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.