In the new book Drawdown, editor Paul Hawken, an environmentalist and author, lays out 80 solutions to reverse global warming by 2050: modest, attainable goals to slow the production of CO2 and accelerate sequestration. Ranked #54 in impact on the list is the creation of walkable cities. The book estimates that simply by replacing 5% of car trips worldwide with walking trips, 2.9 fewer gigatons of carbon would end up in the atmosphere and also save $3.3 trillion dollars in costs associated with operating those cars. Coupled with carbon reductions that could come with increasing bike trips and mass transit options, including high-speed trains, these solutions for cities are needed if we are going to change course from our current climate future any time soon. And a good place to look at exactly how we get there is in the master plans of cities like ours: Seattle is about to finalize its update to the Pedestrian Master Plan this spring.
Douglas MacDonald, former director of the Washington State Department of Transportation, laid out his low opinion of the Pedestrian Master Plan update in Crosscut last week. His point about the gap between the goals in the Pedestrian Master Plan and its implementation is a well intentioned one. The Pedestrian Master Plan lays out some very big goals: after all, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has long said its goal is to make Seattle the most walkable city in America. But until we know exactly what SDOT envisions its implementation plan looking like, we should not be so quick to condemn the master plan as unachievable.