Climate Action and Lane Transit District’s Transit Tomorrow – Make the Connection

Terry Parker

Imagine two high flying airplanes. One is the City of Eugene’s Climate Action Plan and the other is Lane Transit District’s Transit Tomorrow system redesign. We are on long flights in parallel universes looking at the reality of greenhouse gas emissions in Eugene from 30,000 feet above. Now, passing down through the clouds as the local landscape comes into focus we hit turbulence.

For three years the City of Eugene has been updating its Climate Action Plan (CAP2.0 or CAP). Consultants were engaged, data gathered, numbers crunched, meetings held and the City Council endorsed the plan in 2019. The purpose of the CAP is to meet the goals of the City’s Climate Recovery Ordinance (CRO) passed in 2014. Specifically, (1) to reduce our fossil fuel use by 50% by 2030 compared to 2010 usage; and (2) to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 7.6% annually in response to climate change.

It is abundantly clear that the City will not be able to meet emissions reduction goals without making significant changes. A “gap analysis” highlighted in the CAP report elaborates on many actions needed. Using three primary sources of energy: energy used in buildings, transportation fuels, and consumption, our community greenhouse gas emissions have been measured. About 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) of emissions are released in Eugene each year. (MTCO2e is a measurement used to compare emissions from different greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential.)

As a result of the CAP, the Eugene Climate Collaborative Partners (ECC Partners) was formed. This partnership includes utilities, school districts, Lane Community College, University of Oregon, and Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission, to name a few. These organizations have “significant oversight and impact on community-wide fossil fuel use and emissions or have the ability to alter systems that will enable the community to adapt and prepare for climate change”. Presumably ECC Partners’ actions over the next 5 to 10 years will account for 40% of the reductions needed to meet the CRO goals. Lane Transit District (LTD) is an ECC Partner. Which brings us to the connection between the Eugene’s CAP and Transit Tomorrow, LTD’s proposed revision of the current bus system.

Transit Tomorrow could help get vehicles off the road to alleviate congestion pressure and lower emissions by offering more frequent and productive transit services. As long as the LTD Board of Directors holds strong on their unanimous decision (August 2019) to:

…. focus resources on providing frequent bus service to make the system more useful, understanding that to accomplish this some areas of the community may lose or experience a reduction in service.

It is critically important that the much discussed trade-off between providing more frequent bus service in areas where most people are likely to ride (ridership) instead of spreading service out to reach as many neighborhoods and commercial areas as possible (coverage) is fully explained and understood. This high ridership model prioritizes greater frequency (optimally a bus every 15 minutes) operating direct routes on main streets. A coverage-focused service– like we have now–offers routes over a broader area and is often less frequent and less useful.

Looking through the lens of climate action increasing ridership reduces emissions. The community-at-large and especially those directly impacted by retraction of existing service must help LTD grapple with the implications of higher ridership. Hopefully, by offering solutions that contribute to lower emissions in our community while providing equity and consideration for people with mobility challenges.

Change is necessary given the climate crisis. As Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis states in “Eugene’s Community Climate Action Plan 2.0: Playbook for Eugene’s Climate Journey, DRAFT, Fall 2019”:

This plan makes it clear that we will not meet our goals if we proceed on our current path. Facing such a crisis is sobering, and basing our actions on a realistic understanding of outcomes is essential to our success…

Fasten your seatbelts. Landing gear deployed. Prepare for a bumpy ride as the rubber meets the tarmac. Here is what you can do:

  • Read CAP 2.0 and Transit Tomorrow documents found online at the City of Eugene and Lane Transit District websites, respectively. And please review important work by the City’s Sustainability Commission and CAP2.0 Equity Panel not covered here.
  • Provide comments and give testimony either in writing or by attending meetings.
  • Spread the word on the role useful and equity-based public transit can contribute to a more sustainable future.

City of Eugene CAP 2.0 Document & Survey

Lane Transit District Transit Tomorrow

Terry retired as Lane Transit District’s Accessible Services Manager in 2013. She currently volunteers with 350Eugene, the League of Women Voters of Lane County and Lane County Master Recycler Program. She lives in the Friendly Area Neighborhood and sails in the Pacific Northwest.