MassBike Speaks Up In The Transportation Conversations

Beginning in September, MassDOT has held a series of “conversations” all over the state to hear what the public has to say about the future of transportation in Massachusetts. MassBike has been working hard to “get out the vote” for bicycling (so to speak) by sending targeted emails to our supporters who live in the area around each meeting location. And you responded – we have consistently heard that bicyclists are showing up and talking about our issues – thank you!

Program Manager Price Armstrong and I both spoke at the MassDOT Conversations, I in Boston on November 29, Price at Lynn City Hall on December 5 (which, incidentally, was also attended by Senator Thomas McGee, Co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation). Take a look at what we had to say. If you didn’t get a chance to attend a meeting, you can submit comments by email.

I am David Watson, Executive Director of MassBike, the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, the statewide bicyclist advocacy group. MassBike is a member of the Transportation for Massachusetts coalition because we want Massachusetts to fully fund a transportation system that works for everyone, including bicyclists.

Thanks to Secretary Davey and his team at MassDOT for giving the public this opportunity to provide input into the future of our transportation system. MassDOT has made great progress over the past few years in recognizing the importance of bicycling and walking, with the Complete Streets principles embodied in the Project Development and Design Guide, with the Healthy Transportation Compact recognizing the need for agencies to work together to enable more people to bike and walk, and most recently with the new GreenDOT Mode Shift goals to triple the share of biking, walking, and transit by 2030. But it is not enough. We need a transportation system focused on moving people, not cars.

Today, I got to work by riding my bike on a bike path, to a transit station where I locked my bike in a secure bike parking facility, took the subway downtown, and walked to my office (I would have taken Hubway instead of walking, but the system closed for the winter yesterday). I could just as easily have taken one of several buses to a T station, walked to the T, or even driven my car downtown. I am lucky to have so many transportation choices, but many people do not, and we cannot settle for a transportation system that fails to provide an acceptable level of service and range of options for so many, while still prioritizing motor vehicle travel above all else. We need a transportation system that moves people, not cars.

But this discussion is not just about transportation choice. We have commitments to protect the environment and the health of our citizens. MassDOT cannot meet the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements without getting more people biking and walking. One-fifth of our population is obese, as is one out of ten children, and that should be unacceptable to all of us. Too many people miss out on economic and educational opportunities for lack of safe, affordable, and convenient transportation. Numerous polls and studies have shown that people want to bike and walk more but feel it is unsafe. We cannot solve these problems with our current transportation system.

So how do we get there?

  • MassDOT must embed the mode shift goals into everything the agency does, and into every project the agency undertakes.
  • MassDOT and the 13 Metropolitan Planning Organizations must evaluate every project through the lens of mode shift when deciding which projects to fund.
  • MassDOT and the MPOs must create financial incentives to encourage cities and towns to propose projects that advance the mode shift goals.

MassDOT must meet its mode shift goals if we are to have a transportation system that moves people, not cars. MassBike looks forward to working with MassDOT to achieve those goals.

My name is Price Armstrong, and I am the Program Manager at the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. First, I want to thank Secretary Davey for his leadership in establishing the recently announced mode shift goals, which seek to triple biking, walking and transit use over the next 18 years. I also want to thank Senator Thomas McGee for his many years of leadership on transportation issues, and his continued work to invest in a balanced transportation system in Massachusetts.

One thing I’ve learned as I work on transportation projects is that they take a really, really long time to go from an idea to construction. One rail trail can take 15 to 20 years to get built, and those are relatively simple projects. Major projects, like highway interchanges, road expansions, or intersection redesigns can be in the works for 20 years or more. A question that we in the advocacy community have come to is, do these projects which were conceived of and designed literally decades ago still serve our transportation goals and vision today?

What I would like to see is a fresh look taken at projects in the pipeline to see if they still line up with our mode shift goals, land use plans, the Healthy Transportation Compact, and GreenDOT. Some projects may be too far along in the process for it to be practical to reconsider whether or not to build them, like for example if it has already been let out to bid. But for those projects still in the design phase, it is crucial that they line up with our established goals. Whatever we build today is going to be with us for decades, so it’s important to get it right.

We can’t continue building roads the way we have for the past fifty years if we’re going to have a transportation system that moves people, not cars. I hope that MassBike can work with you to ensure that what we build today matches up with our vision of tomorrow.

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