Transportation for Massachusetts Urges the MBTA to Extend Late Night Service Pilot

March 10th, 2015

Transportation for Massachusetts, a statewide coalition of 47 organizations advocating for a better transportation system in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, respectfully submits these comments to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority regarding the Late Night Service Pilot.

As the pilot for Late Night Service – which extended the hours of operation for all MBTA subway lines and 15 key bus routes to approximately 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights – is being reviewed to determine whether it will continue past June 2015, Transportation for Massachusetts urges the MBTA to extend the continuation of this pilot for an additional six to twelve months in order to provide sufficient opportunity for realization and evaluation of its success.

The implementation of Late Night MBTA Service stands to deliver on a part of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s goal of championing a 24-hour city and positioning Boston as a global business and tourism destination. The service provides direct benefit to shift workers who rely on commuting after traditional business hours, young people patronizing businesses, and corporations who serve customers into the early morning. Unfortunately, the businesses that have benefited from the Late Night Service Pilot have not actually sponsored the program, as was initially conceived.

While university student groups have been among the most outspoken advocates of the service, it is clear from the results of a survey conducted by MassCommute – a statewide coalition of twelve Transportation Management Associations – that people from a range of ages and backgrounds have benefited from the ability to access transit after midnight on weekends, and that people have utilized the service for much more than entertainment purposes:

“I often have critical experiments that extend into the late night, or need late-night check-ins. I also am living cross-country from my husband and children and have flights that arrive to the airport late at night, leaving me having to take an expensive taxi ride. I have been waiting for Boston to extend their service to late night. Please keep this important service available!” -Research Scientist


“This service is absolutely essential to keep me living in Boston/Cambridge and for this city to truly call itself a world-class global city like Chicago, NY, and many others.” -Student

However, metrics for evaluating the success or failure of the pilot were never put in place. Clear goals for each line and route would also allow the MBTA to evaluate whether adding or subtracting certain elements would enhance the service or make it more cost effective. In addition, it is unclear whether the MBTA provided sufficient marketing support to achieve success. For instance, ridership, with about 820,00 riders in the first nine months, was relatively robust, but would likely have increased by aggressive marketing of the new service.

Transportation for Massachusetts recognizes the dire budgetary circumstances and lack of resources faced by the MBTA today, and that the Board faces hard choices between competing priorities. However, we believe that significant untapped opportunity exists to bolster the success of the Late Night T program by way of strategic marketing and corporate sponsorship. To support the continuation of this service, which is instrumental to Boston’s economy, we offer the following recommendations:

• Extend the Pilot for six to twelve months.
• Set clear goals for each line and route of the Late Night Service Pilot.
• Designate a point person and/or committee within the MBTA to aggressively market the service.
• Make a concerted effort to solicit financial support from the corporate sector, particularly those companies whose profits and/or workforce are significantly influenced by availability of late night transit access.

Thank you for consideration of the above. Please contact Transportation for Massachusetts with any questions or need any further information.

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Statement on Governor Baker’s proposed FY 2016 budget

March 6th, 2015

The Governor’s proposed budget provides modest increases for transportation funding over last year’s appropriations, but proposes $15 million less for the MBTA than the 2013 Finance Act anticipated for FY16 and $30 million less in snow removal funding than the average annual amount expended over the past 5 years. A substantial commitment of state resources is necessary to protect our transportation system and the jobs that depend on reliable and safe mobility.

Download this statement as a PDF

Boston, March 5, 2015 – Adequate revenue is necessary to maintain and operate a reliable, future-ready statewide transportation network to bolster our economy and serve our families. Our transportation network, including roads, bridges, regional transit, the MBTA, and walking and biking facilities, has been chronically underfunded. The MBTA faces $6.7 billion in needed repairs, almost $4 billion is needed to fix bridges across the state, and regional bus systems provide infrequent and limited service due to lack of funding. On Wednesday, Transportation for Massachusetts submitted a call to rebuild and fund our transportation system, signed by over 12,000 residents.

In his first months in office, Governor Baker made important strides towards solving our transportation challenges. He asserted responsibility for the MBTA’s system breakdowns and established a Special Panel with a short turn-around and high standards to review the MBTA’s finances, governance and operations.

We appreciate the difficult fiscal reality in which this budget was developed. This is a challenging budget for transportation, and, as proposed, will not facilitate the significant progress we need to improve transportation for residents across the state. We look forward to working with the legislature and administration in the coming months to help them meet the urgent need for improvements in transportation across the Commonwealth.

As the winter storms have shown, we have a fragile transportation system on which millions of people’s livelihoods depend. Ongoing efforts to reform and streamline operations are essential, but they are a complement and not a substitute to financial commitment. Other regions of the US and the world are making these investments and Massachusetts must be prepared to compete in the 21st century.

In our initial review of the transportation implications of the Governor’s budget, we note the following:
1. The Governor’s FY 2016 budget appropriates $187 million directly for the MBTA, $15 million less than the $202 million set out in the Transportation Finance Act of 2013; while this represents an increase over FY 2015, it is less than was promised less than two years ago.

2. The snow and ice removal funding is increased to $70 million. While this is a more realistic number than in previous budgets, it is still $30 million less than the actual $100 million five-year average cost of snow and ice removal

3. The 2013 Transportation Finance Act set aside $80 million for the Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) in FY 2016 so they could provide improved levels of service. Because the Governor’s FY 2016 budget explicitly lists only $40 million for the RTAs, he RTAs should receive an additional $40 million through the MassDOT budget.

4. The budget proposes to allow MassDOT to move funds between MassDOT, MBTA, and RTAs. It is a good idea to permit MassDOT to move a portion of its funds to the MBTA or the RTAs. Transit authorities, however, need fiscal certainty to be able to plan. MassDOT should therefore not be able to remove funds promised at the beginning of the year. Transportation for Massachusetts recommends a revision that would only allow one-way transfers from MassDOT to the transit agencies.

5. The budget for RTAs is contingent on the RTAs making progress on comprehensive service planning, which was an unfunded mandate in the 2013 Act. If RTAs are unable to meet the terms of MassDOT, this provision could become a punitive measure, reducing RTA budgets to FY13 levels.

6. The proposed budget allows MassDOT to seek additional revenue from advertising. It is important that MassDOT be encouraged to diversify and expand opportunities to increase revenue. The recent experience of MassDOT and the MBTA, along with best practices from other transportation agencies, should be instructive in setting realistic expectations for additional revenue from this source.

We look forward to discussing the budget with the Administration and the legislature with the goal of agreeing on prudent investments in our transportation services and infrastructure to support a robust, 21st century economy.

Transportation for Massachusetts is a statewide coalition of 47 member organizations supporting investment and innovation in mobility across the commonwealth. We support policies and programs that contribute to economic growth, public health, sustainability and access to opportunity.

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Presentation to MBTA Caucus: Keeping on Track/MBTA Finances

February 25th, 2015

TRANSPORTATION FOR MASSACHUSETTS MEETS WITH 40 MEMBERS OF HOUSE AND SENATE TO DISCUSS FINDINGS OF LATEST “KEEPING ON TRACK” REPORT AND THE FINANCIAL STATUS OF MBTA

LEADING TRANSPORTATION ADVOCACY GROUP GIVES UPDATES DURING MBTA CAUCUS MEETING

Click here for presentation to MBTA Caucus
Click here for February 2015 Keeping On Track Report

Contact:
Rafael Mares, (617) 850-1739, rmares@clf.org
Kristina Egan, (617) 223-1655, kegan@t4ma.org

Boston, MA, February 25, 2015 – At a MBTA Caucus Meeting yesterday hosted by chairs Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), and Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington), the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and MASSPIRG, members of the statewide coalition, Transportation for Massachusetts, updated lawmakers on the current state of the MBTA’s finances. Speaking to more than 40 members of the House and Senate, along with dozens of aides and staff from other offices, the presenters discussed the findings of their latest report, Keeping on Track: Our Second Progress Report on Reforming and Funding Transportation Since Passage of the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Act of 2013 and the history of the MBTA’s financial challenges.

Rafael Mares, senior attorney at CLF, highlighted that failed revenue and expense projections underlying a 2000 law passed to fund the MBTA resulted in underfunding of the transit agency over the past 15 years. He said, “The MBTA was forced to defer maintenance to balance its budget, which is the root cause of the MBTA’s failure to deliver reliable service during the successive storms that have battered the state.” Kristina Egan, Director of Transportation for Massachusetts, added, “Transportation that fails us costs us. A great city like Boston needs and deserves great public transportation. Our economy depends on it.”

The report itself — the second in a series tracking the implementation of the Transportation Finance Act of 2013 — finds that some important transportation improvements have been made across the state in the last year, although it may take time to for Massachusetts to see the full benefits. However, the amount of revenue raised in the 2013 funding bill is still not sufficient to meet the Commonwealth’s ongoing and future transportation needs or to support the state’s economy.

The speakers reported that legislators should expect the gap between revenues and expenses to continue to widen in the coming years.

– The sales tax dedicated to the MBTA has generated over $1 billion less revenue than projected since 2002. At the same time, fuel and energy costs have increased more than anticipated. This has created years of structural deficits.

– Today, the MBTA carries a total of $5 billion in debt service, with almost one-third of this being debt the state gave to the MBTA in 2000. This has resulted in the MBTA being the most indebted transit system in the nation. Over one-fifth of the MBTA’s budget is dedicated to debt payments each year.

– The MBTA has approximate $3 billion backlog in repairs. Every year repairs are deferred ends up increasing the cost of maintenance. Without new revenues, it’s not possible for the MBTA to adequately prepare itself to provide reliable service.

– The 2013 Transportation Finance Act provided new funding for the MBTA, Regional Transit Authorities, and roads and bridges, but only provided about half the new resources needed to bring the state’s transportation system into a state of good repair.

– The need for reliable transportation continues to grow. In the next five years, between 100,000 and 300,000 riders will join today’s 1.3 million daily users of the MBTA.



Transportation for Massachusetts is a diverse coalition of Bay State organizations working together to create safe, convenient, and affordable transportation choices for everyone in Massachusetts. Our 47 members have expertise in transportation, affordable housing, social justice, public health, the environment, planning and smart growth.

Statement on Governor Baker’s MBTA Special Panel

February 20th, 2015

Transportation for Massachusetts, a statewide coalition supporting affordable and reliable transportation for a more prosperous Commonwealth, welcomes the Governor’s creation of the MBTA Special Panel as a positive step towards improving public transportation service provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

We expect the panel’s collective experience and expertise will provide the Governor and legislature with an important base of knowledge for the critical decisions still to come. We applaud the 30-day time period for conducting the review. It demonstrates the Governor’s commitment to diagnosing the problem quickly so that he and his team can swiftly turn to the important work of implementing solutions.

The Governor has indicated he supports a world-class, 21st century public transportation system. By comprehensively assessing the MBTA’s operations, governance and finances, the Governor will be in a better position to make considered recommendations for the long term, even as the MBTA works on the short term service recovery that is critical to the region and to public confidence.

The panel will be aided by past studies and reports, by access to MBTA staff and by public input and suggestions. Many experts and bi-partisan studies have highlighted chronic underfunding of our transportation as the most critical impediment to improving transit service. We look forward to working with the Baker-Polito administration and the State Legislature to develop both the reforms and revenues needed for a transportation network that is worthy of the Commonwealth.

Download this statement as a PDF

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Keeping On Track: Our Second Progress Report on 2013 Transportation Finance Legislation

February 12th, 2015

For Immediate Release
February 12, 2015

Contact: Rafael Mares
(617) 850-1739
rmares@clf.org

Kirstie Pecci
(617) 529-6101
kirstie.pecci@masspirg.org

TRANSPORTATION FOR MASSACHUSETTS, CONSERVATION LAW FOUNDATION, and MASSPIRG RELEASE REPORT ON PROGRESS OF FUNDING AND REFORMING TRANSPORTATION IN MASSACHUSETTS

Progress report shows habitual under-funding for snow removal and that total amount of funding still insufficient to meet all of state’s transportation needs

Boston, MA – Transportation for Massachusetts, the Conservation Law Foundation and MASSPIRG today released their second progress report on funding and reforms created by the Transportation Finance Act of 2013. The report, Keeping on Track: Our Second Progress Report on Reforming and Funding Transportation Since Passage of the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Act of 2013, finds that significant transportation improvements have been made across the state in in the first completed fiscal year. However, the amount of revenue raised in the 2013 funding bill is still not sufficient to meet the Commonwealth’s ongoing and future transportation needs or to support the state’s economy.

“This month Mother Nature showed us what happens when we mix snow with a transportation network desperate for upgrades,” said Kristina Egan, director of Transportation for Massachusetts. “If we want reliable, safe and modern rails and roads, we need to invest in repairs.”

“Our second progress report measures actual revenues and expenditures against projections for the first fiscal year complete since passage of the 2013 legislation, and finds we fall short a small amount,” said Rafael Mares, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation and co-author of the report. “Watching some of the trends closely, it becomes clear, however, that in future years this gap will grow. Overall, there still is not enough revenue to cover important transportation needs.”

The report finds that:

• Actuals fell $41 million short of projections, a small difference for a budget of over $2 billion, but a difference that will grow larger in years to come.
• Estimates for MassDOT’s ice removal costs ($44 million) were much less than actual costs ($134 million last year, and an average of $80 million per year between FY08 and FY12). Given the record-breaking snowfall this winter, and increased costs for salt, this category will continue to strain budgets in the future.
• The motor vehicles sales tax brought in $32 million more than was projected due to an unexpected increase in car sales. This was a national trend — people delayed purchasing their vehicles during harder times, but it is unlikely to continue at the same rate.
• Prior to any fare increase, the MBTA collected $31 million more in fares than originally projected.

“Over the past year Massachusetts got lucky and the funding gap was narrowed by a boost in MBTA fare revenues and motor vehicle sales tax,” said Kirstie Pecci, staff attorney at MASSPIRG and co-author of the report. “Astronomical snow and ice removal costs, and the loss of anticipated funds from indexing the gas tax will result in a much wider gap in the future.”

Despite insufficient revenue for additional projects in FY14, MassDOT and the MBTA were able to begin a number of capital and operational improvements. For instance:

• A new stop on the CapeFLYER was added to Wareham.
• The MBTA signed a contract for the procurement of Red and Orange Line cars.
• MassDOT plans to build a new commuter rail station in Allston.
• All electronic tolling on the Tobin Bridge was implemented.
• The regional transit authorities, MBTA late-night service, and new and reinstated weekend commuter rail service have been implemented.

However, without additional investment, similar progress in upcoming years is unlikely.

“Keeping on Track” is the second report in a series of reports tracking the implementation of the 2013 Act.

Transportation for Massachusetts is a diverse coalition of Bay State organizations working together to create safe, convenient, and affordable transportation choices for everyone in Massachusetts. Our 45 members have expertise in transportation, affordable housing, social justice, public health, the environment, planning and smart growth.

Welcome to the Berkshire Community Action Council

February 3rd, 2015

Our newest coalition member is the Berkshire Community Action Council, a Western Massachusetts agency with a mission to assist low-income, elderly and working-poor of Berkshire County towards achieving sustainability and self-sufficiency. BCAC has offices in Pittsfield, North Adams and Great Barrington. Transportation is a vital issue for everyone, nowhere more so than individuals and families in smaller towns and cities.

We welcome new members to our coalition!

January 29th, 2015

Transportation for Massachusetts welcomes five new members to our coalition to support transportation investment and excellence all across the commonwealth.

The 495/MetroWest Partnership is a regional public/private collaborative representing 34 cities and towns and scores of businesses and institutions, with a longstanding interest and expertise in transportation issues.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is the regional planning agency for the 32 cities and towns of our westernmost county, and serves as the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The Coastal Trails Coalition is a group of citizens and communities in the Lower Merrimack Valley who advocate for the Coastal Trails Network, a public system of interconnected bicycle and pedestrian trails to enhance local recreation, conservation, education, and tourism opportunities.

The Community Economic Development Center in New Bedtord works towards economic justice in the local economy through people-centered development, connecting youth and adults to skill-building opportunities, and resources. They work with community networks and collaborations to promote cooperative action for social change.

The Hilltown Community Development Corporation serves 21 towns in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties. They work to improve the quality of life for Hilltown residents by addressing economic, housing, educational, social and community needs while preserving the rural character of the area. The communities served all have a population of under 2500 residents.

If your organization wants to work towards affordable, sustainable and reliable transportation solutions that serve us all, please come on board! Contact info@t4ma.org or call (413) 367-T4MA today.

Transportation for Massachusetts Statement on Boston’s Bid for 2024 Olympics

January 20th, 2015

We share the pride of many residents that Boston has been selected as the U.S. candidate to host the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics Games. We also share the concerns of many residents that the Olympics may divert urgently needed resources and attention away from the region’s and state’s challenges.

While there are many questions that have to be answered about the impact that the Olympics will have on Boston, and on Massachusetts as a whole, we know that we cannot host a world-class event without a world-class transportation system. The Olympics will require new arenas, facilities, and housing. These investments will only be effective if we can get visitors and fans to and from events throughout the region.

In 2015, Massachusetts does not have the revenue in place to fund our well-established regional transportation needs, even apart from the extraordinary demands of hosting the Olympics. Nor is funding sufficient to meet other needs throughout the rest of the state. After decades of underfunding, every region of the Commonwealth needs improved transportation, and we cannot retreat from delivering on this need – with or without the Olympics. As a result, the Olympics will not be able to merely rely on existing funding and plans for transportation improvements.

Preparing for the Olympics presents the region with an enormous challenge and potentially with an unprecedented opportunity to improve the region’s walkability, bicycle infrastructure, and public transportation. To do it right, we need legacy investments that will:

– serve the City, Greater Boston, and the Commonwealth for decades to come (not just during the Olympics);
– benefit low-income neighborhoods and communities of color;
– be climate-friendly and climate-resilient;
– ensure full accessibility of our transportation network for people with disabilities;
– and complement, not reduce, investments needed throughout the entire state.

Transportation, housing, and event venue investments should help Massachusetts address long-standing regional and social inequities and achieve the state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets as required under the Global Warming Solution Act. The Commonwealth must also commit to transportation investments that ensure full accessibility to our transportation network for everyone with disabilities.

We call for a comprehensive and equitable plan to pay for the needed transportation improvements and the ongoing operations costs before the Olympics bid is submitted. We also call for robust public engagement that results in concrete actions to advance the transportation, housing, and economic development priorities of the region’s low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Our coalition stands ready to help plan for an Olympics proposal that seeks to advance regional and social equity, reduce climate pollution, and provide a blueprint and identifies the resources for the major transportation upgrades that are so urgently needed throughout the state.

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Statement on Appointment of Secretary Pollack

January 14th, 2015

Governor Baker’s appointment of Stephanie Pollack as Secretary of Transportation shows the Governor’s commitment to reform, and to making transportation policy and project decisions based on good information and in the interests of the entire commonwealth. Our ability to compete and thrive as a state depends on a robust transportation network, and we acknowledge the Governor’s leadership in appointing an experienced professional to guide MassDOT.

Secretary Pollack has a deserved reputation as a well-respected expert in transportation finance, and comes to this important job very familiar with the strengths and challenges in the agencies that she will lead. She is committed to the well-being of the commonwealth’s residents of every station in life, and has consistently supported transportation investments that create economic growth and opportunity, and which complement responsible environmental policy as well as forward-looking economic development strategies.

Massachusetts has a strong leader at the helm of the Department of Transportation, and we applaud Governor Baker for this well-qualified appointment.

Welcome to the Baker Administration

January 9th, 2015

Transportation for Massachusetts looks forward to the leadership of the Charlie Baker Administration. Our priorities are shared in The Next MassDOT, a summary of recommendations to keep the commonwealth moving forward.

Read The Next MassDOT.

Essential reform, adequate revenue and expanded choice are the top line issues.

We are enthusiastic to work with Governor Baker, Secretary DePaola, the legislature and with federal, state, regional and local leaders to keep transportation momentum and improve mobility for all. Read the full document or a summary.