Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Janna Chernetz, NJ Advocate, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Testimony at Public Hearing on NJ 2011 Draft Energy Master Plan, NJIT Newark

July 26, 2011

Thank you for the opportunity to testify, my name is Janna Chernetz and I am the NJ Advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly and equitable transportation system in NY, NJ and CT.

We are concerned that the 2011 Draft Energy Master Plan’s failure to provide a comprehensive analysis of well-rounded transportation goals and failure to integrate the Global Warming Response Act recommendations are sending the wrong message. This is especially troublesome given Governor Christie’s recent announcement of his plan to pull out of RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, as the transportation sector is the largest consumer of energy in NJ as well as the largest contributor to green house gas emissions in New Jersey.

The 2008 Energy Master Plan, for which this 2011 Draft Energy Master Plan serves as a three-year update, left much of transportation issues to be addressed under the Global Warming Response Act with the caveat that “the transportation goals and action items cannot be addressed without understanding its necessary interrelationship with the broader energy policy objectives being pursued by the State.” The 2008 EMP goes on to say “[t]herefore, all revisions, updates and future Energy Master Plans will include the transportation sector as part of its analysis” and “incorporate the transportation goals and actions items” in the Global Warming Response Act.  We believe that transportation analysis is severely malnourished in the 2011 Draft Energy Master Plan.  In fact, any mention of the transportation goals and action items established in the Global Warming Response Act are noticeably absent.

This is significantly problematic.  The Global Warming Response Act Recommendations Report drafted by the NJ DEP offers a series of recommendations focused on how NJ can meet the Global Warming Response Act requirements and which include encouraging more redevelopment, focusing growth around transit and doubling transit ridership by 2050. Since its release in 2009, the transportation recommendations in the report have been ignored. New Jersey has failed to take action to implement any of its vital recommendations whereby failing to address the link between transportation and energy.  At this point, all we have to address this issue is a draft Energy Master Plan that ignores transportation, and a Global Warming Response Act Recommendations Report that pays lots of attention to transportation but is being ignored by policymakers. With Christie’s announcement of his intent to pull out of RGGI, the Global Warming Response Act’s effectiveness is threatened. Essentially, we have nothing.

To address our concerns regarding the 2011 Draft Energy Master Plan shortcomings, it must be amended to include goals to improve and expand transit services, facilitate transit-oriented development, and ensure that municipalities have the tools they need to plan for smarter growth in their communities. All of these steps, and more, will be needed to stem the tide of rising emissions and energy demands and put New Jersey on a more sustainable course.

 

To that end, TSTC makes the following recommendations:

Increase and statutorily dedicate operating funds for NJ Transit:  NJ Transit is the largest public transportation agency in the country without a dedicated source of operational funding, a practice that has led to yet another fare increase in 2010, the largest in NJTransit history, at 22%. To pay for operations, the agency has been forced to continually raid its capital budget, an unsustainable policy that further erodes the agency’s ability to expand its transit network. This year, for example, NJTransit will rely upon a $363 million transfer from its capital budget.  This robs NJTransit of vital funding which could be better used to increase service and improve service for transit riders. Furthermore, relying on one-shots from the PANYNJ budget to fill transportation funding gaps is an ill-advised short term solution to a long term problem.

Double transit ridership by 2050 :   One significant way to reduce energy demand and GHG emissions from the use of vehicles is logically to reduce the number of vehicle on the road.  In order to do so, public transportation needs to be a viable option for all New Jersey residents.  Transportation must be adequately funded and projects must be prioritized.  Public transportation must be expanded, including van pools, commuter shuttles, bus rapid transit, commuter rail, light rail, and ferry services.  In light of the cancellation of ARC, efforts must be made to improve the cross-Hudson commute.   NJ TRANSIT's rail ridership has quadrupled since 1984 resulting in trains that are very crowded and there is no room to grow. This crisis threatens the economic prosperity and environmental health of both New Jersey and New York.  Without an increase in service, this will lead to more cars, more congestion, more energy demand and more threatening emissions.

Promote integrated land-use and transportation programs at NJDOT such as NJ FIT, Transit Villages and Safe Streets to Transit: Our state commitment to smarter and environmentally friendly “production, distribution, consumption and conservation of energy in New Jersey” will require significant changes to our land-use and growth patterns. New Jersey cannot afford more sprawl development - environmentally or financially - as sprawl encourages and forces residents to drive more miles by placing essential destinations further and further apart rendering alternative transportation options such as walking, biking and public transportation an impossibility. Compact development patterns that place retail, recreation, transit and other amenities near homes reduce dependency on cars and encourage walking, biking and mass transit, while reducing energy demands and congestion on our road network and revitalizing our downtowns. This is especially vital this year as the Transit Village program has been defunded and the Safe Streets to Transit program has been reduced by half from previous years.  More troublesome is that studies prepared as part of NJ FIT, which provide recommendations to stakeholders for sound land use decisions, lay dormant.

Keep investment in road capacity low:Currently, the NJ Department of Transportation is dedicating 11% of the fiscal year 2012 capital budget toward road expansion which is the largest percentage in nearly a decade, while only 44% is spent on maintaining roads and bridges. This is a retreat from previous years. One way to ensure that the state remains on track in its sustainable transportation goals is to pass legislation which establishes a consistent fix-it-first policy among all state transportation agencies. New Jersey is currently engaged in costly and wasteful road widening projects: the widening of the Turnpike between Interchanges 6 and 9 and the widening of the Parkway between exits 30 and 80. The Turnpike project exceeds its projected capacity demand and the Parkway expansion is slated to fill to capacity shortly after completion.  Not only does the widening fail to solve the problem of congestion, but it will do nothing but lead to more congestion by attracting more cars whereby increasing dangerous emissions and taxing NJ’s energy demand.  Such legislation will ensure that gains towards a more environmentally friendly and equitable transportation policy are deepened and expanded in future years.

Finally, the 2011 Draft Energy Master Plan relies heavily on advances in single-occupancy vehicle technology. While hybrid and alternative energy vehicles have the potential to help new car buyers make climate-friendly choices, they are not economically or technologically viable options for the majority of New Jerseyans. If the State does intend to implement policies for clean fuel standards and alternative energy vehicles, I would like to make a few observations. 

Transportation Fuel:  A Clean Fuel Standard must be a Low Carbon Fuel Standard.  Substituting one type of greenhouse of gas for another is not solving any problems, especially if people are forced to depend on cars.  As such, the carbon intensity of any clean fuel must be extremely low.  In addition, consideration must be given to the land-use changes which will occur as a result producing the fuel.

Alternative Vehicles: Electrifying the state’s major highways and population centers are required if hybrid and electric vehicles are to become a truly viable option.  Furthermore, the Energy Master Plan must ensure that most, if not all, of the electricity from that electrification program come from solar, wind and equally renewable non-fossil fuel sources.  Otherwise, the State would again merely be substituting one greenhouse gas for another. 

Of course, the obvious and more practical solution to the problems these transportation, fuel and alternative vehicle programs are intended to correct is to implement the transportation and land use policies I discussed earlier, thereby obviating the need for new vehicles in any respect.

In sum, the 2011 Draft Energy Master Plan as currently proposed is short-sighted and fails to address New Jersey’s largest consumer of energy  - Transportation. The state must immediately work to quantify the connection between land use and transportation and its effect on driving, then, implement measures to reduce reliance on cars in the short term.  Tailpipe measures will not achieve such goals by themselves, especially since policy makers have ignored the Global Warming Response Act since its release in 2009. The state’s contradictory actions such as the continued investment in wasteful and costly road widening projects of the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike and failure to adequately fund public transportation only exacerbate the problem.

We urge you to revise the 2011 Energy Master Plan to include a robust transportation component consistent with the recommendations provided today. 

Thank you. 

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