California’s cap-and-trade program: an opportunity to invest in community health

Community Health

This is a guest post by Menaka Mohan of the Prevention Institute.

As a bike commuter in Oakland, my daily ride to work around Lake Merritt to our offices in Jack London Square illustrates the potential that community design has to foster – or hinder – health. From the newly opened Lake Merritt pedestrian bridge that allows for a pleasant walk to BART, to the 880 freeway with its incessant air pollution, the environments in which we live, work, and play have a clear impact on community health.

I make enough money that I can live in a neighborhood that supports my health – with immediate access to parks, transit, and bike lanes. But not all places in California or even in Oakland look like my neighborhood. In current economic times, the funding for such infrastructure is being threatened and cut. 

That’s why California’s cap-and-trade program presents such an opportunity.

On its face, revenue from the new cap-and-trade program will provide millions of dollars to fund projects that reduce greenhouse gases. But as local advocates across the state know, projects like reliable public transit, safe places to walk and bike, and dedicated open space not only reduce greenhouse gases – they also build healthy communities. 

Bike lanes and sidewalks provide people with the opportunity to build activity into their daily lives; they produce zero harmful pollutants and encourage ways of living that are more sustainable for our planet. Neighborhoods that provide affordable housing near transit give families transportation options – and studies show that 29% of transit users achieve 30 minutes or more of daily physical activity walking to and from transit, which meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s daily recommendation, while also producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions than people who drive. In fact, neighborhoods in the Bay Area that are well connected by transit have reduced C02 emissions by 42% compared to their less connected counterparts. 

This week, California Air Resources Board (CARB) is anticipated to release its draft cap-and-trade revenues investment plan. As CARB prepares to finalize the plan, it’s critical that they hear from advocates across the state about the importance of local efforts that both create healthy communities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

All Californians deserve to live in environments that support health, equity, and safety. By investing in projects that improve air quality, support safe places to play, and increase active transportation, CARB can demonstrate its commitment to community health and well-being.

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TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.