Hillary’s GG Plan: Alternative Transportation Barely Spoken Here

It was with some enthusiasm that I started reading Powering America’s Future: Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Address the Energy and Climate Crisis, most of my immediate family are supporting Hillary, but my enthusiasm waned as I read it further. Clinton’s plans to reduce greenhouse gasses barely mention transit.

Searches for the terms "AMTRAK," "cycling," "bicycle," "biking," "walking," "pedestrian," "alternative transportation,"and "automobile dependency" produced no matches. Its a fun game to play! Take the transportation reform term and try to find it in Hillary’s plan.

Instead, Clinton relies on promoting greener vehicles, power plants, and houses (all good ideas) to carry the bulk of the emission-reduction load.

Some states seem have managed to grasp the idea that the best way to reduce auto emissions is to reduce the number of autos. Government planners in Rhode Island, New Jersey, and major U.S. cities have joined the rest of the civilized world by realizing that we need to reduce the number of cars to have any hope of cleaning up the air. Sadly, that isn’t enough cover for the leading progressive candidate for the U.S. presidency to mention reducing auto-dependency in her Greenhouse Gas strategy.

However, there was some good language in the one paragraph on transit.

Improving Public Transportation — Increased public transit usage is one of the best strategies for addressing the energy and environmental costs of transportation. For every passenger mile traveled, public transportation produces only a fraction of the harmful pollution of private vehicles: only 5 percent as much carbon monoxide, less than 8 percent as many volatile organic compounds, and nearly half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. As President, Hillary will increase federal funding for public transit, including buses, light rail and subways, by $1.5 billion per year. She will also link federal public transit funds to local land use policies that encourage residential developments that maximize public transit usage and discourage sprawl. She will also invest an additional $1 billion in intercity passenger rail systems. Intercity passenger rail is an environmentally efficient alternative to highway driving and short flights; it relieves congestion on roads and airports; reduces the emission of automotive pollutants; and it stimulates economic growth by linking metropolitan areas.

I suppose we should be grateful that she at least mentions that transit reduces pollutants and congestion; but major transit funding still seems to be off her radar. To put the $2.5 billion in perspective, its enough money to build Phase I of the Expo Line four times over. Remember, $2.5 billion is the proposed increase for the entire country.

One poster at grist notes that the opposition party in British Columbia is talking about $1 billion a year investment in transit and its population is only 4 million people.

So I don’t appear to be Tim Russert here, I should point out that she’s talking about increasing federal spending on rail by $2.5 billion, not capping spending there. However, this level of spending still isn’t going to be nearly what the country needs to meaningfully reduce emissions. If the majority of Americans are still driving a long distance to work every day by 2050, there is NO WAY we’ll be meeting any of the goals that Hillary outlines, specifically reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Between now and the debate next Saturday I’ll be looking at all the major democrats Greenhouse Gas plans and see what, if any, role transportation alternatives play in their climate change strategies.

Editor’s Note: I haven’t decided what candidate I’m supporting this February in the Democratic Primary. No post on any candidate should be read as an endorsement or dis-endorsement.

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