Modernizing Transportation

New England’s transportation system is environmentally, economically, and socially unsustainable. For decades, states have implemented policies that favor highways and cars to the detriment of much needed investments in cleaner, more efficient, and socially just alternatives.

The current system has numerous problems. The transportation sector is the region’s largest and fastest growing contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, and tailpipe pollution causes asthma and other health problems. New roads increase water pollution from runoff and subsidize low-density sprawl, which erodes both human and ecological communities. The lack of adequate public transportation imposes greater cost burdens on the public and disenfranchises lower income people by barring their access to jobs and services. Low income and communities of color have historically borne the brunt of these negative effects of transportation planning but have not received their fair share of public transportation resources. To make matters worse, the system is bankrupt: states struggle to maintain highways and bridges in the face of inadequate funding and skyrocketing construction and maintenance costs.

These issues are so far-reaching that they demand a paradigm shift in the way New England states plan and invest in transportation infrastructure. CLF has a long history of advocacy in the region, promoting just this type of transportation future.

To halt pollution and climate change and promote environmental justice, CLF is working with states on transportation policy and agency reform to inject smarter, climate-friendly, socially just project selection criteria into their transportation planning processes. New policies and investments should reduce dependence on cars, thereby reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and provide better and more affordable alternatives to driving. To help reach these goals, CLF is actively promoting real public participation in transportation decision making by ensuring that people depending on transit have a place at the planning table.

CLF is advocating for aggressive investment in rail and public transit. CLF’s Boston Area Transit Initiative is making the area’s transit system environmentally sound and easily accessible. The improved system encourages people to drive less and provides better service for underserved low-income communities. The CLF-led New England Regional Rail Coalition is facilitating the development of a world-class regional rail system that will not only increase transportation choice and reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also strengthen our economy and better integrate our region with the rest of the country. On the national level, CLF is advocating for a sensible national transportation policy that supports transit and high-speed rail, prioritizes highway repair and maintenance over capacity expansion, and offers incentives for transit-oriented development.

Smart growth policies, which CLF promotes, are related to transportation because they help avoid costly suburban sprawl. The vibrant, compact, mixed-use communities that result from good urban planning have location efficiency. When homes, schools, jobs, and shopping are all close by, people don’t have to drive as much because they can walk or bike when running errands or commuting, a habit that also improves health. Linking such improvements to affordable housing helps create livable communities for everyone in New England.

To help New England states make this dramatic course correction, CLF is tightly focused on addressing the transit finance problem. CLF is playing a leading role in broad-based coalitions, engaging national, regional, and local experts, and promoting a number of creative funding solutions to address this problem. CLF will continue to work toward a new model for transportation in New England and to challenge continued investments in poorly planned projects that perpetuate problems.