No country in the world rivals America’s dependence on automobiles and highways; thus transportation policy plays a pivotal role in shaping land use. (Heidi Hoover)
- Once fossil-fuel dependent cars became commonplace, then our land use patterns changed to larger lots and lower densities.
America’s transportation systems are directly related to community design and land use planning.
- Suburban sprawl and inefficient land use planning make sustainable transportation difficult or impossible.
- Scattered development patterns lead to increased dependence on automobiles.
Lacking public transportation discourages civic involvement and may lead to a sense of discontent.
- Social capital consists of the networks and interactions that inspire trust and reciprocity among citizens.
- Increased distance between living space and work space discourage civic involvement since time is split between communities.
- Older adults, minority groups, and low-income individuals are less likely to have access to personal vehicles, which often leaves them unable to access community amenities such as quality food and health care.
- As traffic increases, so does the noise level. This increases stress levels in city-dwellers and can cause more people to move out of the cities and into the country, increasing commute duration, traffic congestion, and pollution.
Increasing reliance on transportation systems, particularly personal vehicles, has had substantial consequences for the quality of the environment.
- Increased car use can cause increased air and water pollution (air pollution from emissions from cars and water pollution from runoff from driveways, parking lots and roads).
- Nearly 97 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation come from the direct combustion of fossil fuels. Transportation is the largest end-use sector emitting CO2, the most prevalent greenhouse gas.
- Transportation sources contributed approximately 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2009. http://www.glbrc.org/education/bioenergy101/energystatistics
- Transportation represents the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, being responsible for 47 percent of the net increase in total U.S. emissions since 1990.
- Transportation is also the largest end-use source of carbon dioxide, which is the most abundant greenhouse gas. http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/basicinfo.htm
- In Wisconsin, about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions are a result of activities in the transportation sector. http://dnr.wi.gov/climatechange/emissionsWI.htm
- In the United States, vehicles use more gasoline each year than the entire U.S. oil industry produces. This gasoline is obtained from environmentally harmful practices and release greenhouse gasses when burned.
- Huge tracts of land are cleared and locked-up to provide transportation corridors, removing these acres from constructive uses and natural habitat. As the corridors are widened and speed limits increase, it increases land development pressures and traffic congestion
- As homes and business spread outside of cities, they rapidly take away acreage previously used for farmland.
- Meadows, wetlands and forests are lost along with farmland, greatly reducing wildlife habitat for fish and game, and endangered species. Further, fragmented habitats from roadways destroy corridors that animals use to travel from place to place.
- Chemical gases and particles which are released by cars and trucks do eventually fall out of the air onto street surfaces and land. Vehicles often leak oil, gas, brake fluid, worn brake linings, windshield detergent, engine coolant and worn metal particles. Car tires leave a residue of zinc and other pollutants, as they wear. Road salt is added to the mix in the winter. Hard pavements, streets and parking lots often provide direct conduits to storm sewers, allowing these pollutants to wash directly into lakes and streams without any filtration. (http://www.cwac.net/transportation/index.html)
Congested roadways and the emissions from transportation systems have resulted in public health and safety concerns.