Program helps lower-income families make less-polluting travel a more likely outcome

I recently reported that vehicle miles traveled in America is on the rise – both aggregate and per-capita – from 2.966 trillion VMT in 2013 to 3.016 trillion VMT last year. Per-capita VMT, meanwhile, increased by about 0.9 percent during this same period. I also mentioned that with the gain in miles driven, unless there was a representative drop in the amount of pollutant emissions exhausted into the air from corresponding internal-combustion-engine-powered motor vehicles plying the motorways then pollutant emissions from said sources would also climb.

In the same article I noted that based on American Public Transportation Association research, only 2.1 percent of automobiles in 2013 ran on alternative fuels. If flex fuels were added in, then that percentage doubled, that is, according to the Annual Outlook, an Energy Information Administration document.

In a different post, this time “American traffic, travel and transportation profile – 2013,” pointed out was for that year, average per-capita VMT was 9,402. That means, based on this number, average per-capita VMT in 2014 was in the neighborhood of around 9,487 – an increase of 0.9 percent above that in 2013. Over that one year, unless all the added mileage came courtesy of non-air-polluting motor vehicles, then that could only mean one thing: added emissions from the roadway sector.

Hydrogen_vehicle[1]In California, to help get cars with higher emissions levels out of the motor-vehicle mix and replace them with far-less-polluting others, this is where the involvement of the state Air Resources Board (ARB) and air districts in both the Los Angeles and San Joaquin Valley air basins is making a difference.

“In coordination with local air officials, the Air Resources Board is initiating a retire-and-replace pilot program in the Greater Los Angeles area and San Joaquin Valley to help people of low income replace old, polluting cars with cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles that also cut greenhouse gas emissions,” insists the ARB in a May 27, 2015 news release.

“The air district-administered program provides incentives on a sliding scale, with larger cash payments for the lowest-income families moving up to the cleanest cars. The lowest-income recipient purchasing the very cleanest car receives the highest incentive amounts. Under the program, it is possible for a family that meets income guidelines to receive as much as $12,000 toward the purchase of an electric car.

“Consumers can choose to replace their vehicle with a more fuel efficient conventional gasoline-powered car, a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or an electric car. Eligible consumers will receive between $2,500 and $12,000, depending on their income and the type of replacement vehicle they choose.”

TRE@FWITC[1]Additionally, for those who qualify other incentives are available. For example, “residents who scrap an old, dirty car but choose not to replace it are eligible for public transit passes valued at between $2,500 and $4,500, depending on their income,” the ARB announced. Providing pilot program partial funding are California Climate Investment Initiatives’ and state Assembly Bill 118’s cap-and-trade auction revenue proceeds.

Meanwhile, “Governor Jerry Brown issued an Executive Order in March 2012 calling for 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on California roadways by 2025,” the ARB added. “And, in January, Governor Brown made climate change and carbon pollution a core part of his agenda, calling for California to cut in half petroleum use from cars and trucks by 2030.”

State incentivization programs such as these and others are helping pave the way for cleaner California air.

Lower image above: W. R. Howell, Jr.

– Alan Kandel