Why Transportation for America joined an electric vehicle coalition

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If you’ve been following Transportation for America for a while, you know that electric vehicles on their own aren’t enough to reduce emissions from the transportation sector—the largest source of U.S. emissions. That’s why we joined CHARGE, a new coalition of cross-industry stakeholders advocating for a holistic approach to electrifying the U.S. transportation network. 

A Washington, DC Metro platform. Credit: Kyle Anderson, WMATA

Transportation is the largest source of U.S. carbon emissions, and most of them come from driving. Electrifying cars would seem like a sure bet to reduce these emissions, but with the dramatic rate vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is increasing coupled with the slow pace of vehicle fleet turnover (cars are lasting longer and longer!), there’s no way we can electrify cars fast enough to prevent devastating outcomes of climate change. 

And why would we want to? A transportation system where your only “option” is to drive everywhere—even to destinations less than a mile from your home—is far from equitable. Requiring that every working adult spend $10,000 per year on average on a car to participate in the economy isn’t good for our businesses, quality of life, or ensuring that everybody—regardless of your ability—can access the things they need. 

That’s why we joined CHARGE, a new coalition of 37 transportation, industry, environmental, labor, health, equity, and civic organizations that support smart policy to electrify America’s transportation system. With CHARGE, we created three policy principles and a set of concrete policy recommendations for Congress and the Biden administration to develop smart zero-emission transportation policy for the next stimulus or infrastructure package. 

The unique thing about CHARGE is that it’s the only “electric vehicle” coalition where public transit is a priority—the number one priority, in fact. CHARGE knows that electrifying vehicles is critical, but it isn’t enough to reduce our emissions: we need to give Americans more zero-emission transportation options by expanding and electrifying public transportation. 

Here are some of our concrete recommendations to expand and electrify transit: 

  • Creating a $20 billion annual operating support program to incentivize more and more frequent and expanded service, particularly for communities of color and low-income communities; 
  • Incentivizing transit agencies to develop and support equitable multimodal transit systems, operations and infrastructure; 
  • Significantly increasing funding and financing available to support conversion to, maintenance of, operation of, and workforce training to support electric fleets and related infrastructure as rapidly as possible while simultaneously increasing service. 

POLITICO Pro reported last week that $25 billion of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan (which analyzed in-depth here) will go to electrifying public transit vehicles, an early win for our new coalition. 

Also according to POLITICO Pro, two-thirds of the $85 billion for transit in the American Jobs Plan will go to maintenance, with the rest set for expansion and improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is huge, but we definitely need ongoing, federal operating support for public transit in order to provide frequent, high-quality service necessary to reduce transportation emissions. 

We’re thrilled to team up with organizations across the transportation policy spectrum on recommendations to holistically electrify transportation—not just maintain the same car-dependent paradigm but with electric vehicles. We urge you to check out CHARGE’s principles and policy recommendations, and if you represent an organization, sign on to support these ideas! 

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