Originally posted on NewDeal20.org
Residents of New York City contribute less than 30% of the greenhouse gases of the average American, according to David Owen in his book, "Green Metropolis". Therefore, if everybody lived in a New York City, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would plummet by 70%. This is because the way we place buildings in relation to each other has a profound influence on the way we use energy.
In a dense urban structure, where buildings are large, close together, and serve many different uses, a transportation system that is composed mainly of trains is very effective at bringing people and goods into, out of, and around a city or town. A train-centered passenger and freight transportation system can use electricity for 100% of its energy needs, and an electrical system can be supplied by wind and solar energy.
There are other advantages. Economies of scale can be realized in recycling and the installation of ground source heat pumps for heating and cooling — which apartments buildings retain better than single-family homes. Actually-existing electric car and trucks can be used that are slow, low-range, and small, which is fine for a dense city or town.
There is a growing, unmet demand for walkable neighborhoods on the part of about 30% of the American population, while only 5% are currently able to live in one. Let’s assume, for the sake of simplicity, that 25% of the 100 million American households would gladly live in a 250-unit apartment building in a walkable neighborhood. Then if a government-financed program built 100,000 such units, at $50 million each, spread among the downtowns of dozens of cities and towns, the cost over 10 years would come to about $500 billion per year - and most of it would be paid back by the buyers of such units. And we would lay the groundwork for a truly sustainable society.