MassCommute Testifies on Governor Baker's Proposed MBTA Legislation

On May 11th, 2015, MassCommute Executive Director Julia Prange Wallerce delivered the following testimony before the Joint Committee on Transportation in response to Governor Baker's proposed bill to reform the MBTA ("An Act for a Reliable, Sustainable MBTA (H.3347))
Chairman Straus, Chairman McGee and members of the Committee, thank you for the
opportunity to offer our remarks in response to the Governor’s recently proposed legislation to
reform and stabilize the MBTA (H.3347).
MassCommute is a coalition of twelve TMAs representing over 300,000 employees and 300+
employers in Massachusetts, from major biotech companies to property management firms to
universities to hospitals. We are a proud example of how public private partnerships can deliver
significant benefits to the state, its residents & its businesses.
Our TMAs are dedicated to working with communities to promote and provide real transportation
options that reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and drive the state’ economic engine. 
A well-funded, fully functioning public transit system is critical to these goals, no matter where
one lives, works, or does business in the state. 
We commend the Commonwealth for the reforms that were undertaken in 2009 and 2013 to break
down bureaucratic silos within government and authorize critical funding for transportation,
including the consolidation of MassDOT and the Transportation Finance Act of 2013.  
We can’t afford to roll back these steps forward, and yet it appears this is what we are about to do
if we pass this legislation as presented today.
We are grateful to the Baker Administration for taking this “deep dive” into MBTA issues to
pursue increased transparency & accountability & restore public confidence.  But we have some
serious concerns about the legislation that has been put before you today, namely that there
is no clear strategy to address the MBTA’s $6.7 billion State of Good Repair backlog, let
alone to make targeted investments in future system capacity. We are also very concerned
that the proposal for a financial control board will add more layers of bureaucracy to a
governance system that was streamlined in 2009. The intent of transportation reform was to
breakdown the silos in our transportation system. The direction of the Governor’s proposal heads
in the wrong direction of a unified, integrated transportation system for the Commonwealth. 
We urge you to strike the following provisions that we feel would move the Commonwealth in
the wrong direction:
1) Maintain the contract assistance for the MBTA that was outlined in budget
documents accompanying the 2013 Transportation Finance Act. Without this contract
assistance, the MBTA will be unable to meet its operating budget.
2) Maintain the general fund transfers to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund
that were created in the 2013 Transportation Finance Act and designed to fund our entire
statewide transportation system, including roads, bridges and regional transit authorities. We
cannot see how the MBTA and the state’s transportation system can maintain their current level
of service while simultaneously facing the loss of over $500 million in the next five years.
3) Maintain the fare caps that were created in the 2013 Transportation Finance Act.
In the years leading up to that legislation, riders faced steep, unpredictable fare increases that
often resulted in loss of ridership. The fare caps were created in order to create predictability for
both riders and for the MBTA.
We agree with the Governor’s Special Panel that in order to create the kind of 21st century
transportation system that Boston needs & deserves, we need both reforms and revenue.  While this legislation before you proposes some much needed reforms, it lacks the strategic investments
in new vehicles and new capacity that both our current and future needs demand. In fact, it
actually proposes less revenue that what we have on the books today. 
If we are going to continue to attract and retain world-class businesses and the workers that they
need to thrive and survive, we need to invest in a world-class transportation network. We see time
and time again that employers make location decisions largely based on the transportation
infrastructure in place. Our economy depends on this system and we can’t afford to roll back our
investments and mark them with red tape. 
Thank you for your time today and to considering our concerns about this crucial legislation.
Julia Prange Wallerce, Executive Director 

MA Employers Recognized for Excellence in Commuter Options: ECO Awards 2015


The efforts of more than 170 Massachusetts businesses, colleges, and universities, who promote active, healthy, and sustainable commute options were celebrated today for helping Massachusetts to reduce traffic congestion, to promote healthy lifestyles, and benefit the environment. The Massachusetts Excellence in Commuter Options (ECO) Awards ceremony took place at historic Fenway Park and brought together businesses from across the state that provide innovative programs and resources to encourage employees to travel by public transit, carpools, vanpools, bicycling or walking.

“The Massachusetts employers recognized today are helping the Commonwealth by encouraging more environmentally friendly commuting options that will enhance our communities by providing a healthier and cleaner environment,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO, Stephanie Pollack. “Within the past calendar year, Massachusetts employers saw an increase of over 7,000 commuters participating in commuter options programs, resulting in a reduction of over 11,000 tons of emissions from entering our air.”

Massachusetts is regarded nationally as an innovator in promoting shared use of infrastructure on roadways across the Commonwealth. MassDOT has established numerous policies that emphasize consideration for all modes of travel when designing roadways. These policies include a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the transportation sector.

MassCommute hosted the ECO Awards in collaboration with MassRIDES, the statewide travel options program and MassDOT. MassRIDES and MassCommute actively support employers across the Commonwealth in their work to reduce drive-alone trips to work sites while encouraging employees to travel by public transit, carpools, vanpools, bicycling, and walking – or avoid commuting altogether by encouraging telework opportunities. Together, MassRIDES and MassCommute have over 700 employer partners and member organizations that support green and healthy transportation options.

The awards ceremony at Fenway Park celebrated the efforts of over 170 MassRIDES partners and MassCommute TMA (Transportation Management Associations) members. Nine employers were recognized for outstanding accomplishments, including:

Leadership in Commuter Options
• University of Massachusetts Lowell: Bicycle
• Takeda: Walk
• Harvard University: Transit
• MassMutual Financial Life Insurance Company: Vanpool
• Staples: Carpool

Leadership in Commuter Engagement
• Boston Children’s Hospital: Employer Transportation Coordinator

Rising Star
• Converse
• Hanscom Air Force Base

Leadership in Innovation
• Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

The ECO Awards Ceremony is presented with sponsorships from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Eastern Bank, Edenred, vRide, NuRide, AECOM, Enterprise, Tufts Health Plan, TransAction Associates, 128 Business Council, and the Charles River Transportation Management Association. The generous support of these sponsors allows for greater recognition of sustainable transportation efforts throughout the Commonwealth.

Employers recognized at the fifth annual ECO Awards support GreenDOT, a comprehensive environmental responsibility and sustainability initiative of MassDOT. Within its GreenDOT initiative, MassDOT and the MBTA have worked to dramatically reduce bus exhaust emissions by modernizing the MBTA bus fleet with the addition of Compressed Natural Gas, Electric Trolley, Dual Mode and Emissions Controlled Diesel buses. The MBTA is also undertaking the first locomotive retrofit project in the nation, testing a diesel oxidation catalyst on one commuter train. GreenDOT calls for MassDOT to incorporate sustainability into all of its activities, from strategic planning to project design and construction to system operation. The GreenDOT policy initiative includes greenhouse gas reduction targets mandated under the Global Warming Solutions Act, signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2008. This law requires an economy-wide 2020 emissions reduction mandate of 25 percent, the first step toward a required 80 percent reduction by 2050. The transportation sector generates more than one-third of the total greenhouse gas emissions produced in Massachusetts.

Check the full list of ECO Award winners. From all of us at MassCommute, MassRides & MassDOT, CONGRATULATIONS!! (stay tuned for pics on our Facebook page)

*This post has been adapted from the MassDOT blog 


Massachusetts' TMAs: Doing More With Less 

At the beginning of 2015, the Boston Globe published an article on key transportation initiatives which planning groups would like newly elected Governor Charlie Baker to consider, referred to as a "transit wish list" and including  projects such as the MBTA Green Line Extension,South Coast Rail, Silver Line Gateway and CrossTown Connect. While positioning the numbers necessary to fund  projects like these against the financial resources currently available in our state budget can be daunting and even paralyzing, it can also be inspiring and even empowering to recognize the innovative moves many communities have already made to address transportation challenges through the means of TMAs.

TMAs are public-private partnerships which generate enormous public benefits at minimal public price tags. The example of the CrossTown Connect TMA is just one of over a dozen which currently exist in Massachusetts where municipalities and local business communities have banded together to serve the needs of both urban and suburban commuters . MassCommute, the statewide coalition of 12 TMAs , works collaboratively with the state on advancing transportation solutions and reducing single occupancy vehicle trips.

Driven by goals of greenhouse gas reduction, traffic relief and wellness, the programs and services provided by these TMAs range from shuttles (including reverse commute), to vanpools, to rideshare matching to bike/walk incentives.  What makes them unique from other commuter service programs is that they are created in a collaborative fashion by diverse community stakeholders in direct response to the transportation gaps in their geographic area.

By leveraging modest government funding with significant private sector investments, these TMAs are able to provide transportation services that not only improve and enhance existing public transportation but effectively close connectivity gaps without additional public expenditures.  In Massachusetts, for example, our Department of Transportation's modest investment in the TMAs of MassCommute yielded the following returns in 2013:


  • 1,263,507 fewer vehicle trips generated
  • 4,673,507 lbs of CO2 emissions reduced
  • 495,065 gallons of gas saved
  • $2,156,143 put back into the pockets of commuters
  • 5,446,796 shuttle boardings (made possible by a $14,089,583 private investment).


At a time when public resources in Massachusetts are dwindling almost as fast as transportation infrastructure is crumbling, TMAs can be panaceas for local and state governments looking to "do more with less" (a familiar phrase from Governor Baker's campaign rhetoric). But to do more for our existing and unmet transportation needs without generating new sources of revenue will require bold and innovative ideas from both the public and private sectors, which is precisely what TMAs are structured to do. Our coalition  looks forward to working with the Baker Administration to support and promote TMAs so that the goals of transportation options and regional mobility are never relegated to a wish list.




Late Night T Service Threatened Despite Popularity 

Today's Boston Globe revealed that the fate of late night MBTA service is uncertain, despite its popularity amongst riders. Launched as a one-year pilot program in March 2014, the late night service extended the hours of operation for all MBTA subway lines and 15 key bus routes to approximately 2:30AM on Friday and Saturday nights. As this pilot period comes to an end, it appears that a combination of state funding shortfalls and lack of business and political support- not ridership- are steering the future of the service into question.   

A public survey initiated by MassCommute in the fall of 2014 found overwhelming support and enthusiasm for the late night service. From a pool of about 500 respondents, the Red and Green Lines were the most popular services, and many respondents reported using the service not just to get home from a night on the town but for commuting from night jobs, particularly in the service and medical sectors, and late flights from Logan Airport. Some of our favorite responses from the survey:

"This service is absolutely essential to keep me living in Boston/Cambridge and for this city to truly call itself a world-class global city like Chicago, NY, and many others."-Student

"I often have critical experiments that extend into the late night, or need late-night check-ins. I also am living cross-country from my husband and children and have flights that arrive to the airport late at night, leaving me having to take an expensive taxi ride. I have been waiting for Boston to extend their service to late night. Please keep this important service available!"-Research Scientist

"It made traveling from school and work much safer because I would get out of work past midnight. I didn't have to spent 45 minutes walking to Brighton from Fenway. Again it made weekends much easier on me, I could enjoy exploring the city late without having to worry about transportation options or walking back home."- Research Assistant/ Cafeteria Worker

Now with over 860,000 weekend rides logged, transportation officials are hinting that they may push the late night program to the chopping block in order to help cover a $765 million deficit in the state’s budget. Private sector support to help cover the costs of the $13 million pilot has been insufficient, even though it is large corporations that ultimately benefit from the service by attracting and retaining young talent and meeting the transportation needs of employees.

As an organization committed to supporting and providing transportation options for commuters and increasing accessibility to transit, MassCommute is highly concerned about the potential loss of late night T service. We hope to help shape the conversation over the coming months with transportation officials and the new Baker Administration to preserve what is a powerful asset to Boston's economic base and quality of life for both commuters and residents Boston. 


Good News, Too Late: Congress Passes Retroactive Tax Extension for Transit Commuters

Before closing for the year, the 113th Congress passed legislation that comes with both good news & bad news for commuters:

Good news: The legislation extends over fifty tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013 and retroactively extends them for 2014. Included in these provisions is the transit benefit that will rise from $130/month to $250/month.

Bad news: The legislation does not extend these provisions into 2015. 

What does this mean for commuters? Sadly, not very much. The action taken has no impact on 2015 and will not help the majority of commuters for 2014 unless they elected to withhold funds above the cap. Still, it is a step in the right direction in that the legislation recognizes the value of providing tax benefits to transit riders and at least the same level as drivers. More


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