Transportation takes up a very significant part of our lives, especially here in the Bay Area. We all need to get to school, to work, to the store, to friends houses, and to so many other places in our daily lives. The majority of people use cars, specifically gas-powered cars (although there is starting to be a shift to electric). In 2019, there were 14,894,912 cars registered in California alone (Carlier). Do you ever stop to think about how much of an impact this has on our planet, why we are still using these machines that are so harmful, and what we can do to create change?
In a recent video for the “Combating Consumerism” series, I interviewed Greg Justice, founder of TransportiCA
The answers to all of these questions can be found in one of our recent interviews for the “Combating Consumerism” series. In it, I interviewed Greg Justice, founder and editor of TransportiCA, the California Green Academy's program for sustainable transport. He has previously worked for companies like Unitrans and Caltrans’ Division of Rail, eventually coming to the California Green Academy and founding TransportiCA. He had always been passionate about sustainability in transportation, being an LA native, but never actually getting a driver’s license, which is why he decided to found this program.
TransportiCA's main mission is promoting sustainable transportation and educating people on what it truly means. Sustainable Transportation is a term that is thrown around a lot, often with association to electric cars, but its really meaning is actually quite different from what most think. TransportiCA defines it as “Resilient mobility whose energy (input) is renewably based, financial operations are secure, accessibility is universal, and emissions (output) are minimal to negative on the ethnic, social, and natural systems, affected by such mobility” (TransportiCA). The words that really stand out in this definition are accessibility, financial security, minimal emissions, and resilient. Often electric cars are seen as the future of sustainable transportation, becoming increasingly popular, but the question is do they fully embody this definition? If you look closely, you will see that the answer is no. First of all, electric cars are clearly not that accessible and financially affordable. According to Car and Driver, the average cost of an electric car in 2019 was $55,600 (Car and Driver), with the cheapest currently at $32,200 (Doll). Then, you have additional costs for paying for the electricity and often need to install a charger in your home. In order for transportation to be sustainable, everyone needs to have access to it, and electric cars are clearly not affordable to everyone. Second, the definition describes that it needs to have minimal to no emissions. Although electric cars are a vast improvement from gas, they still produce significant emissions from building the vehicle and generating the electricity to power it. To add onto this, each family would need to have at least one car, making these emissions multiply. Finally, sustainable transportation needs to be resilient. Are electric cars completely reliable? They likely last for about 10 years, and after that time is up, people will need to buy new ones, adding in more emissions, money, and resources. Therefore, although electric cars are a vast improvement from gas vehicles, they clearly do not fit the requirements of sustainable transportation which is why TransportiCA focuses on a different type of transportation.
This type of transportation is public transportation, which embodies all of the requirements of sustainability. First of all, it is affordable, as it is free in many places in California as well as other countries around the world. Second, it is accessible, as it is in almost every city in the form of buses, trains, subways, and more, and it’s continuing to expand. Along with this, it is accessible to all people, including those who are disabled and cannot drive a car on their own. Additionally, it has very minimal emissions. The majority of public transit is electric now, and instead of each person using a separate, personal car, a large number of people can use a singular vehicle with public transit, drastically lowering the emission per person. Lastly, public transport is resilient and dependable. Trains cars and buses can last for many years before needing to be replaced, usually much longer than cars, and larger numbers of people use each, so the amount of resources expended per person to create new ones is significantly lowered. To add onto this, public transportation is almost always a government supported operation, meaning the government pays for a large portion of the costs. For these reasons, TransportiCA has made its main focus supporting public transportation and making it more accessible to everyone.
How is TransportiCA accomplishing this? First of all, they have created many programs to involve others in their efforts and spread information about this issue. One of their most successful is their book club in which “features monthly selections true to [their] mission of sustainable transport, as well as, covering a variety of additional and related transport elements” such as “infrastructure and resiliency, transit-oriented development, smart growth, and smart cities, shared mobility services, intelligent transportation systems, and… others” (TransportiCA). This program is a great way to bring people together over a common love for reading as well as educate others about these important topics. In my interview with Justice, we discussed some of his favorite books on this topic, like Human Transit: How clearer thinking about public transit can enrich our communities and our lives. In addition to this program, TransportiCA also holds speaker series, conferences, journals, and more. All of these unique programs spread important information on transportation to the public and involve people in the sustainable transportation movement.
TransportiCA’s Fare-Free Transit Directory providing information on where individuals can find free public transportation options throughout California
Another way in which TransportiCA is changing the transportation industry is by providing the public with valuable resources. A recent example of this is its new statewide, fare-free transit directories. These extensive lists are specifically for seniors, students, and mobility impaired passengers, and provide information on where to find and utilize free public transportation throughout California. This is very valuable to these people, who often need safe, affordable options for transportation. Rather than having to use a car or ride service and worry about parking or costs, they can simply use the public transportation companies on this directory, which consequently allows them to have a more positive impact on the environment while doing it all free of charge. Through this, TransportiCA is moving further to achieve its mission of sustainable transportation, as it provides an incentive for more to use it and highlights the many benefits it provides.
The list could go on of all the ways TransportiCA is changing transportation for the better and making the world more sustainable; however, in our recent interview Justice emphasized that they can not achieve this all on their own. One organization cannot completely change the transportation industry; they need the help of individuals like you. This help can come in many forms. It can simply be integrating public transportation into your own lifestyle and eliminating your use of cars and personal transportation. It can be to not only change your own lifestyle, but also attempt to change others by educating your friends, family, and others on the benefits of public transportation. Additionally, since many do not have access to public transportation, you can advocate to local government leaders for change and work to give access to transit for all. Any small change can have an impact and help TransportiCA in this extremely important cause. Changing our use of transportation will change the world for the better and help stop us from destroying our precious planet.
Want to learn more? Watch the full interview with Greg Justice on our YouTube linked here
Carlier, Mathilde. "U.S. Automobile Registrations in 2019, by State." Statista, 4 Aug. 2021,
www.statista.com/statistics/196010/total-number-of-registered-automobiles-in-the-us-by-state/. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.
Doll, Scooter. "The Cheapest Electric Vehicles Available in 2021-2022." Electrek, 20 Oct. 2021,
electrek.co/2021/10/20/the-cheapest-electric-vehicles-available-in-2021-2022/. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.
Hearst Autos Research. "How Much Is an Electric Car?" Car and Driver, Hearst Autos,
www.caranddriver.com/research/a31544842/how-much-is-an-electric-car/. Accessed 3 Jan.
"What Is Sustainable Transportation?" TransportiCA, California Green Academy,
www.transportica.calgreenacademy.org. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.