Momentum Builds for Using Cap and Trade Funds for Rail
Last week the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) approved a motion asking the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to spend the revenues generated by the AB 32 cap-and-trade for sustainable transportation. As reported by Streetsblog LA:
Governor Jerry Brown’s administration states that transportation must be one of the main areas in which cap and trade funds are invested. Brown and many environmentalists believe that these funds could be key for regions, and the state, to meet the goals set out by its landmark greenhouse gas laws SB 375 and AB 32. However, given Caltrans continued belief that expanding highways is a great way to reduce vehicle emissions, it is important that strict guidelines be in place for how cap and trade transportation dollars are spent.
The Metro motion doesn’t go as far as the call made by advocates earlier this month for cap and trade funding standards for transportation. The motion follows guidelines put together by the Transportation Coalition for Livable Communities (TCLC). These guidelines include: revenue from “fuel auctions” should go towards transportation, county government bodies should have control over project selection, funds should fund cost effective and innovative projects, and all cap and trade funds should go towards projects that advance the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.
TCLC is calling for a stricter definition of “sustainable transportation” – that projects have to reduce VMT. Metro would like for road maintenance to be included as an eligible use of cap-and-trade funds but TCLC is arguing – correctly, in my view – that such projects should only be funded if as part of road maintenance work the street is turned into a complete street, with infrastructure for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.
There is broad consensus that transportation should be a major beneficiary of cap-and-trade funds. But if it were up to me, mass transit projects would be what gets funded. Whether it’s high speed rail, commuter rail, subways and light rail, streetcars, or buses, those kinds of transportation solutions are the ones that will make a meaningful dent in carbon emissions. California needs to also do a better job investing in road maintenance – cities don’t have the resources to do it themselves – but not with the AB 32 cap-and-trade funds.
Still, it’s a clear sign that momentum is building for devoting cap-and-trade funds to mass transit, particularly rail. There’s a lot more advocacy work to be done on this issue but Metro’s resolution is at least a step in the right direction.