The average L.A. driver spends 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. Although the quality of the air has improved significantly over the years, the city still has, by some measures, the smoggiest in the country. And, of course, asthma and other ailments from dirty air harm residents, especially children – and particularly those in low-income communities.

As policymakers in Sacramento consider the state’s next moves to tackle climate change out to the year 2050, it’s important to note that the same policies that curb global warming – already on the books in California – could also mean cleaner air, a stronger economy and increased transportation options.

That’s according to the new analysis Achieving California’s Greenhouse Gas Goals: A Focus on Transportation” commissioned by Next 10 and authored by the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy at UC Davis. From re-adopting the Low Carbon Fuel Standard to implementing the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375) to expanding cap and trade to include transportation fuels to increasing vehicle emissions standards, the report reinforces that climate-friendly transportation policies are good for Southern California.

Indeed, transportation is the state’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and it is an especially critical challenge – from a health, environmental and quality-of-life perspective – for Southern California. Without addressing transportation, the state has little hope of meeting its long-term goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions – nor will we be able to curb the crippling air-quality challenges we face. This is particularly important for our low-income communities of color who are more exposed to transportation-related emissions – and the related health consequences.

Economic benefits are also part of the study’s picture. While encouraging zero-emission vehicles, cleaner fuels, and lower overall emissions can help reduce Southern California’s air pollution, it can also drive innovation and business activity. After all, the Los Angeles-Orange County region is the automotive design capital of the world, giving the area a competitive advantage in cleaner transportation technologies. 

The Los Angeles-Orange County region also accounts for 26 percent of California’s advanced transportation jobs, housed at a mix of startup and established companies, all working to add to the regional advanced transportation mix. Take Proterra, a maker of electric transit buses. According to news reports, the company has so many orders, it is building a plant in the San Gabriel Valley to keep up with demand. Foothill Transit, the biggest public transit provider of the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys, recently announced it ordered an additional 13 electric buses from Proterra to bring its electric-vehicle fleet to 30.

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