ONE COMMONWEALTH AGENDA
Imagine a Commonwealth where you have more than one way to get to work, the experience is efficient and comfortable, and your commute gets you home early enough and fresh enough for quality family time. Where this is true for those with disabilities as well as those without. Where small businesses can build the workforce they need because workers can put the pieces together of an affordable place to live and efficient, predictable way to get to work. Where seniors can get to health appointments and people in need can get to foodbanks, even on the weekends. Where how we move around helps our climate and our health instead of hurting it.
For too long, we have been told that our transportation challenges are just too hard, too expensive, and too complex to tackle.
It doesn’t have to be this way. That is why my transportation agenda will transform our transportation infrastructure to achieve climate resilience and justice; secure equitable, efficient transportation access Commonwealth-wide; reduce congestion and ensure safe, affordable transit; build a coordinated, sustainably-resourced system; and connect transportation infrastructure to the building blocks of prosperity.
An Allen administration will invest in the foundations of a One Commonwealth transportation infrastructure for the 21st century that strengthens our economy, drives the transition to deep decarbonization, and improves quality of life.
The agenda below is the outcome of initial rounds of community engagement at all levels — we talked to those struggling with long commutes; suffering from lack of access in the context of a disability; or watching towns empty out because of the absence of either jobs or viable transportation options to reach jobs available elsewhere. We are grateful for their feedback in the development of our transportation agenda, which we believe will allow us to reimagine mobility in Our Commonwealth. Work remains — we are committed to continuing to listen to, and engage with, communities across the Commonwealth to ensure all voices are heard and represented in our efforts to knit the Commonwealth back together.
This agenda is just the beginning of a process. As we seek stakeholder engagement across the Commonwealth in the months ahead, the next critical ingredient we need is YOU.
As a working parent, I know how precious my time is. If I’m going to sit with my daughter for her piano practice or sit with my son while he explains his coding projects, I need all of those precious, blessed hours between the end of the work day and bedtime. I can’t afford to spend that time on a mind-numbing commute.
When I moved back to Massachusetts in 2015 with my family, we knew we would prioritize a combination of housing, transportation, and work that would give us control of that time. We found that in East Cambridge, close to the Lechmere T stop and the 69 Bus. This offered us a straight shot to work. But it was the ability to buy into the urban housing market that made this possible for us.
What was do-able for us is not do-able for so many. Young people and young families are moving out of our state because they can’t put the pieces together–a good job and affordable housing connected by efficient comfortable transition. They can’t put the pieces together because we aren’t making the pieces available. It’s time to change that and to connect our whole state as One Commonwealth. This will make our families happier, our economy more productive, our civic fabric stronger, and our climate healthier.
TRANSFORMING OUR TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE TO ACHIEVE CLIMATE RESILIENCE AND JUSTICE
As outlined in our Climate Justice Agenda, we can no longer wait to take meaningful climate action. Our transportation infrastructure plays a critical role in achieving our goals and preparing for a sustainable future. 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation infrastructure and vehicles. Massachusetts has some of the most antiquated public transportation infrastructure, highly vulnerable to sea-level rise, and transportation infrastructure with continued reliance on fossil fuels. And communities of color are exposed to significantly more pollution than other communities.
We need to transform our transformation infrastructure to achieve climate resilience and justice.
- We will prioritize electrification of the commuter rail by enacting The Rail Vision Full Transformation Agenda. A fully electrified network will enable faster travel times – reducing emissions while also improving job access, particularly for environmental justice populations. This transformative vision for our rail system has languished in the absence of gubernatorial leadership. An Allen administration will change that. We will fully embrace and prioritize the agenda’s recommendation to “transform the current commuter rail line into a significantly more productive, equitable and decarbonized enterprise.” We will also instruct MassDOT to begin preparations for a new commuter rail operating contract far in advance of the 2026 Keolis contract expiration to ensure we find a contractor that can deliver on that vision.
- We will retrofit existing infrastructure to prepare for the reality of sea-level rise and more frequent, violent storms. An Allen administration will accelerate strategic planning for and execution of this investment in resilient, next generation transportation infrastructure.
- An Allen administration will also accelerate electrification of public vehicles and creation of Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure. Specifically, we will accelerate establishment of a statewide electric charging network that is fast, equitable, robust, and resilient in order to support a growing fleet of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). We will develop standards or incentives for vehicles to be electric, to charge during off-peak hours, and to be available to deliver energy back to the grid at peak times. We will establish a capital plan for the conversion of all public vehicles, including public bus and school bus fleets, to electrification.
SECURING EQUITABLE, EFFICIENT TRANSPORTATION ACCESS COMMONWEALTH-WIDE
It takes people in Roxbury and Dorchester 45 minutes to travel the 4 or 5 miles to downtown Boston. People from Western Massachusetts who need to get to the Statehouse for hearings find that the unpredictability of traffic on the Pike can result in their missing their chance to make their voices heard. Franklin County is without public transportation on the weekends, exacerbating challenges of food insecurity. Limits on access to drivers’ licenses and a general lack of mobility other than by automobile in much of the state raise barriers to needed resources ranging from food to medical appointments to jobs.
We need a paradigm change in transportation planning so that we plan for efficient, diverse transportation options for the whole Commonwealth, not merely commuting in and out of Boston. While embracing the Rail Vision Transformation agenda will help address issues in the Boston region, addressing the whole set of challenges in our Commonwealth also requires strengthening regional transit authorities, supporting an improved and interconnected network of regional bus services and micro-transit services, passing the Work & Family Mobility Act, and ending debt-based drivers’ license suspensions.
- First, we will prioritize a coordinated, One Commonwealth strategy for transformation infrastructure. The Commonwealth’s 2018 Commission on the Future of Transportation rightly recommended the Commonwealth coordinate a reinvention of the commuter rail system with local, regional, and state land use and economic development strategies. Yet the Governor’s Office has not acted on the charge to coordinate across plans to develop a Commonwealth-wide next generation strategy for transportation infrastructure. An Allen administration will move that coordination and Commonwealth-wide strategic planning forward with an emphasis on developing a modernized, electrified rail system that incorporates best practices from transit and rail systems around the world, is linked to transit-oriented housing development and bus connectors, and embraces innovation in tackling the “last mile” issue of connecting people to transit hubs.
- As part of this work, we will pursue high-speed East-West passenger rail service between the cities of Pittsfield and Boston via Springfield at least five-times daily by upgrading or expanding existing rail lines.
- Our prioritization of the Rail Vision Full Transformation Agenda, discussed above, will produce high-frequency service across the whole commuter rail system on a fully electrified network, with 15-minute peak period frequency for most stations; this project would depend on completing the North-South Rail Link. This increased frequency will drive ridership, especially for minority and low-income communities, and make it easier for residents to connect with opportunity.
- We will also improve regional bus service by learning from models elsewhere, for instance bus systems in the rural parts of the United Kingdom. Rural areas can have effective bus service if we commit to adequate bus frequency and communicate reliable, accurate information about the arrival and departure times. In some parts of Massachusetts, even one bus a day – if the schedule is impeccably reliable – could transform mobility.
- We will invest in regional transit authorities. For too long our regional transit authorities have been undervalued and underutilized, despite the good work that they are doing. Their success is critical to the creation of an economy that is dynamic and inclusive Commonwealth-wide, and it’s time to turn attention to them.
- We will also increase transit options by supporting and spreading successful pilot initiatives like the Salem Skipper Initiative, a municipally sponsored fleet of electric rideshare vehicles operating along bus routes.
- And we will support access to drivers’ licenses by passing the Work & Family Mobility Act and End Debt-Based Drivers’ License Suspensions. The Work & Family Mobility Act supports access to drivers’ licenses for undocumented people, a policy already widely adopted in states around the country that improves public safety by ensuring all drivers on the road can be insured. This is an important piece of legislation to provide access to our roads, and all the basic resources that come with access to mobility. Ending debt-based drivers’ license suspensions and limiting suspensions to cases where an individual would endanger public safety if behind the wheel ensures access to our roads to all while reinforcing public safety.
REDUCING CONGESTION AND ENSURING SAFE, AFFORDABLE TRANSIT
Massachusetts has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. This congestion inhibits our economic growth by making it difficult for people to connect efficiently and predictably with good jobs and limiting the pool of talent available to businesses. Congestion is also an issue of environmental justice since low income and minority communities are disproportionately exposed to resulting pollution.
Pursue a 10 year plan to end congestion by getting people out of cars and onto better, multimodal transit options. This includes encouraging alternatives like bikes and ride shares and keeping reliable public transit options affordable for people with lower incomes.
- An Allen administration will pilot congestion pricing while preparing to mitigate impacts of congestion fees on people with lower incomes, in line with the recommendation of the 2018 Commission. Congestion pricing drives changes in behavior to get people out of cars and into public transportation, provided that the public transportation alternatives are designed with human dignity in mind and are comfortable, efficient, reliable, and sustainable. Congestion pricing revenue could go straight into the purchase of additional buses and extension of the bus lane system and MBTA modernization.
- To keep transit affordable for people with lower incomes, we will deliver subsidized fares through efficient means-testing where appropriate. An Allen administration would also support piloting free bus routes through high-density, low-income neighborhoods.
- We will also prioritize creation of abundant safe transportation options for cyclists and pedestrians. An Allen administration will charge MassDOT with further accelerating the redesign of transportation corridors, including roads, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and off-road facilities to facilitate pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit riders, and others. Redesign should focus on solutions that improve rather than erode customer access to small businesses.
BUILDING A COORDINATED, SUSTAINABLY-RESOURCED SYSTEM
Our current approach to governing and funding transportation is broken. The MBTA carries responsibility for a significant portion of the Commonwealth’s rail infrastructure, as well as for subways, buses and waterways in the inner core. It interacts tightly with many but not all of the Commonwealth’s regional transit authorities. The DOT has responsibility for all of the Commonwealth’s regional transit authorities and houses a rail division, but the bulk of rail in the Commonwealth lives outside the DOT’s Division of Rail. Massachusetts’ infrastructure depends on, and has implications for, the broader efficiency, quality, and sustainability of transportation infrastructure in the Northeast. Yet the Baker administration has not pursued opportunities for regional partnerships and the federal investments they could unlock. These fractured systems are leading to fractured solutions.
We need organizational structures that support a One Commonwealth network of bus, subway, micro-transit services, and rail networks, while simultaneously coordinating across our seven-state region to unlock the economic potential of our whole region. We also need a strategy for funding our more coordinated, next-generation transportation infrastructure.
- We will establish a One Commonwealth Rail Division to drive strategic, coordinated transformation of the commuter rail. Achieving next-generation rail infrastructure in Massachusetts requires ensuring that all rail projects are led by our top planners and are folded into an overarching strategic plan for the state. Achieving a strong shared purpose for the Commonwealth around our development of rail requires consolidating work on rail in a single division. The current system produces regional resentments and stalemated debates over priorities rather than supporting thoughtful planning about how to prioritize for the Commonwealth as a whole and select projects for investment with a unified vision in mind.
- We will also drive a tighter focus for the MBTA on buses, subways, and waterways, while the One Commonwealth Rail Division leads on transformation of the commuter rail. While the MBTA has been making strides in governance, challenges still abound–from failing trains to fatal accidents on DOT property serving MBTA stations. It’s time to acknowledge that the MBTA needs a tighter focus for its work so that it can meet a higher standard.
- An Allen administration will also establish a standing planning council for regional Transit Authorities. Currently the MBTA and DOT work independently with regional transit authorities. This can lead to confusion for residents as well as both duplication of effort and dropped balls. Regional transit authorities need a context for system-wide coordination and project planning, and this council will provide that context.
- We will establish a Northeast Transportation Task Force to drive networked regional transportation innovation to maximize economic growth in Massachusetts and the entire region. With strategic foresight, we can link not only metropolitan areas but also smaller post-industrial cities and rural regions to a dynamic, inclusive economy with, for example, a high speed rail to NYC or a North Atlantic Rail integrated network. The Task Force will act on this opportunity by developing a shared vision of, and commitment to, the future transportation infrastructure of our region and executing a networked approach to realizing that vision – including coordinated efforts to pursue federal investments.
- We will also make sure we are ready to quickly put federal funds to use by developing a Stimulus Ready Projects Fund to support preliminary design and engineering work, with an emphasis on centering equity in planning. With COVID relief funds, the infrastructure bill, and potentially the Build Back Better Bill, the federal government has offered us a once in a generation opportunity to seek federal support for transportation infrastructure projects. To take advantage of that, we need to have a supply of shovel-ready projects ready to take to the federal government as funding becomes available. To do so, we will establish a stimulus ready-projects fund that will fund the necessary planning work to create preliminary plans that align with anticipated discretionary grant programs in the infrastructure bill and other future federal legislation. Funding will be designed to incentivize and prioritize equitable access, impact and job creation.
- We will support passage of the Fair Share Amendment to raise dedicated revenue for transportation and education needs.
- We will explore opportunities to better attract and retain the talent needed to run and modernize the state’s transportation infrastructure, from engineers to operators, through changes to current policy, rule and culture hurdles to competitive hiring.
- Finally, we will use innovative public-private financing mechanisms to support our next-generation transportation infrastructure. For example, we will establish Business Improvement Districts to drive the development of transportation and public space projects that bring benefits to small businesses, drawing on lessons from the Boston Greenway, which was funded partly by the businesses bordering it who benefited from the increased foot traffic.
CONNECTING TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE TO THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF PROSPERITY
We cannot pursue transportation reforms in a bubble. We must be purposeful about how our next generation transportation infrastructure helps residents put together the pieces of an affordable, safe place to live and an efficient, predictable way to get to work.
This means making investments in good housing, jobs, health and climate that reinforce and advance our transportation goals. We have a set of building block agendas in each of those areas. The transportation-related policies in those building-block agendas include:
- Developing a good jobs plan for workforce growth that expands job opportunities through the state, thereby expanding options for good jobs with reasonable commutes. Our job growth strategy will also directly inform our plans for increased transit options and frequency.
- Investments to increase affordable housing Commonwealth-wide, and ensuring such housing has access to efficient, reliable transportation options through expanded transit networks and efforts to increase density near public transit hubs.
- Strengthening health by bringing more resources into the community and building reliable transportation connections to such resources.
- And pursuing climate justice by achieving a 100% renewable energy economy and decarbonization by 2040.
Housing, health, transportation, schools, jobs, justice, safety, community, empowerment, and a sustainable climate. These are the pieces of a livable life, and they have to fit together for life to be livable. These are the building blocks every single one of us needs in order to have a foundation to stand on and live a healthy life. Transportation is what makes it possible for people to link a safe and healthy place to live to a job with living wages. These are also the building blocks of an inclusive economy that will support growth throughout the whole of the Commonwealth and increase prosperity for all. They are also the building blocks that we must decarbonize if we’re going to make the transition to a sustainable future. To improve quality of life across our whole Commonwealth, we need a fully transformed transportation infrastructure.