For Christine Madore, Wednesday morning’s commute was a nightmarish experience that is becoming all too commonplace.
The Salem city councilor’s commuter rail train was late “as usual,” and at Boston’s North Station, Orange Line trains were crowded, with Madore comparing them to a “can of sardines.” She waited for two trains before walking to work, arriving at a meeting an hour late, and finding “half the room was empty or on a conference line because nobody could make it to work on time.”
Madore’s comments came after Orange Line passengers were besieged by breakdowns and service interruptions earlier last week, and a Globe Spotlight series on the region’s transportation crisis.
Madore called for more lawmakers to take public transit and said commuters are fed up.
“I think people are boiling over with frustration,” she said Friday.
On Twitter, Madore called out Governor Charlie Baker specifically, saying, “So when I hear @MassGovernor say he ‘doesn’t need to ride the T to understand its issues’ he undermines the nuances of commuters’ lived experiences: how we must rearrange every aspect [of] our lives around an extremely unreliable but essential lifeline to economic stability.”
Baker is pressing lawmakers to pass an $18 billion transportation spending plan that would set aside $5.7 billion for the MBTA, promote telecommuting by offering tax credits, and provide $50 million to communities to ease traffic on local roads.
The MBTA is carrying out a five-year $8.2 billion improvement plan, which riders have seen in action this fall as some stations close and shuttle buses replace normal service on weekends to accommodate work crews.
The Baker administration is also examining the possibility of having managed express lanes that would let solo drivers use carpool lanes for a fee, but opposes most other forms of congestion pricing.
On Thursday, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation heard testimony on dozens of proposals.
A bill from state Senator Brendan Crighton would require the Department of Transportation to study electronic tolling on highways that don’t already have a toll. A separate measure he proposes would introduce tolls on parts of Route 2 and interstates 93 and 95.
The Massachusetts Turnpike, Tobin Bridge, and Callahan, Sumner, and Ted Williams tunnels already have tolls.
“I have no issues paying tolls,” Crighton, a Lynn Democrat, said Saturday. “We feel that it should be a more equitable system so that it’s not just one region being burdened.”
Lawmakers are also considering a proposal to study the possibility of taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive.
“We all have a goal statewide to get more electric vehicles on the road,” said state Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, the bill’s cosponsor. “As we do that, by definition we’re going to have a lot less revenue collected on the gas tax.”
Baker favors a new fee on motor fuels that would be implemented by Northeast states and require fuel distributors to buy pollution permits for some of the carbon they produce. He wants to use up to half of revenues to pay for transportation improvements.
“Governor Baker opposes raising the gas tax and believes raising tolls on all drivers is inequitable for drivers who cannot choose when to commute to school and work,” spokeswoman Sarah Finlaw said Saturday in a statement. “The administration has filed several billions of dollars for transportation investments to improve roads, bridges and the T that are currently in front of the Legislature to act on.”
Somerville City Council president Katjana Ballantyne, whose family of four has been car-free for almost 15 years, said the state should consider a carbon tax, an increase to the gas tax, and fees for single-occupancy vehicles and congestion as ways to fund the transit system.
She pointed to an initiative in Kansas City, Mo., where city councilors voted unanimously to make the bus system fare free, as something to aspire to.
“You’ll have a disincentive to drive if you have a fare-free public transit,” she said.
State Representative Mike Connolly, a Cambridge Democrat, concurred. He said conversation around free public transit has been sparked in the context of a recent MBTA fare hike.
Over the summer, a 6 percent fare hike became the fourth increase since 2012.
“It’s a daily crisis for people who have to rely on the MBTA in particular,” he said. “From my perspective, it’s an emergency.”