California bucks Trump administration plans on fuel efficiency; Caltrans awards millions to transit systems

July 26, 2019

Both announcements are indicative of the state’s continuing efforts to be environmentally progressive

The state of California has reached an agreement with four major auto manufacturers to mandate improvements in vehicle fuel emissions standards. The move is an escalation of the state’s confrontation with the Trump administration over its efforts to freeze, or potentially, roll back such improvements.

As announced, the agreement commits automakers to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from their manufactured vehicles, and will require an increase in overall mileage to roughly 50 miles per gallon by model year 2026, one year later than fuel-efficiency targets that had been set by the Obama administration—targets which the Trump administration is moving to roll back.

Ford, Honda, BMW of North America and Volkswagen Group of America signed the deal with the California Air Resources Board, promising to implement the targets across their entire fleets, regardless of the actions of the federal government. The agreement was negotiated as the state remains embroiled in litigation with the Trump administration over its moves to undo the Obama administration's fuel-efficiency rules and remove California's authority to set its own higher standards. President Trump moved last year to block the previous administration's fuel-mileage targets for 2021-2025. Fuel economy would continue to increase to roughly 37 miles per gallon in 2020, but it would stop there, well short of the currently planned 47 mpg in 2025.

Under the agreement, the companies will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 4% annually for five years. About a quarter of that mandate could be offset by credits for adopting cleaner technologies in the vehicle design, such as improved internal temperature controls, and by selling more electric or hybrid cars. California has previously committed to putting 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030.

“A 50-state solution has always been our preferred path forward, and we understand that any deal involves compromise," Honda, Ford, BMW and Volkswagen said in a statement. "These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet.”

In another move toward making the state safer and more environmentally progressive, Caltrans has announced $146 million from the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) will go to 180 local mass transit projects around the state.

Our current transportation system is congested and impacts the health of our communities and our planet,” said Bob Franzoia, acting director of Caltrans. “This funding gets people out of their cars by providing newer and cleaner ways to travel.”

These projects will aim to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars by increasing the convenience, capacity, and ridership of buses and trains around the state—meaning fewer cars on the roads, people using more sustainable modes of transit, and cleaner air for you and your family—and to reduce or even eliminate fares in some cases, create or expand services, increase use of zero emission technology, and improve facilities.

More than 160 of the projects and $142 million will specifically benefit disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, or low-income households within a half-mile of a disadvantaged community. These areas are the most affected by the changing climate.

LCTOP is one of several state programs under the California Climate Investments (CCI), funded through auction proceeds from the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Cap-and-Trade Program. Funding from LCTOP provides operating and capital assistance for transit projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefit Disadvantaged and Low-Income Communities and Households (defined by the California Environmental Protection Agency) throughout California.

A few examples of the types of projects which received funding this year are:

Projects to Offer Free or Reduced Fares:

  • Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA): Three projects to provide travel training and free or reduced fares for senior, disabled, and youth riders from three community colleges within the region. ($1.6 million)

  • Stanislaus County Transit Agencies (Ceres Area Transit, Modesto Area Express, Stanislaus County Regional Transit, and Turlock Transit): Four projects for free or reduced fares on designated dates throughout the year. These will kick off in July 2019 with a free fare on all fixed route buses. ($1 million)

  • City of Los Angeles: Free fare  on LADOT DASH services for LAUSD K-12 students and Los Angeles Community College students. ($1.1 million)

Projects for New or Expanded Transit Service:

  • Sacramento Regional Transit District: Three projects to expand light-rail services for South Sacramento, Sunrise to Folsom, and expanded service to and from Downtown Sacramento’s Golden1 Center. ($3.5 million)

  • City of Fresno Department of Transportation (FAX): Two projects to expand weekday night service and increasing frequency on weekend service. ($1.1 million)

  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro): Two projects to expand service on the Expo and Gold Lines. ($36.6 million)

Projects to Purchase Zero-Emission Vehicles:

  • Napa Valley Transportation Authority: Two years of LCTOP funding will be combined to purchase one extended-range zero-emission electric bus and charging station. ($299,971)

  • Eastern Sierra Transit Authority: Purchase an electric vehicle for dial-a-ride service as a replacement. ($61,568)

  • San Diego Metropolitan Transit System: Continuation of a project to procure 11 zero emission buses as a pilot to move into zero emission bus technology. This includes 9 electric buses, 2 hydrogen buses, and 12 depot chargers. ($6.2 million)

Projects Improving Facilities To Increase and Encourage Ridership:

  • City of McFarland: First time awardee to procure and install a transit facility to enhance operations and maintenance for dial-a-ride fleet. ($28,158)

  • Lake Transit: Purchase and install a solar canopy to enhance transit operations and utilize renewable energy to decrease operational costs. ($127,647)

  • Tahoe Transportation District: Purchase and construct bus stop improvements and enhancement at the Lake Tahoe Community College Mobility Hub. ($126,677)

A complete list of the projects for the LCTOP Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Public Awards can be found here.

Information for this story was provided by Caltrans.

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