SENTINEL North Brunswick / South Brunswick

Front Page
May 8, 2008


Seminar tries to 'cool' effects of global warming
Urban Land Institute study advocates less driving, more compact development

NORTH BRUNSWICK - A seminar on the environmental impacts of land use and planning was held April 30 at the Yellowbird Reception Center on the former Johnson & Johnson property on Route 1.

North Brunswick TOD Associates, which is developing the proposed mixeduse transit village on the site, hosted a workshop on the Urban Land Institutepublished study, "Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change," in conjunction with New Jersey Future and Smart Growth America. The workshop featured various speakers discussing the effects transportation and sprawl have on the environment and how more compact development could limit future effects.

North Brunswick Councilman Ralph Andrews began the program, saying "credible science has determined, as we know now, that global warming is a problem."

As the liaison to the North Brunswick Planning Board and the Open Space Committee and as the chairman of the North Brunswick 2030 Committee, he said the goal must be to reduce emissions soon because by the year 2030, oil shortages are expected, and by 2050, "We see big problems starting in the environment, and thereon out."

David Goldberg, the communications director for Smart Growth America, said that even by 2020, a 15- to 30-percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels are needed - and today we are 20 percent above those levels.

He said this reduction is "impossible" without a reduction in transportation because transportation emissions are onethird of the U.S.'s carbon dioxide emissions and are the largest single contributor of greenhouse gases. He said the U.S. is responsible for 45 percent of the car emissions in the world. He said the amount of emissions is a combination of miles per gallon, fuel carbon content and vehicle miles traveled.

The former Dartmouth College and Columbia University graduate said that if the current trend continues, the total number of miles driven in this country will grow by 59 percent by 2030.

"Vehicle miles traveled are growing faster than population growth," he said. "We can get pretty close to our goal - if we stop driving."

Goldberg said the Growing Cooler study analyzed sprawl, traffic studies, project level scenarios and regional planning scenarios. He said putting residents in walkable communities vs. suburban sites cuts down emissions by about 30 percent. He said on average, people in lowwalkable neighborhoods drive 39 more miles per person each work day and 40 percent more on weekends.

He also said shifting 60 percent of new growth to walkable areas could save 85 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2030.

"We need more choices in vehicles, we need better choices in fuel, we need better transportation and how we get around, and [better] housing locations," Goldberg said.

He also said there is an undersupply of attached and small-lot houses, with an oversupply of large-lot homes. He said two-thirds of the buildings that will be inhabited in 2050 are not built yet, and that half of the buildings expected to be built by 2030 don't exist today.

Jack Lettiere, former commissioner of the N.J. Department of Transportation and the current president of his own consulting firm, said, "Whether you believe the science or not, you have to agree it's just not a good idea to put all this stuff in the air."

Lettiere said transportation demands, congestion cycles, the dynamics of transportation, land-use changes and land-use components are all interrelated, and are normally problematic.

He said there is a "vicious cycle of congestion," where residents demand an increase in capacity, then increase their number of movements, then need a place to live, then increase their average length of travel, which causes more sprawl, which makes highways more crowded. And then the demands for more highways begin again.

"There is a large disconnect because you can't get there from here. Sometimes there is no public transportation, sometimes you can't walk … and sometimes there is a disconnect of where you put things and how to connect them when you can't get there [without a car]."

He therefore suggested linking transportation and land use, network connectivity, balanced street design, sustainable environmental design and involving the community as combatants to suburban sprawl.

Peter Kasabach, the executive director of New Jersey Future, also spoke during the seminar.

Avideo of the meeting will be available mid-month on For more information, visit www.smartgrowthamerica. org.