Cities Fuel Change

by Handsome Matt

Cities as Environmentally Responsible (pt 2)

Earlier I wrote about cities as environmentally responsible. Highlighting that current trends in urban and suburban development are agents of environmental change. That is a completely amoral statement, cities can influence change positively and/or negatively.

I would like to continue this idea, and flesh it out.

Zoning and Codes

Building codes and zoning laws can be used by cities and states to directly influence environmental developments. More efficient zoning of building plots for example will allow builders to build more efficiently. For example, if a plot of land is zoned to be 34.40′ by 29.87′ the home built on that site is going to be built to a proportional size. This is inefficient and creates awkward spaces in a buildings corners.

But, if plots are laid out in even measurements (36′ x 24′) the home will be built with more even dimensions (24′ x 18′) which will result in a more efficient use of materials and almost no awkward spacing in joists, rafters, and studs.

Even with traditional, environmentally unfriendly, building practices: Homes will be more efficiently built and more environmentally friendly!


Remodeling a home is by nature; more environmentally friendly than a new build. Beyond that, restoring a home can increase home values in the neighborhood, and it’s been proven in studies that nicer homes lower crime rates.

For those reasons alone: Home buyers who buy already built homes, or home owners who remodel homes, should be rewarded with tax credits of some sort.

Furthermore remodeling a home stops urban sprawl.

Car Free

When I worked for a summer camp, we had an issue. Campers weren’t drinking enough water. Because of that they were irritable, dehydrated, and some were beginning to suffer heat exhaustion. They were drinking the juice served at meals which exacerbated the problem.  We had a meeting to share strategies for getting campers to drink more water.

I put forward a rather radical idea: Stop serving juice. My reasoning was simple. Thirsty children were being given the choice between juice and water, and they were choosing juice.  Thirsty children given the choice between water and nothing, would choose water.

If you want people to walk more, then eliminate driving in certain area and provide incentives to walk. Look at malls. People walk at malls because there’s no other option, plenty of stops and points of interests, and benches.

If business centers, city centers and other similar locations eliminated cars, I believe it would do three major things (and maybe one extra):

  1. Cause people to walk more. They have to!
  2. Cut down on congestion. Less cars, less traffic. And a little street planning in the surrounding areas would go a long way to lessening traffic elsewhere.
  3. Increase security and safety. If there are no cars, there are no car-related fatalities. Furthermore, as has been seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Oklahoma City, and elsewhere; cars are efficient and often overlooked, delivery systems for large weapons.
  4. Extra: With dedicated delivery lanes, deliveries would happen faster and more efficiently. Increasing productivity across the board.

Mass Transit

Recently the mayor of my wonderful city, Columbus, stated that our residents don’t want to use mass transit, because they love their cars too much. The response was simple: Why ride the bus for an hour and a half, when driving my car takes twenty minutes?

Mass transit needs to take a page from Walgreen’s play book. Walgreen’s constantly assess where their stores can be most effective. That’s why they’ll open two stores within a few blocks of each other. Or close one down and move it one hundred feet down the road.

Mass transit departments should be looking at the most effective ways to move people where they need to go. Perhaps there is a need to deregulate Mass Transit, and open it up to competition. In this instance a freer market might be the way to go.

I had hoped to wrap this up in two parts, but having reached 600 words already, I realize another installment will be needed. Look for it soon!