Charlie Baker 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?

Charlie Baker: In prioritizing public transportation projects, I will seek to ensure our existing infrastructure is properly maintained and that any new projects balance economic benefit with environmental impact. I also recognize that people seek more choices in transportation, and that public transportation projects should benefit people across the state, not just in the Boston area.

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?

Charlie Baker: I support investment in transportation, but I do not support spending increasing amounts of money on the system without chasing opportunities for savings and efficiency. We also need a long-term plan for (and commitment to) maintenance of our transportation system so we don’t need to fund more expensive repairs down the road. As governor, I will chase savings and efficiency and engage in long-term planning as we ensure we have adequate funding to meet our needs.

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?

Charlie Baker: Encouraging more people to bike, walk and use public transit is an important goal for many reasons: it reduces traffic congestion (which is good for efficiency, the environment and our mental health), biking and walking are healthier, and it reduces the wear and tear on our transportation infrastructure. However we cannot ignore that for many people, a car is the only way to get from an affordable place to live to their job (or jobs). Improving the economy so there are good-paying jobs available in parts of the state, as well as ensuring there is affordable housing in all parts of the state, will make it more likely that people will have the ability to choose alternatives to driving.

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?

Charlie Baker: It is important that as communities grow, we do not force out or price out those who already call the communities home. The state has a role to play in working with cities and towns to achieve that objective as they invest in and expand their communities. One possibility is pursuing the use of currently unused state-owned land near transit as an opportunity to develop market-rate housing.

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?

Charlie Baker: Encouraging greater use of public transportation, biking and walking will help reduce greenhouse gases from the transportation sector. Encouraging more energy efficient developments and use of renewable energy and green technologies will further help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

I think the state needs to pursue several avenues to achieve a reduction in our carbon footprint. First, we need to continue to chase efficiency through education and technology, and incentivize individuals and businesses to make more energy-efficient choices. Second, we should work with the other New England states to pursue renewable energy sources such as land-based wind and hydro. Third, we should pursue ways to upgrade and improve the grid, also in conjunction with our neighboring states.

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?

Charlie Baker: Ensuring an administration works together to achieve common goals is as much about appointing people who share your vision and are willing to work together to accomplish it as it is about how you organize the cabinet. When I took over as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, I made sure everyone in the organization knew what our mission and our plan were and kept them updated regularly on our progress. We were able to save the company from bankruptcy and make it the number one health plan in the country. I will bring that same style of collaborative leadership to the Corner Office and my administration.

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?

Charlie Baker: We need more housing in Massachusetts and we especially need more housing that working families and young people can afford. Part of the solution is more housing, and pursuing the use of currently unused state-owned land as a cheaper option for the development of housing. Equally important, we have to grow our economy in all parts of the state, so there are good jobs, thriving communities and quality infrastructure in parts of the state where housing prices are within reach of most families.

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?

Charlie Baker: The two main things we need to fix about our state’s planning and zoning laws is that they are too complicated and that they add too much time to the process. As governor, I don’t want to develop a one-size-fits-all plan for municipalities. My administration will work with each municipality to develop a strategic plan for their future and update their regulations as needed.

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?

Charlie Baker: Addressing the mobility needs of those with limited access to public transportation is an important priority. Many communities address these needs in different ways and as governor I would seek to support these efforts rather than devising a one-size-fits-all statewide solution. One of the ways to help communities provide essential services is to provide adequate local aid, rather than cutting it as has happened in recent years. I have pledged to increase local aid at the same rate that state tax revenue increases.

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?

Charlie Baker: Massachusetts is blessed to have many beautiful natural resources, and many passionate people committed to preserving them. The importance of clean air and water, conserving land and habitat and preserving the beauty of our state for future generations – these are not Democrat or Republican values, these are Massachusetts values. I was proud to serve in the Weld administration, which had a pretty aggressive land acquisition policy. As governor, I will work to ensure Massachusetts continues to protect its natural resources and lead the nation in finding smart, innovative ways to not just protect, but improve, our environment.