As Bob wrote yesterday, support for Boston 2024 is waning. And wherever you stand on the overall benefits a Bean Town Olympiad could bring to Boston, I think we can all say that one of Boston 2024’s biggest problems is they haven’t sold the electorate.
I’ll admit to leaning towards the Olympics as a prod to force our government into action on a number of fronts – nothing gets stuff done in government like a deadline.
However even my tepid support hasn’t been inspired by any of the visions put forward by Boston 2024. Which I why I’ll suggest that if they want to gain support around the city & state, they need to propose something radical that would make even the most ardent opponent give pause and consider.
My suggestion is that Boston 2024 needs to give us a new MBTA.
The original Olympic bid said that Boston 2024 would ride on the back of current MBTA proposals such as new cars for the Orange & Red Lines, a new West Station, and new DMU trains to ferry spectators to the Seaport. However after this winter’s snow, the only one of these plans that seems to be moving forward with any speed are the new Orange & Red Line cars. West Station hasn’t been discussed for months, and Gov. Baker’s MBTA Board dropped DMU trains from this year’s 1 year capital budget.
But what if the Olympics, and the inevitable development that will follow, could help finance these problems? Post-Olympic development of Widdett Circle would see it developed into a new “Mid-Town” neighborhood pumping millions of property tax dollars into the region. Post-Olympic development around Beacon Yard and near JFK/UMass will be similar.
Whether it’s through direct payments, joint development (Like the new Assembly Landing development & Assembly Orange Line station), tax incremental financing or other means, Boston 2024 should find a way to give us a vision of a modern Boston with the public transit we all dream of, but Beacon Hill has yet to deliver.
A few ideas that could & should be part of this vision:
- Build & Finance the Indigo Line
- Getting the Indigo Line built would be a huge boon to Boston. It would connect West Station to North Station with links in Cambridge and allowing for commuters to make their way through the city without transferring downtown.
- It would also add much higher frequency service on the Fairmount line and inner-urban areas of the Lowell and Newberryport/Rockport lines, making the train a much more appealing alternative to driving in these areas
- Upgrade the Silver Line to real BRT, or better yet, light rail
- Completing the Phase III tunnel, adding Charlie Ticket machines at all stops and working with the City of Boston to add traffic light preemption to all surface level runs
- Building The North-South Rail Link
- Allowing our two separate Commuter Rail systems to work together, especially in conjunction with an Indigo Line, would allow for all sorts of new rail alignments in the region, allowing non-downtown commuters to move onto rail and allowing our two different Amtrak stations to actually have a link
- Building The Red-Blue Line Connector
- Long promised & never delivered, would allow for a direct interchange between the Red & Blue lines at Charles/MGH and unload extra cross traffic off of State & Government Center (Once re-opened)
- Building Out The Urban Ring
- Building out more ways to connect our region without all traffic going through downtown Boston
These are all ideas that the MBTA has floated over the years, but has never been able to find the money for. These ideas are all tremendously popular as they’d benefit residents and commuters alike & could easily be financed through the Olympics or post-Olympic development. If Boston 2024 wants to show us a vision of Boston in the future, they need to show us more than how our region’s property developers will benefit, but how we’ll all benefit.