A Huge Step Forward for Transportation

By Kirstie Pecci
Staff Attorney

Every day millions of Massachusetts commuters get in their cars and wait in traffic.  They board buses, subways and trains that are falling apart and in dire need of repair and replacement. MASSPIRG has been advocating for years that we need to invest in safe, modern, public transportation, to protect public health, reduce congestion and air pollution and to promote economic development.

The 2013 Transportation Finance Bill provides a strong foundation for a 21st century transportation system.  The Bill: 

  • Raises an average of $500 million a year in new revenues;
  • Invests an average of $600 million a year in the Commonwealth’s transportation system a year for the next five years;
  • Relieves the MBTA of having to pay for the Big Dig debt;
  • Stops the practice of borrowing to pay for the MBTA’s everyday operations;
  • Caps MBTA fare increases to 5% every two years, or 2.5% a year;
  • Invests in the regional transit authorities (RTAs) so they can provide better service, stop operating on a credit card, and conduct comprehensive planning with input from the public;
  • Requires long-term planning and posting of MassDOT’s annual reports, finance plans, and all capital expenditures on the MassDOT website for better transparency and efficiency;
  • Improves public input and participation by creating a Project Selection Advisory Council and an advisory board to Mass Port Authority. 

But this effort cannot stop here. As strong as this bill is, it must be considered  a starting point, or  we will leave critical projects---both maintenance and expansion---undone, and find ourselves sitting in the same pothole just a few years from now. 

Our vision is one in which every citizen can reach employment, education and other opportunities through a safe, affordable and sustainable transportation system. We will keep our eyes fixed on the future of transportation in Massachusetts and building a broader, more accessible, 21st century public transit system for everyone. First, we must be certain that the promises made by financial, transparency and planning reforms are kept.  Secondly, we must continue to clamor for the repairs, new buses and subway cars and rail connections that our transportation system needs to create a healthy and economically vibrant Commonwealth. Finally, we must develop fair and equitable selection criteria to measure the social and economic benefits that projects will provide and use it to choose our investments wisely

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