Transportation for Massachusetts recently submitted comment letters on the MassDOT Statewide Pedestrian Plan and Focus40, the long range plan for the MBTA. Along with several other coalitions and organizations, we have been engaged with MassDOT and MBTA planners during the development of these forward-looking documents, and we value the opportunity to provide input as these plans move towards final approval and implementation.
Focus40 is the MBTA's long range blueprint for public transportation. It's been in the works for over two years, and the recently published draft is one of the final steps before a final version is brought to the MBTA Board for approval.
A modern, equitable, high-quality, reliable and safe public transit system is the backbone of the Greater Boston region, we are appreciative of the work that has gone into Focus40, by staff, consultants and most of all the public who have participated through meetings, events and comments.
- There are many projects in the plan that will improve the reliability and daily experience for hundreds of thousands of riders, from the light rail and rapid transit lines, to buses, commuter rail and ferries. Improved accessibility and climate resilience are key elements of the plan.
- We credit many of the recent and ongoing reforms at the MBTA for laying the groundwork for these investments to be delivered cost-effectively and with public confidence. And the focus on restoring the core system is prudent; we need a solid foundation for any expansion.
- We think that the plan needs more detail on how projects will actually be delivered. More broadly, the state does not have the financial resources dedicated to capital investment to meet the needs of the region. An explanation of the funding we have available, and its limits, will make Focus40 more useful to policymakers and the public. It will help frame the ongoing discussion between necessary "state of good repair" and appropriate "capacity improvements" - which we think cannot be an either/or choice.
- The decisions on what will be built when, and how, need additional explanation, while there are some important initiatives underway that should be highlighted or recategorized because they address the real-world problems commuters face every day. For example, there are many first- and last-mile initiatives that are in place now; capacity improvements such as shorter Orange Line headways that are key to rider demand; and some critical expansion projects, such as connecting the Red and Blue lines, that will greatly enhance the value of the MBTA to so many riders.
There's more: please see the T4MA Focus40 comment letter.
The MassDOT Statewide Pedestrian Transportation Plan is a landmark document that will help direct state and local investments, policies and programs to make walking better in Massachusetts. This plan puts walkability in the context of all transportation. Where walking is safe and convenient, it's a choice many people will make, alone or in combination with public transit, cycling and even driving or rideshare. For reasons of health and a healthier climate, walking must be a cornerstone of our transportation network.
The Massachusetts Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, MassDOT staff, consultants and public participants have developed a robust draft plan over the last 2 years. Together with the Municipal Resource Guide, the plan provides a solid basis for local planners and advocates to promote better walking conditions on locally-controlled roads. Among our comments:
- MassDOT and the Governor should encourage walking through planning, funding, design and policy, but also through the messages delivered to the public. State leaders should leverage their influence to promote walking for everybody.
- Develop systems to encourage public feedback for MassDOT assets, as many municipalities have done through mobile applications. Only problems that are reported are corrected.
- Leverage state and federal investments in transportation projects to ensure that they can be safely reached on foot. And build in more incentives for municipalities to upgrade their walking networks. The Complete Streets program is an example of the power of incentives and high standards; the Housing Choice program is an example of aligning worthy goals to encourage better local policies.
- MassDOT should be commended for including winter maintenance plans. Snow and ice that obstruct pedestrians are impediments that can be better addressed through state and local collaboration and best practices.
There's more: please see the T4MA Pedestrian Plan comment letter.