On Tuesday, February 5th, WTS Sacramento welcomed Ellen Greenberg, Deputy Director of Sustainability at Caltrans, for a presentation on Transportation and Sustainability: Connecting Some Dots.
Ellen brought the “art of speaking” to WTS with a non-PowerPoint presentation. She began by speaking on France’s Yellow Vest Protest – a protest which began over rising fuel prices and the cost of living. The cost of gas in Paris has risen over $5.50/gallon. The article Ellen had read, “France’s Yellow Vests Reveal a Crisis of Mobility in All Its Forms” by Michael Kimmelman, shows how physical, social and economic mobility are connected. Ellen explained that Mobility is more than “planes, trains, and automobiles.” Economic mobility is connected. Ellen stated that transportation is a “derived command,” it occurs to satisfy other needs such as work, grocery store, and school location, etc. The way transportation is frequently designed is through “egocentric anchoring” – the idea that we draw on personal experiences when relating to others. For example, a transportation professional is more likely to use alternative modes and live in an urban area.
Ellen brought up an interesting comparison of accessibility vs. access. Just because one has access to something (a school, office building, etc.) doesn’t mean that it is accessible to them, it doesn’t mean that they can afford it, want it or need it.
“Sustainable transportation” supports a growing economy with reduced impact on the environment. Ellen referred to the triple bottom line: environment, economy and social equity, as the basis for sustainability. Lower VMT is an essential goal. The idea that decreased vehicle miles traveled equals less people who own cars, is a “broad brush” idea and not reality. Ellen referred to a few authors/researchers to explain the triple bottom line. Susan Hanson wrote an article in 2010 called “Gender in Mobility: new approaches for informing sustainability.” In this article, Susan states mobility is a means for access. She found that women, in general, travel shorter distances than men and that fear of violence during travel as a major influence on travel patterns. Time and route also have greater influence on women.
A researcher, Anne Brown, did a study on car-less vs. car-free households. “Socioeconomic and Mobility Differences Among Zero-Car Households” describes how “zero-car” is not accurate for transportation research studies. Car-less households do not own a car due to an economical constraint, whereas car-free households do not own a car due to personal choice and typically have better accessibility.
A member of the Transportation Research Board, Michael Smart has “robust data” that has analyzed access to cars or transit based on career and income. He found that being employed relates to owning a car: those who own a car have a reliable means of transportation which in turn increases job retention. However, the cost of owning and maintaining a car sometimes is greater than the income gains. Lack of reliable transportation is the second highest job retention issue. Results have shown that locations with a higher quality/reliable transit system helps access and reduces the likelihood of being unemployed.
Ellen closed the presentation with the following interim conclusions:
1. We need to continue focus on accessibility, not access
2. We need to focus on inclusion, people must have options
3. We must strive to see the larger picture, focus on the client not just the project
She recommended we all read a scholarly article that explains a statistical research for a “richer understanding.” Also, a fun online tool for area walkability is Walk Score.
Thank you Ellen for an intriguing presentation!