The Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) is an important step that will not only  reduce air pollution, traffic congestion and vehicle fatalities, but also raise revenue for investments in cleaner, safer transportation across Connecticut. The state legislature should approve legislation that will authorize the state to join TCI to protect the health and quality of life of local residents.

John Stout

It’s ironic that TCI critics chose parking lots and gas stations as the location for their events. These places are a physical representation of the huge burden that Connecticut’s lack of clean, safe transportation options places on locals.

Even on the best of days, these areas of town are unpleasant and dangerous to travel through without a car, costing community members time and money fueling up at gasoline stations or stuck in traffic. Many residents of Connecticut can’t afford to own a car, and would benefit from expanded public transit service and safer access to biking and walking. Contrary to the claims by fossil fuel lobbyists, TCI will help make transportation more accessible, sustainable and affordable over the long run.

Connecticut needs TCI now to reduce the deadly pollution. Exhaust from diesel and gasoline-powered cars and trucks contains toxic chemicals, like carbon monoxide and arsenic, and has been linked to asthma, heart and lung conditions and cancer. Across the United States, vehicle pollution kills an estimated 58,000 Americans each year, according to a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Unfortunately, Connecticut has a significantly higher asthma rate than the national average, and fossil fuel-powered cars are a major contributor.

On top of wreaking havoc on our health, transportation is now the largest contributor to climate-harming emissions in the nation.

TCI will help address these problems by putting a price on vehicle pollution in the Northeast, including in Connecticut, by raising revenue for investments in electric vehicle charging stations, public transit, and safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists.

These long-term improvements will, in turn, provide us with alternatives to spending money on pollution-spewing cars — and will be better for our lungs and the climate.  When presented with a variety of transportation options, many residents will be able to replace gas or diesel-powered car trips with walking, biking, public transit or electric vehicle trips.

Critics accuse TCI’s proponents of wanting to replace gas and diesel vehicles with zero-emission electric models. In fact, they’re correct: Electric vehicles have a much smaller carbon footprint, they don’t expel poisonous pollutants into the air, and they’re quieter. Price, quality and selection are rapidly improving to compete with fossil fuel-powered vehicles, and TCI will help accelerate the transition to cleaner transportation options.

TCI is a key opportunity for the Northeast to improve air quality and invest in cleaner, safer transportation options. Connecticut legislators should vote for the Transportation & Climate Initiative to protect the health and quality of life of local residents.

John Stout is a Transportation Advocate for USPIRG, the United States Public Interest Research Group.

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