by Don Ryan, Vice President for Policy, Second Nature

College and university presidents are stepping up to provide leadership on national transportation policy through Second Nature’s 15-member task force, which just released its recommendations to Congress and the Obama Administration. At a Congressional Briefing on April 28, three presidents drew on their institutions’ firsthand experience to highlight the task force’s recommendations: Jamillah Moore of Los Angeles City College, George Dennison of the The University of Montana, and Wim Wiewel of Portland State University.

Higher Education Sector is Crucial to Progress

In the past, higher education as a sector has not recognized its stake in national transportation policy. In fact, colleges and universities cannot achieve deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions without major changes in federal policy. At the same time, these institutions are crucial to national progress because they serve as test beds for piloting and evaluating innovative transportation strategies and developing new clean technologies.

These institutions are crucial to national progress. They serve as test beds for piloting and evaluating innovative transportation strategies and developing new clean technologies.

Recommendations to Congress

The task force called on Congress to make reducing greenhouse gas emissions a fundamental goal of transportation policy – on a par with mobility and safety. While this may sound like a “no-brainer,” it amounts to a radical change, because historically transportation policy has only given lip service to climate and energy goals.

Noting that our current transportation financing and pricing system is badly broken, the task force urged Congress to adopt carbon-based fees to act as a strong price signal for both the purchase and use of vehicles. Other task force recommendations call for U.S. leadership in vehicle efficiency and clean fuels, expanding transportation options to meet local needs, improving the condition and efficiency of our transportation system, and expanding innovation, research and evaluation.

Higher Education Leaders are Invited to Join the Effort

The task force appointed two Co-Chairs: Judith Ramaley, President of Winona State University, and George Dennison, President of The University of Montana. With support from Second Nature, the task force will be working over the coming months to engage many other higher education leaders to elevate the national policy dialogue about transportation and energy policy.

If you want to join other higher education leaders in making our transportation system more sustainable, please contact Don Ryan, Second Nature’s Vice President for Policy at dryan@secondnature.org.