The real “fight of the century” may be the debate over Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed legislation that would overhaul the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
OK, so that may be an overstatement.
But close watchers of Massachusetts politics can still expect a lively debate at a Monday hearing for the bill before the Legislature’s joint transsportation committee.
Both the Massachusetts Republican Party and the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 have summoned their legions to the hearing to sway lawmakers on the legislation. The governor himself will testify in support of the bill on Monday, according to Tim Buckley, an administration spokesman.
From the minute Baker proposed the bill last month, the Carmen’s Union has been pushing back. Union members have voiced oppositions about the data that prompted the bill, and they opposed a move to suspend a law that makes it difficult for the MBTA to contract out services.
The union will hold a rally at the State House before Monday’s hearing.
“Your presence in the State House, be it talking to your state senator and state representative or your attendance in the hearing, will send a strong message that we are committed to turning the oldest public transportation system in the nation into the best transportation system in the nation,” the union’s executive board wrote in a message to its members.
Now, the state Republican Party is eager to get into the ring. Last week, the GOP exhorted members to help Baker get the legislation passed: “We need your help to defend Governor Baker’s plan to bring Real Reform to the MBTA!” read a message on its website.
Terry MacCormack, the party’s communications director, said it expects a strong showing of public support Monday.
And the good news for those eager for a good legislative battle? You won’t even have to pay $99 to your cable company for this one. It starts at 1 p.m. on Monday at the Gardner Auditorium in the State House, and admission is free.
Boston takes look toward its transportation future
Past the breakdancers and the sound system blasting Aretha Franklin outside the China Trade Center, hundreds of Bostonians on Friday started laying out what could be the future of the city’s transportation system.
Mayor Martin J.Walsh recently announced a two-year campaign called Imagine Boston 2030, which will develop a master plan to guide the city to its 400th anniversary.
The same goes for the city’s transportation system: Through the Go Boston 2030 initiative, the city has gathered 5,000 questions about transportation from residents throughout the area.
On Friday and Saturday, city officials threw an event at the trade center that looked like a grown-up science fair.
On one table, participants could use Play-Doh and colorful markers to illustrate any ideas they had for the future of transportation.
Others wrote their ideas on walls: To reduce kids’ exposure to air pollution, for example, someone suggested the city invest in a monorail or more light rail transit.
The city will release an action plan this summer, detailing more specific projects to pursue.
Walsh on Friday said he hopes the process gives the city a road map — one that will need significant investment, he said.
“We’re going to force the conversation, that’s going to happen at the State House and also the federal government, on the importance of funding whatever expansions we come up with,” he said.
The city is no stranger to transportation troubles, as anyone who experienced this winter can attest.
On Friday, Walsh mentioned his displeasure at the closing of two bridges — the Long Island Bridge and Northern Avenue Bridge — because they had fallen into disrepair.
Throughout the event, transportation enthusiasts such as Gil Propp giddily made their way through the room, eager to give their perspectives.
Propp, who runs a website called bostonstreetcars.com, used a purple marker to scrawl down his answer to a question about raising transportation funds without further burdening fare-payers: “Shift $ from highway to transit,” he wrote.
He said it will be up to city leaders to show how much they care about following their own residents’ advice. But he said he’s optimistic.
“They’re having this event, so they must want to listen,” Propp said.Nicole Dungca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.