State and Local Policy Database

Transportation Summary

Climate change, together with fluctuating fuel prices, has placed the issue of energy efficiency in the transportation sector at the forefront of the environmental debate. In response, states have taken it upon themselves to adopt policies that go above and beyond existing federal transportation policies. California’s vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards have been adopted by several states across the nation seeking to lead the way in saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As another approach to promoting advanced vehicles, several states have chosen to adopt tax incentives for hybrid-electric and alternative fuel vehicles (HEVs and AFVs). Such incentives add to federal tax credits for advanced technology vehicles, making them more affordable to consumers. They also can help bring down manufacturing costs by increasing sales volume.

Raising fuel economy and emissions standards will not alone address transportation efficiency in the long term if growth in total vehicle miles traveled goes unchecked. U.S. highway vehicle miles travelled (VMT) is projected to grow 60% by 2030, in line with population growth in the country. Unlike vehicle fuel economy, which is addressed at the federal level, strategies to manage VMT are typically local or regional, giving states an important role in encouraging smart growth and slowing growth in VMT. Transportation is inherently tied to smart growth land use policies. Land use policies can lower VMT by incorporating principles of both smart growth and smart transportation. Successful strategies for smart growth land use planning reform will vary widely among states due to the current infrastructure, geography, and political structure. However, the core principles of smart growth should be embodied in state comprehensive plans.

Puerto Rico has an incentive program for hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles and has made an effort to integrate land use and transportation planning.