by Roger Diedrich
The issue of transportation reform continues to receive attention in Washington and around the country. The Sierra Club has identified Green Transportation as one of six major campaigns for the next 10 years. The campaign’s elements, often characterized as three legs of a stool, are:
• Clean, efficient vehicles
• Clean fuels
• Choice in travel mode
All three are needed to achieve the targeted CO2 reduction goals — transportation is responsible for a third of U.S. emissions.
The first element will largely be addressed by working for stronger Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFÉ standards, on which positive measures have already been taken. This element could involve a transition to electric vehicles, which are also evolving.
The second element involves the biofuels debate concerning the source and conversion technologies for liquid fuels. This is being addressed by our energy and agriculture activist teams.
The goal of the third “leg of the stool” is to reduce vehicle miles traveled, which is probably the most significant, the longest termed and most complex part of the campaign. The main event for this work is reauthorization of the federal transportation bill, the successor to the original ISTEA bill passed in the early 1990s, which is set to expire in September.
Last year, a broad coalition, Transportation for America (T4A), was formed to promote a strong bill in Congress. Information on T4A can be seen on http://t4america.org. Sierra Club staff has held back on joining the group, so to provide encouragement, the Virginia Chapter passed a resolution at its last meeting,
urging that the club affiliate with T4A.
Whether we align with T4A or with other allies, the campaign will involve promoting all the tools that smart growth advocates have long supported, from fix it first, better community design, to more transit and bicycle/pedestrian funding and, as you may have heard, high speed rail.
Local activists should pay attention to land use reforms that will support good transit — that is something that can’t be done at the federal level. Should we get our preferred shift toward more transit and nonmotorized project spending, we will want to help direct it to the best projects.
The federal effort may be our opportunity, because making progress in Virginia venues has been very difficult.
Roger Diedrich is Virginia Chapter Smart Growth and Transportation chair.