California is a world leader in climate change policy and programs—and a key cornerstone of the state’s strategy has been decarbonizing the transportation sector. California’s investments in clean transportation programs have ballooned in a relatively short time, and include financial incentives for electric vehicle purchases, electric vehicle carsharing mobility hubs and community-driven clean mobility pilots. These programs range widely to meet various needs across urban, suburban and rural communities. Over time these programs have intentionally centered equity, prioritizing the needs of low-income communities of color. Clean mobility programs can not only help fight climate change and clean the air, they can improve mobility for residents of underserved communities, reduce traffic and dependence on cars, and be engines of economic empowerment that help reduce the racial wealth gap.
We need to better understand whether and how clean transportation programs truly address equity in a comprehensive and effective way and make use of knowledge gained in recent years. This report reviews California’s clean mobility equity programs, noting successes, pitfalls and areas for improvement.
This report serves as both a guide for California as we continue evolving our clean mobility programs to more meaningfully center equity and as a guide for other states and the federal government as they move to develop and implement clean transportation equity programs.
Best Practices that Make Equity Real in Clean Mobility Programs
Over the past three decades, The Greenlining Institute has helped to redirect billions of dollars into the communities we represent, but these programs have always operated within the confines of an extractive and exclusionary economic system. To greenline community investment, we have developed a set of rules to govern funds and programs intended to address poverty and inequity. Without standards, we end up reinforcing the structures that caused these problems in the first place. These standards are meant to address failures of equity in our current community investment model.
In this report we identified 10 ways that California clean mobility programs uphold our equity standards and present them here as best practices that should be replicated and scaled in all clean mobility programs.
Emphasize Anti-Racist Solutions
Prioritize Multi-Sector Approaches
Deliver Intentional Benefits
Build Community Capacity
Be Community-Driven At Every Stage
Establish Paths Toward Wealth-Building
1. Immediately increase funding in California and nationally scale programs that comprehensively approach mobility equity and are led by communities, such as the Sustainable Transportation Equity Project.
- California has developed community-driven clean mobility equity programs in which residents decide which transportation modes work best for them. Yet compared to other programs, these are insufficiently funded and cannot meet demand. State and federal funds must support mobility programs that holistically reduce greenhouse gases, air pollution and vehicle miles traveled while prioritizing the needs of low-income communities and communities of color. We must prioritize, replicate and scale community-driven clean mobility equity programs.
2. Institute structural reforms to interagency coordination and funding to maximize available resources for clean mobility investments and to target them to the people with the most barriers.
- California has multiple state agencies pushing forward their own clean mobility programs and investments—all with varying approaches to equity. For example, California’s Air Resources Board and Energy Commission both offer electric vehicle incentives and electric school bus replacement programs. This has led to duplication and inefficiencies. We need a coordinated federal and state strategy that ties together all of these efforts and maximizes available resources and efficiencies.
- Our limited available electric vehicle incentives should solely be targeted to the people who face the most barriers to access. The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project has been allocated hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, yet it disproportionately benefits middle and higher-income White people. Our limited federal and state funds should instead be designated for more equitable programs like Clean Cars 4 All and the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program that are designed to reduce transportation disparities, not widen them.
3. Phase out programs that continue to entrench our dependency on single-occupancy vehicles.
- California has disproportionately funneled dollars into the programs that subsidize electric vehicle purchases—yet this is not sufficient to solve the climate crisis. Governments at all levels should still continue to facilitate a transition to vehicle electrification focusing on the people who face the most barriers to access, but in the long run must foster policies that reduce congestion, vehicle trips and unsustainable land use patterns. While some regions are indeed inherently more car dependent, in these areas state and federal funds should fund programs that reduce the need for costly car ownership, such as Our Community CarShare, Green Raiteros, Ecosystem of Shared Mobility, the Agricultural Workers Vanpool Project, the Rural School Bus Pilot and more.