North Carolinians, especially in our urban centers, are used to receiving top picks for great places to live, work, raise a family, retire – the list goes on. But two recent studies say shame on NC – when it comes to transportation.
These studies show that unless our elected officials make significant investments for the future and drivers demand more fuel efficiency and alternatives to always getting in the car, we will continue to face serious pollution and resulting health effects that will cost us millions and for some of us, our lives.
What does this have to do with NC’s American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery?
Scotty was your typical high school kid – played baseball, the guitar and worked at the grocery store until he auditioned for American Idol where his dream came true. The 2011 American Idol winner will receive the Ford vehicle of his choice and he is likely to choose the Ford F-150 truck – “go big or go home” said the Garner native.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Scotty and country music – but the desire for an F-150 (16 to 21 MPG) by folks who don’t need a big vehicle, is just one of the reasons NC ranks so poorly in transportation studies.
The first study by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT)  names urban areas that are the worst gas guzzlers. CNT ranked the Triangle #1,  followed by the Charlotte area, with the Triad in 6th place, as using more fuel in the average household than anywhere in the country. We beat Atlanta – #3. The close proximities between the Triangle’s cities as well as a weak public transport system are the main factors for the ranking.
The second study is more disturbing. According to the Harvard School of Public Health , fine particles emitted from our tailpipes in traffic congestion led to 2,200 premature deaths last year in the nation’s largest urban areas. The public health costs associated with these emissions was at least $18 billion. While NC did not make that top 10 list, the researchers projected growth in traffic jams and emissions through 2030 – if no more transport capacity is added to accommodate likely population growth in the 83 urban areas that Harvard studied.
That is where NC gets back in the top ranking game – Raleigh ranks #1 of 18 urban areas where the congestion will rise more than 30% through 2030 – an estimated 54% increase in congestion. While our leaders are taking some measures to address the lack of alternative transportation, we are still moving very slowly in comparison to our population growth. Bills such as HR 422,  in which the General Assembly wants more say in the acceptance of federal funds for train projects, waste precious time and money.
Residents of North Carolina – demand more convenient and affordable public transportation and think twice about getting in your car for one errand.
NC General Assembly – start our future transportation plan for NC now.
And Scotty – how about going for the electric Ford Focus instead?