Jim Aloisi’s column in Commonwealth mag is really a must-read — and gets right to the dreary lack of vision and egalitarian spirit that plagues our transportation authorities and political culture, from the Governor and MassDOT on down.
The proximate cause for Aloisi’s righteous rant is MassDOT’s decision not to create the West Station commuter rail stop in Allston until 2040. That is, practically speaking, “never”. No one bases their decisions on where to live based on the vaporous prospect of a train station 23 years from now. (It was supposed to begin work in 2019, and take three or four years.)
… The official proposal to defer building West Station until 2040 – a generation from now – is truly breathtaking in its profoundly negative implications. I have also written about this before. Imagine if the Silver Line in the Seaport District, or the Orange Line station at Assembly Square, weren’t built in the early stages of the development of those districts. That would have been a mistake, just like it is a mistake for MassDOT not to insist on building West Station early in the Allston Landing development cycle.
A new West Station integrated into the intercity rail network as part of a newly conceived regional rail system is an important component of the region’s mobility future. If West Station is built and connected to the Grand Junction Line, it will offer people who now drive on the Turnpike a viable alternative to get to the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, and ultimately to North Station. You can read more about that here. Despite this, and despite the clearly recognized need to abandon old and failing ways of utilizing our intercity rail assets, there are no firm commitments by the state (or Harvard or BU, who stand to benefit most from this) to an early construction of West Station.
Deferring construction of the station to 2040 may go down as one of the worst transportation policy decisions of the first half of this century.
(The other target of ire is the laughable Southie gondola plan — a fancy bauble for a private developer to blow $100 million, in order to transport too few people. Folks … you put gondolas in the mountains.)
We need sustainable, transit-oriented development now – not in 23 years. Our daily experience of living with soul-crushing Boston traffic tells us that — not to mention the persistence of Boston’s can’t-get-there-from-here transit patterns, still shaped by the Charles River. When will we start to break this down? As the cartoon says, “How about never? Does never work for you?”
And let it not be missed that transportation planning represents a community’s values — my emphasis:
The solution to unlocking the mobility challenges of the Seaport District won’t be found in privately owned systems that cannot and will not function as part of what should be an efficient, affordable, equitable transportation network.
Public transportation should be public — ie. for everyone, not just the most-favored corporate citizens. (I’ve seen orange Amazon robotics vans lurking around the neighborhood … this is not the way of the future.)
In any event, this dovetails with our riff — and that of WBUR Cognoscenti contributor Miles Howard — that Governor Baker’s popularity is predicated on him avoiding bold action on major long-term, festering challenges. But how hard would it be to push forward on West Station? This is not Mission Impossible here.