Showing posts with label transportation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label transportation. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

"making RTA buses free attracts more riders, improves service, and is easy to implement"

THE STATE’S 15 regional transit authorities, long considered a transportation afterthought on Beacon Hill, are suddenly all the rage.

RTAs, which operate local bus networks across the state outside the MBTA’s service territory, have long had a line item in the state budget. After adjusting for inflation, however, the state’s basic operating support for the RTAs actually declined 5 percent between fiscal 2016 and 2023, according to the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

But now the RTAs are poised to get a chunk of the $1 billion in projected revenue from the millionaire tax. In her budget proposal, Gov. Maura Healey proposed using $25 million from the millionaire tax money to support the RTAs. The House upped that number to $70 million, and the proposed Senate budget contains $100 million, a tenth of all projected funding from the new tax.

The $100 million in the Senate proposal includes $56 million for direct operating support, $25 million for innovation grants, $4 million for accessibility grants, and $15 million so each of the RTAs can launch six-month, fare-free pilots on their bus systems.
Continue reading the article at CommonWealth Magazine ->

Why does this matter? GATRA is our regional transit authority (RTA)

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Space Needs Subcommittee decides to make recommendation for redistricting in 2024 (audio)

FM #966 = This is the Franklin Matters radio show, number 966 in the series. 

This session of the radio show shares the School Committee - Space Needs Subcommittee meeting held hybrid, some in the 3rd floor conference room on Monday, Mar 27, 2023, other virtual via Zoom webinar. (P-present, R-remote)

SubCmte Chair - Al Charles (R); committee members - Denise Spencer (P), Elise Stokes (R); Central office support - Supt Lucas Giguere (P), Business Manager Miriam Goodman (P) Recording by Sherlock (R)

Brief recap: (caution, albeit brief I believe I have the gist of the discussion  - the audio is available to listen to all the nuances and final options)

  • Received an update from Supt Giguere on status with KBA

  • Group listened, discussed each individual's preference for their recommendation, two were somewhat close, then as discussion ensued, and clarifications arose things seemed to change on who was where; fortunately as time permitted, they did clarify an option, then a second, and an ‘amendment’ to that one, ultimately it came to two options for vote as recommendation

First, buffer for Sep 2023, expanded to including incoming K students, redistricting per storymap in 2024
Second, same as first but allow DT families to choose where they would go beyond 2024
  • Vote was 2-1 in favor of the first option 

  • Consider the recommendation to be redistricting for 2024 with an option for those in the ‘buffer’ per the storymap, to opt to move early to where they would end up. For example, a DT student now at Keller but would per redistricting would go to Oak/Horace Mann, could choose to go early (2023) rather than wait until 2024

  • details on recommendation to be finalized by subcommittee and released before April break

  • The current schedule holds for the presentation on the recommendation at the April 25 meeting with a School Committee vote at their May 9 meeting.

The recording runs about 1 hour and 35 minutes, so let’s listen to the Space Needs discussion on Mar 27, 2023.  

Audio file ->


Meeting agenda =>


My notes for the meeting => 


We are now producing this in collaboration with Franklin.TV and Franklin Public Radio ( or 102.9 on the Franklin area radio dial.  

This podcast is my public service effort for Franklin but we can't do it alone. We can always use your help.

How can you help?

  • If you can use the information that you find here, please tell your friends and neighbors

  • If you don't like something here, please let me know

Through this feedback loop we can continue to make improvements. I thank you for listening.

For additional information, please visit or

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission.

I hope you enjoy!


You can also subscribe and listen to Franklin Matters audio on iTunes or your favorite podcast app; search in "podcasts" for "Franklin Matters"

Space Needs & Facilities Assessment Subcommittee - March 27, 2023 at 5:45 (hybrid)
Space Needs & Facilities Assessment Subcommittee - March 27, 2023 at 5:45 (hybrid)

Sunday, March 26, 2023

School Budget hearing Tuesday, March 28 at 7 PM - what we know, what we don't know

What we know: The Superintendent's recommended budget is asking for $2.8M more than last year. The Town only has about $3.2M in new growth forecasted. If the schools got their increase, then the remaining $.4M would be spread among the remaining Town functions: police, fire, DPW, Library, Senior Center, etc. So the $2,8M ask is not likely to be fully funded. 

What we don't know: How will the School budget be funded? Where will the funds come from? There is a Legislative Forum scheduled for April 10 but respectfully, we can't count on additional help from the State. 

The revised school funding formula, the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) already did that by keeping Franklin (and a few other communities) as 'held harmless.' What that means is that the old formula provided more funds to Franklin than the new one would. We benefited greatly during our growth periods of the 90's and 00's under the old formula. Now that our enrollment is in decline, rather than take away the excess of what the formula should give us (currently $11M) they are holding us harmless. 

We can thank our legislative delegation Senate President Karen Spilka, Senator Becca Rausch and State Representative Jeff Roy for this action. In addition to keeping us 'harmless' they did see that we could still benefit from state funding for our two biggest drivers of cost; Special Education Circuit breaker and transportation. 

For additional information on the complexity of transportation, Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick writes:

"This piece about Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan discussing a home rule petition on transportation led me to tweet out this thread this morning, as it appears that two things are being confused. 

First, student transportation doesn't count towards net school spending in any district. Net school spending is specifically defined in 603 CMR 10.06, and it's standard: there isn't a difference between a regional and a municipal school district. There's a handful of things it doesn't include--crossing guards and building rentals are two others--and that's the case for every district.

What is different between municipal and regional district transportation is state reimbursement. Regional districts, under MGL Ch. 71, sec. 16C, have a requirement as to whom they furnish transportation and it is state reimbursed:

...the commonwealth shall reimburse such district to the full extent of the amounts expended for such transportation, subject to appropriation; provided, however, that no reimbursement for transportation between school and home shall be made on account of any pupil who resides less than one and one-half miles from the school of attendance, measured by a commonly traveled route.

The required transportation is reimbursed by the state, generally at about 75%, though this year it is projected to be 90%. "

Continue reading Tracy's piece here -> 

School Budget hearing Tuesday, March 28 at 7 PM
School Budget hearing Tuesday, March 28 at 7 PM

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

GATRA representatives to participate at Coffee Hour Thursday - 10/20

"Join us THIS THURSDAY for special monthly office hours, featuring our partners at GATRA!

GATRA offers low-fare rides across the region for all Franklin residents. They will play a key role in meeting our affordability, traffic-reduction, and climate goals.

Ever have a GATRA question or concern? I was recently appointed as Franklin's rep to the GATRA Advisory Board and would love to hear from you!"

GATRA representatives to participate at Coffee Hour Thursday - 10/20
GATRA representatives to participate at Coffee Hour Thursday - 10/20

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Reminder: Register to Participate in the Virtual Public Meeting for "Beyond Mobility" - Oct 20

We're excited to share with you what we're working on. MassDOT will be holding a Virtual Public Meeting for Beyond Mobility next Thursday, October 20th at 6:00 PM

At this meeting, the Beyond Mobility team will introduce the project and provide summary results from our first public survey which reflects on visions for the future of the transportation network in the Commonwealth. There will also be opportunities for participants to ask questions about the plan following the presentation. 


Registration in advance is required. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the meeting.


We look forward to seeing you at the meeting.

More Information and Register for the meeting here:

Register for Meeting

More info on "Beyond Mobility"

Register to Participate in the Virtual Public Meeting for "Beyond Mobility"
Register to Participate in the Virtual Public Meeting for "Beyond Mobility"

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Beyond Mobility, the Massachusetts 2050 Transportation Plan schedules a virtual public meeting for Oct 20 at 6 PM

Mass. Transportation (@MassDOT) tweeted Mon, Oct 03, 2022:
How should #Massachusetts invest in transportation in the future? 
Join #BeyondMobilityMA, the statewide 2050 transportation plan, for a virtual public meeting on 10/20, at 6 PM to learn more.

More info and to register visit:   or

"Beyond Mobility, the Massachusetts 2050 Transportation Plan, is a planning process that will result in a blueprint for guiding transportation decision-making and investments in Massachusetts in a way that advances MassDOT’s goals and maximizes the equity and resiliency of the transportation system. 
Your input is needed to help develop this vision. The process for developing Beyond Mobility is underway." 

GATRA, electrifying the MBTA, bringing the double track to Franklin, improving the handicap access to the Franklin/Dean station; all of these topics should be part of this planning process. Oh, and 2050 is the key as this is part of the climate roadmap.  For more about the climate roadmap, check out the podcast series on "Making Sense of Climate

Beyond Mobility, the Massachusetts 2050 Transportation Plan schedules a virtual public meeting  for Oct 20 at 6 PM
Beyond Mobility, the Massachusetts 2050 Transportation Plan schedules a virtual public meeting  for Oct 20 at 6 PM

Friday, August 26, 2022

Episode 513 of Freakonomics Radio asks a good question: "Should Public Transit Be Free?"

Episode 513 of Freakonomics Radio asks a good question: "Should Public Transit Be Free?

The episode byline reads "It boosts economic opportunity and social mobility. It’s good for the environment. So why do we charge people to use it? The short answer: it’s complicated."

CommonWealth Magazine has coverage of this episode here (Boston Mayor Michelle Wu participates in this episode)  ->  
Episode 513 of Freakonomics Radio asks a good question: "Should Public Transit Be Free?"
Episode 513 of Freakonomics Radio asks a good question: "Should Public Transit Be Free?" 

Monday, August 1, 2022

Legislature Passes $11.3 Billion Transportation and Infrastructure Bill

The Legislature's final version of the transportation bond bill, which was released from conference committee on Saturday, was enacted by both the House and Senate on Sunday. It authorizes over $11.3 billion for transportation and infrastructure projects, including $400 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to address ongoing safety concerns identified by the Federal Transit Administration's Safety Management Inspection and $275 million for the East-West passenger rail project.

"Not only does this bill fund much-needed transportation repairs for all modes and communities, but it also goes much further to invest in infrastructure that is more modern, environmentally sustainable, and regionally equitable," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "The support for electric vehicles, regional transportation authorities, MBTA safety investments, low-income fares on public transit, expanded East-West connectivity, and many other initiatives in this bill will benefit residents, visitors and businesses throughout Massachusetts. I want to thank Senator Crighton for quickly and adeptly taking on the role of Transportation Chair and for collaborating with Senators Rodrigues and Collins as well as so many Senators to produce this comprehensive legislation."

"I'm incredibly proud of the work done by the Legislature to ensure that several of the Commonwealth's most vital transportation infrastructure projects are sufficiently funded," said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). "As the MBTA continues to address ongoing safety concerns, and as the East-West passenger rail project begins, this package demonstrates the Legislature's commitment to investing in these meaningful efforts, and to continuing support for other improvements to roads and bridges across Massachusetts. I want to thank Chairman Straus and the conferees, my colleagues in the House, as well as Senate President Spilka and our partners in the Senate, for the hard work that ultimately facilitated the passage of this legislation."

"This transportation bond bill provides Massachusetts with the key to unlock once-in-a-generation federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law," said Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. "With these combined state and federal investments, we will be able to complete vital work on our highways, roads, bridges, and public transportation systems, improving mobility for all residents of the Commonwealth."

"With the acceptance of the conference report, the House once again affirmed its dedication to meeting the transportation and infrastructure needs of the commonwealth," said Representative William M. Straus (D-Mattapoisett), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. "This generational opportunity provides needed investments toward a more unified and resilient transportation system."

Other highlights of the bill include:

  • $3,500,000,000 for projects funded with discretionary federal grant funds, including funds from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
  • $2,812,457,157 for projects on the interstate and non-interstate federal highway system
  • $1,375,000,000 for sustainable transit system modernization and rail improvements
  • $1,270,000,000 for non-federally aided roadway and bridge projects and for the non-participating portion of federally aided projects
  • $145,000,000 for multi-modal transportation planning and programming
  • $114,100,000 for the Airport Improvement Program
  • $85,000,000 for pavement and surface conditions on non-federally aided roadways
  • $82,000,000 for rail improvements
  • $64,900,000 for projects of regional transit networks and facilities
  • $25,501,000 for the Mobility Assistance Program
  • $25,000,000 for pavement and surface conditions on municipal roadways
  • $25,000,000 for grants to Transportation Management Associations
  • $20,000,000 for grants to municipalities under the Complete Streets Funding Program
  • $10,000,000 for a public realm improvement program

To promote the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), the bill also includes $175 million for the development and implementation of programs to promote, establish or expand public electric vehicle charging infrastructure, the development and implementation of incentive programs promoting e-bikes and public transportation, replacement of high-emissions vehicles, electric vehicles for hire and carsharing, electric school buses, electric short-haul freight and delivery trucks, and for other pilot projects that focus on equity and inclusion while reducing emissions.

"This legislation is a significant commitment to meeting our Commonwealth's most pressing transportation and climate challenges," said Senator Nick Collins (D-Boston), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. "Most importantly, it does so while demonstrating that through smart fiscal policy, we can invest in our future while continuing to make Massachusetts a good place to do business. I would like to thank Senate President Spilka for appointing me to the conference committee and thank my colleagues who came together to produce this important compromise."

"I am grateful to the Speaker for his leadership on this critical legislation which will fund generational change for our Commonwealth's roads, bridges and transit infrastructure," said Representative Danielle W. Gregoire (D-Marlborough), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. "Having played a role in this process since President Biden's announcement of the Build Back Better plan, I am confident that the concerns of all of our colleagues and their constituents are being addressed in this unprecedented bond authorization".

The bill makes significant reforms to address the severe safety concerns around the MBTA. The bill mandates the MBTA to establish and maintain a three-year safety improvement plan with measurable safety objectives for the agency, and it directs the MBTA to contract with an independent third-party auditor to conduct annual safety audits. To ensure transparency around the MBTA's safety, the bill directs the MBTA to submit a monthly, publicly available report containing all the incidents, accidents, casualties, and hazards affecting any of its modes of transit. In addition, the MBTA is required to develop and implement short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans for how each line of the commuter rail system can be fully integrated into the Commonwealth's transportation system and contribute to the productivity, equity, and decarbonization efforts of the MBTA as a whole.

Other policy provisions related to the MBTA include requiring the authority to provide parking alternatives to commuters when it demolishes or reconstructs parking lots or garages it operates; to hold a mandatory, 30-day appeal process during which the authority must confer with the municipality's planning officials to explore alternatives when there is a bus route service elimination; and to develop an updated service and operational plans for established and potential water transportation routes involving passenger ferry service.

Additionally, the bill:

  • Creates a special commission on mobility pricing to investigate, study and make recommendations on the development and deployment of comprehensive and regionally equitable public transportation pricing, roadway pricing and congestion pricing.
  • Creates a commission to investigate and receive public testimony concerning public entities with the ability to design, permit, construct, operate and maintain passenger rail service that meets the standards of at least one of the final alternatives set forth in the East-West Passenger Rail Study Final Report.
  • Regulates the use of e-bikes to encourage their adoption and authorizes municipalities and the state to adopt ordinances or regulations concerning the use of such e-bikes on bike paths and bikeways.
  • Requires transportation network companies to submit data related to pre-arranged rides for the purposes of congestion management.
  • Requires MassDOT, in consultation with the comptroller, to create a website to report on expenditures from this act and any project receiving federal funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
  • Requires MassDOT, in consultation with the Executive Office Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA), to study the feasibility of wildlife crossing projects for the purpose of establishing and maintaining these projects.
  • Authorizes the MassDOT to create positions and hire staff for the purpose of conducting research and policy analysis for the MBTA board of directors.

"The transportation infrastructure bond bill positions the Commonwealth to be able to repair, maintain, and modernize our roadways and public transit system," said Senator Patrick M. O'Connor (R-Weymouth). "Additionally, language in this bill will allow Massachusetts to go after more federal dollars to build on the investments we are making today. I was proud to serve on the Conference Committee alongside my colleagues and I am looking forward to seeing these investments pay dividends in the years to come."

"The priority investments provided for in this bill are a critical first step in the process of providing safe, reliable and efficient transportation systems for the residents of the Commonwealth," said Representative Norman J. Orrall (R-Lakeville).

This legislation now heads to the Governor for further consideration.


Legislature Passes $11.3 Billion Transportation and Infrastructure Bill
Legislature Passes $11.3 Billion Transportation and Infrastructure Bill

Friday, July 15, 2022

MA Senate Passes Wide-Ranging Transportation Infrastructure Bond Bill

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed legislation that authorizes more than $10.84 billion in bonds for a wide array of transportation infrastructure projects and initiatives to make the Commonwealth’s transportation system more modern, safe, environmentally sound, and accessible. An Act relative to Massachusetts transportation resources and climate, also known as MassTRAC, ensures that Massachusetts is well-positioned to compete for federal grant opportunities, particularly those dollars available from the federal bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.


“While repairs to our transportation infrastructure will be beneficial to many communities across the Commonwealth, this bill goes much further than merely repairing but will instead actively transform our infrastructure to be more modern, environmentally sustainable, and regionally equitable,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The support for electric vehicles, regional transportation authorities, low-income fares on public transit, expanded East-West connectivity, and many other initiatives included in this bill will bring benefits to residents, visitors and businesses throughout Massachusetts. I want to thank Senator Crighton for quickly and adeptly taking on the role of Transportation Chair and for collaborating with Senators Rodrigues and Collins as well as so many Senators to produce this comprehensive legislation.”


“Today’s passage of this multi-pronged $10.84 billion transportation infrastructure investment package builds on our longstanding commitment to ensure the Commonwealth’s transportation system is more equitable, reliable, safe and modern,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport)Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Going far beyond just roads and bridges, the Senate’s transportation bond bill will stimulate our economy, increase accessibility for our residents, support local businesses, create jobs, and boost economies in all corners of our Commonwealth. Importantly, it also invests in public transit, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, regional transit authorities as well as emissions-free transportation options—like biking, walking, and multimodal investments—which are vital solutions to help us confront our climate challenges and achieve our 2050 net zero goals. I want to thank Senator Crighton for his leadership and hard work on all things transportation, Senator Collins for his meaningful contributions, and the Senate President for her continued vision, leadership and guidance.”

“This transportation bond bill provides Massachusetts with the key to unlock once-in-a-generation federal funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law,” Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “With these combined state and federal investments, we will be able to complete vital work on our highways, roads, bridges, and public transportation systems, improving mobility for all residents of the Commonwealth.”


“This legislation represents a collaborative effort centered on transportation safety, accessibility, and sustainability in a way that is fiscally responsible,” said Senator Nick Collins (D-Boston), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. “Due to smart planning and responsible budget management, we are not only positioning our state to remain competitive and prosperous post pandemic, we are able to do so in a way that continues to get a better rate for the taxpayer.”


The MassTRAC bill invests billions of dollars in improving, maintaining, and modernizing the Commonwealth’s bridges, roads, and other critical infrastructure, including sidewalks, curbs, parking spaces, and airport improvements. The legislation also takes crucial steps to make the state’s transportation system more environmentally sustainable and resilient to climate change by making investments in emission reduction, low or no emission vehicles for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs), climate adaptations for Massachusetts roads, and support for multimodal transportation such as bike lanes alongside roads. Building on the Drive Act, passed by the Senate in April this year, the MassTRAC bill increases support for electric vehicles for personal, commercial, and governmental use, as well as for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.


The breakdown of the bond authorizations included in the bill is as follows:


  • $3.5 billion for discretionary federal grant projects
  • $2.8 billion for federal highway systems projects
  • $1.375 billion for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) modernization
  • $1.27 billion for non-federally aided roads and bridges
  • $407.7 million for local and regional transportation projects
  • $400 million for MBTA safety projects
  • $275 million for the East-West rail project
  • $225 million for emissions reduction initiatives, including $50 million to support access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure
  • $114 million for airport improvements
  • $85 million for state-numbered routes road pavement improvements
  • $82 million for the industrial rail access program
  • $64.9 million for Regional Transit Authorities’ (RTAs) capital projects
  • $25.5 million for the mobility assistance program
  • $25 million for municipal road pavement improvements
  • $20 million for the Complete Streets program
  • $10 million for the public realm improvement program
  • $1 million for local and regional transportation projects


The legislation marks another step towards implementing East-West passenger rail in Massachusetts. In addition to the more than a quarter of a billion dollars that is granted for the project itself, this legislation creates a commission to investigate and report on creation of an East-West rail passenger authority. To promote regional equity and smart, sustainable financing of the transportation system, the bill creates a mobility commission to investigate, study, and make recommendations on the development of regionally equitable transportation pricing, roadway pricing and congestion pricing.


In addition to $1.375 billion for modernization of the MBTA, the bill authorizes $400 million for MBTA safety projects and tasks the MBTA with creating and annually updating safety improvement plans.


During the debate several notable amendments were adopted. Significantly, one amendment would create a low-income fare program to provide free or discounted transit fares to qualifying riders. Another amendment would require the MBTA to develop and implement short-, medium-, and long-term plans for electrifying the commuter rail fleet. Finally, an amendment was adopted to provide regulatory oversight for electronic bicycles, or e-bikes, to help spur their adoption.


A version of this legislation having previously been passed in the House of Representatives, a conference committee will now be appointed to reconcile any differences between the versions of this bill.

The legislation doc can be found ->

MA  Senate Passes Wide-Ranging Transportation Infrastructure Bond Bill
MA  Senate Passes Wide-Ranging Transportation Infrastructure Bond Bill

MA Senate Passes Amendment to Create or Allow Low Income Fare Programs for Public Transit

Today (07/14/22), the Massachusetts State Senate passed an amendment in the transportation bond bill, Senate Bill 2989, which directs the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and allows Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) across the Commonwealth to create a low-income fare program.


The amendment adopted by the Senate directs the MBTA to create a low-income fare program through an in-depth implementation study that would engage stakeholders at all levels, ensuring a fair and financially sound program. Additionally, it opens the door for RTAs to create their own low-income fare programs, with either discounted or free transit rides for qualifying residents.


“We’re trying this again because it’s the right thing to do, we’re trying this again because so many seniors, people with disabilities and working families depend on Public Transit,” stated Senator Lydia Edwards (D-Boston), the sponsor of the amendment. “People with the least amount of money need public transit the most. They depend on it to get to work, to get to college, to doctors appointments, and to bring their children to school or day care. Thank you, Senate President Spilka, for your leadership on the Low-Income Fare program amendment.”


“Rising inflation and costs hurt low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities in particular, many of whom already struggle bring home the income necessary to house and feed their families,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Public transit is a lifeline for so many working families in the Commonwealth, who use it to get to work, school, and to bring children to childcare. I’m proud of the Senate for once again supporting this important initiative.”


"Low-income fares on the MBTA and RTAs are essential to provide affordable and equitable public transit,” stated Josh Ostroff, Interim Director of the Transportation for Massachusetts coalition. “Thank you to the Senate, particularly Senate President Spilka, Senators Crighton and Edwards, for their leadership on this issue that will lower costs for thousands of residents across the Commonwealth.”


"Many Massachusetts families are struggling with the burden of transit costs,” stated Stacy Thompson, Executive Director of LivableStreets. “A low-income fare program will make our public transit system more accessible and equitable, helping our whole Commonwealth to address climate change and traffic congestion, and promote racial justice. We applaud the Senate’s leadership in advancing this critical policy.”


“We applaud the Senate for requiring that the MBTA create a means-tested fare program,” stated Paul Broduer, Mayor of Melrose and Vice Chair of the Metro Mayors Coalition. “Low-income residents throughout the region rely on public transportation to access jobs, school, and other essential services. We saw this firsthand in the early months of the pandemic, when our busiest bus routes remained crowded with essential workers on their way to jobs that couldn't be done remotely. This program will increase transit access for people who need it most."


“We are encouraged by the Senate’s move to adopt low-income fare at the MBTA through Amendment 7 to S.2989,” stated Michael Vartabedian, Co-chair, Public Transit Pubic Good coalition, and Assistant Directing Business Representative, District 15 IAMAW. “We thank Senator Edwards and co-sponsors, as well as Senate President Spilka and leadership for championing this popular and urgent policy, which would put millions of dollars back in the pockets of low-income families who rely on the MBTA. Today’s vote gives us hope that this measure will be swiftly passed by the Legislature, and we urge Governor Baker to sign it into law.”


“We need a fully funded MBTA that serves all of our residents,” stated Brian Arrigo, Mayor of Revere, a member of the Metro Mayors Coalition. “This program will make the T accessible to our lowest-income riders and help ensure fairness and equity in our transit system.”


"Thank you to the Senate for including a low-income fare program in the transportation bond bill and to Senator Edwards & Senator Crighton for seeing this amendment through,” stated Sam MontañoDirector of Organizing at GreenRoots. “We desperately need a fare policy that uplifts working families across the state. It's time that our public transit system starts working for those most impacted by the burden of transit costs."

Last year, both the House and Senate approved a low-income fare program in the transportation bond bill, but both the provision and the funding were vetoed by Governor Baker. Having been passed by the Senate as part of the latest transportation bond bill, the provision now goes to conference committee for that bill.

The legislation doc can be found ->

MA Senate Passes Amendment to Create or Allow Low Income Fare Programs for Public Transit
MA Senate Passes Amendment to Create or Allow Low Income Fare Programs for Public Transit

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Fair Share Amendment web page ready to provide info on Ballot Question 1

"The Fair Share Amendment, or Question 1, would create a 4% tax on the portion of a person’s annual income above $1 million and dedicate the funds raised to transportation and public education. 
The amendment, featured on the November ballot, will allow Massachusetts to improve our transportation and public education systems by making the very rich pay their fair share. 
Only people who earn more than $1 million annually will pay this additional income tax; 99% of us won’t pay a penny more. And we’ll all benefit from better schools, roads, bridges, and public transportation. 
On November 8, vote YES on 1."

Learn more about the proposed amendment (Ballot Question 1) 

Fair Share Amendment web page ready to provide info on Ballot Question 1
Fair Share Amendment web page ready to provide info on Ballot Question 1

This is the first of a series to help prepare for the November election. All the posts will be collected in one page to make it easy to bookmark and find.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Senate President Spilka's Boston Chamber Remarks as Prepared for Delivery - June 21, 2022

It is a great honor to speak with you today. As the Senate heads into the final month of formal sessions, we are poised to try to tackle some of the big issues facing the people of the Commonwealth, and I am feeling optimistic about what we have accomplished and what I believe we can accomplish by working with our partners in the House and the Baker Administration.

Just last week, the Legislature sent the Governor a conference committee VOTES Act, designed to increase voting access by enacting vote-by-mail and expanded early-voting options, widely used in the 2020 election, on a permanent basis. It was my hope that this legislation would include same-day voter registration. Although we couldn’t reach a compromise on this provision, I will continue to advocate for its adoption, as so many Senators remain in favor of this provision.

We also recently passed our Fiscal Year 2023 budget, in which the Senate prioritized workforce development so that employers have access to a larger pool of local talent to hire and partner with. Together with our first ARPA allocation, we have made historic investments in the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, Adult Basic Education, our cybersecurity workforce in partnership with our public community colleges and universities, as we in the Legislature believe the Commonwealth can and should be a leader in cybersecurity, because we see it as a natural priority, and organizations working with people displaced from jobs during the pandemic, historically underserved populations, and individuals reentering their communities from the corrections system.

Finally, despite our current economic uncertainty and all our recent investments in our people, the Commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund has never been higher. As Ways & Means Chair and now as Senate President, it has been my priority to grow our rainy day fund, and I’m proud to say that it’s now over $6 billion. So when we need it next, we’ll be prepared.

As for the Student Opportunity Act, many of you know that I ran for the Legislature on this issue, because I wanted to achieve real transformative change for all of our students. That’s why I’m proud that, in our recent budget, we invest a record $6 billion in Massachusetts public K-12 schools, thereby providing students with high quality educational opportunities while addressing pandemic costs—and keeping us on track to fulfill the promise of the Student Opportunity Act in seven years.

We also doubled the increase in the amount of local aid to cities and towns, to $1.2 billion, and invested over $900 million in increased funding towards housing stability and assistance to those living with homelessness. The measures we’re taking, including subsidizing rents and the cost of moving, provide concrete help to individuals and families experiencing housing instability while preventing costs from being passed on to local landlords.

As we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that we ensure that the Commonwealth not only maintains but grows its economic vitality while ensuring the wonderful quality of life we aspire to here. And as we rethink the way that we work, our priorities in a post-COVID world, and grapple with economic realities in an inflationary environment, it’s clear that there are aspects of our economy and our society that just aren’t serving us well anymore.

When it comes to both early education and care, and mental and behavioral health, it seems as if we are still trying to exist in a post World War II structure, where men were assumed to be the primary breadwinners and no one talks about their feelings. But think of everything we have achieved since then—not only have we put a man on the moon, we now carry tiny powerful computers in our pockets. We’ve passed marriage equality, and we’ve made great strides in rights for women, our trans brothers and sisters, and immigrants—and we continue to work towards a more just and equitable Commonwealth for all.

Much of the technology used to propel our world forward—and the groundbreaking social policy used to propel our society forward—was invented right here in Massachusetts. Yet our antiquated beliefs about child care and mental health—and the systems we’ve built to support them—are dragging us down, and need to be urgently addressed if we are to remain economically competitive.

Take early education and care. Before the pandemic, women in Massachusetts were participating in the workforce at increasing rates, surpassing the national rate by 2019—but the pandemic has brought women back to where they were after the 2009 recession. In fact, the percentage of women participating in the U.S. labor market in October 2020 was the lowest since 1988. And while a February 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that men have now recouped all their labor force losses since February 2020, over 1 million fewer women were in the labor force in January 2022 as compared to February 2020. Given how many women either need to work or prefer to work, this reflects an unsustainable trend.

But a lack of affordable early education and care options dampens the economy in other ways too.

According to a recent news article, parents of a four-year-old in Massachusetts can expect to pay 27 per cent of a typical family’s wages on child care—the highest percentage of any state in the U.S. except for Hawaii. In fact, the Economic Policy institute has pointed out that childcare workers themselves cannot afford childcare – because the cost of childcare in Massachusetts is more than 75 percent of the wages earned by a typical childcare worker, which is truly outrageous.

And so I’m proud to report that the Senate is tackling this issue from many different angles—and I’m also excited that there is action in the Legislature to address this important issue this session.

In our Fiscal Year 2021 budget, we created a Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission. That commission submitted its final report in March 2022, and included some pragmatic recommendations for the Legislature in the areas of stabilization, family affordability and access; and workforce compensation.

I’m excited to announce that the Senate will be releasing a bill shortly. This legislation, if and when it is fully implemented, will be transformative in expanding access to high quality, sustainable, and affordable early education and care for young children and families in Massachusetts. It also recognizes that our workforce needs significant supports, through salary, and education and training.

To provide a crucial down payment on our efforts to shore up childcare and early education, the Fiscal Year 2023 Senate budget invests a record $1.13B to transform the childcare system, an increase of $309.6M over FY 2022. The Senate budget also formalizes the practice of reimbursing providers based on enrollment rather than attendance, which will provide more stable payments for our early educators. We also dedicate a new $250M to continue the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grant Program through at least the end of the calendar year. We believe that the C3 grants provide the bedrock funding necessary for the continued development of this sector. And, in recognizing that we need to do more for all our providers, particularly subsidized providers, we are putting this provision in our budget to demonstrate the Senate’s commitment to funding this year after year.

I’m optimistic our House colleagues will support these critical infrastructure investments.

With implementation of the SOA well underway, I believe that it’s time to turn our attention to early ed and care—and pursue the same type of transformational change in a multi-year process. The business community has been at the table on the early education and childcare issue – and we need you to stay. With your support, we can continue to shore up our childcare and early education infrastructure to better serve our businesses, our communities, our families, and most importantly, our children.

Another area where we can’t let the systems of the past impinge on our future is mental health.

I’d like to start by saying how grateful I am to Speaker Ron Mariano, Chair Adrian Madaro, and the entire House for passing their version of the Mental Health ABC Act 2.0 last week. I am extremely hopeful that we will finally get a comprehensive reform bill done this session, and it can’t come soon enough.
In this post-pandemic, inflationary environment, the stress of finding childcare, putting food on the table, and keeping a roof over your head is detrimental to our overall wellbeing, and yet our mental health care system remains broken, disrupting both people’s lives and our economy.

According to the Lancet, poor mental health was estimated to cost the world economy approximately $2.5 trillion per year in poor health and reduced productivity in 2010, and—in part due to the effects of the pandemic—that cost is projected to more than double to $6 trillion by 2030.

So, investing in mental and behavioral health makes good sense all around. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, for every $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.

That’s why, for Fiscal Year 2023, the Senate budget includes over $1B for mental health supports. These investments are paired with $400M from the American Rescue Plan Act legislation, primarily focused on building and sustaining this much- needed workforce.

Just two weeks ago, I attended the commencement ceremony at William James College, where they are intentionally working to foster a new generation of diverse mental and behavioral health professionals who can help us build the future when it comes to mental health access and care.

The Senate also included funding for a mental health clinician loan forgiveness program, a student telebehavioral health program and a public awareness campaign, and $15M in capacity-building initiatives to tackle the heartbreaking reality of emergency department boarding, along with an additional $100M plus to provide tools to sustain momentum around increased SEL supports, children mental health supports, and to Family Resource Centers.

And because substance use disorder is so often the result of unmet mental health needs, the Senate also dedicates significant funding in this area, including $209.3 million for a complete range of substance use disorder treatment and intervention services to support individuals and their families.

It’s clear that the need for mental health care has risen to the top of the agenda for many, and that may be one of the very few silver linings of the pandemic. I’m proud of all the work the Senate has done to advance this critical issue—and I hope you will all join us in getting this over the finish line—and then let your employees take the time they need to access mental health care! It will truly benefit us all.

Another area where our past threatens our future is our transportation system. By now, we’ve all read about the damning Federal Transportation Authority report. If Jim were here, I know he’d have something to say about this.

As he stated in the Globe, safety concerns are a top reason why employees are hesitant to return to work—and you have to wonder, what is stopping them from looking for work elsewhere? And we all know that when employees leave, employers are often forced to follow.

It’s high time that Massachusetts has the public transportation system to match the values and aspirations of its residents, not just here in Boston but throughout the entire state. As a Commonwealth, we need to take a comprehensive look at what we have, what we want, where we're going and how we pay for it—statewide.

This is important not only to provide a top-notch transportation system, but to reach our climate goals as well. In the climate bill now in conference committee, the Senate focused on electrifying our public transportation and cars, which is essential to reaching the future we envision.

Just this morning, the Speaker and I are announcing our support for continued discussions on East-West rail, including the $50 million we included in the last transportation bond bill, with the intent to include significantly more in the upcoming one. I’m hoping that the creation of this new transportation system will open up opportunities for economic development, just as the South Coast rail and the Green Line extension have done.

But we can’t just focus on these large-scale projects at the expense of the Regional Transit Authorities that service our local communities, and that’s why the Senate added $2.5 million in our budget for RTAs for the first time to explore opportunities for means-tested, discounted or fare-free pilot programs. And although I am disappointed the Governor vetoed the Senate’s attempt to move forward on a low-income fare program at the T and the Commuter Rail last session, I am looking forward to continuing that conversation with my colleagues in the upcoming transportation bond bill currently moving through the legislature. As that bill moves, we will continue to have these important discussions on the future of transportation in our state, and I look forward to the Boston Chamber continuing to be a partner in those talks.

Finally, the Speaker and I have also announced this morning that the Joint Committee on Transportation will hold an oversight hearing on the MBTA. The Federal Transit Administration’s findings and the MBTA’s subsequent service cuts don’t inspire public confidence in our transit system. Given the FTA’s interim findings and alarming directives there is an increased need to better understand the agency’s shortcomings and help restore public confidence, and so we need to learn more so that the Legislature can help ensure the T returns to safe and reliable service.

Finally, I believe our state’s strong financial position means that the Legislature can safely balance targeted spending, in areas like housing, childcare and higher education, with tax relief for individuals and families, and other ways to put money back in people’s pocket.

Last year, the Senate converted tax deductions for young children, elderly or disabled dependents and business-related dependent care expenses into refundable tax credits. This meant an additional $16 million to 86,000 low-income working parents and caregivers, thereby helping to lift families out of poverty, and we were happy to see the Governor expand this Senate initiative in his tax relief proposal, as these are dollars that go directly back into the economy.

In addition, the very first commitment we made with funds from the American Rescue Plan was a billion-dollar investment. We put $500 million towards businesses, in the form of unemployment insurance relief, giving them more resources to hire, innovate and invest back into the economy, and $500 million to frontline workers who couldn’t telecommute and who put themselves at risk, providing $500 checks for those who can use it the most.

$500 payments were delivered to nearly 240,000 people in March in the first round of the program, and the second round is distributing $500 checks to approximately 300,000 additional workers this month—a phenomenal number.

We are currently in discussions about a tax relief proposal, which may include changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the estate tax, among others. We will continue to ensure that Massachusetts is open, competitive, and inclusive, and that these same values guide our tax relief proposal.

As I conclude, it is clear that we have a lot of work ahead of us. But I am, as I said, I am hopeful about the future. Everywhere I go, I see people of all backgrounds and experiences wanting to row in the same direction when it comes to what is best for our children and families, our mental health, and our economy.

And it is indeed an honor to be in a leadership position in this time, even if it is a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty.

I’d like to thank all of you for your leadership in the business community, and for caring so very much about our Commonwealth. I look forward to our continued partnership.