‘Lower our impact’: Residents encourage car-free commutes during National Week Without Driving

CHARLOTTE — Far and away, personal cars are the number one way most Americans get around. In Charlotte, 95% of households in the metro area own a vehicle.

However, there are still thousands who do not have access to a vehicle. Channel 9 climate reporter Michelle Alfini spoke with those who said their vehicle-free commutes aren’t always easy.

Transportation is the single biggest polluter in the county, and personal vehicles account for 60% of those emissions.

Shannon Binn, with Sustain Charlotte, said this is one of the many reasons why he is car-free.

“Something we can do to really lower our impact on climate change,” Binn said.

The Disability Mobility Initiative launched National Week Without Driving as a way to raise awareness of the challenges those without cars can face navigating an overwhelming car-centric country.

“It’s a very limiting factor in terms of people’s access to opportunities to get to the doctor, to get to the grocery store, all of the things people need,” Binn explained.

Going car-free isn’t just a personal choice. It takes infrastructure like well-maintained sidewalks, safe places to ride your bike, and reliable public transportation.

“As our communities grow, we just need to ensure that we’re growing in the same capacity to be able to support all of these residents,” said Catherine Kummer, Sustainability Officer for CATS.

Kummer said she hopes expansion plans like the Red Line and Silver Line projects can make it easier to commute into the city.

“I wanna head in this direction. I’m definitely hopping on the light rail versus even contemplating driving my car,” Kummer explained.

However, Charlotte Area Transit System leadership said those plans will require a dedicated funding source, like the 1% sales tax increase the Charlotte Moves Task Force initially proposed in 2020.

“We have had so many decades where we have just not invested in that type of infrastructure and have largely built the city around the assumption that everyone can and will move around by car,” Binn said.

According to the United Nations, shifting from cars to public transit could reduce up to 2.2 tons of carbon emissions annually per person.

In 2020, due to the drop in personal transportation, U.S. fossil fuel emissions decreased by 13 percent. However, emissions have since returned to pre-pandemic levels.

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Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.