As we celebrate Earth Day 2023, reminders of the importance of caring for our planet are all around us. Last month the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their 2023 report, which found that in the next decade, without dramatic action, the world will breach the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, beyond which the impacts of climate change will become catastrophic. In the Pacific Northwest more-frequent heat waves are taking lives, while wildfire smoke season has become an annual occurrence. These climate impacts will be felt disproportionately by BIPOC and marginalized communities.
Such dire challenges require urgent action at all levels of government. Here in Seattle, our top source of planet-warming emissions is transportation, which makes up 62% of our emissions. To make progress towards our region’s ambitious climate goals, we need to focus on reducing car trips and investing in programs that make it easy for people to walk, bike, ride and roll to and through Seattle. Commute Seattle’s recent Seattle Commute Survey highlights the importance of reducing our dependence on cars: of those who drive to work in Seattle, only 6% drive electric vehicles. An overwhelming 84% of the cars commuting in the city are gasoline powered.
Fortunately, we have opportunities to reduce our transportation emissions. Our Seattle Commute Survey data highlights the progress we’ve already made: just 21% of people working in Central Seattle drove-alone in 2022, a reduction from 26% in 2019. After time, convenience, and cost, the top motivator for people who get around by walking, biking, or riding transit is to reduce their environmental impact.
Innovations like e-bikes and e-scooters also represent an exciting new opportunity to change travel habits. Adoption of e-bikes has been growing, especially among the younger demographics that will shape future trends: nearly half of e-bike commuters in Seattle are under the age of 35. However, as we shared in a letter to Washington State legislators, affordability remains a barrier to e-bike adoption. This highlights the need for incentives that make this new way of getting around affordable to more people.
At Commute Seattle, we work towards a more sustainable future. Our new strategic plan focuses on working with the most impacted communities to put equity and sustainability at the center of our work. Help us by sharing the story of your commute to inspire others. If you’re a business owner or transportation coordinator, sign-up for a free consultation with our transportation specialists. And join us in May for Bike Everywhere Month, starting with our Spin Into Bike Month celebration on May 11th.
From all of us at Commute Seattle, Happy Earth Day!