By Andrew Savage
If you thought the vibrant blood orange sunsets over Virginia in July were vivid, you weren’t alone. Sadly, those sunsets were caused by smoke from the wildfires coming in from the west that engulfed the state in hazy smog and triggered a public health alert.
Now, constant natural disasters are clear evidence of an urgent truth: Climate change is here, it’s getting worse and we need to take collective action to address it. We do not do this at our own risk.
In Virginia, the climate crisis is exacerbated by a transportation crisis, in which residents are stranded by a faulty and polluting transportation system responsible for 45% of our climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions. If Virginia is to do its part, state leaders must take action to reduce fossil fuel emissions while providing residents with affordable, accessible, sustainable and safe mobility options.
As the sustainability manager at Lime, a transportation company operating a network of self-service scooters and bicycles in Richmond and cities in Virginia, the United States and around the world, micro-mobility programs have the potential to help achieve the essential goals of making communities cleaner. and more user-friendly. However, there is a big obstacle in the way. Many residents would like to leave their cars at home, but the streets in many communities are unprotected, connected, and equitably designed for safe walking, biking and scootering.
The Richmond Department of Public Works has made progress in improving street safety and improving the city’s transportation network. However, the city could make much greater progress if Virginia joins its neighboring states in the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI-P), a regional proposal to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.
The TCI program has two major objectives: to get fossil fuel suppliers to buy allowances for the emissions they cause in the state; and invest program proceeds in clean transportation options, such as expanded public transportation, safer streets, and connected cycle lanes for cycling and scootering. Both aspects of the program will reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Lime supports TCI-P because Virginia and neighboring states will be better off with less air pollution and expanded mobility options. We urge Gov. Ralph Northam to sign Virginia on the TCI-P, and we urge the Virginia General Assembly to pass legislation to solidify state participation in the program.
Governor Northam was actively involved in the development of the TCI-P, but has yet to formally engage Virginia to join the program. In December, leaders from Washington, DC, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island officially joined TCI-P, pledging to reduce local transportation emissions by 30% by 2032. Together, these jurisdictions are expected to generate nearly $ 300 million in revenue each year. under TCI-P, at least 35 percent of which must be directed to overburdened and underserved communities. It’s too much investment in transportation for Virginia to not just leave on the table.
With TCI-P in place, Virginians will have access to sustainable transportation options while breathing cleaner, healthier air. It is no exaggeration to say that it will literally save lives. Fatalities due in part to dangerous streets in Virginia jumped to 847 in 2020, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Meanwhile, public health researchers recently found that full implementation of TCI-P could prevent up to 1,000 premature pollution-related deaths and 5,000 cases of childhood asthma in the region by 2032. .
Lime is one of the many local employers who support TCI-P. Last fall, we joined over 100 companies and institutions in the Northeast, Mid Atlantic and South regions to urge our governors to launch the TCI-P and mainstream equity, health and reducing emissions as investment priorities. Like many large companies and investors, Lime understands the urgent economic need for a modern and efficient transportation system. We understand that what’s good for the health of Virginia residents is also good for business. When goods and people can move easily, efficiently, and affordably in Virginia while reducing their environmental impact, businesses are more likely to locate in the state, creating jobs and economic growth. Research also shows that higher rates of micro-mobility increase spending for local businesses.
Just as climate change cannot be solved by one person, company or state, the potential impacts of TCI-P require collective action. We call on Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia General Assembly to join neighboring states in this regional agenda to reduce pollution and invest in clean transportation solutions.
Andrew Savage is Vice President and Head of Sustainability at Lime, an electric scooter company.