From March through May, BC3’s Ideas Hub theme is “Sustainable Mobility and Transportation”. This post is the first in a series that will unpack San Francisco’s climate action goal in regards to transportation and profile how local businesses can change their transportation/commuting policies to reduce their carbon footprint in the sector and assist the city in reaching this goal.
Transportation is one of the main sectors contributing to climate change in the United States, accounting for 27% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Here in San Francisco, transportation emissions make up 43% of the city’s carbon footprint, which is why the City of San Francisco has made reducing personal automobile trips a major part of its climate action strategy. In this post, we explain San Francisco’s ambitious sustainable mobility goal, look at how the City is doing so far, and identify some of the strategies that will get our community the rest of the way.
San Francisco has introduced a set of climate action goals that utilize leading policies, programs, and partnerships to achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by 2025. This campaign is called the 0-50-100-Roots strategy, and the ‘50’ refers to a climate goal related to transportation: to make 50% of all trips outside of personal vehicles. This means that at least half of trips taken within the city should be on foot, by bike, via public transportation, or by utilizing ridesharing programs.
Are we making progress?
The short answer is yes! Technically the city has already met the ‘50 goal’, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), who found in their 2014 Travel Decision Survey that at the time of publication “private auto trips represent slightly less than half (48%) of all trips in San Francisco”.
So does this mean we can wash our hands of this issue? Of course not.
San Francisco is a constantly growing and changing city, with new residents moving in and commuters entering the workforce each day. Keeping the City at “50” will itself be a challenge and there’s an urgent climate need to progress beyond that goal. At present, 90% of San Franciscans live within two blocks of a public transit service, yet 50% still choose to use their car for trips within the city.
Strategies for moving beyond “50”
There are several programs and plans either currently in action or lined up for deployment in the near future that will reduce San Francisco's greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector:
- The city has a number of green mass transit systems that run on biodiesel and electricity generated from renewable sources, all of which have plans to phase out fossil fuels completely in the next 10-15 years.
- Programs like Bay Area Bike Share increase access to bicycles by allowing commuters to pick up and return shared bikes for use at their convenience.
- Plans for investment in infrastructure will expand the city’s transit, bicycle, walking, and vehicle sharing networks.
- The projected expansion of clean vehicles and utilization of clean fuels will yield even more reductions.
The Role of Business
Although the policies and programs above are helping San Francisco reduce carbon emissions related to transit, work remains in engaging residents and commuters in utilizing these programs and/or alternative forms of transit. San Francisco businesses and companies as entities are large contributors to the emissions coming from the transportation sector, as employees need to commute to and from work each day. In addition to the trips made for work within the city by San Francisco residents, 28% of trips made by other Bay Area city residents into San Francisco each month are for work, a number that is included in San Francisco's own carbon footprint.
Some companies and businesses have already made strides to face this problem head-on and encourage their employees to transition to greener transportation methods through carpooling programs, shuttles, or incentives for riding bikes or walking. Similarly, the City and County of San Francisco’s SF Environment has created several sustainable commuting programs to encourage safe and environmentally friendly transportation around the city, such as Emergency Ride Home and Rideshare. However, as mentioned above there is still room for improvement, and BC3 is working on identifying how the city’s businesses and employees can best engage in these solutions.
Keep an eye out for our next post in this series, which will detail specific actions that businesses and individuals can take to increase sustainability in their travel.