“Do as We Say, Not as We Do” = No Model for Sustainability

jams.jpgTraffic in Delhi and Atlanta. Notice which scene also includes bikes. Photos: Ri Co Fo To and silvrayn via Flickr

Environmentally-conscious citizens of India aren’t alone in their concern about the rollout of the Tata Nano, the "world’s cheapest car." But in an op-ed piece for Forbes, Projjal Dutta, the director of sustainability initiatives for the MTA, writes that American critics should look to their own example if they expect developing nations to follow a more sustainable path.

As
with many other issues, the world will expect America’s "talk" — say,
urging China and India not to become auto-centric — to be accompanied
by "walk," at home. That, unfortunately, despite early glimmers of
hope, is not happening. The stimulus bill has allocated about 8 billion
dollars to transit, compared with 30 billion to highways. This is
roughly in keeping with the traditional 80/20 split of federal
transportation funds that have been enshrined since the Eisenhower
days. If we are to get serious about halting climate-change, this split
will also have to change.

Dutta cites
Japanese and European models — "Make cars, buy cars, just don’t drive
them all the time." — as potential templates for India and other
developing economies, so long as they, too, make adequate investments
in public transportation.

The same could be said of the
U.S., where the average citizen consumes 25 times as much energy as the
average Indian. Dutta suggests America will need to commit to a
long-term, "multi-generational" approach to transit development if it
wants the kind of results already evident in its most urbanized cities.

The average Texan consumes approximately 500 million BTU per year,
about six to seven times that consumed by a resident of New York City
or San Francisco. The difference largely results from level of dependence on
the automobile. Metropolitan regions where many people travel by public
transportation (or by bicycles or on foot) are inherently more
carbon-efficient than places that rely almost exclusively on
automobiles, which is to say, most of the United States.

  • Erik

    Hey Streesblog!

    Now that you are no longer a solely New York based entity, could you please stop referring to the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (or is it the MTA of New York State now?) as “The MTA”??

    See we’ve got a Los Angeles County MTA which likes to call itself “Metro” but still gets bandies about as “the MTA” and then the folks up in the Bay Area also had to get in on the fun and they now have a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

    So you see, referring the “MTA” confuses us left-coasters. Use the full name or acronym!

  • I will make sure to do that. As a former NY’er that lives here now I think of “The MTA” as a NY group and Metro as an LA group…but, I’ll make sure to clarify when I bring over a story from NY Streetsblog or SF Streetsblog in the future.

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