Climate change is increasingly recognized as a threat to life on earth. “Continued emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of GHG emissions.” (IPCC WGI, 2013.)
The transportation sector accounts for almost one-third of all GHG emissions in the United States. Growing Cooler describes GHG emissions from transportation as comprised of a three-legged stool composed of vehicles, fuel, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and suggests that “technological improvements in vehicles and fuels are likely to be offset by continuing, robust growth in VMT.” (Ewing et al., 2007, p. 2.) Thus, a crucial strategy in curbing GHG emissions from transportation relies on reducing growth in total VMT by promoting alternative modes of transportation hand-in-hand with promoting development patterns that support the use of such modes. In developing climate action plans, states have begun to acknowledge the connection between transportation and development patterns.
This project will explore the institutional barriers and opportunities for reducing VMT, hence GHG emissions, through improved transportation options and smarter development patterns in four states: California, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington. The research team will analyze existing policy frameworks around transportation, land use, and climate change, outlining the statutory context around plans and actions within state agencies. The research team will analyze existing plans under these agencies, in addition to conducting interviews with relevant agency staff and other stakeholders to examine potential barriers or synergies around policies and regulations within the state. The research team will catalog programs and policies influencing transportation investments and development patterns, which may affect implementation of climate action strategies in the transportation and land use sector. Focusing on state-level plans and regulations, the research team will identify strengths and weaknesses of the transportation-land use-climate policy framework in each state and seek to identify opportunities to improve the existing frameworks by offering policy recommendations, implementation strategies and recommendations for better agency coordination. Finally, lessons learned from these four states will inform other states attempting to reduce GHG emission from transportation.