Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Time to reduce use of vehicles

Recently this newspaper featured a special seasonal section devoted to automobiles  (April 15 – Spring Auto Feature). I applaud the choice to devote the entirety of that section to electric vehicles (EVs). However, while moving from gasoline powered vehicles to EVs is a necessary step in addressing our climate emergency, a simple switch from gas powered to electric vehicles will leave a host of other critical problems unaddressed.
Simply replacing gas-powered vehicles with EVs will do nothing to curb local traffic congestion. Route 7 in Middlebury will continue to slow to a crawl at the start and end of the school day, and it will still be a barrier for pedestrians and cyclists. Downtown Vergennes will continue to see the same number of cars and trucks moving incessantly through its appealing downtown. Switching to EVs will also not lessen the demand for parking spaces.
Pedestrians and cyclists will not be any safer on roads occupied by EVs. The problems with Tesla’s autopilot system are well documented, and there are additional safety issues caused by the ridiculously distracting touch screens and infotainment systems in these newer vehicles. And, as with gas powered vehicles, some lines painted on the road, bike sharrows, and a helmet will not stop a Tesla Model X, Ford F-150 EV, or, for that matter, a Chevy Bolt from causing grievous bodily harm when they strike vulnerable pedestrians or cyclists at any speed over 30 mph.
Finally, Addison County’s farms and forests will continue to be carved into housing lots and subdivisions because EVs will continue to enable our car-centric way of life.
When the time comes to publish another of these special features, I suggest this newspaper look instead at transportation more broadly. For example, it could highlight the imminent arrival of passenger train service, or profile Tri-Valley Transit and the opportunities it provides for working, shopping and recreating. It could investigate what percentage of household income is spent on transportation costs, or explore links between commuting times and physical health. It might even examine how making our downtown streets safer for all users and less welcoming to cars and trucks will actually make these areas more vibrant.
A car-centric focus and future, even one full of EVs, is not good enough.
Erik Remsen
Middlebury

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