By André Leroux
April 04, 2013
The Legislature dropped its long-awaited transportation plan this week and, to say the least, it was a major disappointment.
The numbers that reflect the needs of our transportation system are real and there is no way to get around them. It will cost $19 billion just to repair existing roads, bridges, and rails. This plan has no way to pay for that. Nor is there funding for major regional projects that will boost local economies and connect more people to jobs. The proposal is also shortsighted in that it has no strategy for increasing walking, biking and public transportation across the state.
While this plan deals a blow to the people who rely on affordable transportation choices like public transit, it hits them again in the future by relying on hefty fare increases in the next few years.
Many of us who care about transportation are asking: Why go so far and yet not finish the job? It’s simply a fact that we need to modernize and improve transportation. Families and businesses are losing time and money to a decrepit, congested system. And, our economy can’t recover and grow if we can’t meet increasing demand on our roads and transit systems and connect different parts of the state through rail and better roads.
Imagine what life would be like today if we had never transformed transportation in the 1950s through the Interstate system. How successful would Massachusetts be if we all had to use Route 9 to get from one end of Massachusetts to another? Undoubtedly, we would have far fewer jobs and far less mobility.
Now, it’s 60 years later. Our society and our economy are transforming, but our thinking about transportation remains in the 1900s.
Automobiles are just one piece of the puzzle, and it’s declining. Today’s economy is driven instead by great places that attract people and investment, and which foster creativity and innovation. MassDOT has finally realized this, and set an inspiring goal of tripling the share of walking, biking and public transportation in the state. Now we need a financing plan that can enable this new generation of infrastructure to materialize and bring our thinking on transportation into the 21st century.
Already, an increasing number of people are isolated because they can’t afford a car and the alternatives are inadequate. One out of eight households in the state doesn’t have a car, and fewer young people are getting drivers’ licenses. These trends will only become stronger in the coming years. We are becoming less mobile as a society because we have old-fashioned notions about getting around, and we are becoming less competitive and losing jobs to other places with better infrastructure.
There is another way. Businesses and young adults especially must speak for the future. The Legislature needs to do better, do the whole job, and fix the entire transportation system.
André Leroux is executive director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance.
Full article: Legislature’s half-loaf for transportation