The transportation system is generally in poor condition. We rank 45th out of the 50 states in crumbling infrastructure. As we invest and rebuild we must be thinking about the future which must include the electrification of public transit and more active modes of transportation, including walking and biking and shared autonomous vehicles. The current dominance of single-occupant vehicles is an expensive and inefficient mode of getting around. The average driver in Greater Boston wastes $2000 a year sitting in traffic wasting their time and burning fuel.
To get people out of their cars the options have to be convenient and cost effective. This of course requires that we make significant investments in public transit and make our roads safer for all modes of transportation. Improving our transportation infrastructure requires a serious commitment and sustained leadership at all levels of government.
The transportation system needs to move more people in fewer vehicles
One relatively simple and quick way to start this process is by prioritizing buses over vehicles that carry fewer occupants. This can include bus transit signal priority, bus rapid transit and dedicated bus lanes. Major thoroughfares like Main Street and Mount Auburn Street are likely candidates for such changes. By giving people more convenient and cost-effective choices we can coax people out of their vehicles which will reduce congestion on our roads. This of course requires that we make significant investments in public transit and make our roads safer for all modes of transportation. We can significantly improve the efficiency by prioritizing buses over vehicles that carry fewer occupants.
Our Land use and development decisions Impact transportation patterns
There is good data demonstrating how we design the built environment has the most impact on quality of life. Changing these land-use patterns is essential to improve environmental quality, increase density where appropriate and allow us to shorten travel distances. By giving people choices and making them less dependent on driving for many local trips we can make a significant reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). This is also very important in reducing our Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Just 10%-20% reduced single-occupant vehicle (SOV) use is the difference between gridlock and moving traffic. The Commonwealth is also realizing the huge negative impacts of congestion and all the pollution, GHG emissions and lost productivity that comes with it.
We must de-carbonize Transportation
In Massachusetts, the transportation sector is both the largest and the fastest-growing emitter of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). If the Commonwealth is to meet its goal of reducing overall GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050 (and recent data is showing we must reduce emissions sooner than that), a large proportion of the emission reductions will have to come from transportation. Accelerating the conversion of cars and light-duty trucks to electricity or other zero-emission technologies is a key strategy.
Needed investments need to be prioritized and funded
Our communities will need to work together to set priorities for maintaining, modernizing, and expanding its transportation systems and we will need to leverage a combination of public and private resources to make the investments needed to create, operate and maintain a 21st-century transportation system. We will also need to decide how to pay for it. But it is clear that not meeting this challenge will end up being much more costly than avoiding taking action now. Policies to consider to move the needle include:
Price parking and driving to reflect what it actually costs to drive. The way we set parking policies has an enormous impact on the built environment and how we choose to get around.
Disconnect the parking from the housing unit. This will also make the housing unit more affordable as parking adds a significant cost to any development.
Add a fee on ride-hailing services with the money dedicated to transit improvements
Demand pricing for curbside parking and delivery.
See the following links for more information:
There are several ways that we can improve our transportation system. We need to address how our land-use and development decisions affect our transportation patterns, how to minimize single-use vehicles, and how to decarbonize our transit.
Read more about our transportation systems and what they can be here: