Does it matter how we get around and what patterns of development we choose in Ames? I challenge everyone reading this to first think about how many times a day a car leaves your house (the average number of trips per day in American suburban communities is 10 to 12.) Then consider how many people have died in oil related wars or “conflicts” in the last century. Consider what auto-centered living really costs us individually and in local, state and federal taxes.
Let us now consider how Ames would be different if we really wanted to begin to reduce the environmental impact of our transportation and development patterns and take sustainability seriously.
* What if Lincoln Way, Grand Avenue and 13th Street were tree/flower-lined boulevards with bike lanes, wide sidewalks, quiet traffic, 30 mph speed limits (for maximum car volume) on two travel lanes plus turning lanes? These modest changes would transform these noise streets that are dangerous to bikers and pedestrians to places people would actually like to travel and live. This, in turn, would allow many to consider combinations of biking, walking and busing as real alternatives to family ownership of second and third cars.
* What if most Ames households owned only one car and some ISU students were not allowed to bring cars to town? This would translate into 25,000 or 30,000 fewer cars in Ames. Instead, 30 percent could bus to work (now 10 percent), 25 percent could bike (now 10 percent), and 20 percent could walk (now 5 percent). Perhaps high school students would have to pay high fees to drive cars to school (this could cut their car use by 75 percent).
Much shopping could be done by bus and bike. People would see and get to know their neighbors – in buses, on bikes and small electric vehicles. Result? Ames would begin to feel like people lived here, not just cars.
* What if good land development patterns in Ames became the talk of the Midwest? Ames could be known for beautiful new neighborhoods, centered around the fabulous design of front porches, court yards, side yards and small front yards with beautiful landscaping, small parks with cars and garages hidden in alleys.
These are alternatives to residential streets dominated by miles of separate con-crete driveways, beige vinyl siding and thousands of garage doors facing the street.
* What if the land and infrastructure dollars saved by these sustainable measures made it possible to have renewably generated electricity, bike paths, more Ada Hayden-like places, neighborhood schools, pools, parks, winter/summer skating places and affordable housing?
This effort to convert future suburban sprawl to high tax revenue and much improved community design and amenities would make it clear to people visiting Ames that the quality of life here is unsurpassed.
* What if commercial areas of Ames were redesigned for people first and not just cars? Adapting most parking lots to parks, fountains, community gardens and affordable housing might invigorate neighborhood businesses, attract great coffee shops and restaurants and make it more attractive to spend many of those dollars here instead of in Des Moines or Disneyland.
These many ideas, taken together, could reduce our transport carbon footprint by at least half and save 30 percent of farm land. These ideas could also bring Ames together as a community of people instead of just a community of cars.
Contributed by Joe Lynch