Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Healthy Dose of Clean Air

South Fraser OnTrax Board Member Bill Taylor just returned from a trip to Alaska. Bill was able to use several modes of transportation during his journey that including a cruise ship, aircraft, and the White Pass passenger train to name a few. Bill shares his thoughts and photographs here with us. Enjoy!

How Can We Have Cleaner Air?

I am sure that with just a little thought we can clean up a little of that clean air that we have left for breathing. The blue sky and fresh air is not everywhere, as my wife and I found when we went on a cruise and then took a land tour to Alaska. We found it was sometimes very absent.

We visited Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. In Skagway we boarded the White Pass passenger train that picked us up close to our cruise ship. When we arrived in Whittier not too far from Anchorage, the Alaska Passenger Rail picked up passengers right near our ship, as their tracks were just on the other side of the dock.

While spending time in Denali National Park we were told that the forest rangers limit the total number of passenger cars into the park. It was a pleasant surprise that despite there being so few people living in such a vast track of land, they are still very concerned with our carbon impact in this area of the world. In Alaska even though we saw a lot of clouds, we never saw the blue skies we see here in Langley when we came home again.

Our vacation to Alaska ended on September 16th when we flew from Fairbanks, Alaska to Seattle, WA while enroute back home to BC. During the approach into SEATAC airport we could not help but notice the dense blue air that was even far more prevalent than in BC.

We flew over lots of residential homes and neighbourhoods and I couldn't help notice that the streets (even though they were pleasantly laid out) were impractical for walkability, in my opinion. My objections were:

(1) Streets were not in a straight line so it lengthened the distance you would have to walk.
(2) I saw no grocery stores or shops close to these neighbourhoods. Just lots of urban sprawl.
(3) There were no passenger trains operating that I could see.
(4) I did not see any form of public transit on the roads, just lots of big trucks and cars.

In greater Vancouver we do have some SkyTrain service and other public transportation like buses. We are also spending a lot of money on improving our roads. There is another form of transportation we seem to be overlooking, and that is modern Light Interurban Passenger Rail.
I believe we can have cleaner air for our own health and welfare, including the wildlife that lives around us. I cannot see how we can get out of our vehicles altogether, but we can have improved air quality and better air to breathe if we build sustainable transit options such as Light Rail Transit.

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