Summit Grantees Discuss the Future of Transportation Advocacy at Funder Summit

In July, philanthropic organizations from across the Northeastern U.S. gathered in New York for a one-day conference sponsored by the Climate and Energy Funders Group to discuss opportunities and threats for climate and clean energy in the Northeast. Participants heard from advocates across a wide range of topics, from federal policy to local challenges in some of the region’s most recalcitrant states.

Among the speakers were two of the Summit Foundation’s grantees: Felicia Park-Rogers, Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Director of Infrastructure Projects; and Kate Slevin, Regional Plan Association’s Executive Vice President. In a panel led by the Summit Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Program Director Nick Sifuentes entitled “The Transportation Transition,” Park-Rogers and Slevin highlighted the Northeast’s major victories, including New York City’s forthcoming congestion pricing program and securing transit operations funding in both the federal COVID rescue package known as the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Both speakers noted the significance of these federal programs’ transit funding: ARRA provided critical operations dollars to help keep transit workers employed as ridership plummeted during the height of the COVID pandemic, and the BIL includes funding for major infrastructure programs and transit electrification.

The speakers then highlighted the next major fights they anticipated in the coming years: implementation of the BIL at the state level and the need for state Department of Transportation reform to ensure that states spend BIL funding on climate-forward projects rather than simply expanding highways and building new roads. They discussed the threat of a “business as usual” approach at state Departments of Transportation that could actually increase greenhouse gases as they invest heavily in new roads and highways. The panel offered an alternate approach that focused on electrification and transit expansion. The speakers closed the event with a discussion on how philanthropic partners should respond by increasing support for grassroots and equity organizations focused on improving transit, active transportation, and electrification infrastructure to prevent state Departments of Transportation from making investments that would exacerbate the climate crisis. With funders’ help, they argued, advocacy organizations could play a critical role in reforming these state agencies and ensuring Northeastern states meet their ambitious climate goals.


Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Regional Plan Association

Biodiversity Funders Group

Greater Greater Washington Shows Us How to Travel From Virginia to Massachusetts . . . On Commuter Rail

East Coast commuters will soon be able to travel via commuter rail from Virginia to Connecticut without having to board an Amtrak railcar. Due to a newly proposed MARC weekday service extension from Perryville, Maryland to Newark, Delaware, travelers will have the opportunity to transfer between SEPTA and MARC for the first time ever. This proposal will connect the tri-state D.C., Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area to the greater Northeast Corridor, allowing for diversified, cheaper transit options for both local commuters and long-distance travelers.

To showcase the vast expansion of the commuter rail network not only within the region but throughout the Mid-Atlantic area, David Edmondson, a contributor to Greater Greater Washington (GGWash), has created an incredibly comprehensive map. This visual representation illustrates the interconnected commuter railways that form the Northeast Corridor. Developing the map required an in-depth examination of various rail systems, including Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express, SEPTA Regional Rail, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, Metro-North Railroad, and CTrail, considering their operational robustness and variations.

The comparative analysis serves as a source of inspiration for transit rail systems in the DMV area to enhance their service for passengers. Additionally, the map highlights the potential benefits for riders who may not be able to afford Amtrak services. With all the projected future extensions in place, commuters will have the opportunity to travel virtually along the entire Eastern seaboard, from Fredericksburg, VA to Springfield, MA, or even Montauk, NY, using the extensive commuter rail network.

While mostly proof-of-concept rather than a journey a commuter is ever likely to take regularly, Edmonson and GGWash’s map highlights the importance of commuter rail in creating an interconnected network of transit options for riders that advances the argument that unfettered travel throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast is entirely feasible thanks to a robust commuter rail system backstopping Amtrak service.

GGWash has long been engaged in the fight for better transit options in the D.C. region, including advocating for a robust network of bus and rail to allow for car-free access throughout the metropolitan area. Summit is a proud supporter of GGwash and their self-described mission “to inform, engage, and influence the public and policy to advance racial, economic, and environmental justice in land use, transportation, and housing throughout Greater Washington” since 2019.


GGWash article

Partner Link:

Greater Greater Washington website

Summit Grantees Win as New York City’s Congestion Pricing Program Clears Final Hurdles

Credit: Shutterstock

With the final federal hurdles cleared, New York is poised to launch the United States’s first congestion pricing program in early 2024. Long the dream of transportation advocates—and commuters mired in the worst congestion in the U.S.—congestion pricing was first passed into law in 2019 after a decade-long advocacy push from Summit grantees Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Regional Plan Association (RPA), and other advocacy organizations.

Congestion pricing, when fully implemented, is expected to raise $1 billion annually through tolls charged on vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street. That new revenue will fund improvements to public transit throughout the New York metropolitan region, ideally creating a positive feedback loop that reduces car traffic, pollution, and greenhouse gases as drivers elect to take transit rather than drive.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Executive Director Renae Reynolds emphasized the environmental benefits of congestion pricing in the New York Times’s reporting on the final federal approval: “It’s extremely important that we focus on meeting our climate goals and improving our air quality. . . . Congestion pricing is going to help us do that by clearing up clogged roads, by investing in mass transit.”

Tri-State and RPA have advocated for congestion pricing since it was first proposed in 2007. Since its initial proposal in 2007, Tri-State and RPA have been strong advocates for congestion pricing. Its victory is long in coming, and both organizations played pivotal roles analyzing traffic and commuting patterns to understand the economic impacts of congestion pricing, educating stakeholders on the benefits of the policy, and organizing transit riders.

Summit is proud to support the ongoing work of Tri-State and RPA as they advocate for robust implementation of congestion pricing and the improved transit service that riders need as the city’s workforce continues to return to offices in the central business district of Manhattan as part of the city’s post-COVID recovery.


NYTimes article

Fast Company Honors’s SAFE Cities Campaign


In honor of their work limiting pollution and greenhouse gases in cities across North America, Summit grantee’s SAFE Cities Campaign has been recognized by Fast Company’s 2023 list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies. The list highlights organizations that the magazine describes as “paving the way for innovations of tomorrow [and] setting the standard with some of the greatest accomplishments of the modern world.”

The SAFE (Stand Against Fossil Fuel Expansion) Cities Campaign is an internationally networked coalition of local movements working to limit fossil fuels and to support community leaders to adopt SAFE policies that accelerate clean, just, and more efficient energy solutions. The three categories of SAFE policies include protection from fossil fuel infrastructure, electrification of buildings, and electrified public and private transport. To date there are more than 135 SAFE cities in 17 countries across the globe. Together, they have passed over 164 SAFE policies that improve the lives of over 82 million people.

Summit is proud to support’s work in delivering large-scale change for the health of our planet and the people inhabiting it. Their work is made possible through their rapid response team of one million people, including local organizers, environmental justice groups, national groups beyond the environmental movement, networks of governments, legal experts, and frontline communities.


SAFE Cities

World’s Most Innovative Companies 2023

Fast Company 10 Most Innovative Nonprofits