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Many people in the environmental movement talk about public transit, electric vehicles and bicycles as the urban panacea for curbing carbon emissions. But with over 500 square miles of land, Los Angeles is still a difficult city to maneuver sans car. For many, public transit may not be more convenient than a car; many more may not live within bicycling distance of their jobs.

Better Wages Less Commuting

So, the solution has been obvious: more public transit, more electric car rebates, more bike lanes. Yes, yes, and yes. But we often overlook an additional option — more money in the pockets of workers.

According to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority, people earning less than $25,000 annually made up 34 percent of car commuters and 48 percent of carpools in 2013. These same low wage earners often don’t live nearest to LA’s major job hubs — Century City, Downtown LA, and Burbank — when compared to higher wage earners. Not surprisingly, lower wage earners rely more on automobiles to commute further distances to work.

People earning less than $25,000 annually made up 34% of car commuters and 48% of carpools in 2013. Not surprisingly, lower wage earners rely more on automobiles to commute further distances to work.

Texas A&M’s mobility study (2013) estimated the average Angeleno car commuter spends 61 hours a year stuck in traffic. If you do the math that totals over 820 dollars in gas and 3,600 pounds of CO2 per idling commuter per year in 2012.

Less money in the pocket, more carbon in the atmosphere.

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That’s why I’m in support of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy’s Raise LA campaign. Raise LA seeks to raise wages for non-union hotel workers to $15.37/hr, in hotels larger than 125 rooms. That would bring a significant boost to buying power for many Los Angeles workers. A wage raise would allow workers more opportunity to live closer to their jobs and rely less on their cars.

Articles in the Raise LA series:

There’s another reason I’m compelled to support Raise LA: I’m organizing for the LA Fracking Moratorium. In the past decade there has been a boom in new technologies to extract deeper, harder to reach oil. These techniques rely heavily on toxic chemicals, many of which are powerful air toxins. Most Angelenos don’t know about the oil wells hidden across the city. Often they are tucked away behind pleasant landscaping and building facades, and are surrounded by residential communities.

But for the Angelenos living near these well pads, the oil industry is hard to ignore. Industrial air pollutantsand residential communities don’t mix. For those who don’t have the economic means to move away from the oil field next door, they and their families must suffer the impacts. But when families have buying power, they have options.

Better Wages Less Commuting

RaiseLA will put money in the hands of working families. It will give hotel workers and their families the opportunity to make crucial decisions about lifestyle and location, and it may even lead to a reduction in fossil fuel consumption.

Walker Foley
Food & Water Watch