Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Senate transportation bill

The version of the transportation financing bill passed yesterday by the State Senate is an improvement on the House version. The key features are an immediate increase in the gasoline excise tax by 3 cents, the annual indexing of the tax to inflation (by CPI), an increase in cigarette taxes, an investigation into the sale of naming rights to stations, a commitment to obtain revenue from utility easements on public rights-of-way, and a cap on fare hikes of no more than 5% every 2 years. There are also some other interesting aspects that have not been discussed as widely.

  • A "value capture commission" to study the best practices of other jurisdictions regarding how to obtain benefits from public investment in transportation, then to submit a report with recommendations. This was also present in the House version, although I missed it before writing my critique a few days ago. The usefulness of this provision will depend on how well it is implemented; it seems pretty weak, though, and I don't think it really addresses my concern about land use. But it is something.
  • Explicit identification of the Green Line Extension and South Coast Rail as priorities.
  • The creation of a report discovering and describing fare evasion statistics, as well as methods to address the problem.
  • Language allowing for a "high occupancy toll lane" facility to be developed.
  • A study of taxicab markets and needs in the Commonwealth.
  • A premium parking pilot program in select MBTA parking garages; this allows users to pay a higher fee for a guaranteed, convenient parking space.
  • Calls for the MBTA to issue a request for proposals from business, civic, and non-profit entities to enter into sponsorship agreements for providing late night transportation services.
  • Allows for tolling facilities to be constructed on the various highways as they cross over into Massachusetts from neighboring states.
  • The Underground Storage tank fee would also be indexed to inflation annually (by CPI).
We will have to wait and see what the conference committee comes up with and whether that is acceptable to Governor Patrick.

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