It's time to revamp Idaho's transportation sector

Our transportation choices are the biggest source of pollutants contributing to climate change, and among the leading sources harming air quality. ICL and folks all across Idaho seek to change that. Our goal is to minimize the sector’s use of fossil fuels and transition to clean electricity as the primary source of energy for both private and public transportation. We’re also working to expand “smart” transportation options, such as better mass transit, increased pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and mindful land use planning to reduce the strain on existing transportation needs. Success in these endeavors means reducing our contributions to climate change. Better transportation choices for all Idahoans also means communities will have abundant options for traveling, leading to happier and healthier communities for everyone.

Electrify Everything

Clean the grid and electrify everything. This simple phrase captures the heart of our work on reshaping the way Idaho’s transportation is powered. Idaho currently imports nearly 100% of our transportation fuels. Of the $2.8 billion dollars that Idaho families and businesses spend each year on transportation, Idaho retains less than 19% of this money. That means 81% of our hard-earned money spent getting us around is sent out of state. Our solution — accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and power them with clean energy produced right here in Idaho. Transitioning our transportation to electric would significantly reduce air pollution, help protect public health, and keep our money circulating in our state. What’s not to like?

Incentivize and Normalize

Electric vehicles (EVs) make up less than 1% of the cars on Idaho’s roads today. This number needs to grow. The good news is that all signs point to more EVs on roads across the U.S. Our challenge is to make sure this happens in Idaho as quickly as possible. To do that, we’re showing Idaho’s leaders the value in EVs and the benefits they bring to our environment and economy. We’re strongly advocating for incentives from the state of Idaho to encourage folks to purchase EVs, such as rebates, lower registration fees, or offer preferred parking arrangements.

The second part of this plan involves you — the potential (or current!) EV owner. Nearly every major automaker sees EVs as the future, and we want you to be a part of that change. It’s normal to have reservations when jumping into something new, but EV technology has gotten cheaper and more advanced over the years, and so too has the number of chargers throughout Idaho. With increased range and more chargers, EVs can take you anywhere you want to go.

Better Transportation Options for All

What’s your favorite way to get around town? Are you a devout pedestrian, die-hard cyclist, or someone who enjoys visiting with friends while riding the bus? We’re working with people from all walks of life to make sure their community has the transportation options that work for them. The availability of a wide-variety of options plays a critical role in building and maintaining healthy cities that are a pleasure to live and work in. We’re working to ensure that existing pathways and public transit options not only receive the maintenance they need, but also expand to match the growing number of people in and around cities across Idaho.

Better Transportation Funding

The biggest hurdle facing transportation right now is the lack of dedicated funding. Idaho is one of only a handful of states that lack a dedicated mechanism to fund public transportation projects. Not only does the lack of a funding mechanism make it difficult to maintain — let alone expand — public transit, it also keeps Idaho from applying for grants that require the state to have a funding mechanism in place. To bring our transportation systems up to speed with modern needs, we need a dedicated funding source.

Most states rely on a local-option tax to fund their transportation systems as well as other needs. Local-option taxes are first proposed and put to a vote for residents to approve or deny. When casting their vote, local citizens will be informed of several key factors:

  • How much the tax will be (e.g. 1%),
  • The type of tax it will be added to (e.g. sales tax),
  • How long it will last (e.g. 2 years),
  • What project the money is going toward (e.g. a light rail system)

As the name suggests, local-option taxes put control in the hands of local residents who are more in tune with what their community needs. Unfortunately, the Idaho Legislature only allows small, resort towns to employ local-option taxes, and have prohibited the use of local-option taxes throughout the rest of Idaho. ICL is supportive of local-option taxes, and we believe this is the most practical approach to fund transportation in our state and should be available to all Idaho cities.

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