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You sit in traffic and then you die

The Globe today starts its detailed look at traffic congestion in the Boston area, featuring overjammed roads, rickety public transit and a governor who loves his SUV. It sums up the situation in Boston:

When Walsh took office in 2014, the city pledged to cut driving 5 percent by 2020. But instead, driving has surged, jumping an estimated 14 percent from 2005 to 2017.

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Pollack said the state would not consider one bold measure — imposing tolls to enter downtown — unless Boston City Hall took the initiative. She said in August that the state is not exploring these type of tolls because “the city of Boston has not indicated an interest.”

The mayor expressed concern that a congestion charge could disproportionately hurt lower-income residents, but he said Beacon Hill would need to act because he couldn’t institute a congestion fee without state approval.

Nice to see that political gridlock can match the physical gridlock!

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The mayor expressed concern that a congestion charge could disproportionately hurt lower-income residents

I'd like to see some statistics on that. My guess is that most, but certainly not all, people who are driving into the city alone in their cars are usually higher income people, who can afford to live away from the city and pay to park. Charging people driving in from Newton and Wellesley and the whole North or South Shores a buck or two would go a long way to generating much needed money to help the T.

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Lower-income people aren't driving themselves into the city and parking downtown; they're trying to finagle transferring between two buses and a train and hoping that they can make their next connection in time because the next bus isn't for 20 minutes.

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Making the T free (including CR) would help far more low income people than raising fees on driving would hurt low income people.

Not having a car saves a ton of money.

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Where does the money for the "free" T come from?

People like me, people like you. You know, people with good incomes who also might have relatives who don't have good incomes.

Cost of civilization.

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U think we should raise taxes?

Or take it from something else the state is doing?

Raise my taxes, please. I make enough money and would like to support this financially.

There would be eventual cost savings from no longer needing to maintain so many fare gates, CharlieTicket machines, and cash boxes on site, hired companies for moving cash around, etc. but I'm not even banking on that. I will eagerly and happily pay my part now, today.

(I'm not going to just send the state an extra check though, I need them to actually raise taxes and commit to spending the money on removing fares from the T)

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I'm with you 100%. The sad part is, we wouldn't need to raise taxes that much to have a fare-free MBTA. Fare revenue was about $650 million but take into account the expenses you noted and we likely only need ~$500 million to get rid of fares without reducing the T's revenue.

Sounds like a lot but if you taxed the top 500,000 incomes in Mass the same amount as a subway monthly pass ($1080 a year) you would cover the drop in revenue from getting rid of fares. A very large share of those people paying the tax either have a zero net income difference (because they pay for a monthly pass today) or save money if they have a commuter rail pass.

And the best part, it would increase performance immediately, especially on buses and green line where you could then just get on the thing instead of jumping through hoops to tap your card.

Alas, it makes too much sense and thus won't happen. Sad.

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...they increase your taxes for free healthcare, free childcare, free college, student loan forgiveness, plain old infrastructure and climate change remediation (just to be bi-partisan this all has to come after we raise taxes because the tax cut from a couple of years ago was unsustainable).

80% of Americans have little or no retirement savings - and fewer and fewer are going to be able to rely on a pension. And now we want everything for free. We could make the millionaires and billionaires pay - but we'll need about 10 times as many as we have now - but nobody can become a millionaire or billionaire if you raise taxes to pay for all this. So then there's that.

80% of Americans have little or no retirement savings - and fewer and fewer are going to be able to rely on a pension. And now we want everything for free.

Do you not maybe see a connection here?

nobody can become a millionaire or billionaire if you raise taxes to pay for all this.

I'm pretty sure you'll still be able to get rich even if taxes are raised.

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1) Actually, no, I don't see a connection. About 80% of Americans make enough to save 10% of their income annually IF they live frugally. They just don't - they have kids they can't afford, and spend every dime they make on travel, subscription services, cell phones, sports tickets and God knows what else. I do this for a living - I see people that make very modest salaries and live below their means for decades and comfortably retire. Then I see other people (including some of not so modest means)...

2) Depends - if you really want to pay for all that - there is not enough money to go around for most people to become rich - a few - but many fewer than we have today.

Just math.

Corporations scammed their way out of being responsible for the workers that create their wealth and the taxpayers are stuck providing a safety net. Instead of fighting with small business, we should focus on publicly traded companies. If you want to raise money selling shares, then you need to have a higher minimum wage, 85% health care and a pension that vests in 10 years. It is the stock market that creates billionaires by slashing employee benefits. Close part-time loop holes too.

Not disagreeing with everything - but not enough money to do all of that.

And you can forget pensions. Retirement age needs to be bumped to 70 and pensions (including public pensions) will almost all be broke or discontinued in 25 years.

My nephew wants to be a teacher like his mom (he understands and likes the idea of a pension). We told him that's great - but pensions like his mom's are very unlikely to be around when he retires. If you keep raising taxes to pay for all this stuff, people move away. Doubt that? Go ask IL and NJ.

Ya gotta open your eyes. The far left is living in a financial wonderland.

Boston is growing to match the population of the 50's. The fifties had a strong economy, strong unions, good pensions and a lot less cars. The middle class, and poor people spend all the money they get. A middle class pension goes right back into the economy. And the smart thing with public pensions is keep those people in the jurisdiction that they earned the pension.

The stock market isn't supposed to be a casino rigged for the rich. Look at how Uber and Lyft are paying bonuses to their drivers to pump up the stock prices (unsuccessfully). Neither company is making a profit but went public any way. It is state sanctioned stock scam. Do you know why there were so few americans in the Panama Papers? Because large companies in america don't pay taxes with the sanction of the state. Republican legislators bled the IRS funding dry and then complained that could only investigate non profit groups that advertised their anti-tax mission statement and pretended they weren't political organizations.

Most successful countries have higher taxes, enforced employee benefits and a larger welfare state.

The world (especially the financial world) has changed dramatically in the past 75 years.

If you think you can afford to give people pensions and run a competitive company - good luck. Try that some day. If states and municipalities think they can continue to offer these generous perks, they will find their wealthiest citizens and most profitable companies overburdened with taxes and moving away. It's already happening. Capital is phenomenally mobile these days.

I won't even discuss the stock market with you. Not a fair fight.

I agree that the legislators have come up with all kinds of ridiculous tax laws - but that's a bipartisan problem. If you want to find the problems - forget income tax for the most part - look at corporate loopholes and the trust/estate planning scams - that's where the BIG money is - but it's way too complicated for the average person.

Find me a "successful" country - especially a large one - say population over 50 million - that operates that way. Maybe Switzerland. Other than that?

Healthcare increases productivity. Employee services like pensions and a living wage keeps employees around longer which saves money. Financial regulation is broken. when corporations skimp on paying employees the taxpayer pays for the safety net.

When you have some real world experience trying to compete with other companies.

The numbers don't work. Period.

Code for I don't know why i'm afraid of it but...

For you to name a "successful" country that has the systems you mention. Maybe Singapore, maybe Switzerland and maybe a Scandinavian country that can lean back on large oil revenue for a small country. Otherwise - Europe, Canada, Australia etc. all struggling under the weight of their social democratic values.

But you can keep on believing in fairy tales spread by Bernie, Liz and AOC. It's a safe space.

I would respect your opinion more if you ever used facts.

Where does the money come from for free streets? No, your fees, excise & gas tax don't pay for roads. We all pay for free roads, we can all pay for free public transit.

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Lots of hairdressers, retail workers, restaurant workers and more DO drive into the city and play musical cars.

That said, congestion pricing is awesome!

We used it in Singapore and it works great.

Many lower income people live in places that do not have good (reliable, convenient) public transportation into the city. So, yes, many are driving into the city.

Based on his comments about bus lanes, it really seems more like he's more concerned about any kind of public outcry than any form of evidence:

To create one bus lane last year in Roslindale, the city prohibited parking each weekday morning on one side of Washington Street — a step that the mayor assumed would backfire.

“I thought there’s no way the community will want this,” Walsh said, adding that the bus lane and similar initiatives that eliminated parking spots have been largely embraced.

You know what I don't see there? Anything close to "well we thought people might not like this, but we crunched the numbers and found that it would improve congestion a lot so we decided to do it anyway because it's the right thing to do even if its politically unpopular"

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For example, I live around the corner from a Tufts Medical Center parking lot that they say they need for personnel for whom the T is not an option.

For some people the T is honestly not an option. But this is a fairly small group compared to the people who really could not use the T.

People use the terms "impossible" and "inconvenient" interchangeably.

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.... for Tufts medical personal? It is serviced by the Orange Line, the Silver Line and a bus line.

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Maybe it's not an option for anyone who doesn't live on one of those three lines already, and doesn't want to add an hour or two to their commute to accommodate transfers, slow service and the T's unpredictable schedule.

I'd get off work at 4AM, the T was of no use to me.

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Hospitals run 24/7/365.

The T? 7/365, but not 24 (and limited schedule on holidays, with no service on some bus and train lines).

Even when it's "running", it's not reliable, and it can easily add an hour or two to your commute, depending on the routes.

When he runs for a statewide position he doesn't want flack from sub and exurbanites who have money and remain angry with him for asking them to pay a fee to drive into the city.

Plus, if Marty was so concerned about the impact on poor folks why is he traveling to Ireland on the city's dime? Outside of a bunch of political show business does the city get anything for paying for the mayor's international travel?

There might be a poor person or two who would benefit from the experience of travel.

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It's political passing-the-buck. Neither of those statements actually contradicts the other. Yes, the City can't impose a congestion charge on its own. But what Pollack said is that the City needs to ask the Commonwealth to impose a congestion charge -- i.e. Walsh and the City Council need to step up and make a request before Baker and the Legislature would act.

It's just obvious blame-shifting. Walsh doesn't want to take the heat from his constituents for a congestion charge, so it's just easier to wave his hands and say that he can't do it without state approval.

And, FWIW, Walsh loves his SUV, too. And his commute is much easier via transit than Baker's would be.

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There's no reason the state couldn't start the process of investigating a congestion charge if they wanted to even without an explicit ask from the city, but it's easier to push it off to Marty Walsh. Either way, someone needs to step up and take some actual responsibility here, but between Baker and Walsh, I don't see that happening any time soon.

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But the political optics would be awful. It's not a policy which enjoys broad political support and it would likely be very unpopular with suburbanites. So what you're suggesting is that politicians at the State level take all the heat from constituents while City politicians get a free pass because they can claim it wasn't their fault, the State imposed the charge.

It's akin to why the Commonwealth didn't change the default speed limit from 30 to 25 in "thickly settled" areas statewide -- that was left as a local choice since undoubtedly there were many communities who were just fine with the existing law. And there's not really much reason for the State to investigate a congestion charge if it's not clear they'd get support from the community most directly impacted by it.

The people in charge should take the heat if it's the right thing to do (or if it's the wrong thing to do, they should come out and say so and take the heat for that!). I get why they're not going to do it, but honestly I think we should hold our elected officials to a standard where we want them to do what they think is actually the right thing to do, not just what plays the best for the next election. Pipe dream obviously, but I don't see any reason not to be frustrated by "politics as usual" here when there's clearly an issue that no one will step up on.

And anyway, the state did study it, but apparently only to be able to make some political talking points about how "we can't do it here" and "well anyway even if we could it's all Walsh's fault". Which again, understandable, but frustrating.

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If I remember correctly, the Keolis Kutbacks and the huge fare hike on commuter rail that accompanied them caused a huge jump in the cost of parking and the number of people who just said "screw this I'll drive". That was 2012? 2013?

The cost to park in the mudlots jumped 50% overnight. If those lot operators knew what was up, then why didn't DOT?

Walsh drove when he still lived on Tuttle Street and when he was still a state rep, a one minute walk from the Savin Hill Red Line station. People would kill for that kind of T access.

His new house is perhaps a 3 minute walk to a T stop.

I know he has a sweet mayoral parking spot but like, take the T sometimes?

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I agree with you the optics would be nice for him to try to take the T. Like, maybe one or two nights take it home and then get the mayoral car when you get in to work bright and early. But I have a feeling his schedule/calendar is such that relying on the T wouldn't work. And his meetings would be screwed up just like the T screws up many people's schedules/lives.

There are solutions to reduce the burden of a congestion charge on lower income folks, for example increasing the earned income tax credit. The idea that we should continue to price a resource below market value for everyone simply to benefit low income folks in preposterous. Clearly, doing so leads to demand which greatly outpaces supply.

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A toll is not a resource. I don't think every opportunity to charge for something equals source of entitled income.

The idea is that a toll targets people that are using government infrastructure to pay the cost of the infrastructure. We need investment in local infrastructure that would allow alternative transportation to compete better with private automobile transportation. By compete, I mean speed , coverage and price. For this, targeting private cars makes sense.

Whether it is constitutional to charge a toll for the express purpose of discouraging use of that resource is an open question to me.

All state and local infrastructure creates tax revenue by encouraging business growth and higher real estate values, so a congestion toll is technically taxing something that already generates tax revenue.

Currently I can ride my bike 5 miles downtown in less or equal amount time than it takes to use public transportation. Because of congestion, it takes longer for me to drive. Therefore, I never drive to work unless I absolutely have too. My boss will usually authorize parking in the building if I ask, but it still takes longer to drive.

As far as burdening poor people goes, you can avoid a toll if you plan your route. It may not be helpful to put tolls on highway exits and clog all the street level routes. These routes are crowded already with "shortcut crazies". I think we should keep as many people as possible on the highways. Narrowing the boulevards with bus lanes seems more effective to me.

Morrisey, Broadway, Centre, Columbia, Columbus, and Mass Ave should be 2 car lanes maximum. If four lane roads were removed from the city, then car traffic would reduce significantly. I guess the six lane roads could go to 4 lanes. Then you would not need tolls.

In cden4's reply, the resource is the road itself.

We pay to use the road through taxes, including gas taxes, and (when applicable) tolls. But while taxes and tolls cover the cost to create and maintain the roads (most of the time. barely.), when you include the external costs, like pollution, the amount people pay in gas taxes and tolls, the amount people pay to use the roads isn't enough to cover the true cost. So cars are, in effect, subsidized by our society, and congestion pricing is an attempt to get people to pay the true cost of driving.

Also, at least in other places it's been tried, congestion pricing affects the local streets as well as the highways, otherwise, as you rightly pointed out, people would just get off the highway to get around the toll.

That said, you are right that a road diet would also be useful in reducing traffic. The wonders of induced demand mean you can never build enough roads to have them be free-flowing all the time, so it's better to right-size your roads and make alternatives available.

I think congestion pricing seem to need relatively little infrastructure to get going. One a danger is that it can be undone just as easily when politics change. We need the infrastructure and there is no cheap short cut.

Removing fares from public transportation would get us there faster. Fare collection is almost half the operating costs. As long as ride share companies artificially reduce the cost of travel, MBTA can’t compete.

Ban all ride shares whose cars are not registered in the city.

If driving a rideshare in MA required an MA license and an MA registration, that could make a dent.

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Why does that matter?

Word on the street is that a major metropolitan newspaper in Boston endorsed Charlie Baker for reelection over a guy who wanted to raise taxes to fix transit. I can't really say anything more, and you didn't hear it from me.

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The newspaper isn't a monolith. The editorial pagers are probably much closer (financially and socially) to the political elite than the reporters.

to forward this along to the spotlight team...who all relocated to the Washington Post.

Blame the BPDA and the piss poor planning and implementation in the Seaport District where a sea of SUVs clog the streets every rush hour traveling to and fro from Kendal Squarish office boxes. If any measure of the housing originally proposed had been built there instead of letting developers change projects to 100% offices more people would be walking to work rather than driving in from the burbs. Heck of a job Marty! Maybe subsidizing office space with handouts over providing housing in a city with a chronic housing shortage wasn't the best idea?

I know a certain person, their name starts with a K and ends with an o, who is going to get a chubby when they see this article. Can anyone take a guess who?

...merkin.

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This is my favorite part of the article, where Pollack essentially admits the administration is spouting a bunch of BS about London's congestion pricing not being effective, and sees no problem with that.

The London section was not in the “facts part” of Massachusetts’ traffic study, Pollack noted, but rather reflected the administration’s policy position.

“If people think that we didn’t present it accurately,” Pollack said, “no one set out for this to be the definitive research piece on it.”

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It’s time to implement saddled ostriches. Because who, including Magoo, wouldn’t love to ride a saddled ostrich. This. Magoo.

are really going out of their way to make the wrong decisions.

for instance: i live in a town on the Fitchburg commuter rail. Parking for the train in my town is free for residents. do i take the fitchburg line? No. No i do not.

Why? Because even with free parking, it costs more per month to take the CR than it does for me to drive to Alewife, park and take the red line in. Beyond that, the schedule on the Fitchburg line stinks - I'd have to leave work early everyday to get on a train that stops in my town. That is, when the Fitchburg line isn't having massive delays. I have coworkers who live further out than I do, also on the Fitchburg line, who drive to Billerica to take their CR in because he has found the Fitchburg line to be so unreliable.

So instead, I spend up to an hour in traffic just to get out of the Alewife garage, and then drive on rt 2, which its self is a disaster most days of the week.

Make the CR reliable and cost effective, and people will take it! Believe me, i'd rather be on a train than having to deal with the Alewife garage (aka the deepest circle of hell), but until it makes sense to do so financially, I can't change my ways.

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Approve every development that is proposed then complain about the traffic and lack of parking.

Sorry to burst some bubbles, but shitloads of working-class people have to drive into the city every day. Tradespeople with tools, cleaners who go to multiple houses, people who have to pick their kids up after school and won't have time to take transit all the way home only to get in their car and head out. They may not be the poorest of the poor, but they would absolutely feel the hit of a congestion fee.
Walsh has said it's not fair to impose these fees until the transit situation is better, and he's gone to the T board personally to call for regional rail across the 128 region. He's right.

But it is fair for poor people who don't have cars and only use buses and trains to keep subsidizing people with a car?

Gas tax needs to go up and congestion pricing needs to be put in so the money for real regional transportation can be raised.

Maybe you've never owned a car but they are, uh, expensive. But people don't have a choice so they literally must have the most expensive option to get around.

This hand wringing about "the poor" that nobody actually cares about when it comes to funding public transportation is just another concern troll for selfish drivers.

How many people? Where are they coming from? Why can't they carpool? Do they have to drive for every trip or could they do some trips with And more importantly - what would the benefit of any proposed change be and where does that line up with the proposed impact? (for instance - how many of the people who have to drive would be willing to pay a few extra bucks if it cut 20 minutes of their commute?)

Until we have that data out there, the fact that there are "shitloads" of people who might be affected is kinda meaningless - after all, there are people who will be affected by literally any policy change, and certainly there are shitloads of people being affected by congestion now! The question is, will something like a small charge to drive into the city be a big enough boon overall that it's worth it, even if it's a hardship for some? I don't see the data to make that decision, but if the mayor thinks it's there, I wish he'd show it.