numbers prove smart growth reduces CO2, cost-effectively

Kaid Benfield of the National Resource Defense Council‘s Switchboard brings us this amazing article on recent studies on the effectiveness of TOD.  He says that instead of just focusing on cap and trade, powerplants and fuel efficiency, we also need to take land use into consideration.  California’s new law, SB375, which encourages cities to cut down on CO2 emissions and sprawl, may be used as a model for national legislation.  He says the main reason for this is that the Center for Clean Air Policy has released a new report showing that TOD and other smart growth policies can significantly reduce greenhouse emissions and, at the same time, allow governments to save money.  It found that smart growth policies can reduce American’s need to drive by 10%.  By 2030, this would be the equivalent of removing 30 million cars.  It gives a few examples of how this can reduce costs.  From his article:

Sacramento projects savings of 7.2 MMT of CO2 by 2050, while saving $9 billion in infrastructure costs and $380 million in annual consumer fuel costs, yielding a net economic benefit of almost $200 per ton of CO2 saved.

Portland, Oregon‘s investments in bicycle infrastructure will reduce emissions by 0.7 MMT of CO2, with net economic benefits of more than $1,000 per ton CO2 saved.

At the state level, Georgia could save more than $400 billion over 30 years, while saving 18 MMT of CO2 with strategic investments in transit, freight and travel demand management (e.g., four day work weeks, telecommuting, carpooling).  In Atlanta, the Atlantic Station redevelopment project is reducing residents’ need to drive by more than 30 percent [note: much more, according to data that I have seen; the authors are being conservative], which would cut 0.6 MMT of CO2 over 50 years, and generate $30 million per year in much-needed local tax revenue.

This report just confirms what TOD advocates have been saying for years: transit-oriented development is more cost effective, more environmentally friendly, and generally more interesting to live in than suburbs.  I hope that this indeed does influence national policy and that we can turn this country in a better direction.

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