Gov. Baker’s Bold Transportation Proposal

We were talking the other day with a young man who has been a teacher at Chelsea High School for the past couple of years. During our discussion, we were surprised to learn that he lives on the South Shore (Hull) from where he commutes to Chelsea High every day by means of public transportation.

He takes the MBTA commuter boat to Boston and then walks to the nearby Blue Line, taking that to Airport Station. From there, he gets on the new Silver Line 3, the dedicated-lane bus line that takes him to Chelsea.

It seemed like quite an odyssey — and it certainly is — but he said his total commuting time is about an hour each way, which is less time than it would take him to drive it, not to mention far less stressful.

We were thinking about the Chelsea teacher’s use of multiple modes of public transportation — sort of an alternative, real-life version of the comedy classic movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles — in the context of the $18 billion proposal put forward last week by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karen Polito to improve the transportation infrastructure in our state, with the stated goals of improving our roads, bridges, and public transit systems.

We do not even remotely pretend to be experts in the realm of transportation. However, what is clear is that the Baker-Polito proposal, in terms of the level and scope of the proposed investment, is (in Baker’s words), “unprecedented and historic.” 

We have no doubt that there will be many — who actually are experts in the realm of transportation — who will weigh in with various proposals of their own in addition to those that were put forward in the Baker-Polito bill.

We also have no doubt that the plans and ideas that will be put forward by others will be considered carefully by the governor and his staff.  After five years of the Baker-Polito administration, it has become clear that their type of leadership is not of the “my way or the highway” (no pun intended) style. We anticipate that the administration and the legislature will work together to craft a bill that will improve the daily lives for all residents of the Commonwealth.

For far too long, transportation issues have been like that adage about the weather: Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. In New York City for example, the sorry state of the subways is at a critical point — and yet the mayor and governor cannot agree on a way to fix it. In California, talk of a high-speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles appears to have reached a dead end.

By contrast, the $18 billion proposal put forward by the Baker-Polito administration last week represents a huge step forward in fixing many of the problems that have come to light in recent years in our state.

Investments in our transportation infrastructure — especially in this era of low interest rates — will reap huge dividends in the years ahead, more than offsetting the costs. We look forward to the final transportation bill and to the day when Massachusetts will be seen as a national leader in solving public transportation issues.

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