In the next two years, Seattle will create incentives for public and private companies to electrify their vehicles, encourage more walking, biking and transit ridership and may propose fees on driving in certain parts of the city to decrease congestion.
By 2030, under the “Clean Transportation Electrification Blueprint,” all ride-hailing trips would be electric and emissions free; almost one-third of deliveries would be made with vehicles that don’t emit carbon; a “major area” of Seattle would be restricted to most cars; and charging stations would be reliable and readily available throughout the city.
These are Seattle’s ambitious targets for an electrified transportation system that reduces carbon emissions and fossil-fuel dependency within the decade, envisioned under a set of goals released Wednesday.
The city hopes to achieve these targets through tools that may include introducing legislation at the city and state levels; advocating for existing, progressive climate proposals; engaging with community groups; asking voters to directly approve ballot initiatives, and developing partnerships with employers to advance initiatives and generate jobs, said Andrea Pratt, a climate and transportation policy adviser with the city.
However, these aspirations hinge on politically aligned values at all levels of government and cooperation with companies that have been hostile to regulations from the city. The promises are also more far-reaching than past targets, despite Seattle’s failure to meet past goals.
Previous climate goals set by other administrations have lagged in success.
During his tenure, Mayor Greg Nickels committed Seattle to the Kyoto treaty, pledging to reduce the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions 7% below 1990 levels by the year 2012. But he didn’t meet that goal, and by 2016 Seattle still was emitting more carbon than the city had in 1990.
Last year, King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed the county cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and by of 80% by 2050 — even as the county fell short of its interim goals set in its earlier comprehensive climate plan.
Six city departments, including the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Seattle City Light, and the Office of Sustainability & Environment, produced the goals, with input from environmental justice groups and groups representing communities of color.
This plan does not list any cost estimates associated with the efforts. However, the city would study budget impacts to each proposal down the line, Pratt said. Like other self-imposed transportation goals, such as a commitment to eliminate traffic-related serious injuries and deaths, success depends on aggressive policies and a shared vision across administrations.
These goals build upon Seattle’s Green New Deal, which seeks to eliminate the city’s climate pollution by 2030, address environmental inequities and create thousands of green, unionized jobs, and follow previous efforts to tackle climate change.
Even during the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen transit ridership plummet, Seattle voters in November approved a sales-tax measure that supports more frequent bus service, shuttle vans and free student transit fares. The city also closed more than 20 miles of residential streets to most vehicle traffic and opened them to people walking and biking, a precursor to potentially larger-scale closures.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has also promised to institute a toll for drivers entering downtown, known as congestion pricing.
That plan has been on hold during the pandemic while the city meets with equity and environmental justice-focused advisory groups on the details of a plan, said Kristin Brown, a spokesperson for the Office of Sustainability and Environment.
Other transit agencies in Washington are also working toward climate-focused efforts.
Washington State Ferries plans to convert its Wenatchee vessel from running solely on diesel fuel to using hybrid/electric power later this year and begin sailings between Seattle and Bainbridge Island in the summer of 2022, said agency spokesperson Ian Sterling.
King County Metro has pledged to make its 1,500-bus fleet carbon free by 2040 — “or sooner, as technology and capital projects allow,” said Al Sanders, a spokesperson for Metro. The agency already operates more than 170 zero-emission electric buses.
Despite these differences in timelines, Pratt said all agencies are working toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
She points to efforts already underway as part of the package of plans to reach the emissions goals.
Under a clean-fuels standard proposal moving through the state Legislature, Washington would provide companies incentives to develop transportation fuels that emit lower greenhouse gases. House Bill 1091 has passed the state House of Representatives and is under consideration in the state Senate.
The ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft are also on board with the goals, which would require 100% of rentable bikes and scooters, and ride-hailing cars, to be electric and emissions free by 2030.
“We support the City’s goal and have already previously committed to becoming a zero-emissions platform in the U.S. by 2030,” said Harry Hartfield, a spokesperson for Uber.
Last year, Lyft committed to using only electric vehicles on its platform by 2030.
“We look forward to engaging the City of Seattle to share ideas on how to accelerate the transition to EVs and advance the fight against climate change,” said Allison Goodman, a spokesperson for Lyft.