Looking for a way forward in transportation
Editor’s note: For the Oct. 7 Ideas edition on transportation, we asked for readers’ views on the challenges facing Greater Boston, and they responded in force. We ran a collection of letters Sunday — you can read those by clicking here — and here are more:
The future of transportation could be a whole new world
A big challenge in planning for the future of transportation has to be the uncertainty about where people will want to go and the options they’ll have to get there. Old habits and choices are rapidly changing. Increased opportunities for telecommuting and alternative work schedules could lop the peaks off the rush hour, and artificial intelligence might reduce the number of people with a job for which they need to commute at all.
The frequency and destination of non-commute trips are also changing. How many trips to the mall will we make as online shopping prevails? Will the number of our trips to socialize in person drop as technological advances allow us to just send our avatars to meet in virtual chat rooms? And when we do actually travel, will autonomous vehicles, congestion pricing, and expansion of Uber, Lyft, bike sharing, and car sharing services change demand for parking, curb space, sidewalks, transit, and suburban and urban living?
Transportation planners and policy makers should be asking these questions and seriously trying to gauge the prospects for various scenarios. There are probably legislative or regulatory actions they can take that could support the most socially desirable outcomes.
The writer is a transportation consultant.
Make public transit fully accessible — for the sake of us all
Making our public transit system fully accessible to everyone is a big challenge. Then again, for many people with disabilities, getting around is a daily battle.
It doesn’t need to be like this in 2018. We have long looked at making our older transportation infrastructure fully accessible as something that’s nice to do — something to do as long as we are fixing stations and bus stops anyway, something for other people.
Most of us will have a temporary or permanent disability at some point. All of us have friends, family, co-workers, and classmates who can’t use the trains, buses, and other rides that so many take for granted. Disability often means invisibility.
As with buildings, streets, parks, and other public spaces, when transit is designed for anyone, it works better for everyone. That’s increasingly true as we age. But it’s also true when you are pushing a stroller, pulling a suitcase, or just trying to move in a large group.
Designing for universal accessibility means that everyone gets to benefit. Really, what could be truer to the spirit of our Commonwealth?
This comes with a cost of some $2 billion. But the benefit is a transportation system worthy of all of us.
There should be law against blocking intersections — in fact, there is
To move forward, one must look at what’s working and what’s not in the present traffic situation.
What is good is that there are reasonable traffic fines for violations.
What’s not good is that people ignore traffic rules, which causes gridlock in the city, contributing to not getting from point A to point B in a timely fashion.
We in Charlestown cannot enter and exit our area in a reasonable time frame. Why? Because people “block the box” at intersections.
I recall a day in May 2017 when an ambulance with flashing red lights was going nowhere, since we were all stuck in the gridlock.
About a week ago, at Sullivan Square, two cars blocked the intersection while an MBTA bus full of passengers was forced to sit idly until the light changed.
The $150 fine for motorists blocking intersections ought to be an incentive for people to think twice before inching forward. But it needs to be enforced.
Although this suggestion may be simplistic and not momentous, righting the wrongs that occur every day could be a small step toward creating a more tolerable commute for all of Boston and beyond.
Acting for the greater good is our path forward
The biggest challenge to Greater Boston’s transportation future isn’t the what, how, or when. We’re an innovation center. We already have the answers. Instead, it’s the why — the motivation. The Boston area needs to overcome being unable to act for the greater good. “Boston Strong” showed us what that is like, but that was just a peek. What we need is a willingness to be of service to the whole on a sustained level. It will take all of us, every day. The health of our transportation system, our people, and our planet depend upon it.