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Working to Expand Access to Rhode Island Public Transit for All Riders

Problem

High transportation expenses have added to linked socioeconomic barriers in many communities, preventing people from pursuing new opportunities. According to a survey conducted by the Community Service Society, 25% of people living in poverty stated they were frequently unable to afford transport fares. Furthermore, Latinx and Black people stated significant rates of transit hardship, with 28% having difficulty affording subway or bus fares.

Solution

Representative Leonela Felix introduced legislation for free fares for all riders on the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority buses in an effort to combat climate change, expand the economy, and encourage racial justice. Felix proposes to use revenues from the gas tax and the Transportation and Climate Initiative. “One of the most significant barriers to equitable transportation, particularly for low-income families, is the cost,” added Representative Leonela Felix. “We know that low-income families and people of color use [public] transportation at least twice as much as white families.” This program still requires approval from state lawmakers and, if approved, would take effect in 2023.

 

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Equal Access in Public Transportation

Problem

The United States Environmental Protection Agency identified the transportation sector as one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore, one of the largest contributors to climate change. 

The absence of public transportation in marginalized communities does not allow marginalized individuals to have equal access to economic opportunities, education, and healthcare resources. According to Talk Poverty, in general, individuals from marginalized groups have a lack of access to reliable transportation. Households that earn an annual income of less than $25,000 are virtually nine times as likely to not possess a personal vehicle. Furthermore, 14 percent of households of color do not owe a vehicle in comparison to 6 percent of white households. Additionally, immigrants, despite their race, are far less likely to possess a vehicle. 

Solution

Washington: Washington State Senator Marko Liias’ landmark transportation bill, Move Ahead Washington, was signed into law by Governor Inslee. This bill will direct more funding to non-highway transportation such as EV charging stations, hybrid-electric ferries, and free public transit fares for youth. Importantly, the bill contains strong equity provisions and requires at least 35% of the funding to be invested in overburdened and marginalized communities.

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Marko Liias, Senator (Lynwood, WA)

Transformational Transportation Future for Washington

Earlier this month, the Washington legislature passed NewDEAL Leader Senator Marko Liias’ $17 billion “Move Ahead Washington” transportation package. The wide-reaching legislation, which evolved out of over 90 public listening sessions, includes money for highway construction, bridge repairs, transit programs, environmental safeguards, and full electrification of the state’s ferry fleet. Children will also ride free on buses, ferries, and trains as a result of the package. The package utilizes funding from multiple sources, including the federal government and revenue from the state’s new cap-and-trade system. “We’re investing in projects from rural to urban areas across our state,” Liias said. “And all without punting the cost to working families.” Read more here.

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Raul Campillo, Councilmember (San Diego, CA)

Connecting Seniors to Affordable Transportation

Recently, San Diego City Councilmember Raul Campillo announced the launch of the FACT pilot program, or Facilitating Access to Coordinated Transportation, in coordination with local community groups. The program will subsidize rides for seniors who do not have access to cars, allowing them to get basic needs like groceries and medical prescriptions, with charges of $2.50 for rides shorter than 5 miles and $10 dollars for rides longer than 20.1 miles. Read more info about the program, which local senior centers praised as a great improvement to the quality of life for seniors in the community.

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Brooke Lierman, Delegate (Baltimore, MD), Michael Naft, County Commissioner (Clark County, NV), and Michelle Wu, Mayor (Boston, MA)

New Infrastructure Plans Rolling Out

Following the signing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, NewDEALers are poised to lead in directing investments to long-overdue projects that will impact the economic vitality of their communities. Many NewDEAL Leaders are already taking action on these priorities. Delegate Brooke Lierman’s Maryland Transit Safety & Investment Act overcame a gubernatorial veto and is set to eliminate the state’s $2 billion public transportation maintenance backlog by spending nearly half a billion dollars each year for repairs and enhancements. In Nevada, Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft celebrated the groundbreaking of a long-awaited bridge project which first received federal funding in the 1990s. “This bridge is an important transportation element and it is also critical for emergency responders,” Naft said. Elsewhere, the Boston Council approved newly-elected Mayor Michelle Wu’s $8 million plan for three of the city’s bus lines to go fare-free, an important step towards making the city’s transportation equitable and accessible. The program will utilize federal funding, and early numbers suggest that ridership will be significantly boosted by the measure.

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Clean Cars 2030

Problem

Climate change is an existential threat not only for future generations but for everyone around the world. Here in Washington state, we’re already feeling the effects of the climate crisis. The last few summers have been the hottest we’ve ever felt, wildfire season is getting longer and longer, and we’ve seen major declines in our iconic orca and salmon populations in the Salish Sea. While the state has made a lot of progress in reducing our emissions, transportation is our largest source of carbon pollution. Transitioning from expensive fossil-based fuels to lower-cost green electricity will reduce our emissions, improve our competitiveness, and save consumers money in the long term.  

 

Solution

Meeting our climate commitments and saving our planet will require bold action to reduce transportation emissions. The private sector is already deploying vehicles to help us do this. Several major automakers have announced plans to phase out gas-powered vehicles in the next 15 years. Every year, more zero-emission models at all price points are being introduced. What we need is the charging infrastructure and political will to accelerate this transition. Setting a goal that 100% of new cars sold will be clean cars by 2030 will align the incentives to build charging networks and reduce emissions faster. It also sends a powerful market signal to automakers and provides an incentive to those that are early adopters.  

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Biogas to Vehicle Fuel

Problem

Lincoln is dedicated to a climate-smart, low-carbon way of life and has set an ambitious goal to reduce our net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050. The anaerobic digestion of solids that go to wastewater treatment facilities produces methane, a powerful GHG. Historically, Lincoln burned off the gas by flaring it. By 1991 however, Lincoln installed generators that could harness the biogas from the anaerobic process to produce electricity for the treatment plant. When these generators reached the end of their useful life, Lincoln went in search of solutions that could further optimize our wastewater system by harvesting renewable methane, converting it to usable fuel, and significantly reducing GHG emissions.  

Solution

Lincoln developed a new process that treats, cleans, and transforms the biogas generated by our wastewater system into quality, renewable vehicle fuel. This solution also protects air quality by stripping the biogas of dangerous pollutants, including sulfur and carbon dioxide. The City partnered with HDR Engineering, Building Crafts Incorporated, and Black Hills Energy, which built the infrastructure needed to connect the renewable natural gas to the national natural gas pipeline system. To get renewable natural gas on the marketplace, the City is also partnering with Bluesource, a national energy management company.  

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The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, Clean and Quiet, All Through the State

Problem

 As in most states, Virginia’s public school buses are run on diesel fuels that produce carcinogens like Benzene and particulate matter (PM 2.5) which increase the risk of asthma and heart disease. Studies have found these toxins are present up to six times higher inside a diesel school bus, thereby exposing our youngest citizens to serious health issues. Among children ages 5-17, asthma is one of the top causes of their missed school days. Additionally, the transportation sector is responsible for 48% of Virginia’s carbon emissions and Virginia has the second-largest school bus fleet in the country. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that buses that operate on electric batteries have 67% lower life-cycle emissions than diesel, even when purchasing electricity from a utility.

Solution

My solution is to encourage local schools to convert to electric school buses using state incentives. To reduce both the health and climate aspects from the continued reliance on diesel school buses, I recently passed a bill to create the “Virginia Electric Vehicle Grant Program and Fund.” The new fund would support awarding competitive grants to local public schools to replace diesel school buses with electric versions, and to pay for the charging infrastructure, and for using labor-union trained workers to support maintenance. Based on the criteria of the Fund and Program, additional funds may support similar projects proposed by public, private, or nonprofit entities in Virginia to assist with replacing any commercial motor vehicle, heavy equipment, or other machinery that are used in Virginia that rely on diesel fuels with electric vehicles or equivalent equipment that reduce air emissions.

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Project Taillight: Keeping Columbus Safe One Vehicle at a Time

Problem

 Too often, low-income individuals don’t have the disposable cash to have their vehicle’s safety lights repaired when headlights, taillights, license plate lights, or brake lights are broken or burned out. The result is unsafe vehicles on the road and opportunities for folks to be pulled over and ticketed for safety violations. Those tickets cost money (on top of repair costs) and could result in unpaid fines leading to suspended licenses or worse. In the City of Columbus, we have seen a disproportionate number of vehicle safety violations issued to residents in our most economically challenged neighborhoods and wanted to take a proactive approach to address the issue.

 

Solution

Offer free vehicle safety light repairs to low-income households. Through Project Taillight, individuals living in households with annual income less than 200% of the federal poverty line and needing safety light repairs can contact the City Attorney’s Office to schedule repair appointments with Columbus State Community College’s Automotive Technology Program. Project Taillight participants receive free light repairs, vehicle safety checks, and fluid top-offs (oil, coolant, etc.).  We tested the model with 79 people and had overwhelming responses from participants, residents, and community leaders– all recognizing how a small setback, like an unpaid ticket, could upend families struggling to make ends meet and that a small investment in parts and labor could help overcome this challenge. We piloted the program through our local community college and plan to expand/scale the service through commercial auto repair shops and have an agreement from local law enforcement to give Project Taillight information to drivers in lieu of citations.

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Marko Liias, Senator (Lynwood, WA)

Phasing Gasoline Vehicles Out of Washington

The Washington State legislature passed the groundbreaking Clean Cars 2030 bill, championed in the Senate by NewDEAL Leader Washington Senator Marko Liias. The bill requires all passenger vehicles model year 2030 or later to be electric vehicles, the most aggressive state goal in the country, and is the first gasoline phaseout legislation to be passed. Senator Liias noted that the legislation clarifies the transition to electric by creating a timeline and providing tools and guidelines for businesses and consumers alike to have a roadmap for the way forward. Read more about this pioneering bill.