The Race for City Hall

Mike Ross goes car-free on the campaign trail

Boston Mayoral Candidate Councilor Mike Ross answers a question during the Boston Mayoral Candidate Forum at Edward Brooke Charter School in Roslindale.
Boston Mayoral Candidate Councilor Mike Ross answers a question during the Boston Mayoral Candidate Forum at Edward Brooke Charter School in Roslindale.Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

Over the next three days, City Councilor Mike Ross will attempt the near-impossible: Navigate the Boston mayoral race campaign trail without his car.

Until Friday evening, it’s exclusively MBTA, bikes, cabs, and ride-share apps for the candidate — part of his effort to publicize his new transportation plan, released Tuesday , on how he intends to improve residents’ ability to move quickly and safely around the city.

So far, it seems, Ross’ transit adventure has gotten off to a rough start: Just after 11 a.m. Wednesday, he Tweeted that he was late for his first appointment due to a delay on the Orange Line.

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In an interview Tuesday evening, Ross said he hopes his 72 hours of car-free living will bring attention to the need for improvement in Boston’s transportation system. And though the MBTA system is a state entity, Ross said he envisions a bigger partnership with the city, where the mayor will help figure out how to finance improvements on the T.

“The next mayor has no choice,” Ross said. “The MBTA will have to be his or her problem, and it will be mine.”

His first idea? Bring back the Night Owl, an MBTA bus service that ran until the wee hours in the early 2000s. He wants to garner funding from private organizations to finance the service, and he is also considering using city money to help foot the bill.

“I havent ruled out using actual city resources,” Ross said, “because it’s that important.”

Ross said that much of his transportation platform will also focus on bikes: In the vein of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, he wants to add miles of bike lanes and cycle tracks, expand the Hubway bike-share system and make it year-round, and create a task force to analyze the most dangerous intersections for bikes.

“I’m not suggesting that we have to implode every intersection and redesign it,” Ross said. Instead, he wants smaller and more nuanced changes, he said, such as moving a bus stop a few feet to better avoid collisions with bicycles.

He scoffed at the idea that Boston is too old, and too compact, to accommodate bikes, improve traffic signal timing, and incorporate cutting-edge traffic technology such as parking meter smart phone apps.

“Look, I recognize we have the cow-path argument. I’ve heard it. I’ve made that argument before,” Ross said. “But I still think there are things we can do with our traffic grid system, with our bicycle system, with public transit, and with our other transportation agencies ... that I think can bring us to the next level.”

As for Ross’ car-free bout of campaigning, he’s no stranger to attention-grabbing campaign stunts: After he announced his candidacy, he stayed awake for 25 hours in a marathon kick-off to his campaign.

Ross maintained that three days without the pleasures of Boston driving wouldn’t be so bad, pointing out that “this is not my first time hopping on the T. It’s a pretty well-worn Charlie Card.”

“I’m not going to pretend and tell you that I’m Michael Dukakis,” Ross said of the former governor, famous for regularly riding the T from Brookline to Beacon Hill. “I mean, I’m not. I haven’t been. But against my colleagues who are in this thing, I think I’ve got 95 percent of them beat.”

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