Disrupting the Transportation Sector: Opportunities to Reduce Emissions and Increase Equity

metro transit bus with masked ridersDuring Environmental Initiative’s 2020 Policy Forum Series, we’re tackling the overarching question: How are the COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability, and calls for racial justice impacting environmental policy and decision making in this moment? In each forum, we strive to tackle this question’s application to a particular sector: economic developmentfood systems, and transportation.

Reducing the length and distance of vehicle trips – and replacing them with more time being active in our communities – can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants that harm public health. Disruptions in our mobility patterns due to COVID-19 are probably not significant enough to result in major long-term changes to emissions but do have the potential to catalyze or accelerate further behavior shifts depending on how we choose to respond.

As we consider policy decisions and investments that could enable or provide incentives for making some of these changes to transportation behavior more permanent, we need to keep in mind that disruptions to the transportation system due to COVID-19 impact people differently based on where they live, the type of work they do, and their access to public and private modes of transportation. Who is positioned to benefit from those changes and what do we need to do to focus the benefits on those with the fewest mobility options and those who have been harmed by historical land use and transportation policies?


  • Frank Douma, State and Local Policy Program Director, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
  • Mauricio León, Senior Researcher, Metropolitan Council
  • Sam Rockwell, Executive Director, Move Minnesota
  • Siri Simons, Principal Sustainability Planner, Minnesota Department of Transportation Sustainability and Public Health Division
  • Britt Howell, Health, Wellness & Cultural Arts Consultant with a focus on sustainable food systems and sustainable transportation (invited)

We Will Explore

  • Changes that have taken place in the transportation system in 2020, including how and why these changes are being experienced differently across communities and sectors.
  • Estimates of the degree to which emissions have been impacted by these changes.
  • Policy and public investment opportunities to create a more equitable transportation system with fewer negative impacts on public health and wellbeing, including:
    • How we might focus future investments in public transportation.
    • Remote work as climate/public health policy.
    • Addressing emissions from retail, delivery, and the gig economy perspectives.
    • The role of land use and housing policies in transportation options and behavior.


9–9:10           Introductions + Welcome
9:10-9:20      Networking Breakouts
9:20-10:15    Panel Discussion + Q&A
10:15-10:25   Application Activities
10:25-10:30  Closing
10:30-11        Open networking  


Registration includes:

  • Pre-event audio link to panelist interviews.
  • Webinar with break-out sessions and networking time.
  • Post-event video, panelist-recommended resources, and discussion questions.