by Kate McCarthy, VNRC What if we could improve our children’s health and our communities’ bottom lines while increasing access to transportation options that are affordable and better for our environment? A proposed solution to those issues is just what Transportation for Vermonters, a recently launched coalition of diverse organizations, brought to the Governor’s Climate Action Commission during the November 8 Vermont Climate and Energy Summit. Transportation for Vermonters is not a collaboration of the usual suspects – because transportation isn’t merely about getting from point A to point B.
Our transportation system is about how we connect people with the places that matter in their daily lives. The transportation choices we have – or don’t have – directly impact our quality of life, access to jobs and health care, and household budgets.
During the Vermont Climate and Energy Summit, we presented a plan to replace inefficient diesel school or transit buses (the average diesel transit bus gets just 4.5 miles per gallon) with electric buses that have been designed and tested in our cold climate. Not only are electric vehicles instrumental in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, Vermont has the opportunity to use our renewable electricity sources as a way to power our vehicles with clean fuels that help reduce fuel costs and stabilize the grid.
We focused on electric buses because we think this new technology, combined with the opportunity to put the settlement funds from the Volkswagen “clean” diesel scandal to good use, is an excellent near-term opportunity to shift Vermont toward cleaner transportation choices that are better for kids, drivers, and our state’s energy goals. Making a large, focused investment to replace the majority of buses in a school or transit fleet helps transform our transportation system where it matters most. It’s an exciting and timely opportunity, and we encourage Vermonters to let their legislators know they support this idea.
This initiative is just one example of the many ways transportation touches our lives – and the many benefits we can get from a thoughtfully designed system and strategic investments. Looking ahead, Transportation for Vermonters is committed to working together to change the way we move in our communities: from walking to the store, to getting to work in another town, to moving across the state.
Transportation for Vermonters will be at the State House, working together on initiatives that not only improve the quality of our state’s transportation infrastructure, but reduce costs for low-income Vermonters, help people age in place, increase access to health care and services, help Vermont achieve our greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, and help Vermonters live healthier, more connected lives, throughout their lives.
The Coalition’s founding members are AARP-VT, the American Lung Association in Vermont, Capstone Community Action, the Chittenden Area Transportation Management Association, Local Motion, Renewable Energy Vermont, Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club, Vermont Clean Cities Coalition, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Vermont Natural Resources Council, and Vermont Public Interest Research Group.
Kate McCarthy, AICP, is the sustainable communities program director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council and coordinates the Transportation for Vermonters Coalition.