Flagstaff should see sustainable infrastructure

Illustration by Amy Czachowski

Flagstaff should make transit eco-friendly without increasing taxes.

The first two months of 2020 have seen a sudden spike in environmentalist action in the City of Flagstaff. The most notable was the city council’s recent and unanimous progression of moving toward a climate emergency declaration.

“I feel hopeful because people here are grounded and connected to nature, and I can look around and see the possibility of transformation to a zero-carbon economy,” Darla Marks-Mariano told The Lumberjack,

On campus, we find more examples like the Climate Action Forum held last semester to discuss and develop a plan for carbon neutrality by 2020, which was ultimately not met.

fA more observable result of a sustainability focused community is the Mountain Line hybrid-electric buses. According to its website, the Mountain Line applied for and received funding in 2018 to create six hybrid-electric buses that doubled the occupancy of the transits. With these new transports, it was reported that ridership increased 48% over the course of that year.

A more sustainable transit infrastructure, like that introduced by Mountain Line, should be our next step in environmentalism.

Regardless of political affiliations and beliefs, it is objectively more beneficial to utilize low-emission options to sustain our consumption of any type of fuel. Hybrid-electric alternatives help reduce traffic and provide a more nature-friendly approach to mass transit.

A city-wide transition to more sustainable alternatives would take time and copious amounts of money. However, an increase in taxation may not be necessary if the city continues to operate by precedence.

Taxed income should be allocated from other programs for aiding the transition of green public transit.

This is not new for the city. According to the Arizona Daily Sun, over $1 million was allocated from the Flagstaff Urban Trail System earlier this year to help the cost of constructing the 4th Street bridge overtop Interstate 40. The increase in cost was managed by the council and ultimately settled by moving funds from one project to another.

The downside to this movement of funding is that it will be replaced by Proposition 419, which means that taxation will continue to be the common contributor to allocating funds.

It is very difficult to spend money in government without resorting to increased taxation, but it is not impossible.

With city council’s recent move toward a climate emergency, they have undoubtedly and officially directed its attention to lowering emissions. Defunding programs unsuited to increasing sustainability should be the chief priority.

“There is not an endless pot of money to fund every project we would like to see. It’s a strategic allocation of resources,” Mayor Coral Evans stated in a Flagstaff Business News article.

With this in mind, the recent declaration of emergency should warrant a quick and decisive cut to nonrequired programs to help ease the burden of climate change. If we sit idle while small resolutions pass and meetings are held to simply discuss the issues, we are not treating climate change as a real emergency.

“I agree with the statements from the public that we need to do more than just declare an emergency," Evans told The Lumberjack.

Budgets are very complex in any context. Funding for programs within local government is tricky and oftentimes congested with grandstanding officials. However, leadership and adherence to a public declaration are owed to the denizens of Flagstaff or words will become meaningless.

I believe sustainable transit is the first step toward this goal.

Public transportation impacts our lives daily. For NAU students, it helps to alleviate the stress of getting to a class on time or giving them an opportunity to rest their legs after a long day on campus. For citizens of Flagstaff, it helps them travel across town without the need for a vehicle or ride-sharing service. At the meeting of I-17 and Route 66, Flagstaff also receives a lot of visitors who have the option to use buses instead of hunting for parking in a busy downtown.

Transit is integral to the experiences and livelihoods of Flagstaff residents. Public transit should be placed first in the progression toward low-emission solutions. The community has spoken, and want to help in the ways they can. If a bridge is worth dirtying the budget, I am certain so is creating an environmentally friendly transit infrastructure with the existing funds that Flagstaff possesses.