DEP Announces New Initiative to Combat Transportation Emissions
June 18th, 2010 by Jay Corbalis
Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced yesterday that New Jersey is joining 10 other states and the District of Columbia to form the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), “a regional group that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through transportation improvements and efficiencies.”
Curtailing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation will be essential if New Jersey hopes to meet its goals of reducing GHG emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. The transportation sector (of which private automobiles make up the vast majority) is New Jersey’s largest and fastest-growing source of emissions. Addressing it will require more than just improved fuel efficiency; it will require reducing the amount we drive. Studies show that without a reduction in driving, projected gains in fuel efficiency will be canceled out by ever-growing vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which have been increasing on a per-capita basis consistently for 50 years. This growth in driving is largely the result of auto-centric development patterns that have dominated New Jersey and the rest of the country since World War II; reversing this trend will require rethinking the way we develop our communities to give people the option to get around without a car.
It makes sense, then, that other goals of the collaborative include:
- Establishing state and local land-use strategies that increase commercial and residential housing density and encourage transit-friendly design;
- Improving the performance of existing highway, transit and other transportation modes while enhancing neighborhoods and urban centers; and
- Promoting mixed-use development that supports viable alternatives to driving.
New Jersey already has a comprehensive plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (though, surprisingly, the DEP press release makes no mention of it). Released in 2009, the Global Warming Response Act Recommendations Report lays out a detailed strategy for meeting both the state’s 2020 and 2050 GHG reduction goals. The report is especially strong on the connection between transportation and land use, calling for implementation of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, promotion of transit-oriented development and doubling transit ridership by 2050.
Since its release, the report has languished, and no formal action has been taken to implement its recommendations. Regrettably, the nearly $65 million raised from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which had been allocated for various GHG reduction efforts, including grants to municipalities to help them plan for more compact, energy efficient growth, was diverted to help balance the FY 2011 budget. Meanwhile, the State Plan, which embraces the very land-use goals enumerated by the multi-state collaborative, has been largely ignored by state agencies for the past several years.
Yesterday’s announcement shows New Jersey recognizes the importance of reducing emissions from transportation, and the role that land use plays in getting there. It will take much more than a press release, however, to solve the problem. Fortunately, New Jersey already has a detailed, realistic strategy to reduce emissions, and a visionary document to guide land-use decisions. Now all we have to do is follow them.