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bikes/transportation | sustainability

Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled through transportation funding reform

If Oregon is to maintain its national reputation as a "green" leader it must deal with the reality of the aggressive goals it has set out in HB 3543 by giving the legislation some teeth. In March of this year 1000 Friends of Oregon, Environment Oregon, and the Oregon Environmental Council released a policy paper calling for a comprehensive approach in reducing greenhouse gasses by the state of Oregon.
In 2007 the Oregon House signed into law a bill establishing goals in reducing greenhouse gasses by 2050. The goals set forth in HB 3543 are ambitious; it calls for a halt in the increase of greenhouse gasses by 2010, a 10 percent cut below 1990 levels by 2020, and finally a 75 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. These are excellent goals that attempt to address the threat of global climate change here in Oregon. The only problem with the legislation, signed by Governor Kulongoski, is the lack of any enforcement of the provisions laid out in HB 3543. By ignoring any coordinated regulating authority by state agencies, the state will be unable to coordinate its efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses and the legislation will be nothing but public platitudes to an increasingly urgent problem.

We in Oregon value our beautiful state and its varied landscapes, which is why Oregon is nationally recognized for its unique environmental protections, sensible land use policies, and public involvement in caring for our common natural treasures. If Oregon is to maintain its national reputation as a "green" leader it must deal with the reality of the aggressive goals it has set out in HB 3543 by giving the legislation some teeth. In March of this year 1000 Friends of Oregon, Environment Oregon, and the Oregon Environmental Council released a policy paper calling for a comprehensive approach in reducing greenhouse gasses by the state of Oregon.

One third of all greenhouse gasses in Oregon are produced by the transportation sector. In order to achieve the goals set out in HB 3543 the state of Oregon must reduce the amount of driving being done by Oregonians and encourage the development of carbon - neutral modes of transportation.

One particular section of the paper calls for the overall reduction of VMT (vehicle miles travelled) by the people of Oregon. To achieve this reduction in VMT the paper calls for amending the current allocation of transportation dollars from motor vehicle taxes. The current law calls for all motor vehicle tax dollars to be used in building new roads; the proposed change to the law would require the money be used to maintain roads first and using the leftover money to be used for public transportation and bike lanes, while letting communities decide how best to use their leftover transportation dollars.

In a world of increasing temperatures and rising gas prices it is ludicrous to be building more and more roads to accommodate more and more vehicles. We are living in a new age where new approaches are necessary, and "business as usual" approaches simply will not be sustainable. The proposed legislative changes face an uphill battle in the legislature and will face stiff opposition from the highway lobby in Salem. In order to achieve the goals set out in HB 3543 we, the citizens of Oregon, are starting a grassroots campaign to raise public awareness of this vital issue.

Reducing the amount of car travel in the state is only one component of what will ultimately be a multi-faceted approach in reducing greenhouse gasses, energy efficiency, green power, and habitat restoration will not be enough if we ignore our reliance on personal vehicle use to get around. Join us in telling our lawmakers enough is enough! Please help support our 2009 efforts to get this legislation changed!

To read more about our state government must address rapid climate change, check out the latest report from the Governor's climate change task force. It's available at  http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/GBLWRM/docs/CCIGReport08Web.pdf.