On the Issues: Safe and Effective Public Transportation

Safe, affordable, and reliable transportation is the backbone to a strong economy. For the constituents I represent in Abington, Braintree, Holbrook, Quincy and Rockland—the MBTA, Commuter Rail, bus lines and Expressway are all critical transportation lifelines that carry people to and from work, school, shopping and medical appointments. Because our communities rely so heavily on this transportation network, it is critical that we make investing in it a priority.

For years, maintenance to our roads, bridges and train stations have been ignored. The MBTA alone has over $6.7 billion in outstanding maintenance and modernization needs to reach a “state of good repair.” In the aftermath of the MBTA’s breakdown during the winter of 2015, and the hardships too many in our communities faced because of it—lost time and wages, disrupted business and family activities, missed doctors’ appointments—my focus has been not on placing blame on one party, but on how to best move forward and ensure that the failures of our past do not repeat themselves.

I supported many aspects of the reforms proposed by Governor Baker at the beginning of the 2015 – 2016 legislative session. I believe the MBTA needs strong management with the tools to make positive change. Reforms passed by the Legislature included the creation of an MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board charged with implementing measures to ensure financial, operational and managerial stability. I supported the creation of this board, and their authority to seek revenue opportunities, including reasonable fare increases over time. I also supported the creation of a winter resiliency fund to prevent the type of system breakdown we experienced this past winter, and a capital investment plan that includes significant repairs and upgrades to signals along the Red Line and the purchase of new Red Line cars to provide more reliable service.

At the same time, I do not believe that “strong management” equates necessarily to privatization, or wage and job cuts. I did not support the Governor’s proposal to bypass the so-called “Taxpayer Protection Law” or “Pacheco Law” that establishes a detailed process whenever a public service is privatized. I’ve also pushed back against cuts to the custodial staff that keeps our stations clean and functional. Cutting costs simply by putting a greater burden on fewer or lower paid employees is not a sustainable solution, and I will continue to advocate for policies that truly invest in and improve our public transportation system.

I also believe that as a Commonwealth we are failing to advance one of the most cost-effective, reliable modes of transportation – water ferries. Those presently running, like the ferry from Hingham to Boston, have a proven record of transporting hundreds of passengers a day with minimal infrastructure investment. Working with local, state and federal officials, I continue efforts to bring permanent ferry service to Squantum Point Park in Quincy, with a goal of servicing UMass Boston, the Kennedy Library and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, Logan Airport, and downtown Boston, and with connections to North Shore communities and beyond. A trial program running through the summer and fall of 2016 has showcased the great potential of this service.

In government, as with most things in life, the challenge is finding the right balance. As we move forward with transportation policy discussions across the Commonwealth, it is critical that we find the proper balance of reform, oversight and fiscal prudency, while continuing to make investments in our transportation infrastructure. These steps will ensure that we have a safe and reliable transportation system, making our local economies stronger and our communities more appealing places to live, and a system that the riders and taxpayers of the Commonwealth can count on and deserve.

As your State Senator and Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, and as a frequent Red Line commuter, I will continue to make transportation investment a priority.