It is estimated that by 2050, more than 70 percent of the world's population will be living in a city. It's time for America's largest cities to adopt a sustainable and responsible vision for the future.
Building the Cities of Tomorrow
Imagine cities that are healthy places to live, where our resources are used responsibly, where the environment is protected, and where citizens are actively engaged in their communities.
TexPIRG Education Fund is working to build these cities of tomorrow.
It's estimated that by 2050, more than 70 percent of the world’s population is estimated to be living in a city. More and more Americans are looking to cities to meet their needs in a way that’s sustainable, equitable and beneficial to the world. As more of us live and work in urban areas, we have the opportunity to make them leaders in sustainable development.
We envision cities:
- With 21st century transportation options. For decades, cities have focused on moving cars, not people. It’s time to focus on getting people where they need to go by giving them more and better options to get around. These options include expanded public transit, better biking alternatives, walkable neighborhoods and high-performance intercity trains.
- Powered by 100% clean and renewable energy. As the threat of climate change continues to grow, the best way to fight it is to keep fossil fuels in the ground and transition to 100% renewable energy. By encouraging big box stores to switch to solar power, promoting residential solar options, increasing the number of charging stations for electric vehicles, and raising energy efficiency standards for commercial and residential buildings we can easily meet this goal.
- Where food systems are healthy, sustainable and locally-sourced. We all eat. But the choices we make with our food can help or hurt our communities and our environment. By sourcing food that is raised sustainably, responsibly and low in carbon, we can boost our local economies, move away from factory farming, and create healthier communities.
- With clean water and responsible waste management. Communities across the country face risks from polluted water systems and waste. Aging pipes, sewage overflows and toxins that travel from roads to our water supply can harm our health and the environment. We need policymakers to make sure everyone has access to healthy water by creating strong policies to repair aging infrastructure and addressing toxins in our water supply. We can also make sure our waste is disposed of responsibly and reduce our waste whenever possible.
- Where citizens are involved in their government and their community. When we are active and engaged in our communities, we can push for more sustainable policies and hold elected leaders accountable. To ensure all citizens have the opportunity to participate in their community, cities should make voting as easy as possible, champion open access to government data and level the playing field for small donors.
Three months after nearly 5.4 million infant sleepers were recalled for causing 36 infant deaths, a new survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education (U.S. PIRG) and Kids in Danger (KID) revealed that many child care facilities continue to use these dangerous inclined sleepers. The survey began after PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber discovered that his own son’s daycare in Philadelphia was using the recalled products.
“Every day, millions of parents drop their kids off, assuming their daycares have the information they need to keep their kids safe,” said Garber. “This failed recall is a wakeup call that our current system leaves too many infants at risk from these dangerous sleepers.”
U.S. PIRG and KID blamed the situation on confusing messages about the recall. Initially, a consumer warning for the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play on April 4th linked deaths to infant rollovers, leading some parents and facilities to conclude that proper use would keep babies safe. But a more complete analysis revealed some deaths occurred when the child was buckled in, leading the company and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to fully recall the 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play sleepers soon after on April 14. On April 26, nearly 700,000 units of the Kids II Rocking Sleeper were recalled.
Like many American cities, Houston is encircled by rings of highways—nine major radial freeways, three ring freeways, and a 180-mile fourth outer ring on the way.
But Houston isn’t just encircled by roads, it’s symbolically, and literally, being choked by cars. It’s consistently ranked as a top city for traffic congestion, ninth-worst for ozone pollution according to the American Lung Association, and a tragic nexus for deaths from car crashes. The annual death toll, according to the Houston Chronicle, is equivalent to “three fully-loaded 737s crashing each year at Houston’s airports, killing all aboard.”
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the solution is more roads, specifically, a multiyear, multibillion dollar project to widen and expand the city’s highway infrastructure in an attempt to ease persistent bottlenecks that clog downtown traffic.
This isn’t a small upgrade: in the name of accelerating commutes, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) will widen and rebuild nearly 25 miles of highways in the city’s downtown, expanding some to be as wide as the length of two football fields. In addition to years of construction, the “Texas-sized” expansion would displace four houses of worship, two schools, 168 homes, 1,067 multifamily units, and 331 businesses that account for just under 25,000 employees, impacting mostly people of color in low-income neighborhoods.
It would add more impermeable concrete and asphalt infrastructure, plus future maintenance costs, to a city that is still recovering from some of the worst floods in recent memory. Resilience is a serious concern post-Harvey, and as flood maps are updated as flood risks evolve, the addition of concrete to the landscape could make the next storm’s impact worse. Houstonians still recall how highways became channels of water that cut off neighborhoods from aid during the worst of the flooding.
To critics, the I-45 project, named after the main highway that will be impacted, is an urban renewal reboot, a modern version of the freeway expansion projects that wrecked neighborhoods and divided cities in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Why would more urban highways and lanes of traffic—especially at a time when many cities are actively removing or capping their highways—be a foregone conclusion in any effort to mitigate Houston’s serious congestion problem?
Everyone should assume that their social security number has been exposed between this breach and breaches of other major companies’ databases, such as Equifax’s. With that in mind, U.S. PIRG recommends all Americans should use their right by law to freeze their credit reports for free
Our response to Equifax paying a $650 million penalty for exposing the social security numbers of 148 million Americans to identity theft.
Dear Chair Patman,
We write you today to urge METRO to transition its buses to a clean, all-electric fleet.
We applaud the work METRO employees do every day, safely carrying thousands of people, including many who cannot or do not wish to drive, to work, school and more. METRO buses and light rail are playing a critical role in reducing traffic and air pollution. Furthermore, we appreciate the efforts METRO has taken to convert buses to hybrid technology, limit idling, and initiate an electric bus pilot program.
However, most METRO buses are still powered by diesel—a dirty fossil fuel that gives off toxic emissions—endangering the health of the people who ride them and contributing to global warming.
The good news is we have the technology to start building cleaner, healthier cities and neighborhoods. Dramatic declines in battery costs and improvements in performance, including expanded driving range, have made electric buses a viable alternative to diesel-powered and other fossil fuel buses.
Replacing all of METRO’s diesel-powered transit buses with electric buses could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 43 million pounds each year.
Electric buses can also be more affordable than fossil fuel buses in the long run, since they have 30 percent fewer parts, no exhaust systems, their braking systems last longer, and they don’t require oil changes or fossil fuels. Over the lifetime of the bus, an electric transit bus can avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs over an equivalent diesel or natural gas bus, from lower fuel and maintenance costs.
We urge you to no longer purchase any more diesel buses. Putting new diesel buses on the road today will pollute our city for at least twelve more years. Instead, as buses are ready to be retired, please replace them with clean electric ones.
The Houston region is receiving $32 million from the Volkswagen Settlement funds, but that money is yet to be dispersed. This is a great opportunity for METRO to start transitioning to clean electric buses.
We look forward to working with you to one day give all Houstonians the opportunity for a “whisper-quiet, green ride.”
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