New Jersey Future highlights a new study released this month by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Smart Growth America (SGA), titled “Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy,” which ranks New Jersey second only to Maryland for its statewide transportation policies and ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report, which can be found at SmartGrowthAmerica.org, examines transportation spending decisions and policies in all 50 states to determine what impact state decisions have on carbon emission rates. New Jersey’s high ranking was largely thanks to its smart growth policies, its regional planning and land conservation initiatives, its statewide transit system, and its policies that encourage transit-oriented development.
However, as New Jersey Future notes, the future of many of the policies and plans praised in the report are currently in question, and New Jersey risks losing ground. “For example, the state has made little effort to pursue the greenhouse gas reduction goals laid out by the Legislature in the Global Warming Response Act, passed in 2007,” said NJ Future Executive Director Pete Kasabach. “In addition, the status of the State Plan, which received praise in the study, is in limbo at the moment as the state figures out what role the Office of Planning Advocacy (formerly the Office of Smart Growth) should play in the new administration.”
The report acknowledges these issues, noting that in spite of its policy efforts, New Jersey’s outcomes on the ground have been less than stellar; the state has seen much of its rural lands developed over the past 30 years, and ranks above the national median for land development in relation to population growth.
State transportation policy has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also meeting our mobility needs. This report offers an important look at what states are doing right, and where improvement must be made to achieve sustainable growth.