Back on Monday, April 4th I was lucky enough to get to spend half a day at our State Capitol working with Transportation Forward, a coalition which Conservation Minnesota is a part of, to try and get the Minnesota Legislature to pass a badly needed transportation bill this legislative session. It was a successful event that included almost 100 people visiting with their state legislators to tell them why having a robust and multi-modal transportation system is important for them and our state’s future.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking, “That’s great John, but what exactly does transportation have to do with conservation?” Well the answer is: quite a lot!
To begin with, transportation is one of the biggest consumers of energy here in Minnesota. In fact according to the US Energy Information Administration, transportation accounts for 24 percent of our state’s total energy use, which is slightly more than all residential use in the state put together.
If we want to transition to a clean energy future we simply can’t ignore transportation policy.
In addition, our transportation system is a major creator of pollution and health risks for all of us. The vast majority of us still rely on gas and diesel engines in our daily lives to some degree. But that doesn’t change the fact that these engines still are a major source of ozone and particulate air pollution that can contribute to numerous health risks, especially in urban and suburban areas.
More over, transportation policy set by the legislature has a big impact on how we are able to enjoy Minnesota’s great outdoors. We’ve made huge strides in investing in parks and trails here in Minnesota in recent years, especially since we passed the Legacy Amendment in 2008. In fact the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota estimated that the state of Minnesota’s trails were used 1,811,000 million times between April and October of 2015. But those parks and trails need to be connected to everyone who wants to access them, including folks who rely on public transportation or those who would like to be able to bike or walk to their neighborhood and regional park.
All of which goes to show that conservation and transportation policy aren’t really that separate after all. In fact it’s basically impossible to transition to clean energy, improve our air quality, or make sure everyone has a chance to enjoy our Great Outdoors without investing a new, robust, and multi-modal transportation system.