Editor’s note: We asked for your views on Greater Boston’s transportation challenges, and letters flooded in. Following is a sample. Look for more in Tuesday’s edition:
System fails those who need it most
The greatest transportation challenge we face is inequity. Far too many residents of Greater Boston don’t have options to get to work and school affordably and reliably, let alone “safely and satisfyingly,” as you put it in your pitch to readers.
Today, black bus riders spend 64 more hours in transit annually than their white counterparts. I want a future where race doesn’t correlate with the daily aggravation of a commute; where dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and excellent transit choices come to lower-income neighborhoods first, not last; where better transit does not automatically translate to higher rents and neighborhood upheaval; where, rather than hike T fares, we have the political will to invest in transportation and immediately improve the lives of people who are marginalized; where we don’t put up with incremental change at a time when our transportation system is failing people.
So, I want a future where equity — fairness — is front and center. Transportation is tilted in favor of people with lots of advantages. Shouldn’t we fight for a system that’s fair? Let’s flip the narrative to address communities with the least first.
‘I’d rather not be driving’ is what the bumper sticker might say
Because so many people drive, it’s wrongly assumed that those who travel to work by car are not interested in alternatives. In our July 2018 survey of more than 1,000 commuters, 75 percent of people who drive would actually prefer to use other modes, with the majority interested in any form of transit (bus, commuter rail, or subway). So, the greatest transportation challenge is providing sufficient transit and other car-free alternatives to driving for those living outside the more walkable and transit-rich neighborhoods.
Improving the transit network alone is important, but it isn’t enough. Commuters want “micro-mobility” solutions (shuttles, carpools, bikes, and even scooters) to get to transit stations. Also important are policies that encourage these “car-light” travel modes, while modifying demand for driving.
Building a comprehensive plan focused on moving actual people, not just cars, will do more than address the point-A-to-point-B challenge. It will also lead to improved economic and social mobility and better public health. Now, we need political leaders to embrace this vision and move it forward.
The writers are director and associate director, respectively, of Green Streets Initiative.
Elected officials, don’t just talk the talk — commute the commute
In response to your request for readers’ views on Greater Boston’s transportation challenges: How about banning cars in the center of Boston? How about upgrading the MBTA to the 21st century? And that’s just for starters.
What needs to happen in this region is people in power ought to get out more and experience driving and T travel during rush hour before planning to allow expansion in Boston.
The first question in any plan that needs an answer is: How are people going to get here? That mentality is lacking in the upper reaches of officialdom in Boston, from the governor down. Most of us know that reliance on the current mayhem is not working. Some real imagination should be a requirement for all officials. Action is required before the two-hour commute becomes reality.
Fight traffic-related pollution
I have directed a series of studies of traffic-related air pollution, specifically ultrafine particles from motor vehicle exhaust, in Boston, Somerville, and Chelsea. Our work has shown that there are high concentrations of these particles on and near highways and major roadways in the area that are exposing people who reside in these locations or travel on these roadways. We also showed associations of exposure with biomarkers of negative health effects.
We are exploring and developing ways to reduce exposure in partnership with local agencies and communities. Boston could get out in front of reducing these exposures if we took it on in a way no other state except California has.
Tired of being overlooked in Central and Western Mass.
I am responding to your call for feedback on transportation in Greater Boston. But I am infuriated that your call excludes most of Massachusetts. What about asking Central and Western Massachusetts what we need and want?
There is basically no public transportation out here. At the very least, we need a direct bus line from towns like Sturbridge (a hub in this area) to South Station.
The Palmer area needs a train stop — in Palmer — that goes to Boston. It has been hard work to get a preliminary plan in place to do that. Boston just doesn’t seem to think we need transportation out here, but we do.
We need direct bus and train connections to Boston in several locations, not just from Worcester.
Please consider adding the rest of the state to your transportation priorities.