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2021 Sustainability WeekSustainability Week 2021

Necessity and Opportunities of Sustainable Transportation

For many Pennsylvanians, transportation is an area of their lives where they can reap personal and community benefits through a wide range of options. Whether through travel habits or purchasing decisions, each of us can improve health and the environment.

Vehicles generate 47 percent of nitrogen oxides in the air statewide, contributing to the formation of ground-level ozone. This affects the health of children; older people; people with lung diseases, such as asthma and emphysema; and those who work or are active outdoors. The Pennsylvania Department of Health has found that asthma-related emergency room visits increase when air quality is very poor.

Additionally, vehicles release 21 percent of carbon dioxide in the air statewide, contributing to climate change. According to the US Department of Environmental Protection, the transportation sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. With more than 90 percent of the fuel used for transportation being petroleum-based, this sector also presents the area where the most progress can be made through the use of alternative fuel vehicles.

Pennsylvanians are increasingly interested in alternative-fuel vehicles. According to the most recent data available from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), 28,460 electric vehicles (battery and plug-in hybrid) were registered in Pennsylvania as of February. This is significantly more than about three years ago, when 11,347 electric vehicles were registered in December 2017.

Pennsylvanians are also looking for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and a growing number of businesses, organizations, residential developments, and other entities are installing chargers for private use, public use, or both.  More than 1,600 public Level 2 chargers are now available at more than 800 locations throughout the state.

Through a combination of state investments, policy, and personal transportation choices, we are making headway and have significant opportunities for the future.

Driving Change at the State Level

Following Governor Wolf's 2019 Executive Order addressing climate change and promoting energy conservation and sustainable governance, the commonwealth is driving transportation changes. Meeting growing and future vehicle demands, along with supporting a multimodal transportation network, are critical to improving our quality of life and our transportation options.

Through the Drive Electric PA Coalition, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), PennDOT, and other stakeholders promote electric vehicle adoption. Leading by example, via the GreenGov Council, the commonwealth aims to replace 25 percent of its passenger vehicle fleet with hybrid electric or battery electric vehicles by 2025. As part of efforts to bolster the adoption of EVs, the Department General Services Bureau of Vehicle Management will be adding 5 plug-in vehicle models to the contract that agencies can purchase from in 2022 to bring the total number of EV models offered to 7. 

DEP also supports increased electric vehicle use through Alternative Fuels Incentive Grants (AFIG) and Driving PA Forward Grants. These funding programs support electric vehicle adoption and charger installation by companies, government offices, schools, and organizations. AFIG also targets funding to develop fast-charging corridors around the state in a joint effort with PennDOT. PennDOT leads alternative fuels corridor applications to the Federal Highway Administration to designate PA interstates as alternative fuels corridors. Currently, we have 1,900 miles of PA roadways designated for the electricity fuel type.

In supporting the public's transition to alternative-fuel vehicles, the DEP Alternative Fuel Vehicle Rebate program provides rebates to consumers for electric vehicle purchases, and DEP provides public education tools to answer common questions about electric vehicles, such as the Pennsylvania Electric Vehicle Roadmap 2021 Update. PennDOT is developing a supplementary resource, an EV Mobility Plan, that will be published by early 2022.

Improved health and environmental conditions stem from more than vehicle choice – using alternative transportation also has multiple benefits. The commonwealth actively supports and invests in public transit and ridesharing options that help people across the state get to work, medical appointments, and more. Also, in 2019 PennDOT completed its first Active Transportation Plan for Pennsylvania that outlines a vision and framework for improving conditions for walking and bicycling across Pennsylvania, most notably for those Pennsylvanians who walk and bicycle out of necessity rather than for leisure and recreation. The Active Transportation Plan also identifies and helps prioritize strategies intended to increase the number of people walking and bicycling, while supporting safety and multimodal connectivity throughout the state.

How Can You Have an Impact?

  • Whether it's for work or recreation, consider an alternate transportation option. PennDOT offers resources to connect you with public transportation and ridesharing options, and how to safely bike or walk to your destination.
  • Review whether you, a friend, or family member may qualify for free or reduced-fare public transportation – or find available services near you – on PennDOT's public transportation services and programs map. Share the resource with those who can benefit.
  • When you make your next vehicle purchase, choose a fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicle. The DEP Alternative Fuel Vehicle Rebate program may be able to help. The DEP Electric Vehicle Roadmap 2021 booklet has great information on the basics and benefits of electric cars.
  • Download the Commute PA App – get rewarded for commuting and find other interested commuters in your area
  • While at work, it's oftentimes necessary to meet in person. A face-to-face meeting is also good for healthy and important social interaction. However, continue to explore ways to maximize conference-calling and other virtual meetings to reduce transportation emissions.  
  • Check out DEP's resources for residents and see the many ways you can be involved in a more sustainable lifestyle and state!

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