Getting Back on Track: Aligning State Transportation Policy with Climate Change Goals

A new report by NRDC and Smart Growth America analyzes each state’s transportation policies and evaluates how they support efforts to reduce GHG emissions.  The report can be found on both the NRDC and Smart Growth America websites.
NRDC describes the criteria for evaluating state policies to reduce emissions from that transportation sector as follows:
“This analysis evaluates each state based on 17 policy and spending criteria that have been compared by expert analysis to achieve transportation sector greenhouse gas reductions. States can also implement these criteria independent of local or federal action and each criterion has successfully been adopted in one or more states. The selected evaluation criteria fall into three categories:

  • Infrastructure Policies — These are policies that result in specific changes to transportation infrastructure projects and associated land use patterns, or that change the way people use infrastructure through pricing and other incentives. This category evaluates a state’s overall policy framework, including how it uses innovative policy tools to improve transportation system efficiency while reducing its climate impact.
  • Investments Decisions — This category of evaluation criteria tests the degree to which states support their overall policy intentions with corresponding investment decisions. Do states direct their transportation dollars in ways that support and promote low-carbon transportation? The investment criteria look at such things as whether a state takes advantage of the programmatic flexibility of federal funds, uses state funds to invest in cleaner transportation projects, and maintains its existing assets in a state of good repair. These criteria are used to evaluate the state’s overall performance in implementation and support of lower carbon transportation policies.
  • Touchstone Policies — These policies show the depth of a state’s intention to reduce transportation sector emissions. Examples of touchstone policies include establishing a statewide VMT reduction target or adopting stringent carbon emission standards for vehicles. Having these policies on their own may not directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions or affect infrastructure decisions, but they are important indicators of the level of recognition by a state that transportation policies affect greenhouse gas emissions, and the commitment of the state to reducing emissions from transportation.”