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OP-ED: Transportation Investment The Right Idea, But Gas Tax Increase Not The Way To Fuel It

David Robertson

By State Rep. David Robertson
D-19th Middlesex District

Roads and bridges, and the perennial pothole issues, are perhaps the most critical services state and local governments provide aside from education and first responders. And it is no secret with the Massachusetts economy performing well, thanks to our schools and workforce talent, our entire transportation network is taking a beating as folks to go school, work, and run errands.
Traffic has literally reached a record high, or low - if you're measuring speed, with greater Boston region earning the distinguished title of "most congested city." Thankfully, both the state and regional resources have been aggressively investing in the T and other alternatives to mitigate our woes on the road, but we still have a long way to go.
Recently you may have read about the The Transportation Climate Initiative , TCI for short, which is a coalition of states from Virginia to Maine with one goal in mind; to increase public transportation access while reducing pollution. I think it is safe to say that literally nobody is against reducing traffic and smog, after all older folks will remember what LA, NYC, and Boston looked like before the EPA required car companies to clean up their exhaust. What bothers me, and many others, is the route that is being considered by this plan to fund these vital infrastructure improvements. Currently, as discussed by many of the states involved in the TCI, fuel suppliers would be required to disclose the amount of fuel they are transporting and stay under a cap based on the potential pollution the fuel transported may generate. This is a problem as the lack of reliable and easy alternatives for us commuters does not allow us to pivot to other forms of transportation when gas prices rise, as these providers are forced to pass cap charges onto consumers. In such a market we fuel-consumers would simply go to the T station if it made economic sense to do so, but here we are left without an alternative choice.
With sparsely scheduled trains, buses, and other issues throughout the system, many are forced to rely on their own private way to punch-in by nine. Tewksbury hosts no MBTA station, and even in Wilmington both stations parking lots are fully filled by early hours.
Both towns bus schedules are sparse, and though service is friendly and reliable coverage and access to surrounding towns is difficult at best. I also know that this system will create a regressive tax, hitting the working class and small business owner disproportionately in their pocketbook. I have a hard time imagining a plumber or electrician taking the 1 bus to a service call, or a caterer lugging a cake onto a T commuter train.
Don't get me wrong, I applaud and support the efforts of the TCI concept to reduce our 164 hours a year wasted sitting in traffic, and reducing the pollution we put into our community every day. The cause is noble, but before we try and encourage public transportation use over private vehicles, I believe Massachusetts has far to go in providing a satisfactory alternative for us here that participate in the rat-race every day.
Let's invest some of our annually issued transportation bond money, and use privately invested money to provide some public good before we punish those just trying to survive.
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