GObike News

September 3, 2019

What About Transportation in Climate Change Planning?

Bernie Sander's outlined approach to reducing carbon emissions from the national transportation sector—the leading source in the US—is better than the rest but still largely ignores public transit and non-motorized transportation, such as biking and walking. 

A handful of climate plans have been released recently by presidential hopefuls, including Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Joe Biden, and Andrew Yang, to address and slow climate change in the next 10 to 30 years. Though all ambitious, most dedicate only a sentence or two to the transportation sector, the largest source of GHGs in America.

An exception is Bernie's Green New Plan, which outlines $3.5 trillion to transform our current fossil-fuel-dependent transportation system to a renewable and/or electric transportation system. Grants and subsidies would allow folks to buy NEW CARS while removing fossil-fuel cars and commercial trucks from the American fleet. The plan also dedicates $300 billion to high-speed rail and a commitment to building transit-oriented cities and communities.  

While the plan is better than most, it still fails to address America’s car dependency and how this must be reduced or eliminated to reduce congestion, pollution and poor land use, and improve American’s quality of life, social equity and personal health—not to mention reduce GHG emissions and help mitigate the deleterious effects of our rapidly changing climate. No mention is made of active transportation such as walking and biking as viable options for reducing congestion and GHG emissions.

Notes Curbed:  

"Each day that we continue to prioritize cars means more Americans will be displaced from their homes, diagnosed with chronic respiratory disease, or killed in traffic collisions so our communities can accommodate more vehicles. And even if all those vehicles are electric, they’ll still emit dangerous particulate matter, creating lifelong health issues for people who live near wide, busy roadways.

Cars are also expensive. In a country where many Americans are having trouble paying rent—something Sanders speaks about often—is our best solution for reducing emissions really going to be requiring households to purchase a new zero-emission vehicle just to continue participating in society?" (Read the excellent article here.

Bernie Sander’s Green New Deal Plan, which dedicates $16.3 trillion to addressing climate change by 2030, outlines the below transportation priorities. While this plan is a step in the right direction for including transportation in climate change and sustainability goals, a serious, bold initiative of reducing our nation's car dependency is needed to adequately and quickly address climate change mitigation goals in America. 

Bernie's Green New Deal Plan includes the following transportation initiatives: 

  • Fully electrify and decarbonize our transportation sector. We will create a federal grant and zero-emission vehicle program to create a 100 percent renewable transportation sector. 
  • Grants to purchase a new EV. Provide $2.09 trillion in grants to low- and moderate-income families and small businesses to trade in their fossil fuel-dependent vehicles for new electric vehicles.
  • Vehicle trade-in program. Provide $681 billion for low- and moderate- income families and small businesses for a trade-in program to get old cars off the road.
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure. In order to ensure that no one is ever stranded without the ability to charge their vehicle, we will spend $85.6 billion building a national electric vehicle charging infrastructure network similar to the gas stations and rest stops we have today.
  • School and transit buses. Provide $407 billion in grants for states to help school districts and transit agencies replace all school and transit buses with electric buses. 
  • Replace all shipping trucks. We must spend $216 billion to replace all diesel tractor trailer trucks with fast-charging and long-range electric trucks. Truck drivers from the largest fleets to small owner-operators will be able to access this funding.
  • Ensure the decarbonization of the transportation sector. When we are in the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation will assist in the decarbonization of personal and commercial vehicles through regulation, enforcement and technical assistance.
  • Build public transit that is affordable, accessible, fast, and resilient. With a $300 billion investment, we will increase public transit ridership by 65 percent by 2030. We will ensure that reliable, affordable public transit is accessible for seniors, people with disabilities, and rural communities. In addition to expanding transit service to communities, we will promote transit-oriented development to link this service to popular destinations and vital community services. 
  • Build regional high-speed rail. Many other developed nations have advanced high speed rail systems. A $607 billion investment in a regional high-speed rail system would complete the vision of the Obama administration to develop high-speed intercity rail in the United States. 
  • Retrofit dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure. In 2013, 800,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled in railroad accidents.  

Read the full plan here

What About Transportation in Climate Change Planning?