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Fix the T to ease Boston congestion


Boston has a congestion problem – and the solution lies not so much in deterring drivers from heading into the Hub by tapping them for more money.

The answer lies with the MBTA.

As the Herald reported, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce is backing legislation that would create a commission dedicated to studying ways to reduce traffic, including a congestion pricing option that could increase costs for drivers traveling in and around the city.

Legislation filed in the House and Senate on behalf of the Chamber calls for the creation of
a mobility pricing commission, “to investigate, study and make recommendations on the
development and deployment of comprehensive and regionally equitable” public
transportation, roadway and congestion pricing.

Without question, the situation on Boston streets is bad – we are fourth-worst in the world for congestion, and drivers spent 134 hours in traffic last year.

This commission, according to Chamber President and CEO Jim Rooney, would study flat-rate public transit fares to incentivize ridership, among other options.

There’s the speed bump.

It’s not so much the price of a Charlie Card that’s prompting people to opt for their autos or an Uber, it’s the T’s less than rock-solid reputation as a reliable way to get around.

The same day the story on the Chamber’s plan was reported, the MBTA also announced that riders should prepare for service changes and closures on the Orange, Green, Red and Haverhill Commuter Rail lines next month. There will be similar diversions throughout the year.

Orange and Green Line service will be impacted in downtown Boston due to continued demolition of the Government Center Garage, and track upgrades will impact service on the Red Line near Harvard and on part of the Orange Line, from Back Bay to Ruggles station.

It’s hard to think of the kind of flat-rate that would make any of that sound appealing, to say nothing of the T’s recent history with derailments, accidents and other commuter nightmares.

If you want to ease the congestion on Boston streets, you have to start by getting the MBTA up to speed.

Congestion pricing makes sense if one is looking for a revenue source. And they are.

“We don’t have a plan for how we’re going to pay for the maintenance, upkeep, even
investment in roads, bridges and transit,” said Rooney. “The proposal is to face the realities that it’s inequitable. It’s not sustainable.”

Rooney pointed to the elimination of the gas tax in 12 years, by way of Massachusetts
outlawing the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035, saying a long-term plan is needed to
make up for that loss of revenue.

Those who commute by car wouldn’t be the only ones footing the bill. Ride-share operators, most of whom already charge surge-pricing during busy drive times, would be hit with congestion fees. Guess who winds up paying those?

We have a public transit system that criss-crosses the city, region and state. This is our best solution to easing congestion, and it deserves resources to bring it in line with the needs of the 21st century.




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