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DODD STATEMENT: ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE WITH PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

“We need to do more than simply fund public transportation. We need to re-think the way we approach it as a matter of federal policy.”

July 7, 2009

WASHINGTON –Chris Dodd (D-CT), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, called for a new approach to investments in public transportation at this morning’s hearing to examine transit’s role in America’s effort to combat climate change. 
 
“Investing in public transportation as part of a focus on sustainable development isn’t just a part of the solution to the climate crisis.  It cuts down on traffic congestion – and, being from Connecticut, I know a little bit about traffic congestion,” said Dodd.  “Public transportation saves families money and time.  When we combine it with a smart land use policy, we can better protect our farmlands and green spaces.  And when we combine it with a commitment to build more housing near job centers, we can better connect people with good jobs.”
 
“We need to do more than simply fund public transportation.  We need to re-think the way we approach it as a matter of federal policy…  I’ll soon be introducing legislation to promote sustainable development by helping local authorities plan for a future in which our transportation and housing options are more varied, our air is cleaner, and our communities are more livable.”
 
Last month, Dodd chaired a hearing at which Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a new interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities that will help improve access to affordable housing, expand transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment and combating climate change in communities nationwide.  The three departments will be working together to create a holistic approach to transportation, housing, energy and environmental policies.  In February, Chairman Dodd sent a letter to President Obama calling for the creation of such an entity.      
 
 
The full text of Chairman Dodd’s remarks as prepared for delivery is below:
 
The choices we make when it comes to transportation have an enormous impact on our communities, our economy, and our planet. 
 
Currently, the transportation sector is responsible for nearly a third of all carbon emissions, and it is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
 
Automobile transportation alone accounts for nearly half of a typical two-car American family’s carbon footprint – by far the largest source of household emissions.
 
Public transportation, in addition to creating economic opportunity, reducing congestion, and bringing our communities closer together, is incredibly effective in reducing carbon emissions.  Already, public transit and the land use it makes possible combine to save more than 4 billion gallons of gasoline each year, reducing our greenhouse gas output by 37 million metric tons.
 
Americans understand the dangers of climate change, and many families have taken steps to reduce their own carbon footprint.
 
But when it comes to transportation, too often the choices we make are dictated by the choices we have.  And for far too many families in my home state of Connecticut and across the country, public transportation isn’t an option – yet.
 
Later this month, the EPW Committee will take up legislation that seeks to address the climate crisis.  Already, we have begun to make progress by requiring vehicles to become more fuel-efficient and encouraging the development of cleaner energy sources.
 
But as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told our full committee last month, “More efficient vehicles and cleaner fuels simply will not be enough to meet our greenhouse gas reduction and energy independence goals.  Reducing the number of miles we drive must be part of the solution.”
 
She’s right.  In a typical household, one driver switching to public transportation would reduce that family’s annual carbon footprint by 8 percent.
 
And, as Administrator Jackson added, “There’s no need to wait for a technological breakthrough to reduce the amount of driving we do.  The technology to help people drive less exists today – it's called smart growth.”
 
Investing in public transportation as part of a focus on sustainable development isn’t just a part of the solution to the climate crisis.  It cuts down on traffic congestion – and, being from Connecticut, I know a little bit about traffic congestion.  Public transportation saves families money and time.  When we combine it with a smart land use policy, we can better protect our farmlands and green spaces.  And when we combine it with a commitment to build more housing near job centers, we can better connect people with good jobs.
 
For instance, my home state of Connecticut is in serious need of more and better transit options.  I’ve been a longtime advocate for the Tri-City Corridor that will create new transit villages, get people off the roads, and revitalize our regional economy.  We will accomplish this by initiating new commuter rail service and 110 mile-per-hour intercity train service between New Haven and Springfield, Massachusetts, with direct connections to New York City and, eventually, Boston.  This project is one of my top priorities and I am going to work with leaders in my state and Secretary LaHood to get it done.
 
But we need to do more than simply fund public transportation.  We need to re-think the way we approach it as a matter of federal policy.
 
Earlier this year, I wrote a letter to President Obama urging better coordination between federal authorities responsible for transportation, housing, energy, and environmental policy.  And I was thrilled when, at a hearing last month, Administrator Jackson was joined by Secretaries LaHood and Donovan to discuss the administration’s commitment not just to sustainable development, but to a more holistic approach as these agencies work together to help our communities grow in a sustainable way in the 21st century.
 
I’ll soon be introducing legislation to promote sustainable development by helping local authorities plan for a future in which our transportation and housing options are more varied, our air is cleaner, and our communities are more livable.  Until then, I’d like to welcome our distinguished witnesses, and thank Sen. Menendez for holding this hearing to highlight the important role of public transportation in taking on the critical issue of climate change.
 
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