"The third rail for the next mayor of Boston is traffic." That's how the Globe's Derrick Jackson started his column last week, which spelled out the looming crisis -- huge amounts of new construction in the works, in a city that is already choked with congestion.
We teamed up with Derrick to ask the candidates what they'd do to solve the problem. Their full answers are below. Derrick thought the candidates talked too much about biking -- "important, but not sufficient," he wrote -- and too little about bolder and riskier ideas, such as the congestion fees imposed on drivers in Stockholm and London. Do you agree or disagree? Will the ideas here solve Boston's looming commuter crisis? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us at @BostonComment.
Bill Walczak, @BillforBoston
Boston has a burgeoning job market, but unless we have a solution to gridlock, we will not see continued economic growth. First off, we need a better and expanded public transportation system, and we need to look at alternatives to automobiles. As an avid bicyclist, I propose that we create a regional network of bicycle-oriented roads, bike paths and cycle-tracks that run along commuter routes. On the destination end, we need to have more cages and bike racks, and we need to make Hubway more accessible across all neighborhoods.
Second is the expansion of Transit Oriented Development. We need more housing in the city and it should be built, densely, near bus, subway and commuter rail stations.
Lastly, we should examine ways that other cities have dealt with congestion, including bus lanes, more park and ride facilities in the suburbs, London's congestion zone charges, better signage and texting to inform drivers when there is gridlock, and parking location software.
Dan Conley, @DanFConley
Suffolk District Attorney
Easing traffic congestion requires encouraging the use of alternative transit modes, including bikes, but the greatest impact requires us to decrease automobile usage and increase public transportation ridership. This in turn requires making public transit more fast, efficient and connective. Providing more exclusive lanes for public transport and engineering traffic signals to enable their speedy passage through intersections is a low- to no-cost way of accomplishing this.
New York City introduced express bus services that in one year reduced travel time by an average of 11 minutes and helped to increased ridership. This change complements a larger move towards a Bus Rapid Transit system which is the most cost-conscious means of finally creating the long dreamed of, and critically important, Urban Ring -- which would connect residents of Bostonís neighborhoods to jobs hubs like the South Boston waterfront and Longwood medical area, easing congestion while facilitating future job growth.
Marty Walsh, @Marty_Walsh
In the short term, I would ensure that all signals are timed correctly and are efficiently moving vehicles along. The lights on Mass Ave. and other entry points should be timed so getting from one end to the other does not include stopping at every light. Another potential congestion reducer is a revamping of the BPD and BTDís moving and parking violations. This includes increasing traffic enforcement at major intersections during rush hour so congestion-causing habits like blocking the box and abusing turn-only lanes become a thing of the past.
My long-term plans call for increasing the bike-ability of Boston as well as increasing MBTA ridership through expansion of services. I like Nicole Freedmanís plan for biking in Boston, which could lead to biking accounting for 30 to 50 percent of transportation in Boston by 2043. This is an aggressive goal but I believe if proper resources are used it can be achieved.
Felix Arroyo, @FelixArroyo
Boston City Councilor
In 2011, only slightly over one-third of Bostonís workers took public transportation to work and nearly 50% of workers drove to work alone, according to the American Community Survey. That doesn't count workers commuting from outside Boston, who double Bostonís population every working day. If we are serious about limiting our carbon footprint and making Boston a more sustainable city, we must redouble our efforts to make public and alternative transportation attractive and accessible to everyone in Boston and the surrounding communities. In addition to working to ensure adequate funding for the MBTA, as Mayor, I will support and expand the Hubway bike-sharing program, continue to work with Boston Bikes and residents to make bicycle travel in Boston safer and more accessible by adding more bikes and stations to the Hubway system and extending Bostonís network of bike lanes, and incorporate multi-modal transportation into new developments and redevelopment of existing residential areas.
John Connolly, @JohnRConnolly
Boston City Councilor
Two things Iíll get to work on right away as mayor are:
First, through careful, future-looking planning with meaningful community involvement, we must prioritize transit oriented development that includes housing, retail, and commercial space, so housing is accessible to stores, jobs, educational opportunities, and transit. With these different uses near each other, we can reduce the number of trips that people need to take and make the T more convenient.
Second, we must make Boston more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. As a City Councilor, I sponsored the resolution designating over $5 million to help create the Hubway bike share program. I support expanding it. I also support ďcomplete streetsĒ design in order to incorporate cycling into the plans for our roads and make it safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers to travel together. As mayor Iíll prioritize the creation of cycle tracks in the cityís capital budget.
Mike Ross, @MikeForBoston
Boston City Councilor
Bostonís consistent traffic bottlenecks arenít just inconvenient for drivers: they slow down business, create pollution, and represent a major drain on our economy. There's no silver bullet. As Mayor, the first thing I would do to address this set of issues would be to hire a transportation commissioner with a background in cycling, a commitment to multi-modal transportation and ďcomplete streetsĒ design principles, and an understanding of how to leverage networking technologies in our street system to significantly ease car traffic. I'd work with my commissioner to build a network of dedicated, separated cycle tracks that connects every neighborhood to each other and to leverage data to improve signal timing to create efficient traffic flow and reduce congestion on Bostonís streets.
John Barros, @JohnFBarros
Former school committee member
As mayor, I would do a number of things concurrently to address traffic congestion:
∑ Engage in a a comprehensive 24/7 multi-modal transportation plan to integrate all modes of transportation from zip cars, bicycles, electric cars, subways and rapid buses to adopt various transportation choices that shifts Boston away from our over-dependence on cars.
∑ Create dedicated lanes for all public transit vehicles, especially in congested corridors and key routes; invest in better walking and biking infrastructure that increases convenience and safety
∑ Support the Complete Street program and expand adjust signal timing so traffic has better flow between multiple lights and intersections. Review traffic regulations of parking and turning restrictions to ensure that they are not a hindrance in traffic flow.
Charlotte Golar-Richie, @Charlotte4Mayor
Former State Representative
In order to ease traffic in Boston, I would consider the following:
- provide police and/or cadet traffic details at the most difficult traffic intersections in Boston during peak traveling hours to ease congestion as quickly as possible,
- implement selective use of traffic notification message boards around the city to give drivers advanced notice of traffic problems ahead so they may select alternative routes,
- explore the use of smart phone apps. to give people traffic information and information about the MBTA bus and transit services so that people can make choices about how they travel,
- coordinate with our businesses that bring workers into Boston on developing incentives for employees to take public transportation to reduce the number of cars on our streets.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Boston.comment is an exchange for ideas about Boston and beyond, brought to you by the Boston Globe editorial page and edited by Globe columnist Joanna Weiss. We're the sponsor of Boston.com's #LabDebates and the creator of the Choose Your Own Adventure mayoral game.
A note on comments: Be honest, be open, be polite. And be warned: Personal attacks will be removed.