Transportation Carbon Emissions
The transportation sector accounts for roughly 38% of Oregon's carbon emissions. Therefore, it is important that we look for areas where we can reduce the impact of transportation on the environment. There are three main policy areas for reducing carbon emissions from transportation: fuel efficiency, carbon content in fuel, and the amount vehicles travel, or Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).
Looking at these three policy areas, two of the three are largely handled by the state and federal government. Government can regulate and improve the overall fuel efficiency, and it can regulate the content of fuels in order to lower the carbon content. The government can also encourage the purchase or use of fuel efficient, and alternative fuel, vehicles.
However, reducing the amount of driving, or VMT, is primarily addressed at the local level by the following actions:
- promoting strategies that reduce the length of trips, and
- developing communities that support public transit, biking, or walking for errands, outings, and trips to work.
One of the most important ways communities can reduce driving is to bring land uses closer together. Communities can do this by increasing the density of the built environment and mixing land uses. For example, communities should place retail and commercial services near residential communities in order to shorten the distance residents must travel to reach these services. Overall, this reduces distances people have to drive, provides more transportation options, and makes walking, biking and transit trips more feasible.
Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. There are 10 principles that are considered to be the foundation of a smart growth planning approach. These principles are found on the Smart Growth America website. Also see the Cool Planning: A Handbook on Strategies to Slow Climate Change for more details on achieving smart growth.
Additional information on GHG reduction, rulemaking, legislative action, and scenario planning is provided below.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals in Oregon
In 2007, Oregon adopted greenhouse gas emission reduction goals (House Bill 3543). The bill addressed emissions from all industry sectors and set the following reduction goals:
- By 2010, arrest the growth of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions and begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- By 2020, achieve greenhouse gas levels that are 10 percent below 1990 levels.
- By 2050, achieve greenhouse gas levels that are at least 75 percent below 1990 levels.
Information about Oregon's greenhouse gas reduction goals can be found in ORS 468A.205 – Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions Goals.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets for Oregon Metropolitan Areas
In 2011, the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) adopted rules (OAR 660-044) that set greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets. This action was a response to a legislative mandate passed in 2010 (Senate Bill 1059). In May 2015, LCDC completed a required review of the rules. It approved the staff report and agreed that the rules should be updated to incorporate new information and to set targets for the years beyond 2035.
In January 2017, LCDC adopted amendments to the GHG reduction target rules that guide scenario planning by the state's metropolitan areas. The rules ask metropolitan areas to evaluate what changes to local and regional land use and transportation plans and programs, would be needed to reduce GHG emissions, from light vehicle travel per capita by 2040. (The year 2040 is the planning limit for most regional transportation plans.)
In updating the rules, the department worked with the Oregon Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Quality, and Oregon Department of Energy to gather the necessary technical information. DLCD convened an advisory committee to assist in the update, including an evaluation on how scenario planning efforts can be better integrated into other metropolitan area work on transportation and land use plans. Supporting documents are linked below, along with additional information about scenario planning.
Rulemaking Advisory Committee Target Recommendations Report
LCDC Meeting Staff Report
Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative
The 2010, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1059, a statewide, comprehensive bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation. The bill also created the Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative (OSTI) as a statewide effort to reduce GHG emissions from transportation while creating healthier, more livable communities and greater economic opportunity.
OSTI is led by ODOT and DLCD, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE), and many stakeholder committees made up of business people, elected officials, and residents from across the state. OSTI's work consists of several components:
- Statewide Transportation Strategy
- Metropolitan Scenario Planning
- Support for Metropolitan Scenario Planning
Scenario planning is a planning exercise for exploring an area's long-term future. In other words, "where is the area heading, and is that where we want to go?" The processes outlined for scenario planning allows areas to work together to consider statewide, regional, and local needs and issues. Scenario planning studies economic development, fiscal impacts, resource use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the effects of different choices on the state, region, community or household.
Scenario Planning Guidelines were developed as a resource to help Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and local governments conduct land use and transportation scenario planning. We encourage MPOs to use these guidelines to design a scenario planning process that best addresses local conditions and builds on other concurrent or recent planning efforts.
In summary, GHG scenario planning is a multi-scenario analysis of how transportation or land use planning changes would affect carbon emissions over time. It includes a scenario where no changes are made, in order to compare scenario(s) with proposed changes. Scenario plans help communities assess the predicted outcome of many planning ideas. They are a good way to anticipate and quantify the long-term value of proposed plan amendments.
Strategic Assessments are similar in purpose to scenario plans. They assess the long-term outlook of a community based on current plans and estimated growth patterns. A Strategic assessment is a voluntary activity that allows an MPO and its member local governments to evaluate what the area may look like in the future given the area's adopted plans and trends of today. Strategic assessments can help MPOs by informing development of land use and transportation plans, and investment priorities that address community goals.
To help conduct a strategic assessment, MPOs can request financial and technical assistance through contracts negotiated by Oregon Department of Transportation. Contact us to learn more.
Scenario Planning Results
Over the last five years, four metropolitan areas (Portland Metro, Eugene-Springfield, Corvallis, and the Rogue Valley) have conducted scenario planning projects. All four efforts reached the following conclusions:
- The targets are achievable, but more work is necessary.
- Meeting targets will require a comprehensive, coordinated strategy that includes a combination of complementary state, regional and local efforts that promote walkable communities and expand transportation options to reduce amount of driving people need to do.
- Substantial efforts and new funding to expand transportation options will be needed to:
- Expand public transit
- Provide incentives and price signals to promote options
- Make walking and cycling more convenient
- Promote compact, mixed use development
- Better manage parking
- Policies and actions that reduce GHG emissions provide significant benefits to Oregon citizens, businesses, communities and the transportation system because they:
- Reduce household energy and transportation costs
- Improve air quality and public health, and
- Reduce congestion and improve operation of the transportation system
- Existing plans move us in the right direction but additional efforts - to expand transit and other transportation options, better manage parking and promote compact land use - will be needed to achieve targets.
Resources and Tools
Place Types Tool
Scenario Planning Guidelines
Statewide Transportation Strategy and Implementation
Strategic Assessment Tools and Scenario Planning
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Toolkit
Climate Change Resources
Sept 23, 2019 Letter from Governor Kate Brown Directing Agencies to Implement Statewide Transportation Strategy (PDF)