OPINION: Diversify options for a future-proof sustainable transportation network

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Ten city buses lined up in a parking lot with many green trees behind them
"ex nottingham city transport versas" by martin 65 is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Something we all need, perhaps now more than ever after the challenges of 2020, is a future we can look forward to.

For those of us in the sustainable transportation and mobility field, the future is brighter than ever.

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Mobility is not the same as transportation and different governmental agencies have slightly different definitions of mobility as it applies to their operations. In general, transportation is the act of moving goods or people from one place to another. Mobility, on the other hand, is the ability to move people or things with ease.

Discussions about mobility in sustainable transportation planning often include accessibility, particularly for those with physical challenges, the elderly and those living in economically depressed and/or environmental justice areas.

One of the concepts we discuss often in transportation and mobility planning is “future proofing.” It’s the practice of working to ensure maximum long term value and viability by anticipating future challenges and building in methods to maximize damage control.

One way to do that is to ensure broad support for a diverse alternative fuel and electric vehicle charging infrastructure, not one that is dependent on a single fuel or technology source. The reality is different fuel and energy sources are better suited for different applications and budgets. That applies to public and private fleets and private consumers alike.

Diversifying investments in domestic fueling and energy options helps ensure the nation’s energy security and resilience as well. Multiple case studies have documented the importance of alternative fuel vehicles for emergency services in times of natural disasters such as East Coast hurricanes when petroleum sources were scarce. If the only available vehicles for evacuations relied on petroleum, the outcomes would have been far different.

Indiana is one of 23 states that boasts more than 1,000 alternative fueling and electric vehicle charging stations including biodiesel, compressed natural gas, E85 (a high ethanol blend), electric and propane. Indiana is also home to a wide network of federally designated alternative fuel corridors, including all of Interstate 65 and portions of I-80, I-94, I-69, I-465, I-70, I-74 and I-275.

South Shore Clean Cities is proud to be a partner on the Michigan to Montana I-94 Clean Fuel Corridor project, which is helping to fill public alternative fuel and electric vehicle charging station gaps along the interstate in Indiana as well.

Diversifying investments in domestic fueling and energy options helps ensure the nation’s energy security and resilience as well.

Carl Lisek

Diversifying sustainable, domestic fueling options supports job security, job growth, economic development, improved air quality and provides an overall enhanced quality of life, right here in Indiana. Indiana-based companies, including South Shore Clean Cities members, are all doing their part to be part of the solution and are employing Hoosiers who are investing in our communities in the process.

Indiana is extremely fortunate to have a Hoosier leading the Department of Transportation, Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The former South Bend mayor knows firsthand how Northern Indiana, the Region and the state are embracing sustainable transportation and mobility, having led the way in his own city in partnership with South Shore Clean Cities.

Secretary Buttigieg can put the efforts taking place right here in Indiana in the national spotlight as an example for others to follow. A future where Hoosiers are recognized for their future-proof transformational plans is one we can all look forward to.

Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

This column first appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

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