Better Bike Share

Smarter Travel. Smarter Places.

Barr’s newly-named Mobility portfolio aims to spur transformation in how people move around and how we build our communities.

To address the challenge of a changing climate, the Barr Foundation’s Climate program focuses on the two areas that produce the most greenhouse gases: 1) how we generate and use energy; and 2) how we move around. I am pleased to introduce the latest evolution in the Foundation’s strategies for addressing that second area.

For Barr’s newly-named Mobility portfolio, our goal is nothing less than transformation in how people move around in Massachusetts and in how we build our communities. These are inextricably linked: we can’t provide enough low-carbon travel without good transportation options; and we can’t provide enough good transportation options without well-designed communities.

While we have made advances in the reduction of emissions via cleaner fuels and more efficient vehicles, in order to achieve the dramatic reductions required, we need both smarter travel and smarter places.

Smarter travel is about improving and modernizing the region’s transportation system. Smarter places is about accelerating the development of low-carbon communities. Change in both domains will require new conversations and new ideas. We need to shift from focusing on what isn’t working to what’s possible. Towards these ends, we aim to build understanding and foster dialogue about changing mobility needs and potential solutions. We also intend to bring those solutions to life, creating more walkable, vibrant communities that work for people—because when they are connected to seamless, modern transportation systems, we reduce our emissions.

To learn more about our new Mobility strategies and grantmaking priorities, and how to introduce new funding and partnership ideas to us, I encourage you to visit our new Mobility strategies page. These strategies (as well as our Clean Energy strategies) build on progress and learning since Barr focused a broad environmental portfolio in on climate change in 2010. Since we started this work, many new voices have come to the table and are actively engaged. What’s more, new research, pilot projects, and learning opportunities have helped push the boundaries of thinking (and practice) about what may be possible.

There is solid momentum. And yet, a few key trends in the context of this work (which I wrote about in this post) and careful consideration about where we believe Barr can make the greatest contributions have led us to redouble our efforts and to renew our commitment to bold and ambitious change toward smarter travel and smarter places.

Throughout our planning process—and again in this post today—Jim Canales, Barr’s president, has emphasized that these new directions are more evolution than revolution. As we engaged in planning over the last year, our mandate was to build on a solid body of work done over many years. Bearing that in mind, however, I will call attention to three changes in the Mobility portfolio.

First, we have shifted from “Transportation and Smart Growth” to “Mobility.” This is more than a name change. It reflects our view that people should be at the center of our strategies. Enhancing people’s experiences and their ability to access and benefit from well-designed communities and good transportation options is the ultimate focus. Second, we are focusing on the larger mobility system rather than emphasizing any individual mode of transportation. Our focus is on creating a seamless, modern system that efficiently links many different kinds of transportation choices. We aim to simplify people’s experiences—making transportation choices easier to navigate, more accessible, and more efficiently connected. If we get this right, our mobility system will reduce greenhouse gases while improving access to economic opportunity and quality of life for our residents.

Finally, we also expect to expand our circle of partners beyond nonprofit groups, as it is clear that there are a range of actors in academia, business, government, and industry whose engagement will be critical to the next phase of this work.

In many ways, our region, and the entire United States for that matter, lags behind other parts of the world in mobility solutions. Yet we know our region has the potential to think big, to be bold, and to lead. And that is exactly what we aim to catalyze with this strategy. It’s an exciting time for us at Barr and we look forward to working with partners—existing and new—to advance these ambitious Mobility goals.

View our Mobility strategies

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Mary Skelton Roberts

Mary Skelton Roberts

Co-Director of Climate