Blog: Building up momentum to reinvent regional transit

Monday, April 29, 2013

Letter from MassINC and Transportation for Massachusetts capping off a series of recent forums on regional transit held in Gateway Cities across the state.


Dear Friends:

First off, thank you. With your participation, our series of forums on the importance of investing in regional transit was a success. From our first event in Pittsfield to the final one in Brockton, we found elected officials, business and civic leaders, journalists, activists, and regular citizens who understood the important role that the Commonwealth’s 15 Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) play in the economies of our Gateway Cities.

MassINC’s report, Reinventing Transit: Investing in Regional Transportation Authorities for Strong Gateway City Economies, was a helpful starting point, but what made these events successful were the contributions of our local partners, as hosts, speakers, moderators, and panelists. We are also extremely grateful for the strong press coverage these events received across the state, capped off by this piece in Monday’s Boston Globe.

Both MassINC and Transportation for Massachusetts have long believed that regional equity in transportation finance is an important principle for the Commonwealth and the Gateway Cities in particular. We hope that these forums played a role in amplifying this issue, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Of course, this matter continues to unfold on Beacon Hill. In January, Gov. Patrick proposed $100 million in new annual funding for the RTAs, first to “forward fund” the agencies and then to make service improvements. Since then, the House and Senate have each passed their own, more modest plans, both of which would appropriate $80 million in FY 2014 to forward fund the RTAs, and $12-20 million annually thereafter for service enhancements.

While these additional funds will lead to some immediate improvements, provisions in the legislation requiring all RTAs to perform comprehensive service analyses (CSAs) are equally critical. As participants in the forums noted repeatedly, we lack hard numbers to demonstrate the routes and frequencies required to serve our Gateway Cities and their regions well. CSAs will provide us with these data, setting the stage for a true reinvention of regional transit by positioning authorities to allocate existing funds optimally and informing future efforts to ensure sufficient funding for RTAs.

Herein lies the next step: In the months ahead, residents and local stakeholders should provide their input and encourage others in the community to actively participate in the CSA process. As these assessments are completed, those of us concerned with investments in public transit statewide must work cooperatively to help elevate their findings.

Please stay in touch with us on this topic and other important efforts underway through MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute. Visit the Institute’s blog to sign up for our newsletter.

Again, thanks to you all for helping facilitate these discussions. We look forward to your continued partnership.

Ben Forman
Research Director, MassINC
Executive Director, Gateway Cities Institute

Kristina Eagan
Executive Director
Transportation for Massachusetts