On the left, you will see an axis labelled VMT, or Vehicle Miles Traveled. This means the total miles driven by all of us in all of our vehicles. This is measured in those blue bars. If you study this graph, you will see that, since 2005, our total miles driven as a group of people has basically stayed the same. Public transportation, biking, carpooling, changes in gas prices, nothing has budged this number.
Then, on this same graph, you will see that orange-ish line that kind of slopes slightly downhill from left to right. That line is the emissions we create from those miles driven.
If you are mathematically inclined, you might wonder why our emissions are going down even while our miles traveled are staying the same. The reason, of course, is that we are slowly shifting away from polluting cars to various kinds of Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs). This is a good thing. I have written several times about the fact that Technology is on our side in our challenge to reduce our emissions, and this graph shows clearly how that is already happening.
The big problem is, we need to speed up the orange line; we need it to start going down faster.
If you went back a couple of blogs, you will see the graph that summarizes our many years of GHG inventories. That graph shows that our biggest source of emissions is from transportation - the very graph you see on this blog.
So, we have two things, basically, we can do to push that orange line down faster.
First, we can reduce our VMTs. The fewer miles we travel, by definition, the fewer emissions we will have. It is hard for me to see, frankly, how we can reduce the VMTs. That is, I just bought a hydrogen fuel cell car, but I am driving the same amount of miles because I work in the city.
There is the option for trying to find ways to support people working more from home, and it may be that the coronavirus experience changes our work patterns, and maybe we will see a reduction in VMTs from that; it will be interesting to see (the data really seems to lag; we only now have our 2019 inventory).
The bigger opportunity is to shift to things that are not counted as VMTs, like E-bikes. That is, when we travel by an ebike instead of an automobile, it no longer shows up as a VMT, even though we are still doing the same amount of travel. I think E-bikes are a great new way to drive down our VMTs. HERE is an interesting article showing that E-bikes are probably one of the best ways for us to reduce our carbon footprint fast. Personally, I am trying to re-wire my brain. I am trying to make my E-bike my default transportation option. Then, only if its not feasible for some reason to use the E-bike, I go to the ZEV. In doing this, I am driving down my personal VMTs.
In addition to driving down our VMTs, the next thing we can do is to shift over to cars that are zero-emission.
I know that many people worry about this. Today, we do not have enough chargers around. Many electric cars do not have enough range. Many electric cars now available are expensive.
The good news is, technology is on our side. Prices are coming down. Performance is going up. And, the government is providing extensive incentives to help people move in this direction.
Transportation is our biggest challenge.
As much as we can, let's find ways to get onto ebikes (and, when you do this, BE SAFE!) and reduce our VMTs.
And, when your car needs to be replaced, buy a ZEV.
Marin is currently has the second highest rate of ZEV adoption in the country. Let's get Fairfax to number 1!
And, one last thing. I know that many people face many obstacles in getting to this new, better future. We are not ignorant of these changes, and we want to learn more. If you find this transition hard, let us know why, and let's work together to find ways to get past the obstacles in our path. At the CAC, we want to understand the difficulties, and to work with all of our neighbors to build a better future for our kids.
Together, we can do this.