Last week Rep. Adrian Madaro (Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation) and Sen. Joseph Boncore (Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation) filed a package of bills to address the growing traffic issue in East Boston centered around the Sumner Tunnel.
Bills in the duo’s package include implementing a congestion pricing pilot program for the tunnels that offers lower tolls at off-peak hours. This is an attempt to motivate commuters to stay home during rush hour if they can and travel to work when congestion is not at its peak. Boncores and Madaro’s bills also address the explosion of rideshare trips to Logan Airport and seek to impose a $3 fee on any ride-sharing trips from Uber and Lyft entering or exiting Logan International Airport without a passenger.
All these measures are to encourage the use of public transportation and/or carpooling during the busy commute to keep the number of vehicles off Eastie’s streets.
However, one thing that might hinder commuters from taking public transportation is the proposed 6.3 percent MBTA fare hike pitched by the state agency–a hike the MBTA admits would cut ridership by 1.3 percent.
Madaro is now joining a growing chorus of state lawmakers and city councilors opposing the fare increase.
“It goes against what we are trying to tackle in regards to traffic,” said Madaro. “On one hand, we are urging people to take public transportation more often and other the other hand the MBTA is making this an unattainable reality for many low-income people living here.”
Last week at the MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board, Rep. Madaro testified on behalf of the Boston Legislative Delegation from the State House.
“As members of the Boston Legislative Delegation, we represent residents who constitute a core segment of the MBTA’s ridership,” said Madaro. “Our districts together cover most of the subway’s area of operation and much of the bus network and Silver Line. This fare increase has the potential to negatively impact our most vulnerable constituents and discourage ridership on the system. It is especially troubling to see that the MBTA projects that this fare increase would cause a 1.3 percent decrease in ridership.”
Madaro added that public transportation is a vital resource for residents, especially for low-income individuals, seniors, and students who rely on MBTA service as their primary means of transportation.
“We realize fares bring needed revenue to the operations of our public transportation system, but understanding how higher fares affect these vulnerable populations is essential to striking the right balance between funding and public accessibility to transportation services,” he said. “We believe that there needs to be a more in depth discussion with the MBTA about the background and reasoning for this proposal prior to the imposition of any fare increase.”
Madaro said that he and the Boston Legislative Delegation realize the MBTA cannot always avoid fare hikes, but this is the wrong time for such a proposal.
“We invite the MBTA to open a dialogue with us to explore methods to promote ridership, ensure it has adequate resources, and keep the MBTA accessible and competitive,” said Madaro.
The Boston City Council, led by At Large City Councilor Michelle Wu, wrote a letter to the MBTA that read the proposed 6 percent fare hike would place an undue burden on residents already struggling to meet transportation-related costs, totaling an unaffordable 41 percent increase in MBTA fares since 2012.
The Council concluded that the increased costs would push more commuters to drive, undercutting the city’s most urgent goal of increasing transit ridership to ease congestion, limit air pollution, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“This moment in history demands aggressive action against the threats of income inequality and climate change,” said Wu. “Sustainable, affordable, reliable public transit is fundamental to providing Boston residents with the greatest access to jobs, schools, and opportunities beyond their home neighborhoods.”
At a community meeting called by East Boston’s elected officials MassDOT was forced to admit that when designing the new entrance into the Sumner Tunnel the state agency used outdated traffic projections. MassDOT predicted traffic going into the tunnel would grow by .5 percent each year.
Going on those projections traffic into the Sumner should have only grown by 2.5 percent from 2013 to 2018. However, MassDOT engineer Andrew Paul said at last week’s meeting that traffic has exploded and there was a whopping 47 percent increase in tunnel traffic since 2013. That is nearly 45 percent more than MassDOT predicted over the same time period.
This represented a growth 20 times what MassDOT expected.