Transportation advocates list priorities
Carbon pricing, bus service, FMCB top list
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.
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.