By Adrian Del Busto Suarez
Recently the California Energy Commission published the SB 350 Low Income Barriers Study, Part B: Overcoming Barriers to Clean Transportation Access for Low-Income Residents. This post is Green Commuter’s response to this study. We offer thoughts on how Green Commuter’s mission-based services can provide tangible solutions to the barriers outlined in the results of these findings.
This study contains an evaluation of the obstacles to access to clean transportation faced by low-income California residents and the efforts made by public institutions to overcome them.
Section 1: Identified obstacles to clean transportation for low-income residents and how Green Commuter can help overcome them.
The costs associated with clean transportation are the major obstacle to the adoption of clean transportation options by low-income residents. Low-income residents expressed that the current higher upfront costs of advanced technology vehicles as compared to the conventional vehicles make it uneconomical to make the upfront investments.
Green Commuter can make clean transportation available while freeing low-income households from the financial burden of purchasing a zero-emissions vehicle. Green Commuter can provide low-income residents with a zero-emissions vanpool for their commute to work and a carshare for their everyday needs around their community.
Securing Permanent, Long-Term Funding Sources
The public funding of green transportation is insufficient to make zero-emission vehicles an economically viable option for low-income households. Moreover, these programs are unstable and residents are anxious about the stability of funding sources in the long term.
Green Commuter reduces the need of purchasing a vehicle, making it unnecessary for low-income residents to worry about long-term funding solutions. Green Commuter’s all-electric vanpool services are among the most competitively priced for long-range commutes thanks to its more efficient use of the vehicles and lack of gasoline costs. Green Commuter can negotiate with workers and employers to provide a more personalized service that accommodates for their needs and budgets.
Another factor that low-income residents described as a barrier from accessing clean transportation and mobility options was a lack of awareness of possible options such as the availability of advanced technology vehicles. Reaching out to low-income and disadvantaged communities in a manner that is culturally sensitive to the community’s characteristics, meaningful, and effective is a critical barrier to clean transportation access. Residents expressed that when outreach does occur, it is often not targeted enough to specific low-income resident needs, is not wide reaching to very many residents, or is not relatable to their communities. Outreach often isn’t being conducted in the languages used in many of these communities.
One potential solution to overcome this barrier is to broaden multi-lingual outreach and communication strategies. Residents want to ensure information is disseminated in a relatable format they can understand. In addition, residents would benefit from repeat outreach and visits to ensure a more consistent presence in the community, to build trust, and ensure community-based organizations have the tools and resources they need to pass along information to their residents.
As a benefit corporation, Green Commuter focuses on servicing low-income and underserved communities. The Company contacts potential customers directly for personalized and close attention. Its outreach is purposefully clear and understandable, and there is constant access to customer support. As a minority-owned company, Green Commuter is especially equipped to understand the language and contextual barriers to communication with low-income residents.
Understanding the Transportation Needs of Low-Income Residents and Communities
Throughout the public process in developing these barriers, low-income residents in all of the communities expressed the need to have a better understanding of local, community-based transportation needs. These residents want their voices to be heard which they do not feel occurs within the current transportation planning processes. The main priorities of the communities studied were:
For accessing employment, school, and other time-sensitive economic and social activities, low-income residents need reliable transportation.
Green Commuter’s all electric vanpools are specifically designed around the needs of our riders. The vanpool will pick up and drop off riders at the established times every day.
Low-income residents expressed concerns that transportation is often not convenient to use, limiting access to options, including cleaner alternatives. Convenience of clean transportation and mobility options includes physical proximity; time required to utilize these options (including travel and wait times); missed or forgone opportunities as a result of utilizing alternative transportation modes, such as public transportation; inability to travel at the desired times; and absence of good information, such as educational materials.
Input received in San Diego, Oakland, Huron and Redwood Valley community-based meetings included recommendations for subsidized commuter shuttles, vanpools or carpools to work locations (e.g., hotels, industrial facilities, or agricultural locations), as an alternative to fixed-route transit. This could also be a solution for off-hours shift workers. (See study appendix if interested)
Green Commuter’s synergetic model provides low-income riders with zero-emissions vehicles available for all-electric car share throughout their day in their communities. This system allows for maximum flexibility and can accommodate for all of the users’ needs. The Green Commuter app is easy to use and makes car sharing and vanpooling more convenient.
Physical safety was one of the primary reasons low-income residents opted to drive their vehicles versus taking an alternative mode available. For example, a lack of pedestrian and designated bike facilities and unsafe road crossings deters children, adolescents, adults, persons with disabilities, and elderly, from biking and walking. There is also a fear of crime, injury and personal safety, as seen in the literature review community of Lemon Hill.
Vanpooling is the safest way to commute to work. It does not involve the risks of active transportation and it has a lower rate of accidents than drivers in personal cars.
Low-income residents in rural areas expressed range anxiety as a result of these long travel distances. In addition, these rural areas do not have charging and fueling infrastructure available in close proximity to their homes and places of employment, to allow for convenient access, whereas destinations in urban communities are usually closer in proximity and do not require longer-range vehicles. With the introduction of new advanced technology vehicles with higher ranges increases along with the installation of charging infrastructure, this becomes less of a barrier. Until the higher costs of these longer range vehicles decreases, adoption of electric vehicles in urban areas may stay minimal.
Green Commuter’s works in rural areas within the context of joint, mission-based projects. Although Green Commuter’s main market serves individuals in dense residential areas and places of work, its long-range vehicles can alleviate range anxiety, and the electric vanpools can make clean transportation affordable for low-income residents in these areas. Further, EVSE services can expand the charging network to facilitate the electrification of transportation in rural California.
Planning, Infrastructure, and Investments
Transportation planning, infrastructure, and investments, including for clean transportation, do not always promote equitable access, or consider the impact of access on economic opportunities for low-income residents. Opportunities for overcoming these issues includes considering low-income residents in transportation planning, the planning and placement of charging and fueling infrastructure, and increasing and expanding investments that provide direct benefits to low-income residents and disadvantaged communities.
Green Commuter takes care to know our demographic and serve all members of the community. We promote open channels of communication with users to incorporate feedback and constantly improve our services and learn as we grow.