Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is appointing a group of "leading experts" to advise him on "transportation equity," including several who argue that cars cause climate change and promote racism and therefore should be phased out.
Buttigieg earlier this month appointed 24 new members to his Advisory Committee on Transportation Equity, an Obama-era body that Buttigieg is reviving after the Trump administration scrapped it. Included on the committee is Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, a "spatial policy scholar" who says "ALL CARS ARE BAD" given that they cause "a myriad of environmental issues and conditions." Another Buttigieg appointee, self-described "transportation nerd" Veronica Davis, argued in an August essay that cars perpetuate "systemic racism" and are therefore "the problem" in America's transportation system.
Buttigieg's appointments—and his decision to revive the equity advisory committee—reflect the Biden administration's whole-of-government emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. President Joe Biden shortly after taking office in 2021 issued an executive order that called on federal agencies to "pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all." Under the order, agency heads must conduct an "equity assessment" to identify policies that create "systemic barriers" in minority communities.
The committee will advise Buttigieg on "promising practices to institutionalize equity into agency programs, policies, regulations, and activities" and plans to meet for the first time this fall, according to Buttigieg's August announcement. Marpillero-Colomina told the Washington Free Beacon that she is not "advocating for a complete erasure" of cars but intends to push Buttigieg to move America away from its reliance on private motor vehicles.
"My interest in being on the [equity committee] is to raise the question and push the Department of Transportation to really think about: What are some equitable, environmentally sustainable, economically beneficial, and feasible alternatives to policy that is car-centric?" she said in an interview. "How can we reimagine streets to prioritize people instead of cars? How can we create streets that are inclusive of modes other than cars?"
Davis, who did not return a request for comment, is likely to pursue similar goals on the committee. Davis in July released a book titled, Inclusive Transportation: A Manifesto for Repairing Divided Communities, which advocates for "a different way of thinking" to "address healing the damage done by cars."
"Not to oversimplify the problems of transportation, but all roads lead back to cars," Davis wrote in an August essay adapted from her book. "This isn't anti-car propaganda but vehicles have wreaked havoc on the environment and communities. … Racism shaped the urban and suburban areas, where even today we see the residual effects."
In addition to Marpillero-Colomina and Davis, Buttigieg tapped to serve on the committee Oliver Sellers-Garcia, who serves as Boston mayor Michelle Wu's Green New Deal director. The city's Green New Deal program, which Sellers-Garcia manages, calls for Boston to transition away from cars and embrace a "multimodal" plan of transportation.
"We need to make it not only possible but also preferable for residents to leave traffic- and pollution-inducing fossil fuel-powered vehicles behind," the city's plan states.
Sellers-Garcia did not return a request for comment. The Department of Transportation told the Free Beacon the equity committee "will provide advice and recommendations" to ensure Biden's climate spending brings "jobs and opportunities ... to every community across the country."
This is far from the first time Buttigieg has shown an open hostility toward car transportation. Buttigieg's agency in January released a climate plan aimed at lowering the transportation sector's carbon emissions. Included in the plan is a call to reduce "commuting miles" through an "increase in remote work and virtual engagements."
"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted major opportunities for telework, with some studies showing the possibility of 10 percent long-term reduction in annual vehicle miles traveled," the plan says.
Biden has similarly moved to phase out gas-powered cars in favor of electric ones—the Democrat's Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Safety Administration in recent months unveiled regulations that would require automakers to ensure that two-thirds of the vehicles they sell are electric by 2032. For equity committee member Marpillero-Colomina, however, electric vehicles "are not the silver bullet."
"If we just replace all the gas-powered cars with EVs, we're going to have many of the same problems that we have with gas-powered cars," she told the Free Beacon.
Update 3:20 p.m.: This piece has been updated to reflect a comment from the Department of Transportation.