Category: Transportation

Bills look to extract more money from Uber, Lyft

BOSTON — East Boston Rep. Adrian Madaro was running late Tuesday morning to testify on legislation meant to address the frustrating congestion that plagues Boston’s highways and main city streets and roads because he was “stuck in traffic in the Sumner Tunnel surrounded by” cars from ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Those ride-for-hire services, or transportation network companies (TNCs) as the state refers to them, have exploded in popularity and contribute to the congestion, especially single-passenger trips and trips that start or end with an empty car at the airport, Madaro said.

Once he got out of the tunnel and into the State House, Madaro was joined by Boston Rep. Jay Livingstone to pitch the Financial Services Committee on legislation (H 1039) that would change the fee structure for TNCs to generate new funding for public transit options and the communities that deal with the worst congestion.

“This situation and the fight over the roads, especially with respect to Boston, it’s really a negative feedback loop where people are discouraged with the time buses are taking to go anywhere so they’re using TNCs as and alternative to that, and that is causing buses to take even longer,” Livingstone said.

Madaro and Livingstone said the bill acknowledges that the 20 cent per TNC ride fee imposed by the Legislature in a 2016 law is insufficient and that the rigid fee structure is not flexible enough to truly mitigate the effects of TNCs.

“We now know that this fee is too low in proportion to the traffic and congestion effects these rideshares have on our city streets,” Madaro said. He added, “By switching from an outdated, low, flat fee to a dynamic percentage fee, we are more accurately accounting for the impact these rides have on our communities and our infrastructure.”

The bill would change the fee to be a percentage of the total ride cost calculated by distance and demand, Madaro said. The structure would differentiate between solo rides and pooled rides with multiple passengers by charging 6.25 percent for a solo ride and 4.25 percent for shared trips.

Madaro also filed a bill (H 1041) that would charge companies for every so-called “deadhead” ride — a ride-hailing vehicle trip taken with no passenger, contributing to congestion — at Logan International Airport.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of TNC trips increased 25 percent in Massachusetts to more than 81 million a year. The total number of rides grew across the state, but the growth was largely concentrated in the greater Boston urban core.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh testified before the Financial Services Committee on Tuesday in support of another piece of legislation (H 1067/S 102) that would change the TNC fee structure.

The bill Walsh supported, filed by Boston Rep. Michael Moran and Winthrop Sen. Joseph Boncore, would change the TNC fee to be equal to 6.25 percent of the total ride cost for solo trips and 3 percent for shared rides. Half of the money generated from those fees would go to the city or town where the ride originated and the other half would go to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund and MassDevelopment.

Under the bill, TNC drivers who are on the road during peak travel times but do not have a passenger in the car would also be charged 20 cents per mile without a passenger.

“TNC’s should be contributing more to the public good, given the major impact they’re having on our streets. Look at the numbers: 42 million TNC rides started in Boston last year. That’s 115,000 every day. That’s more than one every second. Many of these rides happen during rush hour. And oftentimes, the pick-ups and drop-offs happen in a travel lane, including bus stops, bike lanes, and emergency vehicle areas,” Walsh said. “Increasing the assessment will help us ensure that the positives of this growing industry outweigh the negatives.”

Though the company did not testify in person on Tuesday, Uber said in a statement that it shares the goals of reducing congestion and limited greenhouse gas emissions but does not agree with the ways Walsh and others are seeking to accomplish those goals.

“We support the mayor’s goal of reducing congestion and want to continue to work with the city on innovative pilots like new pickup and dropoff zones,” Uber spokesperson Alix Anfang said in a statement. “However, rideshare vehicles represent a small fraction of cars in Boston and new taxes targeting rideshare customers punish Bostonians who don’t have a car while doing little to invest in much needed improvements to transit.”

State Unveils Conceptual Plans for Craigie Bridge Bike Lane

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) unveiled conceptual plans for the installation of a bike lane on the Craigie Bridge (a/k/a Charles River Dam Road) at a community meeting on Wednesday, May 1, at the Museum of Science.

MassDOT Highway Engineer Andy Paul outlined the state’s proposal to add dedicated the bike lane from Land Boulevard to Leverett Circle, which would reduce the existing six travel lanes to five.

The 5-foot bike lane and 11-foot travel lanes would be separated by a 1½-foot buffer area with flex-posts and painted markings. In the opposite direction, the travel lanes would measure 10 feet wide.

Bike signals would be installed at Land Boulevard and Museum Way, as would a new left-turn lane to provide access to the Gilmore Bridge, Paul said.

Also, the left-turn lane from Land Boulevard onto Charles River Dam Road would be modified from double-left to a single-left.

At Museum Way, the buffer between the travel and bike lanes would be reduced to a single lane.

Flex-posts would be removed coming over the bridge past the museum towards Leverett Circle while the bike lane would be reduced to 4 feet and travel lanes would be narrowed to 10 feet, Paul said.

A left-turn would also be installed to provide a bike crossing at Martha Road.

Heading towards the museum, the bike lane would measure 6½ feet over the bridge.

The project is scheduled to start next month after ongoing construction on the Gilmore Bridge wraps up, with Phase One entailing the addition of new pavement stripings, signage and flex-posts while the second phase would involve the modification of traffic signals.

The first public meeting on this matter took place at MIT last December, followed by a “Road Safety Audit” the following month, Paul said.

“MassDOT and [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] did a great job of taking feedback from all stakeholders,” State Rep. Jay Livingstone told this reporter. “I think the final product will greatly improve the experience for both bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu delivers petition opposing MBTA fare increases

By Web 2019/02/28 Announcements

BOSTON – Tonight, Boston City Councilor At-Large Michelle Wu presented representatives from the MBTA with a 2,700-signature petition opposing the MBTA’s proposed 6% fare increase and urging immediate steps toward transit equity and access.

“The proposed 6% fare hike would place an undue burden on residents already struggling to meet transportation-related costs, totaling an unaffordable 41% increase in MBTA fares since 2012,” reads the petition. “The increased costs would push more commuters to drive, undercutting our most urgent goal of increasing transit ridership to ease congestion, limit air pollution, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

A coalition of local elected officials joined Councilor Wu’s opposition to the fare hike by signing on to her petition, including Boston City Councilors Andrea Campbell, Boston City Council President, District 4, Michael Flaherty, At-Large, Annissa Essabai-George, At-Large, Althea Garrison, At-Large, Lydia Edwards, District 1, Ed Flynn, District 2, Tim McCarthy, District 5, Matt O’Malley, District 6, Kim Janey, District 7, Josh Zakim, District 8, and Mark Ciommo, District 9; State Senators Sonia Chang-Díaz, Second Suffolk and Sal DiDomenico, Middlesex and Suffolk; State Representatives Adrian Madaro, 1st Suffolk, Jay Livingston, 8th Suffolk, Nika Elugardo, 15 Suffolk, Liz Miranda, 5th Suffolk, Andy Vargas, 3rd Essex, Mike Connolly, 26th Middlesex, Tommy Vitolo, 15th Norfolk, Maria Robinson, 6th Middlesex, Tram Nguyen, 18th Essex, Tami Gouveia, 14th Middlesex, and Cambridge Vice Mayor Jan Devereux.

Also joining Wu as co-sponsors of the petition were a number of grassroots organizations, including Boston Clean Energy Coalition, Boston Climate Action Network, Boston Cyclists Union Fairmount Indigo Transit Coalition, Greater Boston Young Democrats, Green Streets Initiative, LivableStreets Alliance, Massachusetts Climate Action Network, Massachusetts Sierra Club, Progressives Massachusetts, Sustainable Sudbury, Tufts SPINES, WalkUP Roslindale, West Roxbury Saves Energy, and 350 Massachusetts.

“Tonight, we delivered a mandate to the MBTA on behalf of over 2,700 residents. Riders of every T line, from every neighborhood in Boston and others across Massachusetts, stood together urging transit equity and access, not fare increases,” said Councilor Wu. “This moment in history demands aggressive action against the threats of income inequality and climate change. Sustainable, affordable, reliable public transit is fundamental to providing Boston residents with the greatest access to jobs, schools, and opportunities beyond their home neighborhoods.”

The petition also outlines ways in which the MBTA could remove barriers for public transit to ensure the right of mobility for all, including the creation of free, unlimited, year-round youth and senior passes,committing to a low-income fare, and designating fare-free bus lanes through underserved communities.

The petition goes on to urge the MBTA to take immediate steps towards fare equity. These include a commitment to rejecting distance-based bus and subway fares, which have been shown to be regressive, as more residents are being priced out of housing close to job centers. The petition further calls for a re-zoning of the commuter rail fares so that all of Boston is Zone 1A and no municipality is split between multiple fare zones.

Finally, petition signers asked the MBTA to focus on building a sustainable funding base for public transit by implementing smarter tolling and congestion pricing and supporting increased surcharges for rideshare services, such as Uber and Lyft.

Councilor Wu has long championed a climate and economic justice-centered approach to public transit. She first announced her opposition to the MBTA’s proposed fare hikes in an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe, where she argued that Boston should set fare-free public transportation as the target goal.

The full text of Councilor Wu’s petition can be found below.

Dear Members of the Fiscal Management and Control Board, Secretary Pollack, and Governor Baker:

We oppose the proposal to raise MBTA fares.

The proposed 6% fare hike would place an undue burden on residents already struggling to meet transportation-related costs, totaling an unaffordable 41% increase in MBTA fares since 2012. The increased costs would push more commuters to drive, undercutting our most urgent goal of increasing transit ridership to ease congestion, limit air pollution, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We are running out of time to transform our economy and society in the face of climate change, and the Greater Boston region is now confronted with the worst traffic in the nation.The proposed fare increase represents a step in the wrong direction when we can’t afford anything less than aggressive progress forward.

We urge you to reject the fare increases and instead take steps toward a fare-free transit system to ensure the right of mobility for all:

  • Create a single youth pass with free, unlimited, year-round access to the MBTA. Currently, MBTA options for students and youth passes are needlessly complicated and inconsistent, and are turning the next generation of riders against public transportation.
  • Extend the same free, unlimited, year-round pass to seniors residing in Massachusetts.
  • Provide low-income riders with Charlie Cards and a low-income fare option, distributing these MBTA passes through agencies that administer SNAP and other means-tested benefits.

We also urge the MBTA to take immediate steps for fare equity:

  • Commit to rejecting distance-based bus and subway fares, which have been shown to be regressive, as more residents are being priced out of housing close to job centers.
  • Rezone the commuter rail fares so that all of Boston is Zone 1A and no municipality is split between multiple fare zones.
  • As the MBTA moves toward a cashless fare collection system, reject plans to spend resources on costly fare vending machines at every bus stop and instead designate the bus routes where riders will depend on cash as fare-free routes.

Finally, we ask that you focus on building a sustainable funding base for public transit:

  • Advocate for the Transportation & Climate Initiative.
  • Implement smarter tolling and congestion pricing.
  • Support increased surcharges for TNCs (such as Uber and Lyft) that encourage shared rides.
  • Support legislation to enable regional ballot initiatives that would allow voters to identify and raise revenues for transit priorities.

Transportation planning must not exist in a vacuum, and fare hikes will only continue to exacerbate the inequities and climate and public health challenges facing our city and region. Please take action to strengthen opportunities for generations to come by embracing transit equity and access.



For the Coming Year Livingstone’s Legislative Agenda Considers Both District-wide and National Issues

by Dan Murphy • February 7, 2019 •

While State Rep. Jay Livingstone conceived his legislative agenda for the new year with his constituents firmly in mind, he hopes it will also reverberate on a national level.

“I focused on priorities for the district, as well as thinking about how to continue making Massachusetts a leader, which is more necessary now because of what is happening at the federal level,” he said. “One thing that is under attack nationally is women’s reproductive rights…and we want to make it clear that Massachusetts reaffirms women’s reproductive rights.”

Livingstone and Rep. Pat Haddad have filed legislation called “The ROE Act” to protect women’s decisions regarding their own bodies, which has become the “top priority in the legislative term” for the nonprofits NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood.

According to Planned Parenthood, “The ROE Act eliminates the onerous requirement that forces teens to obtain permission from a parent or judge to access abortion. This process causes teens to delay care or travel outside of the state, and is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

Another bill that Livingstone filed with Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents East Boston, aims to raise fees on Uber and Lyft to better align them with the fees levied on ride-sharing services in other states while using the proceeds to improve public transit, as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

 “I’m excited to address improving our transportation system and discouraging use of fossil fuels,” Livingstone said. “I think this bill will help address congestion that is increasing at an exponential rate because of these services and decrease transportation pollution as a result.”

Meanwhile, Livingstone and Rep. Andy Vargas have filed new legislation t to further facilitate early voting in all elections.

“I think we should continue to make voting as easy as possible for people to increase participation,” Livingstone said.

Gearing Up: Plans for Bike Lanes on Craigie Bridge Move Forward

by Dan Murphy • January 31, 2019 • 

Following the end of the public comment period on Jan. 22, the state is now moving forward with plans to install dedicated bike lanes on the Craigie Bridge.

Current conditions on the bridge, which carries traffic on the McGrath O’Brien Highway (Route 28) between Land Boulevard in Cambridge and Leverett Circle in Boston, include six travel lanes with no dedicated bike lanes leaving bicyclists to use travel lanes or the sidewalks and no defined turn lane into the Museum of Science, according to The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

MassDOT and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) unveiled two bike-lane options, as well as planned safety improvements for the bridge, on Dec. 18 at the MIT Stratton Student Center in Cambridge.

New safety measures, which are slated for completion by this spring, include changing speed-limit signs to 25 mph; installing “speed feedback” radar signs; conducting road-safety audit; installing pavement-marking change; and installing flex posts if possible, according to MassDOT.

The design team presented two options for creating bike lanes, both of which would eliminate one traffic lane.

The first option, which was developed in 2008, would create continuous on-road bike lanes and maintain the existing sidewalks while providing two travel lanes in each direction and adding a left turn into the Museum of Science.

The alternative is just like the first option, except that it would create three travel lanes into Leverett Circle and restrict left turns into the Museum of Science.

The final design is expected to be presented in the winter of 2019, wrote MassDOT spokesman Maxwell Huber.

“O’Brien Highway is a key bike route between Cambridge and Boston,” according to a statement from the Boston Cyclists Union. “It’s also eight lanes wide in parts, with a high volume of truck traffic and speeding vehicles. Protected bike lanes are absolutely necessary to minimize conflicts on this road.”

The bridge was the site of a fatality on Nov. 9 of last year when 24-year-old Boston University Meng Jin,24, was struck and killed by a dump truck while biking there.

Stacy Thompson, executive director of the Cambridge nonprofit Livable Street Alliance, is pleased that the state is proceeding with the project, albeit more slowly than was originally anticipated.

“Citizens have been advocating for bike lanes since the late ‘90s…and we’ve been asking for these changes for more than a decade,” Thompson said. “There was a commitment when Longfellow Bridge rehabilitation project was complete that they would install the bike lanes, but there were various delays with that bridge and now that it is complete, we still don’t have the bike lanes [on the Craigie].”

While Thompson said she sees no merit in debating which alternative is preferable, especially since they were developed, at least in the case of the first option, more than a decade ago, she emphasizes that “the devil is in the details,” such as connectivity to the Charles River and whether or not buses can make a left turn into the Museum of Science.

“Having strong biking infrastructure is an absolute must, but they still have work to do so that the bridge can move the most people, which includes improving walking and biking infrastructure,” Thompson said.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone also said he was pleased that the project is moving forward while underscoring the bridge’s potentially hazardous conditions. “I think current situation is unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclist, and I think separated bike lanes should be installed with minimal disruption to current traffic,” Livingstone said. “I’m pleased that MassDOT is doing the public process with all stakeholders involved so that everyone has a say.”