On Wednesday, June 26, Jersey Renews released the white paper Transportation Electrification: Keeping an Eye on Equity. The paper is broken down categories of electrification: private vehicles, private fleets, public fleets, and NJ Transit and addresses why electrification of that system matters, who it helps, barriers, and steps to make an electrification a reality.
For private vehicles, the emphasis is on developing statewide infrastructure for EVs and increasing efforts to educate policymakers, car dealerships, and drivers. Private fleets, like those owned and operated by corporations, are likely to need incentive or subsidy programs for both fleet transition and charging infrastructure. Public fleets, like those owned by municipalities or the state, need to pass resolutions to solidify their commitment to electrification and apply for funding sources like the VW settlement. And for NJ Transit, officials need further education on EV technology, a set of goals and implementation timeline and, a dedicated, sustainable funding source for the operating budget so the capital budget can be used for improvements and innovations.
The coalition celebrated the release with a panel discussion and electric vehicle ride and drive at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton. Norah Langweiler, campaign organizer for Jersey Renews and author of the paper, opened the discussion with an overview of the context of transportation electrification and the paper’s contents. She noted that electrification on its own will not be enough to address the decades of inequality wrought by irresponsibly developed transportation infrastructure; these efforts need to be supported by the expansion of public and paratransit options to serve all communities and accessible transit to ensure that no one is barred from their daily travel needs due to ability. But, developing an electrified transportation sector can help to close the health and wealth gap by equitably distributing electrification throughout the state.
The panel expanded on these topics and took questions from the audience. Peg Hannah of the Department of Environmental Protection discussing the role of government in electrification; Janna Chernetz, deputy director at Tri-State Transportation Campaign talked about the importance of electrifying public transportation for health equity and highlighted how foundational transportation is to equitable community development; Ben Haygood from Isles, Inc. described the organization’s efforts to bring electrification to Trenton; Michael Mazur of GreenSpot detailed how cities can partner with car and rideshare companies to create accessible first-and-last mile solutions for low-income communities; and Rev. Ronald Tuff from GreenFaith discussed job opportunities for trade workers and the importance to ensuring those jobs go to communities who need them. The panel was moderated by Rev. Dr. Randall Lassiter from Calvary Baptist Church in Paterson.