With residents of Greater Boston burdened with a multitude of both short-term and long-term transportation problems -- from MBTA derailments to the nation’s worst traffic congestion -- the Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) coalition has outlined a series of strategic initiatives, including a 25-cent increase in the state’s gas tax, and urged policymakers to act on the problems with a sense of urgency.
“There is no silver bullet. We have a set of problems with our statewide transportation system that require a set of solutions,” said Chris Dempsey, Director of T4MA. “Greater Boston has the worst traffic in the country. The recent Green and Red Line derailments cast a spotlight on the ripple effect that is felt throughout the system when issues arise. And roads and bridges across the state are in poor condition. The policy solutions T4MA is offering will mean immediate progress throughout the Commonwealth, and we urge Beacon Hill to closely consider our proposals.”
While Massachusetts’ transportation crisis is not a new development, two MBTA derailments and ever-worsening gridlocked streets have drawn national attention. With the residents and elected officials searching for answers, T4MA has put forth several policy solutions to combat Massachusetts’ crisis:
What Coalition Members Are Saying
“Our transportation system – especially rails, buses, and bridges – suffer from a crushing back-log of deferred maintenance. And we need to improve and expand the MBTA and other regional transit systems, not only to serve transit riders better, but also to get people off the road and alleviate congestion. The Fiscal & Management Control Board has done much to improve the internal management of the MBTA and the state’s transit systems. Now is the time to raise the funds and hire the staff we need to manage a major upgrade to the way we get around – one that serves those who ride the roads and rails, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. Recent incidents make clear that we can delay no longer,” said Marc Draisen, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the regional planning agency for Greater Boston.
“Transportation is the leading source of greenhouse-gas emissions, and we need to enact policies and enable investments that make our transportation system cleaner, while at the same time, creating a more efficient, reliable, and equitable transportation network for everyone,” said Nancy Goodman, Vice President for Policy at the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
“The time is now for the Commonwealth to get serious about transportation equity. We cannot do this without new revenue to invest in more accessible, more reliable, and more affordable public transportation for every region of the state. Transportation is among the most foundational determinants of health, connecting people to medical care, groceries, jobs, education, substance use treatment, and social supports: the resources we all need to be healthy and to thrive,” said Carlene Pavlos, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association.
“Last week’s Red Line derailment is just the latest sign that our transportation system is in crisis,” said Staci Rubin, Senior Attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation. “State leaders have been kicking the can down the road for decades at our expense and it’s time they step up. The MBTA needs significant new revenue and stricter spending oversight if we want a system that actually functions and gets cars off our roads this decade.”
“In just the last month, we've met with people in communities across the state - Cheshire, Lowell, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Great Barrington, and Roxbury - and they want action on safe streets for people of all ages," said Wendy Landman, WalkBoston's Executive Director.
As with all policy areas, T4MA stressed that implementation of these suggested policies must promote socioeconomic, racial, environmental, and geographic equity. Specifically, the policies should be complemented by programs that mitigate cost increases for low-income households through exemptions, credits, and other investments in communities that provide households with lower-cost transportation options.
The policy recommendations put forth by T4MA have yielded positive results in other parts of the country and the world. With the crisis affecting all walks of life, Massachusetts deserves swift and immediate action.
Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) is a diverse coalition of more than 70 member and partner organizations with a stake in improving transportation across the Commonwealth, including business, planning, environmental, and community-based organizations. Our coalition advocates at the state, federal, and local levels for transportation policies that are innovative, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. We want a transportation system that strengthens our economy and our communities, while also being safer, healthier, more affordable and reliable.