Advocate: Transit as a Critical Climate Solution

To tackle the devastating impacts of the climate crisis, TRU is pushing Michigan leaders to make bold investments to make it easier, safer, and more convenient for Michiganders to walk, bike, and take public transit. Learn more below.

Join the call – Act now to tell Michigan Leaders to Support More Transportation Options for a Sustainable Future!

Latest Updates:

  • They’re listening. TRU told the Governor’s office about our concerned and they invited us for a meeting, where they listened and expressed willingness to improve transit in the final plan! TRU will be sharing additional ideas and recommendations.

The Problem: Climate change is here. It’s real and its devastating!

In 2021, Detroit suffered our 2nd record-setting flood in just seven years – the magnitude of which is only expected every 500 years. It inundated basements, streets, and highways, destroying cars, appliances, and family treasures. This is our 5th major flood in the past decade. This type os extreme weather event is far more likely as the climate crisis grows.

Climate change is increasing the odds of these really heavy rainfalls, and therefore increasing the odds of flooding — particularly where the infrastructure isn’t designed for the kinds of rainfall we are now getting. That’s a big issue in Detroit. It was a big issue up in Midland last year, when we lost two dams.

“As long as humans contribute to climate change through carbon emissions that hold heat in the atmosphere, the frequency of intense storms and flooding will only get worse. We have to literally halt the addition of greenhouse gases to that atmosphere.”

– Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability in the Detroit Free Press July 20, 2021

We can’t afford to do nothing: Detroit’s last 500-year flood, in 2014, caused $1.8 billion in damages.

And Detroit is far from the only area impacted by the climate crisis. In 2020, the U.S. had 22 extreme weather and climate-related disasters ranging from hurricanes, floods, and wildfires that cost Americans nearly $100 billion in damages.

The Opportunity: Gov. Whitmer commits “Michigan must be a leader in this fight”

Recognizing the magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis, on September 23, 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer committed to build a carbon-neutral Michigan by 2050 and make major reductions in the next 3-5 years. Announcing Executive Directives 2019-12 and 2020-10, she stated:

“The science is clear, and message urgent: the earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, and human activities are largely responsible for this change. Climate change already degrades Michigan’s environment, hurts our economy, and threatens the health and well-being of our residents, with communities of color and low-income Michiganders suffering most…. We can avoid some of the worst harms by quickly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting nimbly to our changing environment….     

Michigan must be a leader in this fight, working across all sectors – including state government – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. Together, we must build a carbon-neutral state. Carbon-neutrality is needed not only for the environment and public health, but also for the resilience of our economy….

Michigan will aim to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality no later than 2050, and to maintain net negative greenhouse gas emissions thereafter. To ensure steady progress toward this ultimate statewide goal, and to prevent irreparable harm to our ecosystem, residents, and businesses in the interim, the state will aim to achieve a 28% reduction below 2005 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

To achieve this critical transformation, Gov. Whitmer directed the Office of Climate and Energy to develop the MI Healthy Climate Plan to “serve as the action plan for this state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition toward economy-wide carbon neutrality”. The Plan, due by December 31 with a draft due by September 1, will provide strategies and recommendations for achieving the statewide goals, with a focus on the five years. 

TRU is working to shape that Climate Plan.

Transportation is the Biggest Cause of Climate Change

Transportation is the leading source of climate pollution and is not trending downwards, so decreasing climate emissions from transportation must be a top priority.

Transportation is the leading source of climate pollution in the US, the majority of which comes from people driving personal cars and trucks each day.

The Solution: MI Healthy Climate Plan must include less driving.

Widespread renewable energy and electrification of vehicles are essential components of Michigan’s climate solution, but they are not sufficient, not as long as Michigan’s transportation system requires most people to drive everywhere and drastically limits many people’s access to jobs and opportunities. 

As our friends at Transportation for American explained in “Driving Down Emissions,” despite improvements in car fuel efficiency over the past 30 years, cars and trucks are putting out more climate pollution than ever. Why? Because the amount of miles people drive increased even more.

After extensive analysis, another state with a similar climate goal found that “even under the most aggressive scenarios for zero-emission vehicle adoption and a transition to cleaner fuels, the state simply cannot meet its climate goals relying solely on a shift in transportation technologies.”

So a big part of the climate solution must be enabling people to drive less. That means Michigan leaders must make it easier, safer, and more convenient for people to get around in ways other than personal cars and trucks.

Climate plan must make transit, walking, and biking safer, easier, and more convenient

To fully and fairly address urgent climate needs, Michigan needs to make it possible for residents to drive less – to reduce our state’s Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). That requires investing in making substantial changes to our transportation system and investing to make non-car alternatives available, accessible, and convenient. Investments in infrastructure that enable people to drive less are more equitable than pricing strategies that could hurt rural Michiganders for existing spatial mismatches. Providing attractive alternatives that enable people to drive less is one of the best ways to tackle the climate crisis, while also improving equitable access to jobs, schools, and other necessities.

Through extensive research, consultation, and analysis, TRU has developed a set of recommendations for the Council on Climate Solutions:

To achieve the state’s commitments, the MI Healthy Climate Plan must improve the safety, availability, and convenience of non-driving options for all Michiganders by shifting transportation funding priorities and policies. This will decrease the amount people have to drive.

To guide these investments, the Council on Climate Solutions must develop targets for reducing VMT that align with the Governor’s climate commitments and the MI Healthy Climate Plan. Transportation projects, plans, and investments by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and regional Municipal Planning Organizations (MPOs) must align with those VMT reduction targets.

To accomplish this, MDOT and MPOs must:

  • Prioritize investments that improve transit, walking, and biking and decrease VMT, including no longer funding projects that add vehicle capacity;
  • Increase investment in public transit and rail, including providing municipalities more options for funding transit locally
  • Make walking and biking safer and more accessible, including adjusting engineering standards to prioritize safety over car speed and ensure all state investments provide safe, convenient access for people walking, riding, or rolling; and
  • Increase non-driving options and create plans to every ten years double the number of people who commute in ways other than driving alone.

In addition, Michigan should take steps to encourage increased density and decrease state support for low-density development, since land use and transportation are inextricably bound.

Take action today to demand an improved plan:

  1. Make a comment at one of EGLE’s virtual public comment meetings
    1. Wednesday, January 26 at 10am OR
    2. Tuesday, February 8 at 6pm
  2. Take 90 seconds? Use our quick letter tool to echo our comments.
  3. And/or write your own personal letter to the Governor’s staff detailing your concerns and suggestions at

These Climate Solutions will also make Michigan communities more attractive, keep families safe, improve equity, and expand affordable access to the splendors of our State.

Campaign progress and highlights

“When will these big storms stop?” That’s what my 11-year-old wanted to know, as we dumped from the fridge food spoiled after three days without electricity. . . .

Since we cannot slow down climate change without addressing how we move, Whitmer, MDOT, and the climate council need to stop with business-as-usual and instead make bold investments in making it easier for more Michiganders to walk, bike, and ride high-quality public transit.