Transportation Justice and Health Equity: MPHA Policy Priorities Address Both Access & Air Quality, Climate Impact

Transportation is a critical issue for health equity. Not only does access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation connect people and communities to the resources needed to be healthy, the transportation sector is a driving factor of climate change and air pollution, both of which disproportionately impact low-income and communities of color, causing greater health inequity.

MPHA has two transportation policy priorities for the 2019-2020 legislative session:

  1. Funding and modernization of Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs)

From the Berkshires to Cape Ann, the Commonwealth’s 15 RTAs link residents outside the metro-Boston area to jobs, education, and social and health services. To meet the needs of their communities, RTAs need additional funding, as well as modernization in service delivery.

In FY19, MPHA and our partners successfully advocated for higher funding for RTAs in the state budget. Co-leading the new RTA Advocates Coalition (RTAAC) with Transportation for Massachusetts, MPHA is again leading the charge to increase RTA funding in the FY20 state budget.

To help improve support and accountability of all RTAs and MassDOT, MPHA and our partners have been working closely with the RTA Task Force; which intends to release its draft report on March 15, 2019. MassDOT will hold public comment meetings in late March (as of 3/8/19, dates/locations unknown), and together with the RTAAC, MPHA will encourage advocates throughout the state to attend or submit written comments.

2. Equitable implementation of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI)

The Transportation and Climate Initiative is an agreement and collaboration between 12 states (including Massachusetts) and Washington, DC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. TCI would also raise funds that could be invested in public transit and other cleaner transportation options.

Quick action to slow climate change and reduce air pollution is essential to protect the health of our communities. In order to be successful, TCI must be implemented in a way that addresses inequities facing communities of color and low-income communities. MPHA is joining environmental justice and transportation leaders to discuss shared goals including advocating for equitable participation in the development of TCI initiatives and analysis of the racial equity impact of TCI policies.

MPHA is prioritizing these efforts because a strong a transportation system supports health by:

  • Providing access to opportunities and resources needed for good health such as higher paying jobs, education, preventative health care, recovery services, grocery stores, social services, and childcare;
  • Increasing opportunities for physical activity including walking and biking, resulting in decreased rates of chronic disease; and
  • Fostering communities that support healthy lifestyle through the lifespan and allowing older adults to remain in and continue to contribute to the communities in which they built their lives and families.

The transportation sector adversely impacts health by:

  • Significantly contributing to air pollution. 44% of carbon emissions in Massachusetts are caused by transportation, such as cars, trucks and buses. Air pollution has been linked to chronic diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease and is linked to low birth weight and pre-term birth. 
  • Driving climate change. Climate change is associated with increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, increased threats from food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and adverse impact on mental health.

A long history of housing segregation and other racist policies mean that communities of color are less likely to have the same level of public transportation service or car ownership, and are more greatly impacted by the air pollution and climate impacts.

To learn how you can join MPHA’s RTA advocacy efforts, please contact Andrea Freeman at: To learn more about equitable implementation of TCI, contact Maddie Ribble at:

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