Friday, November 02, 2007

The Green Capital?

Like many other areas, the Washington, DC region is its own set of paradoxes. By some measures, the area is one of the "greenest" in the nation, with the greatest number of Prius owners, etc. (although the high Prius ownership is due, in large part, to the ridiculous [and now former] Virginia law which permitted hybrid vehicles to use the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, even when the driver was the sole passenger, which negated the purpose of having HOV lanes)!

Other environmental factors typical in America are true for the D.C. area. Our notorious air quality problems, for instance, partly stem from the fact that, like the rest of the nation, much of our electricity comes from coal. (A peek at the periodic PEPCO statements, which inconspicuously mention the sources of the electricity generated, tells the story.)

The traffic conundrum will take many steps to fix, and attitudes to change. Certainly, Metro's management needs to return to its senses and remember that one of Metro's original goals was to encourage suburbanites to leave their cars behind; thus, its proposed rate increases must not be too drastic, so as not to drive us away.

Another piece of the traffic puzzle, proposed for a different city might help D.C. if proposed and approved. (Dream on!) Bloomberg's suggestion of a congestion tax for Manhattan might work in D.C., if...only because the number of lone drivers coming to D.C. to work from Maryland is staggering. When I used to take the marathon 30-bus route into D.C., countless times I noticed, almost to a car, individual drivers sitting in traffic, which can't be a good thing for air quality. As many of these folk are headed to a relatively small geographical area, and Washington is a city with a huge percentage of suburbanites coming into the city, second only to New York City, our current traffic situation is a tragecomedy. More realistic proposed solutions, such as extending the Maryland Rail Commuter line (MARC) to weekend hours--a long overdue change--might take a decade or more to implement!

Sure, events like the recent Green Festival are fantastic, and a great starting point for getting ideas and encouragement in living a more environmentally friendly fashion (this year's unofficial green festival theme seemed to emphasize local living, with panels on subjects such as funding local businesses, which had Cakelove owner Warren Brown sharing the stage with local lenders, how to install your own green options, etc.), but it's everyday living patterns that will improve the quality of life, and make everyone's space greener.

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