Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States, and passenger vehicles — the cars most Americans rely on to meet their daily needs — account for more than half of transportation emissions.
Conversations about reducing these emissions typically focus on electric vehicles. But increasingly, government officials across the country are aiming not just to get Americans into different kinds of cars, but to radically reduce the need to drive in the first place.
Oregon is at the vanguard of this movement. In 2020, when the state’s ambitious climate goals ran up against stubbornly high car emissions, Democratic Governor Kate Brown charged state officials with finding a solution. One initiative to emerge from her executive order is Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities, a set of urban planning rules adopted in July by the state’s Land Conservation and Development Commission.
The new rules aim to create denser communities that offer a variety of transportation options, making it easier for residents to meet their daily needs without driving. Among the requirements: local governments throughout the state must allow taller buildings in designated areas, reduce the number of parking spaces required in new developments, and provide more resources to support walking, cycling, and public transportation.
“Legalizing the ability to live and work closer together, and have cities be able to develop in this walkable way that they used to 100 years ago is a really big step forward,” said Catie Gould, a climate and transportation researcher at Sightline Institute, a think tank focused on the Pacific Northwest. The parking reforms in particular remove critical barriers to sustainable development, she said. [Continue reading…]