Jeff McCormick 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?

Jeff McCormick: As Governor, my priority will be to create jobs and increase economic opportunity for all people. Our infrastructure investments play a major role in that effort, particularly with increased urbanization and the important intersection of jobs, housing and transportation. Massachusetts needs to significantly improve its current transportation infrastructure by reinforcing the MBTA system to support the Boston metro economy while making good on its promise to improve regional transit in cities like Brockton, Worcester, and Pittsfield – and repairing roads and bridges throughout the state – in order to support regional economic growth.

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?

Jeff McCormick: Massachusetts needs forward-thinking, sustainable revenue solutions in order to adequately finance our transportation infrastructure. As we strive to reduce consumption through better fuel efficiency and support for auto-alternatives, the gas tax revenue will decrease. This makes the recent increase to the gas tax, indexed to inflation for a set period of time, a necessary but short-sighted solution. Eventually, we need to phase out the gas tax with new revenue sources like scalable, flexible, user-based models such as open road tolling or local revenue raising options.

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?

Jeff McCormick: As someone who runs, bikes and walks as often as possible, I absolutely support instituting an ambitious mode shift goal. The state should aggressively promote biking, walking and public transit because it aligns with our demographic and economic changes, our healthy lifestyle goals, and the need to combat climate change, a large portion of which is related to transportation-sourced pollution.

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?

Jeff McCormick: Transportation-related economic development should be viewed as a state and local partnership where the state can provide direction, technical assistance and infrastructure resources while working closely with city and regional planning organizations, housing groups, developers and other community stake-holders to ensure that all community residents are well served. I strongly believe that given the different profiles and dynamics of each community throughout the Commonwealth, we need on-the-ground, customized development strategies that address each community’s needs and requirements.

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?

Jeff McCormick: I think the Global Warming Solutions Act, as well as the Green DOT initiatives that, in their design, could potentially make Massachusetts a national leader in “greening” the transportation sector, provide some very good direction on transportation and smart growth climate change mitigation strategies. These plans, however, need better coordination among the many partners involved, including local governments, state planning organizations and multiple state departments. We need strong leadership at the state level to make that happen.

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?

Jeff McCormick: I think it is quite obvious that we need far better coordination among executive level offices on all major policy areas. How can we solve cross-policy challenges like climate change, economic development and responsible growth otherwise?

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?

Jeff McCormick: The Boston metro area is clearly facing a housing crisis as limited stock is forcing housing costs to consume a disproportionate percentage of the overall cost of living. The state can show leadership in this area by working with legislators on zoning reform legislation, and working with municipalities on finding the right mix and incentives for density housing as well as market-rate housing, particularly in our small cities that are beginning to attract young, working 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?

Jeff McCormick: The state has a role to play in paving the right path for good, local planning with legislative reform that eliminates antiquated policies that do not align with economic or environmental goals. New legislation is a good first step at giving Massachusetts cities and town’s authority and flexible tools to plan and develop in a sensible manner that is quicker and less costly. Considering regional equity in this area is also important. Often, the towns most in need of smart planning strategies lack the resources to do so, making state technical assistance critical in many areas.

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?

Jeff McCormick: Meeting the needs of those that are less mobile, particularly the elderly where there is a strong correlation between outside interaction and health outcomes should be a major consideration in transportation planning. Service hour extensions and access to stations must be major considerations in the planning processes surrounding the new RTA investments as well as in the prioritization of MBTA investments.

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?

Jeff McCormick: Having grown up in an area surrounded by farms, forests and Native American reservations, I have a deep understanding for the value of our natural resources. As Governor, I would conduct a full assessment of natural resource protection policies that allows us to be smarter about balancing growth with protection. I am certain that with that review, we will create a proactive strategy that may require strengthening regulations and support in some cases and streamlining them in others.