Transportation Policy

The Sierra Club supports transportation policy and systems that:

  • minimize the impacts on and use of land, airspace and waterways, minimize the consumption of limited resources, including fuel, and reduce pollutant and noise emissions;
  • provide everyone, including pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users, with adequate access to jobs, shopping, services and recreation;
  • provide adequate and efficient goods movement and substitute local goods for those requiring long distance movement, where feasible;
  • encourage land uses that minimize travel requirements;
  • strengthen local communities, towns and urban centers, and promote equal opportunity;
  • eliminate transportation subsidies which handicap achievement of the above goals; and ensure vigorous and effective public participation in transportation planning.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, February 19-20, 1994; amended May 7-8, 1994

Guidelines Adopted by the Transportation Committee

The Sierra Club favors the most energy and land conserving, and least polluting systems and vehicles.

Walking and bicycling are best, along with electronic communications to reduce trips. Next are buses, minibuses, light rail and heavy rail (as corridor trips increase); electrified wherever feasible. Rail systems are most effective in stimulating compact development patterns, increasing public transit patronage and reducing motor vehicle use. Station access should be provided by foot, bicycle and public transit, with minimal, but full-priced, public parking. Accommodation of pedestrians, bicycles and public transit should be given priority over private automobiles.

Public transit service should be coordinated, and transit facilities should facilitate intermodal transfers, including convenient and safe bicycle access to public transit vehicles, and secure bicycle storage in public places and stations. Multiple occupancy vehicles should be favored over single occupancy vehicles. Roads and traffic laws should be designed and enforced to enhance safety. All parking costs should be fully and directly charged.

Freight railroads, especially electrified, are preferred over highway or air freight to save energy and land, and cut noise and pollutant emissions. Amtrak and high speed intercity rail which afford comparable city center to city center access times, or which offer comparable overnight convenience, are preferred to air travel because they save energy, use less land, cut noise and pollutant emissions, and allow some airports to be closed. Therefore, new or improved rail facilities, and electronic communications, are preferred to new or expanded airports. Discourage private aviation to reduce noise impacts on urban and natural areas.

Highway Expansion. No limited access highways ("freeways") should be built or widened, especially in urban-suburban areas or near threatened natural areas. High occupancy vehicle (HOV) and high occupancy vehicle/toll (HOT) lanes should come from converting existing highway lanes rather than constructing new lanes. This avoids constructing new lanes which are mixed-flow much of the day, or are converted to full-time mixed-flow after construction. Toll rates on HOT lanes should vary by time of day, and revenues above operating expenses should be used to improve travel opportunities for low income travelers and to operate public transit. Implement Transport Control Measures rather than increasing road capacity for vehicles. Intelligent Vehicle/Highway Systems (IVHS) should not be designed to increase highway capacity and stimulate additional traffic, off-highway congestion, sprawl, energy consumption and pollution.

Land use patterns should be designed to improve pedestrian access, encourage shorter trips, increase public transit use, enhance the economic viability of public transit and decrease private motor vehicle use (auto mobility). Therefore zoning, financing, land-use controls and other policies should:

  • concentrate employment near transit stations or stops;
  • densify residential areas to allow shorter trips;
  • integrate pedestrian-oriented neighborhood commerce (markets, restaurants, services, etc.) into residential neighborhoods;
  • provide pedestrian amenities (such as a complete regular pedestrian street grid; sidewalks on both sides of the road; slow streets [traffic calming], speed limits and stop signs or lights to keep traffic safe and comfortable for pedestrians; auto-free town and urban centers; street furniture and shelters; and buildings that front onto the sidewalk rather than be isolated behind parking or landscaped areas);
  • reduce parking requirements and eliminate parking subsidies;
  • provide adequate parks, natural areas and plantings for humans and wildlife, aesthetic enhancement, pedestrian protection and building/ sidewalk cooling; and
  • protect land outside presently developed areas from urban sprawl through urban limit lines or other restraints.

Existing communities should be revitalized or retrofitted, as necessary, to achieve these qualities and to enhance their quality of life. Planning And Public Participation Urban transportation systems and land use should be planned for whole regions. Transportation-land use models should fully project the reduction in driving and increase in transit experienced when transit is improved and areas are made more pedestrian accessible (see above); and modelers should provide decision-makers with compact, transit-oriented alternatives.

The National Environmental Policy Act, and the Clean Air and Water Acts should be complied with fully. Meaningful public participation must take place from the start of development of state and regional transportation plans. Opportunities for participation should be enhanced. The participation of environmental, public transit and low income community groups, including legal help and research, should be publicly funded.

Financing and Subsidies

Federal and local subsidies should be provided to those systems (walking, bicycling, public transit, passenger and freight railroads and ferries) and equipment that go further toward achieving accessibility, convenience, efficiency, cleanliness and equity goals, and denied to the other modes. Such subsidies are especially needed to correct the history of heavy subsidies to motor vehicles, including trucks. Direct subsidies and costly externalities of motor vehicle use include: police, fire and ambulance services, road construction and maintenance; property taxes lost from land cleared for highways; subsidized parking; air, water and land pollution; noise and vibration damage to structures; health damage from noise and pollution; global climate change; petroleum supply line policing and security; petroleum production subsidies; trade and infrastructure deficit; sprawl and loss of transportation options, uncompensated auto accident costs; and congestion.

These subsidies should be publicly scrutinized and eliminated by appropriate fuel and carbon taxes, parking and road user charges, annual vehicle fees, and elimination of tax credits and deductions for motor vehicle use. The capital and operating costs of airports, air traffic control, pilot training and waterways, including dredging and navigation costs, should be charged to the users of such systems.

Adopted by the Transportation Committee