The high-powered shift to electric vehicles mustn’t leave public transit behind or prevent policy-makers from addressing the big problems with car dependency, like using scarce land for roads and parking instead of housing, Ohio social justice groups are warning.
With EV advocates in the state concerned that the vehicles are still far too expensive for many people to buy, finance, and charge, and a new report pointing to significant financial barriers to EV purchase, organizations like MOVE Ohio Coalition are urging the state to recognize the “bigger questions about how a car-dependent transportation system leaves people behind,” writes Energy News Network.
After a January report by the Citizens Utility Board of Ohio (CUB Ohio) found both financial and infrastructure barriers to low-income EV ownership, and recommended changes to address them,. MOVE organizer Akshai Singh told ENN that electrified mass transit is what will help make the lives of Ohio’s most vulnerable better. Despite the climate benefits of EVs, “around 10% Ohioans don’t have access to a vehicle,” he said, even though the state has “made car access a really deep and intrinsic part of being able to engage economically.”
Amanda Woodrum, a senior researcher for Policy Matters Ohio, said many decades of neglect and underinvestment have left the state’s public transit system “nowhere even close to where it once was—let alone close to where it should be.”
Noting that Cleveland uses “more land for parking than [for] actual housing,” Singh urged those pushing to electrify Ohio’s transportation system not to lose track of the fundamental justice issues of land use and affordable housing.
He added that “a hazardous and hostile built environment” poses particular dangers to people with disabilities.
At the same time, CUB Ohio report author Martin Cohen said more EVs on the road could eventually help lower electric rates for everyone—even people who don’t drive them. He explained that while more EVs means increased electricity consumption, demand could be shifted to times of day when the grid already has extra capacity, as it typically does at night. That would reduce or eliminate the need to build expensive new generating facilities, utilities would still get more revenue, and if regulators accounted for that, the result could lower overall electricity costs for all consumers.