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Californians, Step Away From Your Cars

Global Warming:Californians, Step Away From Your Cars Californians, Step Away From Your Cars

By s4n_bl0g. Global Warming. Published at Thursday, January 10th, 2019 - 17:36:31 PM.

California is at the vanguard of America’s transition away from a carbon-based economy. But the state risks taking a major step backward if its voters approve Proposition 6, which would roll back a recent gas tax increase and, with it, a major source of transportation funding. The ballot initiative would give Californians slightly lower prices at the pump, but only by sacrificing the sustainable mass transit we need if we’re going to stop cooking the planet.

If Prop 6 becomes law, and officials in other states decide to follow California’s lead, it would be a blow to sustainability at the worst possible moment. Last week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that the world has only 12 years to overhaul the global economy if we’re to avoid cataclysm; we simply can’t afford unforced errors in the time we have left.

Voting has already begun on Prop 6, thanks to vote-by-mail laws. The uncertainty over the measure’s fate points to a contradiction at the heart of California’s climate policy. This summer, California’s Air Resources Board reported that the state had achieved its 2020 emissions reduction targets four years ahead of schedule. But the same report noted that transportation emissions rose slightly in 2016. The main culprit was “gasoline used in on-road vehicles.”

In other words, the state leading America’s green revolution is still addicted to cars. And its voters have been avoiding a decision that will define our future: whether to let go of a car culture dependent on cheap gas in exchange for a habitable climate. With Prop 6, it is time to finally choose.

In other words, the state leading America’s green revolution is still addicted to cars. And its voters have been avoiding a decision that will define our future: whether to let go of a car culture dependent on cheap gas in exchange for a habitable climate. With Prop 6, it is time to finally choose.

Rather than eliminating the excise tax on gasoline entirely, Prop 6 would roll back a 2017 law, Senate Bill 1, that raised it 12 cents — from 18 cents per gallon to 30 cents. (Another provision of Prop 6 would require any future gas tax increase to be approved by the voters.) That 12-cent increase generates more than $5 billion every year for infrastructure repairs and new transportation projects in California.

Most of that $5 billion is not for public transit: $1.8 billion goes to repairing state highways, and another $1.7 billion for rehabilitating local roads. About $750 million is earmarked for transit, with another $100 million going to projects meant to facilitate “active transportation,” such as walking and biking.

That cumulative $850 million on alternatives to driving may seem modest. But it is already supporting hundreds of statewide and local projects. In Los Angeles, it is helping the city acquire 112 emission-free buses; in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is putting hundreds of new BART trains on the rails and increasing train frequency through the tunnel linking San Francisco to the East Bay. The city of Santa Monica is getting $500,000 to make walking and biking safer for senior citizens, while Bakersfield is getting $825,000 to improve pedestrian access in its downtown.

If California approves Prop 6, it will lose more than just the funding for these projects. Drivers will also suffer, by giving up major repairs to some of the worst roads in the United States. The state’s economy, the largest in the United States and the fifth largest in the world, could also take a hit: infrastructure projects lead to construction jobs, while crumbling transportation infrastructure hurts productivity. And regional wealth and income disparities will deepen, as small towns and remote suburbs remain isolated from major employment centers.


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Gallery of Californians, Step Away From Your Cars

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