The Codcast: Transportation advocates list priorities

Three leading transportation advocates – Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters, Chris Dempsey of Transportation for Massachusetts, and Stacy Thompson of the Livable Streets Alliance – ring in the new year on The Codcast with a discussion about priorities.

One of the biggest is putting a price on transportation carbon and using the proceeds to invest in expanded transit options, cleaner vehicles, and climate resiliency. Massachusetts and eight other states plus the District of Columbia plan to spend the next year developing the initiative. Dempsey calls it a “really big deal,” largely because it will provide badly needed revenues that can be used by the participating states to bolster their transit systems and reduce emissions.

According to Gov. Charlie Baker’s Commission on the Future of Transportation, which recommended pursuing a regional price on transportation carbon, the initiative could raise somewhere between $150 million (at $4.50 per ton of carbon) and $500 million (at $15 a ton) a year for Massachusetts. For the average driver, that works out to between $24 and $84 a year.

“It’s important to recognize that pricing alone will not be a major driver of changes in behavior in the transportation sector, at least not at the modest auction prices of a cap and invest program modeled after Quebec and California [$15 a ton]. It is the investments in clean transportation, combined with the price signal, the overall limit, and additional complementary policies that will allow Massachusetts to achieve its climate goals in transportation,” the report said.

Thompson says better bus service has to be a high priority. “We’ve proven the concept with some low-hanging fruit,” she said, referring to successful pilot projects that experimented with dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal prioritization, and level boarding in Everett, Arlington, Cambridge, Watertown, and Boston. Now, Thompson said, the MBTA has to take its bus experiments to the next level. She said she would like to see communities adopt dedicated bus lanes not just at peak travel periods but all day long.

All three advocates, who were skeptical of Baker’s call in 2015 for a five-member Fiscal and Management Control Board to oversee the T, now are converts. The governor appointed all five members of the current board, who serve as volunteers and receive no compensation.

As the debate begins on what the board should be replaced with when it sunsets in 2020, Thompson said she would like to see municipalities and riders get a seat at the table while Dempsey would prefer a regional governance structure. (The control board itself has recommended no change in the board’s makeup, except making the secretary of transportation a member.) Dempsey said he would not want to see the Legislature get sidetracked on the governance issue, given an abundance of other, more pressing matters.

Finally, all three transit advocates listed their personal priorities for the coming year. For Thompson it’s buses, for Dempsey it’s curbing transportation emissions and congestion, and for Aloisi it’s a smorgasbord of ideas – regional ballot initiatives (which allow voters to pass revenue-raising measures for transportation initiatives in their communities), a connector linking the Red and Blue lines, regional rail, Allston Landing and West Station, and improved service on the Fairmount commuter rail line.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law legislation extending the unemployment benefits of locked-out workers, including the 1,250 locked-out workers of National Grid. Grid and its steelworker union are scheduled to meet again Wednesday. (CommonWealth)

Senate President Karen Spilka outlines her agenda for the coming session, which includes updating the state’s school aid formula and tackling drug prices and climate change. (Boston Globe)

The Globe spotlights “five faces to watch” among freshman legislators being sworn in today.

State budget writers agree on a 2.7 percent consensus revenue growth figure for fiscal 2020. (State House News)

The Legislature passes a bill barring disability insurers from charging women more than men. (MassLive)

The Globe editorial page rolls out a new year’s resolutions for Beacon HIll — as well as Congress and Boston City Hall.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Emily Norton and Dwaign Tyndal say developing Widett Circle in Boston is bad idea. (CommonWealth)

Six firefighters have been hospitalized as a result of battling a fire in a Fall River apartment complex. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Mitt Romney, who delivered a scathing rebuke of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, then flip-flopped and sought appointment as his secretary of state, goes back on the attack in a Washington Post op-ed days before being sworn in as a senator from Utah, writing that the Trump presidency “made a deep descent in December” and that, half-way through his term, “the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.” Some see the op-ed as the first volley of a possible Romney challenge to Trump for the GOP presidential nomination next year. (New York Times)

Paul Krugman says the Trump tax cut’s effects are even worse than has been reported. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

In case you were dozing through the last few days, Elizabeth Warren launched an exploratory committee to raise money for a 2020 presidential bid, becoming the first top-tier Democratic candidate in the field. (Boston Globe) Some are panning her New Year’s Eve livestreamed Instagram chat, complete with cracking open and swilling a beer, as contrived. (Boston Herald)

Roger Lau isn’t a household name to most people, but he’s become the go-to operative for Warren and other pols. (CommonWealth)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The state’s minimum wage bumps up to $12 an hour. (Eagle-Tribune) A Herald editorial pans the increase, saying it will boost prices and decrease low-wage employment.

Columbia Gas, which had suspended billing customers in the wake of the natural gas fires and explosions that rocked the Merrimack Valley, sends out catch-up bills with big sums due. (Eagle-Tribune) The gas utility says it is willing to discuss how it can help fund the hiring of more firefighters. (Eagle-Tribune)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Associated Industries of Massachusetts will file a bill to end new fees on employers approved two years ago to fund the state Medicaid program. (Boston Globe)

Robert Coughlin, the president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, has a personal stake in efforts to develop new treatments for cystic fibrosis: his 16-year-old son suffers from the deadly inherited disease. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Problems on the Mattapan Line extend beyond the 75-year-old trolleys, according to a heavily redacted consultant’s report obtained by CommonWealth.

The Globe editorial page gives new MBTA general manager Steve Poftak a to-do list.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and Ann Berwick say municipal electricity aggregation really works. (CommonWealth)

Lobstermen are already pulling their traps out of the water in anticipation of the mandated three-month moratorium that begins February 1, part of an effort to save North Atlantic right whales from fishing line entanglements. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS   

ICYMI, CommonWealth profiles Rachael Rollins, who gets sworn in today as the new Suffolk County district attorney. She’ll bring a mandate for change — and blunt style — to the office.