Members of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce constantly point to transportation – improving commutes, reducing congestion, and having a world class public transportation system – as their top policy priority.
To see why the Chamber believes more investment is needed, and what changes must be adopted along with additional investment, you can view the Transportation Policy Agenda here and read on for more information.
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Transportation Policy
Our principles in creating this policy agenda are to give MassDOT, the MBTA, and RTAs the tools they need to execute; use prices to influence behavior; and think about equity in how revenue is raised and how it is spent.
What are the Transportation Challenges?
Economic and population surges in the state are stressing the system.
“[I]t takes drivers longer to travel during the morning peak period than it did five years ago along nearly every roadway segment along the major corridors coming into Greater Boston.”
- Congestion in the Commonwealth, Report to the Governor, 2019, MassDOT
“But travel times have grown in low-density places outside of the Boston region as well…increased roadway volumes are slowing drivers down all over the state.”
- Congestion in the Commonwealth, Report to the Governor, 2019, MassDOT
Historical under-investment in some areas has resulted in poor conditions
Nearly 500 bridges in Massachusetts, totaling almost 12% of bridge roadways, are rated poor.
This is the 4th worst in the country.
The MBTA experiences a disproportionate share of derailments compared to other transit systems nationally. The following image shows just a snapshot of equipment and mechanical delays in the month of September 2019.
We need to adapt to pressures and changes in our climate, economy, and technology.
-Transportation accounts for the largest share of emissions
- Economy and Commerce
-Existing and future job and activity centers
-Shift to e-commerce = more delivery traffic
-80 million TNC rides in MA in 2018
-Mobility as a service (Uber, Lyft, etc)
Future Ready System Needs
The current CIP is limited to planning for climate resilient infrastructure; it does not adapt existing or fund specific climate resiliency initiatives.
Meeting the state’s carbon emission goals in the Global Warming Solutions Act will require widespread adoption of carbon-neutral vehicles for the MBTA and MassDOT. Electrification of the commuter rail may also be required to meet the emission goals.
Bond bill authorizes (but does not commit) $100 million over 10 years for additional municipal roadway funding.
The Commuter Rail Vision project is charged with making recommendations to reinvent the MBTA commuter rail system.
The capital plan does not include funding for construction and, in many cases, design of additional rail expansion projects that have been proposed. This includes the South Station Expansion, Red-Blue connector, additional extensions of the Green Line, and a potential east-west rail connection with Springfield and Boston.
Financial projections show capital and operating gaps in the future, even without additional investments.
The MBTA projects operating deficits of $39 million and $98 million for FYs 2020 and 2021. At the FMCB meeting on October 7, 2019, the FY 2020 projected deficit was increased to $53 million. No updated projection was provided for FY 2021. Source: FY19 Operating Budget, Fiscal Year 2019 Financial Review, Report to Fiscal and Management Control Board, August 12, 2019.
What are the impacts and risks of leaving these transportation projects unaddressed?
“…congestion is now reducing access to jobs in Greater Boston, particularly within I-495…”
Congestion in the Commonwealth, Report to the Governor
“Weather not only wears on infrastructure, but infrastructure has physical reactions to extreme weather conditions.”
Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth
“At the rate of bridge investment proposed by MassDOT does not expect to achieve the 10% condition threshold within the next five years.”
2018 Performance and Asset Management Advisory Council Annual Report
25 other states have increased their investments in transportation infrastructure since 2014.
“[A]n aging and crumbling transportation system is not only slowing Americans down, it’s reducing productivity, undermining our ability to move products across the country and around the world, and increasing congestion and air pollution.”
U.S Chamber of Commerce
What can be done to improve the state of Massachusetts transportation?
The Bond Bill submitted by the Baker-Polito Administration included several changes to improve transportation project delivery. It is important that it becomes easier to get more projects underway and to leverage different types of contracting to achieve necessary goals.
Beyond the Bond Bill, the state of Massachusetts must ramp up capacity and workforce planning; improve oversight and governance; and leverage technology & employers. Just as importantly, we must strategically create future-ready revenues to support a transportation system that meets the needs of residents and businesses.
Project Delivery considerations in the Bond Bill include:
- Public Private Partnerships (P3s) - Agreements with private entities to construct assets that the agency(ies) manage.
- Procurement - Can use a cost-plus-time procurement method for projects.
- Public Bidding - Threshold to increase to $100k.
- Personnel - New positions and job descriptions to effectively manage and execute projects.
- Contracting - Flexibility in contracting, including "best value" options instead of requiring low-cost awards.
- Bulk Job Orders - To perform maintenance and other critical tasks.
- Single Contractors - To be allowed for the full process or any combination of: engineering, designing, building, financing operation, and maintenance of infrastructure, technology, and services.
- Supplement project delivery capacity with broader use of Owner's Project Managers (OPMs).
- Determine obstacles to building internal capacity and determine whether MassDOT/MBTA has ability to make needed changes.
- Implement the changes or determine split between internal/external execution.
Oversight & MBTA Governance
- Retain aspects of the Fiscal Management and Control Board (FMCB) that added the most value, including dedicated board, regular public reporting, and external strategic guidance for the MBTA.
- Staggered terms for the FMCB to provide consistency across general managers and administrations.
- Have a strong general manager system at the MBTA.
- Hold an annual transportation oversight hearing by the Legislature.
- Taxpayer board to ensure spending is executed as designed in the legislation.
Leverage Technology & Employers
- Create an accelerator specifically for using technology to solve transportation problems, modeled after the Transit Tech Lab, a public-private partnership and accelerator in NYC.
- Encourage employer mobility programs. This includes (but is not limited to) transportation management associations, telework programs with flexible hours or shifts, pre-tax transit benefits, ride-share corporate accounts and state programs, and employer mobility challenges.
Future Ready Revenues: Boston Chamber Proposed Investments in Massachusetts Transportation
New revenue should be distributed and linked to specific investment allocations, such as public transit expansion and modernization, climate adaptability, state highways, local roads, and fare balancing for MBTA. The Chamber's recommendations for new revenue are:
- Roadway Pricing
- Cost to be determined based on findings of Roadway Pricing Task Force.
- Gas Tax
- Increase $0.15 over three years, open to an additional $0.02 on diesel.
- Depending of design of the program, a maximum of $0.10, not in lieu of gas tax.
- Increase per ride fee to between $1.20 to $1.70.
- Additional surcharge for luxury rides.
- Additional surcharge during peak travel periods.
- Fee would be passed along to rider.
- Equity, both geographic and social, comes from how revenue is spent as well as how it is raised.
For our full revenue strategy and clarification on proposed tax and fees, you can view the Transportation Policy Agenda here.