Guest Op-ed: My Plan to Improve Transportation in Massachusetts

By Joe Gravellese, Candidate for State Representative

Transportation touches every aspect of our lives: How we get to work, how we get to school, how we buy groceries, how we seek medical care, and how we connect to recreation.

And transportation in Massachusetts is facing a full-blown crisis.

Our public transportation system has been underfunded for too long, leaving it unsafe, unreliable, and out of reach to too many communities. This forces more and more commuters on to our crowded and crumbling roads and bridges.

No matter how you try to get home, get to work, or visit friends, you face challenges. If you take the subway, you ride a system that needs repairs, doesn’t connect to enough neighborhoods, and suffers breakdowns and delays. If you ride the commuter rail, you are plagued by limited schedules and unreliable service. If you get on the roads, you deal with the worst traffic congestion in the country.

The COVID-19 crisis temporarily cleared traffic off our roads, and presented us with a chance to re-evaluate transportation policy. How do we make sure we don’t return to traffic armageddon? Here’s what I’ll fight for if elected your next State Representative on September 1. 

Public transit is a public good: Fixing transportation in Massachusetts starts with centering public transportation as a public good – an investment in making our communities healthier and more productive. Even if you never ride the bus or subway, every rider is a car off the road, meaning less traffic and less pollution. 

Treating public transit as a public good means clearing the multi-billion dollar backlog of repairs to the subway and commuter rail system. 

While the Blue Line is the most reliable on the system, it still occasionally suffers catastrophic breakdowns. When that happens, the backup and congestion through East Boston is a nightmare, and a window into the traffic challenges we would face without a functioning T. 

Better bus service: We need to make bus service more frequent and reliable. This means bus lane pilot programs for routes in Revere, Chelsea and East Boston that frequently face delays and overcrowding, like the 111, 116, 117, and 450. Similar programs in Everett and in Boston have shaved minutes off of people’s trips and made them more reliable – increasing rider satisfaction.

We should also extend the Silver Line from downtown Chelsea into downtown Revere, specifically the Broadway area. Extending this line into Revere will help increase transit access for the part of the city that can’t walk to the Blue Line, and connect residents with jobs in the Seaport and South Station areas..

Build the Blue-Red Connector: The Blue and the Red Lines on the MBTA are the only two that don’t connect. This creates traffic, and cuts off residents of Revere, Chelsea and the North Shore from convenient access to jobs in Cambridge, in the Seaport, and on the South Shore. 

A blue/red connector would also create jobs in our communities by connecting commercial development here to a talented workforce all over Greater Boston, and help reduce traffic to Logan Airport, which regularly chokes Revere and East Boston. 

Transforming the commuter rail into a true Regional Rail system: The Commuter Rail is outdated. The trains run only a few times a day, only connect to one part of Boston, and are unreliable.

We can reimagine this system and turn it into a regional rail network that runs frequently. Imagine what it would do to reduce traffic, increase access to jobs, and make housing more affordable if every community along the commuter rail had access to a train that ran every 20 minutes, with clean, reliable electric engines?

Imagine if the commuter rail also connected to Wonderland station – allowing riders up the North Shore to connect to the Blue Line and access the rest of the MBTA, and allowing Revere and Chelsea residents to connect to transit service up to Salem and beyond?

Imagine if we connected North and South Stations, allowing residents on the North Shore to get to jobs or recreation on the South Shore?

Every morning at the Wonderland garage, over 20% of the cars parked are from Lynn, and even more are from points north. They drive to Revere because the commuter rail isn’t effectively serving them. We can take these cars off our roads and reduce traffic along the beach by making train service from Lynn reliable and affordable. We can do this by transforming our commuter rail system.

Road repairs: Our system of bridges, roads, and highways needs billions of dollars of work just to get up to a state of good repair.

Rideshare regulations: The average resident of Massachusetts drove 30% more miles per person in 2017 than they did in 1981 Many factors led to this, including commuting patterns, underinvestment in transit, and increased traffic to Logan Airport.

Another factor is the expansion of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Rideshares have not only pulled people away from public transit, they’ve also added to traffic and emissions from when they circle city streets without passengers in between trips. 

An increase in rideshare fees to invest in public transit, and smarter regulations around where and how often these services can operate, can help ease congestion challenges.

Our transportation crisis doesn’t just make our commutes worse: it drives up housing costs in places like Revere and Chelsea because so few communities have reliable access to jobs in Boston. It also exacerbates environmental challenges, as gridlock traffic is terrible for pollution.

If we don’t address our transportation crisis, our economy will suffer when jobs and talent move to other, more affordable regions that don’t suffer from crushing commutes. We need leadership that understands the scope and nature of the problem, and the steps we need to take to solve it. 

If elected on September 1, I’ll prioritize making sure our transportation system better serves Revere, Chelsea, Saugus, and the entire state.

Joe Gravellese is a candidate for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea, Saugus), in the Democratic Primary Election on September 1.

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