The fundamental problem with cars isn’t their tail pipe emissions as much as it is their impact on land use: Cars ease us comfortably into sprawl.

And sprawl is at the root of climate change.

Sprawl = Isolated housing developments that waste energy and grossly overtax utility networks.

Sprawl = Miles and miles of roads that rip apart landscapes and keep cars out & about for excessive trips and protracted commutes that increase pollution.

Sprawl = Low density demographics that make public transit impractical.

Sprawl = Far-flung, big box shopping centers that rely on mass market economic models like corporate farms, for example, rather than on independently-produced quality goods.

In short: It’s the infrastructure, stupid.

However, in trying to promote the greener infrastructure choice—living in the city, instead of  in the suburbs—we must recognize that 1) cars aren’t going away, and 2) cars can, in fact, be a part of city culture.

We can’t build successful cities by only investing in pedestrian and transit infrastructure; we must also fit cars into the equation. But we have to do that in environmentally smart ways*—such as by supporting fleet and car sharing models and mandating that the cars we do use aren’t fossil fuel fiascos.

According to a “Ped /Bike/Transit/Shared/SOV” pyramid hierarchy, we can make cars a greener option by ensuring that the cars on the road are electric vehicles (EVs).

Electric Vehicle Remarks, 5/15/17

The City has been criticized for waging a so-called “War on Cars.” Nope.

But I’ll own up to this: We are waging a war on fossil fuels.

Not only does this mean divesting from fossil fuels, which I called on the City’s pension board to do last month, but we must lower our carbon footprint.

I’ve committed Seattle to being 100 percent renewable by 2050.

Clean hydro runs our utility sector, so the challenge comes from our transportation sector. A full two-thirds of our carbon emissions comes from driving.

That makes our policy approach to fighting climate change a No-Brainer:

In addition to giving people more transportation options like light rail, Rapid Ride buses, car share, and building out our bike & pedestrian infrastructure, we must also make cars themselves a green option.

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 5.04.55 PM

Making the changeover to electric vehicles is clearly a route to a more sustainable Seattle.

Last year, in order to chart this fossil fuel-free future, I announced the Drive Clean Seattle initiative, committing to increase electric vehicle ownership in Seattle to 30 percent by 2030.

We know that every gallon of gas or diesel that’s replaced by electricity equals a 100 percent reduction in carbon.

Seattleites are clearly aware of this smart environmental choice.

Seattle’s Electric-Vehicle-share of all car sales is four times the national average. And Seattle EV sales are suddenly off the charts: EV car registrations rose nearly 30 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Making sure we have the infrastructure to serve this demand is critical.

The best way to get more EVs on the road? Install more charging stations.

That’s why when I announced the Drive Clean Seattle initiative and committed the City to adding 20 new charging stations, I called on the private sector to join us.

And wow: BMW’s ReachNow has come through big.

They are building 100 new charging stations this year. Four of them are opening right here today at Woodland Park Zoo, including one “Fast Charger” that can charge an EV in 30-minutes flat.

The Zoo, as the first LEED Gold certified zoo in the country, is an appropriate spot for these charging stations… And with 1.3 million visitors a year, it’s a practical spot too.

As for ReachNow, it’s no surprise, they’ve stepped up to meet the environmental challenge.

As one of Seattle’s major car sharing companies, ReachNow is already an all-star environmental partner, helping us take cars off the road. They have a car share fleet of more than 650 cars, including 50 electric cars.

By adding charging stations to their portfolio, ReachNow isn’t just in the business of taking cars off the road anymore, they’re now committing to making the cars on the road part of the Seattle solution.

Thank you.

*Here’s an important footnote: Making car travel more environmentally sound is a risky approach to saving the environment!

Per what’s known as the Jevons Pardox (which David Owen explains on pg. 96 of Green Metropolis), major scientific upgrades and planning breakthroughs that are intended as fixes to the negative impacts of inefficient or polluting technology can backfire because they might make inherently problematic technology more accessible and popular.

Greener, more-efficient cars might inadvertently induce even more suburban living— outweighing any environmental benefits of the supposedly smarter, revised incarnation.

Being mindful of this contradiction, urban planners must only incorporate cars in ways that make the benefits of redesigned car technology and the efficiencies of redesigned car infrastructure resonate and excel in cities, but not in suburbs.

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