Weekly Matters - Your Transit Headline Roundup

We'll be trying something a little new here! This is the first of what we hope to become a weekly update on transit news in the Greater Boston area. To catch up, we'll address news older than this week in Podcast 8.

Mayor says parking problem in Boston is too many cars, not too few parking spots

On Friday, in his monthly "Ask the Mayor" segment at Boston Public Radio (a show produced by WGBH), Boston Mayor Marty Walsh made some astute and progressive comments on the need for moving away from cars as the primary mode of transportation in Boston. The Mayor's comments came in response to a resident's suggestion that the city create (or require developers to create) large underground parking garages to help alleviate the parking shortage in Boston. 

Thankfully, the Mayor pointed out that the real reason that parking is a problem in Boston is that there are too many cars and that we need to improve transit, get more people living walking distance from destinations, and change the mode share to less car trips. Of course, as a smart politician, he then doubles back and emphasizes the need for creative parking solutions. But give a listen yourself; starting at 19 min. 30 seconds on this podcast (can also listen through the BPR show link above).

More fines for MBTA commuter rail operator, Keolis - Now $1.6M to date on contract

This globe article does a nice job of explaining the $1.6 Million in fines to date, mostly for late trains. Of course Keolis blames the old equipment they are forced to use, especially since many of the new locomotives are out of commission due to a faulty part.

Gov. Baker will look into Subway cars contract with CNR

Following the lawsuit by Hundai Rotem, the second lowest bidder on the new Red and Orange Line procurement, Governor Baker will look closer into the details of this contract. Baker points to issues with multiple recent MBTA procurement contracts as a reason to inspect the process.


Mechanical issues on the Red Line caused smoke to fill a subway car. Governor Baker chided the MBTA for the way it belittled the fearful response of the riders who kicked out windows to escape – as it explained what went wrong, the agency said those riders were never in real danger. Also Transport Secretary Stephanie Pollack “tore into” Keolis for its horrible performance with delayed commuter trains.

Boston OPENS ON-STREET PARKING TO BIDS FROM car-sharing services

This pilot program would allow the spots to be used in a free-floating way (as currently happens in San Francisco and other Cars2Go cities) so that cars could be rented for one-way trips and parked in any public parking space (metered spaces or designated city-owned garages) without the customer needing to pay for the parking or receive a ticket. Bidders would also include Zipcar, who is currently running a pilot currently restricted to Boston of their One>Way services. Unfortunately the article was needlessly alarmist about the “inevitable” further parking woes in Boston that will result. You’ll want to take a look at this article just so you can enjoy the over-the-top comment section.

Interview with INCOMING Transport Secretary Stephanie Pollack

In her first interview on the job, the Secretary of Transportation identifies some of the biggest challenges for transportation in Massachusetts to be deferred maintenance, aligning transportation investment with the overall objectives of the commonwealth such as economic growth, thriving cities, and environmental resiliency, and learning to say “no” to unrealistic uses of transportation resources.

Future of late night service UP IN THE AIR

Two globe articles (here and here) this weekend featured ominous discussion from state and local officials about the fate of the MBTA’s late night service, as the year-long trial period is almost over. The current budget gap for the Commonwealth makes it less likely that the service will be extended in a seamless way as no funding has been set aside for its continuing operations ($13 million over the past year) and corporate sponsorship has been minimal. The MBTA will present “results” and a recommendation to its finance board very soon, but since no metrics were set to measure success, the decision may be difficult to justify either way. Although ridership for the extended service tops 840,000 over the 10 months to date (peaking at 20,000/weekend prior to the holidays), bringing the estimated cost per ride to roughly $13, local transit data analysts (Any Monat, Andrew Collier and Ari Ofsevit) have pointed out that these numbers don’t reflect the additional trips during regular hours that would not have happened without the assurance that riders could get home on the extended service if needed.

Emily Rooney rides the T

For the first time. Emily Rooney, a highly respected (and awarded) local journalist, talk show and radio host whose work is strengthened by “her … deep knowledge of media, politics and culture” rode the T (green line D branch) for the first time in her life, despite the fact that she lives in the Back Bay only a short walk from a green line station. Why should you care? Because our local and regional journalists, pundits and talking heads frame the conversations about our biggest issues by determining what topics to cover, what questions to ask, who to interview, when to press for better answers, and what tone the public takes away from the conversation. In our democratic society, informed and unfettered journalism is supposed to be a powerful tool that empowers citizens to hold their elected officials accountable. If the journalists have no experience with the important topic (let’s assume that transportation is an important topic in Massachusetts), how can they do this job? While Emily Rooney is an extreme example, too many of our journalists have too little real experience with transit – they aren't fluent in the issue and it shows in the superficial way they discuss the topic.

Did we miss something or get it wrong? Let us know!