Transpo notes: Baker sees 100m Uber, Lyft rides

CLF preparing lawsuit over HOV lane shutdown

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said he thinks ride-hailing apps will provide 100 million rides this year in Massachusetts.

Data gathered by the Department of Public Utilities indicate ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft provided 64.8 million rides in 2017 and 83.1 million in 2018. If they do 100 million this year, that would be a 54 percent increase in three years.

Baker made his estimate on Tuesday at a hearing before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, which was taking testimony on the governor’s $18 billion bond bill. He urged lawmakers to pass another bill of his that would allow the DPU to gather more detailed information on ride-hailing trips so the state and municipalities could better address congestion they cause.

The bill would require the companies to provide information on where rides start and end and how long they last, as well information on how long drivers cruise around waiting for a ride and what type of cars they drive.

CLF threatens lawsuit over closure of HOV lane

The Conservation Law Foundation notified the Baker administration on Tuesday that it intends to file a lawsuit challenging the May 14 decision to open the high-occupancy-vehicle lane on I-93 to all drivers as a way of relieving congestion caused by repair work on the Tobin Bridge.

The warning, which gives state officials 60 days to work out a resolution without going to court, claims the HOV decision violates state and federal law and a binding memorandum of understanding between the state and CLF dated December 19, 1990.

CLF’s warning letter, sent by senior attorney Staci Rubin and addressed to Gov. Charlie Baker and three of his top aides, says that buses from Medford that previously used the HOV lane ran 5 to 8 minutes slower in the morning during June and July compared to the same period a year ago. The letter also said the 111 bus, which runs from Chelsea into Boston over the Tobin Bridge, was running 2 to 6 minutes slower.

The Baker administration shut down the HOV lane in the hopes that drivers coming from the north would use it and other lanes on I-93 rather than traveling over the Tobin Bridge. The closure was done without public notice or hearing and without any attempt to obtain a waiver from regulations requiring the lane to remain open, CLF said.

Hiring freeze or hiring spree: Which is it?

MBTA officials on Monday said they were considering a hiring freeze to deal with a looming budget shortfall, but on Tuesday T General Manager Steve Poftak said the agency was hiring people at a record pace.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

At the Monday meeting of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, T officials said they were considering a “hiring freeze on +/- 70 positions for support services” to deal with the failure to reach a number of budget targets.

On Tuesday, however, Poftak told the Legislature’s Transportation Committee that the agency is hiring people as fast as it can. “We are in the midst of a very aggressive hiring blitz. The MBTA expects to hire 983 people this year. That is unprecedented in the history of the agency,” he said.

The staffing cuts and the staffing increases are coming in different parts of the agency, but the optics of the T cutting back on personnel even as it is trying to expand its workforce didn’t look good.