Developing new climate solutions isn’t always easy, and often times the clearest paths to making an impact are the ones that are most challenging. This is especially the case in cities, where climate action plans focusing on mass transportation, city fleets, and residential car use often require decades-long planning and implementation, expensive upgrades, and/or changing cultural norms.
"It's about time the car capital of the world planned for the future of transportation in the digital age—moving beyond the car to bikes, ride-shares, and autonomous vehicles." Mayor Garcetti
However, a growing number of mayors are finding innovative new transportation solutions that can be implemented both cheaply and quickly, with major climate and community impacts. These represent three main strategies for action:
- Embrace technology: One of the major hurdles in combating fossil fuel use is the high cost of replacing city fleets with electric vehicles. One less-expensive alternative is to retrofit existing vehicles with anti-idling mechanisms to slash gasoline consumption. This was recently the target of an executive order in Seattle, where Mayor Ed Murray mandated the use of technology that seamlessly turn vehicles off and on as needed. Similar technology has been installed through a program that Path to Positive’s own Dan Barry help kick start in Washington DC. These simple devices help save gas, cut pollution on city streets, and help reduce a city’s carbon footprint.
- Ditch fossil fuels: In conjunction with no-idle technology, cities can gradually transition to hybrids and all-electric vehicles. This is already underway in a growing number of states and cities. In California, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order mandating that 25% of the state’s light-duty fleet be zero emission by 2020. Legislators in Washington State passed an initiative mandating 20% of the fleet to be electric by 2017, along with the elimination of non-essential vehicles.
- Get creative: Mayors can also make city residents part of the solution by nudging them to ditch their cars for more climate-friendly commuter choices. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Developing bike share programs that are easily accessible and cheap can help commuters get around downtown areas more quickly (and cleanly) than by driving. Making public transportation free can incentivize residents to hop on buses, light, and heavy rail, and has the effect of unclogging city streets, reducing commute times, and cutting pollution. Mayors can also increase the walkability of their cities by designating car-free zones.
These practical, yet ambitious policies are already underway and showing signs of success in communities around the county. Many of these programs have been implemented through executive orders, showing that mayors alone can bring about significant climate progress in their cities.
“We are leading by example as we pursue cutting edge solutions to our climate challenges. The Drive Clean Seattle Initiative is helping Seattle set an example for how cities can cut emissions even as they grow.” Mayor Ed Murray
By transitioning to electric vehicles, retrofitting existing fleets with new technology, and rethinking public transportation and how residents commute, mayors can slash fossil fuel consumption, decrease commute times, lower municipal expenses, and be a positive force for change. To learn more about implementing climate solutions, and to connect with ambitious climate leaders, head over to Path to Positive Communities and join today!
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor of political science and environmental politics. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Email him at [email protected]
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