Transportation is an essential need. It affects every aspect of our lives, whether we’re going to work or the doctor’s office, the post office or the grocery store, dropping the kids off at day care or heading out for dinner with friends.
Those who have cars, driveways, parking spaces and garages likely think nothing of this essential tool of mobility and freedom. But not everyone drives. Some don’t out of necessity, such as the elderly or those with disabilities. Others don’t for economic reasons, because they can’t afford a car or the cost of gas to fuel it. Still others – increasingly younger generations – prefer lifestyles that allow for biking or walking for all of their essential needs, or taking public transportation, where they can be productive during their commute.
In rural places such as Door County, personal transportation still reigns. Our peninsula is 70-plus miles long, and the distances among places create challenges for those who don’t drive. We also host a large number of visitors who are accustomed to having safe, reliable transportation that’s just an app click away.
Though many of us don’t even think of how we’re going to get from one place to another, we’re fortunate to live in a county where others do. They are the ones who are trying to make public transportation more accessible, reliable and affordable so that it’s not a hardship for anyone.
They envision a transportation system that safely, affordably and conveniently connects people of all means and abilities to jobs, services, opportunities and entertainment. They recognize the connection between achieving these goals and prospering local economies where everyone can thrive.
That’s one aspect of making better connections. Another is making changes and improvements that contribute to the health of our planet.
Transportation generates the largest share of the greenhouse gases that trap heat and create climate change. These emissions come primarily from burning fossil fuels for our cars, trucks, ships, trains and planes.
The most carbon intensive of all these categories are passenger cars and trucks, including sport utility vehicles, minivans and pickup trucks. These sources account for more than half of the emissions from the transportation sector.
Connecting our personal mobility choices with the health of the planet is another example of making better connections, just as opting for active transportation rather than the carbon-intensive variety connects us with the Earth and creates healthier bodies and minds. If we all biked or walked or rolled on a more frequent basis, our collective public health would soar. Yet we can’t engage personal-mobility devices, even if they are just our legs, if our infrastructure doesn’t support those activities with bike lanes, trails and safe sidewalks.
More and more communities are adopting Complete Streets concepts that prioritize safety, comfort and access for all people who need to use the street. Yet we won’t find many of those communities within Door County. When improvement projects are on the construction agenda, you’re more likely to find priority given to parking lots rather than bike lanes. We can change this, one community at a time, if we connect with communities elsewhere that have already done what we want to achieve.
That’s happening locally in another infrastructural area: trails. We like to walk and bike and roll through this land of profound natural beauty. This shows in our healthy trail system. The next step to optimize that network is to connect it with others. If we do this, future generations will be able to walk or bike from one community to the next, one campground to another, between state or county parks, along roadways.
There’s much more to be said about making better, healthier connections, and we do so within the pages of this annual Sustainability issue. There’s also much more that’s being done – and can be done – to connect transportation, personal mobility, well-being and the health of our bodies, communities and planet. This is a start.