Apr 5 • 17M

April 5, 2022: IPCC report claims more effort needed to meet climate goals; Governor Youngkin introduces bill for gas tax holiday

Plus: Area transit officials briefed on an advanced transit app created in Dallas area

 
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Sean Tubbs
Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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There are over 7.9 billion people on the planet, an orbital body that moves around the sun at a speed of 66,660 miles per hour. On any given day there are so many human actions as we all go about our individual lives. Is there a number to capture a snapshot of what’s happening in any given moment, or is it best to focus on a handful of stories at a time? Charlottesville Community Engagement seeks to make sense of some of the activity across an increasingly expanded geographic space. I’m the host, Sean Tubbs. 

The program is free, but your financial support will help Town Crier Productions grow and expand!

On today’s fast-moving program:

  • Area transportation officials learn about how a mobile app is seeking to make using transit in Dallas easier and more cost-effective

  • A new climate change report has been published by the IPCC

  • Charlottesville announces a campaign to increase energy efficiency and save water in public buildings 

  • The Virginia General Assembly convenes to begin finalization of the budget, consider suspension of Virginia gas tax 

Need a tree? Charlottesville Area Tree Steward sale is this Saturday! 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled public service announcement, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards are preparing to hold their first in-person tree sale since 2019. On April 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards will open up their tree nursery at the Fontaine Research Park and will sell saplings of native trees, some of which are hard to find from commercial sources for between $5 and $15. There will be large trees from Birch to Sycamore, smaller trees from Blackgum to Witch Hazel, and shrubbery! Visit charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org to learn more!

Governor Youngkin’s gas tax holiday is before the Virginia General Assembly 

Both Houses of the Virginia General Assembly met very briefly in special session on Monday to complete work begun earlier this year. Governor Glenn Youngkin issued a proclamation in late March convening the session, as read by the clerks of both the House of Delegates and the Senate. 

“A proclamation that in accordance with the provisions of Article IV, Section VI and Article V, Section V of the Constitution of Virginia and the powers thereby invested in the Governor to call a special session of the General Assembly, I, Glenn Youngkin, Governor of Virginia do hereby summon the members of the Senate and the House of Delegates constituting the General Assembly of Virginia, to meet in Special Session commencing the Fourth Day of April of 2022 for the purpose of completion of the 2023-2024 biennial budget.”

Both the House of Delegates and Senate adopted bills to establish the rules for the special session. Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-1) explains House Joint Resolution 6001.

“Basically it allows us to consider House Bill 29 and House Bill 30 and any other conference reports that were continued and still ongoing as we adjourned the 2022 regular session,” Kilgore said. “It would also allow legislation as may be communicated from the Governor.”

Some Senators objected to the Governor’s ability to suggest legislation. 

“It’s up to us to decide what we want to consider in special sessions, not the Governor,” said Senator Scott Surovell (D-36). “I think that’s been the prerogative of our chambers forever. I think it’s important to protect that prerogative not only for this session but the for the future.”

Surovell made an amendment to ban this, but later withdrew this request. 

Memorials and commendations are allowed, as well as confirmation of judges. 

Any legislation sent down to the legislature from the executive branch would need to go through the committee process in both Chambers.

So far, Governor Youngkin has introduced one bill to eliminate the statewide gas tax from May 1 to July 31, as well as other provisions. This has been referred to the House Finance Committee. (HB6001). 

View the bill on the Legislative Information System (HB6001)

The Virginia Senate received the resolution from the House of Delegates, as confirmed by Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears

“Senator Saslaw, the senior Senator from Fairfax County, is ordered to inform the House of Delegate that the Senate is duly organized and ready to proceed to business,” said the Lieutenant Governor. 

Budget conferees met immediately after the meeting. Delegate Barry Knight (R-81) gave an update from the House’s perspective. 

“Budget negotiations are ongoing,” Knight said. “We are talking to them a little bit back and forth. They are kind of taking their time and we are ready to meet any time they are.” 

Both Houses can reconvene by giving 48 hours notice. Stay tuned!

IPCC releases new report seeking quick action on greenhouse gas emissions

A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that production of greenhouse gas emissions across planet Earth were at their highest levels in recorded history, but suggests the rate may be slowing. 

“Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach,” reads the press release to mark the approval yesterday of an IPCC working group’s report called Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change.

The report states an 85 percent drop in the costs of solar and wind energy, as well as a push in many countries for laws and policies to reduce energy efficiency, limit deforestation, and create new forms of renewable energy. The report encourages creation of compact, walkable cities, a transition to electric fleets for public transportation, and further development of technologies to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it.

According to the release, the IPCC’s overall strategy is to reduce warming to 1.5°C requires the greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025, and to begin to have them reduced 43 percent by 2030. 

View a message from the IPCC on YouTube:

What are local governments doing?

Charlottesville 

Charlottesville City Council will have a work session on April 18 to discuss efforts by city staff toward a climate action plan. (visit the city’s website)

This morning, the city announced the hiring of a company to review over forty public buildings to see how energy and water use can be reduced. CMTA Energy Solutions will perform the audit, which includes city schools. 

“The Technical Energy Audits currently underway are part of the first phase of an Energy Saving Performance Contract (ESPC) process that aligns directly with fulfilling the City of Charlottesville’s commitment to climate action and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions,” reads the news release that went out today

The city’s public buildings cover an area of 1.7 million square feet. The audit will inform plans to upgrade heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, upgrade lighting, and install new plumbing. 

Charlottesville City Council adopted a new Comprehensive Plan in November 2021 that contains several strategies to help the city meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. The above is from Chapter 7 on Environment, Climate, and Food Equity. (page 65 of the Comprehensive Plan document)

Albemarle

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted a Climate Action Plan on October 7, 2020. The Facilities and Environmental Services Department releases a quarterly report that includes updates on steps Albemarle is taking to reduce its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Here’s some highlights from the latest report:

  • The grounds crew that takes care of county buildings are switching to all electric tools and vehicles. 

  • Albemarle will launch an “environmental stewardship hub” online to collect county resources for community members on county programs to promote biodiversity, clean water, climate action, and reduced waste. This should happen around Earth Day, or April 22

  • Solar powered lights have been installed at electric vehicle charging stations at the McIntire Road County Office Building. 

  • County staff in the Environmental Services Division have developed a mapping resource to assist property owners with flooding issues, sinkholes, poor water quality. There’s a whole article in the report about how collecting this information in one place can identify causes to specific problems such as blocked drainage pipes. 

An electric mower is tested by a member of the Albemarle grounds crew (read the FES report)

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia’s reductions emission plans are documented in the 2020-2030 UVA Sustainability Plan. The UVA Sustainability Office’s report to the Board of Visitors is available for review in the March meeting packet for the Buildings and Grounds Committee. (page 20 of this document)

Some examples:

  • Student programs include the Zero Waste Ambassadors program which seeks to increase composting across UVA Grounds, the Cville Solar Project, and something called the Shut the Sash Challenge

  • Professor Ben Laugelli has a course this spring called Science, Technology, and Contemporary Issues: Designing for a Sustainable World that will seek to direct further ways UVA can reach its goals 

  • Other recent courses include Professor Kate Stephenson’s Writing about Food Justice, and Designing a Carbon-Neutral Future, Sustainability Leadership: From the Grounds Up, and Write Climate

Second shout-out: RCA wants your photographs for a new contest!

In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out, the Rivanna Conservation Alliance wants wildlife and nature photographers to enter their first-ever photography contest! They want high-resolution photos related to the Rivanna watershed and the winning entries will be displayed at the 2022 Riverfest Celebration on May 1. The two categories are 16 and under, and those over the age of 17. You can send in two entries, and the work may be used to supplement Rivanna Conservation Alliance publications. For more information, visit rivannariver.org.

Dallas transit official briefs transit partnership on mobile app trip planning

The Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership was created a few years ago to serve as a clearinghouse to improve the efficiency of public transit in a community with multiple service providers. 

At their recent meeting in March, they learned about how Dallas Area Rapid Transit has benefited from having an office of innovation. 

“We now have the largest on-demand offering in North America,” said, Greg Elsborg, who has been Chief Innovation Officer since 2019 

Since that time, he has focused on a few areas. 

“One was to try and drive a culture of innovation across the agency and pull ideas from our employers and from communities and us, and that’s been an exciting activity set,” Elsborg said. “But another area has been the continued development and scalability of a mobile trip-planning and management application that we have for our transit providers.”

Dallas Area Rapid Transit covers 760 square miles including Dallas, and twelve other cities. On-demand service is available in a third of the service area. 

Part of their funding comes through a one cent sales tax, an idea that has been floated in this community but is not authorized by the General Assembly.  (view the presentation on the GoPass Mobility Platform)

The DART system includes light rail and community rail, as well as a large bus fleet. The first mobile application was created in 2013 to help make it easier for people to travel across multiple transit systems. There is a regional fare. 

“So I can pay to travel across the entire region and pay a reduced fare to travel through the commuter rail and to get point to point in Fort Worth, as well as in Denton County in the north, as well as DART’s 13 cities,” Elsborg said. 

The GoPass Mobility Platform began in 2013 and has been updated several times. (view the presentation)

To unite it all, DART built its first mobile app in 2013. There have been several iterations of the GoPass Mobility Platform to add more capabilities over time. In 2018, they added a feature to allow riders to transfer cash to their mobile phones at local retailers.

“So if I’m an individual that doesn’t have a debit card or a credit card but I’d like to use the mobile app, then I could use trip finding in the app and some of the other features, but to buy tickets, I could go and load cash at a retailer,” Elsborg said. “They would scan a barcode on the app and then this loads the funds into the app directly.”

In 2018, DART also introduced a fare-capping system where an individual user would no longer be charged after they’d paid a certain amount. The app tracks this information. 

“And there’s a really nice tracker inside the app that shows you how much you spent to get toward that fare cap total,” Elsborg said. 

The next year, DART introduced Multimodal Microtransit to the system which introduced on-demand services that can be used in conjunction with fixed routes. Soon there will be a new feature.

“We have a partnership that we’re working on with Uber so that we can direct people to Uber rides as on-demand mode through our app without having to have an Uber account or pay for your ticket through Uber,” Elsborg said. “You do it throughout our app. And that will be an industry first when that comes out.” 

Elsborg said DART is seeking to add other transit agencies so that there can continue to be more investment into the platform. Currently they are running the mobile app functions for over 50 cities, including Charlotte, North Carolina. One of the agencies is the one for Tulsa, Oklahoma, which until recently was run by Jaunt CEO director Ted Rieck. 

“I kind of call this the Swiss army knife for mobile apps,” Rieck said. “I think as we look for ways to bring our region together on transit, a mobile app like this could be a starting point.” 

The platform also has connections to e-scooter services as well as bike-sharing programs. 

To learn more about the app, view the March meeting on YouTube. Four people have viewed it so far. Will you give it a watch on YouTube and demonstrate the power of the CCE bump? 

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