Support Cleaner Transportation Solutions

February 11, 2020

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Governors are currently considering joining a new program, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), which would reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector through a cap and invest model. The proposed program would generate revenues by requiring fuel suppliers to buy allowances and each state can reinvest those funds in things like low carbon transportation projects and alternative transportation solutions, like bike, pedestrian, or other options. This is an important opportunity to let your state know they should act on climate, improve transportation infrastructure and invest in your state’s active transportation networks.

Why We Should Reduce Tailpipe Emissions

There is scientific consensus that our climate is changing dramatically. For example, our winters are getting shorter with less snow and our region is seeing dramatic swings in weather with more intense storms that damage infrastructure and disrupt lives. Transportation is now the largest source of greenhouse gases in our region. In response, states from Maine to Virginia are developing a regional plan to reduce carbon emissions from cars and trucks and developing a framework for investment that further reduces emissions, addresses equity, and improves transportation infrastructure. The plan is called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI).

Investing in our Health is a Solution

Health benefits from investments in cleaner cars and active transportation options are estimated to be significant. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles will have the co-benefit of reducing ozone and fine particulates, creating healthier outdoor air. Increased bike and pedestrian path use will have health benefits that include not only reduced emissions but the added physical activity and outdoor time. This opportunity is highlighted by preliminary estimates that the implementation of TCI through 2032 will have the following health benefits:

  • Physical Activity: Building sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and other pedestrian infrastructure increases safety, which results in more physical activity $2.59-$8.42 billion
  • Safety: Increasing transportation choices –e.g., public transit –reduces the number of vehicles on the road, and so reduces traffic-related fatalities and injuries $294 million-$1.09 billion 
  • Cleaner Air: Ozone and particulate matter pollution reduction benefits $104-447 million

Let your Governor know you want action to reduce transportation emissions impacting our climate and our health, and that TCI is an important pathway to a cleaner, healthier future.

Equity and Inclusion

The TCI recognizes that an open and transparent dialog with all stakeholders is needed to ensure we will address historic and on-going concerns about environmental justice and equity. For example, while electric vehicles are on the rise not everyone can afford a new electric vehicle, and infrastructure is limited in some communities. Opportunities to grow active transportation, mass transit, and telecommuting capabilities must be considered. TCI states have drafted goals around equity, environmental justice, inclusion, and meaningful public participation that recognizes the historical inequities of accessibility, mobility, affordability, and public health risks that remain disproportionate with a changing climate. AMC stands with TCI states behind these goals.

Lessons from Smokestacks

The TCI effort is modeled on the successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program that has reduced carbon emissions by 47% since 2008 from smokestacks in our region, providing significant air quality co-benefits and economic investment in energy efficiency and clean energy. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a proven success and a model of a “cap and invest” system that TCI can emulate and improve upon.

Opportunities for Alternative Transportation

Once TCI states settle on the framework they will be evaluating how to meet their carbon caps and are expected to support increased and well-connected systems of bike and pedestrian paths as a low-cost, low-carbon approach to increased mobility.  These networks will also reduce reliance on personal vehicles to reach work, services, and businesses, and are an essential feature of strong communities connected to each other and to the outdoors. Two exemplary projects that could serve as models are the Bay Circuit Trail, a 230+ mile trail and greenway that crosses 37 towns in greater Boston and overlays with community trails, bike paths, and commuter rail stations, and the Pennsylvania Highland Trail Network, which connects existing and new recreational trails across a variety of landscapes in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  AMC hopes to work with TCI states to emphasize the health and wellness benefits of trail networks across our region.

Stay up to date on TCI by sending a letter to your Governor and signing up to receive conservation alerts from AMC.

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G. Murray

Conservation and Nature Notes blogger Georgia Murray has been AMC's Air Quality Staff Scientist since 2000. She has an M.S. degree in Earth Sciences from the University of New Hampshire and currently oversees the AMC's air quality and climate monitoring programs.