This is a repost of mine from the Snowpocalypse 2008. Although the particulars are different I think snow storms like this help us experience first hand what a more local, non-motorized and sustainable transportation system looks like, and how our choices do or do not support that.
Here is a question posed by Diane Sugimura (Director of Seattle DPD) a few years ago at the Urban Sustainability Forum. What do you think a sustainable Seattle will look like? Answer, a snow covered one. It might sound odd but think about your experience over the past few days.
More after the jump.
When it snows Seattleites go out and walk as a means or transportation. They say hi and look each other in the face. They stop and talk to their neighbors. They are kind to each other, helping out random strangers. Life slows down. Seattleites shop at local stores. Seattleites reclaim the streetscape, transforming it into open space for life, joy and people, not cars. The city becomes peaceful. People walk to work. They walk to see friends. Cars are parked. Everyone stays closer to home.
Essentially we are forced off carbon intensive transportation. If you can’t walk there it is probably too far. This includes buses too. They help but transit really isn’t the solution, land use is.
This was the scene on Capitol Hill and lots of other neighborhoods around the city. Hugeass and the SLOG already touched on this. Snow blurs the streetscape and allows for a more democratic allocation of space. Cars are forced to slow or stop and people take over. People stop simply passing through space but rather become participants in that space. They engage the space and become invested in it. Everyone gets a better appreciation of distance. You learn that “far” places you don’t usually walk to aren’t really that far but how incredibly far trips you make every day in your car really are.
Yes I know the analogy doesn’t completely hold true but I think it is very instructive in how we need to think about sustainability and transportation. The boundaries need to pushed even more. Next time you think about these topics ask yourself, is this something that I could imagine in a snowy seattle?