How Aerotropolis May Destroy Us Yet

One of the most annoying and pervasive myths that pundits like to spout today is that living in cities is, de facto, greener.

All things is being equal, yes, it would be.

It disturbs me, however, that these same pundits spend jet around the globe much of the year, bragging about how many miles they've logged.

Check out Getting There Green, a fascinating report from the Union of Concerned Scientists that I came across in our research for rebuilding the Port Authority Bus Terminal. It turns out that plane travel is much, much worse for the environment. Try it out for yourself at the Terrapass Carbon Footprint Calculator. Alas, that calculator doesn't include first class travel, which pundits prefer, but if we can assume that one first class trip is equal to two coach trips (it may be worse than this), all it takes is two first class trips from New York to Europe to equal a year of carbon output from an SUV. 

Is there a surprise in Getting There Green? Yes, the bus is the greenest mode of travel. See you in the Port Authority Bus Terminal…



i don't get it--for your argument to work, you'd have to somehow link living outside the city with less need for plane travel. but there's no correlation, is there? you might live in the city or outside, your need for plane travel will likely be the same. you can't factor in a few jet-setting critics. all things being equal... well they are, since there's no proof living in a city makes you more plane-travel prone (that i know of).

also, a question--do you mean city living, or do you mean density? its useless to speak about cities and suburbs when sometimes the density levels are reversed--i would stay in favor of dense living, but somehow i think we've always disagreed on this (we seem to agree on part of this argument though, i just can never tell which part--probably the buses).

My specific concern is that

My specific concern is that when we hear that living in cities is inherently ecologically better and, in the next breath, about how great it is to be travelling around the globe non-stop making that pitch. It happens far too often.

Regarding your second point. Yes, you're absolutely right. Such distinctions are frequently lost. Likewise, when we hear statistics such as "the majority of the world's population lives in cities," frequently "cities" serves as shorthand for urbanized areas, which of course includes suburbs.