The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has identified the states doing the most to fight climate change, promote equity, increase active mobility, and improve sustainability through their transportation policies and practices.

[Above photo by NRDC]

The report, “Getting Transportation Right: Ranking the States in Light of New Federal Funding,” calls on states to “take transportation spending off autopilot” to ensure that unprecedented federal funding will have a positive environmental impact. It evaluates each state “to gauge the general policy and spending context that will influence and direct” how the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds will be spent.

The report also ranks which states are doing the most “to improve equity and climate outcomes from the transportation sector,” based largely on data from each state’s department of transportation.

The report measured states’ commitments to equity, active transportation, electric vehicle usage, greenhouse gas reductions, and a host of other environmental metrics through a scoring system based on publicly available data. Some of the metrics focus on whether states have adopted certain policies while other metrics are based on “actual state performance, spending, and outcomes.”

The NRDC’s report also noted that state transportation policies will guide funding decisions that “will shape the nature of the transportation system in the United States for decades to come, with enormous implications for equity, climate change, and public health.”

The states doing the most to improve equity and climate outcomes from the transportation sector, according to the report, are California; Massachusetts; Vermont; Oregon; Washington; New York; Colorado; New Jersey; Connecticut; Minnesota.

The NRDC report ranked states on 20 measurements that fall in five major categories: state planning for climate and equity; vehicle electrification; reducing vehicle miles travelled through expanded transportation choices; system maintenance; and procurement. Measurements included such items as transit investment, flex spending on active transportation, number of EV charging ports per 1,000 people, and whether states compensate citizens for participating in the project planning process.

The report also cited examples of how states are advancing environmental and equity causes:

  • The Minnesota Department of Transportation set transportation-related greenhouse gas reduction targets of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and 50 percent below 2005 by 2030.
  • Vermont offers “point-of-sale rebates for the purchase of new EVs,” including greater incentives for buyers with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less.
  • North Carolina DOT “identified strategies to reduce VMT” or vehicle miles traveled and modeled those strategies in key metro areas.
  • California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon require or encourage environmental product declarations “for commonly used construction materials in transportation projects.”

Although many states already have policies and programs in place to meet equity and climate goals, “other states must rapidly realign their priorities in order to achieve these outcomes,” the report states. “Even the states currently leading the pack, while they are to be commended for their actions thus far, have areas in need of improvement.”