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What climate action is needed most in Cuyahoga

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/05/19 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Transit, Explore, Live

Cuyahoga County and Cleveland are simultaneously working on Climate Action Plans. They hired the same firm to measure where carbon emissions are generated. For Cleveland, Industry and Air Travel is concerning. For Cuyahoga County, individual transportation outpaced all others, including power plants, which have lowered their carbon emissions. We should encourage city and county to adopt sweeping change based on the data they’ve collected.

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What concerns Ohio now is an unfortunate reliance on worn out ideas.

Since 2010, Cuyahoga lowered its carbon footprint by 10%. Losing 2% of its population and getting more energy from natural gas than coal were two big reasons for this. Put another way, it wasn’t for any major new initiative. In fact, transportation emissions increased by 9% from 2010 to 2016.

We’ve said it before: As the region sprawled and people moved to auto-dependent locations, the distances locked them into more driving. The 5-county Northeast Ohio region which includes Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina produced a staggering 4,154,415 metric tons of carbon dioxide from cars in 2016—45% of that comes from people driving to work alone. Northeast Ohio’s carbon footprint reflects its larger concern with consumption over a healthy mode for growth.

Growth regions are looking at Millennials’ love for transit and salivating, mostly over streetcars. While a streetcar replacing the underperforming bus on Detroit Avenue connecting the Near West Side to Downtown would be an out-of-the-box winner, Cleveland has many more important (bus) connectivity needs. The system redesign at RTA is opening up a dialogue about transit and density. Both are desperately needed to keep Cleveland’s revitalization from stalling out.

Is Ohio doing its best to be attractive? If Ohio wants to stay competitive, it would get over its knee-jerk reaction to transit and fund it. Fund transit because it supports the economic edge that can be found in cities: proximity and connectivity. Ohio is a mess. Its future depends on its economic development connecting young talent in its metropolitan areas, who almost universally don’t want two cars and a big house in the suburbs. They crave city living and jobs on transit lines. Instead, they are treated to the same warmed over idea that adding highway lanes and fixing the decades worth of highways is in everyone’s best interest. Never mind the 1 million Ohioans who don’t own a car and the many who want better transit options.

We leave you with this thought from an earlier blog post: “Top of the list for Transportation: Infrastructure investments that support more walkable and transit-connected places. A transit growth strategy, and a sustainable funding model to expand RTA. Signs of that happened at the County with its Council forming a subcommittee on transit in 2017 (which recommended a local source of funding, given the historically low level of state funding) and a plan to better connect places. We would like the County to support biking as transportation by building protected bike lanes on county owned and serviced roads, and by helping to implement complete streets in communities that seek it.”

Northeast Ohio would benefit from a regional land use plan and leaders who take seriously climate change and air quality problems that have remained in place for decades. Decades of pouring money into a highways produced a bill for repairs that, it turns out, we cannot afford. It is a form of social engineering for hyper consumption. It pleases our debtors, but asks a lot of a region that hasn’t grown and a state that will continue to struggle unless it changes its tune.

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