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Year In Review

The Best News of 2023 For Sustainable Transportation Advocates

Advocates notched some major wins in 2023 — and planted seeds for an even better 2024.

12:01 AM EST on December 22, 2023

Photo: Joe Linton, Streetsblog LA|

Los Angeles Arroyofest

Yesterday, we took a look at some of the lowlights of the last year in the movement to end car dependency in America.

Our list of highlights, though, is a lot longer — and it foreshadows an even brighter year ahead.

Way back in February, the Biden administration sowed the seeds for what could become a revolution in road safety by issuing the first-ever Safe Streets and Roads for All grants. The money paid for communities home to more than half the U.S. population to develop their own Vision Zero plans. By the end of the year, the feds had doled out billions more to plan dozens of new rail corridors that could someday delivery the U.S. the train network it deserves.

A map of all grant recipients, excluding Alaska. Visit USDOT for a complete interactive version.

Washington followed up those commitments by finally getting a raft of regulatory measures off the shelf, including a new rule finally requiring states to track their transportation related greenhouse gas emissions. The feds also proposed a rule to put automatic emergency braking systems that can accurately detect pedestrians on all new cars, as well as issuing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that could someday end drunk, stoned and distracted driving as we know it by requiring advanced driver monitoring technology, impairment detection technology, or both.

The National Transportation Safety Board, meanwhile, wants USDOT to go even further and put speed limiters on all new vehicles, as well as investigating the role that aggressive auto advertising plays in deadly crashes.

Most of those moves aren't final, of course, and the devil will be in the details of how they're actually implemented. If 2023 is any indication, though, sustainable advocates are ready for the fight.

Photo: WITN

We honestly can't count all the advocates who inspired us this year, whether their actions were local, like Steven Hardy-Braz's one-man protest for accessible bus stops, or national, like America Walks' challenge to politicians to take a week off from driving.

And many of those advocates notched big wins in 2023, including Austin activists, who defeated parking minimums in the largest U.S. city yet, and Alburqueños, who won fare-free transit and set their sights on transit equity for the rest of the Land of Enchantment.

Some American advocates are even spreading their message worldwide, like the new global Bike Bus coalition, which is sharing the joy of active school transportation (and kids rocking out to AC/DC) around the planet.

Read more.

And while the movement lost some of its biggest champions in government this year — though we at Streetsblog are still going to count our pre-retirement interview with Rep. Earl Blumenauer as a 2023 highlight — the road ahead is bright. Because over and over again this year, U.S. sustainable transportation advocates have proven that Americans intuitively understand what's broken about American transportation. They've also helped articulate a vision for a greener, safer, and more equitable transportation future, whether that's a hand-crafted list of the transit projects US DOT should fund next, or a youth-led push for a Green New Deal for schools.

Hopefully, 2023 will go down in history as the year that this vision planted a seed in the public consciousness and began to blossom into reality. And if that seems like a reach, remember: if we actually reduce traffic during a Taylor Swift concert through the power of transit, we can do just about anything.

Wish you a safe and happy holidays,

The Streetsblog USA Team

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