There are currently an estimated 314,878,498 Americans total, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
For a population of almost 315 million and growing, there are 4 million accessible lane-miles of roadway, Yul Kwon in “NATION ON THE MOVE” (Episode 2 of America Revealed, a 2012 Public Broadcasting System broadcast), revealed, on which an estimated 200,260,571 cars (with a margin of error of +/- 375,661) can move, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in “Aggregate Number of Vehicles Available by Tenure.” If one makes the assumption that about a third of the populace is not of driving age that means one vehicle exists for every citizen of driving age to drive. Also brought out in the “NATION ON THE MOVE” broadcast, on the full 4 million available roadway lane-miles, each year a collective 3 trillion vehicle miles traveled are being logged.
What we know also is that population is growing and conventional wisdom suggests – or at least it did – that as the population numbers swell, there should be commensurate growth in transportation infrastructure as well.
One might naturally assume that more highway, railway and airport infrastructure is needed to meet the increased needs of a growing America; and an America that seems to be increasingly on the move. Though that line of thinking may have at one time had its time, day and place, in this, the 21st century, that’s no longer the case.
So, let’s introduce another idea at this juncture: Emissions reduction. In considering the following, keep in mind all of the abovementioned are interrelated ideas and as such there is a land use and transportation connection.
Assuming a propitious, attainable emissions-reduction goal, it follows then that as population grows, the key to reducing emissions from transportation, commercial and business activities is to:
- encourage more reliance on motor vehicles with far greater fuel-efficiency ratings and/or add far more zero-emissions vehicles to the mix;
- offer more public transportation options that provide greater reach, are easy to use, and are frequent and reliable allowing throughput capacity needs to be sufficiently met;
- develop car-sharing programs where there currently are none and expand those already in existence in addition to making them appealing to attract greater use; and
- foster development that places residents closer to jobs, schools, shopping, entertainment and more, and that encourages more reliance on telecommuting as an employment option and/or shorten workweeks from the current five to fewer days.
All of these strategies collectively, if adopted and put into widespread practice, could be very effective in reducing air pollution triggers from transportation, commercial, business and perhaps even industrial sectors. And therein lies the potential for efficiently and effectively managed population growth all sans additional environmental degradation and infrastructure demand.