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Car-Crazy CA No More: Air Resources Board Wants to Cut Miles Traveled

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Think California is the land of fast-flowing freeways and drop-top driving under the endless sun? Think again.

The California Air Resources Board is now writing rules to implement a law passed two years ago that will require regional reductions in vehicle miles traveled.

In other words, the state that epitomized car culture and suburban sprawl in the 20th century is working actively to discourage driving in the 21st century.

Google Maps traffic - LAX

Google Maps traffic - LAX

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Less driving, lower greenhouse gas emissions

The goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles; the net effect could be wide-ranging changes to local development and land-use patterns. Think of it as the Less-Travel-From-Less-Sprawl initiative.

Senate Bill 375, signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008, requires CARB to set regional goals for greenhouse gas reductions. Land-use planning and zoning remains in the hands of local officials, but their decisions must contribute to reductions in regional emissions.

The regulations will require a reduction of 7 to 8 percent by 2020, and 13 to 15 percent by 2035--despite growth projections showing state population increases over the same period, with more vehicles owned by those residents.

Changing the zoning

Possible ways to achieve the reductions include denser housing closer to existing commercial centers, allowing commercial and residential zoning within developments, and encouraging walkable, bikeable, and public-transit-friendly development.

As critics have long noted, the history of postwar development in North America--a few cities like Portland excepted--has been one of developing new suburbs farther and farther from dense urban cores.

'Feral House' by James D. Griffioen

'Feral House' by James D. Griffioen

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Sixty years of suburban sprawl

Those developments are typically low-density residential, most without sidewalks, and usually several miles' drive from any commercial areas.

This leads to the anomaly of a single 150-pound person driving a two-ton vehicle 5 to 10 miles round-trip to buy a half-gallon of milk, paying almost as much for the gasoline as for the milk. In former ages, parents simply sent their kids to the corner store to pick up that milk, but such is not suburban life today.

Both critics and supporters of the new laws--the loudest critics are land developers in the southern part of the state--agree that any changes will take time and will be incremental. Different regions will adopt different solutions, and all are at the mercy of the biggest unknown: gasoline prices.

Both sides acknowledge that suburban sprawl becomes significantly less appealing if gasoline prices rise sharply again, especially if they stay high. In 2008, at the peak of $4-per-gallon gasoline, houses in the farthest-flung suburbs of Southern California fell significantly in value due to their lengthy (and hence costly) commute times.

[Capitol Weekly]

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Comments (12)
  1. It's probably emblematic of the problem that when I saw the headline, I thought it was about convincing people to hunker down at home and telecommute from their exurbs, rather than redesigning cities and towns so that people can live the same kinds of lives with much less time spent in their cars.
     
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  2. "...at the mercy of the biggest unknown: gasoline prices."
    It's not an unknown; we all know it's getting more expensive and any decreases will only offer temporary respite.
     
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  3. Politicians would rather treat the symptoms than the root cause. If our government is serious about this, then a gas tax is the only solution. Nobody wants another tax, but if we allocate all new gas tax to paying down debt instead of rationalizing new spending, we would achieve multiple goals. Our problem is we don't trust politicians enough to keep their hands out of the cookie jar.
     
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  4. politicians allowed over-building, cuz they get kickbacks.
    and then they complain that we dont have enough water, we have too many cars, etc.
    people occupy these buildings. people drink water, eat food, and drive cars.
     
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  5. I agree with R2Dad that the most effective method of reducing driving is to drive up the cost of fuel. I believe that the cost of gas is going to skyrocket in the next couple of decades as global demand out-strips supply. Phasing in a significant fuel tax will help Americans adapt to the coming crisis. I would personally rather see the money pay down the debt but would also be happy with offsetting the fuel tax by lowering income taxes. This requires federal action, California can't do it alone. People would simply fill up at neighboring states.
     
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  6. i think gasoline will plummet downwards.
    first, because the oil industry will try to delay people from going the ev route.
    secondly, there will be less demand for it, as we gravitate towards evs.
    10 years after the release of evs, i think the demand for gas cars will be just a trickle. i dont think even one person in 100 will be willing to put new car bucks into a gas car, at that point.
    i recall when a clutch was standard equipment, and you had to pay a substantial extra to get an automatic transmission.
    nowadays, do they even make clutches ? they are that uncommon. and if you can get a clutch in your car, no doubt it would be more expensive than the current automatic transmission, not less.
    which is what will happen to gas cars. they will become more expensive as car companies continue to make less and less of them.
    from a pollution standpoint, the problem is already solved in the long term.
    leave it to govt to show its power, uselessly.
     
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  7. John, great article. It really got me thinking, as did all the previous comments from some pretty astute readers. Since I live in Southern California and see the gridlock on the roads and freeways all too much (I work at home, thankfully, and don't have to be out there with the fruits and nuts that often), maybe some of these ideas will work. But this Golden State is so bloated with public workers and bureaucrats that can't even come up with a state budget (for years on end), that I seriously doubt if they'll do anything with revenue but pad their salaries and continue to collect lavish pensions. This, out of the taxpayer's pocket. So, something has to be done... they're even proposing multi-use buildings in my small town (of less than 100,000). And a new bike-friendly rule just went into effect. Funny how the bicyclists don't think they have to abide by traffic laws, however (hint: they do, but cops don't crack down)... Just my two cents.
     
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  8. hi suzanne,
    as an avid bicyclist, i dont abide by traffic rules, for one reason - i value my life.
    traffic rules were created to manage cars. to that degree, they do a good job.
    some dodo bird in an ivory tower, who probably has never driven a bike in his life, decided to include bicycles in this scheme.
    it simply doesnt work. i dont ignore traffic rules. i use them as information, with which to help me stay safe.
    the average car does not see bicycles. they are too busy on their cell phone, etc. watching for bikes is simply not on their radar of things to do.
    but you are certainly correct regarding our state. we need to reduce govt, and fast.
     
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  9. What next!?? Laws to tell you how much toilet paper to use when wiping yourself?! Get the government out of my life and back to what it's supposed to do. Socialism doesn't work! Thanks God that I don't live in Californication the land of fruits and nuts.
     
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  10. *ahem* that photo is not from california. it seems the article is about california. if you need pictures of actual california traffic, let me know. i'll go take a couple for you.
     
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  11. The picture is from florida. Miami area, EV's will do well in areas like hendersonville nc, where seniors and people like me drive drive less then 10K per year. If you drive more then that I don't see it working. I work part time. I see ev's as second cars for the wealthy and trendy. My next car will be some form of camry hybrid because of a needed power seat. I am 47 and I will not buy a totaly electric car now. lets see where the next 10 years takes us.
     
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  12. @Suzzane & Ev enthusiast: Ev is 100% right. I live in Bike-friendly Boston and and an avid cyclist as well. There frequently are circumstances where you need to break the law to get out of the way of cars. Drivers are more inattentive than ever and intersections are dangerous places. It's safer to check both ways and cross against the red light than to wait for the light to turn green. You can't accelerate as fast as all the cars behind you and they will speed past you with inches to spare then cut in front of you and brake. So when you see me running a red light look at the situation. Am I blowing through the intersection at risk of hitting cross traffic? Or is the cross traffic clear and I am getting some distance between myself and the intersection before the other cars catch me. I do wait at the light when I have a marked bike lane to sit in as this provides enough space. It's funny that drivers have been programmed to respect lines on the ground more than a human being in front of them. If you want cyclists to wait for the green, give us bike lanes. Cyclists, if you want bike lanes-when they give them to you wait for the green.
     
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