Oberlin Looks to Make Its Transportation Options More Energy Efficient

Case studies for sustainability often involve really big places, like Portland or San Francisco. But a much different place hopes to demonstrate that it can be a model for energy efficient mobility: Oberlin, Ohio, population 8,761. Small towns and rural areas face some unique transportation challenges, and Oberlin hopes to demonstrate solutions that can be used in other communities.

CNT is helping Oberlin identify local strengths for sustainable transportation, such as its walkable downtown, biodiesel conversion station, and abundance of bicycles. But like many communities, Oberlin’s transit service has been cut in recent years and many residents own a car just to reach jobs and shopping. Earlier this month, CNT interviewed local leaders and community members about ways the town can overcome those challenges as it cuts the carbon impact from residents and workers traveling to, from, and within Oberlin.

CNT will use the lessons learned as it develops an energy efficient transportation plan for the city. The plan is part of a larger award from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop energy efficiency policies in Oberlin that can be replicated in small towns throughout northern Ohio. The plan will include an actionable portfolio of policy strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the city and college through reduced car ownership, fewer vehicle miles traveled, and cleaner fuel use. CNT expects to deliver it to leaders in Oberlin at the end of the summer.

3 Responses to “Oberlin Looks to Make Its Transportation Options More Energy Efficient”

  1. Chris Bradshaw Says:

    As an Oberlin grad (’66, government) and a sustainable transportation advocate (co-founder Vrtucar, s-t trainer, vice-chair, Ottawa Seniors Transportation Committee), I am very interested in this.

    I didn’t see any mention of Oberlin’s carsharing venture, although it may have folded. A Cleveland organization co-founded it.

    I also would like to see a kind of home-energy-audit program to help people look at transportation: analysing each home’s transportation ‘fleet’ and use of the vehicles, compared to the alternatives available. It will need an education component.

    In a town the size of Oberlin, carsharing can provide a shared fleet of vehicles of varying sizes to be used for — and compensate for its small market size — transit, car-rental, delivery, taxi, and driver services. Check out the ITNAmerica.org site for how this can work for just seniors.

    p.s., I am editing a special edition of the ejournal for the Can. Assoc. for the Club of Rome on how and why the world should move towards Metered Access to Shared Cars (MASC) from the OPOCO (one-person, one-car orientation), due to appear in early Nov.

  2. Robert Miller Says:

    A laudable initiative. However, remember that biodiesel, while renewable, is not an energy-efficient response to a car-oriented environment. Biodiesel usually generates less energy than is required to manufacture it.

  3. Katie McCaskey Says:

    Looking forward to reading this case study. There are interesting urban core revitalization/transportation efforts in small towns which deserve more attention.