Prioritize transportation justice

As the transportation sector is the leading cause of carbon emissions in many states, 100% policies should include strong electric vehicle programs and clean mobil- ity infrastructure.

A renewable energy system can and should be used to convert existing fossil fuel uses to electricity to turn polluting technologies into clean ones. Transportation is the most important of these areas. The transportation sector is the leading cause of carbon emissions in many states. Depending on the state and the context, advocates will need to determine their priorities in transportation and electrification. Both access to and expansion of public transportation, strong electric vehicle programs, and clean mobility infrastructure should be prioritized.

Policy recommendations

The following are some transportation justice policy elements that should be included in 100% regenerative energy policies:

Push for renewable electricity goals in transportation. 100% regenerative policies should push for no gas, no propane, and clear transition off of petroleum products. Despite electric vehicles producing zero tailpipe emissions, in 2018, “petroleum products accounted for about 92 percent of the total U.S. transportation sector energy use...Electricity provided less than 1 percent of total transportation sector energy use and nearly all of that in mass transit systems.”[1] Advocates should set robust targets to electrify transportation.

Prioritize accessibility in public transportation. The biggest barrier in public transportation is often accessibility. Before going electric, policies should be set in place that add and expand services first. Adding more hours of operation and expanding public transportation lines to frontline communities that need it most should be prioritized. Expansion of public transportation into rural communities should especially be prioritized.

Electrified Mass Transit. Advocates should include in their renewable energy policies, the transition from fossil-fuel based transit programs to fully electric public transit programs. Many cities are adopting fully electric public transit programs. The cities of Denver,[2] Seattle,[3] and Los Angeles[4] all have adopted programs to go 100% electric with their public transit between 2020 and 2050. However, advocates need to ensure that these programs are truly 100% electric and do not include false solutions, such as renewable natural gas.

Provide a variety of transportation choices. The development and expansion of electric vehicle programs does not necessarily mean that renewable energy will reach frontline communities. Advocates should prioritize a range of clean mobility options in frontline communities.

  • Advocates should prioritize electric buses and the electrification of heavy-, medium-, and light-vehicles.
  • Creative transit options such as ride sharing or van pools should be prioritized, particularly in rural and Tribal contexts that have no electricity, lack access to charging stations for electric vehicles, and suffer from bad roads.

Goods Movement: The goods movement is the transportation of all goods (clothing, produce, materials, etc) from the ports onto trucks and trains, and into warehouses. The goods movement is steeped in environmental racism where frontline communities suffer from the pollution and contamination from the ports, the freeways, and warehouses. Advocates should define how the goods movement intersects with their 100% policy.

Push to pave and rebuild streets for pedestrians and bicycles. “The city of Maplewood, Minnesota, adopted a living streets policy framework, under which the city will rebuild streets after infrastructure upgrades to better accommodate walkers, bikers, and transit users while incorporating green infrastructure such as trees and rain gardens on street edges.”[5]

Transit-oriented development to prevent displacement. 100% regenerative policies should ensure that communities are not displaced in the development of clean mass transit. Transit-oriented development is used in urban context where a community is planned to be walkable and pedestrian-oriented with community centers and businesses around mass transit. “One neighborhood served by the No. 2 is Echo Park. According to Zillow, in September 2011, the median home value there was $427,000, and the median rent was around $2,000. Five years later, those figures were $779,000 and $2,840, respectively, an increase of 90 percent and 42 percent. But as housing costs rose, the neighborhood’s population shrank—by about 12 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to census data analyzed by USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. During that time, more than 5,000 Latinos and 2,000 Asian Angelenos were pushed out.”[6]

Affordability. Programs should be developed that cater to making electric vehicles more accessible and affordable to low-income communities and frontline communities.

Comprehensive Electric Vehicle (EV) Programs and Infrastructure. Strong EV programs, infrastructure, and incentives should be included in 100% regenerative policies. EV programs should be comprehensive and include not just individual personal vehicles, but light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles as well. Especially since the transportation and goods movement infrastructure of highways and expanding freeways criss cross low-income communities, the need for a comprehensive electrification of various types of vehicles is more necessary.

Consider the full impact of transportation justice. Transportation goals should include the impacts and costs related to road creation, recycling of old vehicles parts such as tires, and how and where various modes of transportation will be created and dumped. The disposal and recycling sites of vehicles are often sited in frontline communities and the full costs of transitioning to an electrified transportation system should not be shouldered by frontline communities.

Since electrification of transportation is essential to a low emissions future, each state will have to examine how fossil fuels (mainly oil, but also gas) should be phased out of transportation. In addition to the significant expansion of affordable public transit and personal vehicle electrification discussed above, policies can include:

  • Banning the sale of new petroleum cars beyond a certain date. For instance, Ireland’s national policy sets a target date of 2030.[7]
  • Adopting California’s emissions standards under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act. Although other states are not permitted to develop their own emissions standards, Section 177 of the Clean Air Act authorizes other states to choose to adopt California’s standards in lieu of federal requirements.[8]

Special considerations:

  • Jobs in the electric vehicle industry. There are growing concerns about displacement of workers in the machining and maintenance sectors in the electric vehicle industry. “EV powertrains are simple compared to internal combustion engines. The simplicity could reduce the amount of labor, and thus jobs, associated with vehicle production.”[9] Just Transition considerations need to be made with respect to jobs in the EV industry.
  • Advocates should take a position on driverless public transportation. The public transportation system has historically catapulted many families to the middle class. However, a report by the Center for Global Policy Solutions shows four million jobs will be lost in driverless public transportation with people of color and workers in states such as North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa, and Indiana suffering disproportionate economic disruption from the transition.[10]

Examples

Charge Ahead California: sets a goal to place one million light-, medium-, and heavy-duty electric vehicles on the road in 10 years.[11] Charge Ahead has a particular emphasis on ensuring low-income communities of color gain access to and can benefit from the program. To address a significant barrier of limited EV charging stations, particularly in low-income communities, Charge Ahead prioritizes a strong EV charging component that includes:

  • Residential access to on-street EV charging
  • Access to public charging stations
  • Support for private investment in publicly-accessible stations
  • Support for private investment in grid-connected equipment for EVs, starting with heavy-duty fleet vehicles, to accelerate transition
  • Incentivized EV parking and charging

Clean Vehicle Assistance Program: “helps income-qualified California residents purchase a new or used hybrid or electric vehicle...through a combination of grants and loans at 8 percent or lower interest rate.”[12]

Clean Cars 4 All: “a program that focuses on providing incentives through California Climate Investments (CCI) to lower-income California drivers to scrap their older, high-polluting car and replace it with a zero- or near-zero emission replacement. The program aims to focus the benefits of the program to low-income and disadvantaged communities and has a heavy emphasis on consumer protections, education of the new technologies, and coordination with other clean transportation programs.”[80]

Illinois’ SB 2132: “The State of Illinois set forth an ambitious goal to remove the equivalent of 1 million gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles from our roads by quickly implementing new policies that expand access to transit, promote walking and biking mobility, and increase electric vehicle adoption. If managed appropriately, electric vehicle adoption will drastically reduce emissions from transportation, and could save Illinois residents billions of dollars.”

References

  1. Energy Use for Transportation.” U.S. Energy Information Administration, 10 May 2019. Accessed 27 Jul. 2019.
  2. Denver 80 x 50 Climate Action Plan.” Denver Public Health & Environment, 16 Jul. 2018. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.
  3. Pratt, Andrea. “Fleet Electrification.” City of Seattle. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.
  4. Bonin, Mike. “100 Percent Zero Emission, City Bus Fleet.” LACityClerk Connect, 27 Jun. 2017. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.
  5. Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.
  6. Rosenthal, Tracey Jeanne. “Transit-oriented development? More like transit rider displacement.” Los Angeles Times, 20 Feb. 2018. Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.
  7. Ireland to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.” Phys.org, 18 Jun. 2019. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.
  8. US. Section 177 States.” TransportPolicy. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.
  9. Kelly, Jennifer. “Rise of Electric Vehicles is a Threat to Jobs, UAW Says.” The Detroit Bureau, 13 Mar. 2019. Accessed 27 Jul. 2019.
  10. Austin, Dr Algernon et al. “Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work.” Center for Global Policy Solutions, 2017. Accessed 27 Jul. 2019.
  11. Plugging In: Speeding the Adoption of Electric Vehicles in California with Smart Local Policies.” Environment California Research & Policy Center, 21 Feb. 2018. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.
  12. FAQ.” Clean Vehicle Assistance Program, Beneficial State Foundation, 2019. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.
  13. Clean Cars 4 All.” California Air Resources Board, 2019. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.