In case you were afraid that New York is the only city where current mayoral candidates are offering laughable transit proposals, worry no longer. Thanks to our neighbor to the north with the far inferior baseball franchise, we have company. As Bostonians convene to elect a new civic leader, those hoping to inherit Tom Menino’s mantle are starting to promise the sky when it comes to the T.
As a variety of candidates take to the streets, transportation issues are front and center. This time, though, candidates are talking about money. They recognize the T’s limitations. It closes earlier; the MBTA is constantly scrounging around for state dollars; the city has little control over its own transit system. But the funding proposals are far more creative than anything we’ve seen in New York.
In The Globe, Martine Powers summarized the campaign:
Transportation is a frequent topic on the campaign trail, with candidates releasing detailed platforms coupled with gimmicky appeals to voters, such as three days of car-free campaigning.
In a Boston Globe survey answered by eight of the 12 mayoral hopefuls, many of the candidates’ visions for Boston’s transportation future aligned: Most they said they plan to push for 24-hour T service, will embrace technology to reduce gridlock in the city, institute major changes in the city’s taxi industry, promote biking, and encourage car-free commuting.
The differences in candidates’ platforms are in the details. Councilor Michael P. Ross said he would consider offering special late-night licenses to bars and restaurants that would allow them to stay open later, with the fees funding extended T hours, while Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley suggested that Boston sports teams and cultural institutions bundle CharlieCards with their season tickets and annual memberships, adding an influx of cash to the MBTA.
Beyond these ideas, certain mayoral candidates have also suggested that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority beg the region’s myriad universities for funding assistance or ask hospitals and corporations — those economic drivers with workers who need late-night transportation — to chip in. Of course, since the MBTA is a state-sponsored agency, these suggestions will be for naught, but they’re far better than the Triboro RX SBS route or Joe Lhota’s park-and-ride plans.
But while we can nod knowingly in Boston’s direction, something is driving this push toward outlandishly inane or inanely outlandish transit ideas in mayoral campaigns. Is it because cities should have tighter control over their transit systems? Is it because states and the feds aren’t adequately funding transportation investment? Are these zany ideas simply a cover for an unwillingness to do anything serious? I’m sure the answer is somewhere betwixt and between all of these questions, and the answers are rather uncomfortable.