You could almost admire Mayor Gary McCarthy for taking the long view – pursuing the installation of electric vehicle charging stations to enhance Schenectady’s image as a “green city” even though it doesn’t own any electric cars now and, given its financial condition, probably won’t be able to afford any for the foreseeable future.
However admirable his goal, we can’t help but wonder why he isn’t doing more to address environmental issues in the here and now.
For example, Schenectady has a history of buying big, fuel-thirsty, gas-powered cars, SUVs and trucks, instead of small, efficient ones, at every turn in the road. Plenty of municipalities have downsized or switched at least some of their vehicles to hybrids or those that run on compressed natural gas in recent years (all of them cheaper options than electric vehicles). Not Schenectady, where just this winter, McCarthy and others on the City Council were defending a police department request to buy gas-guzzling Chevy Tahoes for evidence technicians. Who among these pampered city employees would even consider driving a compact vehicle like a Chevy Volt?
If McCarthy wants to save money and reduce emissions now, he would not only be figuring out how to downsize the city’s motor vehicle fleet in terms of vehicle size, but numbers as well. And he would be doing more to impress upon employees who have city cars the need to turn them off once in awhile. All too often heavy trucks and supervisors’ cars can be observed idling at work sites, as are police cars responding to house calls and such. How much taxpayer-financed gas does this waste? How many hydrocarbons does it needlessly produce?
For the same reason, McCarthy should do something to improve the synchronization of traffic lights throughout the city. It’s still possible to get stuck at all four traffic lights on Brandywine Avenue in the quarter mile between State Street and I-890, even at 6 o’clock in the morning! If New York City can time its traffic lights so motorists traveling the avenues between 27 mph and 33 mph can get all greens, why can’t Schenectady? The state used to make money available for municipalities to study this problem; why hasn’t the city ever looked into it?
In a June 11 editorial, we supported government investment in the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles, but a municipality shouldn’t even think of doing so unless it can afford to, and until it’s taken more modest steps to reduce its carbon footprint. In both regards, Schenectady still has a long way to go.