Thursday, February 4, 2010

Smart Growth = Lower VMT

Lately I have been listening to the University of New Hampshire Office of Sustainability podcast series which can be downloaded on iTunes. I recommend that you check it out. I was listening to a podcast with Reid Ewing, a Research Professor at the National Center for Smart Growth. I thought I’d share some interesting facts from the podcast.

Smart growth, pedestrian friendly, new urbanism, transit oriented, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it development is key to reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in a metropolitan region. Reducing VMT is important as the largest green house gas emission sector is transportation at 36% in BC.

While the new BC laws on reducing vehicle emissions are a good start, and will result in greener vehicles, this only gets us part way. With the steady increase in VMT -expanded Port Mann/Highway One, South Fraser Perimeter Road Freeway, and population growth- we become no better off in the future as far as green house gas emissions are concerned. So with this in mind, how do we get lower VMT?

As the price of gas goes up, VMT goes down. The market will play its part in reducing VMT. Carbon tax and road pricing will allow for the full cost of vehicle travel to be captured. This will further lower VMT.

Making areas more walkable will reduce VMT. A doubling of density will result in a 5% reduction of VMT. This is a huge! A mixed-use, high density 200th Street could easily see a 20 to 30% reduction in VMT in Langley. Of course improving transit between these density pocket in our region will bring VMT even lower.

We have the tools to reduce VMT today and I would argue that people will see a better quality of life as a result. All we are missing is the political will at some levels of government. The world is shifting to smart growth development. If Langley is not on board, it risks becoming a has-been community that will get passed by.

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