Steve Grossman on Transportation and Smart Growth

Transportation for Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance invited all candidates for governor to complete a questionnaire on important issues that will require leadership from the next governor.


1. What are your transportation investment priorities across the commonwealth?

Steve Grossman: I fully agree with Governor Patrick’s priorities: we must make robust investments in transportation and infrastructure in order to secure a dynamic economic future. Massachusetts needs a carefully crafted long-term strategy that serves every region of the state and leaves no one behind. It must encompass priorities such as new rail cars for the MBTA, careful attention to deferred maintenance, extending the Green Line to Somerville and Medford, modernizing South Station, South Coast Rail, enhanced rail service to Cape Cod and Western Massachusetts, and ensuring that our regional transit authorities (RTAs) are financially secure. In everything we do, we must make investments that reduce our carbon footprint and encourage our residents to maximize the use of public transportation. I believe that a comprehensive transportation strategy will motivate countless families to live in close proximity to public transportation, which is critical for implementing a smart growth strategy.

2. The Transportation Finance Act, passed in 2013, dedicates an average of $600M a year in new transportation revenue to our transportation system through FY18. Experts such as the bipartisan Transportation Finance Commission estimate that we need double this level of investment to bring our transportation system into a state of good repair, nevermind making the capacity improvements needed to support future economic development. How would you, as Governor, work to ensure adequate and stable funding to meet our needs?

Steve Grossman: When it comes to financing this transformational agenda, I will utilize the funding from the transportation bond bill but will also look to other sources. When the U.S. Congress passes legislation requiring Internet companies to collect sales taxes and bring in more than $250 million in annual revenue, growing by about 8 percent per year, I believe we should invest those resources primarily to fund our transportation agenda. As governor, I will vigorously lobby the U.S. House to pass this legislation. It has already passed the Senate with overwhelmingly bipartisan support. Passing this bill will level the playing field for retail businesses right here in Massachusetts and provide a critical source of revenue to invest in our infrastructure. Ensuring the gas tax remains indexed to inflation is also a key source of revenue.

3. Do you support the commonwealth’s mode-shift goal to triple the number of trips made by biking, walking and public transit by 2030? If so, what will you do to help the state meet this goal? If not, what are your suggestions to increase trips by public transportation, biking and walking?

Steve Grossman: Yes, I fully support this goal because it’s critical to achieving the goals of the GWSA, particularly when transportation accounts for 37 percent of our GHG emissions. I will enforce the Department of Transportation’s new policy directive that all state projects expand bicycling, transit, and walking options.

Once again, we must look at our transportation agenda as a crucial ingredient in a smart growth strategy. We need to break down the silos in government and ensure that all regional planning is done with housing, economic development, transportation, and job creation goals in mind.

This must be a carefully crafted long-¬term strategy that serves every region of the state and leaves no one behind. It must encompass priorities such as new rail cars for the MBTA, careful attention to deferred maintenance, extending the Green Line to Somerville and Medford, modernizing South Station, South Coast Rail, enhanced rail service to Cape Cod and Western Massachusetts, and ensuring that our regional transit authorities (RTAs) are financially secure.

In everything we do, we must make our investments in a manner that does everything possible to reduce our carbon footprint and to incentivize our residents to maximize the use of public transportation.

4. Public transportation investments and development around transit stations are critical to the growth of Massachusetts. But an often unwanted side-effect of gentrification is displacement of long-time residents. What policies would you implement to help minimize displacement, especially of low-income and disabled residents?

Steve Grossman: Economic growth that leaves no one behind must include investments in affordable and middle-income housing, transit-oriented development, and workforce training to close the skills gap and fill middle-class jobs. As we transform communities across the Commonwealth, we must also continue to celebrate the fabric, culture, and diversity of all neighborhoods. As governor, I’ll work to end discrimination against people with disabilities so they can find jobs and live in their own homes with dignity and independence. Protecting the ability of low-income and disabled residents stay in their own communities is critical to building One Commonwealth that leaves no one behind.

5. What steps will you take as Governor to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation sector and through smart growth to reach the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets required in the Global Warming Solutions Act?

Steve Grossman: I am fully committed to achieving the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act – reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. While I’m deeply proud of our progress so far, I remain deeply aware and concerned about the challenge we face. We must still achieve a 14 percent further reduction in GHG emissions to meet our 2020 goal. We can do this by promoting efficient heating and cooling technologies combined with efforts to increase our use of electric vehicles and cut our use of carbon heavy fuels for transportation. Transportation, along with heating and electricity, accounts for the largest source of GHG emissions. As we implement the Governor’s ambitious 10 year transportation plan, it will motivate or incentivize large numbers of our fellow citizens to switch their mode of transportation from their automobiles to public transportation, thus significantly reducing the use of fossil fuels and our carbon footprint.

As governor, I would work closely with EEA to ensure we continue to build clear performance metrics as outlined in the Clean Energy and Climate Plan (CECP) for 2010. My administration will adopt a comprehensive review of licensing and permitting by all state agencies to ensure that the impact and consequence of GHG emissions are taken into full account. We can no longer approach GHG emissions by working in silos in government. If we’re serious about meeting our goals, we must evaluate all state policies surrounding economic development, housing, and transportation, always considering the full impact of GMG emissions.

While our current progress is noteworthy, in order to remain on track for our 2050 goal, we must also reach out to low and middle-income residents to ensure we don’t only focus on those living in affluent communities. Encouraging all Massachusetts residents, not just the wealthy, to participate in energy savings programs is critical to meeting our 2050 goal. Public¬‐private partnerships that make home energy audits more affordable can play a key role in turning this goal and vision into a reality.

6. To make Massachusetts more livable and successful, we would encourage the next Governor to break down agency “silos” and organize her or his cabinet to collaboratively establish and achieve economic, housing, transportation, environmental, public health and climate goals. How would you organize the executive branch to achieve these cross-cutting goals?

Steve Grossman: Far too often, government stands as a barrier to economic growth and coordinated sustainability policies because it operates within strict divisions of authority without first trying to build consensus and develop common-¬sense solutions across multiple agencies. I’ll develop a working group, co-¬chaired by secretaries of energy and environmental affairs, housing and economic development, and transportation to work collaboratively on our progress toward both 2020 and 2050 goals, while also boosting job growth in our signature industries, including clean energy.

7. Do you support the commonwealth’s goal of building 10,000 new units of multi-family housing each year? If so, how will you accelerate the state’s work to encourage new housing? How will you ensure that this housing doesn’t contribute to sprawl? If you do not support this goal, what are your plans to meet our housing needs in the coming years?

Steve Grossman: Yes, I fully support the Commonwealth’s goal of building 10,000 new units of multi-family housing each year. I will also explore facilitating public-private partnerships that incentivize developers to sell or lease public land virtually for free, provided they guarantee to build housing and offer rents within reach for low and middle-income families. Currently, state land is generally sold or leased to developers at high costs. This policy would ask the business community to be a partner in a smart growth strategy, a strategy businesses would clearly benefit from in the decades to come.

Soaring costs and a limited supply of housing for low and middle-income households continues to threaten the American Dream for hard-working Massachusetts residents. We must also build innovative types of housing to enable the rising number of seniors to live in safety and dignity, and to enable those seniors who want to sell their large homes to have a range of viable alternatives. In the process, more single-family homes will become available for purchase by younger families. The connection between available, low and middle-income housing and job growth is undeniable.

We’ve been deeply hurt by the dramatic reduction of federal housing vouchers and a shift to a two year housing voucher program, which should return to three years. In addition, I would make it a top priority to utilize the housing bond bill to renovate as many unlivable units of housing as possible.

8. What reforms would you like to see to the commonwealth’s outdated planning and zoning laws? How would your administration encourage or incentivize municipalities to plan for future growth and development and then update their regulations to allow for that to occur?

Steve Grossman: In order to best serve the needs of Massachusetts workers and their families, the majority of housing units required over the next several decades will be multi-family units in urban settings or in smart growth locations near transportation and community services. By reducing overly burdensome regulations and accelerating the zoning approval process for these units, the state can encourage developers to invest in Massachusetts.

The young people who comprise our future workforce have demonstrated a strong interest in residing in urban communities and smart growth locations. In contrast to the 1990s, over the last 10 years our Commonwealth saw an increase in young people moving to urban settings and staying there after the age of 30. Even in suburban communities, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council expects that two thirds of all housing needed over the next 30 years will be in multi-family settings.

I believe we should look to our cities and towns for best practices when it comes to expediting the zoning process for multi-family housing. Examples of best practices include work in Lowell, Haverhill, Marlborough, Reading, and Quincy, among other communities. Investing in housing development that encourages the use of public transportation, motivates businesses to expand, and enhances the cultural life of the community are critical ingredients of a smart growth strategy.

9. In Massachusetts, 1 in 8 households do not have a car. People living in these households depend on public transportation. In certain parts of Boston and other cities, there are only limited public transportation options, and this is particularly true in many of the commonwealth’s low-income communities. In rural communities, residents often have such limited public transportation service that people, especially seniors, are housebound. What would you do to try to address these mobility needs? How will you start to prepare for the very significant growth in the transportation needs of seniors?

Steve Grossman: We need a carefully crafted long-¬term strategy that serves every region of the state and leaves no one behind. It must encompass priorities such as new rail cars for the MBTA, careful attention to deferred maintenance, extending the Green Line to Somerville and Medford, modernizing South Station, South Coast Rail, enhanced rail service to Cape Cod and Western Massachusetts, and ensuring that our regional transit authorities (RTAs) are financially secure. Increasing the availability of weekend and nighttime hours for RTAs is critical to developing a 21st century transportation system that leaves no one and no region behind.

10. As Massachusetts has developed over the last 60 years, our homes and jobs have sprawled further and further apart. We have lost farmland, forests and other natural areas. What are your goals as Governor to protect and preserve land?

Steve Grossman: Conserving land is a win for both our environment and our economy, considering that for every $1 of state funds invested in land conservation, we receive $4 in return. The outdoor recreation, tourism, agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries are all key economic drivers across the state, accounting for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs each year.

Building on my commitment to support the green budget, allocating one percent of the state’s budget for environmental agencies and programs, I will commit to spending at least $50 million in capital expenditures on land protection. I will also explore increasing the existing state conservation land tax credit.

Designing and implementing policies to promote land conservation across the state are critical to our environmental and economic future. As we recover from a recession and the pace of new construction begins to accelerate dramatically, we must ensure a balance between development and protection of our greatest natural resources.

I’m proud to have a track record when it comes to financing environmentally sound projects. As treasurer, I was proud to make Massachusetts a national leader when we became the first state in the country to sell green bonds. Last June, we sold more than $100 million in bonds to 154 individual investors and 29 institutions.