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Fri October 15, 2010
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What It Means To Be Green in Central New York

Syracuse, NY – What It Means To Be Green in Central New York

A new study, "What Does It Mean To Be Green?" finds that urban sprawl and transportation choices are key to developing green and sustainable communities in Central New York.

For the year-long study, the Onondaga Citizens' League compiled expert research and conducted its own survey of county voters, residents and elected officials.

The report issued today describes sprawl in Central New York as "relentless" over the past 30 years. It shows how sprawl is costly in terms of energy use and pollution, and is also costing our economy.

Sandra Barrett, the group's executive vice president, explained that we've extended roads, infrastructure -- and government into open spaces while actually shrinking our population.

"We've really spread ourselves thin, emptied out our urban centers, cities, our villages, and created a lot of unsustainable development," Barrett says.

That has also resulted in unsustainable transportation policies, the study found. In one measure, driving distances, we rank near the top of urban areas nationally.

For example, the average Central New Yorker drives more than 12,000 miles per year compared to 7500 for Rochester-area residents.

"We are moving farther and farther away from the places that we need to be," Barrett says. "Like employment centers, shopping areas, schools, stores. Wherever we go, in many cases we have no choice but to drive."

The study concluded that the number one transportation goal should be reducing vehicle usage, and for remaining trips, emphasize more fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles.

As part of the study, the group also conducted a small survey that showed how different groups of Central New Yorkers rank different environmental policies.

Barrett says although the study sample was not statistically significant, "it was enough, and it was representative of the county."

"We talked to people in different towns, we talked to people of different ages and we talked to elected officials," she says. "The good news is that no matter who you talk to and what aspect of environmental sustainability you talked about, everybody agrees that it's important."

But the results revealed a disconnect between elected officials and constituents on ranking specific topics.

For example, elected officials ranked policies to promote walking and bicycling as their least important goals. They also thought constituents would rank them last, along with improving public transit.

But constituents actually ranked promoting walking and biking and improving public transit as very important.

"I think that we as a community, as individuals, need to tell our elected representatives what we think is important because they're making assumptions that are not necessarily accurate about what our priorities are as a community" when they make decisions about policy and spending, Barrett says.

The full report is at this link: http://onondagacitizensleague.org/pdfs/final_report_being_green.pdf