US Secretary of Transportation Says Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled Necessary for Substantive CO2 Reduction from Transportation
In recent testimony before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said that substantive reductions in carbon emissions from transportation will require policies and programs that reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
Enhancing system efficiency, increasing fuel efficiency and introducing low carbon fuels such as biodiesel, ethanol, electricity, and hydrogen are important steps to reducing transportation related greenhouse gas emissions, but these measures cannot stand alone. Even if vehicle fuel efficiency were to reach 55 mpg by 2030, we would still see only modest decreases in transportation CO2 emissions without a decrease in vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
Addressing VMT growth plays a key role in decreasing transportation related GHG emissions and should be included in overall efforts to prevent climate change. One way to achieve significant reductions in VMT is to develop more livable communities.—Secretary LaHood
Secretary LaHood outlined several steps that could be taken to spur the development of more livable communities and reduce VMT:
Provide more transportation choices in more communities across the country. Single occupancy vehicles should be only one of many transportation options available to Americans to reach their destinations. Walking, bicycling, light rail and buses can be made available in more places.
Promote development of housing in close proximity to transit. In addition to reducing VMT and greenhouse gas emissions from cars driven by commuters, such planning would have the added benefits of decreasing transportation costs for families and reducing traffic congestion.
Promote mixed-use development, which incorporates residential and commercial buildings, allowing individuals the choice to walk, drive a shorter distance or easily use public transportation to reach their destination. Residents should have the option to live in an area with services and goods that are easily accessible. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this would also reduce travel times involved in driving to and from grocery and department stores, medical service providers or even entertainment centers such as movie theaters.
Community planning and multi-modal transportation could benefit smaller towns and rural areas as well, La Hood said.