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LivableStreets Alliance, a transit advocacy group in the Boston area, estimates all Massachusetts transit agencies could make bus service free for $60 million a year, including Boston’s. That translates to a 2-cent increase in the state gasoline tax, the advocacy group said.
Proponents of the idea argue that . . . the true replacement cost would be closer to $36 million. That gap, they say, could be covered by a 2-cent rise in the gas tax.
“That’s where something controversial or impossible a few years ago now seems possible,” said Stacy Thompson, the executive director of the LivableStreets Alliance, a transportation research group.
In last week’s State of the City address (“Mayor calls for bolder action on transportation, housing,” Page A1, Jan. 8), Mayor Martin J. Walsh tasked the Boston Police and Transportation departments to “implement a plan to strengthen traffic enforcement” in Boston. As bicycle and pedestrian advocates on the city’s Vision Zero Task Force, we have some suggestions on what should be included in that plan." - Stacy Thompson, LivableStreets Stacey Beutell, WalkBoston Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
As the Globe recently reported, the Livable Streets Alliance estimated that making MBTA buses free could cost as little as $36 million a year. The Boston-area transit advocacy group also reportedly estimates that making public buses free across Massachusetts could be covered by a 2-cent increase in the state’s gas tax (Walsh, for his part, supports a 15-cent increase in the tax).
Advocates have identified MBTA’s crumbling bus garages as the major limiting factor that prevents better bus service. In the "64 Hours: Closing the Bus Equity Gap" report published in September, the LivableStreets Alliance wrote that “the MBTA’s service standards are hamstrung by the size of its vehicle fleet… Without addressing the bedrock issue of the MBTA’s bus fleet size and garage facilities, all riders will continue to be underserved.
The classic New England village was built around walking, and communities across Massachusetts would benefit from doubling down on that strength in the 2020s. In Greater Boston, this includes borrowing from Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace to create an Emerald Network of shared-use walking and biking paths that connect the region’s diverse neighborhoods and job centers.
"To me, this is not a giveaway," said Stacy Thompson of the Livable Streets Alliance. "This is really about how do you make the bus system more efficient and more desirable with the resources we have today." Supporters, however, argue that eliminating fares on local MBTA bus routes could be done on the relative cheap: maybe as little as $36 million a year, according to an estimate by the Livable Streets Alliance. That number, which does not include the Silver Line or long-distance express routes, reflects the fact that a huge portion of MBTA bus riders transfer to the subway, paying $2.40 for a combined trip, or hold a monthly bus-subway pass, and would continue to pay for the train service even with free buses. Making most buses free on the T and every other public bus system in the state could be covered with a 2-cent gas tax increase, according to Livable Streets.
On the TransitMatters Codcast hosted by CommonWealth magazine, Jim Aloisi, the former transportation secretary and TransitMatters board member; Josh Fairchild, the co-founder and president of TransitMatters; and Stacy Thompson, the executive director of Livable Streets, looked back at 2019 and forward to 2020. They predicted the Legislature would pass a transportation revenue package and assembled a wish list of fairly predictable initiatives they would like to see action on.