Rail and Transportation
The Chamber’s policy perspective relating to the organization’s involvement in the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Transportation
In spring 2019, the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Transportation was established to determine if it is possible to build a consensus among the state’s business organizations to help guide elected and appointed state leadership closer to a first-class, responsive transportation system statewide. As president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Timothy P. Murray served as one of four co-chairs along with James E. Rooney, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce; Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce; and Richard K. Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Corporation.
At the conclusion of nearly six months of meetings and work by the more-than two dozen business stakeholder organizations involved, there was near-unanimous consensus among the groups on the need for additional revenue for transportation based on conversations and a survey of participant business organizations. A copy of the set of recommendations put forth by the four co-chairs can be downloaded here.
Given that analysis, the Chamber supports increasing revenue linked to necessary transportation investments in the Central Massachusetts region and beyond. The following is a list of recommendations aimed at raising revenue dedicated to improving the Commonwealth’s transportation system.
Revenue Structure Recommendations
21st Century Roadway pricing task force: This group would study and create a plan for a statewide electronic gantry system which would be applicable for collecting tolls, measuring and monitoring congestion, and implementing demand pricing in certain areas of the state.
Execution must be done equitably recognizing that Central Massachusetts and MetroWest drivers currently pay tolls while residents commuting in other parts of the state do not. Therefore, the Chamber does not support any increase in toll pricing until such a time as a uniform statewide tolling system is in place.
Increasing the gas tax fee by a range of 8 to 12¢ over three years with the possibility for a 2¢ diesel split is amenable to the Chamber. (Reduce any gas tax increase by the amount included with the Transportation & Climate Initiative implementation currently projected for 2022.)
Transportation & Climate Initiative
A collaboration between 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic jurisdictions, the Transportation & Climate Initiative aims to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector. The framework of the TCI, which is currently under discussion by the governors of the participant states, would roll out a tax on state fuel suppliers transporting fuel across state lines. In reality, these costs will likely be imposed on fuel consumers. Therefore, whatever tax amount is proposed by the TCI, the Chamber would argue that figure should be reduced by the same amount of the regional TCI tax imposed on Massachusetts drivers.
Transportation Network Companies to Increase base fee to $1
Consider surcharges for luxury vehicles and/or discounts for shared rides. Funding from TNC dedicated as follows: 10 percent to the municipality where the ride originated, 10 percent to the Commonwealth Transportation fund and 80 percent to MBTA and Regional Transit Authorities.
Gov. Baker’s Transportation Bond Bill
The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the provisions in the governor’s bill which would expand upon management and procurement tools needed for MassDOT and MBTA. The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce strongly believes that any new revenue increases must be linked to regional transportation projects and priorities. These priorities include:
• Timely completion of center high platform of Worcester’s Union Station.
• Timely completion of third track study currently underway to be followed by the immediate allocation of funds for engineering and construction.
• Funding to double the amount of MBTA parking at all MBTA stops from Worcester to Framingham.
• Funds to purchase the requisite number of locomotives and coach cars to increase the number of daily roundtrip trains between Worcester and Boston from 20 to 30 roundtrips over the next 10 years. This will also be critical to developing a mitigation plan for the I-90 Allston Viaduct construction impact which is scheduled to begin in 2022.
• Increasing investment to address the Central Massachusetts Planning Commissions Major Infrastructure Project priorities.
• Funding for a three-year pilot program that would allow Worcester Regional Transit Authority riders free access to bus services. Additionally, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce supports implementation of many reforms outlined in the Taskforce on RTA Performance and Funding’s “A Vision for the Future of Mass RTA.” In addition, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau’s report ,“The Implications of a Fare-Free WRTA,” merits the implementation of a pilot program for fare-free service.
• Expanded funding for the Commonwealth’s Industrial Rail Access Program with accountability measures that guarantee bi-annual allocations by these matching grants.
“A Better City”
The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce believes the time is now for public and private sector leaders to come together to collaborate on real solutions to address the Commonwealth’s growing transportation challenges. As outlined in A Better City’s report, “Funding Transportation Solutions,” peer regions such as New York City, Seattle, Toronto and Los Angeles are investing in their transportation needs to maintain global competitiveness and achieve environmental goals. Massachusetts must do the same.