Monday, June 7, 2010

Environment and Sustainability - Draft DOT Strategic Plan part 4

Department of Transportation Draft Strategic Plan

DOT sets ambitious goals to reduce emissions and “air, water and noise pollution and impacts on ecosystems;” establish environmentally sustainable practices that address global climate change; and promote energy independence. These challenges require new transportation solutions, DOT declares in the proposed plan.

The agency does not hesitate to lay out the environmentally awful statistics and the transportation sector’s role in contributing to them.

The transportation sector is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for 29 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2007. About 60 percent of transportation emissions were from passenger cars and light-duty trucks, about 20 percent from medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and about 12 percent from aviation.

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[A]s of 2007, some 158.5 million Americans lived in counties or regions that exceeded health-based national ambient air quality standards for at least one regulated air pollutant. Significant challenges remain, particularly as new national ambient air quality standards are revised to be more protective of public health. These challenges apply to individual neighborhoods, travel corridors, and local facilities as well.

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The President has challenged us to transform the way transportation serves the American people by encouraging transportation that is less carbon-intensive such as rail, and public transportation or transportation that produces zero emissions such as biking and walking.

Of course the draft strategic plan offers proposals for air and automobile travel, but in terms of public transportation, the plan imagines coordinated federal environmental policies and programs through the interagency DOT-HUD-EPA partnership, high-speed rail (though no one is talking about something akin the China’s mega investments), multi-modal strategies, reducing the energy consumption of transit, and encouraging state and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), such as councils of governments (COG), to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To accomplish the goals for reducing energy consumption, reducing greenhouse emissions, and reducing our national dependence on foreign oil, the draft strategic plan is proposing that public transportation systems continue to take advantage of the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Discretionary Grant (TDG) program, which is already at work replacing older fuel-eating facilities and vehicles with more environmentally-friendly models, buildings, and innovative technologies.

The obstacles to realizing the environmental goals are pretty much the same obstacles to realizing many of DOT’s other goals in the proposed plan: questions of sufficient funding, particularly continued use of the federal gas tax, and technological and market-based problems with switching technologies, especially in connection with automobile use.

DOT is also proposing strategies for becoming a more environmentally-responsible federal agency with ambitious goals for its own buildings, equipment and office practices. For DOT employees this will mean practices that literally extend all the way to office garbage. These strategies include compliance with the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings LINK, better stormwater practices, working with HUD and EPA to locate federal buildings in alliance with the administration’s livability principles, reducing staff travel through video and web conferencing technology, maximizing recycling, and eliminating paper wherever possible.

Putting its money where its mouth is, DOT is requiring its staff to “[w]ork with local government entities to improve transit service and neighborhood amenities around DOT field offices and headquarters.”

Remember that DOT comment invites the public to comment on its proposals. Read the draft plan sections that interest you and respond to DOT.

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