Climate Change and Transportation: A Few Things Web Workers Can Do

Source: U. S. Department of Transportation
Source: U. S. Department of Transportation

Transportation is the second-largest source of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, accounting for 28 percent of the total. As web workers, many of us can choose where we work, and how we get there.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a career that’s allowed me to live and work in places where I don’t need a car. There are many such places, even in North America, where being car-less is possible and desirable. (Of course, in most of Europe, it’s much easier.)

If you are contemplating moving, consider finding a residence where it’s possible to live without a car, or reduce the number of cars your family owns. Many city dwellers rely on public transit, and use taxis for the occasional shopping trip. My company has a membership in Zipcar, which allows us to rent vehicles by the hour when we need them, at very reasonable rates.

In most cases, you can save considerable money by not driving. But transportation alternatives can require investments of time that busy web workers may feel we can’t afford to take. That’s why it’s important to find locations where transportation options are reliable and convenient. After many years of building highways while neglecting other modes, many localities are now realizing the importance of encouraging light rail, commuter trains, and bus rapid transit, while making improvements for traditional buses, pedestrians, bicyclists, carpools and vanpools.

Even in less urban areas, transit-oriented development is becoming popular. Housing with convenient access to transit may be priced higher, but will actually save you money. According to Malcolm Kenton of the National Association of Rail Passengers:

“As you get farther from the center of a city, housing gets less expensive, but transportation costs grow at a higher rate than the cost of a home drops. The opposite occurs as you get closer in. Residents of outlying suburbs who depend on their cars spend an average of 25% of their household income on getting around vs. 9% for those living in walkable neighborhoods with good transit connections.

If transportation costs were considered as a factor in the affordability of housing, the whole equation would change in favor of denser, less car-dependent neighborhoods.

Nationwide, only 20% of housing units lie within half a mile of a bus or train stop, but in many larger cities, that figure is over 60%–even in places like Houston, Salt Lake City and Denver. Transit-oriented development doesn’t necessarily mean high-rise apartment buildings. It can also include townhomes and small single-family homes that are close together and laid out well enough to encourage walking.”

Of course, not everyone is in a position to make major lifestyle changes. But here are a few simple things you can do to reduce climate change:

And, of course, if you aren’t already working from home, try telecommuting at least one day a week. WWD has some great tips for working from home effectively.

No matter where you live and how you get around, you and your children will be affected by climate change. All of us need to make whatever transportation changes we can, be they large or small. We also need to advocate for more earth-friendly forms of transportation. Support national and local projects that increase transportation efficiency. Join groups that encourage such projects. Nationally, I’m a long-time member of the National Association of Rail Passengers; locally, I’ve worked on a number of transit projects.

How are you advocating for more earth-friendly transportation systems? How have you made your transportation more efficient?