This week, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres stated starkly “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.” The agency’s Emissions Gap Report 2022: The Closing Window is an alarming read, finding that the adopted policies of all the world’s nations would lead to global warming of 2.8°C over this century – an apocalyptic outcome.
“It was a historic vote today,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “As they said in the movie, failure is not an option. We have just eight years to slash our emissions to avoid truly runaway climate change.”
We won a historic vote at the regional Transportation Planning Board (TPB), which set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our regional transportation network by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 – just 8 years from now.
Our primary comments are contained in the joint letter with over 30 other organizations from
across TPB’s region.
Yet the TPB board members made no substantive changes, and the
Despite a new climate action plan by TPB’s parent agency the Council of Governments, this Visualize 2045 makes no real changes and fails to reduce emissions any more than the last one.
May 19, 2021
Dear Chair Allen and TPB Board members:
You have the opportunity to create a better Visualize 2045, not next time, but now. The region’s residents and future generations are counting on you, and climate science says that we can’t delay anymore. At last week’s COG Board meeting, TPB Director Kanti Srikanth said in regard to climate change and Visualize 2045 that “Every option needs to be pursued as expeditiously as possible to attain our 2030 goal.” We agree.
193 of the 199 public comments submitted to TPB ask for sustainable and equitable transportation investments that prioritize non-auto modes, including land use and demand management strategies. This is consistent with the COG Voices of the Region survey.
Please note these two key findings in today’s presentation on TPB’s Climate Change Study Phase 1 Report:
– “At the regional and local levels, the studies show that land use policies that bring housing and jobs closer together and closer to transit reduce both GHG emissions and vehicle travel. Travel demand policies such as teleworking are also effective at reducing GHG emissions and vehicle travel and are also cost-effective.” and that “In contrast to most of the vehicle-related strategies, many of these policy actions can be implemented in a shorter timeframe contributing to critical near-term GHG reductions.”
– The memo notes the promise of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), and we agree. However, the TCI Program will only reduce on-road emissions by 7% by 2032. TCI clearly states that substantial reductions depend on jurisdictions, including MPO’s like TPB, adopting “complementary policies.”
Given Director Srikanth’s statement that every option needs to be expeditiously pursued, we are stunned by the staff response to the public comments — that the proposed project list with $40 billion in highway and road expansion projects is generally consistent with and advances TPB’s climate and equity goals, and that it is not as relevant to regional climate efforts.
That is simply not possible. Road expansion fuels more driving and spread out development and diverts billions of dollars from investing in transit and TOD to reduce emissions and address the region’s racial and economic inequity.
TPB’s own studies show we can avoid much proposed highway expansion if the region adopts effective travel and greenhouse gas reduction strategies, which are travel demand and land use policies that focus jobs and housing in walkable areas near transit, and expanding transit investments.
Stewart Schwartz Bill Pugh
Executive Director Senior Policy Fellow
April 21, 2021
Hon. Charles Allen
Chair, National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
Re: Call for a climate-friendly Visualize 2045 update
Chair Allen and Board members:
Tomorrow is the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, and 2030 is just 9 years away. By which time we must slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. Transportation is our largest emitter and electric vehicles will not be enough. We must reduce VMT by 15 to 25%, and increase non-auto mode share by 15 to 20%.
You voted 22 to 0 with 8 abstentions (VDOT changed from No to Abstain) to require that members “prioritize investments on projects, programs, and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prioritize the aspirational strategies, and achieve COG’s land use and equity goals.”
But in response, your DOT staffs are arguing their road projects reduce VMT and emissions, and without showing how. Building new highways and widening highways and arterials does not reduce VMT or GHG emissions. Nor do HOT lanes. This is because induced demand is a proven fact. New capacity fills up in just a few years with more vehicle trips and VMT, and sparks more auto-dependent sprawl. Not to mention the impact of highways in loss of thousands of acres of forests, more impervious surface and stormwater, and the negative health and equity issues.
You are the leaders who can and must break us out of business-as-usual and craft a plan that focuses on TOD and proximity, correcting the E-W jobs divide, transit-first, and local connected street grids with safe bike/ped networks.
The DC region can and must be a leader in smart growth and sustainable transportation — starting with a new climate-friendly CLRP.
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director
Bill Pugh, Senior Policy Fellow