From our friends at Transportation for America:
This week, over 220 media outlets have pledged to devote coverage to climate change. But many climate change stories miss an important part of the problem: vehicle miles traveled.
The conversation on climate change tends to focus on electric vehicles, renewable energy, putting a price on carbon. But no matter how much progress we make on those fronts, lawmakers remain deeply committed to antiquated policy that undermines any action we take on climate change: spending billions to build new highways, encouraging more and more driving.
With vehicle miles traveled increasing every year, we’ll never achieve ambitious climate targets if we don’t reduce driving.
As federal policy and funding encourages more and wider highways, people live further away from the things they need and the places they go. We’re driving further and further every year just to get where we need to go. Emissions have risen despite increases in fuel efficiency standards and the adoption of electric vehicles. Despite auto companies achieving an admirable 35% increase in the overall fuel efficiency of our vehicle fleet from 1990-2016, emissions still rose by 21%. Why was that? Because the total amount of miles traveled increased by 50% in that same period.
California, Hawaii, and Minnesota have all found that even with a fleet of electric vehicles, they will still fail to reach their aggressive climate targets without an accompanying effort to reduce driving.
When you consider U.S. transportation policy in light of the existential crisis that climate change poses, it starts to look pretty asinine.
A better federal policy would be to invest more in climate-friendly transportation options like transit, walking, and biking, and to stop stacking the deck so that local communities have to choose between easy money for a highway or an uphill slog for transit cash. While the US guarantees states over $40 billion annually for highways, only $2.6 billion is available for new or expanded public transit, and this funding is not guaranteed. Further, while the federal government will cover 80 percent of the cost of a highway project, it will only pay for up to 50 percent of the cost of a transit project.
This Wednesday on Twitter, Transportation for America is moving #BeyondEVs –
Our goal is to raise reducing vehicle miles traveled to the same level of importance of electric vehicles and fuel efficiency. That’s why we’re hosting a Twitter chat this Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. EST to discuss transportation and climate change.
Also, if you’re looking to take action on this topic, ask presidential candidates how they’ll address the role of transportation in climate change. Heck, ask candidates at any level!