Gabe Klein says that if you are a fiscal conservative like he is, you should be in favor of bike lanes, mass transit, walking and biking to work, and autonomous vehicles.

Why? They save money.

"My pitch is that it is time to be more fiscally responsible," Gabe Klein said in a telephone interview this week. "It is time to think about solving the actual problem. We have to make more responsible choices on the front end."

Klein, a former transportation official in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and an author on community development, will speak at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the State Historical Building as part of the Tomorrow Plan's speaker series.
A reception begins at 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Klein said he plans to tell the Des Moines audience that solving congestion problems by adding lanes to a highway only helps for about two months before the rush to use the newly expanded route ends up clogging it again. He'll note that Americans face health care costs that are double pretty much any other developed country, and that spending some time walking or biking to work could help reduce that.

U.S. health costs are "directly tied to the choices we make in planning our cities," he added.

"Kids are 24 pounds heavier now, in part because they don't walk to school anymore," Klein said. "The United States is unique in that we went all in on the automobile. Asia and Europe look at the auto as a big part of the arsenal, but not the only tool. We are now suffering the consequences" in obesity, pollution and strained government budgets, he said.

It's not that he is against vehicles.

"I love cars. It's just that the car has an appropriate use," Klein said. "You don't eat cereal with a fork. Most trips are less than a few miles, but we take a car."

Shifting to mass transit and other modes of travel that don't involve driving alone -- including the future prospect of autonomous vehicles -- will help improve the environment, too. "We are destroying the planet" with the current vehicle-centered system, Klein said. "It is going to cost us so much in the long run if we don't address these problems. It's anti-business to ignore this stuff."

Klein is the author of "Start-Up City: Inspiring Private & Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun." He helped establish Chicago Bikeshare, Chicago Riverwalk and Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes.