Transportation Issues in Focus at Buzzards Bay Forum

Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator Tom Cahir talks about transportation priorities at a forum Tuesday in Buzzards Bay

BUZZARDS BAY – The future of transportation in the Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod region was in focus Tuesday at a forum in Buzzards Bay.

Mass Moves, a state-sponsored effort tasked with creating a vision for the 21st century, brought together lawmakers and transportation planners to discuss current and future needs.

Transportation consultant Jim Aloisi said transportation impacts nearly every part of our life.

But he said recent studies show many people in the Commonwealth are unhappy with the state’s transportation infrastructure.

In the South Coast region, motorists lose the equivalent of three vacation days annually stuck in traffic.

He said a resilient transportation system that can withstand any weather is critical. He referred to the 2015 winter during which the MBTA came to a near standstill multiple times during major snowstorms.

According to statistics presented at the forum, in Massachusetts, 69% of people drive to do their household errands. The second most common form of transportation is walking.

Aliosi said the Cape and Islands have very unique mobility issues that need to be addressed.

“The geography, the history, the unique environmental concerns and seasonal mobility challenges all play a role in thinking about how to manage and improve mobility for this region,” he said.

“What are your values? Peoples’ values in the Cape and Islands are generally going to be the same as in Lowell or Lawrence or Worcester,” said Aloisi.

He said the state needs to continue moving toward more electric vehicles, but said that won’t alleviate congestion issues.

There is nothing inherently wrong with debt to fund transportation,” said Aloisi. But he said controlling that debt was critical.

“Unlike many other states, Massachusetts does not allow municipalities or regions to raise transportation dollars dedicated to specific local transportation project,” said Aloisi

The forum at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy was part of the Commonwealth Conversation tour that brings the discussion of various issues off Beacon Hill and into the communities of the Commonwealth.

The group discussed ways to reduce what was referred to as VMT, or vehicle miles travelled, including giving people more public options, making vehicles more efficient and repairing roads tunnels and bridges.

Aliosi said there are many different options to cut back on the number miles traveled.

“Improving and expanding rail transit, improving and expanding rail service, improving and expanding water transportation,” were all ways Aliosi said the state could make strides in reducing traffic.

He also cited more bike usage and increasing carpooling and ride-share services.

During break-out sessions, the group examined region-specific needs on Cape Cod, the Islands and the South Coast.

They were asked to come up with actions that should be taken in their respective region to put it on a pathway to a 21st century transportation system.

They included more linkages, a reliable funding supply, more buses, a third bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, and more ride-sharing.

A group from the South Coast said they’d like to see more public transportation options for getting to Cape Cod on a year round basis.

During real-time polling taken during the session:

  • A majority said they drive alone.
  • A majority said the overall quality of the state’s transportation system was only fair.
  • A vast majority said a much better transportation system should be a priority for elected officials.

A report summarizing the results from all the workshops across the state will provide state, regional and local transportation decision makers information needed for future projects.

By MATT PITTA, CapeCod.com News Director

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