The Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted unanimously today to spend $80 million on an ambitious climate initiatives program that aims to reduce driving in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Marin County Supervisor Stephen Kinsey said the idea is to make short-term investments that reduce transportation-related emissions and vehicle miles traveled, and to encourage the use of cleaner fuels.

Stuart Cohen, the executive director for TransForm, an Oakland-based transit advocacy group, praised today’s vote, saying it “continues the MTC’s reputation as an innovator and leader” and predicted it will be copied by other transportation agencies across the country.

He said, “This makes the Bay Area the first region in the country to have a program to cut global warming pollution by trying to decrease demand on the roadways.”

Cohen said that’s important because “transportation is by far the biggest source of global warming pollution in California and the country.”

One aspect of the program, at a cost of $10 million, is a public education and outreach effort to reduce driving.

Cohen said the goal is to encourage people to carpool, use public transit or bicycle to work, or even work at home one day a week if they have flexible work schedules.

Another aspect of the program, which will cost $17 million, is called “Safe Routes to Schools,” which aims to reduce emissions from school-related travel.

Nora Cody of TransForm said the idea is to “get kids out of cars” by having them walk, bike or take public transportation to school.

“It improves physical health and the environment,” Cody said.

A third component is $36 million for grants to fund experimental programs aimed at providing incentives to reduce driving.

Another $10 million will go toward an emission-reduction program in San Francisco called SFGo.

In addition, $4 million will be spent to evaluate the effectiveness of the climate initiatives program and $3 million will be given to Eastern Solano County’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.

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