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U.S. Infrastructure Bills: Do They Meet The Moment?



Originally published on NRDC Expert Blog.
By Deron Lovaas

After years of big talk about investing in infrastructure, it looks like we’re on the verge of legislation to address a host of dangerous consequences of longtime neglect. As the American Society for Civil Engineers describes, we need it: 4 in 10 of our bridges would qualify for AARP membership, nearly 2 million miles of roadways are in poor or mediocre condition, and our transit systems have been woefully neglected.

But we can’t just repair what’s there and move on. We need to retool the system to play a part in solving two other crises rightly targeted by President Biden: climate change and persistent community inequity. The transportation sector is now the largest source of carbon pollution that drives climate change. And it is a pivotal factor in equity issues, with a history of dividing neighborhoods through racist siting of bridges and highways. Conversely, transportation can play a key role in delivering access to jobs and essential services, lifting up the prospects of Black and Latino households nationwide.

That’s why, as negotiations on infrastructure bills continue, Congress must be crystal clear about shared priorities for the transportation portion of any new policy and support legislation that meets the moment. Any legislation on infrastructure needs to address the backlog of repairs, the challenge of climate change, and the inequities in our transportation system.

Fortunately, the House of Representatives passed a strategic bill that tackles our scandalous repair backlog, racial and economic inequities, and the climate crisis: the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST in America Act, or INVEST Act).

NRDC just sent a letter in support of the INVEST Act to congressional leaders from more than 100 local and national groups, calling for it to be the base text for any transportation bill. The letter also says that if the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 (STRA) serves as the basis of a legislative package instead, the following specific provisions from the INVEST Act must be added to comprise a real roadmap for a more equitable infrastructure framework.

A Comprehensive Performance Measurement Framework

The performance measures required by current laws have failed to yield a cleaner, more equitable transportation system. We need to prioritize measures that align with those goals. With transportation being the top source of pollution driving climate change, transportation planners should track the greenhouse gas emissions impacts from proposed projects.

To ensure that transportation is providing equitable access to opportunity, regardless of zip code, income level, or disability, agencies should be measuring how well their systems connect people to jobs and essential services. States and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) should be setting targets for improvement and prioritizing projects consistent with those targets. The INVEST Act establishes such a framework and provides new funding and incentives to help states and MPOs track and improve their performance on these critical goals.

Highway-level Commitment to Transit, Including Funding for Operations

For the past 40 years, transit has received only $1 for every $4 that has gone to highways. This imbalance has led to inadequate transit service, skewing consumers’ transportation decisions toward solo driving. Transit funding must be significantly increased to reach the highway level. The INVEST Act makes a down payment toward parity between highways and transit and includes two new programs — the Transit Deserts and Carbon Reduction Programs — that can be used to support better transit service, a goal that is also advanced by Representative Hank Johnson’s Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act (H.R. 3744).

Focus of Federal Highway Funds on Maintenance

The nation faces a road repair backlog of $435 billion, yet federal highway funds are not dedicated to this purpose. Instead, states can use federal dollars to build or expand highways, even as existing roadways fall into disrepair. Before states can add road capacity and thereby encourage more driving, they should be required to create a plan for maintaining any new road as well as the rest of their system (as the INVEST Act would require for projects using funds from the National Highway Performance Program).

Image courtesy of EVgo

Zero-Emission Vehicle Facilities and Infrastructure

Federal policy should support deployment of charging and fueling infrastructure for all zero-emission vehicles (including scooters, bikes, cars, buses, and trucks) that ensures access to public charging in all locations as well as charging at all types of homes and businesses, with particular attention to communities facing transportation-related pollution burdens, low-income communities, and communities of color.

Air pollution in Portland and most cities is concentrated in lower income communities and communities of color. Map courtesy of Metro, via Joseph Wachunas,

Transit agencies and local governments will also need support to transition to zero-emission fleets, including funding for facilities and workforce training. Building out the EV charging network necessary to support the transformation of the U.S. vehicle fleet is estimated to take $40 billion. STRA authorizes only $2.5 billion for fueling and charging infrastructure and includes natural gas fueling, which is not zero-emission, while the INVEST Act includes more than $36 billion for EV charging infrastructure and dedicates a portion of that funding for infrastructure in underserved communities.

Reconnecting Communities Program

It is past time to fix the historic damage wrought by urban highway construction that has divided Black and Latino communities. Dedicated funding is essential to right those past wrongs and tie communities back together, while ensuring that current residents benefit from the improvements and are not displaced. STRA includes a small program ($500 million over five years) for this purpose, but additional funding is needed, as recognized by the $20 billion included for this purpose in the American Jobs Plan.

Safe Streets for All

Our roads and highways are becoming increasingly dangerous for those outside of a vehicle, especially Black and Indigenous People. Congress should provide significant investment in safer infrastructure for those who bike, walk, or roll and require updated roadway design standards that provide safe accommodation for all. While STRA includes new funding for biking and walking infrastructure and requires transportation plans to include active transportation, we also need provisions from the INVEST Act, which prevent states from diverting bicycle and pedestrian funding for other purposes and from setting safety targets under which traffic deaths would increase.

CleanTechnica editor’s note: In European cities, there is much more infrastructure support for bicyclists and pedestrians, protecting them from deadly traffic. The US is far far behind in such safety measures. This bicycle path in Paris not only protects one from traffic, but is lined with greenery, helping to protect the lungs from toxic emissions, & exhaust. Photo by CleanTechnica.

A Stronger Role for Local Governments

Cities are hotbeds of innovation in transportation, yet they are not directly eligible for more than 99 percent of federal transportation funding, which is mostly channeled through state departments of transportation and, to a lesser extent, MPOs. The INVEST Act provides local governments with greater authority over the design and selection of projects within their borders as well as additional opportunities to directly receive federal funds.

In addition to all these critical components, a bill should exclude provisions that make it harder to stay on the path toward a system of good repair, a stable climate, and real equity. Specifically, as we say in our letter:

Transportation legislation must also maintain environmental safeguards by preserving and enforcing our nation’s bedrock environmental protections rather than sacrificing them in the name of infrastructure “streamlining.” The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) remains a critical federal screening mechanism to ensure that climate, environmental, and community impacts are considered, and it raises the voices of overburdened communities in project decisions prior to their being finalized. NEPA, which was signed into law by President Nixon and remained largely unchanged during the tumultuous recent era of environmental rollbacks, must remain intact. This is not the time to undo 50 years of progress and cut communities out of decision-making.

These commonsense provisions will help ensure we do more than spend a lot of money — they will help us reach our destination: a system entirely in good repair, a climate crisis averted, and a more equitable economy and society. Let’s get to work.

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Do Electric Vehicles Pollute As Much As Gas-Powered Ones?



No. The answer to the question posed in the title, “Do Electric Vehicles Pollute as Much as Gas-Powered Ones?” is unequivocally no. As electric vehicles have gained consumer interest and market share over the past decade, some studies have emerged to supposedly refute claims that EVs are better for the environment. The counter-argument went that something like, “EVs pollute because the energy needed to manufacture the ever-important battery — in additional to the emissions from electricity generation — makes EVs pollute worse than a gas-powered car.”


A new study from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) proves that all the negative hype is nothing more than hooey.

“Results show that even for cars registered today, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have by far the lowest life-cycle GHG emissions.”

The findings have significant implications for policymakers seeking to substantially decarbonize road transport by 2050, in line with Paris Agreement objectives.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from global road transport in 2050 need to be dramatically lower than today’s levels. That’s clear. Light-duty vehicles, the vast majority of which are passenger cars, are responsible for the largest share of transport-related GHG emissions, currently about 5 Gt CO2 eq.

And what’s also evident is that only full battery EVs and hydrogen fuel-cell EVs have the potential to be very low-GHG pathways. It turns out that the emissions from manufacturing batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines are very small when compared to the GHG savings from the greater efficiency and cleaner energy supply of EVs compared to conventional vehicles.

Electric vehicles pollute far less than their legacy counterparts. Additionally, battery EVs can be expected to operate with progressively fewer upstream emissions over their lifetimes as electricity grids become green and the relative benefit of driving EVs compared to gasoline, diesel, and natural gas cars grows over time.

Studying How Much Electric Vehicles Pollute

The ICCT study, “A Global Comparison of the Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Combustion Engine and Electric Passenger Cars,” took into account the most relevant powertrain types —

  • internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), including hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs);
  • plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs);
  • battery electric vehicles (BEVs); and,
  • fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

It also reviewed a variety of fuel types and power sources, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, biofuels, e-fuels, hydrogen, and electricity.

As the average useful lifetime of a passenger car is between 15 and 18 years (for trucks and buses, it is often even longer), decarbonization policies will be most impactful if they reflect passenger cars transitioning to all EVs for new sales by the early 2030s. It is necessary in order to achieve deep decarbonization of the transport sector by 2050.

Importantly, the study also finds that natural gas does not offer climate benefits compared to gasoline and diesel, and many biofuel pathways do not, either. There is not likely to be sufficient supply of very low-GHG biofuels, biogas, and e-fuels to decarbonize internal combustion engine vehicles, and drivers of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles rely too much on the gasoline engine for this pathway to be a long-term climate solution.

The carbon intensity of the electricity consumed by charging BEVs and PHEVs is based on the average lifecycle GHG emissions of the different electric energy sources, their projected mix during the lifetime of the vehicles, and transmission and distribution losses in the electric grid. Note, also, that for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy, the lifecycle GHG emissions are considered. In other words, the emissions corresponding to their construction and maintenance.

Distinct Measures of EVs’ Vast Superiority

The study analyzed 4 distinct dimensions to come up with its conclusions that electric vehicles pollute much less than gas-powered vehicles.

  • It considered the lifetime average carbon intensity of the fuel and electricity mixes, including biofuels and biogas. Based on stated policies, it accounts for changes in the carbon intensity during the useful lifetime of the vehicles.
  • It reviewed the fuel and electricity consumption in average real-world usage instead of solely relying on official test values. This is especially important for assessing the GHG emissions of PHEVs.
  • It used recent data on industrial-scale battery production and considers regional battery supply chains. This results in significantly lower battery production emissions than in earlier studies.
  • It incorporated the near-term global warming potential of methane leakage emissions of natural gas and natural gas-derived hydrogen pathways. Different from other GHGs, methane contributes several times more to global warming in the first 20 years after emission than is reflected by the 100-year global warming potential.

Here are the results.

Only battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles have the potential to achieve the magnitude of lifecycle GHG emissions reductions needed to meet Paris Agreement goals. The assessment finds that the lifecycle emissions over the lifetime of BEVs registered today in Europe, the United States, China, and India are already lower than a comparable gasoline car by 66%–69% in Europe, 60%–68% in the United States, 37%–45% in China, and 19%–34%
in India.

For medium-size cars projected to be registered in 2030, as the electricity mix continues to decarbonize, the lifecycle emissions gap between BEVs and gasoline vehicles increases to 74%–77% in Europe, 62%–76% in the United States, 48%–64% in China, and 30%–56% in India.

There is no realistic pathway for deep decarbonization of combustion engine vehicles. Hybrid EVs improve the efficiency of internal combustion engine vehicles by recovering braking energy and storing it in a battery that can then be used to support propulsion with an electric motor. In this study, HEVs were found to reduce lifecycle GHG emissions by only about 20% compared to conventional gasoline cars.

This study also analyzed the development of the average blend of biofuels and biogas in fossil diesel, gasoline, and natural gas based on current policies and projected supply. Across the four regions and all fuel types, the impact of future changes in the biofuel blends driven by current policies range from a negligible influence to a reduction of the lifecycle GHG emissions of gasoline, diesel, or natural gas vehicles by a maximum of 9%, even over the lifetime of cars registered in 2030.

Due to a number of factors, including competing demand from other sectors and high cost of production, it is not feasible to supply enough low-carbon biofuels such as residues and waste-based biodiesel, ethanol, or biomethane to substantially displace fossil fuels in combustion engine cars.

Final Thoughts

To reduce the GHG emissions of light-duty vehicles, many governments now follow two complementary approaches:

  1. They aim to reduce the fuel consumption of new vehicles by setting fleet average CO2 emission or fuel efficiency standards, and by providing incentives for vehicles with electric powertrains; and,
  2. They support the decarbonization of the electricity grid and incentivize the production of renewable and low-carbon fuels.

Given the continuous efforts to decarbonize electricity grids, BEVs are assumed to consume a less carbon-intensive electricity mix with each passing year of their lifetime. It’s time to support communities that are making the switch to electric transportation modes in our personal, regional, and professional capacities.

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Line 3 Oil Spilled Into The Willow River — Indigenous Water Protectors Need Our Help



In June I wrote about how the American government was violating its treaty with Native American tribes by allowing Enbridge to install Pipeline3 (Line 3) on their lands — without their consent. This is a clear violation of the Indigenous treaty rights, but politicians and corporations don’t really care — and they are continuing to colonize their lands. Yes, colonize. By the way, there’s already been a spill from Line 3.

This article has two parts. One is the news of the Line 3 spill, which isn’t widely reported on. I found out about it while researching info for the other part of this article — which is on how Indigenous water protectors needed our help.

Line 3 Oil Spill

The MinnPost reported that Enbridge’s spill of drilling fluid into the Willow River during Line 3 construction prove that the company shouldn’t be allowed to police itself. The article noted that hours after the spill had been reported, cleanup finally began. They waited hours and let the oil flow into the waterway before starting the cleanup. Yet, I haven’t seen any other media outlet reporting about the Line 3 oil spill into the Willow River.

The truth is that these corporations don’t care about our planet, nor does our nation care about the treaties it set up with the Indigenous People. Nor do they care about our drinking water. We will all end up choking on their greed.

Indigenous Americans Need Our Help

Indigenous TikTokers such as Modern Warrior, Quiiroi (pronounced Corey), and several others have posted videos about it and I stand with them. Modern Warrior often speaks out against the hate, discrimination, and bullying of Indigenous People that, sadly, continues to this day. He’s a popular influencer who is helping spread awareness about the protest against Line 3.

Quiiroi, Helix, & Lee

Modern Warrior explained that Quiiroi and her friends, Helix and Lee, went to Minnesota to support the area’s Indigenous tribe in protesting Line 3. However, they will have to leave — all of them — because the area will not be safe for them or for the tribes living there. Note: they will not be able to use the area of their own lands where the pipeline is being laid down. And when it spills again, their food and water supplies will be ruined. How is this not colonization?

“They are there now and are running into some issues,” Modern Warrior said in the video. “They need your support.”

Quiiroi, Helix, and Lee are at the Red Lake River, and Quiiroi explained that this will be their last few hours at the camp. “We’re having to move because of safety reasons.” In their video, they were asking for donations and Helix explained that they would buy solar panels and U-Haul trucks. Quiiroi explained that they need items such as solar panels, U-hauls, and even socks and underwear. Although she didn’t mention it, I’m sure they need food and other essentials as well.

Lee explained that the area they were in was not going to be safe and that they would have to leave. Please note, she did actually say name of the area it, but she spoke so fast that I couldn’t catch the name, so am referring to it as the area.

“The police are getting far too comfortable and we have to move closer to the reservation for safety. We believe the pipe may be laid anywhere between 48 to 72 hours. It’s a very very small window and we have a donation goal of $2,000,” Quiiroi said.

Now, before you think that, “well they shouldn’t be out there anyway — they should be at home or work,”‘ let me remind you that this land belongs to the Indigenous Peoples and that it is the USA and Enbridge who are violating their treaties. Imagine if the police came to your house and told you that you have to leave because this is their property now. Supposedly, we have Constitutional rights that protect us against that, but we can’t even honor our treaties with the Indigenous People who we stole land from (many were killed by colonization).

If you would like to donate to help Quiiroi and her friends, you can do so here. Quiiroi and her friends aren’t the only ones protesting Line 3 on TikTok. Modern Warrior shared a video by @Giiwedinindizhinikaaz or North Wind, whose primary focus is to stop Line 3.

North Wind

In one video, he woke up to Enbridge workers and their noise. “What I am looking at is a complete disregard for treaty rights. A foreign multinational oil company prepping to drill under one of the sacred rivers of the Anishinaabeg. The tar sands oil that’ll be shooting through this pipeline is being sent over to China for the foreign economy. So the U.S. is just assuming all of the risks. Minnesota and its people are assuming all of the risks.”

Native Americans’ lands are still being colonized to this day. This land belongs to them, yet the U.S. is using it to please some corporations. All the pleas to President Biden have fallen on deaf ears. In June, Nexus Media reported that the Biden administration sided with Enbridge when it filed a brief asking a federal court to throw out a legal challenge from the tribes and environmental groups over the construction of Line 3.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that Enbridge received an amended permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, allowing them to pump nearly 10 times as much water from the ground to build the pipeline. So, not only did the administration ignore the pleas of the people whose treaty the U.S. is violating (again), but pretty much said, “do even more.”

Not only is this a slap in the face of Native Americans, but it’s a violation of their lands, treaties, and basic human rights. Most of the land that Line 3 is being built on includes 200 waterways that provide water for their rice crops and for drinking. One of those waterways is the headwaters of the Mississippi River, which is a source of drinking water for over 18 million people — myself included.

The Worst Is Yet To Come

I’m going to be honest: I think the worst is yet to come. Considering that Native Americans are being ignored and are watching their lands being taken by the U.S. and given to foreign corporations, the inevitable will happen. Line 3 will be built and it will devastate the land. I mean, there’s already been a spill!

I think that we have to change our strategy. Yes, we need to support Indigenous Peoples especially when they need our help, but we need to prepare for what is coming as well. Disasters will happen — Enbridge already proved this. The media will most likely ignore them unless they benefit from it somehow. There needs to be some type of plan to help Native Americans who might be escaping their lands due to an oil spill.

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California Commits $10M To e-Bike Purchase Assistance, Other e-Bike Adoption Programs



In a recent post, I explained how micromobility (e-bikes, scooters, etc) gives state and local governments a much cheaper lever they can pull to reduce emissions, with or without support from a dysfunctional federal government. As it turns out, I’m far from the only person to think that way, and the California Bicycle Coalition is already leading the way on this.

Goals Of The Program

One thing the group has been pushing for is to get California’s lawmakers to give e-bikes the same public support that larger electric vehicles have been getting. For example, one can get thousands off the purchase price of an EV (on top of federal tax credits) if their income is low enough, and that has helped spur the purchase of EVs. Similarly, it’s difficult for many Californians with lower incomes to purchase an e-bike, due to the extra expense.

The idea is that e-bikes can replace many car trips, and even cars themselves in many cases, and for a small fraction of the cost of an EV. Instead of only helping a few Californians buy an EV with big spending, the group proposed spending only $10 million, which sounds like a lot to you or me, but is practically pocket change to a government as big as California’s.

Specifics aren’t currently available as to how much each applicant could get to help purchase an e-bike, but the program’s goals are below.

Goals of the E-Bike Affordability Program

    • Help people replace car trips with e-bike trips.
    • Prioritize grants to individuals from low-income households.
    • Define eligibility for the program as individuals and households with incomes below the maximum limits established in the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project.
    • Support related programs and benefits, such as safety education.
      Provide support for a variety of electric bicycles, including, but not limited to, bicycles designed for people with disabilities; utility bikes for carrying equipment or passengers, including children; and folding e-bikes.
    • Support local small businesses and organizations, such as retail bicycle shops and nonprofit organizations, including community bicycle shops.
    • Collaborate with other state departments and agencies to enforce safeguards against fraudulent activity by sellers and purchasers of e-bikes in accordance with the law.
    • [to be added] Ensure that e-bikes purchased through this program meet a high standard of quality and durability.

Funding Secured

After putting in a lot of effort, they got the state legislature and the governor to approve $10 million in funding for the program as part of next year’s budget. This means that they’ll be able to start providing buying assistance for e-bikes.

“Making e-bikes more affordable is one of the most effective ways to get Californians out of their cars and reduce emissions,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “I’m thrilled that the full funding I requested for purchase incentives, education, and training is included in the budget we approved. This program represents a priority shift in the right direction and, once implemented, will help folks from all backgrounds choose a healthier, happier way to get around.”

We’ve reached out to the bicycle coalition to get more information for people interested in applying for purchasing assistance for an e-bike.

Why This Matters

For me, living at the edge of a small town much of the time, and traveling in rural areas most of the rest, bikes are more of a toy. I get recreation, exercise, and a challenge from my e-bikes, and only rarely have much opportunity to use them for transportation. The distances are just too long for an e-bike to replace many of my trips.

I can definitely see how an e-bike could replace many car trips in a larger city, though. With the average trip for Americans being under 6 miles by car, I can see that I’m generally very above average. Once someone starts replacing car trips with an e-bike, a whole lot of good things can happen.

“E-bikes can be the centerpiece of California’s strategy to replace gas-powered car trips to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions while also advancing equity, promoting public health, reducing traffic, and helping working families save money,” said Dave Snyder, executive director of CalBike. “Until now, California has focused its efforts on electric cars. This new program breaks that funding dam and begins investing in a technology that is a known carbon crusher, e-bikes. e-bikes are the cleanest EV.”

It’s easy for most of us to visualize replacing gas-powered cars with one that runs on electric, but it’s harder to visualize simply reducing the number of cars on the road. When we can do that, we not only reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, but we can make life better for the people still using cars by cutting out some of the traffic jams.

On top of that, people can be healthier and save a lot of money. Sure, e-bikes are easier to ride, and thus give you less exercise than the guy wearing all the spandex gets, but that’s comparing apples to oranges. Taking someone out of the car takes them from zero exercise to whatever amount they get on the e-bike, so anything is an improvement.

“E-bikes are a key alternative to the automobile for short trips and everyday errands,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom. “Advanced technology and broad availability are making e-bikes more accessible every day. This funding will provide an incentive that will reduce both traffic congestion and pollution. I am elated that I could play a part in making clean e-bikes more accessible to every Californian.”

Comparing e-bikes to regular bikes also reveals another important point: they’re able to replace more car trips for more people. Electric assist means people can go further, which puts a whole lot more places in what feels like a reasonable reach. On top of that, people don’t like showing up sweaty and gross to work or to go shopping. By taking some of the effort out, people can bike and still look their best (or close to it) when they reach their destination.

With all of these advantages coming in at a lower cost compared to subsidizing cars, it’s something other states and even local governments should seriously consider doing themselves.

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

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We Cannot Short-Change Transit—Not Now



Originally published on the NRDC Expert Blog.
By Deron Lovaas 

Given the urbanization of our nation, the overdue focus on racial inequity and the threat of climate change, our nation needs to invest much, much more in cleaner transportation options, especially public transit.

While some in Congress recognize this imperative, news reports indicate that a bipartisan infrastructure bill might slam this into reverse: locking in hundreds of billions of dollars for highways while setting transit up for long-term cuts in funding.

This would be disastrous for our cities, for essential workers, for clean air — and for those, like me, who rely on public transit to get to work every day.

People across the country depend on transit every day. In 2018 alone we took almost 10 billion trips by bus, train, or other means of travel. And this way of getting around benefits us all, whether we live in cities, suburbs, or rural areas. For example, while I bought a home which is just a few blocks from a metro stop served by WMATA in the Washington suburbs, more than half of the nation’s approximately 2,200 transit agencies are in rural areas. More than half of riders use transit because they need to (cars are expensive to own and maintain!) or because of they want to save money. That means transit is one of the best investments we make in equity. And not just economic equity — 60 percent of riders are Black, Indigenous or People of Color.

For these facts and more check out these resources: here and here.

So, what’s happening?

For the past 40 years, the federal highway and transit programs have been authorized together, stemming from a Reagan-era agreement that guaranteed transit at least 20% of funding from gas tax increases starting in 1982. There’s an important benefit to this funding: because gas tax revenues flow into the Highway Trust Fund, that funding — also referred to as “contract authority” — has been considered guaranteed and not subject to cuts in the annual appropriations process. (Both highways and transit also get some funding from sources that are subject to appropriations, but the bulk of those programs come from the Trust Fund.)

The federal highway and transit programs need to be reauthorized by the end of September when the current law, the FAST Act, expires. Two Senate committees have already passed sections of a reauthorization bill increasing funding for their respective programs. But the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over transit, has been unable to act due to the insistence of its ranking member, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), that transit funding should not be increased.

Adding to the complexity of the situation is the fact that the FAST Act reauthorization is being used as the base for the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations. President Biden and a bipartisan group of 22 Senators have agreed on a framework that would provide $579 billion in new spending for a range of infrastructure. To be clear: this new spending is on top of “baseline” spending, i.e. the spending that would occur if the FAST Act were simply extended as-is. (Calculating this “baseline,” however, is tricky and it’s difficult to say for certain what numbers negotiators are working with.)

Unlike the baseline, the bipartisan framework announced by the White House is clear: It allocated $110 billion in new spending to highways and $48.5 billion to transit. Laudably, that is a huge investment in buses and trains that serve us all. However, those numbers leave out an important detail: what portion of spending will come from the Trust Fund and, therefore, be guaranteed. Advocates have called for transit to be treated on par with highways, given how important it is to efforts to cut pollution. While a highway-level investment in transit is warranted, at the very least 20% of guaranteed funding from the Highway Trust Fund should go to transit. The INVEST Act passed by the House meets this test, but the Senate is balking and the bipartisan deal may be worse for transit than the agreement struck in 1982.

That’s absurd.

The amount of guaranteed funding for transit is important for two reasons:

  • First, guaranteed funding is more useful to transit agencies than non-guaranteed funding; the guarantee allows them to plan and finance projects more cost-effectively.
  • Second, whatever funding is guaranteed in this bill will become part of the baseline for the next bill. If transit loses ground in this round of negotiations, the starting line for transit next time around will be even farther from where it needs to be.

To its credit, the Biden administration has set ambitious climate goals and made racial equity a key goal. But we cannot achieve those goals without a greater commitment to transit. While it’s true that the amount of additional investment in transit is historically large, there’s less progress than meets the eye if the baseline is moved backward. (And, keep in mind, the framework also includes the largest highway investment in history, adding $110 billion on top of the existing highway program. Absent policies such as those in the INVEST Act, that spending will exacerbate pollution and worsen our climate crisis.)

Transit’s needs are well-documented (for example, the American Society of Civil Engineers reports a transit backlog of $176 billion, projected to grow to more than $270 billion by the end of this decade). Those who care about the climate crisis should be doing all they can to boost transit investment. Now is the time to take a leap  forward by sticking with the deal in place since 1982 and delivering a boost to transit investment on top of it, not taking a big step back.

Image courtesy of Juneau’s Capital Transit

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How to add friends and party up in New World

Esports4 days ago

Can you sprint in New World?

Esports4 days ago

How to claim New World Twitch drops

Esports4 days ago

Twitch streamer gets banned in New World after milking cow

AR/VR4 days ago

Moth+Flame partners with US Air Force to launch Virtual Reality sexual assault prevention and response training

Blockchain5 days ago

Uniswap (UNI) and AAVE Technical Analysis: What to Expect?

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Rothschild Investment Purchases Grayscale Bitcoin and Ethereum Trusts Shares

Esports4 days ago

Konami unveils Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, a digital version of the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG and OCG formats

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How to change or join a new world in New World

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Best Akshan builds in League of Legends

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Team BDS adds GatsH to VALORANT roster as sixth man before EU Stage 3 Challengers 2

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Here are all the servers in the New World closed beta

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Overwatch League 2021 Grand Finals to be held in Los Angeles, playoff bracket in Dallas

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How to turn off and on PvP in New World

Blockchain5 days ago

NexWEB Technologies Chooses Butterfly Protocol for Powering its Blockchain Domain-Based NFT Platform

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Why Is It Better to Play Slots Using Cryptocurrency?

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WiV Signs Agreement with Georgian Government To Develop Georgian Wine’s Global Presence And Quality Assurance