Setting transportation priorities challenges and opportunities
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Setting Transportation Priorities: Challenges and Opportunities. Transportation Priorities Task Force Initial Meeting September 23, 2005. Transportation Has Become A Major Policy Concern.

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Setting Transportation Priorities:Challenges and Opportunities

Transportation Priorities Task Force Initial Meeting

September 23, 2005

Transportation Has Become A Major Policy Concern

  • In a MassINC quality-of-life poll, “roads and the traffic situation” were rated the second highest policy issue in need of major improvement

  • 84% of respondents in a Nov 2004 survey said it was somewhat or very important to have public transportation in their own city or town

Source: MAPC, The Resonance of Regionalism (2005)

MassINC, MASS.commuting (2004)

Why People are Concerned

  • Congestion and Quality of Life Issues

  • High and Growing Costs

  • Environmental Consequences

  • Energy Use

  • Equity Issues

Commutes Are Getting Longer

Source: MassINC, MASS.commuting (2004)

Why the long commute?

  • High rates of public transportation use

  • Worsening traffic congestion

  • Traveling greater distances from home to work

    • 1 in 3 metro Boston households live at least 30 miles from the CBD

    • 1 in 5 metro Boston households live at least 30 miles from the CBD

Sources: MassINC, MASS.commuting (2004)

Harvard JCHS, State of the Nation’s Housing (2005)

Congestion is Getting Worse

  • 2/3 of vehicles traveling in peak hours are in congested conditions

  • If the MBTA did not operate, annual delay would increase another 54 million person hours

  • To keep congestion from getting worse would require building 121 lane-miles every year

Source: Texas Transportation Institute (2005)

Residents of the Boston metropolitan area spend 17.2% of household income on transportation, the second largest item in the household budget after housing

Total household expenditures on transportation for metropolitan Boston total $13.7 billion

According to the Economic Policy Institute, Greater Boston is the most expensive major metropolitan area in the US—and its analysis assumed only $321-$358 in monthly spending on transportation, while other studies put the cost in metro Boston at nearly $600/month

Transportation is Expensive

Sources: CNT and SPTT, Driven to Spend (2005)

Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2004

And getting more expensive as gas prices rise

  • Metro Boston drivers spent an additional $360 million on gasoline in 2004 and early 2005 compared to what gas would have cost had it remained at 2003 prices

  • Based on 2003 congestion levels, the Texas Transportation Institute calculated that metro Boston drivers burned 60,000,000 extra gallons of gas due to driving in congested traffic

Source:CNT and SPTT, Driven to Spend (2005)

Texas Transportation Institute (2005)

Especially for low income households

Combined household expenditures on housing and transportation in the Boston metropolitan area are 53.5% of all household expenditures

Due in great part to high housing costs, 5.5% of Massachusetts’ workforce in 2000 commuted in from NH, RI and other states

“Many Massachusetts workers and families face a difficult set of choices. For many, living in a relatively lower cost area of the state mean tolerating long commute times, while for others, living in Greater Boston often means spending a large portion of their income to afford the region’s high cost of living, especially the cost of housing.”


Mass.commuting (2004)

The result? The Housing-Transportation Cost Tradeoff

There is a way to

  • Reduce household transportation expenditures and mitigate the impact of rising gasoline costs

  • Concentrate development so as to reduce commuting distances

  • Slow the growth in regional traffic congestion

The Solution: Transit

Without the MBTA, 363,000 more cars would be on the road in greater Boston

Transit users save money

Source: CNT and STPP, Driven to Spend (2005)

Unfortunately, the MBTA is facing major challenges

  • Precarious finances

  • Declining ridership

  • Expanding the system without making the financial situation worse

Revenue sources are limited and insufficient

MBTA Fiscal Year 2005 Budget

Ridership growth has been anemic


Ridership declines are wiping out modest gains

  • A Boston Indicators analysis found that the drop in ridership on subway, trolley and bus lines from 2001 to 2004 nearly offset the growth of commuter rail riders over the previous decade

  • A Boston Globe analysis found MBTA ridership down to 1.12 million weekday boardings in the first half of 2005, down from the recent peak of 1.22 million in the second half of 2000

    • Ridership is down 8% from the 2000 peak

    • This translates to 100,000 fewer passengers using the MBTA every weekday

Yet there is an opportunity to attract transit passengers

  • Boston has an extensive transit system with good “coverage”

  • Demographic changes are driving demand for a transit-friendly lifestyle

  • State policies encourage sustainable development and smart growth

  • Developers are responding by building “transit oriented development”

Metro Boston has relatively good “transit coverage”

The City of Boston has very good “transit coverage”

Within ¼ of a mile of a commuter rail, bus or subway stop are

  • 80% of all jobs

  • 56% of all residences

  • 51% of all schools

BUT coverage is not distributed evenly


Demand is growing for housing near transit

AARP reports that 71% of older households want to live within walking distance of transit

Source: Center for Transit-Oriented Development, Hidden in Plain Sight(2004)

The MBTA Transit System + Demand + State Policy =

Transit-Oriented Development

Compact, walkable development centered around transit stations. In general, TODs include a mix of uses, such as housing, shopping, employment, and recreational facilities within a design that puts a high priority on serving transit and pedestrians.

In the City of Boston

And throughout the region

Past experience proves that TOD will generate new riders

  • During planning phase for Red Line extension to Alewife, Davis Square boardings were projected at 3,000 riders/day

  • Actual ridership now exceeds 10,000 riders/day

Projects in today’s pipeline will similarly generate transit trips

  • The 5 million square foot North Point development projected that it would generate 12,300 daily trips at full build

  • The 800,000 square foot Clippership Wharf development projected that it would generate 3,740 daily transit trips

  • The 2.2 million square foot CitySquare development projected that it would generate 1,030 daily transit trips

New zoning (such as 40R overlay districts) can spur additional TOD projects

  • Town of Canton rezoned area around the Canton Center commuter rail station in 2000

  • Since then, five new housing developments totaling 207 new residential units have been built within a five minute walk of the station

In some cases the T has the capacity to serve these riders

  • Peak hour capacity on the Blue Line will rise from 5,700 riders (one way) to 8,550 due to the Blue Line modernization project

  • Peak hour capacity on the Orange Line will rise from 9,432 riders (one way) to 11,790 due to signal improvements and new rolling stock

In other cases, capacity constraints exist

  • Modeling done for the Urban Ring project finds that the Green Line and Red Line reach or exceed peak hour capacity by 2025

  • Capacity on commuter trains into South Station cannot be expanded until the Post Office moves to create room for additional tracks

Need to create typology for TOD planning & mitigation

Transit does not work everywhere

Choices need to be made about T expansion projects

  • Resources exist to support capital spending for expansion

    • New federal transportation law (SAFETEA-LU) includes $45.3 billion for transit in FY2005-2009, plus earmarks

  • But there are more projects than can be built with available capital funds

  • And new services can make the operating deficit worse

Criteria are in place for setting priorities

  • Objective project selection criteria adopted by Metropolitan Planning Organization

    • Include utilization, mobility, cost-effectiveness, air quality, service quality, economic and land use impacts, environmental justice

  • But more remains to be done

So, what happens next?

  • Draft 20 Year Transportation Plan will be finalized and then needs to be implemented

  • Other Required Processes Will Continue

    • Reviews of individual transit projects

    • Update to Long Range Transportation Plan

    • Revisions to Program for Mass Transit

    • Transit Improvement Programs (TIPs)

  • Metropolitan Area Planning Councils’ MetroFutures issue task forces

Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s MetroFuture

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