To achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, the state and environmental organizations are working this summer to lower emissions from transportation in Newton and other cities and towns in Massachusetts.
Before the pandemic hit, state data shows Newton’s number of vehicle miles traveled was steadily increasing from about 1.7 million miles in 2015 to about 2.2 million miles in 2019. The transportation sector is responsible for 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Newton, according to the city’s climate action plan.
The city of Newton set goals in the Climate Action Plan to transition 10 percent of private cars to electric by 2025 and 100 percent electric by 2050. However, currently only about 1 percent percent of the cars in Newton are electric, and advocates say there is still a lot of work to be done.
“We are not on track at all,” said Leslie Zebrowitz, co-chair of Newton’s EV Task Force.
Zebrowitz said the task force is developing and distributing informational materials and talking with residents over the summer about the benefits of electric vehicles.
“A problem is that people who don’t own their own home, or at least some place where they can hang a charger, are at a disadvantage and are reluctant to buy an electric vehicle,” Zebrowitz said.
Zebrowitz pointed to Eversource’s Make Ready Program, which pays for the cost of setting up some charging infrastructures such as outside multi-dwelling units and in apartment parking lots. There is currently a wait list.
The Green Energy Consumer Alliance works with the Newton EV Task Force, which has been negotiating with auto companies to bring down the cost of electric vehicles in addition to tax credits and rebates offered by the state.
“The Green Energy Consumer Alliance has negotiated many discounts for electric vehicles, and you can find really amazing bargains on their website,” Zebrowitz said.
In an interview, state Senator Cynthia Creem described how in addition to expanding the installation of charging stations and providing larger incentives for electric vehicle purchases, it’s important to make sure less advantaged “environmental justice communities” share the benefits of this transition in Newton and other cities in the state.
Creem chairs the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change and held a hearing in May to hear from experts about potential policies to achieve the adoption of zero-emission vehicles in Massachusetts.
Senator Creem said it’s also important to focus on clean electricity.
Businesses and residents in Newton are “buying renewable electricity to match 80 percent of their electricity use” — the highest amount provided out of every community electricity aggregation program in Massachusetts, according to Newton Power Choice.
“Your EV is only as green as the electricity you charge it with,” Zebrowitz said, complimenting the city on its progress.
In addition to increasing the number of electric vehicles, environmental organizations like Green Newton are working on improving alternative forms of transportation to reduce carbon emission in the city.
“People in Newton have been advocating for our commuter rail station to be electrified and turned into a regional rail,” said Lucia Dolan, co-chair of the Transportation Team at Green Newton. Dolan said she supports “the electrified regional rail” as it “will run more frequently, and lower both carbon and particulate matter pollution.”
Green Newton also has programs such as Bike Newton and Safe Routes which are focusing on improving walking and biking conditions in Newton. This summer, Dolan said Green Newton will be updating bicycle maps with Bike Newton and advocating for more bike facilities to be installed around the city.
Brandon Tzou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.