Photo by Rob Sheppard
Transportation, the backbone of a thriving economy, is crucial to every aspect of life in Massachusetts, connecting workers to jobs, businesses to markets, students to schools, and residents and visitors to cultural and recreational resources. A reliable, affordable, and well-connected transportation network is particularly essential to advancing the region’s equity goals: such a network would improve the lives of lower-income populations by enhancing access to good jobs, schools, and services.
While a vital feature of the built environment, the transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts. Furthermore, staggering levels of traffic congestion and unreliability of public transit services have taken a toll on commuters in the Commonwealth. To fully realize the benefits of a well-functioning transportation system, these burdens must be addressed.
Today, MAPC released 14 recommendations to put transportation on a strong financial footing so that we can build and maintain a 21st century system that will enable us to meet our economic, environmental, and equity goals. These ideas are intended as a “menu” of options—multiple solutions will likely be needed to address our local, regional, and statewide transportation goals.
The released goals include recommendations to provide local funding options to cities and towns, encourage smart growth and mode shift, and raise broad-based revenue for transportation improvements. The goals are in no particular order: MAPC did not rank them in order of importance or feasibility.
The following principles serve to guide MAPC’s approach to investing in transportation:
- While we support more revenue for the transportation system, we also believe that transportation taxes and fees should be aligned with climate, land use, and equity goals. Pricing solutions should not disproportionately burden low-income populations, and investments should prioritize mode shift away from single-occupancy vehicles and support transit oriented development.
- We need a combination of small, medium, and large revenue-raising mechanisms at the local, regional, state, and federal levels, with support from the private sector.
- Cities and towns should play a larger role in both influencing travel behavior and advancing transportation infrastructure projects, and therefore should be given more tools to price transportation-related externalities and raise revenue locally.
- New transportation revenues must cover both operating and capital shortfalls.
Recommendations to provide local funding to cities and towns:
Regional Ballot Initiatives: Municipalities or regions should be allowed to raise funds via ballot initiative for specific projects or lists of projects.
Tax Private Parking Facilities: Allow cities and towns to tax private parking facilities to generate additional revenue for transportation needs.
Value Capture: Cities and towns should continue to take advantage of existing value capture tools, and should be developed to expand the utility of value capture in the Commonwealth.
Regional Mitigation Funds: Regional mitigation funds should be established to support public transit, bike, and pedestrian improvements.
Recommendations to encourage smart growth and mode shift:
Increase TNC Surcharges: Transportation Network Company surcharges should be increased.
Vehicle Miles Travels (VMT) fees: Drivers should be charged a per-mile usage fee and municipalities should receive a portion of that fee.
Implement congestion pricing.
Expand access to commuter transit benefits.
Recommendations to raise broad-based revenue for transportation improvements:
Predictable and Modest Increases: Vehicle registration fees, fares for the MBTA and RTAs, and tolls, should be subject to predictable and modest increases.
All-electronic tolling should be expanded to other limited access highways
The gas tax should be raised periodically and sales tax should be applied to motor vehicle fuel sales.
Strategically invest revenue generated through participation in the Transportation Climate Initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector
Allocate new tax revenue to transportation: If there is a broad-based tax increase, devote a sufficient portion toward transportation.
Increase MBTA assessments paid by cities and towns, in conjunction with providing more local funding options for, and oversight from, municipalities.