Ensuring Equity in Emissions Reduction Strategies
Research Idea Scope
Spurred by information on the increasing urgency of mitigating climate change, as well as an injection of federal funding into carbon emissions reduction strategies, transportation agencies are increasingly developing and implementing plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation sources through transportation capital and operations. Examples of emissions reduction strategies include mode shift and travel reduction (e.g., transit, active transportation, micromobility), efficient traffic operations, and clean vehicles (e.g., electric vehicles and charging infrastructure).
At the same time as emission reduction is becoming a critical policy objective, so are equity and justice. While emission reduction strategies often have beneficial side-effects (or “co-benefits”) that benefit disadvantaged communities, such as reducing diesel exhaust or expanding mobility options, they can also lead to unintended negative consequences for these communities. For example, community-scale capital improvements such as bike lanes, bus rapid transit, or electric vehicle charging stations are sometimes perceived as leading to gentrification, driving up rents and harming the same communities they were supposed to help.
This research will review the potential unintended, harmful consequences of clean transportation investments on disadvantaged communities and ways to address those impacts. The product will be a guide to describe strategies to mitigate or avoid the negative impacts of emission reduction strategies and instead design clean transportation investments and services that benefit disadvantaged communities benefit to the maximum extent.
Urgency and Payoff
The limited window for reducing GHG emissions enough to avoid the most dramatic effects on planetary systems is quickly slipping away, and an increasing number of states and municipalities are setting aggressive GHG reduction targets to which transportation must contribute. At the same time, the post-COVID landscape includes an unprecedented focus on the needs of disadvantaged communities, including rectifying historical inequities related to transportation systems. This research will help transportation agencies develop effective emission reduction strategies that also benefit, rather than harm, disadvantaged communities. A focus on equity will help to increase support for emission reduction strategies, expediting project delivery, as well as enhancing the public welfare.