I can certainly sympathize with people who don’t particularly care for basketball or hockey and don’t see why these diversions should receive special tax treatment. But I wish Seattle public figures would stop making deeply anti-urban arguments against the arena. Today’s nominee is Peter Steinbruck at Monday’s PubliCola arena forum:
Former city council member Peter Steinbrueck, who has been retained as a consultant by the (anti-arena) Port of Seattle but was speaking on his own behalf, had an interesting suggestion for arena proponents: Given that the city has committed itself to carbon neutrality, why not do a carbon analysis of the arena proposal?
Current estimates are that 65 percent of arena attendees will come from outside Seattle, and that fewer than 20 percent of all arena users will get there by transit. So what is the carbon impact of all those cars driving in from the suburbs? So far, the city has only committed to do an analysis of traffic impacts on the area around the arena as part of its environmental review.
On the surface Mr. Steinbruck is just asking for a study, but we all know how this goes: some people will drive to the arena, generating more emissions than they would if they stayed at home. Then arena opponents get to cluck at arena backers’ reckless disregard for the environment. Rhetorical points are scored.
The end logic of his position is inescapable. The carbon impact of patrons at Benaroya Hall and Seattle Center is not good; the cruise ships and those precious jobs at the Port also generate emissions. Shut all these down, and one eliminates the things that make Seattle a city. It would also sacrifice the economic and environmental benefits of urban living. More after the jump.
Taken to its extreme end, we find the easiest strategy for reducing humanity’s carbon impact: global economic collapse. Reduce us all to the living standards of 12th-century peasants, and emissions plunge. But that’s a cure worse than the disease. Presumably, Mr. Steinbruck hasn’t developed his line of reasoning to that point.
More seriously, what makes sustainability an interesting problem is that we want to preserve the most important things about our standard of living while reducing their impact. Setting aside outright climate denialists, the politically difficulty is that different people have different values about what’s “most important.” For those whose quality of life is centered around the flexibility of the auto, the promise of electric cars figures prominently. Here at STB, we believe that many more people would use transit and live densely if the transit was higher quality and the density were more widely legal, with positive economic impacts and little or no loss of utility. Inevitably, real progress will require a little of each. In either case, giving people fewer reasons to leave their homes is not the answer.