This month, the Office of Sustainability (OS) is pleased to welcome two guests as we discuss electric vehicles and mass transit. Rick Cavender and Kathleen “Kammy” Horne are both valued members of the Technical and Community Advisory Committee.
OS: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions reflecting on your career and what brought you to serve on the SA Climate Ready Committees. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what your work entails?
Rick Cavender: I am a third-generation auto dealer in a four generation Cavender Auto Family that my grandfather James Cavender began as an Oldsmobile dealership back in 1939. I now serve as dealer principal at Audi Dominion and have ownership and involvement in 16 franchises under our Cavender family operations.
Kammy Horne: I am the Senior Vice President of Planning and Development at VIA Metropolitan Transit here in San Antonio. My division is responsible for long- and short-term service planning & scheduling; real estate services and passenger amenities; as well as engineering and project delivery for VIA facilities and corridor projects. In addition to my role on this committee, I also serve as Vice-chair of the American Public Transportation Association’s Planning, Policy and Program Development Committee. A part of our overall mission of this national committee is to facilitate and expand transit’s link to sustainable development.
OS: What compelled you the most to step forward and serve on a committee?
Rick Cavender: With the exciting changes happening within our industry as our market is pivoting to introduce more electric vehicles and new technologies, I felt compelled to serve so that I can represent the voice and views of auto dealers and our consumers.
Kammy Horne: I truly feel that small, implementable steps can accelerate larger objectives towards becoming realities. I know that I am constantly searching for the “what can we do now?” answers and felt that this strength coupled with my public transportation background and knowledge would be of value to this committee and to the San Antonio community at large.
OS: Our theme for this conversation is ‘Transportation – Electric Vehicles & Mass Transit,’ since you have done extensive work and research in one or both of these areas.
With more than a third of SA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions coming from transportation systems, the CAAP has outlined many relevant GHG strategies. What do you think are the most effective strategies that should be implemented in the short term and why?
Rick Cavender: It’s not a question of “if” we are going to electrify our transportation sector, it’s a question of “when”. Ultimately, consumers will drive the transition to electric. Once consumers have more assurance regarding mileage range, charging infrastructure and affordability, EV sales will prosper. Other short-term solutions are developing in the commercial vehicle segment. Many fleets that include commercial trucks, vans and buses are transitioning to EV. In fact, Amazon is committed to rolling out 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030.
Communities and manufacturers must act quickly to increase charging infrastructure. Even though 88% of EV owners charge from home for daily commutes, it is estimated that Texas will need 250,000 chargers in about 3 years. Only 75,000 exist today.
Kammy Horne: I think that the most effective strategies come under the broader goal of reducing transportation energy consumption. As the CAAP states, more than one-third of San Antonio’s greenhouse gas emissions come from our transportation systems, so reducing overall vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is the place to start. VIA supports this important strategy through the focused and future-forward planning of connected mobility that works for the most people. By creating denser communities on existing transit corridors, prioritizing transit, and facilitating the use of other alternative and active modes, overall VMT will be reduced. Because transit is the ultimate shared ride, any time more people are moved in fewer vehicles, and those vehicles are cleaner (emitting less GHG), there will be additional reduction in GHG emissions.
OS: Transportation systems across the Country have often been noted as having inherent inequities. What is your perspective on this concept? How does it relate to SA’s transportation systems?
Kammy Horne: The requirement of car ownership to provide mobility and access to economic and educational opportunities can, in and of itself, be considered inequitable as it creates the need for additional income to cover the vehicle which in turn is the tool that supports improved quality of life. When land use and development planning are based on the assumption of car ownership—this furthers these inequities. Conversely, if we begin to embrace active and universally available transportation and policies that support compact land use-we can begin to develop places that enhance a more equitable transportation system overall to include transit, ridesharing, walking, and biking in addition to driving alone.
Employment and employers are also a factor to be considered. We have mapped the number of jobs in San Antonio that can be accessed in a 45-minute commute by car versus transit and it is remarkable to see how many more jobs are available if you are able to drive. San Antonio has been considered one of the most economically segregated cities in the United States. Funding towards a more connected transportation system that is equitable and accessible by all could be a key factor in supportive solutions to attracting and retaining new businesses, talent, and industry.
"To rebalance the current transportation system, a full paradigm shift is needed which removes the priority that has historically been placed on automobile travel." - Kammy Horne
OS: Are there specific solutions that can be implemented to reduce, and eventually eliminate the challenges of an inequitable transportation system? And/or if you feel that the current system is equitable, what makes it work so well?
Kammy Horne: To rebalance the current transportation system, a full paradigm shift is needed which removes the priority that has historically been placed on automobile travel. That mode receives more in funding (local, state, federal), more in space on roadways (both on within the ROW, and off for storage/parking of cars when not in use) and more study related to delay or congestion when roadways are redesigned or built.
Specific solutions that can be implemented are simple: take transit, replace short trips with active modes like biking, walking, or ridesharing, combine errands, support those that fully rely on other modes, donate bus passes to food banks or non-profits, leave a gap in traffic for merging buses, and give 3 or more feet to cyclists on the road.
OS: In your opinion, what opportunities lie ahead with regards to transportation in SA, particularly as it relates to reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Why?
Rick Cavender: One solution could come within our commercial transportation sector. The Demand for E-buses is outpacing manufacturer’s ability to supply them resulting in hundreds of backlogged orders in the United States. Only about 650 e-buses are on U.S. roads today but under current pledges by states, cities, and urban transit agencies at least a third of the nation’s nearly 70,000 public transit buses will be all electric by 2045, according to a separate report from US Public Interest Research Group.
Kammy Horne: The Keep SA Moving plan includes proposed improvements to VIA's core transit network. The plan also provides for expanding innovations like ride-share, mobility on demand, and preparing for a future Advanced Rapid Transit system. VIA is also continuing to expand our mobility options through additional VIA Link Zones. VIA Link is a new on-demand ride-sharing program that offers affordable public transit options to neighborhoods and cities in the VIA service area where traditional bus routes are less efficient.
OS: Considering the general San Antonio community, what are the most pressing challenges we face with regards to transportation in a changing climate?
Rick Cavender: Probably the largest hurdle our automotive industry faces is that the US market is hungry for SUVs and trucks… 76% of US new vehicle sales in 2020. Up from 49% in 2012. And only 26% of the US consumers are considering an EV for their next purchase. In addition, Texas motor fuels taxes brought in almost $4 billion last year, about 6.6 percent of all tax revenue. EVs currently account for less than one percent of vehicles in the U.S. and as stated earlier, EV owners pay no gasoline taxes to help fund road maintenance.
Kammy Horne: One of the key issues that I see is the planning and development of housing and job centers in conjunction with the opportunity to provide public transportation. It is important to think forward and make sure that decisions made today regarding planning and policy-are those that support a fully mobile and accessible San Antonio of tomorrow.
OS: Which community members will be most affected by the impacts of climate change on transportation? Why?
Kammy Horne: The typical VIA rider is already doing the most for our community to improve the greenhouse gas emissions in our region, but they are also the most likely group to be impacted by climate change. Based on data collected prior to COVID, the typical VIA rider utilizes VIA 5 to 7 days a week and 58 percent have no motor vehicle in the household. 61% of VIA riders are Hispanic while 20% are Black/African American.
OS: As you learn about how other communities are trying to address similar challenges, what solutions do you see working best in San Antonio in the long-term?
Rick Cavender: I am inspired that our automotive industry is working toward responsible solutions to climate change. Dealers are implementing creative facility enhancements. Many are working with solar providers to install solar panel elements on rooftops and inventory carports. The carports will protect its vehicles from hail and sun while generating enough energy to lower the dealership’s electric bills. Property and casualty insurance costs are also reduced. There are currently seven facilities under Cavender ownership utilizing this technology. We will introduce new solar elements to our Toyota and Audi facilities soon.
Kammy Horne: Compact, mixed-use, and transit-oriented development have been successfully implemented in other communities to best integrate public transportation and land use. In addition, VIA is partnering on a project that focuses on development of mobility hubs that is being led by the New Urban Mobility Alliance (NUMO) funded by a Curtis Infrastructure grant through the Urban Land Institute. Looking at opportunities to connect transit and non-motorized forms of transportation to provide better connections is one of the main objectives of this planning work.
"I envision a city that finds ways to invest and expand in green infrastructure such as linear parks and more open spaces, and I hope that we can find a way for mass transit, commercial deliveries, and rail to act with affordable long range EV solutions." - Rick Cavender
OS: What is your hope or vision for a San Antonio that has overcome these challenges? What does it look like?
Rick Cavender: I envision a city that finds ways to invest and expand in green infrastructure such as linear parks and more open spaces, and I hope that we can find a way for mass transit, commercial deliveries, and rail to act with affordable long range EV solutions. We have a beautiful city. It needs our protection and care. We all have a part to play to make San Antonio a better place for all.
Kammy Horne: My hope is that everyone in San Antonio will begin to consider the steps that they can each take as individuals to support a more sustainable future in our city that is connected and less reliant on the automobile.
Interested in how San Antonio and the Office of Sustainability are addressing Transportation issues? Learn more here!