By Ramona du Houx

October 3, 2020

Governor Murphy’s office is reviewing the results of a poll conducted by The Nature Conservancy that shows New Jersey residents strongly support the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional collaboration of the District of Columbia and 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

TCI seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions, including mandates that reduce emissions in overburdened communities and market-based mechanisms that will fund investment in critical transportation improvements.

“To mitigate the harms of a warming climate, New Jersey must clean up the transportation sector — the source of 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions. The state has a solid plan involving the deployment of electric cars, buses, and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as charging infrastructure needed to fuel them all. But this will require substantial spending, and, so far, the state has only committed a fraction of what is needed. To close this fiscal gap and make transportation investments that will benefit nearly every resident, New Jersey’s leadership should look to the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). Participating in TCI can provide New Jersey with the $100 million-per-year fund it needs for crucial transit priorities,” wrote Justin Gundlach, of the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law in a oped in the New Jersey Spotlight.

“For instance, New Jersey had originally put $30 million annually towards the electrification of light-duty passenger vehicles and allocated a chunk of $15 million of annual revenues from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to better and cleaner transit. To put that into perspective: this would have moved the state a little over 10% of the way toward its goal of 330,000 light-duty electric vehicles by 2025. Now, as budget cuts start to materialize, at least $16 million of these funds are gone—reducing the state’s annual contribution to its clean transportation goals by a third. As New Jersey continues to amplify its commitment to clean transportation, it is becoming apparent that more must be done,” wrote Matt Butner, of the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law in that joint oped.

Governor Murphy will decide later this fall whether to sign New Jersey on to the plan.

The poll, conducted by a bipartisan research team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (D) and New Bridge Strategy (R) surveyed 643 New Jersey voters to assess their opinions on the state of transportation in New Jersey, attitudes about climate and the environment, and views of TCI.

The findings revealed resoundingly favorable attitudes toward TCI’s goals:

  • Seven in ten voters support Governor Murphy’s actions on climate change thus far
  • 79 percent of voters support New Jersey joining TCI as described
  • Broad majorities support an array of potential TCI investments
  • Moreover, a majority are willing to pay at least a nickel per gallon to fund associated improvements
  • Most voters agree that low-income residents are disproportionately exposed to pollution in New Jersey, and plurality says the same of people of color

“The poll results show that there is broad support for transportation improvements that will benefit rural, suburban, and urban communities in New Jersey,” said Barbara Brummer, New Jersey State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “There is overwhelming support for upgrades to roads and bridges, improvements in public transportation, and better options for cyclists and pedestrians. These will enhance the quality of air we breathe, the ease of commuting, and economic opportunity for New Jersey. The Transportation and Climate Initiative has the opportunity to encompass appropriate policies that address our urban and port areas that suffer disproportionately from transportation pollution and investments that enable less polluting and more efficient transportation options for all New Jersey residents.”

Previous research from the Union of Concerned Scientists and others show, our current transportation system is deeply inequitable.

Black and Brown and low-income communities in the TCI region suffer from significantly higher rates of exposure to health-harming pollution from transportation and other sources, due to decades of systemic racism that has influenced where highways, ports, airports, bus and truck depots, and other polluting infrastructure is located.

In a webinar last week, TCI states presented a series of proposed commitments to address equity under a TCI program, including a commitment that each participating state would ensure at least 35 percent of the program’s investment benefits accrue to underserved and overburdened communities; commitments to establish diverse equity advisory bodies in each jurisdiction to advise on implementation; and program transparency. The states also recognized the need to adopt and implement complementary policies alongside a TCI program to further ensure pollution reductions and transportation investments in the most impacted communities.