Environment

Global warming and the attendant sea level rise caused by GHGs is the greatest long-term threat to the civilization we have built over the past several hundred / thousand years along ports, the coast, and deltas. We all need to do our part to reduce GHGs. I remain committed to pursuing innovative and practical solutions to reduce GHGs that align with Richmond’s other priorities. The current technological changes make the next few years particularly exciting in this respect, and I look forward to making Richmond the leader in meeting our environmental challenges.

What are Vinay’s ideas on the best way to use the $30M of Green House Gasses mitigation money from the Chevron modernization project?

Chevron has committed $30M to fighting GHGs as part of their modernization agreement. Here are the items for which the money was initially allocated, and how I plan to change their priority:

  • Home Energy Upgrade
    Technologies like weatherizing homes, insulation of homes, upgrading HVAC, can’t become obsolete any time soon. They are efficient in decreasing GHGs. They also provide local jobs, and opportunities to train our youth in green sector jobs. I will support a big increase in allocation.

  • Urban Forest
    Though the urban forest is an inefficient way to reduce GHGs, the urban forest brings a slew of other benefits that Richmond can use. I will support increased allocation.

  • Easy Go
    Free shuttles like the one in Emeryville are a good idea, but they need to be implemented correctly. When the free shuttle was implemented and paid for, a few years ago, the service existed only on paper. There was no actual shuttle. We need a decreased allocation with increased oversight.

  • Rooftop Solar
    This provides local jobs, and opportunities for local youth to be trained in green sector jobs. However, rooftop solar is more than twice as expensive as utility scale solar, so I don’t want to subsidize it. Given the uncompetitive cost of rooftop solar, it may not be around for much longer: the job skills may not serve our youth very well. I don’t want to allocate money to this.

  • Electric Charging Stations
    This is a total waste of money. The charging stations around the Civic Center, for example, would only help employees who commuted from 35-70 miles away. Soon, corporations like Uber will have massive fleets of autonomous electric vehicles. I don’t see why the city of Richmond should pay to build charging stations for big corporations. I strongly oppose any allocation to this program.

There are other options:

  • EV Rebates will be efficient in reducing GHGs, but will not support any local jobs. Therefore, it is unlikely to get any support.
  • Innovative Bike Incentive Programs, but these will be experimental, and on a small scale.

Why is Vinay so excited about autonomous / driverless vehicles? How can they reduce Green House Gasses, and change the way we think of urban planning?

Transportation produces 30% of GHGs. To reduce transportation-related GHGs, we need to increase shared ridership, and convert more vehicles to electric vehicles. The transition from individually owned vehicles to big taxi fleets is critical to this transition. Read on to find out how autonomous driverless vehicles will make all this happen. I plan to have Richmond as one of the early adopters of this technology. Given the media preoccupation with driverless vehicles, this also has the upside of changing the perception of Richmond.

Public adoption of autonomous vehicles (AVs) as taxis will swiftly follow upon regulatory approval because:

  1. It will free up the time spent driving. People can work, do social media, etc instead of driving.
  2. AVs as taxis will be cheaper than owned cars due to reduced insurance costs.
  3. They will free up people from parking hassles, and will free up parking space at home.
  4. People will be able to choose the vehicle for the occasion or need, rather than being stuck with the same vehicle for all needs.

AV taxi adoption will lead to more shared transit because:

  1. People will be more open to share a taxi than their own car.
  2. When people are charged by the ride, they will be more price sensitive to the immediate savings offered by shared rides.
  3. Currently, mass transit needs high population density and high demand to make a 50 seater bus with a paid driver viable. Shared AV Transit (SavTran) can range from a car with 4 passengers to a van with 20. The flexible passenger load means that SavTran can be successful in low-density areas, and can provide attractively frequent service in higher density areas.

SavTran and AVs will have the following positive results:

  1. The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) will be accelerated. Currently, the primary obstacle to EV adoption is that people need their single vehicle to handle the occasional long range trips they need to make. AV taxi fleet providers will simply set aside a small number of gasoline vehicles for the long range trips, and convert the rest to EVs. Given that utility-scale solar electricity now provides much cheaper electricity than fossil fuels, this will dramatically reduce GHGs.
  2. SavTran and AVs will eliminate most parking issues, and SavTran will dramatically reduce congestion.
  3. Parking and congestion concerns will stop being a drag on developing higher density housing, and on smart growth.