USDOT Advisory Committee to Draft Equity Recommendations

Following its first meeting in late September, a revived U.S. Department of Transportation equity advisory committee plans to recommend new federal policies and practices aimed at making transportation systems more equitable to more people by June 2024.

[Above photo by USDOT]

The USDOT’s 24-member Advisory Committee on Transportation Equity or ACTE – which formally relaunched in August – is made up of representatives from state departments of transportations, private industry stakeholders, and nonprofit transportation groups.

According to the USDOT, the committee’s objective is “provide advice and recommendations” about:

  • Practices to institutionalize equity into programs, policies, regulations, and activities;
  • Establishing and strengthening partnerships with “overburdened and underserved communities” that the department hasn’t reached in the past;
  • Offering a forum about equity concerns in local and regional transportation decisions;
  • Providing “strength, objectivity, and confidence” to the department’s decision-making process.

The state DOT representatives on the committee are Roger Millar – secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation and president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – and Tunya Smith, director of Office of Civil Rights for North Carolina Department of Transportation.

USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg asked the committee at its inaugural meeting to “deliberate bold ideas…not as a theoretical exercise of what may be, but as a real opportunity to shape real work.” Buttigieg added that he wants the committee to join him in “working to change patterns of exclusion that literally have been cemented into American life for generations.”

Former USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx – selected by Buttigieg to chair the re-constituted committee – originally established the ACTE during his 2013-2017 tenure. While the committee took no action at its first meeting, remarks from the members set the tone for committee’s work, which will include documenting past examples of inequity in transportation planning to inform future policies and practices.

“The promise of our democracy depends, in part, on correcting past mistakes,” Foxx said. “Transportation errors, as all of you know, can last a long time. Our responsibility will be not to engineer history but to tell it as pure and straight as it can be told.”

WSDOT’s Millar agreed that transportation “is not an end unto itself; it is a means to a lot of things, to economic prosperity, to social equity, to environmental justice, things that matter to our communities.” But he also reminded committee members that “the actions of transportation agencies did not happen in a vacuum…It’s really important that we remember that and we are not alone in our ability to do harm or to do good.”

Many comments from ACTE members focused more on the practical nature of the task at hand. NCDOT’s Smith, for example, said the ACTE should create dashboards and metrics “to look at how we evaluate these programs and how we frame and structure our policy decisions to lead to sustainable change.” She also said discussions of climate change should translate into actions to help communities, “particularly communities of color that are often impacted more heavily from storms, in not having proper drainage systems.”

Smith, who also manages the NCDOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, urged the committee to include feedback from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and faith-based organizations “to really help us inform the work.”

The USDOT has not announced when the next ACTE meeting will take place.

ETAP Podcast Delves into ReConnect Rondo Effort

The first episode of a four-part Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP podcast series focuses on building an equitable transportation system.

[Above photo by ReConnect Rondo]

The ETAP podcast – part of a technical service program for state departments of transportation provided by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – explores a wide array of environmental topics that affect transportation and infrastructure programs.

During this episode, Keith Baker (above) – executive director of nonprofit community group ReConnect Rondo – talks about the vision driving his organization and the innovative approach it is taking to transform the neighborhood, businesses, and cultural ties on either side of Interstate 94 in St. Paul, which divided the historic Rondo neighborhood during the post-World War II highway building boom.

Those efforts have included a proposal to build a deck over part of the interstate and restore some of the amenities razed during road construction – and it received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in March to do so.

The money will also help coordinate with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s “ReThinking I-94” project, which seeks to make needed repairs to the highway’s aging infrastructure, while creating methods to reduce further harms caused by the main east-west artery through the Twin Cities.

The goal of ReConnect Rondo is to create a “land bridge” is to reconnect the community split in two by the freeway’s construction in the 1950s and 1960s, in the process destroying around 700 homes and 300 businesses, according to Baker.

The bridge would serve as a cap over the part of the road, between Chatsworth Street and Grotto Street, encompassing what used to be the entire Rondo neighborhood. Baker explains that the proposed “land bridge” could add approximately 500 new housing units, 1,000 residents, and 1,500 jobs, along with $4 million in annual city revenue.

To listen to the entire podcast episode, click here.

Michigan DOT Grants Help Improve Transit Access

The Michigan Department of Transportation is making it easier for Michigan residents to catch a ride on a bus, rideshare, bicycle, or scooter through its Michigan Mobility Wallet Challenge, a pilot grant program to open up transit options to everyone.

[Above photo by Michigan DOT]

The goal of the program is to make transit services more affordable and simpler for all citizens, including the disabled, poor, veterans and seniors. The idea of the “mobility wallet” is to create an app or smart card that can be used for multiple transit options in a community.

On a recent episode of its podcast series “Talking Michigan Transportation,” the Michigan DOT highlighted one of its non-profit grant recipients, Feonix–Mobility Rising.

Feonix developed a mobility wallet to allow veterans in the Detroit, Grand Rapids, Jackson, and surrounding areas greater access to transit services. The organization added that it plans to expand the program by January 2024 to include individuals and families experiencing poverty.

Feonix CEO Valerie Lefler explained how the company’s program works by using the example of a veteran who has cancer and no nearby family to drive him to his chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The veteran can use the mobility wallet to take the bus until he needs more assistance. The wallet then can be used for an Uber or taxi or an Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA-compliant paratransit vehicle.

Lefler cited a 2018 Veterans Administration study concerning the challenges veterans have in securing adequate transportation. One veteran in that study talked about why his war-induced post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD prevented him from taking a bus to his medical appointments because of the shaking and jostling.

“If we can spend $30 million to equip him with gear and ammunition and all the things that they need in warfare, why can we not give these men and women an Uber or a taxi or a service when they’re seeking treatment, trying to recover from those experiences?” Lefler said on the podcast.

Ecolane Inc., also received a grant to develop a multimodal mobile transit application and smart card that uses Zig, a sensory technology that allows users to pay without having the remove their smart phone or card from their wallet. The technology, demonstrated in this video, is fully compliant with the ADA. Ecolane’s app will be available for nine transit agencies in Michigan.

Michigan DOT Director Brad Wieferich said in a news release that the mobility wallet program demonstrates that “Michigan is on the forefront of innovations in developing new technologies for public transit users.”

Connecticut DOT Adopts ‘Complete Street’ Criteria

The Connecticut Department of Transportation recently implemented new “Complete Streets” design criteria that the agency plans to incorporate into all of its surface roadway projects going forward.

[Above image via the Connecticut DOT]

A “Complete Street” is a roadway planned and designed to consider the safe, convenient access and mobility of roadway users of all ages and abilities. This includes pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation users, and motorists; it includes children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

The agency said this new design criteria expands on its “Complete Street” policy, which ensures that every roadway project includes a focus on pedestrian and bicyclist facilities and public transportation operations to create stronger intermodal transportation networks and improve safety.

The Connecticut DOT’s new ‘Complete Streets’ design criteria focuses on three areas to improve safety and mobility for all roadway users:

  • Pedestrian facilities – includes sidewalks, shared use paths, or side paths on both sides of the roadway.
  • Bicycle facilities – includes paved outside shoulders, bike lanes, separated bike paths, or shared use paths on both sides of the roadway.
  • Transit provisions – includes crosswalks, shelters, benches, and other ways to make existing or proposed transit stops more accessible.

The agency added that if any of its transportation projects does not meet those three criteria, Connecticut DOT’s chief engineer is required to issue a formal design exemption.

“While this change may sound technical, it is a big deal for improving the safety of our transportation network,” noted Garrett Eucalitto, Connecticut DOT’s commissioner, in a statement. “We are doing everything we can to break down barriers to transportation and make Connecticut roadways more accessible for everyone.”

[Editor’s note: In March 2022, the Federal Highway Administration sent a report to Congress detailing the agency’s commitment to “advance widespread implementation” of the “Complete Streets design model” to help improve safety and accessibility for all users. That report – entitled “Moving to a Complete Streets Design Model: A Report to Congress on Opportunities and Challenges” – identifies what FHWA calls “five overarching opportunity areas” that will guide the agency as it moves ahead with efforts to increase “Complete Streets.”]

“Utilizing ‘Complete Streets’ design criteria is just one of the many ways we’re working to make Connecticut safer for all roadway users,” noted Scott Hill, the agency’s chief engineer and bureau chief of engineering and construction.

“This change will solidify and ensure that pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorist safety is incorporated into the billions of dollars’ worth of projects we have planned in our capital program,” he added.

Several state departments of transportation have implemented similar “Complete Street” initiatives over the last several years.

In February 2021, the South Carolina Department of Transportation adopted what it called a “wide-ranging” Complete Streets policy for the state-owned highway system.

That policy requires the South Carolina DOT to work with the state’s regional transportation planning partners and regional transit providers to identify and include walking, bicycling, and transit needs as part of their regional visioning plans.

The California Department of Transportation unveiled a similar “complete streets” policy for all new transportation projects it funds or oversees in December 2021 in order to provide “safe and accessible options” for people walking, biking and taking transit.

Meanwhile, in October 2022, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet issued a new version of its “Complete Streets” roads and highways manual; a revision that represents the first update in more than 20 years to Kentucky’s pedestrian and bicycle travel policy.

Additionally, in January, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) signed a legislative package allowing the New York State Department of Transportation to provide more fiscal support for municipal ‘Complete Streets’ projects. Under the new legislation, the state’s contribution to the non-federally funded portion of complete street projects will increase to 87.5 percent, which will help municipalities to implement these street designs.

MBTA Develops, Adopts Comprehensive Vision Statement

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority recently issued a comprehensive “vision statement” outlining the agency’s values, goals, and metrics that will help it improve safety, service, equity, sustainability, and culture.

[Above photo by MBTA]

The MBTA – a division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation – said it developed this “vision statement” via detailed collaboration with staff and stakeholders.

“Thanks to input from MBTA employees and our valued partners within transportation advocacy organizations, we have new strategic goals which underscore our commitment to improving the MBTA to make it safer, more reliable, resilient, and equitable,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Gina Fiandaca in a statement.

“We intend to bring a new level of transparency, public engagement, and capital investment to the MBTA, and we will succeed with workforce investments, collaboration, and decisions that prioritize safety,” she added.

[Editor’s note: Fiandaca plans to step down as MassDOT secretary and CEO in September. Monica Tibbits-Nutt, the agency’s undersecretary, will take over as acting transportation secretary.]

The main goals MBTA has incorporated within its vision statement are:

  • Empower and support staff to develop a culture which prioritizes and promotes safety.
  • Modernize assets to improve connectivity while ensuring MBTA property is maintained in a state of good repair.
  • Ensure transparent decision making so the experiences and perspectives of MBTA staff and riders are accounted for.
  • Retain, attract, and invest in a diverse and qualified workforce that represents MBTA ridership.
  • Support regional vitality by providing riders with dependable, frequent, and accessible service.
  • Increase environmental sustainability and resilience within the state’s transit systems.
  • Increase the percentage of transit trips in the region by attracting new riders and retaining existing riders via a dependable, frequent, and accessible service.
  • Communicate openly about costs and revenues needed to support current services and for future expansion.

“We are committed to providing a safe, reliable, and accessible transportation system for Massachusetts,” said MBTA General Manager Phil Eng.

“We are listening to the feedback of our riders and stakeholders, and we are using that feedback to shape our vision and our roadmap. It is only with them that we can make this mission a reality,” he pointed out. “We know we sometimes face challenges, but we are confident that we can overcome them. We are committed to making the MBTA a public transportation system that everyone can rely on.”

Eng noted that MBTA plans to finalize metrics for tracking progress towards those goals in the coming months.

“We believe these goals will help keep us focused,” noted Lynsey Heffernan, MBTA’s assistant general manager for policy and transit planning. “We’re serving vibrant and diverse communities with rich history and culture who deserve to be able to rely on us for public transit services. The more in tune we are with our collective vision, the more likely we will be able to deliver on that vision.”

Letter Outlines AASHTO, State DOT Equity Efforts

A comment letter sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation on June 29 outlines how the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and its members are working to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion or DEI protocols within the transportation industry – and recommended ways USDOT could support such DEI-focused efforts now and in the future.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

“In order to improve safety, mobility, and access for everyone, we are promoting diversity in all AASHTO activities and collaborating with traditional and non-traditional partners to support equity and social justice objectives,” AASHTO noted in its letter.

The foundation of the organization’s ongoing DEI initiatives is an “Equity Resolution” passed unanimously by the AASHTO Board of Directors in November 2020. That resolution affirms AASHTO’s commitment to anti-discrimination in the delivery of all programs and services. That “affirmation” included improving contracting and procurement practices to assist disadvantaged business enterprises or DBEs, focusing efforts on recruitment, promotion, and training so that the state departments of transportation can “better reflect the communities they serve” while also ensuring establishment of inclusive workplaces.

To implement the Equity Resolution, AASHTO developed a multimodal, multidisciplinary Equity Task Force that has provided equity resources and information to state DOT executive leadership, developed partnerships with equity stakeholders, and obtained funding for equity research.

In 2023, the Task Force focused on improving internal and external state DOT equity communications; helping state DOTs develop diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforces, while also enhancing public engagement to improve transportation decision-making. The Task Force developed an Equity Communications Work Group – consisting of equity and communications staff within the state DOTs – to assist states with internal and external equity communications and messaging.

That Work Group is developing the Task Force’s web presence, collecting successful practices for making intentional choices to use inclusive communications in language, style guides, images and media, and then developing model language and templates for strategic internal and external agency communications. Additionally, the Task Force is working with the AASHTO Subcommittee on Transportation Workforce Management Subcommittee and the AASHTO Committee on Human Resources to collect and share successful strategies to improve recruitment, hiring, promotion, training, leadership development and retention of—and support for—a workforce at all levels that reflect the communities served by the state DOTs.

AASHTO noted in its letter that all of the information being collected will be integrated into a new Transportation Workforce Management Playbook – a publication currently under development – to ensure that equity is a key component of transportation workforce planning and management. The Task Force will also partner with the AASHTO Committees on Planning, Environment, Civil Rights, and others, as well as external stakeholders, to collect and compile effective public engagement practices in underserved and marginalized communities. That includes practices related to developing ongoing community and stakeholder relationships, as well as developing community partnering agreements for all stages of a particular transportation project or program.

The organization also noted in its letter that USDOT’s “Power of Community” focus area directly aligns with the AASHTO Equity Resolution, and also can help advance equity at the local level. AASHTO also recommended that USDOT consider ways to support broader community engagement on transportation related priorities and needs – particularly on long-term relationship building and partnerships, especially in underserved and marginalized communities.

“Such an expanded approach will support increased and more active participation of underserved and marginalized populations, which may not have the tools, resources and/or ability to have a voice in decisions that impact their communities,” AASHTO said. “USDOT should further support these efforts through increased funding flexibility for long-term public community engagement and partnerships.”

That includes tapping into specific equity-focused datasets, said AASHTO, such as United for ALICE – short for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed” – data, which looks at employed community members that are unable to afford housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and technology.

AASHTO also recommended that USDOT explore using “County Health Rankings and Roadmaps” datasets, which support community-based efforts to improve health equity. That group’s 2023 National Findings Report explores several measures related to civic infrastructure and census participation across the country. This report could be used to enhance USDOT’s Equitable Transportation Community or ETC Explorer Tool as well, AASHTO said.

Finally, the Washington State Department of Health created the Washington Environmental Health Disparities or EHD Map Tool; an interactive mapping program that compares demographic and ecological data in communities across the state to identify environmental health disparities.

That map program provides insight into where public investments may be prioritized to mitigate environmental health impacts. USDOT could use the EHD Map Tool to update and enhance its environmental justice screening and mapping or EJScreen tool.

AASHTO also suggested that USDOT provide guidance to state DOTs regarding which tools should be used for various transportation planning, programming and project evaluation efforts. That guidance should outline the circumstances for appropriate use of the USDOT ETC Explorer, the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, the Transportation Disadvantaged Census Tracts Tool, the Electric Vehicle Charging Justice40 Map, the EJScreen, and other relevant tools.  

For example, AASHTO noted that Washington State’s EHD Map Tool provides example of how federal agencies can partner with state agencies in using local tools to supplement nationwide demographic tools and more accurately identify and address disparities in the health sector and beyond. For instance, using such “local tools” to enhance the Four Factor Analysis could provide more accurate identification of Limited English Proficiency or LEP populations, which would better allow important documents to be translated and better support public engagement.

FTA Issues $20M from Persistent Poverty Program

The Federal Transit Administration plans to award $20 million to 47 communities to help improve public transportation options in areas that are experiencing, in the agency’s words, “long-term economic distress.”

[Above image by the FTA]

The FTA said its Areas of Persistent Poverty or AoPP program provides support to state and local governments, transit agencies, and nonprofit organizations to create better transit for residents with limited or no transportation options.

The agency said AoPP-funded investments can be used to support efforts to initiate transit service as well as improve service and modernize transit vehicle fleets, from procuring low- and no-emission buses to launching scheduling applications for smart devices and improving bus stops.  
“Transit is the great equalizer, providing rides for those who do not have a car or cannot drive, and particularly in rural and Tribal areas, having access to an affordable, reliable bus ride can mean the difference between isolation and opportunity,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez in a statement. “[Our] AoPP program is about forging connections for people who need accessible transit the most.”

The grants are specifically awarded for studies to improve transit in Census-defined low-income areas, the agency added, while also supporting coordinated human service transportation planning to improve mobility and access or provide new services – including paratransit services. 

Three state departments of transportation and one state DOT transit division received funds from this round of AoPP disbursements:

  • The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities received $785,400 to conduct a statewide transit study that assesses transportation needs statewide, with a focus on small, tribal and disadvantaged communities. The assessment will list barriers to access and recommend solutions to reconnect communities and will identify capital projects alongside equity considerations.
  • The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority – a division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation – received $127,367 to complete the design of on-route battery-electric bus chargers at the Ashmont bus station. This station serves as a major transportation hub, facilitating connections between the subway, trolley, and 11 bus routes. The project will support transit reliability for the neighboring disadvantaged communities these stations serve and contribute toward the MBTA’s ambitious target of electrifying the entire bus fleet by 2040.
  • The Maine Department of Transportation received $650,462 to help two rural public transit agencies create a community-based transportation model that will aggregate transportation services, including non-emergency medical transportation and taxi companies. It will also automate its dispatch operations and fare card system with real-time data, which will allow the systems to expand and provide more service.
  • The Montana Department of Transportation received $451,500 to plan for new transit services in the city of Bozeman. The project will incorporate climate change, racial equity, and environmental justice into the transit development plan, as well as generate a financing plan that will provide a long-term sustainable funding source for these new services.

Colorado DOT Preps for Greener Aircraft to Fill the Skies

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics wants to get its 76 public use airports ready for alternatively powered aircraft and the fuels they use.

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

The agency is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory or NREL to study which alternative fuel aircraft could use its airports and what changes would have to be made to accommodate the planes and their fuels. The Colorado Aeronautical Board is putting up $400,000 to support the NREL study, which will take about 18 months to complete.

Preparing the airports for alternative fuel aircraft “will make air transportation in Colorado more efficient, more equitable and accessible, with reduced environmental impacts,” Colorado Aeronautics Division Director David Ulane said in a statement.

U.S. air travel contributes about 2.7 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2021 Aviation Climate Action Plan, which seeks to put the industry on a path toward net-zero emissions by 2050.

A recent report from global consultant McKinsey estimates that aircraft using hydrogen or electric power could comprise up to 38 percent of the global aircraft fleet by 2050. The report says airports will have to make significant financial and land investments to meet the fuel generation and storage demands of alternative fueled aircraft.

A major international airport such as Denver International Airport, which is one of the busiest in the world, could expect to invest about $3.9 billion in infrastructure to shift toward alternative propulsion by 2050, the report concluded.

Assessing those infrastructure needs is one of the goals of the Colorado study. Other objectives include:

  • Identifying new alternatively powered aircraft that could utilize Colorado’s airports.
  • Identifying at which airports battery-electric general aviation aircraft could be deployed.
  • Identifying government policy and regulatory considerations, financial impacts, and potential incentives to encourage and support new aviation technology.
  • Exploring opportunities to make travel faster and more efficient while broadening access to air travel and reducing environmental impacts.

“Colorado’s Division of Aeronautics is undertaking a first-of-its-kind statewide evaluation of next-generation aircraft, aviation fuels, and implications on necessary infrastructure,” NREL Strategic Partnerships Manager Brett Oakleaf added. “This leadership is critical for preparing and de-risking the aviation transition for Colorado and its airports.”

State departments of transportation play a critical role in the aviation sector, especially when it comes to airport infrastructure needs.

For example, several state DOT studies – including ones from IowaIllinoisGeorgiaWyoming, and Alaska – show that airports function as significant “economic engines” as well as key mobility hubs for many states.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials also recently published a new report analyzing the impact of general aviation on state and local economies across the country.

That report – officially entitled “The Impact of General Aviation on State and Local Economies: State Reports 2023” – is a joint effort between AASHTO, the Alliance for Aviation Across America, and the National Association of State Aviation Officials.

AASHTO said this report is envisioned as a communication resource to help illustrate the important role general aviation serves in state and local communities, as well as within the nation’s economy.

Will ‘Happiness’ Be the Next Key Transportation Metric?

Could “happiness” become a Key Performance Indicator or KPI tracked by state departments of transportation very soon?

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

Dr. Yingling Fan, professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, believes it is inevitable that state DOTs across the country will eventually benchmark “happiness of the people” for whom they build infrastructure as a KPI, right up there with on-time, on-budget, and safety metrics.

“Traditionally in transportation, it’s always been about getting you from Point A to Point B quicker,” Dr. Fan explained in an interview with the ETAP Newsletter. “And when you over-emphasize efficiency, you kind of minimize the human experience. So, I would say happiness should be a new performance measure for our transportation systems where we can maximize the human experience.”

Fan has tested this idea with a pilot program in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where she developed a Transportation Happiness Map. A GPS-based mobile application captured commuters’ routes and their transportation modes (car, bus, bike, rail, or walking). After the commute, they were asked which emotions they experienced on the trip, including happy, meaningful, painted, sad, tired, or stressed.

The study concluded that people commuting along a scenic riverside route were the happiest with their commute, while bicycling won out as the happiest mode of transport.

Traditionally, biking and walking have been considered “inferior modes” by transportation officials because they are slower means of travel, Dr. Fan said. But that type of analysis does not factor that “the biking and the walking are happier than the driving.”

“We know that our built environment can affect our emotions,” Dr. Fan explained. “So, from an urban planner and a transportation engineer perspective, I feel like there is a responsibility for us to understand the impact of our infrastructure on people’s emotions.”

Dr. Fan pointed out that public transit agencies routinely measure its customers’ levels of satisfaction, which Fan argues is really a measure of how happy the service makes the customer. “They don’t call it happiness, but it’s a pretty close concept, right?”

Dr. Fan has found a willing partner in the Minnesota Department of Transportation, where Nissa Tupper is the director of transportation and public health planning. Although Tupper did not participate in the happiness map project, she did appear in a documentary about Dr. Fan’s work and is an enthusiastic supporter of the research.

“I think that focus on emotional experience is new for most of us in transportation,” Tupper said. “We talk about levels of service and modes, but people talk about picking up their kids from daycare and not driving over potholes,”

It may take some convincing to get some state DOTs to measure something as subjective as people’s happiness, but Tupper said the research is showing “a lot of promise” and should be taken seriously.

“Yes, we need measures to understand how we’re doing,” Tupper said. “We also need the flexibility not to quantify everything all the time.”

Dr. Fan believes the research she and others are doing on happiness eventually could be incorporated into the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA process. “If you look at the current shifts in the transportation industry, previously, we didn’t even count the pedestrian traffic as traffic,” Dr. Fan said. “Now, there is this movement, this momentum, to recognize the benefits of those greener transportation modes, and I hope that happiness could be one of the benefits associated with it.”

Oregon DOT Website Tracks GHG Emission Reductions

The Oregon Department of Transportation recently unveiled a website that tracks how the state’s public agencies are collectively reducing greenhouse gas or GHG emissions across Oregon.

[Above photo by the Oregon DOT]

The Oregon Transportation Emission website pulls together regulations, programs, funding, goals, and partnerships into one place, then rates progress across six transportation categories toward the state’s goal of reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Currently, Oregon is on track to reduce GHG emission to 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, according to Oregon DOT.

Overall in Oregon, emissions from transportation represent 35 percent of total statewide GHG emissions, according to the latest state data.

“Our objectives are to support reductions in how far and how often people drive, and for each mile driven to be clean,” noted Amanda Pietz, administrator for the agency’s policy, data, and analysis division, in a statement. “Overall, we’re doing well to reach our 2050 goals, and we have plans to improve in some areas to get us all the way there.”

The website was created by Oregon DOT in partnership with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Department of Energy, and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development. It is based on the Statewide Transportation Strategy: a 2050 Vision for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction, and progress is tracked against many of the strategy’s goals.

The Oregon DOT noted that recent state regulations governing GHG emissions from cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles or SUVs — alongside a shift to electric vehicles or EVs — should yield the “biggest reduction” in such emissions in the coming decades.

Meanwhile, areas with the “most room for improvement” where GHGs are concerned are reducing vehicle miles traveled — how far and how often people drive — as well as reducing GHG emissions from larger trucks and transit vehicles. The Oregon DOT said “progress can be made” in those areas via investing in active modes like walking, rolling and biking; improving transit services; pricing the transportation system; and enacting land use policies to support shorter trips.

States and localities are engaged in similar emission reduction activities across the country as outlined in a knowledge session held during the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2023 Washington Briefing, held February 28 through March 3 in Washington, D.C.

Concurrently, at the federal level, the U.S. Departments of Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Environmental Protection Agency signed a memorandum of understanding or MOU in September 2022 to reduce GHG emissions associated with the transportation sector while concurrently ensuring “resilient and accessible mobility options” for all Americans.