By Chris Dempsey
Last year, Massachusetts was named the #1 state in the entire country by U.S. News & World Report, thanks largely to our #1 ranking in Education and #2 ranking in Healthcare. But we were ranked #45 in transportation, including placing #47 nationally in both road quality and commute time.
Of course, it doesn’t take a national publication to tell us that transportation in Massachusetts is holding back our economy and hurting our quality of life. Across the state, we see it every day in congested roads, decaying bridges, inadequate regional bus service, delayed trains, and streets that are unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. Massachusetts can and must do better.
Here are three things we are working on in 2018 that will help:
Educating Voters on Two Proposed 2018 Ballot Questions
T4MA will be educating voters about two ballot questions likely to appear before them this November.
- The Fair Share Constitutional Amendment, proposed by Raise Up Massachusetts, would add more than $1.5 billion in new revenue for education and transportation priorities statewide.
- Conversely, a Sales Tax Reduction question, proposed by big box stores such as Walmart and Target, would reduce state revenues by about $1.25 billion, necessitating cuts of about 7% from discretionary state programs, including transportation lifelines such as local bus service in communities outside of the MBTA bus system.
- We will be traveling the state to help educate leaders and citizens about transportation policy, needed investments, and financing. Let us know if you would like to host an event!
Laying the Groundwork for “RGGI for Transportation,” a Regional, Market-Based Approach to Reducing Pollution from Transportation
- The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is among the most effective environmental policies in Massachusetts. Over the last decade, RGGI has helped reduce emissions from power plants by more than 35%, raised hundreds of millions of dollars for energy efficiency programs such as Mass Save, and reduced electric bills for consumers.
But transportation is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The Baker Administration has acknowledged the need to address transportation emissions through an executive order, and held a series of listening sessions to learn more from advocates and the public about what actions Massachusetts can take. T4MA and our allies will be pushing the Administration to advance a multi-pronged approach with a market-based, regional agreement like RGGI as a key building block.
- Please join us on Thursday, January 11th for an important conference that will delve into these issues. We are honored to have Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton joining us to deliver opening remarks at the Future of Transportation Symposium. Register using the code TEMCA2017.
Reducing Traffic Congestion Through Smarter Tolling
- Traffic in Massachusetts is the worst it has ever been. The costs of traffic are immense, and are borne by drivers, businesses, and families and communities along major congested roads. This is an important quality-of-life issue that makes Massachusetts’ economy less competitive.
In addition to advocating for more investment in transit, T4MA will be pushing MassDOT to test proof-of-concept and pilot programs that give drivers a toll discount for driving off-peak, while reducing congestion for commuters (especially bus riders) who need to travel when our roads are in highest demand.This approach has worked well around the world -- it's time to give it a try here.
We look forward to working with you on these and other important goals in 2018. Together, we can build a 21st-century transportation system that lives up to our billing as the #1 state in the country.
Chris Dempsey is the Director of Transportation for Massachusetts