Washington State Vehicle Miles Traveled Reduction Benchmarks: How might they be reached?
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In 2008, the Washington State legislature established benchmarks to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita over the subsequent 40 years as part of the strategy to reach statutory greenhouse gas emissions limits. The purpose of the per capita VMT reduction benchmarks was to encourage implementation of multimodal investments, transit oriented development and transportation pricing. The establishment of these benchmarks was, in part, recognition that the state transportation related greenhouse gas reduction targets could not be met strictly with changes in fuels and automobile technology. Since their adoption, no implementation plan or framework has been adopted to enable the state to meet the benchmarks. This study sought to identify the challenges to and opportunities for developing an implementation plan for meeting the state per capita VMT reduction benchmarks. Data was collected through stakeholder interviews and public documents, and evaluated based on multiple streams and consensus building theories' decision criteria. The analysis found value conflicts among elected state decision makers regarding climate mitigation and the role of the state in transit funding, questions regarding the appropriateness of per capita VMT reduction as a goal and metric and a lack of leadership on the issue as barriers to policy development and to a decision that would support implementation planning for per capita VMT reductions. Other challenges include finding an approach that respects the economic, population and geographic variations between different regions of the state. Strategies identified that may address these challenges include evaluating and considering alternative metrics, teaming with the regions to develop feasible regional targets, and shifting the problem discussion from VMT reduction to how to develop a more efficient, reliable and financially sustainable transportation system that reduces greenhouse gasses and grows the state economy. Leadership would be needed to advance any of these strategies. Consensus building could support reaching problem agreement as well as developing a broad base of support for a preferred solution. However, stakeholders that see no need for greenhouse gas mitigation may not have sufficient incentive to seek solutions that meet the interests of the other stakeholders. Value conflicts among state decision makers could also be reduced through elections that change the legislature composition.
- Urban planning