Transportation & Land Use

In the United States, transportation (cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes) contributes 29% (2019) of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the largest amount of all sectors, including industry and electricity. Over half of transportation emissions come from passenger cars, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and light-duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles. Emissions between 1990 and 2019 have trended upward as the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by passenger cars and light-duty trucks increased by 48 percent during that period. Much of this growth stems from the expansion of land for economic activities and housing. The result is car-dependent sprawl.

Land use is fundamentally a responsibility of local governments – which land is developed, what is built on it, and what modes of transport are fostered to travel over it. With a focus on reducing VMT, communities can use their powers to:

  • Shift from zoning which separates uses in favor of more mixed use, e.g., homes, stores, and businesses.
  • Encourage building more, less expensive housing near jobs and public transportation.
  • Expand zero-emissions public transit and incentivize its use.
  • Build infrastructure for active transport, including sidewalks and bike paths for walking, biking, scootering, etc.
  • Facilitate electrification of transit.
  • Incentivize reduced use of private vehicles.
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