BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Posts About Transportation

Congressional gridlock will spell out real traffic headaches for commuters unless Congress approves federal funding for the Highway Trust Fund before it officially runs out September 30. Luckily, this hard deadline and a looming August recess where lawmakers will leave DC and will have to defend what they’re doing to solve transportation problems in their home districts, has finally motivated some lawmakers to go for broke to prevent the trust fund from running out.

The Short-Term Fix

Senator Wyden from Oregon has emerged as a leader on those efforts, having brokered an agreement with Republicans on a plan that would provide almost $11 billion in funding for the Highway Trust Fund—which is enough to keep it up and running until May 2015. Last night showed signs of progress as the House of Representatives approved a measure that funds the Highway Trust Fund for one year, similar to the agreement Senator Wyden hammered out. Now the measure awaits Senate action.  

Further bolstering support for a short-term fix, the White House has signaled it would back a similar measure. However, President Obama and other administration officials haven’t lost sight of the long-view priorities of the Grow AMERICA agenda which the president spoke about in a Washington, DC event recently.

 "Congress should act now, not just to make the repairs desperately needed, but to build the modern infrastructure essential to create and sustain jobs and to build a stronger, more competitive economic future," said Kim Glas, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance.

BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Kim Glas attended the event and said, “The state of our nation’s infrastructure not only impacts our economy, but our environment suffers as well. Congress should act now, not just to make the repairs desperately needed, but to build the modern infrastructure essential to create and sustain jobs and to build a stronger, more competitive economic future. The GROW AMERICA Act will help us accomplish just that.”

A Problem That Isn’t Going Away

We can and must do better than another short term fix though. Americans need and deserve a long-term plan that provides adequate funding, sets necessary policy, and gives states time to set priorities and plan projects. America’s roads and transit systems each earned a “D” grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Our nation’s bridges—which have an average age of 42 years old and nearly 65,000 of which are closed or have load restrictions due to age—didn’t fare much better, earning only a “C+” grade.

Now that the House has passed an extension, it’s the Senate’s move. Failing to act on a short-term fix to rescue the Trust fund puts 700,000 jobs at risk immediately—which would be like Congress firing everyone in Wyoming, Washington, D.C., or Vermont.  But our long-term job growth depends on finishing the job.

We still believe Congress can come through on a plan to save the Highway Trust Funding from going bankrupt. But, more than that, we know it’s time for Congress to work together to pass a long-term, fully funded transportation bill that will fix the problems caused by decades of neglect and that will repair and modernize our infrastructure to support a prosperous 21st century economy.

Posted In: Transportation, Infrastructure

This crosspost is from Callum Beals, an editorial intern at Sierra. You can find the original here

April 10, 2014

Chinatown station on the LA Metro Gold LineThe American Public Transportation Association is partying like it's 1956. That's because Americans took 10.65 billion trips on public transit systems in 2013 -- numbers not seen since the 1950s. In its annual ridership report, APTA stated that more Americans were using trains, buses, and subways as an alternative to commuting to work by car.

The 2013 numbers narrowly surpassed the post-1950s high of 10.59 billion in 2008, when gas prices ballooned. According to APTA, what makes the 2013 numbers so exciting is that gas prices are lower now than they were in 2008.

Public transit powerhouse New York City saw a 4.2% heavy rail ridership increase. More surprisingly, Los Angeles posted a 4.8% heavy rail increase coupled with a 6% light rail increase for 2013.

The LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is betting big on public transit as the future of the area. "It has to be," said Marc Littman, the LA Metro's deputy executive officer of public relations. "Mobility is the linchpin of the economy."

By the end of 2014, the LA Metro will have started construction on multiple new heavy and light rail projects that will become operational over the next decade. "Voters in LA are so fed up with traffic that in 2008 they voted to tax themselves three times over," said Littman. The taxes he is referring to are all part of Measure R, a 2008 county ballot that will award around $40 billion of taxpayer money to traffic relief and transportation upgrades over the next 30 years.

While traffic reduction was undoubtedly at the forefront of voters' minds, so too was an increasing environmental consciousness. "You can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 20 pounds of COper day," says Littman. "We've tapped into people who are fed up with traffic as well as those that are environmentally conscious."

This green rider is exactly who APTA believes is behind 2013's surge in public transportation ridership. In an interview with the Associated Press, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy proclaimed, "People are making a fundamental shift to having options for getting around. This is a long term trend. This isn't just a blip."

Quantifying the affect of environmentalism on increased public transit ridership is difficult, but the fact that 2013's levels resemble those of the 1950s can't be ignored. With the rise of the automobile and suburbia, public transit has long been a secondary option for commuters.

Littman believes that Americans, especially Los Angelenos, want a return to a sprawling public transit infrastructure. "In Los Angeles, there were more than 1000 miles of track 100 years ago, and people want it back. It's kind of like that baseball movie [Field of Dreams]. If you build it, they will come."

To get involved with local public transit projects, visit publictransportation.org

--Image courtesy of iStockphoto/Merkuri2

Callum Beals is an editorial intern at Sierra. He recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz, where he studied history and literature. He enjoys hiking, camping, and waking up at ungodly hours to watch soccer games.

Posted In: Infrastructure, Transportation, Sierra Club

Mike RobinsonThe following blog was originally posted on GM's Fast Lane blog. Read more about the workshop Mike Robinson took part in here.

Mike Robinson refers to himself as “fanatically pragmatic.”

During a panel at the annual Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference in Washington D.C., our vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs said GM looks at sustainability as a mainstream, long-term business strategy where decisions are driven by how to best take care of customers, employees and shareholders.

And since we’re running a business, these decisions need to make sense from a financial, people and environment perspective.

Mike was joined on his panel by representatives from International Paper, Alcoa and UPS to talk about sustainability and the bottom line.

The next wave of young professionals will come with a built-in sense of sustainability, as the generation has grown up with recycle bins at the curb.

When asked what big companies are looking for in new professionals, Mike said, “We look at it from the opposite perspective: Are we doing the best we can to attract the next generation of sustainability-oriented millennials? Because that’s what we stand for.”

On whether the auto industry itself is sustainable, he added that GM is looking at long-term demographics. With the middle class expected to double in size and consumers wanting more goods, societies will demand access.

This will require a level of integration among government and producers that doesn’t exist today, and it may mean less vehicles in some spaces and different vehicles in others. Necessity is the mother of invention, he said, and the industry in its current form is not sustainable.

Meanwhile, the company continues to apply efficiency fundamentals to not only its products, but also to how they are made. Mike discussed dedication to a clean economy through responsible manufacturing around the world.

He stated, “We do things we aren’t required to do. Seventy percent of our sales are outside the U.S., from plants in countries without regulation. We run those plants like they were in the U.S. You need to look long-term how to be a responsible corporate citizen.”

Posted In: Auto, Transportation

The following blog was originally posted on the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference's Meeting Point blog.

We use them every day, but our roads, bridges, and transit systems are not ready for the impacts of climate change.

More than just an inconvenience, the decaying state of America’s transportation network is an environmental and economic problem. The time we spending weaving through detours and idling in gridlock means wasted gas and extra carbon emissions. A lack of access to transit means a less mobile society. And, without dependable transportation options, businesses cannot transport their goods or personnel from place to place or their products to consumers.

Despite that fact, America has failed to make vital investments in our transportation networks. This has left us with roads that are potholed and congested, deficient bridges that cannot be driven on by trucks due to new weight limits, and countless Americans, including those in disadvantaged populations, who cannot get to job interviews or work because of a lack of affordable and reliable transit options.

It is time America makes a serious investment to Repair our transportation systems, and we will be discussing what that means during the Transportation track at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference.

This track’s workshops include:

Getting on Track Together: Creating Pathways to Transit and Transportation Careers for Community Members
Monday, February 10, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Moving Efficiently: Improving How We Transport Goods in America
Monday, February 10, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Public Transit Funds – Creating Good Jobs for Disadvantaged Populations
 Monday, February 10, 3:40 PM – 5:10 PM

"Connected” Cars Are Cleaner Cars
 Monday, February 10, 3:40 PM – 5:10 PM

Job Creation Through High Performance Rail
Tuesday, February 11, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Repair America: Infrastructure Solutions That Work Now
Tuesday, February 11, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

This blog is the eight in a series of blogs discussing the various workshop tracks that will be happening at the 2014 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference. Please check back and see the full workshop list for more information.  

Posted In: Transportation

The following blog—Zoe Lipman, a Senior Policy Advisor for the BlueGreen Alliance—was originally posted on the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Meeting Point Blog.

You may think you were just watching Seattle beat Denver interspersed with car and beer ads and no Beyoncé. In fact you were watching extremely cost-effective subliminal advertising for the transportation workshops at next week’s Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference.

Like the ad where dad saves the kid from imminent disaster over and over until the car does? Now you know you want to know more about the Internet of Things…and you can do that at the workshop on the connected vehicles on Monday, February 10th at 3:40 p.m.  How is it connected? To the driver? To other cars? To the transportation system? To the grid? And, beyond safety and entertainment, what benefits does Machine-2-Machine technology bring for the environment?

Believe in Importing from Detroit but not sure Bob Dylan had all the details? On Tuesday morning, February 11th at 10:30 a.m. get the low down on the big opportunities now to grow the high tech transportation supply chain all across the U.S.  Find out how we’re capturing the next big thing in cars, trucks, buses, trains and logistics (and also Detroit does build watches, but there’s no session on that at the Conference). Speaking of what it takes to turn innovation and investment into jobs here in the U.S., if the can-do American floor mat company got you thinking, hear more on what we’ve learned locally and federally about delivering on jobs promises on Monday morning at 10:30.

The halftime intro did some beautiful and surreal things with transportation infrastructure—now’s your chance to weigh in on how we Repair America for real by attending:

The stratospheric jump ad  is a reminder to ask those who are part of the aviation industry or work in aviation policy to contact the BlueGreen Alliance about our Aviation side event on Monday.  (And for any who don’t see the world from above on a daily basis, its worth seeing the full jump here.) 

 Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there’s a lot more to the conference than just transportation. We’re looking at everything it takes to Repair America to Protect, Produce and Prosper from resilient cities to pipelines to building a new green, job-creating football stadium. Join us.

Posted In: Transportation

We are forced to think about our nation’s infrastructure when a big bridges collapse occurs, but many fail to notice that decrepit bridges drive up the prices on almost anything that gets to the store by truck. Transportation for America (T4A) recently released a report that shows 11 percent of all U.S. highway bridges are structurally deficient. According to the report, placing all 66,405 deficient bridges end-to-end would create one long deficient bridge stretching 1,500 miles — that is equal to the distance from Mexico to Canada across the widest part of the United States.

While a bridge with a structurally deficient rating isn’t necessarily about to collapse, in many cases it means the bridge has weakened to the point where it can no longer handle heavy loads. Lower weight restrictions cause big trucks that deliver goods to detour, making their routes longer and adding to transportation costs. That cost is usually passed along to consumers, which is reflected in many of the rising costs people are seeing at the market.

An estimated $76 billion is needed to repair deficient bridges that carry 260 million vehicles each day, yet traditional transportation funding is eroding, and the federal government’s current financial condition and fiscal outlook further complicates the issue.

Currently only 10 percent of structurally deficient bridges are eligible for repair under our nation’s largest highway program. The remaining 90 percent are left to compete with all the other pressing needs in our communities, and many states are going into their sixth or seventh year of budget troubles.

The sorry state of our nation’s infrastructure truly means dollars and cents for us all. If we do not invest in the repair of our nation’s infrastructure, it will continue to crumble, our economy will continue to stagnate, and as a nation we will be failing to meet the needs of our growing population.

Please join the 15 million members of the BlueGreen Alliance in our call to Repair America — our campaign to prepare America’s infrastructure for climate change and other challenges. It is time to take action, creating good jobs for workers, making our systems more efficient and reducing pollution, and protecting our families and communities.

Posted In: Transportation

The following post is from Eric Steen, Deputy Communications Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. 

A few years ago, back in the summer of 2007, people were stuck in rush hour traffic on the I-35W Bridge near downtown Minneapolis. Suddenly, the bridge that spanned the mighty Mississippi collapsed, plunging people and vehicles into the river below, killing 13 and injuring 145. While the collapse made national news, it really hit home for people like me that drove over the bridge several times a week and knew people that were on the bridge just minutes before it collapsed. Phone lines were jammed as people tried to get ahold of friends and loved ones they knew traveled the route. 

It made me look at the world differently.

The news of the bridge collapse on Interstate 5 in Washington State brought back the same memories — and some of the same worries. The I-5 collapse was caused when an oversized truck hit the structure, causing an entire span of the bridge to collapse and sending vehicles into the waters below. Three people were injured by their fall into the Skagit River. Fortunately, all of them are fine. 

After the I-35W Bridge, I started paying attention to the condition of bridges. When I think back on it, there were a lot of bridges I shouldn’t have driven my bike over, much less my car. I even sometimes rolled my window down when crossing over bridges in the Minneapolis area. Now, honestly, having my window down likely would have done nothing in the event of a bridge collapse (I’m a terrible swimmer and there’s that whole impact thing), but at least it made me feel better about driving over a bridge with rust holes the size of me in them.

Thankfully, the worst ones have been or are currently in the process of being rebuilt. This is in large part due to the Minnesota Legislature passing a transportation bill that focused on bridge safety in the wake of the I-35W Bridge collapse and the also influx of federal funding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act brought to the table after 2009. 

After the I-35W collapse, I had to ask myself a few fundamental questions. Why should people in what many of us consider to be the greatest country ever in the history of the world have to worry that the infrastructure they use ever day is safe for them to use? Why were there so many bridges, tunnels, dams, roadways, transit lines, and other vital systems that all of us use every day in such a state of disrepair? And, would the I-35W bridge collapse serve as the clarion call for action or the harbinger of more tragedy to come? 

With the collapse in Mount Vernon, Washington, I think a lot of people are asking the same questions today as I did back in 2007. 

The answers to them aren’t simple. For the most part it boils down to we’ve made progress, but we’ve got a long way yet to go. One need only look at the American Society of Civil Engineers Report Card to see that progress — through state action like that in Minnesota where new revenue for transportation was raised for the first time in 20 years or through federal investments like the Recovery Act. Back in 2009, 25 percent of America’s bridges were labeled structurally deficient — meaning the bridges may be closed or restrict traffic in accordance with weight limits because of limited structural capacity — or structurally obsolete —a bridge that has older design features that means it cannot safely accommodate current traffic volumes, vehicles sizes, and weights. Today, one in nine of America’s bridges have been rated structurally deficient. That’s a big improvement, but with an average age of 42 years, we have a lot of old bridges that need repairs and replacement yet to go. 

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board says the I-5 collapse should be the wake-up call America needs to make the needed investments to make our infrastructure safe. I agree. There’s no reason I, or anyone, should have to drive over a bridge with the window down for fear of it falling down. Our parents and grandparents built us a transportation system that served them and us well. Now, it’s time we make sure that the transportation system we leave to future generations is safe, dependable, and efficient.

Posted In: Transportation

The folks over at Policy Matters in Ohio have issued a new report that says the Buckeye State could be a key player in the supply chain for the growing electric vehicles (EV) market in the U.S.

The report says that positive policy changes — like the increased fuel-efficiency standards put forward by the Obama administration, federal and state incentives for EV purchases, and investments in charging infrastructure — are succeeding at making EVs attractive to car buyers, and that could mean jobs in Ohio. If, that is, the state acts now to utilize the manufacturing knowledge of its work force and promotes existing manufacturers to get in the EV parts manufacturing market.

The group’s Green Electricity and Transpiration (GET) Smart policy solutions are the vehicle to achieving this goal. They boil down to a few simple, but effective, ideas that will drive growing in the EV supply chain in Ohio. From the report:

  • Create a Transportation Choice fund in Ohio's transportation budget. By 2030, ramp funding up to 10 percent of the state’s multi-billion dollar transportation budget;
  • Expand Ohio’s Advanced Energy Fund and using it to provide grants, rebates, vouchers, and low-interest loans to promote EV adoption;
  • Protect and expand Ohio’s clean energy laws;
  • Identify existing Ohio manufacturers that can participate in the EV supply chain, helping them retool to meet the needs of this industry, and investing in related research and development.

Notice that promoting clean energy and sustaining the work already done in the state is a vital component of their plan. Clean energy and electric vehicles go hand-in-hand.

Making sure the energy we use to charge electric vehicles is clean and renewable only makes sense. It reduces carbon pollution, while also creating even more good jobs in other sectors for workers making the components to generate power from wind, solar, and other renewable sources and those in the building trades installing and maintaining them. And, more and more ways are being developed to help EVs move excess energy back into the grid for all of us to use.

The bottom line is that to reduce our imports of foreign oil, make our economy stronger by creating new jobs and making our current jobs more secure, and fighting climate change, we need to move to more fuel-efficient vehicles, including EVs.

Posted In: Ohio, Transportation, Clean Energy

The following blog is cross-posted from the Good Jobs, Green Jobs website.

Even months after Super Storm Sandy, power hadn’t been restored to all residents on the East Coast. That was one of the many events that brought a serious problem to light: Our infrastructure systems — the energy, water and communications networks we rely on and use every day — have not changed, in many ways, since they were originally designed, and they are not able to keep up with the demands of 21st century living. This was the discussion of the second plenary panel during the 2013 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference on Tuesday, April 16.

As Mike Langford, National President of the Utility Workers Union of America, explained, “Our infrastructure is at the end of its life. That is why our national infrastructure earned a grade of D+… Don’t we deserve an A+ water and energy system?”

Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for Water at the Environmental Protection Agency added, “The good news is that investing in our water infrastructure creates jobs. We owe it to future generations to ensure they have safe drinking water like we have had.”

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke about the importance of using pension funds to fund training programs to support training programs for workers. “We know that if we invest pension funds into infrastructure projects in a prudent, fiducially-sound way, retrofit and upgrade buildings to make them energy efficient, and create those type of jobs and training to allow current workers to upgrade their skills and create a new skill base for new workers, that is a win-win-win.”

Representative Stacey Abrams, Minority Leader of the Georgia House, shared the story of the Atlanta Green Beltway as an example of what can happen when infrastructure projects are done right. This project is re-using 22-miles of historic railroad corridors to connect 45 neighborhoods and provide a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit.

Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of Public Policy for the National Council of La Raza, spoke about the importance of building relationships and non-traditional partnerships in order to get these types of investments done. “We spend a lot of time talking to ourselves. Building relationships and agenda setting collaboratively takes time and energy, so it is easier to talk to ourselves. Building deeper, collaborative and authentic relationships on the local and national level is what is needed to win.”

Langford pushed conference attendees to be talk about the importance of investing in our nation’s infrastructure to those in their home communities. “Every person needs to be an ambassador for how these types of projects need to happen in their own communities. We need community involvement and education so we can get the investments that are good for workers and good for communities.”

Posted In: Infrastructure, Transportation, Broadband, Utility Workers Union of America, American Federation of Teachers

This blog was originally posted on the Good Jobs, Green Jobs website.

The Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference has attracted big name speakers over the years, and this year was no different. Tuesday afternoon, the attendees got to hear from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. 

“High speed rail is coming to America!” Ray LaHood declared to the audience. He also spoke of the importance of Buy America requirements and preparing our country’s infrastructure for climate change. “Construction materials for our new rail projects are coming from rail from facilities in 49 states. That’s good for our workers, good for our travelers and good for the economy. For everything we do, we have an eye on the future… America was built on big ideas and bold actions because generations before us had the courage and the foresight to invest in our future… We owe no less to our children and grandchildren.” 

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who previously received the BlueGreen Alliance’s Green Jobs Champion Award in 2009, stated the Good Jobs, Green Jobs agenda is a “great message.” She added, “There is no doubt this is our responsibility and we see it as an opportunity… Science has shown us human activities have had an effect on climate change. Your formula of good jobs, green jobs not only protects the environment, it grows the economy.”

Posted In: Auto, Transportation, Clean Energy, Climate Change
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