Why New York State Needs a Clean Transportation System

Published Jul 23, 2018


Burning gasoline and diesel from cars, trucks, and buses is responsible for the largest share of emissions from New York State. Emissions from transportation have been going up for at least three decades, with harmful consequences for New Yorkers’ health, especially those who live in low-income neighborhoods. Air pollutants cause at least 3,000 deaths in New York City every year from heart and lung disease.

Without clean transportation, it will be very difficult for New York to reduce emissions to meet the state’s economy-wide climate target. To reach that target, the state needs to cut transportation emissions by almost half in the next 12 years. That is a tall order.

A plan to modernize New York’s transportation system and cut emissions

One way to help reduce emissions and simultaneously bring in money to modernize New York’s transportation system is through a cap-and-invest program.

The first multistate cap-and-invest program in the United States has proven to be a success in the power sector of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states: It raised more than $4 billion for the region in the 2009–2017 period. California has shown that this policy works in sectors beyond the power sector. Extending cap-and-invest to the transportation sector in New York could raise more than $1 billion every year to invest in the electrification of cars, trucks and buses and many clean transportation projects.

The transition to clean transportation will not only improve New Yorkers’ health, but it is an opportunity to modernize our aging transportation system. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it is also an opportunity to make our poor road and public transit infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events and sea-level rise driven by global warming.

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