New ClimatePlan campaign: Decolonize Transportation Funding

For years, we’ve been trying to break down transportation funding in California. In 2018, we created a fact sheet to show how California’s transportation funding is (not) advancing California’s climate goals. While the fact sheet helped, we realized we weren’t solving the real problem with transportation funding. 

What’s the real problem? 

Transportation funding is colonized. This means that the knowledge (and power) of California’s transportation funding is held by those who understand the system. Most transportation funding programs have separate guideline processes that can run concurrently; this makes it challenging for advocates to weigh in. The stipulations around funding sources make it difficult for advocates to understand which programs can fund transit, active transportation, urban greening, and conservation mitigation efforts.

Decolonizing Transportation Funding is key to building an effective movement

Transit agencies, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), and other entities such as League of California Cities have enough capacity and knowledge of the transportation funding system to successfully shape these programs. However, the general public, as well as transportation advocates, are hindered in our ability to meaningfully shape these programs by the lack of knowledge. We need to decolonize transportation funding if we want to see real change in how these funding programs help California meet its climate, health, and equity goals. 

How do we decolonize transportation funding? Decolonizing transportation funding means that the knowledge of these transportation programs is shared, accessible, and understandable for everyone; once advocates have the knowledge, we can build the power to more effectively shape and influence transportation funding. 

Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

Colonized Transportation Funding makes it harder for California to reach its climate goals

As shown in the California Air Resources Board 2018 Progress Report, California is not on track to meet its SB 375 climate targets, largely because the transportation sector has not been able to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as anticipated. Vehicle miles traveled (VMT), or the amount people drive, is increasing in almost every region, resulting in increased GHG emissions for the state. 

One of the major reasons why California regions aren't on track to achieve their SB 375 targets is state transportation funding. Funding issues include:

  • The majority of state transportation programs fund roads and highways, which are proven to increase VMT. 
  • Community input is given early in the process and is not adjusted as community needs and the project may change. 
  • Most funding programs do not require robust community engagement or prioritize an equity framework that supporting disadvantaged communities 
  • The funding programs are overly complex. 
  • Some funding sources are restricted by Article 19 and cannot be shifted easily. 
  • There is a limited funding pot for climate-friendly transportation projects. 
  • State transportation funding programs do not plan holistically in relation to housing and public health. 

As of now, transportation spending is nebulous, convoluted, and complicated. Without a better understanding of the whole transportation pot, it is hard to build a movement to advocate for transportation funding that helps California achieve its climate goals. 

What is ClimatePlan doing to Decolonize Transportation Funding? 

ClimatePlan is launching a new campaign focused on decolonizing transportation funding. We have partner organizations that have shaped transportation funding programs such as the Active Transportation Program or built impressive campaigns to improve funding programs like the State Highway Operations and Protection Program. With the Decolonize Transportation Funding Campaign, we want to build an effective movement to shape all transportation funding pots to achieve climate, equity, and health goals. All state transportation projects should help California reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, invest in natural and working lands mitigation, and address historic inequities and racism. To achieve that goal, we need to start by making sure transportation spending is more transparent and accessible for everyone.

For this campaign, ClimatePlan has three major objectives:

  1. Build relationships with key transportation policymakers, agencies, and Commissioners.
  2. Create opportunities to educate ClimatePlan partners and allies on the state’s transportation funding and spending. 
  3. Hold transportation agencies accountable for aligning spending with climate, equity, health, and conservation goals. 

Over the next six months, our goal is to make sure that all advocates have the knowledge of transportation funding so we can build power and better shape how state transportation funds are being spent. If you are interested in learning more about this campaign, please contact Nailah@climateplanca.org. 


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