1200px Elizabeth Warren (48006689222)

Yes, Elizabeth Warren Has a Plan for Transportation


1200px Elizabeth Warren (48006689222)

A recent post here at streets.mn focused on the transportation policies of 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates. In this 3,000+ word analysis, five of the six current candidates’ policies were covered in depth, and one candidate was given a single sentence. This gives the false impression Warren doesn’t have a plan. The reality is that transportation policies are embedded within her wider platform.

Warren’s plan for transportation and infrastructure focuses on the urgency created by climate change and the need to invest in ways that increase equity and climate resilience. She notes that “45% of Americans still do not have access to public transportation, leaving those without access reliant on car ownership to get to work, school and worship.”

We won’t reach our climate goals as long as so many rely on cars to get around. That’s why Warren has proposed a Build Green program, which would provide money to states, cities, counties, and tribal governments to expand public transportation and reduce reliance on cars. She also has a plan to make all light- and medium- duty vehicles electric by 2030.

Centering Racial Justice in Transportation

In talking about her approach to transit funding, Warren specifically cites research done here in the Twin Cities by local progressive orgs (Take Action, ISAIAH, the Center for Popular Democracy, and now-defunct Neighborhoods Organizing for Change) on racial inequity for public transit users. This research shows that transit users spend significantly more time commuting to and from work than drivers.

Disinvestment in public transit has a disproportionately negative impact on people of color. From the report, “That means that, for a month a year more than white drivers, transit commuters of color are unavailable for working, helping children with homework, helping parents get to the doctor, running errands, volunteering in their communities, or participating in their churches.”

Twin Cities Annual Transit Time Penalty: Additional Hours Various Communities Spend In Transit Compared to White Drivers, 2013

Transit riders spend over 120 additional hours per year commuting than drivers. Communities of color average even more time.

The “transit time-penalty” is due to inadequate transit options and leads to longer commute times. Investing in public transportation is not just about climate change, but is one way to increase racial equity.

Members of the disability community are also harmed by inadequate access to transit. Elizabeth Warren’s Build Green proposals ensure communities that need transportation investments are receiving them. Warren’s transportation policies make clear transportation is more than a climate issue, it’s about equity.

A Climate-Oriented Framework

Throughout many of her plans, Warren prioritizes changing our regulatory framework to encourage adoption of green infrastructure at home and abroad.

Domestically, she calls for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and for the adoption of her Climate Risk Disclosure plan. Currently, businesses don’t disclose how climate change might impact their business model. This leads to what Al Gore calls a “carbon bubble,” where the risks created by fossil fuel use are not accounted for, which threatens not only our financial system but also our planet.

Zero Emissions by 2030

Transportation is the largest portion of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Elizabeth Warren has a plan to increase emissions standards annually, culminating in a requirement that all vehicles sold in 2030 produce zero emissions. To further support adoption of electric vehicles, Warren will invest in electric charging infrastructure to ensure charging stations are easily accessible throughout the country.

Better Transportation Through Smart Land Use

As any reader of streets.mn already knows, good land use is the foundation for sensible transportation policies. Warren’s plan for affordable housing (which includes $500 billion to produce millions of new homes over 10 years), calls out the need to eliminate unnecessary zoning rules like mandatory parking requirements and minimum lot sizes. She proposes $10 billion in competitive grant funding to incentivize local governments to “reform land-use rules to allow for the construction of additional well-located affordable housing units and to protect tenants from rent spikes and eviction.” Not only will this encourage the construction of more affordable housing, it helps create the dense, pedestrianized cities that can support successful transit, reduce commute times, and fight climate change.

Anton Schieffer

About Anton Schieffer

Anton lives in Minneapolis and writes about information technology, government transparency, and local housing issues. He mostly wants to build enough housing so that everyone has a place to live.

4 thoughts on “Yes, Elizabeth Warren Has a Plan for Transportation

  1. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

    So, in my defense, I only used the campaign websites, and I specifically pointed out that I wasn’t going to list the portions that dealt with electrification of the transportation system. Why? Because while being green it doesn’t necessarily change the “shape” of the system.

    I reviewed the “transportation and infrastructure” page you linked to, which is actually called “My Plan to Create 10.6 Million Green Jobs.”

    Here is the salient quote:
    “45% of Americans still do not have access to public transportation, leaving those without access reliant on car ownership to get to work, school and worship. We know that increasing public transportation rates and decreasing vehicle miles traveled is one of the best ways to reduce emissions. That’s why I’m proposing a new Build Green program, which would establish a new grant program to electrify public buses, school buses, rail, cars, and fleet vehicles that is modeled after the Department of Transportation’s BUILD grant program.”

    She points out a major problem and her answer appears to be electrifying existing systems. That’s nice and green, but it doesn’t change the shape of the system.

    I agree that land use policies can have a major impact.

    Can you give some direct quotes about her proposals for investment in new transit systems or reducing the use of personal cars? I think it’s worth pointing out that the majority of her transportation goals are about electrification and little else.

  2. Adam Tauno Williams

    “””She proposes $10 billion in competitive grant funding to incentivize local governments to “reform land-use rules to allow for the construction of additional well-located affordable housing units and to protect tenants from rent spikes and eviction.””””

    Does anyone believe that will work? Carrots won’t get us there — how about withholding Federal funding sources from places that do not reform their land-use policies? That might do something.

    1. Mike SonnMike Sonn

      I think it will have some impact. But I agree that NIMBYism requires blunt force to combat, especially since most NIMBYs have moved past using the underlying reasons as arguments and have elevated to “neighborhood character” etc to prop up the exclusionary status quo. I also think state level action may have the most immediate wide-ranging impact. Though, the Feds have shown that giving/with-holding funding is a very persuasive motivator.

  3. Mark

    I plan to vote for her next week in the primary, but I do agree that the field does need to be narrowed significantly

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