Climate Smart Communities
By 2025, Oregon will grow to 4.3 million people, challenging us to add two more Portlands, eight more Salems, or 28 more Bends to our state. More people means more traffic. If we plan ahead, we can design communities so that people can move efficiently with the least infrastructure and energy costs. If we don’t plan ahead, our health and environment are at risk.
Oregon Environmental Council worked to pass state legislation that requires the Portland metro region—and encourages Oregon’s other major metropolitan areas—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Oregon’s growing urban areas can do this by creating “Climate Smart Communities”: healthy, affordable and vibrant communities that reduce global warming pollution while saving people money.
Benefits of “Climate Smart Communities”
Less expensive, compact infrastructure:
Many studies comparing compact growth to sprawl have found that the total costs of buildings, land, infrastructure and transportation are far less in compact communities. And curtailing sprawl reduces pressure to expand urban development onto Oregon’s valuable farmland.
Household cost saving & economic benefit:
Transportation is the second largest expense for most households. In communities with transportation choices, families can save a bundle on cars and gas. In the Portland region, where residents travel about 20% fewer miles by car than residents of other major U.S. metropolitan areas, transportation cost savings are calculated at $1.1 billion per year. Every dollar not spent on imported oil frees up money for local goods and services that benefit Oregon’s economy.
Healthy lifestyles & more time with family:
In communities where there are no safe and practical bicycle or pedestrian routes and little or no transit service, people have no choice but to drive. As a result, people spend more time in traffic driving long distances, limiting family time and undermining opportunities for exercise. Complete communities reduce drive times. Safe streets, sidewalks and bikeways make it easier for people make healthy lifestyle choices.
Neighborhoods that people want to live in:
A 2011 study by the National Association of Realtors found a majority of Americans prefer smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation. This is especially true of younger Americans.
Good jobs for local citizens:
In contrast to road building, more jobs are created per dollar spent—especially for local residents and businesses—when government invests in public transit operations and in building sidewalks and bikeways.
Cleaner air & water and a stable climate:
In Oregon, cars and trucks are responsible for more than half of our air pollution and nearly 40% of our greenhouse gases. When we drive less, we generate less pollution—keeping smog and soot at bay and lowering heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. We also protect our rivers and streams because less polluted water runs off our streets and parking lots.
Support Oregon Environmental Council’s work on Climate Smart Communities by becoming a member.