A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How Portland Can Fight the Oil Spill

AP photo by Charlie Riedel, from Boston.com's Big Picture blog

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is the inevitable product of a culture that is disastrously addicted to oil. BP isn't simply a corporate monster; it's our dealer. Anyone who's pays $3 a gallon for their gasoline is complicit with the multi-trillion dollar industry that works to squeeze oil from tens of thousands of wells deep under the waters of the Gulf.

Here's the good news: we're not by any means helpless. We don't need to take our toothbrushes to Louisiana to clean up this mess: we need to stop buying and burning so much oil every day.

Jonathan Hiskes, in a recent post on Grist, has offered up "10 Ways Cities and Towns Can Kick the Offshore-Oil Habit." Here's a sampling, in a shortened format:

  • Build complete streets, roads that include sidewalks, and are safe to walk across and bike along;
  • Build more development near public transit;
  • Let the market lead - consumer demand for walkable, transit-oriented development is on the rise, but Portland needs to do more to make sure that local laws and ordinances don't prohibit such smart-growth development;
  • Demand density: along the same lines, locals should fight the "not-in-my-backyard" attitudes that often thwart smart development, and welcome new neighbors in close-in neighborhoods so that more people can enjoy the benefits of car-free living;
  • Cut parking, which wastes valuable space, invites more traffic congestion, and reduces tax revenues, all in the service of subsidizing gasoline sales;
  • Grant free parking for carsharing vehicles - something that Portland has already done on a temporary basis to lure UCar Share.
These are all things that we can absolutely do on the local level, right here in Portland, and in surrounding communities. We even have a great plan in place (the Portland Peninsula Transit Study) to make many of these things happen. The question is, do our City Councilors and planners have the will and the diligence to help our city gain independence from the filthy oil companies?

Or will we continue to export millions of dollars out of our local economy to pay companies like BP?

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