Osgood details mayor’s transportation initiatives

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh made a splash last week by announcing a bunch of new transportation initiatives, some of which were set in motion by the advocacy of Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu.

In a speech to the annual meeting of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau on Thursday, Walsh called for reducing the speed limit on neighborhood streets to 20 miles per hour, providing free T passes to every Boston student at public and private schools in grades 7 through 12, creating two new dedicated bus lane pilots, and testing a new pickup-dropoff spot for ride hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft at the intersection of Boylston and Kilmarnock Streets in the Fenway.

On the Codcast with Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi of TransitMatters, Chris Osgood, Walsh’s chief of streets, detailed the proposals and said a major goal of the city’s new transit team will be to accelerate these types of initiatives. The team currently has two members focused on planning and engineering, but Osgood said it will be expanded to six.

Osgood also outlined the mayor’s legislative goals – one bill allowing regional ballot tax initiatives to raise money for specific transportation projects and another bill placing higher assessments on ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft, which Osgood indicated are taking over the streets of Boston.

“What we’re all struck by is just the volume of Uber and Lyft rides, and TNC rides in general,” Osgood said. “I think it was 35 million [rides] started in the city of Boston in 2017, which is about 96,000 a day – more passengers than take the Blue Line on an average weekday. It’s just a huge number of people who are taking Uber and Lyft, which underscores the role [ride hailing apps] play in the mobility options in this region.”

Wu’s name came up only once during the discussion of Walsh’s initiatives, but some of the transportation measures owe a lot of their momentum to the Boston city councilor.

The push for every student to receive a free T pass, for example, gained momentum when survey research conducted by Wu’s office found the existing pass program – which excludes students who live less than two miles from their school – is discriminatory.

“It essentially creates two classes of students,” the research report said. “One class of students is afforded not only more options to get to school, but also the ability to travel around the city for free during the school year. The other class of students may have to walk up to two miles to get to school and has to constantly consider public transit costs in all their activity choices.”

Dedicated bus lane pilots have become a high priority for the MBTA, and Wu has helped dramatize the need for them through personal advocacy on behalf of the only dedicated lane in operation now – running down Washington Street in Roslindale.

There are also areas where Wu and the mayor disagree. Wu favors charging for residential parking permits, but Walsh opposes that idea. Osgood said the mayor has focused on using parking meter rates and fines to influence the way people use city streets. “In some ways, those two levers are much closer to the way people use city streets than residential parking permits,” Osgood said.

Wu has also led the fight against the MBTA’s proposed 6.3 percent average fare hike, assembling a petition urging the transit agency to leave fares alone and to  embrace congestion pricing and higher fees on ride-hailing apps, both of which have won some support on the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board. She has also come out in support of free fares for everyone.

Walsh, as Osgood points out, is worried about the decrease in ridership a fare increase might cause. “So part of what the mayor has been pushing is to make sure that the MBTA is showing, if there’s going to be an increase, tell us how you’re going to spend that revenue so we understand that we’re not simply getting fewer riders, we’re actually going to get better service,” he said. Osgood also said the mayor wants to see young and old riders shielded from any increases.

Osgood indicated the mayor was not ready to embrace congestion pricing, which would require legislative action. He said Walsh would prefer to focus on issues the city can control to improve traffic flow, such as parking fines and parking meter rates. He said the mayor also believes expanded commuter rail service will reduce congestion. “High quality all-day service – higher frequency service – on commuter rail is essential,” Osgood said.

–BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Chris Oates uses bill sponsorships to trace connections in the State House. (CommonWealth)

Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute say increased educational funding should entitle the state to commensurate control of school committee seats. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told Boston Public Radio he is unhappy with the handling of a case involving the Boston Police Department and an injured construction worker who is in the country illegally. The mayor also claimed the man “had a workers’ comp claim and used a fake name.” (WGBH)

Nova Quincy, a 171-apartment building now under construction, is the first to use pre-made modular building technology in Quincy. (Patriot Ledger)

The credit analyst Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded Lawrence to an “upper-medium grade,” which could make it easier for the city to borrow money and signals a resurgence from its near junk bond status a decade ago. (Eagle-Tribune)

Big housing development proposals for the Readville section of Hyde Park have unsettled  residents in the sleepy corner of Boston unaccustomed to big development projects. (Boston Globe)

After bouts of repairs and changing hands in ownership, the Bank Street Armory is set for development, but the city of Fall River has yet to pick a course of action. (Herald News)

A proposed tax on entertainment tickets sold at Salem venues could be headed for defeat at the city council this week as the finance committee unanimously rejected the idea. (Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Rep. Richard Neal has long dreamed of becoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, but he tries to avoid the kind of lightning rod issues he now faces in that role. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

With a recall election on Tuesday, opinion is divided on whether Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia should stay or go, and there has been no public polling on the question. (WBUR)

Congressman Seth Moulton appears to be getting ready to launch a presidential campaign later this spring, and even though he is not expected to win, a strong showing could position him well for the future, writes David Bernstein at WGBH.

Ranked-choice voting is being eyed in Easthampton for municipal elections (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Beto O’Rourke has evidently decided whether to run for president — but he’s not announcing his plans just yet. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Costly host community agreements between municipalities and pot shop entrepreneurs, which some say can amount to shakedowns, have put a damper on the industry, according to the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council and others. (WGBH)

Union employees of Stop & Shop are prepared to strike following a unanimous vote of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 328 members, including 2,000 on Cape Cod. (Cape Cod Times)

EDUCATION

Hampshire College professor Margaret Cerullo decries the abrupt moves by the school’s administrators that could spell the end for the nearly 50-year-old Amherst liberal arts college — and the writes about the efforts being organized to try to stop that from happening. (The Nation)

Adrian Walker considers the huge challenges facing Boston’s next school superintendent, and takes stock of the uncertainty that surrounds the city’s search process. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

Massachusetts needs to step up financially for tourism and the arts, say Martha J. Sheridan of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Center and Lee Pelton, the president of Emerson College. (CommonWealth)

The downtown Boston theater will now be known as Citizens Bank Opera House under a naming-rights deal secured with the Providence-based bank, while a separate agreement will also bring the bank name to three other performance venues. (Boston Globe)

Showtime decides not to greenlight a third season of SMILF, the Frankie Shaw comedy that was shot in and around Boston (Deadline Hollywood)

An installation by artist Olafur Eliasson at an MIT research building references icebergs in the warming Arctic. (WBUR)

TRANSPORTATION

Myechia Minter-Jordan of the Dimock Center and Chris Dempsey of Transportation for Massachusetts say the lowly bus deserves a lot more attention. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board may vote this afternoon on a proposal to hike fares by an average of 6.3 percent. (Boston Globe) The Herald ticks off five “fast fixes” for the beleaguered transit system.

Frustration with the lack of public transit options have prompted the North Shore Chamber of Commerce to explore the potential creation of a regional bus service linking business areas to the MBTA’s commuter rail. Cape Ann already has a regional transportation authority. (Gloucester Daily Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Five Lowell police officers were disciplined but are on active duty after an internal affairs investigation uncovered sloppy police work in connection with a drug arrest last year. (Lowell Sun)

Karen Brekalis, who was a middle school clerk in Lowell when she was a suspect in a case of missing student activities money, pled not guilty to charges of larceny and forgery. (Lowell Sun)

PASSINGS

James Aloisi pays tribute to Mary Ellen Welch, East Boston’s premier activist and advocate. (CommonWealth)