Capital Construction

Media Statement - Red-Blue Connector To Be Included in Focus40

BOSTON, February 4, 2019 — We are pleased that the Secretary and the FMCB have decided to revise the Focus40 planning and investment plan to include the Red and Blue Line connector. When completed, this short and affordable tunnel connecting Bowdoin and Charles MGH stations will finally complete Greater Boston’s legacy subway system and link some of the region’s most important destinations and job creators. It also will provide the MBTA with critical system redundancy during a period of renewal and repair when other elements of the subway network may be out of service.

TransitMatters sends its gratitude to the over 1,200 T riders and supporters who signed our petition, as well as the many state and local elected officials from across the region, including House Speaker DeLeo. Their strong support helped make this important decision happen.  They know that connecting the Red and Blue Lines is essential to the functionality of the entire subway system.  And we wholeheartedly agree with FMCB member Brian Lang, who today expressed his support for this project and urged his fellow members to approve funding to enable engineering to begin this calendar year.

The next step is making sure that this project is placed on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) when it’s revised in April.  Funding ought to be available to begin engineering and keep this initiative on track. Our work will not be done until we achieve a specific commitment to include this on the CIP and begin engineering before the end of this calendar year.

More info about the FMCB decision can be found here here: https://commonwealthmagazine.org/transportation/pollack-prioritizes-red-blue-rail-connector/

Media Statement - Blue Line Extension to Charles/MGH

We are shocked and dismayed by MassDOT’s treatment of the Blue Line’s future in the draft 2040 "Focus40" visioning plan.  We urge your reconsideration of a vision that utterly fails to respond to the mobility needs of our constituents, and fails also to provide the kind of access to jobs and opportunity that remains lacking on the one subway line that dies not connect to all the others.

The communities of East Boston, Winthrop and Revere are environmental justice communities and have been on record for many years advocating for an extension of the Blue Line to Charles/MGH. The mitigation plan for the CA/T project contained an obligation to build such a connector. We have been dismayed at the dropping of that commitment by the Patrick Administration, and have been urging the Baker Administration to reinstate the commitment and commit to fast track implementation. We were encouraged that a small amount of money was allocated to refresh some of the analysis for the project.

Our communities are among those most impacted by the operations of Logan Airport, whose annual passenger count exceeded 38 million in 2016. With recent compounded growth we can envision an airport that soon (within 5-7 years) will serve 50 million travelers.  That is good for the city and regional economy, but it has terrible impacts on traffic and pollution in our communities.  Today the traffic from that airport poisons our neighborhoods and makes our streets less safe. State transportation decision makers must plan for expanded and improved ways to get people to and from Logan Airport by public transportation.

Let us remind you that we are separated from the Boston economy by Boston Harbor. This natural barrier, compounded by the artificial barrier of heavy chronic traffic congestion, reduces access to jobs and opportunity for our people, and it critically reduces access to health care services at Mass General and Mass Eye and Ear hospitals. One important solution is better public transportation connectivity.

The Focus 40 document takes what little hope we have had for an enlightened public transportation outcome and offers a pedestrian connection that will be of little use or convenience to the residents, employers and employees of these communities. It is an idea without merit as a substitute for connecting the Red and Blue lines at Charles/MGH.

We find the Focus 40 document wanting in many respects when it comes to how to plan for and manage the Blue Line’s future.  It offers no tangible and viable solution to today’s real connectivity problem, and it fails to capture the essence of what will make the Blue Line serve the people of our neighborhoods. We call on you to get to work on extending the Blue Line to Charles/MGH now, as the one clear and unambiguous solution to connecting Blue Line subway riders to the rest of the system, and to the critical health care destinations at MGH and Mass Eye and Ear.

The Case Against MBTA Fare Increases -- And How to Move Forward

The MBTA fare increase proposals (presentation, summary) are unnecessary and not even helpful in closing the budget gap. We summarized all the feedback we've received and proposed alternatives to increase ridership and revenue and reduce operating costs.

THE FACTS ON FARES & SERVICE

  1. MBTA fares have more than doubled since 2000, far outpacing inflation and exceeding even the increase in housing prices. Meanwhile the state gas tax has increased only 3 cents and no longer supports the cost of road maintenance, but MBTA riders are being asked to pay their own way.

  2. Commuter Rail fares and parking fees are some of the highest in the nation despite very infrequent service. Record rents and declining wages are forcing large numbers of people out of the city, to places where Commuter Rail is the only transit but is unaffordable. Low ridership has been cited as a motivation for further service cuts, yet when a day trip costs $84 for a family of four, the Commuter Rail is not living up to its potential as an effective regional transportation network.

  3. Ridership is up over 20 percent on all major lines as the city’s population has increased 10 percent in ten years. Trains and buses are slower, more crowded and less reliable than ever. All major rail and bus lines operate over capacity every day and the system does not effectively serve many trips. Failing to increase service by 20 percent is essentially a service reduction. Riders cannot be expected to pay even more without major upgrades such as increased capacity, faster service and new lines — give us a system worth paying for.

  4. Higher fares turn T riders into car drivers and make traffic congestion even worse, unless accompanied by major service improvements or a gas tax increase to make drivingless appealing. With gas prices approaching 11-year lows, commuters see transit fares rising and service quality declining and make the obvious choice. Rather than continue the death spiral of service cuts (yes, eliminating late night service = service cuts) and fare increases until transit is no longer effective and streets are completely gridlocked, now is the time to reverse course and invest heavily in public transportation, including maintaining or lowering fares.

  5. No major investments have been made to the system’s core since the 1980s and we are now paying the price as the MBTA slowly falls apart. The MBTA has made significant progress on reforms but the promised revenue in “reform before revenue” remains elusive. No efficiencies will ever fill the $7 Billion budget gap -- and that's just to reliably run what we have now, without desperately needed upgrades. If we don’t start investing now, the system will only get worse, and it will only cost more when we eventually have no choice. Riders are not responsible for chronic underinvestment and cannot be asked to shoulder the burden of ever increasing debt service payments.

  6. Soaring housing costs and declining wages are forcing many people to move to places with poor transit access. We have repeatedly cut service and raised fares on these "low ridership" services, while ignoring others with great potential.

  7. Governor Baker said there should be no new taxes or fees — apparently not including T riders. The agency’s 4% cost growth is in line with the Governor’s call for a 5% increase in state spending elsewhere. So why is the MBTA Control Board subjecting T riders to a higher standard?

  8. Good transit provides many benefits to all of society — even those who never use it. Public transportation supports dense, vibrant communities where everyone has access to basic needs and the freedom to move around the region. Last winter showed us just how important the MBTA is to the entire state’s economy: without the T, all of our favorite stores, restaurants, institutions and entertainment venues would be unable to attract sufficient customers and employees. Imagine a transit system with the resources to run excellent service every day and make people actually want to use it.

  9. Traffic congestion on our streets and highways is worse than ever because of our failure to upgrade and expand the transit network. Boston EMS ambulance response times have increased 16 percent since 2009, the Boston Fire Department takes one minute longer to respond to calls, and buses spend much of their trip stuck in traffic. Only by expanding transit so it is useful for more people will we create space for essential services and emergency vehicles. Fare increases only put more cars on the road.

  10. Over 100 years after the first subway construction in Boston, the region’s poorest, most underrepresented neighborhoods still lack rapid transit access. Communities such as Chelsea, Roxbury and Mattapan have the longest trip times (often slower than walking) and least reliable bus service. These riders are also most heavily impacted by rising fares, often cutting back on groceries or skipping social events due to the cost of transportation. Special attention should be focused on bringing fast, frequent and more affordable transit to our most vulnerable riders.

  11. Riders are doing their part to support vibrant communities, reduce traffic and address climate change. We should reward - not punish - those who use the MBTA by maintaining or lowering fares across the system and investing in faster and more effective service. Our transit network is a valuable public service, not a profitable business, and it's time we started treating it like one.

 

ALTERNATIVES

Many simple changes could improve the user experience and help alleviate capacity constraints until service can be expanded. The T should experiment with several options in an effort to upgrade service and reallocate inefficiently used resources, and as alternatives to (or mitigation for) a fare increase. In other words, what improvements are we getting for the higher fees?

  1. Instead of a single transfer, allow unlimited transfers within 2 hours on bus, subway and Commuter Rail, to permit trips through downtown and between non-downtown points. Currently it is impossible to go from Roxbury to Chelsea, Everett to Brighton Center, or Roslindale to Brookline (just a few examples) without two fares or a very long trip with a transfer downtown. Removing the barrier would allow riders to make more efficient trips and access more jobs while increasing ridership (and revenue) and reducing congestion in the downtown transfer stations. An unlimited transfer — think of it as a 2-hour unlimited pass — is in effect on transit systems across the country such as Portland, Minneapolis and San Francisco.

  2. Implement all-door boarding on buses and trolleys. Pass users could board at any door and special fare inspectors would conduct occasional inspections, issuing a fine to riders who haven’t paid. Up to 30 percent of Green Line and bus travel time is spent sitting at stops while riders line up in the cold waiting to tap their card. Keeping buses and trolleys moving means faster service, more frequent service, more evenly spaced trains/buses, reduced fare evasion and lower operating costs. All-door boarding is now standard practice on nearly all North American light rail lines and San Francisco has expanded it to all buses.

  3. Reduce Commuter Rail fares on off-peak and weekend trains. As record numbers of urban dwellers leave the region’s core to escape soaring rents, the Commuter Rail has the potential to dramatically improve their quality of life. Yet commuter Rail fares are too expensive, even off-peak trains operate with hundreds of empty seats that could offer a fast new service to riders of all income levels. Thousands of riders endure long trips on crowded buses or limit their economic and social opportunities because of transportation costs. Many more drive choose driving over the high train fare, adding thousands more cars to our streets every day.

    • Extend Zone 1A (subway fare) to include all stations within 12 miles of downtown Boston, roughly the distance to Braintree, Waltham or Lynn, or anywhere within Route 128. It is expensive to provide very frequent service on slow, crowded buses to places like Hyde Park, Roslindale, Waltham and Lynn while train cars run empty.

    • Heavily discount Commuter Rail fares during off-peak periods and on weekends. Chicago and Philadelphia have seen large ridership increases with their $8 unlimited weekend (Chicago) and $12 unlimited (Philadelphia) off-peak passes.

    • Integrate fares between subway, bus and Commuter Rail so that riders can pay with a CharlieCard. Issue transfers valid between the Commuter Rail and a subway or bus line. Add a credit card payment option.

  4. Coordinate bus connections at terminals, stations and transfer locations. Improve scheduling of connecting services and hold buses and trains for close connections during times of less frequent service.

  5. Upgrade bus stops, stations and terminals to improve service quality and comfort, allow more efficient bus and passenger circulation and increase ridership at very low cost.

  6. Implement transit priority measures on city streets for faster, more reliable and less costly bus and trolley service. Faster service and increased on-time performance were among the top requests from participants in the GoBoston 2030 transportation planning process. Many simple signal modifications and street design changes would help meet these goals.

  7. If fares do increase, offer free and discounted passes for low-income riders through social service programs such as SNAP, WIC and MassHealth. Expand student pass programs through cities and university groups. However, the availability of low-income discounts must not serve as a justification for fare increases.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Speak up at a public meeting, submit comments and contact your representatives. Your city and state elected officials need to hear from you; remind them that the MBTA benefits everyone in the state and we must make up for our past mistakes. Otherwise the death spiral of high fares and poor service will continue -- more breakdown, delays and late trains/buses -- until our once-proud transit network falls apart for good.

Podcast 23 - Alon Levy, Pedestrian Observations

We sat down with urban transit student and author of the popular Pedestrian Observations blog, Alon Levy, well known among advocates for his knowledge of best (and worst) practices in urban planning and transportation.

In a time of short-sighted cost-cutting and privatization efforts, it is refreshing to hear smart and effective ways to use our existing transportation assets. We spend some time debunking the myth that new technology like the Hyperloop or personal rapid transit will solve our problems. Instead, we know how to address our challenges using existing technology, for example, modernizing commuter rail, increasing core system capacity and upgrading the network to serve modern travel needs. Using electronics before concrete. And of course, we cover the MBTA's Control Board and the ongoing mess, including privatization, late night service, the Green Line Extension, North South Rail Link, and try to learn why construction costs so much.

And much more.

The Transit Matters Podcast is your source for transportation news, analysis, interviews with transit advocates and more. By offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates and promoting a level of critical analysis normally absent from other media, we can achieve a useful and effective transportation network because Transit Matters.

Like what you hear? Share it around, tell your friends and colleagues, and subscribe to the blog and podcast (on iTunes) to be notified of new posts and episodes. Support our work by becoming a member, making a donation or signing up to volunteer because we can't do this alone. Let us know what you think by connect with TransitMatters on Facebook or Twitter. Follow Jeremy Mendelson @Critical Transit, Josh Fairchild @hatchback31, Jarred Johnson at @jarjoh, Marc Ebuña at @DigitalSciGuy, and or email us here.

UPDATE: NYC Donates Snow Fighting Equipment; Governor Releases $30 Billion Plan

UPDATE: NYC Donates Snow Fighting Equipment; Governor Releases $30 Billion Plan

Spring has sprung today for transit as NYC MTA CEO Thomas Prendergast announced a small donation of snow fighting equipment and the Governor announced a commitment of $30 billion over 15 years to drastically upgrade the MBTA's infrastructure and equipment.

Scott’s Resignation a Wake Up Call for Massachusetts

Scott’s Resignation a Wake Up Call for Massachusetts

MBTA GM Beverly Scott, PhD, delivered an impassioned speech earlier this week  [Photo via Boston Globe]

We’ve seen it before: the highly qualified leader of a beleaguered transit agency gets fed up with state politics getting in the way of him/her doing his/her job and resigns.

Take Jay Walder, former CEO of Hong Kong MTR, former Managing Director for Finance and Planning of Transport for London, and current CEO of Motivate, the company that manages Hubway. When he resigned as NYC MTA CEO back in 2011, it was not merely to take the job at HK MTR that paid 3 times as much. His resignation followed significant difficulty with indifferent politicians and seemed to be punctuated by his last in-person encounter with Governor Cuomo: getting passed over after travelling to the governor's office. Unlike here where the seat of state government is less than a kilometre away from transit headquarters, Walder had travelled to the capitol 2.5 hours by train upstate to see the governor.

Podcast 09 - Snow Cripples MBTA, Governor Baker Presents Statewide Budget Cuts

Podcast 09 - Snow Cripples MBTA, Governor Baker Presents Statewide Budget Cuts

It's been a terrible few weeks for the chronically neglected MBTA as record snowfall and epic traffic congestion stalled buses and trains throughout the region. Damage to vehicles and infrastructure following 50 disabled trains on Monday forced the MBTA to suspend rail service for the third time this year as crews work to clear tracks and repair ancient equipment.

MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott blamed old equipment and lack of investment for the recent troubles and said she hopes we can pursue the "systemic, planned, serious, bold reinvestment" that the system needs.

Meanwhile, our new Republican Governor Charlie Baker called the system's recent performance "unacceptable" and blamed T management while admitting he has not yet called the GM.  Baker insisted his proposed $40 million transportation budget cuts will not affect transportation service.

How did we get to this point? Where do we go from here?