Planning for economic and environmental resilience
Climate protection will require major reductions in GHG emissions from all sectors of the economy, including the transportation sector. Slowing growth in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will be necessary for reducing transportation GHG emissions, even with major breakthroughs in vehicle technologies and low-carbon fuels (Winkelman et al., 2009). The Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) supports market-based policy approaches that minimize costs and maximize benefits. Our research indicates that significant GHG reductions can be achieved through smart growth and travel efficiency measures that increase accessibility, improve travel choices and make optimum use of existing infrastructure. Moreover, we find such measures can deliver compelling economic benefits, including avoided infrastructure costs, leveraged private investment, increased local tax revenues and consumer vehicle ownership and operating cost savings (Winkelman et al., 2009). As a society, what we build - where and how - has a tremendous impact on our carbon footprint, from building design to transportation infrastructure and land-use patterns. The empirical and modeling evidence is clear - people drive less in locations with efficient land use patterns, high quality travel choices and reinforcing policies and incentives (Ewing et al., 2008). It is also clear that there is growing and unmet market demand for walkable communities, reinforced by demographic shifts and higher fuel prices ([Leinberger, 2006] and [Nelson, 2007]). Transportation policy in the United States must rise to meet this demand for more travel choices and more livable communities. The academic, ideological and political debates about the level of GHG reductions and penetration rates that can or should be achieved via smart growth and pricing on the one hand, or measures such as 'eco-driving' and signal optimization on the other, have served their purpose: we know which policies are 'directionally correct' - policies that reduce GHG emissions even though we may not know the scope of those reductions. Now is the time to implement directionally correct policies, assess what works best where, and refine policy based on the results. It is a framework that CCAP calls "Do. Measure. Learn." The Federal government is poised to spend $500 billion on transportation (Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 2009). CCAP encourages Congress to "Ask the Climate Question" - will our transportation investments help reduce GHG emissions or exacerbate the problem? Will they help increase our resilience to climate change impacts or increase our vulnerability? And, while we're at it, will our investment foster energy security, livable communities and a vibrant economy? Federal transportation and climate policies should empower communities to implement locally-determined travel efficiency solutions by providing appropriate funding, tools and technical support.
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Volume (Year): 44 (2010)
Issue (Month): 8 (October)
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