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Seattle’s New Transportation and Climate Justice Executive Order to Reduce Climate Pollution from our Largest Source of Emissions

On Wednesday, December 7, Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a new Executive Order directing City departments to work together to prioritize and expand actions that equitably reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) within the transportation sector.

Actions are designed to invest in and build resilience among communities that are hardest hit by the climate crisis, expand workforce opportunities, and to improve the health of Seattle residents and workers – by improving air quality and making streets safer. 

Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order directs City departments to accelerate climate investments and innovation, including:

Plan for three low-pollution neighborhoods by 2028. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), in partnership with the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE), Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), Office of Economic Development (OED), Seattle City Light (SCL) and the Mayor’s Office, will take the next step in implementing our C40 Cities commitment to low-emission zones. These actions will for the first-time weave together decarbonizing buildings and transportation while investing in community resiliency, equity, and economic opportunity.

Commit to making 20 miles of Healthy Streets permanent. In 2023, the City will update the Bicycle Master Plan Implementation Plan and update the Pedestrian Master Plan Implementation Plan to include commitments to making at least 20 miles of Healthy Streets permanent and expand Seattle’s School Streets program to ensure an all ages and abilities bicycling facility serves every public school. These actions will help to significantly grow alternative, sustainable modes of transportation, especially for neighborhood trips under a few miles.

Achieve a 100% zero-emission, fossil fuel free City fleet by 2030. Leading by example, the City will ensure we have the essential electrification infrastructure and implementation plans to transition all city-owned vehicles to be fossil fuel free. By Q4 2023, departments will develop specific implementation plans that identify fleet conversion targets, timelines, and necessary resources to achieve City goals. All departments with large vehicle fleets shall participate in a City Fleet Interdepartmental Team (IDT) to oversee this work.

Host a Youth Transportation Summit in 2023. Building upon the community advocacy for Free Transit for Youth, the City will host a Youth Transportation Summit in 2023, led by the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA), SDOT, OSE, Department of Neighborhoods (DON) and other departments and community and transportation advocacy groups, to learn from young people how the pandemic has changed their transportation experiences and center their voices in upcoming climate-responsive transportation investments.

Why Focus on Transportation?

Each year we are grappling with an increasingly severe whiplash of climate impacts. From flooding this spring to drought in the summer, topped off dangerous smoke and wildfires this fall, we see from our lived experiences and our GHG emissions data that we need to be far more aggressive in eliminating climate pollution and building resilience among our most impacted communities.

Transportation is responsible for 61% of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the City’s most recent 2020 GHG inventory report, Seattle is not currently on track to meet carbon neutrality by 2050 as called for in the Climate Action Plan or to be climate pollution free by 2030 as called for in the Green New Deal resolution and recent Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) traffic monitoring in downtown indicates that the emissions have begun to come back in 2022 and traffic volume has steadily been increasing between 2020 and 2022. Without significant action, the city projects emissions will return to baseline and continue to trend upward.  

Seattle has long been a leader in environmental action, and now under the Transportation and Climate Justice Executive Order we are working to match the scale of the climate crisis with investments and innovation that both decrease carbon pollution from transportation and support people’s ability to safely get where they need to be.