How improving the design of our cities can lower emissions and increase equity

By Vox Creative
Vox Media

Some of the most loved and memorable cities in the world share a key feature – high walkability. Whether it’s the enchanting paths of Venice, the historic streets of Kyoto, or the bustling crosswalks of New York, walkability can play a crucial role in how we perceive a city. However, despite this desire for walkability, many American cities still rely heavily on cars for transportation. One study from 2020 showed that about 87 percent of the passenger miles in the U.S. were driven in personal vehicles. This car-centric culture in America has had far-reaching effects on community, equity, sustainability, and climate change.


“A just transition is about moving from an extractive economy to an economy that actually answers to the needs of working-class communities and people” explains Riddhi Patel, the economic development coordinator for the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment. ​​To make this transition, there is a need for collaboration among urban planners, policymakers, and advocacy groups to promote more sustainable transportation options. This interconnection can be seen in how public transit played a significant role in reducing carbon emissions by saving sixty three million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2018, equivalent to shutting down sixteen coal power plants for a year.

Addressing these large-scale challenges requires government level action. Kaniela Ing, the National Director of the Green New Deal Network, adds, “Individual actions alone aren’t the solution to the climate crisis: government investment is. We need to see government programs that invest in sustainability across society: in housing, transit, energy, food, and more. That’s what the Green New Deal is—a commitment to building a better world as we tackle climate change and create a new society that is not only regenerative but also free of the injustices of our present and past.”

The Green New Deal is a comprehensive plan that aims to address climate change and promote economic and social justice. It provides a transformative framework that focuses on reshaping urban environments by prioritizing sustainable transportation alternatives such as public transit, enhanced sidewalks, and bike-friendly infrastructure. By reducing reliance on cars, the Green New Deal seeks to mitigate the impacts of climate change while simultaneously improving accessibility and fostering more environmentally-friendly communities.

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