Thursday, February 12, 2009

CARAG's Transportation & Energy Committee - The Most Efficient Option?

One of the CARAG board committees has long been the Transportation Committee. Duties were pretty obvious: keep an eye on transportation issues relevant to the neighborhood. These include things such as road construction, bus lines and stops, changes to stop signs or stop lights, and, in recent years, discussions relating to the Southwest light rail line and its possible Uptown route. In other words, pretty obvious stuff, and all very important to quality of life in the neighborhood.

In December, however, the CARAG board voted to change the committee and its responsibilities. The new committee: The Transportation and Energy Committee. Its members will continue its transportation role, but will now also "explore opportunities for the community to reduce energy costs, improve energy efficiency, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Does anyone else out there think this is weird? On the one hand, I do understand some of the reasoning: transportation involves cars, cars create greenhouse gas emissions. Public transportation and bikes reduce gas emissions. Therefore, Transportation and Energy might as well be clumped together to save everyone some meeting time. On the other hand, doesn't this just dilute the committee's overall purpose? Why not just create two separate committees, committees that can meet jointly when their interests overlap? Not all transportation issues relate to energy efficiency, and certainly not all energy issues relate to transportation.

My other concern with this newly expanded committee is the larger judgement call that it seems to make. By putting energy and transportation together, CARAG is sending the message that the committee's overall goal is "energy and transportation," and not "energy" AND "transportation." That statement, intentional or not, makes it more difficult for the committee - a committee of volunteers with limited time - to fully discuss the many issues relating to energy and to transportation that may fall outside of the "energy and transportation" category.

Don't get me wrong, I certainly think it's admirable that CARAG consider the larger environmental issues relating to transportation and transportation. I just think that two separate committees - one for transportation, and one dealing specifically with environmental issues, including but not exclusively those relating to energy - would be a better use of, well, energy.

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