Energy Security AND Transportation Equity

Cleaner, electrified transportation will provide benefits to all Rhode Islanders. Every electric car added to our roads provides hundreds of dollars of benefits each year.

Electric vehicle owners are not the only residents who will experience savings from transportation electrification—all Rhode Islanders will benefit. Starting with electricity rates—electrification will lower electric rates due to increased electric utility revenues from electric vehicle charging. This additional revenue can support operation and maintenance of the existing distribution infrastructure. In addition, all residents of the state will benefit from lower emissions and cleaner air.1
  • the electric car owner benefits $45 each year,
  • all utility customers each gain $73 dollars each year, and
  • each resident of the state earns an additional $90 annually through the reduction in climate pollution.2
Even greater benefits are projected from electric trucks, buses, and other heavy-duty vehicles, where electric vehicles also eliminate tailpipe emissions of harmful local air pollution.

Disadvantaged populations across Rhode Island currently experience the most harmful impacts from transportation emissions. Low-income households also spend a larger portion of their income on home energy costs,3 and Rhode Island is among the states with the highest energy burden. These populations stand to benefit greatly from increased electrification that reduces emissions in our neighborhoods and workplaces and lowers electricity costs and overall energy burdens.4

In addition, the lack of reliable public and shared transportation places a significant burden on populations that either cannot afford a vehicle or are unable to operate a vehicle which tend to be low-income populations, elderly populations, and people with disabilities. Without access to a personal vehicle, communities are subject to public transportation systems that lack frequent service and are unable to service first-last mile transportation needs. This has been shown to be especially important for elderly populations.  As a state with a large elderly population, Rhode Island has significant opportunity to improve elderly resident connectivity, leading to better health outcomes and community.

Shared Low Income E-Car Program in Warwick and Blackstone River Valley

An electric vehicle charging station
Building on the replicable success of existing low-income electric car share programs, this program would make available personal electric vehicles to community members around Woonsocket / Blackstone River Valley and Warwick. The Blackstone River Valley has multiple census tracts above the 95th percentile of low income populations in Rhode Island, while Warwick is above the 70th percentile.

Both areas have existing affordable housing and rent assistance programs, such as NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley (including the existing partnership with the AmeriCorps VISTA placement), the Woonsocket Neighborhood Development Corporation, and the Warwick Office of Housing & Community Development. These organizations could be partners to get the project off the ground and communicate opportunities to residents. Finally, CVS Pharmacy, headquartered in Woonsocket, could serve as a partner to benefit their local community.

A similar pilot program in Los Angeles—BlueLA— deploying 80 vehicles saw in one year over 12,000 trips, 2,000 participants, and the reduction of hundreds of tons of CO2.

Cumberland Paratransit

A man is helped from a paratransit shuttle to his wheelchair
Paratransit and e-shuttle programs can provide meaningful service to elderly populations who are no longer able to drive but are in need of consistent and regular access to grocery stores or healthcare services. These programs are instrumental in enabling elderly populations to remain active members of their communities. While available currently within the state, these types of programs could be expanded—with new electric vans and buses—in areas where there is a large elderly population. For example, the Town of Cumberland, has one of the largest elderly populations in the state and might be an ideal location for increased service.
Millions of Americans miss getting medical care because of lack of transportation. RIPTA anticipates that their Transit Forward RI plan could increase elderly access to transportation by 10%, leading to improved health outcomes and enabling older residents within the state to live independently.5,6
  • Photo credits (header images, top to bottom): Greenwich Mills, Marc N. Belanger; Pontiac Mills, Marc N. Belanger
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