PUBLIC TRANSPORT is a public good, and all Commonwealth residents, especially low-income people and people of color, deserve equitable access to an affordable, reliable and environmentally friendly transport system. Massachusetts will soon have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform its transportation system as the federal government is poised to make a historic multi-billion dollar investment. If passed, it will be the biggest federal investment ever in our transit system.
As part of the Senate’s FY22 budget, I was proud to propose an amendment requiring the MBTA to advance the planning and design of infrastructure projects related to carbon emissions reduction, regional rail electrification, increasing transit capacity and improving equity in anticipation of federal funding. .
The legislature overturned Governor Charlie Baker’s veto on the amendment to re-launch the transformation of our transportation system. With the passage of this amendment, we have laid the groundwork to make the most of this unprecedented federal funding.
However, this amendment was only a first step. In addition to the formula funds that all states will receive, we must position ourselves to be chosen over other states for the competitive funds that will likely be available. As part of President Obama’s stimulus package in 2009, similar competitive funds helped complete major projects in other states, such as a $ 2.5 billion investment in high-speed rail in California.
With billions of dollars in federal funding available, an electrified regional rail system and fully electric MBTA and RTA bus systems are within reach. The fully electric train and bus would benefit all communities, but especially low-income riders who rely most on public transit. We can move forward on major projects such as the red-blue line connector. We can make promising pilots like the toll-free Route 28 bus to Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan permanent and extend it to other environmental justice communities. And we must prioritize regional equity by investing in critical transportation infrastructure across the state, like the East-West Railroad from Boston to West Massachusetts, and replacing Cape Cod bridges.
Fortunately, the MBTA has already embarked on several of these initiatives. We can implement MBTA’s 2019 Tax Review and Management Board resolution to reduce the price of regional rail by applying subway-like fares on the Fairmount Line and the Newburyport-Rockport Line Environmental Justice Corridor ( serving Lynn, Revere, Chelsea and Everett). The control board also pledged to electrify the regional rail system, prioritizing the EJ corridor, the Providence-Stoughton line and the Fairmount line.
Earlier this year, the legislature created the MBTA Board of Trustees, a permanent governance body tasked with overseeing the MBTA and picking up where the Control Board, a temporary body, left off. The legislature created this new board of directors with equity at the forefront by securing a permanent seat for an MBTA runner who is a resident of an environmental justice community. This new council has the opportunity to create an affordable, electrified transit system to deliver on the promise of transit as a public good for all.
These initiatives, and others, are essential to creating an equitable transit system. Too often, access to public transit is limited or unreliable for low-income people and people of color. These same communities have disproportionately borne the environmental and health burdens, from the constant noise of buses and trains throughout the day to the harmful exhaust fumes of diesel. We must prioritize racial and socio-economic equity with any federal funding the state receives.
All Commonwealth residents, no matter where they live, deserve an affordable transportation system we can rely on to get to school, work, doctor’s appointments, or just spending a day with the family. family and friends. Our current system is simply not up to the task and our progress has been far too slow. Traffic is back to pre-pandemic levels and without proper planning we run the risk of maintaining the status quo.
Let’s seize this opportunity to create an efficient, reliable and affordable transportation system across Massachusetts.
Brendan Crighton is a Senator from Lynn State.