Not only does traffic contribute to climate change, but it costs the average American $1,377 per year in lost time. We’ll break down the issue, and debate some possible solutions like mass transit renovations, bike sharing, congestion pricing, and smaller market-based mechanisms. We’re joined by Christian Alberga (Williams College), Matt Grottkau (Washington University), and special guest Dr. Cutler Cleveland: Professor of Earth & Environment at Boston University and Associate Director of the BU Institute for Sustainable Energy.
In 2020, climate is, of course, the environmental hot (see what I did there?) topic. I think bipartisan climate change conversations are so challenging in part because it’s such a broad, overwhelming, intersectional issue that has ramifications for the economy, national security, health, social equality, and the environment. But what if we got specific? What’s one contributor to climate change that we can discuss and fix?
And with that, episode 1 on traffic was born. Traffic is a fun discussion topic, since it highlights the economic angle, the health angle, the equality angle, and the environment angle. For a massive issue, hitting so many angles is a lot, but for a smaller piece of the issue like traffic, that conversation becomes manageable, and really worthwhile!
Going into this episode, I was most excited to talk about congestion pricing. When I first learned of the concept, I naively thought wow, that sounds like the perfect policy to bridge the partisan divide! People still get to choose their mode of transportation, and the costs just more accurately reflect the real environmental/economic costs! Needless to say, the policy is viewed unfavorably in both parties. And as I learned more, I understood why it’s viewed so unfavorably, so I was very curious to hear from our guests what their first impressions were, and if there were a way to implement it that appealed to them, or if they were more drawn to other solutions.
Christian, Matt, and I went to boarding school together at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. Christian and I were roommates for three years, and notoriously would go the whole week without ever seeing each other and then be up until 3AM on the weekends talking politics. They’re both extremely passionate and intellectual, so I knew the conversation would be interesting, and intense. I was a little nervous to moderate it, to be honest.
So I was absolutely amazed at how much they ended up agreeing on by the end! Not only did they agree on the problem (which is often a challenge), but they agreed that a mass renovation of public transit with a lot of transparency and humility would be a viable solution, and they agreed that at least for New York City, they should move forward with their congestion pricing bill and other cities should take notice. That’s quite the bipartisan mandate shaping up!
Thanks for listening! Stay tuned for Episode 2 on lawn pesticides coming next Friday!