A ROADMAP FOR A SMART AND EFFICIENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
Before running for Congress, I would take the C and D Green Lines almost every day to work. As many who ride our public transportation know – our infrastructure is outdated, in need of repair, and the further out from Boston in the District you go the worse it gets, if there are any public transportation options at all. Since announcing my campaign for Congress, I have been unable to use public transportation to get around the 4th District and have spent hours driving to all 34 cities and towns. This is an obvious problem, economically, environmentally and for racial justice and healthcare reasons. We can do better. We need to invest heavily in our infrastructure, transit-oriented housing, public transportation, high speed rail, bikeways, bus-only lanes, and walkways that can interconnect all our communities to promote economic and environmental justice.
27% of Taunton and 20% of Fall River residents do not have access to automobiles and Fall River has no access to public transportation that connects it to other economic hubs. While I am happy that the South Coast Rail project is moving forward finally, we have neglected the communities in the southern part of this district for far too long, further widening the economic disparities and hurting our environment. We need to ensure that people can efficiently in a clean, affordable manner get from their homes to hubs of employment where they can have the best chance of increasing their standard of living.
In Greater Boston, drivers spend roughly 60 hours a year waiting in traffic. Think about the collective harm this does to our environment, especially when you consider that over 40% of greenhouse gases come from our transportation sector. If we are serious about tackling the climate crisis, we need to tackle transportation immediately.
The effects of racial injustice in our transportation system has been known for years, and tragically we are seeing its inequalities and disparities further exposed under COVID-19. A recent study of Greater Boston’s transportation system showed that people of color are far more likely to live near a major roadway. The additional exposure to higher air pollutants naturally makes them more susceptible to the underlying conditions – pulmonary and cardiovascular disease – that has resulted in the massive health disparities under the current pandemic. This is not by accident, as the study points out, this clustering of communities of color around unhealthy roadways is by design of the systemic racism, like redlining, that has been pervasive in our society for decades. This is why we need to ensure that diverse leadership who understand the diverse perspectives and needs of their communities are involved in making decisions about the transportation needs affecting various communities.
Our transportation system has been funded incorrectly for decades, with an 80-20% split in funding going to our highway projects versus our public transit. Our transportation system was federally funded through the gas tax, so the prevailing thought process held that if commuters are paying for transportation, then the funds should go to commuters. In 1982 Congress passed a measure to raise the gas tax but also establish the 80-20 split on spending. But as Transportation for America points out, the gas tax alone can not pay for our transportation system, so why is the split still 80-20. Further our transportation projects as a whole are backlogged by almost $100 billion according to the Federal Transit Authority. We need to invest heavily in our public transit.
If we are serious about the Climate Crisis we need to reinvent our transportation policies. If we are serious about economic, social and racial justice, we need to reinvent our transportation policies. I am encouraged by the INVEST in America Act that was introduced by Congressional Democrats this year, with $500 billion in funding for more green transportation options, public transportation and to clear the backlog of projects but we need to do more.
As your next Member of Congress, I will:
Transportation the Right Way
- End the Current Funding Ratio – We can no longer operate under a car-centric model of transportation if we are to combat the climate crisis and systemic racism. We need a much higher investment in our public and green transportation options if we are to be successful. The INVEST in America Act is a good start, as is the transit funding provided in the CARES Act, but we need to go further.
- Clear Our Nearly $100 billion Transportation Backlog – As our roads, rails and infrastructure continue to degrade, our economic and medical disparities continue to grow. We need to make a concerted effort as a nation to upgrade and modernize our infrastructure, fix our streets and bridges in an energy efficient manner that helps us fight the climate crisis
- Hybrid Cap & Trade Program with a Carbon Tax Floor – We need to continue our Northeast cap & trade program, but make sure we have a carbon tax floor of at least $50 per ton. The program and tax would be focused as upstream as possible with our fossil fuel companies and electric utilities. As some of those companies will shift some of the fees and taxes on to consumers, we must ensure that at least 80% of the proceeds from such a hybrid program would go directly to our most vulnerable communities.
- Give Regional Authorities and Local Communities More Flexibility in using Federal Dollars – We need to give our local communities more flexibility, as each community has different needs. We also need to ensure that the concerns of local communities are heard and incorporated into any plan, otherwise the systemic issues will continue to arise.
- Invest in Transit Oriented Housing – We must closely tie our transportation needs to our housing needs, all through the lens of environmentally friendly initiatives that help us fight the climate crisis. We need to create incentives to build more transit-oriented housing across all our communities. In order to combat the systemic racism prevalent in our housing policies, we also need to ensure that these new units, and all communities, have a mixture of affordable, market rate, and luxury housing so we can end the institutionalized segregation in America.
- Finish South Coast Rail – I will work with stakeholders to finally get the South Coast rail completed and allow for chances for economic growth and opportunity for our residents in the southern part of our district.
- Connect our Region Together – Once South Coast Rail is completed we must go further and connect our South Coast cities and towns to Hartford, Providence, and other hubs of economic activity.
- Finish the North-South Rail – We must connect communities south of Boston via rail to communities north of Boston.
- Invest in Public Transit – In order to move towards more transit oriented housing, we need to upgrade, modernize and build the infrastructure. We need to incentivize regions comprised of several cities and towns to work together to, invest heavily in high speed rail, bus-only lanes, buses and trains and more in transportation in our low-income and communities of color to create more frequent public rail and bus options to help people get efficiently and economically from their homes to places of business.
- Invest in Smart Green Transportation – We need to create miles of regional interconnected and protected bike and walking paths with increased visibility through paint and lighting. We also need to provide more bike racks and cages through each city and town.
- Expand Bike Sharing Programs to all 34 City & Towns in the District – We need to provide youth rates and income-eligible rates.
- Invest in MBTA and Commuter Rail Fare Pricing – Free for individuals 18 years old and younger and 65 years and older and no restriction on number of children per adult, implement a policy that allow students 18 years old and younger who have forgotten or lost their transit passes to board transit after showing student ID or school document, and provide consistent and accessible pricing across transit modes in the entire District.
- Ensure Transportation and Infrastructure is Equitable and Inclusive of All Communities – I will work to ensure all communities have a seat at the table in the decision making process on funding, and that those traditionally left out are prioritized. Infrastructure and transportation are connected so closely with opportunities for economic growth. This is why we need diverse leadership so we can be sure no one is left behind.
Combating the Climate Crisis
- Green the Federal Fleet – The Federal Government can act right now, and begin to move the entire fleet of federal vehicles to electric vehicles. We must also provide grants to States to help move their entire fleets of vehicles to electric vehicles as well.
- Set Clear Car Standards for Gas Emissions and a Goal for all Transportation Emissions – We need to move forward with clear definable goals through 2035, 2050 and what we need our emissions to be.
- Invest in Pilot Programs to Provide Electric Vehicles to Low Income and Communities of Color – We need to move off fossil fuel, and have to recognize that not everyone will be able to use public transit. However, low income and communities of color are often unable to purchase a new vehicle to meet these standards. If we are to set a goal on emissions, we also need to provide options for those who are vulnerable and not penalize them further. I support creating programs that will help these communities transition off of fossil-fuel cars to electric vehicles.