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State Bill Seeks to Alter Environmental Review So it Doesn’t Only Care About Drivers

Streetsblog NYC | By Gersh Kuntzman | April 12, 2023


Shouldn't environmental review take into account the effect of cars on the environment rather than the other way around?


That basic question informs a new piece of legislation by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, which proposes the ultimate no-brainer of environmental assessment in a rapidly warming world: Instead of judging the impact of a project on whether it would make conditions worse for drivers, Gounardes's bill would encourage environmental impact statements to no longer focus "on a project's effect on automobile delay" or level of service and instead focus on reducing overall vehicles miles traveled.


"By eliminating the relevance of level of service as a metric and utilizing vehicle miles traveled reduction instead, we can provide a new criteria for determining the significance of transportation impacts to promote: (1) a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; (2) development of multimodal transportation networks; and (3) a diversity of land uses that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector," the bill summary states.


As a legislative matter, the bill would only require the state to set its goal of "reducing the annual total of vehicle miles traveled within the state by 15 percent by 2050." But the question of how you get there could directly be answered by fixing the way environmental review is currently done — altering the assessment of projects from their impact on car drivers' level of service to a project's ability to reduce driving.



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