Kicking the tires on transpo politics
In a wide-ranging discussion about the Bay State’s transportation problems, former congressman Mike Capuano and Kendall Square Association CEO C.A. Webb made their case for new revenue and bold new investments in transit, while Steve Baddour, a lobbyist who previously served as Senate chair of the Transportation Committee, highlighted the plight of car commuters.
In the most recent episode of the Codcast, those three, who have played a vocal role in transportation policy over the years, batted around some other proposed solutions to get people where they are going faster.
Baddour, a Methuen Democrat and lobbyist, said nothing short of a complete reimagining of the commuter rail would get him out of his car for commutes into Boston, but he sees plenty of opportunity in the meantime to speed up travel for those who drive.
“We need a traffic czar here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, someone whose pure focus is through-put, getting people from A to B as quickly as possible,” Baddour said. Much of that person’s focus could be on driver education, as well as the installation of systems to help people merge onto highways, he said.
Automobile traffic doesn’t just slow down other drivers. It also slows down buses, and jams up streets used by bicyclists and pedestrians.
“In greater Boston, I would license bicycle riders,” said Capuano, who acknowledged the idea is controversial.
Webb favors congestion pricing to reduce the amount of car traffic and she wrote a letter urging lawmakers to bring in more revenue for the T so that it can more quickly complete needed repairs and upgrades. Webb also countered Capuano’s call for bicycle licenses, saying that drivers should thank the cyclists on the street because by choosing not to drive, they are reducing their impact on gridlock.
All three had positive and negative things to say about Gov. Charlie Baker’s handling of the situation. Capuano and Webb praised the governor’s attention to the MBTA and his plan to pour $50 million in surplus revenues into the transit agency, but they said that doesn’t go far enough. Baddour praised Baker’s “laser-like focus” on problems at the T, but said that has come at the detriment of the state’s network of traffic-clogged roads and highways.
“Fifty million dollars, it’s a nice gesture. Thank you. It’s totally insufficient. It will not make a dent of difference to the average commuter,” Capuano said. “We need bold action, bold proposals.” “I honestly believe with all my heart that the average voter will support new revenues that are directed towards transportation.”
Capuano echoed the calls for bold plans to reshape transportation in Massachusetts on a scale that hasn’t been seen in decades or longer.
“Who’s going to make the proposal to build the original Green Line today? And the answer is nobody,” said Capuano, who repeatedly brought up the idea of high-speed rail to Springfield as an idea.
Baddour dismissed as little more than political “gimmicks” the calls from some for the governor to actually ride the MBTA himself, but Webb said there would be real utility for the state’s top executive to ride the system he oversees.
Capuano fell somewhere in between the two, saying that ordinarily he would agree with Webb, but the demands for Baker to ride the T have “become a political cudgel and it’s sort of lost its usefulness.”
It is still an open question whether frustration over transportation will mobilize people into the sort of political movement that could usher in new leadership. In a recent MassINC Polling Group survey for WBUR, Boston area residents gave Baker low marks for his handling of the T and transportation but they still overwhelmingly support the governor. This morning, local politicians led by Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu are planning to talk to voters at transit stops with a message that the roughly 6 percent fare hikes that kick in today are unfair. Capuano said transportation is a “building” political issue, and Baddour said the current frustration could create an opening for lawmakers and the governor to agree on a solution.
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Developer George Clements has dropped a proposal to build condominiums for people age 55 and older in Braintree after hostile reaction at a community meeting over traffic and the number of units. (Patriot Ledger)
For Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, who is leading today’s effort to protest the MBTA fare hike, taking on transit issues is just one a laundry list of progressive causes she’s backing that have generated buzz about a potential run for mayor in 2021. (Boston Globe)
Shannon Liss-Riordan takes a page from Kamala Harris, attacking her opponent Sen. Edward M. Markey for his stance on busing in the 1970s. (CommonWealth)
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Juma Crawford and Marisa Meldonian say it’s time to come clean on the abysmal graduation rates of Boston’s two community colleges. (CommonWealth)
On Sunday, Derek Hopkins became the second person ever to grab the flag at the end of a greased-up horizontal pole over Gloucester Harbor on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the St. Peter’s Fiesta. (Gloucester Daily Times)
Christa Kelleher of UMass Boston, who says all the crowded cars on the MBTA subway lines create opportunities for unwanted touching, calls for renewed attention to sexual harassment on the T. (CommonWealth)
Riders say the MBTA downplays service issues on the Stoughton commuter rail. (Brockton Enterprise)
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Unionized bus drivers on Martha’s Vineyard went on strike over the weekend. (Associated Press)
The Lowell Sun proposes putting MBTA fare hikes before the voters as a ballot question. (Lowell Sun)
A Globe editorial calls for an adjustment in the state’s price cap on offshore wind energy.
Local researchers from Clark and Tufts universities cause a bit of a stir with their journal item: A Moral Panic Over Cats. (Conservation Biology)
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Two top state Probation Department officials who were the focus of a patronage hiring scandal nearly a decade ago, Jack O’Brien and Elizabeth Tavares, are suing the former chief of the Trial Court, Robert Mulligan, who they say unfairly targeted them. (Boston Globe)
Police in the Dominican Republic now say $30,000, not $7,800 as previously stated, was the price paid for an attack that authorities say mistakenly resulted in the shooting of retired Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. (Boston Globe)MEDIA
The Vindicator, a newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio, that has been in business for 150 years, is closing down. (Poynter)