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Protecting the environment without overburdening the industry

California air quality regulators and many other political leaders at the state level assert that climate change poses an immediate and growing threat to California’s economy, environment, and to public health. They observe that California’s groundbreaking efforts are helping reduce greenhouse gases emissions widely believed to be warming the planet. California lawmakers and regulators have taken aggressive steps to curtail the emission of climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions.

While this challenge may pose an opportunity for public transit, as a clean-air alternative, we must also exercise diligence in ensuring no more burdensome regulations are placed on the industry.

California's public transit systems must play a more meaningful role in the state's plans for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. The California Transit Association is therefore working with state leaders to define and support transit's many contributions to reducing GHG emissions, including: funding for, and encouragement of, new transit services to attract motorists; planning for transit-supportive land use decisions; use of clean air technology; and other emissions reductions strategies to combat climate change and global warming.

The California Transit Association’s Executive Committee adopted five Overarching Policy Goals on Climate Change to guide the Association's work with state leaders as they develop and implement laws such as AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and SB 375 [Steinberg, Chapter 728, Statutes of 2008]. The policy goals will also guide staff regarding federal climate change efforts.

As California and the United States move toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, the California Transit Association believes that public transportation must be recognized as part of the solution. In addition to providing efficient mobility and reduced congestion, transit provides improved air quality, energy efficiency, and reduced household expenditure on transportation. Transit also creates healthier communities through increased social inclusion and physical activity, as well as more walking and biking opportunities, leading toward an overall improvement in our quality of life. In state and federal development and implementation of climate change laws, the California Transit Association maintains the following principles:

  1. Transit must be at the table as these new laws are developed and implemented.
  2. In pursuing its goals for clean air, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and a stronger connection between transportation and land-use planning, we acknowledge the state will pursue many strategies with regard to the Transportation Sector – such as cleaning the vehicle fleet and lowering the carbon content of fuel. These strategies must also include enactment of laws and regulations acknowledging the vital role enhanced public transportation service can, and should, play in meeting these goals, including mode shifting from auto trips and reduction of vehicle miles traveled. Transit will, to the best of its ability, partner with the state in pursuing these strategies.
  3. California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) should advocate for a strong state role in funding the transit levels needed to meet state environmental objectives. Its objectives should include the stabilization and protection of current transit funding sources. Any new laws or regulations in these policy areas that call for enhanced public transportation service must include appropriate stable and long-term state funding sources adequate to support the required transit service, and include protections from future diversion.
  4. We oppose imposition of unfunded mandates on transit, and we support the dedication of revenues from any new greenhouse gas emission reduction measures (e.g., cap-and-trade, fees or other market-based programs) to expand funding for transit in the state. We urge the ARB to dedicate an appropriate level of revenue from such programs to strategies that enhance public transit.
  5. We support a federal program which will provide funds to transit systems to recognize them for their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases either on their own initiative or in response to state and/or federal requirements.

The California Transit Association continues to monitor and participate in new developments in state and federal climate change efforts and to encourage transit-supportive policy enactments. Our Association's Climate Change Task Force makes ongoing policy recommendations to our Association's leadership as issues continue to evolve.

California's major initiatives for reducing climate change or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are outlined in Assembly Bill 32 (signed into law in 2006); a 2005 Executive Order by the Governor; and, a regulation to reduce passenger car GHG emissions. These efforts aim at reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 – a reduction of approximately 30 percent, and then an 80 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. The main strategies for making these reductions are outlined in the Scoping Plan.

Empowered to oversee the broad regulatory approaches to this challenge, California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) sets the rules for every sector, including public transportation.

Find more information about the ARB’s climate change programs.

The legal framework for the ARB’s work is provided in AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

Find more information about AB 32.

California recently passed a new law encouraging coordination of land-use and transportation planning, called SB 375 [Chapter 728, Statutes of 2008]. To comply with AB 32, metropolitan planning organizations must obtain ARB certification of their SB 375 plans. It is anticipated that these plans will likely contemplate an enhanced role for public transit in providing a cleaner mobility option.

Find more information about SB 375 and other local government programs.

A recent development in the implementation of the ARB’s regulatory approach to implementing AB 32 is its “Cap and Trade” Program. Learn more about how this emission regulation could produce new revenues for investment in clean and efficient public transportation.

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