Last Wednesday, February 26, 2020, local Boston news outlets reported that congressional leaders in the Massachusetts House of Representatives unveiled a transportation funding proposal. The proposed legislation included the potential of raising up to $612 million in new revenue through taxes and fees. Let’s take a look at how these new fees may impact you and what it may mean for our transportation network here in Massachusetts.
If you commute in and/or around the Greater Boston area, we don’t have to tell you that traffic is bad, and only getting worse with each passing year. Last year, a study completed by INREX ranked the worst cities in our nation for traffic congestion. Not surprising to most Bostonians was the finding that last year and the year before, Boston ranked as the number one city in America for the most time wasted in traffic.
According to the study, Bostonians lose 164 hours due to congestion every year. Compare this to the next worst cities of Seattle and Washington D.C. at 138 and 155 hours lost sitting in traffic, respectively. When the study broadened to include cities across the globe, Boston was the only United States city that made the list of top traffic congestion cities. This is not a distinction that the citizens of the Bay state want to have.
In response to the study, Mayor Marty Walsh noted that, “Our road network is one of the oldest and densest in the country, we’re one of the only cities with a major international airport right by downtown, both our economy and population have been growing at a steady clip — and now rideshare companies and delivery-on-demand services have added a whole new layer of vehicles.”
A Proposed Solution
In order to combat these horrible statistics and the growing congestion, House Speaker Robert DeLeo included parts to the bill that will encourage ridesharing, carpooling, and more use of public transportation. He submitted a new tiered system of corporate taxes based on annual sales, a gas tax increase of 5 cents, a diesel tax increase of 9 cents and new fees for transportation network companies. The proposed TNC fees are intended to encourage shared rides on which an existing $0.20 fee would remain unchanged. Fees would be increased to $1.20 per private ride and $2.20 for private luxury rides.
According to local affiliate WCVB TV, “Under the plan, $160 million would be budgeted for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, along with $27 million more from the increased TNC fees. $15 million would be designated for regional transportation authorities and $10 million for rural transportation.” The bill would also establish a commission of outside experts to study congestion pricing and tolling systems.
How do you think this bill will change commuter behavior? Will the taxes and improvements to infrastructure be enough to change behaviors and help alleviate congestion? Stay tuned as we stay on top of this story in the coming months.