The future of transportation in Massachusetts is multimodal, carbon-neutral, and equitable – or at least should be, according to the panelists at our recent event discussing Choices for Stewardship, the highly-anticipated report released by the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Transportation. The report lays out a vision for mobility in the Commonwealth between today and 2040. (If you missed the event, you can check out a recording of the livestream here!)
Speaking to a standing room-only crowd of more than 400, Commission Chair Steve Kadish and Commission member Ken Kimmell presented on the report recommendations with a particular focus on how we plan for the future in a changing climate. A panel featuring Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, Braintree Mayor and MassDOT Board Member Joe Sullivan, Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, Executive Director of the Tri-State (NY/NJ/CT) Transportation Campaign Nick Sifuentes, and Senior Director of Policy & Public Affairs at Lime Emily Castor Warren shared their insights with moderator Shirley Leung as representatives of the sectors that are key to bringing about the transportation future Massachusetts deserves.
Here’s our take on three of the most important insights from the panel:
-- It’s about people. The phrase “move people, not vehicles” has long been a mantra for advocates and progressive planners, and many were gratified to hear it as the official policy focus for the Commonwealth moving forward. A people-centric approach to transportation starts with recognizing that, on a fundamental level, better transportation makes everything better. The difference between a good and bad transportation experience means stress, lost wages, missed appointments, and less time with family; for a region over time, it can mean a slowdown in growth and an exacerbation of inequities. Putting people at the center of our transportation planning and focusing on why transportation deeply matters to people, and their quality of life, positions us to make choices that benefit the most people in the most places.
-- Success does exist – and we can build on what’s working. Transportation bright spots do exist throughout the state. More communities are offering bike-share, testing elements of Bus Rapid Transit, or getting smarter on appropriately pricing driving and parking. City and state agencies are working together on improvements like transit signal priority and accelerated bridge improvements. Transportation leaders are active in every community, and many never set foot in the State House. When we look to the future of transportation, we aren’t starting from square one, and we should build on best practices here and in other places – even in the face of attractive but untested technology options that promise to solve many of our problems.
-- We need to break down barriers and old thinking. People are going to more places in more ways than ever before, creating a need for new and creative partnerships with the public and private sectors, and at various levels of government. Some of this is due to new technology – e-scooters, TNCs, and autonomous vehicles are certainly testing the limits of state regulations and current street design. But larger forces are in play, such as the evolution away from the traditional 9-5 workday, which calls into question the current structure of our commuter rail system and the need for tolls to be a fixed price, all day every day. Future needs for transportation will be flexible, and our policies should be, too.
We’ll be drawing on these lessons in the year ahead as we advocate for better and smarter transportation policies statewide.
We are grateful to the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts for co-sponsoring the event with us, and to the members of the Commission, whose report includes a set of 18 recommendations and excellent set of background material.
Here are some social media posts from the event!