Road to Recovery: Reinvesting in Northeastern Communities and Transportation Systems

By Stephanie Neitlich

What you can do:

  1. Add your email on the official TCI website to stay up-to-date and informed on the policy’s progress.
  2. Utilize emission saving techniques such as carpooling, eco-driving, and public transit to lower your transportation carbon footprint.
  3. If you are from one of the 12 participating states involved in TCI, urge your local and state elected officials to consider signing on to the MOU.

The recent transition to virtual work has led to increased frustration, major reworking, and a new sense of normalcy for many people. Some find the daily Zoom grind to be a hindrance to their overall productivity, and crave the nine-to-five life they have grown accustomed to. Others, however, are utilizing this new technology to expand their range of communication.

Local elected officials across the Northeast are reinventing what it means to be a leader in their communities.  Improved video capabilities have not only led to more discussions with members of their own communities, but with regional leaders throughout different states. Collaboration between a more diverse group of leaders has culminated in regional policy, one of which being the Transportation and Climate Initiative.

The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) is a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop a clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector [1]. This cap-and-invest system will require large gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers to purchase “allowances” for pollution that result from the combustion of fuels they sell in the region. The revenue generated from these allowance auctions will be reinvested in creating green jobs, sustainable transportation, and healthier environments for local communities. Overtime, the total allowances allotted will decrease, resulting in fewer overall emissions [2].

Early estimates predict this initiative could generate up to $2 billion in annual clean transportation investments, and result in $3 billion health and safety benefits by the year 2032 [3]. Not only can this policy help strengthen weakened economies, but can significantly improve the health of its citizens. Emissions from the transportation sector are slotted to decrease by at least 26% by the year 2032; a decrease which could result in 4,700 of fewer childhood asthma cases and 1,100 avoided pollution-related deaths [4].

It is also imperative that this initiative serve as a means to raise the voices of historically underserved and overburdened communities. Too often, low income communities have felt the burden of environmental injustice knocking at their own back door. These communities are often exposed to higher levels of pollution, yet find themselves equipped with minimal to no combative resources. The initiative advocates that a minimum of 35% of the revenue generated from TCI be reinvested directly into overburdened areas. Furthermore, TCI will attempt to combat racial inequity by including an Equity Advisory Body/Bodies in each TCI jurisdiction, conducting annual reviews and reports on the program’s impacts as it relates to expenditures and equity, and building on complementary programs, alongside a TCI program, to further advance equity goals [5].

Since the official release of the Memorandum of Understanding in December 2020, four states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and D.C.) have officially signed onto this regional program [6]. While this is a great first step to multi-state collaboration, the full economic and health benefits cannot be achieved without maximum participation. Environmental and climate crises do not simply start and end at borders; implementing an effective approach to address these issues requires multi-jurisdictional solutions that expand upon and complement individual state action. Now, in the midst of this Zoom revolution, it is imperative lawmakers utilize new technologies to foster conversations, expand their communication circles, and work together in building a greener future for their citizens.

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