Three states described their efforts to reduce carbon emissions from transportation during a Friday webinar hosted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
These state efforts come as the Biden administration faces pushback from other states against its greenhouse gas performance measurement rule. The rule, issued Nov. 22, 2023, requires state departments of transportation to establish two- and four-year statewide emissions reduction targets and requires metropolitan planning organizations to set four-year emissions reduction targets for their planning areas.
Twenty-one states responded by filing a lawsuit Dec. 21 against President Joe Biden, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, claiming “the Agencies simply do not have authority to issue it.”
On the webinar, transportation department representatives from Colorado, Michigan and Oregon outlined their wide-ranging efforts toward reducing transportation carbon emissions, which account for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to 2021 Environmental Protection Agency data. The states’ efforts range from building out charging infrastructure for electric vehicles to increasing the use of public transportation, micromobility and shared mobility and land use incentives to locate housing near jobs.
Colorado plans to cut 12.7 million tons of carbon emissions from transportation by 2030, relying on low- and zero-emission vehicles for nearly half that reduction. Other measures it’s taking include transit-oriented development, increasing residential density, reducing parking supply, and developing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. “So when we look at transportation planning holistically, being able to have projects that provide multimodal options to the traveling public, having a way for those projects to rise to the top … will, in turn, reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Darius Pakbaz, director of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s transportation development division, on the webinar.
The Michigan Department of Transportation representatives discussed 13 initiatives as part of its framework to reduce carbon emissions. Like Colorado, these include efforts to encourage shared mobility and public transit as well as increasing charging availability for electric vehicles. The Michigan DOT estimates that just an annual 0.1% increase in bus ridership would eliminate 170.8 metric tons of carbon emissions, and a similar increase in rail transit ridership would save 31,024 metric tons of carbon emissions versus personal vehicle use.
But the Michigan DOT can’t do it alone, said Zach Rable, a federal policy specialist for the agency. “We know that, in order to meaningfully implement carbon reduction, that Michigan needs to get the strategies and initiatives within our carbon reduction strategy into other departmental plans,” Rable said.
Oregon’s plan is to reduce emissions from transportation to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. To do so, the Oregon Department of Transportation looks to reduce the growth in vehicle miles traveled and lower the greenhouse gas emissions per vehicle mile traveled. The state may consider congestion pricing, changes to land use laws and grant programs for transit vehicles, said Tara Weidner, climate impact analysis program lead at the Oregon Department of Transportation. To meet the requirements of the federal greenhouse gas performance measure, the new Oregon transportation plan is “providing a really solid policy framework,” Weidner said.
States are required to establish their initial four-year targets under the greenhouse gas performance measurement rule and report their targets to the FHWA no later than Feb. 1.