Mobility Fundamentals for a Climate Action Plan

Mobility Fundamentals for a Climate Action Plan

 – and the Questions Policy Makers and Elected Officials Must Answer


With less than a decade left to avoid catastrophic climate change, Massachusetts must do its part to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare our communities for a just, climate-safe future. In Massachusetts and across the country, the transportation sector emits the most carbon pollution of any economic sector. These environmental impacts are not felt evenly. Our transportation networks exacerbate racial, economic, and other structural inequalities, further entrenching disparities in access to economic opportunities, health and safety.

As Massachusetts’ statewide pedestrian advocacy organization, WalkBoston works to make walking safer and easier across the Commonwealth to encourage healthier, more vibrant, and climate ready communities. We envision a Massachusetts where people walking  — no matter their race, identity, ability, age, or lived experience  — feel safe, connected, and valued on our streets and public spaces. Without coordinated efforts to address the ways our built environment impacts and is impacted by climate change, we are limited in our ability to promote, design, and construct walkable places. Any serious climate action plan put forth by policy makers and elected officials must demonstrate a clear understanding of the transportation sector’s impact on the planet and its people, and provide detailed, specific plans to decarbonize transportation. At minimum, policy makers, elected officials, and those seeking office must share plans to achieve the following: 

  • Mode shift. Switching all single occupant cars on the road to electric isn’t enough. Electric vehicles still create pollution through brake and tire wear; their batteries require the continued extraction of scarce mineral resources; and, they do nothing to address the traffic violence and heat caused by our car-dominated streets and public spaces. To support mode shift, it is essential to expand the reach and frequency of bus networks, commuter (regional) rail and RTA service, and provide complete mobility networks with safe, accessible options for walking, biking and transit. What are your plans to create safe, reliable, and accessible mobility options across the state, or your jurisdiction, so that more trips can be made by transit, walking, and biking?

  • Improved land use. In communities across Massachusetts, we see how much of our public realm is lost to cars. Wide roadways and excessive parking space takes away land that could be used to build homes, shops, parks, and dining. Land use that encourages car use also adds more heat and pollution to our communities. Zoning and land use regulations must change to encourage more residential and commercial development around transit stations and create neighborhoods with walkable, bikeable scales. How will you work to ensure that communities across the state are part of the solution to house a growing population and connect people to opportunities?

  • Year round walkable public realms. We are already starting to see the effects of an unstable climate through increasingly frequent intense storms, flooding and heat. To ensure safe, accessible, and comfortable mobility year round, we need investment in public realm resiliency: reflective, porous surfaces, and shading tree canopies during the hottest days of the summer; and street and sidewalk maintenance to keep pathways clear and accessible after winter storms. While roadways are quickly cleared of snow, sidewalks often remain obstructed, presenting particular challenges for older people and people with disabilities. What is your plan to create investments in resiliency infrastructure and to ensure equitable mobility access year round?

  • Equity. Environmental justice communities need targeted investment  – through rigorous and accessible community participation – to decarbonize mobility infrastructure, make mobility more accessible and reliable, and reduce the disproportionate impacts of heat, flooding, and pollution in these communities. There must also be commitments to prevent the location of new polluting infrastructure in environmental justice communities. How will you work to undo policy and planning practices that have left low-income communities and communities of color facing the brunt of climate change, and what steps will you take to center racial and economic justice in your climate plans?

  • Electrification. While mode shift is essential to meet our climate goals, electrification will play a key role in limiting vehicular pollution. The Commonwealth must electrify the commuter rail, bus networks, school bus fleets, and all other publicly owned or contracted vehicles. It must also help private entities transition to electrified fleets and subsidize e-bikes and EVs to encourage residents to decrease their fossil fuel consumption. What is your plan for electrifying vehicle fleets on a timeline that meets the urgency of the climate crisis? 

The climate crisis impacts every aspect of our daily lives; it cannot be addressed in siloes. Every elected official and policy maker has a non-negotiable role to play in climate action and must form coalitions that work to tackle this crisis across jurisdictions. There is no excuse not to use your platform to make the changes we urgently need. Who will be your key partners as you work to craft and execute a climate action plan for Massachusetts? 

Comments are closed.