Saturday, July 28, 2007

Driving The Point Home

I slept with my bedroom window open last night, and woke this morning to the sound of the Grand Prix emanating from downtown San Jose.

My whole focus on being Green stems from an opinion I have on cars, so you might think I have negative things to say about the Grand Prix today. I don’t really. If we are going to use petroleum for vehicles, using it for a high performance sport that brings crowds of people together makes more sense to me than… Well, I should back up here.

I have been avoiding the subject of Green cars on this blog because it has little to do with the housing market I am trying to focus on here. Hybrids, biofuels, EV’s… I have opinions on all of them, but they stray from the main point of this blog: Your home. However, how much time do we spend living in our cars as opposed to our homes?

This aspect of cars has everything to do with the housing market. You have heard me talk before about zoning laws disallowing places we live to be nearby places we work, and neither is zoned to be a place we go shopping. For every activity in our daily lives, we must hop in a car and travel.

It is for this reason that I started down my path of weird hippie ideas of living. I hate driving. I just am not good at it. I get distracted too easily, and am a danger to myself, my family, and everyone else on the road. I tried using public transportation for a while, but buses are all that is available, and the confounded routes going in circles take longer than it would to walk to a destination. Walking is not safe! Too many streets are designed for the convenience of cars, not people.

I never have had a problem with people who enjoy their cars, and enjoy driving them. In all honesty, I have no problem with you driving an inefficient car if you love it. If public transportation from walking, riding bikes, buses to trains were designed well, those of us who do not love driving would be able to get off the road and enable you to have less traffic to enjoy your driving more. Let’s face it. Those of you who enjoy driving have wished drivers like me off the road all along.

If the money spent on repairing and building new roads were spent on making alternative forms of transportation easier, there would be less of us on the road to make repairs and new road necessary to begin with. I do drive a hybrid, but I do not think alternative energy efficient cars are the answer. We do not need to change our cars. We need to change our means of transportation. This means changing the zoning laws so that we can ride a bike to work, and walk to get some milk at the store. This means spending our tax dollars on making such forms of transportation safe and convenient instead of spending it all on perpetuating our car dependent form of transportation.

Oops! Where did that soapbox come from? After last week, I promised myself I would not be so preachy. Oh well. Next week I will give out advice instead of trying to sway opinion. In the meantime, lets tie all these ideas into the housing market, shall we?

When purchasing your next home, consider how you will leave your home before you buy. Can you easily walk to the store if you want to? Is a light rail station nearby? (I’ve given up on buses.) Is it safe to send the kids out to walk the dog, or is the traffic to close to the sidewalk? Placing such priorities on your purchase of a home has much more influence on our society than voting at the polls. If there is a high demand to spend money on well thought out communities, well thought out communities are more likely to be built. If you demand a more convenient house more than you demand a bigger house, communities will be rezoned to supply your demands.

A movement has sprung up that has many of the same ideals as Green building that addresses creating more sustainable communities. It is called New Urbanism. National Geographic has a terrific interactive flash demonstration of New Urbanism. Please go play there and daydream of your new community -- either the new community you move to or the one you help create right where you are now. I am watching the New Urbanist community for local events and will be reporting them here.

In the meantime, go and enjoy the Grand Prix without guilt. Changing our everyday communities will have much more of an effect on making our world more Green than changing our communal celebrations. Better yet, try using light rail to get there instead of waiting in traffic to find a parking spot.

1 comment:

maxmsf said...

I'm waiting for the vegetable oil derby.

Actually, I'm getting a contraption put into my car right now, which, if it works, could be totally revolutionary. Stay tuned.

I've been in NYC all week. It happens to be incredibly green, not by intention, but because of the density. Public transpo is the only real option for most, and even if you can afford a car here, it would be inconvenient. Very different mentality than most of us live with. Your point about location is one of the major components of LEED-- being based closer to parks, shopping areas, etc, means less driving and more leverage of public infrastructure. Cool stuff, I'm fascinated by the infrastructural planning that will shape all of this on a macro-level, hopefully, from here forward. - maxmsf