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Always Forward

The Movement for Car-Free Living in Santa Fe

April 25, 2014, 12:00 am

Tomás Rivera is the executive director of Chainbreaker Collective, a non-profit economic and environmental justice organization working to improve access to transportation for low-income people.
Visit www.chainbreaker.org for more information.

The Movement for Car-Free Living in Santa Fe

Car-dependency keeps people poor and contributes to climate change. Transportation costs can consume up to a of the income of working people in Santa Fe. At the same time, the average car uses 570 gallons of gasoline and produces over five tons of CO2 emissions per year. As the economic crises continues to drag on and urgency to address climate change grows, more Santa Feans are looking to car-free living as a solution.

But breaking the cycle of poverty and pollution created by car-dependency can be challenging, especially for low-income people. Santa Fe’s high cost of living forces many people to move to city outskirts (often to the Southside) because they can’t afford central neighborhoods. These areas lack jobs, parks, access to healthy food and even basic infrastructure like sidewalks. Our bus system is underfunded and so service is often infrequent in these areas, leaving little choice but to drive. As commute times increase and gas prices rise, the cycle continues.

Despite these odds, however, the number of Santa Feans living car-free or reducing their reliance on the car for every trip is growing. Many are driven by economic necessity, some are inspired to help the environment and others to get healthier. But regardless of motivation, they’re all part of a growing movement in Santa Fe. Ridership on Santa Fe Trails has grown steadily for the last several years. In 2013, over 1 million trips were taken by bus. Demand for more routes and service is increasing – especially in underserved areas. For help planning your trip call 955-2001.

People are connecting with regional transit as well. Blue Buses serve Española, Taos, Los Alamos and the Northern Pueblos for free and the Rail Runner provides service as far south as Belen.

Walking and biking is also becoming more common. Last year, Santa Fe received silver level status as a bike friendly city. In recent years, the city has appropriated $15 million for bike infrastructure and constructed several miles of trails. Chainbreaker, a local non-profit, has taught over 5,000 people about bike mechanics and distributed over 1,600 recycled bikes to people who would have otherwise been unable to afford one, saving patrons over $6 million in fuel costs, conserving nearly 2 million gallons of gasoline and preventing over 30,000 tons of CO2 emissions from entering our air.

This growing movement to live car-free is changing the way people think about transportation in Santa Fe and our elected officials are responding. Last year, city councilors unanimously passed the “Help Santa Feans Ride” rebate program. Through this program, people who get bikes or equipment at local shops are eligible for free bus passes on Santa Fe Trails. This kind of progressive transportation policy may be the start of a new era in Santa Fe.

Our city is quickly moving forward from car-dependency, but there’s still a lot of ground to cover. We need to expand bus service and ensure that our neighborhoods remain affordable, walkable and accessible. We need to grow this movement to break the cycle of poverty and pollution caused by car-dependency to continue to move Santa Fe forward.

Blue Buses serve Española, Taos, Los Alamos
 and the Northern Pueblos for free.

For more information visit: ridethebluebus.com
or call (866) 206-0754.

 

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