Commission: All New Vehicles Sold In Mass. Should Be Electric By 2040

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A regional market-based program to reduce carbon emissions from transportation and a goal that all new cars, light trucks and buses sold in Massachusetts be electric by 2040 are among the recommendations in a two-volume, 237-page state report rolled out Friday afternoon.

The report, released by the Commission on the Future of Transportation, recommends 18 ways the state should prepare for potential changes in transportation over the next two decades.

Many of the ideas, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said, respond to "the twin transportation challenges of the 21st century" — climate change and congestion.

"Whether today or in the future, we simply must move more people in fewer vehicles if we are serious about reducing congestion and greenhouse gas pollution from the transportation sector," she said.

The commission's first recommendation is to "prioritize investment in public transit."

"The commission elected to lead with this first foundational recommendation because high-frequency, high-capacity public transit is the most efficient and sustainable way to move large numbers of people," commission Chair Steve Kadish said.

The report is the product of a panel created by an executive order Gov. Charlie Baker signed in January. Kadish, Baker's former chief of staff, said it focused "on the big picture what and the why" and was "less specific on the how."

"While we discussed the interrelation of transportation, housing, jobs and the economy, it's not about specific projects, and while we have a strong recommendation about resources, it's not about near-term budgets or revenue," he said.

Baker, asked if more revenue is needed to fund investments in transportation, said the state needs to "take what we anticipate revenue will look like on a go-forward basis and run it against this, but remember, we're talking about 20 years worth of activity."

"There's going to be a lot of puts and takes associated with that along the way," he said. "What I can tell you is I think all of us thematically and conceptually think a lot of what's in here is going to be critical to the commonwealth's success going forward. It's going to be up to us to figure out time frames, interoperability and expense issues that are associated with all of this."

Public transit is "not the only tool," but transit agencies and their services, particularly bus service, need "to be reinvented," Pollack said. She said other transportation modes, including walking, biking and electric and autonomous vehicles that carry multiple passengers, would also need to play a role.

"The MBTA and regional transit authorities need to offer better, more responsive and more customer-focused service, and they need to operate seamlessly and in concert with new providers offering many kinds of mobility services, using ever-changing technology," Pollack said.

Kadish said all kinds of vehicle owners will need to "significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels" for the state to meet the greenhouse gas emissions reductions called for under the Global Warming Solutions Act. The 2008 law says the state must reduce its emissions to 25 percent below its 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

He said state government should facilitate a "robust" electric vehicle charging infrastructure to give consumers confidence in reliability.

Baker said the report suggests that as Massachusetts moves to a more electrified transportation system, leaders here must work with other states and grid operator ISO New England to make sure there is sufficient electricity capacity to support it.

"This issue in some respects remains unresolved, and the work to ensure that the capacity is there needs to begin now," he said.

The commission's report "is an encouraging step for the commonwealth," said Rick Dimino of A Better City in a statement.

"We all greatly benefit from long-term transportation visioning that is proactive and encourages action," Dimino said. "A Better City appreciates the report's focus on accelerating efforts to bring our transportation system — particularly our mass transit — into a state of good repair, while emphasizing the need to strengthen and expand the system beyond the status quo."

Chris Dempsey, head of the advocacy group Transportation for Massachusetts, described the report as "good news for every Massachusetts citizen who cares about our environment, transportation system or economy."

"On the environmental front, the Commission's support for a regional, market-based program to reduce transportation emissions positions Massachusetts to be a national leader on climate change. Such a program, if implemented correctly, will not only reduce greenhouse gasses and bolster climate resiliency throughout the Northeast, but also improve our infrastructure, our economy, our public health, and our future here in the Commonwealth," Dempsey said.

"The Commission also recommends that we tackle traffic congestion head-on by testing smarter tolling in conjunction with other congestion reduction tools. This paves the way for MassDOT to launch pilot programs in 2019, a plan that our coalition has long-supported. Smarter tolling is a bipartisan idea that works elsewhere in the United States and can make a positive impact on traffic congestion here in Massachusetts," Dempsey added.

This article was originally published on December 14, 2018.



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