RELEASE: CODE RED/PURPLE – Time to slash region’s transportation emissions


For Immediate Release:  June 8, 2023

Stewart Schwartz, CSG, (703) 599-6437
Bill Pugh, CSG, (202) 821-3226
Carrie Kisicki, CSG, (224) 522-2040

CODE RED for our Climate

The Coalition for Smarter Growth calls for urgent action on slashing transportation emissions in the DC region

Amid dangerous air pollution from climate-fueled forest fires, the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) calls on Virginia, Maryland, DC elected officials to act now to slash our region’s greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollutants from transportation. 

“The CODE RED and now CODE PURPLE air quality alerts for our region must be a wake up call for our region’s elected officials,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of CSG. “Increased forest fires fueled by climate change are putting human health at risk on top of increases in severe floods, sea level rise affecting our region, more frequent drought affecting food production, and increases in insect-borne diseases.”

“This climate emergency has been driven by decades of road expansion, car-centric policy, and sprawl. Transportation is our region’s #1 source of greenhouse gas emissions and also contributes to significant ground level ozone pollution and harmful fine particulate pollution like that we see from the forest fires. This problem extends far beyond wildfires and this week’s air quality alerts — area residents are forced to deal with particulate and ozone pollution from cars and trucks every day,” added Schwartz.

“We have just seven years to slash our world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. While CSG’s campaigns have resulted in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Transportation Planning Board (TPB) agreeing for the first time to set a strong, numeric target for reducing car and truck climate climate pollution by 2030, the region’s plans still call for over 1,000 new lane miles of highway and arterial road expansion which will fuel more sprawl, driving, and emissions,” said Bill Pugh, Senior Policy Fellow at CSG. “Even with electric vehicles, these highway widening projects make it impossible for our region to fulfill its climate commitments – and they also don’t reduce congestion, instead generating more driving over time.”

“All of our region’s elected officials will be meeting at COG’s annual retreat in July, and we urge them to commit to the specific steps necessary to slash our greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, particularly from transportation,” said Schwartz. 

We call on our region’s elected leaders to take all specific steps necessary to:

  1. Shift billions of dollars in regional and state road expansion funds to transit, intercity rail, walking, and biking.
  2. Stop outward sprawling development that is almost entirely dependent on driving and that also eats up green space needed to absorb increasingly intense stormwater and provide cooling tree cover.
  3. Prioritize and incentivize walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income transit-oriented communities at our Metrorail, light rail, bus rapid transit, high-frequency bus lines, and commuter rail stations.
  4. Prioritize the revitalization of Downtown DC and finally address the East-West economic and racial divide by prioritizing transit-oriented development in Prince George’s, eastside Montgomery, and eastside DC.
  5. Convert lanes on our overly wide arterial roads to dedicated bus lanes, and create walkable, mixed-use communities along these corridors.
  6. Prioritize conversion of our dangerous roads into streets that are safe for walking, biking and transit.
  7. Shift tax dollars from road capacity expansion to affordable housing located with excellent access to transit in walkable communities.
  8. Accelerate implementation of electric vehicle charging stations with a priority at multifamily buildings, provide incentives for electric-assist bikes, and expand electric bikeshare and carshare.
  9. Shift buses and public feets to zero-emission vehicles and shift our power grid to renewables.
  10. Continue progress on green, energy-efficient buildings, especially retrofits that benefit low/moderate-income residents and small businesses, and address the negative energy use, land use, and environmental impacts of data centers.

“As a member of Gen Z, I have watched the devastating effects of climate change accelerate around me as I have grown up and began my career. My generation and those following will be among those enduring the brunt of the harm from climate change, and know that there is no time to wait—we need action now. The dangerous pollution from these forest fires must be a wake up call for our leaders,” said Carrie Kisicki, Montgomery Advocacy Manager for CSG. 

“The urgency of a comprehensive approach to climate change is why I am working at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and why I add my personal plea to our elected leaders to act now. We cannot afford the same business-as-usual road expansion and sprawl that have led us into this crisis. Our leaders must commit to implementing more sustainable and inclusive land use, housing, and transportation policies today,” concluded Kisicki.

PC: Diane Krauthamer