Energy policy for Rockford, part 7—Transportation

Transportation heavily impacts local energy consumption. Corporate strategies and federal policies have undermined public transit, increased dependency on inefficient single-occupancy vehicular traffic, and made walking and biking less inviting. New corporate and federal incentives in the form of flexible fueled and hybrid vehicles can dramatically reduce local oil consumption. Local initiatives such as green fleet purchases by the city government, park district and police department and the provision for increased E85 fuel stations can capture some of those savings.

Other policies should be considered as well to reduce reliance on single-occupant vehicular transportation and lessen the exclusive focus on moving more and larger vehicles though the same streets at the same time. This dominant transportation mode creates an endless cycle of ever-widening streets, ceaseless neighborhood destruction, increased auto dependence and longer commutes outside the city for shopping, recreation and services.

While transportation is a significant issue in many communities, it receives little attention in Rockford. A study of transportation options for Rockford should be commissioned to document potential alternatives. Practices such as traffic calming in neighborhoods, increased incentives for bus transportation, hybrid buses, smaller passenger buses for selected routes and times, car sharing programs, reducing peak traffic flows, solar powered golf carts and incentives to encourage bicycles and neighborhood vehicles as urban transportation forms are some options that should be considered.

A recent study of the Anderson business community on the north side of Chicago documents the economic advantages small, locally-owned businesses have for the community over chain competitors in terms of wages paid to workers, profits remaining in the community, purchasing local goods and services, and donations given to local charities. One major conclusion of the study is that chain stores do not bring any more sales tax per square foot into the city than local businesses. This suggests that continued efforts to accelerate traffic flow though a city by destroying existing businesses contributes to its economic decline. A study could reveal whether other communities have developed successful strategies for slowing the relentless destruction of stable, locally-owned business through endless accommodations to vehicular transportation.

From the June 22-28, 2005, issue

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