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Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory Offers Lessons in Clean Air

By Brett Rosenberg
August 30, 2004


Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory presented a local political perspective of achieving air quality goals at the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Innovations Conference in Chicago during the week of August 10. The Conference, a forum for communicating integrated and innovative approaches for improving air quality, drew attendees from cities, agencies and organizations from almost every state.

McCrory suggested that one of the largest impediments to relieving transportation-related air pollution was limited consumer choices. Through offering a number of transportation options, including carpools, mass transit, telecommuting and personal vehicle use, well informed commuters can decides what's best for their personal transportation needs without undo regulations or restrictions. In trying to sell a program to citizens, "You have to talk about choices — choices in housing, employment and transportation," according to McCrory. Add to choice well-designed transportation and public infrastructure and commuters will likely choose transportation options that ultimately ease congestion, relieve air pollution and make their commuting lives easier.

While much of the conference was either technical or very specific in nature, McCrory provided a broad local political perspective. In terms of getting a mayor's attention, McCrory said advocates for environmental initiatives should not exaggerate the consequences of inaction, but rather frame their arguments in terms of economic benefits.

With programs such as high density multi'sector developments around transportation corridors, developers and consumers are beginning to realize tangible economic advantages. In addition, high density development preserves open space and reduces the need for many automobile-oriented activities, affording the co-benefits of cleaner air and other environmental amenities as well as encouraging high property values. The key to encouraging such development, according to McCrory, is design, not just a "build it and they will come" mentality. "If you don't build it right, don't build it at all...design is the most important part of getting people out of the automobile," all of which contribute to cleaner air and energy cost savings.

Many of Charlotte's clean air initiatives received support through the US Environmental Protection Agency's and Department of Energy's Best Workplaces for Commuters Program. The Best Workplaces for Commuters Program is a voluntary public-private partnership that encourages employers to voluntarily offer commuter benefits. Through the program, which offers multiple commuting options for employees, employers can address limited parking options, reduce traffic congestion and improve employee retention. Through the Best Workplaces for Commuters Program, employers receive the tools they need to incorporate commuter benefits into their standard benefits plans, and, according to the EPA, reap financial benefits and gain national recognition.