Environmental Justice for communities like Trenton, including access to clean, reliable energy alternatives
Climate change threatens human health, including mental health, and access to clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food, and shelter. Communities like Trenton are disproportionately affected, as they are less resilient to the impacts of climate change. Isles works to address climate change risks in multiple ways, including by offering home weatherization services, access to local food, and human health resources such as financial and housing counseling.
Transportation is one of the largest sources of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the state. Over the past few years, Isles has worked on an EV pilot called GOTrenton! that will help to provide affordable and reliable EV transportation to low-income residents in order to improve mobility and increase access to jobs, healthcare, and new opportunities. This EV Pilot will work to address public health challenges by reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution.
“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm. As a coastal state, New Jersey is especially at risk for impacts from climate change, such as sea-level rise and more frequent and intense storms. Climate change remains one of the greatest threats to our future and human health. See the connections between climate change and human health from the EPA website.
In the coming years and decades, climate change will disrupt economic growth, public health, and ecosystems, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. The Assessment emphasized the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-income communities, communities of color and other vulnerable populations unprepared to cope with these disruptions.
At the same time, a common thread through our work in Trenton has been the absence of mobility for those we serve. For example, as we provide green job and other types of training for future-focused career opportunities, trainees face the barrier of gaining access to plentiful jobs that exist just a few miles away.
According to the US Census, 30% of households in the city are reported to be car-free and 21% of residents have reported carpooling as their main mode of travel to work. The lack of affordable and reliable transportation prevents Trentonians from having access to essential resources, jobs, and new opportunities.
Additionally, the City of Trenton experiences an average of 100 days per year of moderate or unhealthy air quality days per year and is likely linked to increased respiratory disease among residents (Climate Action Plan for the City of Trenton, 2010). Asthma rates for Trenton children are 4 times the rate for kids in the rest of the Mercer County. Trenton is disproportionately impacted by air pollution and poor environmental conditions. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for 42 percent of total New Jersey greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor.
The Solution: GOTrenton!
GOTrenton! is a collaborative, electric mobility solution that will improve resident access to jobs, healthcare, food shopping, social services and new opportunities for everyone who lives, works, and plays in Trenton. In addition to expanding low-cost transportation options for low-income communities, the program will work to reduce the disproportionate asthma rates and healthcare costs by reducing dependence on private-vehicle ownership and lowering greenhouse gases and air pollution. GOTrenton! will be one of the first subsidized carshare and rideshare efforts in the country to serve low-income and environmental justice communities.
GOTrenton! will consist of three transportation services that will be operated solely with electric vehicles:
- A carsharing service will allow residents to reserve an electric vehicle to use for a designated period of time.
- A ridesharing service will operate similar to a transportation network company, such as Uber and Lyft. Isles will hire local residents to serve as drivers for people that need to travel from point a to point b.
- A shuttle service that will create a network of jobs and essential social, economic, and health services by creating routes that connect different community points of interest in the city.
It will also include a fleet of electric cars and vans based in the City of Trenton. GOTrenton! will partner with and serve other community organizations and create new jobs for Trenton residents. With adequate funding, it will also provide low to no cost rides for low-income residents to access food, medicine, and jobs.
In partnership with the City of Trenton, GOTrenton! will install 14 public charging stations throughout Trenton, available to the public 24/7/365 with affordable rates for low and moderate income users. In addition, to truly understand the needs of residents and community stakeholders, Isles developed an in-depth feedback process to assess current mobility behaviors to better target and implement our strategy. That analysis included Isles beneficiaries and other community stakeholders that offer social, health, and financial services. Community listening sessions, surveys to understand transportation needs and behavior, the use of GOTrenton! “Ambassadors” to help spread the word and a Stakeholder Advisory Committee will all support the project as it evolves.
Through an open RFP process, we will engage experienced mobility vendors to provide the car share and ride share services to the Mercer County area. Those vendors will work with Isles to hire local resident drivers, maintenance crews and other. View open RFPs here.
We are working collaboratively with the City of Trenton to install electric vehicle charging stations throughout the four wards to support the project. As we continue to develop the Pilot, Isles will host listening sessions to better understand the transportation challenges Trentonians face. If you’d like to hear more information about upcoming listening sessions, sign up here.
Received funding from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to develop NJ’s first-ever multi-service Electric Vehicle Pilot.
Contributed to the Green 21 Environmental Guide, a nonpartisan effort to advise NJ’s next governor on environmental issues.
Served on the steering committee for the Lead-Free NJ coalition, including presenting in multiple webinars.