Americans are addicted to gasoline. According to Gallup, more than 75 percent of adults say they drive at least some of the time. The biggest contributors to air pollution — tailpipes, cars, and trucks — are all combustion engines. Thus, all vehicle pollution affects climate change, carbon dioxide emissions, and transportation safety, particularly on busy roadways.
So why can’t Americans begin to clean up our fleets as part of our collective journey to a clean, sustainable economy? Last week, leaders from 17 U.S. states, provinces, and cities endorsed the Regional Holographic Transit Partnership. This joint initiative is designed to reduce truck and automotive congestion, and air pollution in particular, by offering incentives for counties and cities to redesign their mass transit systems so they function more like advanced holograms rather than asphalt tubes.
America is the global leader in hydrogen technology. The United States once dominated this industry. Today, hydrogen is running out, and it’s rapidly losing ground to oil, gas, and coal. Today, 10 new cars roll off the assembly line every second and shipping more than 39 million tons of freight annually. Huge portions of America’s infrastructure are designed to carry oil, gas, and coal, rather than greener energy, to increasingly congested ports and airports. In all three cases, Europe’s cost-effective and cleaner alternatives are available. For America, the time for a new policy framework that responsibly allocates scarce resources — emissions reductions and investment for energy security and climate stabilization — is now.
The 24 states, including the District of Columbia, in the National Holographic Transit Partnership aim to ensure hydrogen is our transportation energy source of the future. More electric vehicles and fewer oil, gas, and coal vehicles can simultaneously drive cleaner and less costly transportation networks, while also taking passengers and goods where they want to go, when they want to go, and how they want to go.
The National Holographic Transit Partnership has been working in 13 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces since 2009. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is lead for the pact and co-chairs for the creation of the partnership in this new agreement. Already, they have reduced traffic in rush hour peak times and connected transit to cyclists and pedestrians. The partnership has helped North America’s transit systems adapt to changing conditions by providing nationwide market information so transit systems can work with and support each other, and develops clean energy transportation planning programs to support states and localities that don’t yet have them.
This most recent agreement is a chance to build on the momentum for compact, sustainable cities and mobility throughout the region. North America’s leaders can enable transit for the first time to and through metropolitan areas, thereby improving quality of life by offering mobility solutions that work for everyone. That includes people who like clean energy transportation options but don’t want to be stuck in a long line on a Saturday night for a crowded bus.
Smartly designed transit can help first responders avoid air pollution, meaning fewer sacrifices for public safety. The coalition of governors, mayors, governors, mayors, executives, and planners are on the right track. It’s time for Congress to move forward with this bold approach. Even President Trump, in his announcement about the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate accord, concluded: “America is open for business.”
This column was originally published in November 2017 on Plug in America.