Episode 80: The Senate’s surprise (acting) president

Harriette Chandler never had designs on the Massachusetts Senate’s top post, and she readily admits to mixed feelings about landing there. Her unexpected ascension was the result of the scandal swirling around her close ally, Stan Rosenberg, who temporarily relinquished the Senate president’s job last month while an investigation is underway.

Congratulated on her new role of acting president as we kicked off the Codcast conversation, Chandler wondered if that’s the right word.

“I’m not sure it’s congratulations,” she said. “It may be more of a commiseration, but we’re moving right along. This wasn’t expected and it wasn’t wanted.”

Episode 79: Sneak peek at new issue

CommonWealth’s Winter issue comes out Tuesday, but we give you a sneak peek in today’s Codcast. We run down our stories Airbnb, Uber/Lyft, ed reform’s 25th birthday, Worcester’s renaissance, Yvonne Spicer and much, much more.

It’s all pretty easy to follow, but for those of you relatively new to Boston it may help to watch this commercial from 1969 about Prince Spaghetti. Otherwise, you may not understand why I keep yelling out, “Anthony!”

Episode 78: The case for West Station now

In this week’s Codcast, the folks from TransitMatters (Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi) sit down with Jessica Robertson and Ari Ofsevit, two members of the Allston Interchange Task Force (Ofsevit is also a TransiMatters member) to hash out the West Station issue. All of them believe the station needs to be built at the beginning of the development process, so don’t expect a point-counterpoint type of debate. What their discussion reveals, however, is how the debate over West Station has become a debate about the future of the T and commuter rail.

Episode 77: Rosenberg’s fall

Globe op-ed columnist Joan Vennochi, who joined Everhart on the Codcast, said it may not matter whether Hefner actually wielded any influence on Senate matters. “If the accuser thought that Hefner had political influence, and they were afraid they couldn’t do their business before the state because of it, that perception then becomes reality,” she said.

Episode 76: Cashless T won’t leave people behind

There’s been a lot of talk about the MBTA’s plan to install a new fare collection system, most of it focused on the problems associated with going cashless. The concerns were exemplified by a headline in the Boston Globe last week that said: “The MBTA wants to go cashless. What about people who might be left behind?”

A pretty strong response emerged to that question over the weekend. Jim Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation and board member of TransitMatters, said not to worry. In a column (for those who like to read) and a Codcast (for those who like to get a slightly different take by listening), Aloisi explained how the benefits of not using cash on board buses and trolleys far outweigh the minor inconvenience of having to buy a fare before boarding.

Episode 75: Gateway Cities come of age

It was 10 years ago that MassINC launched its Gateway Cities initiative with a report documenting the challenges — and huge opportunities — in the state’s once vibrant industrial cities.

“Massachusetts’ proud, old manufacturing cities must be counted, on balance, as distressed,” it said. Yet, concluded the report, “For the first time in decades, these cities’ reconnection to prosperity seems at least imaginable.”

A decade later, MassINC, the non-partisan public policy think tank that publishes CommonWealth, has continued to carry out research showing some of the pathways to renewed prosperity in Gateway Cities. It has also pushed initiatives to help them get there, such as a MassDevelopment project that has placed mid-career “fellows” with expertise in urban planning and development in Gateway Cities to help with strategic planning, site acquisition for redevelopment projects, and other initiatives.

Episode 74: Filling the news hole

Everyone knows about the retrenchment and redistribution of resources by media outlets, especially newspapers. While some regions have filled the vacuum with blogs purporting to be news but are really opinion pages in disguise, true local news and events often go uncovered.

Episode 73: How reliable is the T? Do we need overnight buses?

The Codcast this week is an MBTA twofer: James Aloisi and Josh Fairchild of TransitMatters make a pitch for an overnight bus service pilot and also interview Matthew Casale, a staff attorney from MassPIRG, about the accuracy of a reliability indicator the T is using.

TransitMatters, along with the communities of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Chelsea, and Revere, has been pushing overnight bus service for some time. The latest iteration of their proposal, bus routes running from Revere into Boston and from Mattapan into Boston every half hour, ran into headwinds at a meeting of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday. Board members thought the subsidy, at $27 per passenger ($22 excluding fixed costs), was way too high and urged more work on the proposal.

Episode 72: Subsidizing congestion

Everyone knows about traffic congestion in Boston. It’s why we’re often late for meetings. It’s why sightseeing firms are paring back their tours because the tourists are spending too much time sitting in traffic. And it’s why many Boston officials are worried Amazon will take a pass on the city — traffic is just too heavy already.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the federal government is subsidizing this congestion. Tax policies approved in the 1970s and 1980s give a break to people who drive to work and park in employer-provided or employed-subsidized parking spots. Normally that type of fringe benefit would be taxed as income, but under federal law employees are granted an exemption of up to $255 a month.

The federal tax break is most valuable to people in the highest tax brackets who are commuting to areas where parking is most expensive. “We’re subsidizing them to drive in precisely the places and at precisely the times that experience the most congestion,” said Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst at the Frontier Group, during a Codcast interview with Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi of TransitMatters.