Seattle’s clean transportation blueprint spells out ambitious goals for electrification and habit shifts

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A City of Seattle electric vehicle. ( Photo)

Laying out its vision for a fossil-fuel-free future, the City of Seattle has released an ambitious plan to electrify its transportation system, with a list goals over the next nine years that includes everything from 100% emissions-free Uber and Lyft vehicles to closing off a “major area” of the city to cars.

The “Clean Transportation Electrification Blueprint” was compiled by representatives from multiple City departments, including the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle City Light, the Office of Sustainability & Environment and others.

The plan relies on major shifts in mobility habits and transportation infrastructure as well as technologies that are not readily available today as a way to reduce and remove carbon emissions and take on the climate crisis.

“Our transportation system, powered by fossil fuels, is responsible for 60% of Seattle’s climate pollution,” the plan’s Call to Action reads. “This is unsustainable. It is also profoundly immoral to continue along the path of maintaining our ‘transportation status quo’ when we have the means to embrace a cleaner, healthier modes and technology.”

Six “2030 Goals” — called “ambitious, yet achievable” — paint a picture of a city that would seem to be two or three decades away, not less than one. They include:

  • 100% of shared mobility is zero emissions: Bike- and scooter-share services in the city are already electric, but the plan calls for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to be electric and emissions free. Both companies have previously committed to using only electric vehicles on their platforms by 2030 and told The Seattle Times that they support the City’s goal.
  • 90% of all personal trips are zero emissions: The plan calls for nine out of 10 trips to be done by walking, biking, electric transit, or in an electric vehicle. Transformational infrastructure changes will be necessary as well as large-scale behavior changes and policies including increased density for better-connected neighborhoods.
  • 30% of goods delivery is zero emissions: With more and more goods purchased online, emissions and congestion are a problem. Private fleets must be encouraged to transition to EVs.
  • 100% of city fleet is fossil-fuel free: The City’s large municipal fleet will rely on electrification and biofuels for vehicles that do not have an EV option by that time.
  • ‘Green and Healthy Streets’: The plan calls for an unspecified “major area” of the city to have zero emissions from transportation and includes streets or blocks that restricts cars and promote walking, biking, electrified transit and more.
  • Electrical infrastructure: Seattle City Light will ensure the grid is built out and reliable enough to support the transition to rapid adoption of emerging electric transportation tech and vehicles.

The blueprint further spells out the challenges involved in adopting the overall effort and the 2030 Goals. Four challenges each list current gaps in everything from City policies to infrastructure shortcomings to funding and equity. Those gaps are addressed with a series of measures planned over the next two years.

King County Metro has previously announced plans to have an entire fleet of electric buses by 2040. And the state’s ferry system is planning to operate the largest hybrid-powered, auto-carrying ferries in the world with the conversion of three of its largest vessels.

Seattle City Light has also previously unveiled its strategy — a first of its kind for a municipal utility in the U.S. — to deal with electrification across the transportation system.

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