October 26, 2009
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Climate Change Events Highlight Major Role of Public Transportation
Discussions in Washington last week focused on climate change. At an Oct. 21 Capitol Hill panel discussion, “Transportation Strategies to Cut Carbon Emissions,” APTA President William Millar reminded an audience of transportation officials, advocates, and congressional staff of the significant role public transportation can play in addressing the issue of climate change.
The event, convened by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, focused on the July Moving Cooler report’s implications for upcoming legislation.
Several speakers contributed to this panel along with Millar, including Janine Benner, legislative director for Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Paul Schmid, transportation legislative assistant for Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE); and Caitlin Rayman, assistant secretary for transportation policy, Maryland DOT.
Benner and Schmid both spoke about CLEAN-TEA (the Clean Low-Emissions Affordable New Transportation Equity Act), which would designate 10 percent of proceeds from a carbon emissions cap-and-trade program to clean transportation, including public transit.
Rayman noted that “Some states have only just begun to address” greenhouse gas emissions, adding: “Some have projected VMT [vehicle miles traveled] increases of more than 6 percent per year.”
Millar emphasized that, while Moving Cooler makes no recommendations, “it does provide objective analysis of some 50 different transportation and land-use strategies.” This analysis concludes that combining an increased investment in public transportation with other strategies could save the nation as much as $112 billion and reduce greenhouse gases by 24 percent.
“It’s very likely there’s no single way out” of climate change, Millar said, “because there was no single way in,” given that the condition is most likely the result of a combination of human sources. He acknowledged the importance of better fuels and more stringent fuel economy standards but added that “they can’t do it alone.”
Millar added that public transportation is a much better investment when bundled with other activities, such as land use, and revenues generated from climate-change legislation would offset the up-front costs of such activities.
Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair, Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and John Kerry (D-MA), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, recently introduced climate change legislation.
Climate Change Conference
Public transportation also played a prominent role Oct. 20 at the Congressional Quarterly/Roll Call Group’s “Climate Change Conference 2009: From Kyoto to Copenhagen.”
Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) of the EPW Committee keynoted the morning general session, discussing the importance of Congress moving climate change legislation forward. He identified public transportation as a solution to address climate change in this sector, highlighting the need to address transportation sector emissions. APTA staff participated in a special breakout session on this topic.
Additional keynote speakers included Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bernie Sanders (IN-VT), also of the EPW committee.
APTA has been working very closely with this Senate committee, advocating for greater investment in public transportation as a part of the climate change legislation.