A Conversation with Steve Kadish: The Future of Transportation Recap

On Wednesday, March 6th A Better City's Transportation Advisory Committee welcomed Steve Kadish, Chair of Governor Charlie Baker's Commission on the Future of Transportation to discuss their recently released report: Choices for Stewardship: Recommendations to Meet the Transportation Future.
In late January 2018, the Governor launched this Commission with 19 members appointed from across the state with a diverse range of expertise and experience. Recognizing that we are in the early stages of a transportation technology revolution, the Governor asked the Commission to imagine transportation in 2040 and provide scenarios and recommendations to arrive in 2040 as well-positioned as possible. To do this, the Commission was charged with considering climate impacts, the electric grid, and changing demographics -- and what this all may mean for our economy, housing and land use.
To set the stage for the report's conclusions, Kadis
h stated, firstly, what this report is and is not. He noted, "It is a presentation of plausible scenarios. It is not about predicting the future." While the commission discussed and took into account the interrelationship of transportation, housing, jobs and the economy; it is not a report assessing specific projects and while there are strong recommendations about resources, it is not about near-term budgets or revenue.
Kadish highlighted that the focus is on the big picture "what" and the "why" and less on the "how" for three reasons:
  • First, this document is intended to have a long shelf life and too much specificity limits its longevity.
  • Second, with cognizance of the transportation revolution underway, the Commission didn't want to constrain the thinking or options available to future decision-makers.
  • And finally, there is no single right way to accomplish what is recommended and the "how" may differ depending on particular facts and circumstances.
As a result, the report's recommendations are meant as a set of guidance -- based upon the facts and trends available - That the Commission believes can help the Commonwealth prepare for the range of possible futures.
Here are the recommendations that Kadish highlighted to our member breakfast under key topic areas:
1) Prioritize investment in public transit as the foundation for a robust, reliable, clean, and efficient transportation system.
The Commission elected to lead with this first, foundational recommendation because high-frequency, high-capacity public transit is the most efficient and sustainable way to move large numbers of people and they believe this will continue to be true even in the scenario that the transportation system is dominated by fleets of electrified autonomous vehicles. Current transit systems will need dramatic modernization and improvement to remain competitive and efficient but by attracting new riders the Commonwealth can see the benefits that transit can provide for greenhouse gas reduction, congestion relief, economic growth, and community revitalization.

2) State and municipal roadway design and operation should prioritize person throughput, rather than vehicle throughput, so that corridor capacity is allocated to moving as many people as possible.
 Transportation agencies too often prioritize the movement of vehicles over the mobility of the people. Going forward, roadway owners must prioritize the movement of the maximum number of people, regardless of mode, in the design of transportation projects both for new facilities and the retrofitting of existing corridors in order to accommodate additional modes.
3) Work with multiple stakeholders to better manage today's traffic congestion - and the congestion challenges of the future.
 Transportation congestion is one of the greatest impediments to our economy and is a hindrance to quality of life. With the anticipated growth in population and jobs, it is likely that congestion will only get worse without action. With respect to the highway system in particular, the Commission expects that keeping congestion at reasonable levels will rely more on efforts to manage the demand for existing capacity rather than increasing its supply. While selective highway improvements will be necessary, the era of major highway construction is long gone. Congestion mitigation and better transit must go hand-in-hand because neither building nor managing congestion by itself will work.
4) Support and accelerate efforts to consume transportation differently.
 Moving towards a transportation system that focuses on people rather than on vehicles or assets is a paradigm shift that can help to meet multiple goals at once: improving social equity and access to opportunities, reducing GHG emissions, and mitigating traffic congestion.
5) Enable and promote a statewide telecommunications infrastructure to support the availability of real-time transportation information and deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles.
The Commonwealth should promote full statewide communications infrastructure that can support and enable new technologies and services, from connected and automated vehicles (C/AVs), to real-time traffic and asset management systems, to telecommuting opportunities.

6) The Commonwealth should facilitate a statewide electric charging infrastructure, and/or for other alternative fuels that is fast, equitable, robust, and resilient in order to support a fleet of zero emission vehicles.
To meet the Commonwealth's emission reduction goals outlined in the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), the Commonwealth needs all types of vehicle owners, including residents, businesses, non-profits and government agencies of all sizes to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

7) Establish a goal that beginning in 2040, all new cars, light duty trucks, and buses sold in Massachusetts will be electric or use another technology that meets the same emissions standards.
Achieving the GWSA mandate will require the near-complete transition of our vehicle fleet (cars, trucks, and buses) to electric vehicles or other zero-emission vehicle technology. Because vehicle fleets turn over slowly, for vehicles on the road to be electric by 2050, we will need all vehicle sales to be electric by no later than 2040.

8) Collaborate with other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to establish a regional, market-based program to reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.The Commonwealth should support the prompt development and implementation of a regional program that uses market mechanisms and public investment as a means to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector such as a cap and invest program for transportation emissions.

9) Coordinate the reinvention of the MBTA commuter rail system with local, regional, and state land use and economic development strategies to maximize the ridership and economic benefits of the reinvented system.
The goal should be to re-orient the commuter rail from its current configuration as a commuter train to a regional train system that connects hubs and serves the region all day, every day.
10) Establish a Commonwealth Transportation Technology Transformation Initiative (T3I) to promote solutions to our most complicated transportation issues and build upon our reputation in transportation innovation and technology.
Through T3I the Commonwealth can bring together the brightest minds to solve its toughest transportation-related problems and use this expertise to enable the transportation economy and create more jobs.
11) Prepare MassDOT and other transportation-related entities to effectively oversee a changing transportation system.
The Commission found a need for MassDOT to be the agency that embraces the future of mobility, aggressively explores how to take advantage of new technology and service approaches, and how to envision new ways of the public and private sector to work together with these specific recommendations:
  • A dedicated MBTA Board
  • Explicit coordination around housing, economic development, environment, and transportation
  • A new paradigm for MassDOT, MBTA, and RTAs
  • A comprehensive effort related to data-sharing with public and private entities that protects privacy while enabling improved services, traffic operations, and integrated mobility options
12) Develop a fiscally sound and responsible transportation resource plan to operate, maintain, and upgrade the transportation system.
Among the most significant contributions that today's decision makers could make to the public for the year 2040 is to commit to providing sufficient resources for the proper maintenance, operation, and upgrades to the state's transportation network.
Given our work at A Better City on many of these recommended areas, we are encouraged by the Administration's focus on an ambitious and sustainable path for a well-funded and well-managed transportation future. We thank Steve Kadish for joining us last week and look forward to working with Governor Baker's Administration, MassDOT, the State Legislature and external stakeholders to advance the goals laid out in this report.

For more information on this presentation as well as A Better City's priorities on these topics, please see the attached PowerPoint presentation

Comments (0)

Allowed tags: <b><i><br>Add a new comment: