A new report from the MASSPIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group outlines various ways in which Massachusetts transportation infrastructure can be transformed to achieve better health outcomes for the state’s residents.
According to the report, Massachusetts’ autocentric transportation system causes numerous adverse health effects, including lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, asthma, and dementia caused by pollution and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and higher levels of stress from long car journeys.
“Our current transportation system has affected our health and the health of our planet,” said MASSPIRG Transportation Advocate and report co-author, John Stout. “Decades of auto-centered investment strategies have given us an inefficient and dangerous transport infrastructure.”
The report found that air pollution killed an estimated 1,500 Massachusetts residents each year. In addition, vehicle accidents kill 325 residents and injure several thousand more each year.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and home orders resulted in a record decline in driving, accompanied by an increase in the number of people walking, cycling, and choosing other active modes of transport. These factors resulted in about a third decrease in daily carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
“Almost half of the global emissions decrease during the pandemic was due to the decline in road traffic alone. When we come out of the pandemic, we have choices to make. With the right guidelines, we can achieve tremendous public health and environmental benefits by making it easier and safer for Americans to drive less and live more, ”said report co-author James Horrox of the Frontier Group .
According to the report, redesigning the state transport system could harness these environmental and health benefits in the long term. The report suggested that the state aims to double the number of people traveling on foot, bike, or transit by 2030. Electrification of all transit and school buses by 2030; and all new light cars and trucks sold after 2035 must be electric, and all medium to heavy trucks must be electric by 2040.
“Before the pandemic, Massachusetts had the worst traffic load in the country,” said Chris Dempsey, director of the advocacy coalition for Transportation for Massachusetts. “Our soul-destroying standstill affects our quality of life, increases business costs and deteriorates the quality of the air we breathe. We don’t want to go back to this status quo – and we don’t have to if we invest in transit, hiking, cycling and electric vehicles. This report calls for our transport system to be the most efficient in the country. Massachusetts residents don’t earn less. “