Climate change is the biggest existential threat facing our nation today. The damage we will incur over the next fifty years, if we do not course-correct, will be catastrophic as we face the loss of coastal communities and economies, worsening air quality, an uptick in extreme natural disasters, and potential food and water shortages caused by a loss of arable land.
The climate crisis is a public health, economic, national security, environmental, and social crisis no facet of human life is insulated from its impact. To combat the crisis head on, we must start implementing immediate, systemic, and long-lasting environmental policies. We can start with the renovation of our national infrastructure.
The Biden Administration recently asserted that our nation, and in particular my home state of New York, is suffering from a “systemic lack of investment” in public transit, roads, bridges, and a range of other infrastructure systems. According to recent data from the White House, New York drivers pay on average $625 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair, while New Yorkers who use public transportation have a 58.9% longer commute time than their counterparts who do not. Alarmingly, 11% of New York’s trains and other transit vehicles are past their serviceable lifespan. New York’s infrastructure is in desperate need of repair a clear example of the opportunity at hand to invest not just in our cities across the country, but in our workforce and a greener future as we do so.
We should start by holding the federal government to the standards that we expect the rest of the nation to meet. The most obvious place to start is with the United States Postal Service a prime example of how our national infrastructure is critical to serving the American people. The Postal Service should electrify its fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles and fully embrace zero-emissions technology. Since the Postal Service is the federal entity that interacts with the American public most often, it must lead by example. It has a responsibility to demonstrate the importance of clean energy to the long-term integrity and viability of our nation’s climate and infrastructure. A critical component of this work is the construction of charging stations at Postal Service facilities around the nation to ensure that its electric fleet has the same range as its current vehicles. These charging stations should also be made publicly available when not in use by Postal Service vehicles, when possible, so that electric vehicles are more accessible to all Americans.
In addition to electrifying Postal Service vehicles, we must also pass meaningful legislation to improve existing public transportation infrastructure. Through servicing major residential and employment centers, transportation systems engender economic growth and productivity. Moreover, public transportation is safer, cheaper for commuters, and better for the environment. By investing in public transportation, we invest in our nation’s future.
Let’s start with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) subway system, which services the metropolitan region with the largest economic output in the United States. We must work with the MTA to continue expanding New York’s subway system through projects like East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway. The finalization of Second Avenue Subway Phase I has already connected and revitalized neighborhoods across Manhattan. Once fully complete, the Second Avenue Subway will run 8.5 miles from 125th Street in Harlem down to Hanover Square in the Financial District, exponentially increasing its positive effects for the city and its residents.
Just as improving interconnectivity within metropolitan regions such as New York City is critical both to our economic recovery and our response to the climate crisis, we must similarly improve the interconnectivity between American metropolitan regions. We need high-speed rail between major urban hubs such as Boston and New York City, so that Americans can travel as easily, safely, and cleanly between regions of the country as they can neighborhoods of a city. By connecting the Northeast Corridor through high-speed rail, we will increase the flow of people, commerce, and resources, which will engender sustainable economic development throughout the region.
For the sake of our nation’s safety, environment, and economic recovery, we must seize the moment and invest now in the revitalization of our nation’s infrastructure.
• U.S. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, is the current Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and former Chair of the Joint Economic Committee, the first female to hold both of these positions. She represents New York’s 12th Congressional District and also serves as a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee.