Where to Next? Fossil-Free Transportation in a Pandemic and Beyond

Where to Next?
Fossil-Free Transportation in a Pandemic and Beyond

In collaboration with Brooklyn Public Library, July 22, 2020


Learn about transportation and environmental justice. The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA)’s mission is to link “grassroots groups from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in their struggle for environmental justice.”  Visit NYC-EJA’s website and download its NYC-EJA Climate Justice Agenda 2020 report here.

Learn about the work of ElectrifyNY. ElectrifyNY, which includes NYC-EJA and the Sierra Club, is a statewide coalition that advocates “for a clean, equitable electric transportation future for New York.” It works to improve environmental conditions and public health outcomes “for the communities most affected by the negative impacts of the transportation sector’s dependency on fossil fuel.” By electrifying public bus fleets and vehicles statewide, the coalition aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to ensure a just transition for frontline communities and workers. Beyond electrification, the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign works “to ensure that we all benefit from a 21st–century clean transportation system that relies on little to no oil.”

Learn about proposals to make our streets safer for bikes and walkers by reclaiming space from cars. The Regional Plan Association’s (RPA) Five Borough Bikeway proposal calls for a 425-mile network of protected, continuous high-capacity priority bike lanes. According to RPA, 11,000 miles of NYC streets are used for parking, about ten times the amount of space now provided for bike lanes. Of today’s 1,200 miles of bike lanes, only 480 miles are protected, meaning that they are physically separated from road traffic. “It’s time to take a leap beyond the status quo” so New York can become “a world-class biking city,” says RPA. For its part, Transportation Alternatives has worked for years “to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile and advocate for better bicycling, walking, and public transit for all New Yorkers.”

Find out about other groups working on improved and climate-friendly transportation, including the Riders Alliance and the Straphangers Campaign

For timely updates on transit issues, subscribe to “We the Commuters,” a newsletter of Gothamist and WNYC

Read more about fossil-free transportation and other organizations.

“Boom or bus: From bike protests to staggered commute times, here’s how things might (literally) go in the future.”

“I’ve seen a future without cars, and it’s amazing.”

“New York as a Biking City? It Could Happen. And it should.”

“The world’s mayors want a pandemic recovery that takes cars off the streets.”

“Green group proposes nearly $6T infrastructure and clean energy stimulus plan.”

“Biking during the pandemic”

“Black American bus drivers at risk.”

Some key ideas

One size does not fit all, but electricity and equity are vital. To decarbonize transportation at the scale and speed necessary to meet the state’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, we need a both/and approach: we need to meet the diverse needs of New Yorkers from Buffalo to Plattsburgh down to Brooklyn, and we need to center equity and electrification. In Brooklyn, this might mean moving away from cars almost entirely, opting instead for expanded, improved, and electrified buses and a high-functioning subway system along with safe, protected, extensive cycling networks and robust electric scooter and e-bike infrastructure.

Upfront costs, long-term savings, big opportunity. Making a bigger, better, and fully electrified mass transit system won’t be cheap. But making this transition can generate billions in health savings and save billions more in avoided fossil fuel spending. Nationally, investments in clean transportation could provide more than 1 million good jobs a year, including over 128,000 manufacturing jobs yearly.

Clean air matters.  Low-income New Yorkers and communities of color are more likely than others to be exposed to pollution from transportation and are more vulnerable to disease, as the Covid-19 epidemic has made abundantly clear. The electrification of buses, trucks and other forms of transportation in frontline communities must be a priority.

Take Action

Sign petitions. Transportation Alternatives has petitions you can sign to support protected bike lanes and busways, to support open streets, and to reallocate NYPD’s funding for traffic enforcement to the Department of Transportation to build automated, “self-enforcing” street designs to reduce accidents and police interactions. The Riders Alliance has a petition calling on Congress to provide $3.9 billion to offset the $1 billion the MTA has been losing each month because of low ridership.

Donate a bike or some money to Transportation Alternatives’ Bike Match program, which connects any New Yorkers with spare bikes to those who need them.

Find out whether you or someone you know can qualify for reduced transit fares through either the reduced fare program or the Fair Fares program.