Without continued behavior change by towns, businesses and individuals — including a demand for efficient technology and a willingness to adopt a reduced-carbon lifestyle — we cannot achieve the emissions reduction we need to build a livable future. To meet Maine Can’t Wait’s carefully developed steps, Mainers, businesses, industry, state and town governments need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030.

I share the vision of the Maine Climate Council, Topsham Select Board and Energy Committee, and Maine Sierra Club that Maine can build public transport systems of rail, buses and Complete Streets to reduce our car-centric culture. In this vision, towns will encourage affordable housing near services and bus lines, accessory dwelling units in existing urban areas, and ridesharing. Towns will require developers to leave older trees to provide shade, beauty and carbon sequestration in new business developments. People will take hourly buses between towns to access services and shopping and van pools to work. Biking trails will be connected to safer streets, and Mainers will think of other ways to get places, using cars as an occasional luxury with a high price on the environment. In urban environments particularly, people of color, those with low incomes and younger residents are more likely than others to rely on public transit, electric bikes and motorcycles, and active forms of travel such as walking and biking. As our ancestors did, we will conserve energy and weigh the value of our urban and town ecology, farmland, wildlife and trees in all our decision making.

To meet the 2023 COP world greenhouse gas reduction goals, the U.S., China, Europe and the other largest fossil-fuel users must both use less energy and use it more efficiently. Transportation causes 47% of Maine’s climate warming, according to Maine Climate Council research. The Maine Department of Transportation must quickly shift its focus from supporting a car and truck culture to work with Maine towns to create and maintain much more efficient public transit within and between towns. Businesses can apply competitively for $5 million the DOT has received to support workforce ride-sharing proposals. Over several years, federal grants to DOT have funded 20 electric buses for Portland, Saco-Biddeford, Lewiston and Old Orchard Beach.

Citizens can ask the DOT to put more focus on this transition to vans, trains, buses and electrifying public transit to meet Maine Can’t Wait’s climate targets. DOT Chief Engineer Joyce Taylor led creating these targets, as chairperson of the Transportation Committee of the Maine Climate Council. DOT can use this unique opportunity of federal transportation funding to choose more public transit for alternative travel for commuting workers and lower-income, handicapped and elderly passengers. To meet the goal of decreasing the number of single passenger vehicles from 80% to 60% during commuter rush, DOT must innovate with reducing vehicle miles traveled by funding more public transit and more incentives to carpool. For individuals, Efficiency Maine has incentives for electric-car purchase, and the Inflation Reception Act gives significant tax breaks for electric cars manufactured in the U.S. Topsham is using it’s second Maine Community Resilience grant to fund installing a Level 2 charger at the Topsham Public Library on 25 Foreside Road.

What are you doing to reduce your carbon travel impact? Each Mainer can rethink how they get around and be willing to make changes to save money and climate-warming emissions. Towns need to start working together to create public bus and van options and ride-sharing apps to move along the Route 1 corridor. Residents of Bath, Topsham and Brunswick can urge their town leaders to extend the existing bus routes of Western Maine Transportation, both by distance and seasonally, and increase their frequency.

As Europeans have done for generations, we must cut our driving in half and put up with some inconvenience and longer time to get around. It’s more sociable to take a neighbor shopping with you. You can save up driving until you need several items, making one trip instead of three. If you live in town and need only a few items, walk or bike to the store with a backpack.


Trains, subway and buses are the most efficient way to move people with much less energy than individual cars. Our cities have been designed around private transportation, and we can rethink planning to concentrate residences in the same area as services and develop public bus routes and van pools that get people frequently and cheaply to work and services. Bath Iron Works just obtained a federally funded bus, operated by Western Maine Transportation, to more efficiently move some of their new commuting workers. Transportation bottle necks in the Midcoast and limited parking demand more concentrated and therefore more energy-saving commuting solutions like these. The Maine DOT has competitive funding for corporations to plan more concentrated commuting systems, such as ridesharing or purchasing and operating vans for their commuting workers.

Most of the people who live in Topsham and Brunswick work elsewhere and many people who work in Topsham and Brunswick can’t afford to live there. The result is excessive commuter driving and air emissions, and wasted travel time, cost and fossil fuel.

The Brunswick Housing Committee is making recommendations to the City Council for new regulations and incentives to support affordable rental housing construction for moderate-income workers. Brunswick planners have obtained $1 million from Maine Housing to facilitate construction of rental apartments that have a minimum percentage of affordable units.

Bicyclists, select persons and representatives along the Kennebec River have been in meeting as the Lower Road Railroad Use Advisory Council facilitated by the Maine DOT. In this ongoing Topsham to Augusta study, several options for rebuilding this rail corridor are being considered. The rail line could be upgraded to allow faster passenger train service, a bicycle corridor could be built far enough away and parallel to the rail line, or the railroad tracks could be removed and replaced with a bicycle path.

Replacing the rail line with a bicycle path would prohibit reviving the rail line, losing the current opportunity to rebuild the most-efficient and least-polluting passenger travel method along a busy commuting corridor. Another lost opportunity would be DOT’s current consideration of upgrading the rail lines from Augusta to Bangor, allowing tourists and Mainers convenient, less-polluting travel. Current large federal funds are now available to plan and fund rebuilding of passenger rail lines between between major cities. In Maine, these funds are only being used to upgrade existing freight-rail use.

Substituting gas-powered cars with electric vehicles could reduce up to 48% of U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Significantly reducing our air travel would be the next largest reduction in emissions. Please investigate your rail and bus options before planning a trip. The Downeaster has a regular schedule from Portland to Boston, and Amtrak continues south along the East Coast. Rail travel is safer, less stressful and cheaper than driving. You can have a scenic, low-energy impact, plus free time.

Having pledged to use airplanes only once every year or two, I joined part of my husband’s Ioniq 5 electric car trip around the country last July to visit my brother in Nebraska and then fly home. Compared to 1970, 10 times as many Americans fly today, not weighing the heavy cost on the environment. Let’s keep focused on slower, more human-powered, energy-efficient ways to get around.

Nancy Chandler studied Animal Behavior and Anthropology at Stanford University, then received her master’s in biology education in her home state of North Carolina at U.N.C. Chapel Hill. She is passionate about teaching energy conservation and hopes to get you thinking about how to use energy use efficiently to save both money and reduce greenhouse warming gases.

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