I take the bus to work. On any given weekday, you can find me waiting on the side of a road while vehicles of all shapes and sizes whiz by, leaving behind a trail of noise and exhaust. It would be all well and good if this was just another weekday annoyance that could be easily shrugged off, like a fresh pile of snow blocking the sidewalk or a texter blissfully skipping the line at a busy coffee shop. But that’s not the case. Vehicle exhaust is a known pollutant that significantly affects human health and the environment. Regulators put limits on emissions – but these generally focus on new car sales, and then they can still be tampered with. So as a commuter waiting at the side of a busy road, I don’t feel too reassured. But, when I see that clean technology goals for electric vehicles are on track, hear announcements from companies like Tesla, Thor and Volvo electrifying trucking fleets, and read about commitments by governments to support these efforts, I do feel hopeful.
A few days ago, I listened to a group of environmentalists on the evening news protesting a plan to build a new bridge that would solve traffic congestion and make it easier for people get in and out of a local large city. The protestors wanted the money spent instead on public transit, claiming that this options had not even been examined, and arguing that their solution would solve the transportation problem without requiring construction of new infrastructure.
I looked more closely at both alternatives. The government and the consultants retained to propose solutions to the problem had advanced several standard options, all of which revolved around either a bridge or a tunnel, while the environmentalists had extended the options by one – adding public transit as a means to achieve a similar result.
This seemed logical until I started thinking about the need to add one other criteria to the equation: the need to reduce carbon emissions.