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February 6th, 2015

Please sign up today!

By now, you’ve seen plenty of articles, pictures, and tweets about the MBTA’s breakdown in this week’s snowstorm, along with mammoth traffic jams, detours and delays across the state. After many years of underfunding transit maintenance, upkeep and upgrades, a crisis like this was bound to happen.

Our elected officials need to hear from residents frustrated with the state’s massively underfunded public transit system. Will you add your name to the growing list of MA residents who want reliable and safe public transportation, roads, and sidewalks?

For workers, students, families, seniors and visitors all across the state, our MBTA and regional transit service must be improved and maintained to operate regardless of the weather. Winter conditions have exposed the worst of our transit systems, but regular riders know that we face unreliable bus and train service every day. Can you sign our petition and make sure the Governor and state legislature hear your voice?

Our public transit systems get us to school, to work, and back home to our families. Let’s take this opportunity to remind our elected officials that our state deserves a transportation system that can weather storms. Sign our petition to request sufficient funding for transportation.

Buying a Charlie Ticket should not be like buying a lottery ticket and getting around safely and on time should never be a game of chance. With the support of thousands of residents all across Massachusetts, we will succeed in making investments to improve and maintain the trains, buses, roads, sidewalks and bikeways that we rely on for our daily lives.

Thank you for making your voice heard.

Don’t Give Up Vital Transportation Funding

October 16th, 2014

By Bonnie Biocchi and Joshua Ostroff

Guest Columnists in the MetroWest Daily News

(The following column was published on October 12, 2014: see original)

On Nov. 4, voters will choose a path that affects our roads, bridges, transit systems and economy. We urge you to vote No on ballot question 1.

Here’s why. Our transportation network – the streets and sidewalks, trains and buses, and the bridges, highways, tunnels and tracks we rely on every day – is in disrepair. Not all of it, but far too much.

Inadequate, unreliable transportation harms every one, every day, in MetroWest and across the Commonwealth. Traffic jams. Detours. Crowded trains. Infrequent buses. Bad roads that cause car repairs. And lost opportunity, because business expansion requires access for employees, customers and freight.

That’s all real, but it’s not the worst of it.

Too many of our bridges are unsafe. You can see this with your own eyes, with visible rust and decay, and worse rot lurking beneath, detected through regular inspections. Numbers tell the story: 28 closed so far, 487 structurally deficient – and statewide, over half are deficient or obsolete. Not a month goes by without another bridge restriction, and that affects all of us.

Bringing transportation up to a safe standard, and preparing for our future needs, requires dedicated revenue. But Question 1 would eliminate funding for critical projects at a time we need it most.

The state legislature’s 2013 vote to index the gas tax to inflation was necessary to ensure that the state and cities and towns have the funding to fix unsafe bridges and dangerous roadways, and solve the transportation nightmares that have plagued MetroWest for years.

Should the legislature take a vote every year on the gas tax? It’s a fair question, but bad policy. Bridges are not gallons of milk, where you run out to the store when you run low. They take years to fund, plan and build. And a yearly vote on the gas tax is wishful thinking, because the last increase in the gas tax was 22 years ago, over which time the gas tax lost 42 percent of its buying power because of…. drum roll, please…. inflation.

If the Legislature had voted on transportation revenue based on actual need, we would not be in this mess. In 2007, a report commissioned by the Legislature pegged the transportation repair tab at $1 billion a year. Instead of tackling that problem right away, we waited until 2013. By then the costs had run even higher, because older infrastructure costs more to maintain.

Question 1 proponents claim that gas taxes are diverted from roads and bridges. Yet the state constitution dedicates gas tax money to all transportation, and investing in transit reduces highway decay while protecting the environment, the economy and our health.

Question 1 supporters oppose what they call an automatic tax increase. Revenue from most other taxes – sales, income, capital gains – rises with inflation. The gas tax is unique because it is a fixed rate. If the gas tax were a percentage, this would be moot.

Finally, some question 1 supporters call this a raid on your wallet. Consider that gas tax indexing, which will add half a cent per gallon, will cost the average family five dollars a year. That’s a minimal investment for the peace of mind that comes with a concerted approach to roads and bridge repair.

So it comes down to this. These are everyone’s bridges, everyone’s roads, everyone’s transit and therefore, everyone’s issue. The indexed gas tax is the best tool we have to solve a serious and growing crisis. For our safety and to ensure our economy continues to grow, the responsible choice on November 4 is to vote NO on Question 1.

Bonnie Biocchi is the president and CEO of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce. Joshua Ostroff is Outreach Director for Transportation for Massachusetts, a non-profit coalition, and is chair of the Natick Board of Selectmen.

Complete Streets Funding Announced

August 20th, 2014

August 20, 2014 – At today’s meeting of the Healthy Transportation Compact Meeting, MassDOT announced an initial investment of as much as $5 million in funding for the critical Complete Streets Certification Program. The funding provides competitive funds to cities and towns to help residents walk, run, and bike more safely.

This will result in better health for Massachusetts residents, who will have more opportunities to be active, thus reducing the level of chronic disease. This is especially true in low-income communities, which currently have fewer places, sidewalks, and bikeways for residents to safely be outdoors and be active. It also supports the state’s goal to triple the number of people that walk, bike and take public transit.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA), two of Transportation for Massachusetts’ member organizations, were strong advocates for this funding.

“This is a fabulous commitment of funds to make streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists throughout Massachusetts. Municipalities across the state have either passed a Complete Streets policy, or have the desire to develop one, but lacked funding to do so. We know a lot of cities and towns that will use these funds to make these streets safer,” said Marc Draisen, Executive Director of MAPC.

“Making it safer and more inviting to walk and bike will improve public health. This is a victory particularly for low-income communities since complete streets are an essential tool to address health inequities. More complete streets will help reduce pedestrian fatality rates and increase options for safe physical activity and better access to jobs, education, and healthy foods,” said Rebekah Gewirtz, Executive Director of MPHA.

Other organizations championing this complete streets investments included WalkBoston, Livable Streets Alliance, MassBike, Massachusetts Alliance of YMCAs and the American Heart/American Stroke Association, and the Act FRESH coalition, led by MPHA. Senators Harriette Chandler and Jason Lewis were strong supporters of creating this initiative.

“This gives our cities and towns the funding to meet the needs of current residents and to attract new ones,” said Kristina Egan, Director of Transportation for Massachusetts. “We thank the members of our coalition and Act FRESH for shaping the certification program, and we are grateful to the legislature and MassDOT for their leadership in funding this safety and health initiative.”

Download this release as a PDF

T4Mass Members Weigh in on Question 1

August 8th, 2014

Recently, Tim Brennan, Executive Director of T4Mass member organization the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, appeared on WLLP 22News’ inFocus to discuss Question 1, a ballot initiative that would repeal gas tax indexing.

Brennan highlighted the importance of maintaining the buying power of our gas tax, which goes to a dedicated fund for transportation infrastructure. There is a backlog of maintenance projects in the Pioneer Valley so maintaining a steady revenue stream is critical to protecting the safety of the roads and bridges residents travel over.

Scroll to the 18:02 mark to hear Tim Brennan’s take on this critical issue in the November election, and click here to learn more about the campaign.

Moving Massachusetts Forward – now online!

June 6th, 2014

If you couldn’t make Moving Massachusetts Forward, the candidate forum we co-hosted with the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, you can still watch this great event online. Watch here: Moving MA Forward (on Youtube). Thanks to all who attended and worked to create a memorable program!

South Coast Today Op-ed: Complete streets create more complete communities

February 26th, 2014

In its version of the Transportation Bond Bill, the Massachusetts House of Representatives took a significant step forward to improve communities across the commonwealth by including the Active Streets Certification Program thanks to the leadership of New Bedford state Rep. Antonio Cabral in his role as chairman of the House Committee on Bonding, and Rep. Jason Lewis as the original filer of the bill. If passed in the final version of the bond bill, this program will help cities like Fall River and New Bedford build and improve streets that will promote walking, biking and public transportation options that will have a significant positive impact on people’s health and the economy in every community.

Historically, we have designed for the car first, pedestrians second and maybe some thought — if any — to bicycles. Today, there is a growing movement toward improving the streets in our communities to provide alternatives to the car. It is called “Complete Streets.” Complete Streets are streets that work for everyone by balancing a variety of transportation options. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit riders and cars.

Complete Streets bring myriad benefits to all communities whether urban, suburban or rural, and they help make people and economies healthier. When sidewalks and bike lanes are improved and made an integral part of the streetscape, pedestrians and bicyclists are safer and more likely to walk and bike when they go to work, shopping and school. And, when public transit options are better integrated into these complete streets, people can get to their bus or train station easier by safely incorporating walking and biking into their commute.

The burden of incomplete streets is particularly high in low-income communities and communities of color, where the car ownership rate is much lower than average. Unsafe streets and lack of transportation options in these communities lead to higher pedestrian fatality rates, higher transportation costs, poor air quality, and barriers to opportunity that stand in the way of health, education and prosperity for too many Massachusetts residents.

By creating safer and better sidewalks, bike paths and connections to public transit, we can encourage more people to choose “active transportation” like walking and biking that leads to healthier living. Providing more transportation options reduces reliance on cars, which in turn makes our roads safer from pedestrian accidents while reducing pollution. Creating complete streets in our communities also provides safer and improved mobility for seniors and people with disabilities.

Better design encourages people to walk and bike through their communities, where they are more likely to focus on, and drop in to, local shops and restaurants and spend their money in town rather than somewhere else. This, in turn, draws more businesses that provide vitality and revenue to the community. Cities and towns that have more walkable streets are also able to draw in more visitors to their retail areas, as well as boost property values as prospective home buyers look for a community that is both attractive and supports a better quality of life.

The $50 million Active Streets Certification Program currently in the House version of the transportation bond bill would encourage cities and towns across the commonwealth to implement Complete Streets policies by creating a small grant program. Communities would become eligible after passing a Complete Streets bylaw or ordinance in addition to taking several other actions.

Last November, more than two dozen mayors, town managers and other municipal leaders from urban, suburban and rural areas called on legislators to include this incentive program in the Transportation Bond Bill.

People and communities are realizing that there are more ways to move around than simply getting in the car. Younger professionals want to use public transit and bike or walk as part of their commute. Parents want their kids to walk to school to be healthier and have more time away from screens. Seniors want to walk safely and easily to their corner store, friends’ or house of worship. And, businesses want people to notice them and stop in.

All of these activities can be achieved by making the streets that run through our cities and towns Complete Streets. The Senate now has the opportunity to help communities make major improvements that will benefit all residents and businesses by including the Active Streets Certification Program into the final version of the transportation bill.

The Massachusetts Public Health Association, Transportation for Massachusetts, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and many other groups worked with the House to include this program and now we ask that the Senate pass it as well. Complete Streets create complete communities for everybody.


See full article: Complete streets create more complete communities

Mayor Curtatone’s Call to Action

September 24th, 2013

Mayor Curtatone has a persuasive piece calling on us all to work together to invest in transportation all across Massachusetts to grow our economy. Here’s the beginning of the piece – we hope you’ll read the rest at Cognoscenti.


“According to legislative leaders, the short and controversial life of the “tech tax” — the state’s proposed levy on software services — willsoon come to an end. After a full-throttle revolt from the innovation sector, all parties — including the governor — agree the existence of such a tax would weaken the power of Massachusetts as a magnet for entrepreneurs and innovators.”

Read more…

Boston Globe: Packed transportation forum touches on the T, parking, and ‘cycle tracks’

September 19th, 2013

By Martine Powers

September 19, 2013


Who knew transportation fanatics could pack a house?

At a Tuesday night candidate forum at Boston Public Library on transportation and livable streets, more than 450 people filled an auditorium — and more were turned away from the overflow room — to watch eight of the race’s 12 candidates spar on issues ranging from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, minimum parking requirements, Seaport District traffic, speed limits, bus lanes, the state’s transportation finance plan, and, of course, the oft-discussed separated bike facility known as the “cycle track” — perhaps the most popular topic of the night.

It started with City Councilor John Connolly, who named the cycle track on Allston’s Western Avenue, a stretch of bike lane physically separated from cars, as one of his favorite places in Boston: “I have biked it,” he said, “and it was a very enjoyable 45 seconds.”

City Councilor Felix G. Arroyo hopped on the bandwagon, declaring that “cycle tracks are not a choice; they are a need.”

And pretty soon, cycle tracks were fodder for some of the night’s funniest Twitter jokes, with one audience member declaring, “If #CycleTracks had been in the #BosMayorDrinkingGame, we’d all be dead.”


Candidates Charlotte Golar Richie, Robert Consalvo, Daniel F. Conley, and David James Wyatt did not attend the forum, which was sponsored by more than two dozen local organizations dedicated to transportation and development issues.

State Representative Marty Walsh promised to lower the speed limit on Boston streets, declaring that 30 miles per hour is too fast for a densely populated city.

John Barros lambasted him — and, indirectly, current mayor Thomas M. Menino — for failing to pass a more extensive transportation finance package that could have dispensed more money for better MBTA service in Boston.

“Boston didn’t have a plan. We didn’t have a voice. We didn’t really say anything about it,” Barros said.

Connolly and City Councilor Michael Ross agreed on their willingness to lower minimum parking requirements in some neighborhoods, and most said they would consider instituting a modest fee for resident permit parking passes.

Ross went on to declare that he would revive the Night Owl, the MBTA late-night bus service that operated for a few years in the early 2000s before it was shut down by budget cuts.

“I promise you, I will bring that back,” Ross said.

Charles Clemons, a local radio show host, said improving the community decision-making process for new developments and transportation infrastructure was one of his goals.

“The Clemons administration will be totally transparent, we’ll bring everyone to the table, and when it comes to bicycle lanes and pedestrians, we’ll put them number one,” he said.

Bill Walczak, who co-founded the Codman Square Health Center, also railed against the State House’s moves on transportation funding — “it’s a lousy bill,” he said — and said he would use a position as mayor to eliminate food deserts, offer more green space, and keep out casinos.

“We do a terrible job in the city of Boston in regard to master planning,” Walczak said.

And City Councilor Charles C. Yancey proclaimed that he, more than any other candidate, would be successful in lobbying for more state funds to pay for late-night T service and improved service on the Fairmount commuter rail line that runs through Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park. It was a bold claim, considering that Richard A. Davey, the state’s secretary of transportation, sat smack-dab in the middle of the front row in the audience.

“Every time I see Secretary Davey,” Yancey said, “he leaves with $10 million less in his pocket.”

Full article: Packed transportation forum touches on the T parking and cycle tracks

State House News: Dem Lawmakers on Fence Amid Squeeze on Tech Tax

September 19th, 2013

By Andy Metzger
State House News Service

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 12, 2013…While Gov. Deval Patrick believes legislative leadership is “trending” toward a repeal of this summer’s tax on software design services, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Wednesday he needs more time to weigh the issue.

“I don’t think any final determination has been made. We’re still in the process of talking to some folks,” DeLeo told the News Service on his way to a firefighter memorial service.

In a major shift, Patrick on Tuesday said he no longer supports a controversial sales tax on software design services, calling it a “serious blot” on the state’s reputation that should be repealed and replaced with another source of new revenue to support transportation investments.

Patrick has said new revenues would need to replace the estimated $161 million the tech tax is supposed to bring in, a position some Democratic lawmakers have also advocated.

Republican lawmakers have argued the roughly $161 million budget hole created by repealing the tax could be absorbed in the $34 billion budget through efficiencies, and Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer said the hole could be plugged with the surplus from the last fiscal year or one-time revenues bound for the rainy day fund.

DeLeo said determining whether replace the revenue source would follow after his decision on whether to keep the tax, saying, at that time, “I’ll be in a better position to decide what if anything would replace.”

As concern mounted through the summer that the tax could hamper the growing technology sector, drawing in as much as $500 million, House and Senate lawmakers directed the Department of Revenue to limit the parameters of the tax and said they would monitor whether it is exceeding the revenue targets.

The tax code change applies the 6.25 percent sales tax to custom modifications of off-the-shelf software and network services. Republicans and some Democrats have called for a repeal, as a group aims to put the tax to voters on the 2014 ballot.

With the new tax in play, some representatives said they are determining whether limiting the tax is a sufficient response to its potential impacts on technology businesses in the state.

“As an individual member, of course, I’ve looked at it in terms of whether the language sufficiently one: makes clear a limited application of the sales tax; and then two, whether as some of the business advocates have indicated as a taxing policy it makes sense for Massachusetts,” House Transportation Chairman William Straus told the News Service Tuesday.

The $500 million tax bill boosted by 3 cents the gas tax, providing a revenue stream for transportation funding, and sequestered sales tax revenue from motor vehicle purchases to fund transportation, while increases in tobacco taxes and the computer services tax revenue bolstered the state’s General Fund.

A Mattapoisett Democrat, Straus said discussions of potential replacements for the tech tax are premature.

“I think it’s early to be talking about alternatives versus fixes. This is a discussion that’s going on right now, and one in which I’m not sure there’s even unanimity in the business community,” Straus said.

Patrick, who had proposed a $1.9 billion tax package that included broader tech service taxes, vetoed the legislation that eventually became law with two largely party-line overrides in the House and Senate.

Senate President Therese Murray, DeLeo and Patrick met last week with technology industry executives, and in subsequent statements were non-committal about what steps might be taken regarding the new tax.

Rep. Denise Provost, a Somerville Democrat who favored sending more money to transportation, was one of several Democrats to join Republicans in a 54-95 April 8 vote, less than a week after the funding proposal had been unveiled, to strike the tech tax from the bill.

“Even at that point I had heard from enough folks,” Provost told the News Service. She said, “I think that we would have to replace the revenue in order to repeal the software tax.”

Transportation for Massachusetts Director Kristina Egan suggested a potential replacement of the tech tax with a gas tax that funds transportation, perhaps coupled with returning motor vehicle sales tax revenues to the General Fund.

“We’re mostly concerned that transportation funding is held harmless,” Egan told the News Service, saying a $161 million budget hole would over time create pressure on lawmakers to “ramp down” funding for transportation. She said, “We’re getting our message out that we need to find a replacement before any repeal happens.”

Before legislative leaders settled on their preferred method for boosting transportation financing, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation backed a larger, phased-in 15-cent increase to the gas tax, and Egan said gas tax increases that go toward transportation improvements have public support.

Senate President Pro Tem Richard Moore, an Uxbridge Democrat, has said the Senate will consider the tech tax in the fall, and House members have said the new tax is an area of concern.

“I’m very concerned,” said Rep. Alice Peisch, a Wellesley Democrat who is House chairwoman of the Committee on Education. She said, “I certainly need to know more about what the impact would be on the transportation infrastructure bill” and said lawmakers would “need an alternate revenue source.”

Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat who is chairman of the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight said he has received many calls from technology businesses in his district.

“I’m concerned that it’s been difficult to implement,” Linsky said. Asked whether he backed a repeal, Linsky said, “I don’t know yet. I need to make sure that we have sufficient revenue.”

DeLeo and Murray met Thursday morning in DeLeo’s office with business community leaders.




AP: Hundreds of bridges await repair in Mass

September 15th, 2013

By Bob Salsberg

September 12, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — Democratic legislative leaders agreed Thursday to repeal an unpopular new technology tax and said they would not propose any other taxes to make up for the lost revenue.

‘‘It is now evident that the impact of the tax is broader than any of us ever anticipated or intended,’’ said Senate President Therese Murray, who made the announcement at a news conference with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and several state business leaders who had criticized the 6.25 percent sales tax on computer and software services.

A bill to repeal the tax, part of a transportation financing package approved in July, could be voted on within weeks, the lawmakers said.

Gov. Deval Patrick has said he was open to repealing the tax, which state officials had estimated would generate $161 million in the fiscal year that began July 1. But the governor has also insisted that an alternative source of revenue would be required if the tax was eliminated.

DeLeo made clear Thursday that would not be the case.

‘‘I want to emphatically say: There is going be no proposal of any new taxes to make up for this revenue,’’ he said, adding that he anticipated no state budget cuts as a result of the repeal.

Instead, the lawmakers said they would look to a surplus from last year’s state budget and early projections of a surplus in the current year spending plan, along with one-time corporate tax settlements, to make up the difference.

Patrick said Thursday that he would wait until he saw the exact wording of the legislative proposal before deciding whether to support it, adding that it must be fiscally responsible and sustainable.

The outcry from technology companies appears to have caught state leaders off guard, prompting the highly unusual move to wipe away a tax that has only been on the books for weeks.

Murray and DeLeo stopped short of accepting blame for the misstep, noting that the proposal had been circulating on Beacon Hill for months with little or any negative feedback, and that the tax had actually been endorsed by some large business groups after the Legislature scaled back an earlier version proposed by Patrick.

‘‘We did our due diligence,’’ said DeLeo. ‘‘We actually did spend quite a bit of time and study and research into the ramifications of the tax.’’

It was only after the state budget had been finalized that business leaders began to speak out strongly against the tax, the lawmakers said.

‘‘We in the business community underestimated the negative impacts of this tax,’’ acknowledged Dan O’Connell, president of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, at Thursday’s news conference.

The strongest opposition emerged from smaller software firms that said the tax was vague and confusing and could prompt them to shed jobs or send business to other states. Florida Gov. Rick Scott even used the tax in a pitch to woo Massachusetts businesses to relocate to his state.

Patrick and legislative leaders expressed concern that the controversy surrounding the new tax was creating a perception that Massachusetts had become a less friendly environment for innovative technology firms that had long been viewed as a pillar of strength for the state’s economy.

‘‘The reputation damage that we have suffered will take time to repair,’’ said Chris Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Tech Council, who urged lawmakers and the governor to engage with industry leaders on way to spur growth in the technology sector.

Kristina Egan, head of Transportation for Massachusetts, said the independent group was concerned about future shortfalls in transportation funding if the tax is repealed without a permanent replacement for the lost revenue.


Full article: Hundreds of bridges await repair in Mass