The transportation sector is the largest and fastest growing emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) in Massachusetts and ranks second in Newton’s GHG emissions. Our transportation infrastructure also has a significant environmental impact. Ideas for greening transportation must go far beyond electrifying the fleet, given that almost half of lifetime GHG emissions from electric vehicles are from their production.

Green Newton recently adopted a set of principles that would help our community move to an environmentally sustainable transportation system and slow the pace of climate change:

• Reduce transportation energy use through improved alternatives to cars. People can be moved more efficiently and in fewer vehicles if we prioritize walking, biking, and transit use. The key to getting people to change their transportation habits will be making alternatives pleasant, safe and convenient.

• Change land use regulations to minimize the need for transportation. Land use and development patterns of the last 60 years have led to increased use of vehicles and created significant traffic congestion. Neighborhoods that require only a short walk to places people frequent, such as pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants, and parks, reduce vehicle usage. Also, development near transit nodes enables businesses to attract and keep employees who rely on public transportation or biking to get to work.

• Work towards a carbon zero vehicle fleet. Motor vehicles will continue to be part of the transportation mix in the foreseeable future, so it is important that the use of electric vehicles (EV) increase. EV transportation significantly lowers GHG emissions, especially when the vehicle is charged using electricity generated by a green power source.

• Take full account of environmental, economic, and health costs and benefits when evaluating transportation projects. The costs of transportation are distributed and include indirect and often undervalued environmental costs. For example, paved surfaces increase stormwater runoff, flooding, and heat island effects, which lead to associated remediation costs to the City. Infrastructure changes should be evaluated for other gains such as supporting economic growth or improved health outcomes.

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Green Transportation Principles