Funding the Transportation System the Massachusetts Economy Needs

Kendall Square
Oct 30 · 5 min read

Massachusetts is a global economic leader because of our culture of innovation, but our transportation system is holding us back. Employee commutes are becoming longer and more unpredictable. Our status quo transit network concentrates growth and wealth only in certain communities, driving up housing prices and the costs of doing business. Employers and employees alike are stressed and frustrated, and it is time to take action. We must invest in a new vision for transportation and connect with our legislators to build a revenue package that will move Massachusetts beyond a state of good repair and invest in a system that reflects what our economy should be.

KSA has taken action to respond to the transportation challenges facing our innovation community. Ensuring the economic vitality of Kendall is the cornerstone of our work — connecting the people changing the world.

Over the past six months, we gathered with other business leaders in the Commonwealth to learn about the issues impacting our communities and developed solutions to invest in a transportation system that works for us all. Our transportation advocacy efforts included:

  • Sending a letter from 40 Kendall CEO’s to the Governor, Speaker, and Senate President demanding action on our transportation crisis.
  • Releasing the Transport Kendall Report to highlight the infrastructure investments we need in Kendall.
  • Co-hosting a forum to educate business leaders on transportation revenue options that was attended by more than 80 people.
  • Hosting a transportation learning community meeting about the transportation revenue policy options.
  • Launching our Transportation ADVANCE, our collective effort to find solutions to our short term commuting woes, with 19 companies representing nearly 20,000 employees.
  • Sharing our collective transportation revenue recommendations with 155 Massachusetts state legislators and members of Governor Baker’s administration.

Massachusetts residents deserve a transportation system that is multi-modal, modern, convenient and predictable, physically accessible to all, resilient to extreme weather, safe and clean, low-carbon, and responsive to technological innovations. We partnered with the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Brookline Chamber of Commerce, Climate Action Business Association, MassTLC, MassBio, New England Venture Capital Association, and Newton Needham Regional Chamber to develop a list of problems that we as a business community are facing and proposed solutions worth exploring. You can access the full report here.

Traffic steals time from employees and businesses. With some of the worst traffic in the nation and the current status of our transportation system puts Massachusetts’ economic prosperity in jeopardy.

There are three different user fees for driver proposed policy solutions:

  1. Gas Tax: Increasing the State Gas Tax by at least 18¢ per gallon will bring in additional funds dedicated to road maintenance, bridge repair, and transit services.
  2. Transportation Network Company Fees (TNCs): TNC fees should be increased to encourage shared rides, walking, biking, and public transit when applicable.
  3. Roadway Pricing: This tool is a proven way to curb congestion, including but not limited to freight, on the most gridlocked roadways within 128, reduce emissions and fund new transportation options. Congestion pricing must be combined with steps to mitigate the impact of these fees on low-income drivers.

Climate change poses a significant threat to the state’s economy and businesses that call Massachusetts home. Today, the transportation sector represents over 40% of emissions in the Commonwealth, and that projection is on the rise. Businesses see the value in reducing our carbon footprint to remain competitive, support a resilient economy, invest in more equitable and smarter travel, and sustainable infrastructure.

We support a robust and equitable Transportation Climate Initiative as a solution that can make progress on both transportation needs and the state’s climate goals.

  1. The state should prioritize a process that includes the voices of low-income and moderate-income individuals, and develop a policy where revenue is invested in protecting our communities from transportation related emissions, in modernizing the system to ensure that all residents have access to a safe, affordable, reliable and clean transportation system and
  2. Use TCI revenue to make our transportation system resilient to the effects of climate change.

Businesses in different areas of the state are facing different transportation-related challenges and the local cities and towns aren’t empowered to lead on solutions.

Currently, it is virtually impossible to meet these needs at the local or regional level because municipalities don’t have a way to raise local money to partner with businesses to invest in local solutions. We are proposing three different tools for local investment:

  1. Regional Ballot Initiatives are used throughout the country by municipalities or groups of municipalities to raise additional local money for transportation projects through ballot initiatives.
  2. Expand Public Private Partnership opportunities will help bring private sector knowledge, innovation, and funding to specific transportation projects.
  3. Value Capture to help cities and towns work with the state to invest in transportation infrastructure by capturing the value created in the area surrounding a new development in order to support transit upgrades.

Everyday businesses across the Commonwealth bear the cost of an unreliable and unpredictable transportation system — we need to ensure dollars are well spent.

The policy solution we propose includes two accountability tools:

  1. Make the Fiscal Management Control Board (FMCB) permanent: Upon the expiration of the current FMCB in 2020, a governance structure should be established to provide transparency about MBTA spending and project delivery. The Board should consist of appointed officials representing a range of interests, with a focus on providing strategic guidance for fiscal responsibility.
  2. Work with MassDOT to provide more information on its web site about project commitments and progress: We recommend that MassDOT convene a stakeholder group of business, municipal, and environmental leaders to work with MassDOT to determine what would be useful for the public to see quarterly on MassDOT’s plans and progress. The goal would be to create a stronger website presence that enables the public to access and easily understand how the agency is performing against performance targets, project commitments, and budgets.

The official channel for Kendall Square, Cambridge. Published by the Kendall Square Association.

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