Press coverage

  • Re-examining gas tax could provide funding for upgrading commuter-rail system

    The majority of Massachusetts residents apparently are all for dramatically improving the state’s commuter-rail system.

    As long as it’s not on their dime.

    That’s essentially the conclusion of a MassINC survey of 1,430 Bay State residents published last week.

    Respondents overwhelming supported several ambitious projects, including the North-South Rail Link, the South Coast Rail project, and extending commuter —  rail service west to Springfield and Pittsfield.

    In addition to these infrastructure improvements, nearly 85% of those surveyed want a wholesale overhaul of the rail’s delivery system, which would entail replacing the existing diesel fleet with electric-powered trains.

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  • Mass. Residents Want More Commuter Rail Service And Lower Fares, Poll Finds

    Massachusetts residents want a lot more commuter rail service, including more frequent trains and expanded service throughout the state, according to a new MassINC poll (topline resultscrosstabs).

    The poll found 76% of residents support moving the commuter rail toward a “regional rail” system. In this type of system, there would be trains every 15 to 30 minutes, day and night and on weekends, so people could use the commuter rail for more than just riding to and from work.

    More than two-thirds of residents also want the commuter rail extended to western Massachusetts, the South Coast — including Fall River and New Bedford — and to southern New Hampshire. And 81% of poll respondents want the long-discussed North-South rail link, which would connect North and South stations in Boston.

    “Residents think that the rail system in Massachusetts as it’s currently constructed could do more and that there’s space for rail to go to more places than it does now,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group.

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  • Poll Tests Mass. Residents’ Appetite For Transpo Projects And Funding

    A majority of residents want to see significant improvements to the commuter rail system, but they also believe the costs should not be passed along to commuters in the form of higher fares or an increased gas tax, according to a new poll.

    Proposals such as a North-South Rail Link, the South Coast Rail project, and extending the commuter rail west to Springfield and Pittsfield all saw support of 75 percent or more in a MassINC poll of 1,430 Massachusetts residents published Thursday.

    The most popular among those was replacing the existing diesel fleet with electric trains: 84 percent of residents polled said they strongly or somewhat support the idea, which is included in a handful of options an MBTA panel is exploring for the future of the commuter rail system.

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  • Lynn appeals for commuter rail service at subway prices

    Lynn, though, is a Zone 2 stop, which costs $7 each way. In a recent report, MassINC specifically highlighted the city as one area where commuter rail prices leave public transportation out of reach as an option for many residents.

    ”We could use that transportation option in Lynn,” Capano told the T’s board. “It would give us economic opportunity. Transportation can definitely help with that and reduce congestion on the way into Boston.”

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  • Report: high commuter rail fares holding back growth in Brockton

    BROCKTON — Transit advocates say a reformed commuter rail system could spread growth from Boston into the region’s smaller cities, but with higher-frequency service still a distant possibility, a new policy brief from MassINC makes the case for a quicker fix: charging less money for a ticket.

    Though the train takes only 35 minutes to reach downtown Boston on a good day, a majority of Brockton’s public transit riders still prefer a bus that can take two or three times as long at rush hour, according to the latest data from regional transit authorities in both cities.

    MassINC argues in its new report, “Prioritizing Equitable Growth Through Fare Policy,” that much of that choice is based on cost.

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  • Our View: Lower fares from gateway cities

    Solving the state’s transportation woes will involve major upgrades to the rail network, which shuttles thousands of commuters in and out of Greater Boston every day. But as state transportation planners evaluate what needs to be done, the think tank MassINC contends the state has to look at making commuter rail fares more affordable to avoid shutting out low- and- moderate-income riders.

    The problem is most serious in Massachusetts’ so-called “gateway cities”, including Lawrence, Haverhill, Salem, Lowell and Lynn on the North Shore. MassINC issued a report in August citing what has long been a “spatial mismatch” between urban neighborhoods and suburban job centers. That mismatch “has reduced wages, lowered labor force participation, and distorted labor markets in other ways that have been especially harmful to communities of color,” according to the report.

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  • Report suggests commuter rail is unaffordable for residents of Gateway Cities

    A new study released by the nonprofit Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth suggests that many potential commuters in Gateway Cities like Fitchburg and Lowell can’t afford the state’s commuter rail.

    “A new commuter rail fare policy is also vital to ensuring that future development in Gateway Cities produces equitable outcomes,” the report states.

    MassInc has published various reports on improving transportation, schools, career opportunities and more in Gateway Cities, most located far from Boston.

    Elizabeth Haney, Dr. Tracy Corley, and Ben Forman, authors of the study, suggest that reducing fares for low-income and moderate-income riders who may not otherwise use the train could increase ridership and help residents of gateway communities find higher-pay work, leading to statewide fiscal gains.

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  • Study: High fares make commuter rail too costly for many residents

    As housing costs force low and moderate income residents to look far outside the Boston area, the cost of using commuter rail trains to get to jobs in Boston remains out of reach for many of those residents, according to a new study.

    The study from the public policy think tank MassINC notes that a trip to Boston from Worcester can total more than $4,600 a year (at $12.25 each way) for a regular commuter during the workday. That’s more than 13 percent of the median household income in Worcester, the state’s second largest city. Meanwhile, many commuters from Boston’s more affluent suburbs pay less than 2 percent of their median household income.

    The high costs, based on distance with fares split into “zones,” hinder ridership among low income residents living near an MBTA commuter rail line, according to the study.

    “This disconnect between proximity and utilization is particularly striking in Lynn, where two-thirds of station area residents are low-income and yet low-income riders account for just 7 percent of those boarding at the Lynn commuter rail station,” the study says.

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  • Study: Mass. Residents In Gateway Cities Are Priced Out Of Public Transit

    A new study from MassINC finds that many residents in the state’s gateway cities can’t afford to use the commuter rail — and in effect lack access to major job centers and economic opportunities elsewhere in the state.

    The study looked at access to commuter rail service in Massachusetts’ gateway cities — defined by state law as midsize municipalities where the median household income and rates of a bachelor’s degree (or above) are below the state average.

    The study finds that commuter rail fares make up a larger percent of median household incomes in gateway cities than in more affluent suburbs closer to Boston. For example, the cost of traveling to Boston from Fall River is $4,656 yearly — about 15% of the city’s median household income — compared to Winchester, where the cost of riding the commuter rail yearly amounts to just 2% of the city’s median household income.

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  • Is the Commuter Rail too expensive in Massachusetts?

    Is the Commuter Rail too expensive in Massachusetts?

    A new report by MassINC finds the cost of fares on MBTA Commuter Rail trains makes it hard for low- and moderate-income residents of Gateway Cities to use public transit to get to work.

    Today, one-way fares between Gateway Cities and Boston range from $7 in Lynn to $12.25 in Worcester. For a Worcester resident working full-time, this translates to $4,656 a year, or 13% of the city’s median household income. The cost of a monthly pass is $388 in Worcester.

  • Commuter rail not affordable for residents of Worcester, other Gateway Cities, study finds

    As the state evaluates major upgrades to its rail network, a new study finds residents of Worcester and other Gateway Cities are “priced out” of commuter rail. It recommends methods such as discounts for off-peak travel and reverse commuting and piloting income-based fares to increase fare equity, grow ridership, and spur equitable economic development in Gateway Cities.

    “Realizing the potential of Gateway City (transit-oriented development) will require complementary changes to both development policy and transit policy,” a new report by MassINC, a nonpartisan think tank in Boston, said. “On the transit side of the equation, a new, more equitable commuter rail fare framework should be priority No. 1.”

    The report, “Prioritizing Equitable Growth Through Fare Policy,” argues for a shift in the way the commuter rail network measures fare equity. Instead of charging the highest fares for those who travel the farthest, the system would use a more data-driven, income-based fare policy.

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  • Commuter rail fares a heavy cost for many in Worcester, Fitchburg

    The MBTA commuter rail may free up some time for relaxing or working on the way in and out, but the price is far out of reach for many, according to a report Thursday by MassINC, a Boston think tank that focuses much of its work on the state’s Gateway Cities, including Worcester and Fitchburg.

    A monthly pass to and from Worcester’s Union Station or Fitchburg’s commuter rail station costs $4,656 a year, the highest of any end-of-line Massachusetts station in the system, according to MassINC. Even those not commuting all the way into Boston have high costs: $2,352 a year to go from Fitchburg to Waltham, and $1,668 from Worcester to Framingham.

    “Most residents are unable to make this significant expenditure in a single payment — if they can afford it at all,” the report says.

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  • Moulton, housing advocates eye transit-oriented development

    Moulton, a Salem Democrat and advocate for public transportation and rail travel, met Monday with Harborlight Community Partners Executive Director Andrew DeFranza, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance Executive Director Andre Leroux, and Tracy Corley, transit-oriented development fellow at MassINC, a nonpartisan public policy think tank, to talk about transit-oriented development…

    Corley said there is wider discussion among state transportation officials about the vision of the existing commuter rail, which was designed to shuttle people to and from 9-to-5 jobs in downtown Boston. There is talk of increasing the frequency of trains and having all-day service. To justify the expansion, she said, it would make sense to add both housing and jobs near commuter rail stations.

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  • Lynn Forum Focuses on Transformative Transit-Oriented Development

    McGee spoke at Wednesday afternoon’s North Shore Massachusetts Transformative Transit-Oriented Development Regional Forum, at the Lynn Museum and hosted by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), which has released a report on the topic. The discussion was moderated by Essex Media Group (publisher of The Daily Item) Community Relations Director Carolina Trujillo.

    In the report, “The Promise and Potential of Transformative Transit-Oriented Development in Gateway Cities,” the executive summary reads that gateway cities can accommodate thousands of new housing units and thousands of new jobs on the vacant and underutilized land surrounding their commuter rail stations. The walkable, mixed-use urban land offers an ideal setting for a transit-oriented development.

    Dr. Tracy Corley, a transit-oriented development fellow for MassInc., said their research focused on 13 of 26 gateway cities and what could be done within a half mile of commuter rail stations, which could create the potential of 140,000 new jobs.

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  • Krause: Time is Ticking on Transportation Plan

    Wednesday, officials from MassINC — a non-profit dedicated to promoting public policy that creates a pathway to opportunity for Massachusetts residents — were in Lynn to promote the TTOD initiative.

    That would be a marvelous idea, if Lynn was served by a 21st century transit system. It isn’t. In fact, the commuter rail that passes by here once an hour is archaic. And it’s basically useless. If I work on State Street, or somewhere else in the financial district of Boston, getting off a train at North Station, behind the Boston Garden, is not making my commute any easier.

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  • Boom in transit ridership could signal big changes for Brockton

    “Brockton was really slow to see any reinvestment and then all of a sudden the city has built a tremendous pipeline,” said Ben Forman, director of MassINC’s Gateway Cities Institute, which studies the state’s substantial collection of mid-sized, formerly industrial cities. Brockton has since “leapfrogged” many of the cities it once lagged behind in terms of housing production, according to Forman.

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  • A Complex Recipe for Housing Financing

    Rob May, Brockton’s director of economic development and planning, famously offers up his seven-layer dip to anyone with a taste for the city’s downtown.

    A 121B Urban Renewal plan forms the base. Then, he mixes in 40Q District Improvement Financing, a 40R Smart Growth Overlay District, a 40V Housing Development Zone and a Transformative Development District. He recently has added an Opportunity Zone for a dash of spice. Apparently, a few stout souls have an appetite for this concoction; a downtown that sat idle for four decades has been steadily drawing private investment.

    As a case study for planners and policymakers, May’s seven-layer dip raises two central questions: How do we get other Gateway Cities to make better use of available state and federal development tools? And how do we refine these programs so that form a complementary fabric rather than a conflicting patchwork for cities?

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  • Next Stop: The Commuter Rail

    WGBH News’ Bob Seay sits down with President of Transit Matters, Josh Fairchild, Transportation-Oriented Development Fellow of the Gateway Cities Institute at MassINC, Tracy Corley, and Mayor of Salem, Kim Driscoll, to discuss reliability, fare hikes and the future of the Commuter Rail. Watch it here…

  • Forum explores ways to foster, manage Worcester’s growth

    “The answer is to build housing in cities that can absorb thousands of units of housing and move people to and from these cities efficiently on infrastructure that already exists,” said Benjamin Forman, executive director of the MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Institute and research director at MassINC.

    MassINC, a Boston think tank, and The Research Bureau jointly hosted a presentation and discussion Thursday night on MassINC’s recent study “The Promise and Potential of Transformative Transit-Oriented Development in Gateway Cities.

    The 84-page report uses data from Springfield, Fitchburg, Lynn and Worcester to examine the impact of focusing development in transit-oriented districts – areas generally within a half-mile of commuter rail stations – in 13 Gateway Cities.

    The report finds that land surrounding commuter rail stations in these cities is generally either vacant or underutilized. In Worcester, for instance, the think tank calculates that the neighborhood could absorb roughly 10 million square feet of added development, 23,505 more residents, and 6,698 additional jobs.

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  • Study Examines Potential In Springfield For Mass Transit To Attract Investment

    If you don’t have a car, getting around in western Massachusetts and Connecticut can be tricky. More trains now carry daily passengers between Springfield and Connecticut cities. But the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority is raising bus fares and threatening service cuts. There’s a cycle to this: Low ridership can mean weak economic investment near transit stations. And that means even fewer people ride.

    The new study examines this thin four so-called “gateway cities” in Massachusetts: Springfield, Worcester, Lynn and Fitchburg. Ben Forman with MassINC helped to lead the study.

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  • Linking Commuter Rail to Jobs, Housing, and Opportunity in Eastern Massachusetts

    According to the study, a dozen factory towns around Boston—including other former shoe towns like Haverhill and Lynn, and former textile cities like Lawrence and Lowell—could accommodate well over a 100 million square of additional development within walking distance of existing transit stations. This is sufficient space to house at least a quarter of the population and employment growth projected for the entire state over the next decade. With Boston hugely expensive and bursting at its seams and suburban communities, like the one where I boarded this train, doing everything in their power to keep growth out, these former mill cities represent long-overlooked housing, commercial, and transit opportunities for the Boston metropolitan area.

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  • State should empower regions to re-invest in themselves with regional ballot initiatives

    Ultimately, Regional Ballot Initiatives would save money by helping regional planning agencies, city and town governments, and construction contractors budget and plan for local projects ahead of time, instead of waiting on state or federal funds to decide their fate.

    The initiatives could also encourage growth in our downtowns: a recently released report by MassINC’s Gateway City Innovation Institute identified Regional Ballot Initiatives as a key way to promote transit-oriented economic development in our state’s mid-sized cities.

    When voters are given a choice over raising new revenues, and know exactly where their money will be going, they will fund projects that their communities need.

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  • Editorial: State, cities must get on the same track with transit-oriented development

    Large corporations are moving back into the city. To support such a trend — to ensure that employers have easier access to talented workers — we need the state, cities, towns and private developers to embrace transit-oriented development incentives and, once and for all, get on the same track.
  • Rail reality: Focus on transit offers huge potential for Worcester growth, study says

    “The interesting thing that we found about Worcester is that the market is strengthening to the point where it can be developed,” said Mr. Forman, citing the CitySquare project as an example. “In Worcester, there’s going to be gaps in some projects, but they’re starting to narrow, to the extent that if we improve the transit service and make the transit service a larger development value,” the development will occur.

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  • MassINC: Building near commuter rail could transform cities

    The study finds that today, the land surrounding commuter rail stations in these 13 cities tends to be vacant and underutilized. It could potentially house 230,000 residents and 230,000 jobs, which would be an increase of around 140,000 residents and workers.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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