On December 21, 2020, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia announced their participation in the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) by signing onto a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  Acadia Center believes this represents a major milestone in a project that we have long championed and a critical component of our vision for a just and sustainable future. We offer some comments on the announcement.

The four jurisdictions participating in the program need to achieve significant emission reductions from the transportation sector to meet their ambitious climate targets. Transportation pollution accounts for 46% of the CO2 emissions across Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., which is more than double the contribution to climate change from any other sector. Participation in the TCI program will enable these jurisdictions to invest hundreds of millions of dollars each year in clean transportation projects that create jobs, boost the economy, improve mobility, and slash pollution. For those reasons, the TCI program is the first transportation strategy discussed in the Baker administration’s newly released 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan, which is designed to achieve a 45% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030. Whether Massachusetts sticks with the Baker administration’s 45% reduction target or the legislature’s newly passed climate bill with a 50% by 2030 requirement, the TCI program will play a critical role in delivering a cleaner, more equitable transportation system.

Acadia Center has played a central role in the TCI Process

  • In the spring of 2017, Acadia Center convened the first meeting of TCI advocates from the region, launched a regional advocates listserv and began hosting bi-weekly TCI advocates calls. Acadia Center played a leading role in creating Our Transportation Future, the public face of the regional TCI advocates network.
  • In January 2018, Acadia Center partnered with the Fletcher School at Tufts University to host the Future of Transportation Symposium, convening regional stakeholders, academics, and Baker administration officials for an exploration of TCI and other clean transportation opportunities.
  • In early 2019, Acadia Center, the Green Justice Coalition, and T4MA launched the MA TCI Table, a new forum designed with intentionality to balance the perspectives of the Commonwealth’s environmental, transportation, and justice communities. By welcoming all voices to the Table, particularly those with concerns about the TCI program, we started and sustained a dialogue around TCI and our shared vision for a sustainable and equitable transportation future. The Table also created a new venue for direct engagement between stakeholders, the Baker Administration, and legislative leaders, allowing them to hear our support, our concerns, and offering a pathway for collaboration on policy solutions.
  • Due to the success of the MA TCI Table, Acadia Center replicated the model alongside partners in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Across southern New England, these forums have united stakeholders, engaged state decisionmakers, and delivered the support necessary for governors to sign the TCI MOU.
  • Throughout the process, Acadia Center has been committed not just to delivering the policy, but to getting the details right. From analysis of the emissions cap to protections for overburdened communities, Acadia Center has worked with our partners across the region to provide the TCI states with actionable recommendations for a robust and equitable program. In November of 2020, as the states worked to put the finishing touches on the MOU, Acadia Center organized, helped draft, and submitted a sign-on letter with 200 signatory organizations containing specific recommendations for a TCI Program that would meet the needs of the region’s communities and the urgency of the climate crisis. Many of the recommendations in that letter were incorporated into the MOU, including the more stringent emissions cap, the commitment to air quality monitoring in environmental justice communities, and the requirement for TCI-funded investment in overburdened and underserved communities to be at least proportional to the populations of those communities.

Additional Content on the MOU

The collaboration between Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. represents action at a significant scale. With a combined GDP of $1.09 trillion, the participating jurisdictions would be the world’s 15th largest economy, similar in output to Mexico. The MOU charts an ambitious emission reduction trajectory. The emissions cap will decline by 30% from 2023 to 2032, consistent with recommendations Acadia Center submitted on behalf of 200 organizations in November. Reducing CO2 emissions from transportation fuels by 30% will help states achieve their climate targets while delivering critical improvements in air quality. While additional policies are necessary to achieve Acadia Center’s vision for a just and sustainable future, TCI has an important role to play in that transition.

TCI jurisdictions have worked to incorporate stakeholder feedback to make the program more equitable and ambitious. Important new provisions have been added to last year’s draft MOU to ensure that overburdened and underserved communities receive at least their proportional share of TCI proceeds, that those communities are included in investment decisions and program design, and that air quality monitors will be deployed in the most polluted communities. These commitments represent significant progress at the regional level, but states—and advocates—have much more work to do to develop stakeholder processes and policy solutions that meet the needs of their communities. An equitably-designed TCI program will benefit overburdened and underserved communities, but the participation of those communities in that process is critical. TCI is just one piece of the puzzle: other action, like guaranteed pollution reduction in environmental justice communities and affordable, reliable transit, will still be necessary to deliver transportation justice.

Recent polling shows that 71% of the region’s voters support their state participating in the TCI program, and almost 80% support using TCI revenue to modernize and expand public transit service.

We are particularly gratified that the three states joining the MOU are those where Acadia Center played a leadership role working with many diverse voices to advance support for TCI in coalitions like the Massachusetts TCI Table, who worked together to build respectful working relationships.  These strong coalitions successfully championed a common set of priorities and messages when engaging with decision makers and key stakeholders and preparing public facing materials showing the benefits of TCI.

The four MOU signatories deserve credit for leading the way, and all signs point towards the program growing before the official launch in 2023. While the four-jurisdiction program would be significant in its own right, we expect that, much like RGGI, the program will launch with more states than were on the initial MOU. In a separate document, the four MOU signatories were joined by eight other TCI member states to assert that they are collaborating on the next steps of the cap-and-invest program’s development, suggesting that the program will expand beyond southern New England and D.C. Notably, this list includes a new TCI member, North Carolina, demonstrating the appeal of the TCI framework. All together, these jurisdictions would represent the world’s third largest economy.

Forward-Looking Acadia Center TCI Priorities

As Acadia Center highlighted in a recent NYT article, this four-jurisdiction TCI Program is just the beginning.  Acadia Center is dedicated to continued efforts to support equitable TCI implementation, garner further state commitments, and build the case for TCI with stakeholders and policymakers.

In our core target states of CT, MA and RI, Acadia Center will:

  • Work with community-based partners and state agencies to ensure the program is implemented equitably
  • Identify high-impact investment opportunities that improve local air quality, deliver better transportation options, and help states achieve their climate targets
  • Where necessary, support enabling legislation to grant states authority to participate in TCI Program

Regionally and in other TCI states, Acadia Center will:

  • Strategically build the case for TCI participation with governors’ offices, state agencies, legislators and key stakeholders and address points made by TCI opponents. As an example, Acadia Center’s recently published op-ed in the Portland Press Herald demonstrates that it is not too late for Governor Mills to bring the TCI program’s benefits to Mainers.
  • Quantify and highlight the in-state benefits of TCI participation, and identify the lost benefits and missed opportunity for states that opt out.
  • Continue to lead and coordinate activities of the regional TCI advocates network.