Go Boston 2030 long on ideas, short on specifics

The City of Boston is beginning a series of public meetings around its Go Boston 2030 visioning process, an effort to involve residents in planning for transportation changes and improvements over the next several years. They also recently released a survey asking people to rank their policy and project preferences. Unfortunately, information about what these things are is scant.

The survey arbitrarily divides up transportation ideas into four futures, “Go Local”, “Go Crosstown”, “Go Regional” and “Go Tech” and asks people to choose one. This is a false dichotomy, since none of the ideas are mutually exclusive and, as the survey purports to be about priorities, it would make more sense for them to be ranked.

The “Go Local” option, for example, includes options like more complete streets, improved bus corridors and extensions of the Green Line’s E branch to Hyde Square and the Orange Line to Roslindale Square, as well as pedestrian-first traffic signals; “Go Crosstown” has bus rapid transit and bike infrastructure improvements; “Go Regional” has more bus rapid transit and rail improvements and “Go Tech” has more signal improvements and Hubway expansion.

Not only are they not mutually exclusive, some are necesarry for each other. There are not going to be bus corridor improvements or bus rapid transit rollout without transit signal priority. Improving bike infrastructure and expanding Hubway seem like two sides of the same coin.

It’s also difficult to ascertain how seriously the City is taking any of the ideas. For example, extending the Orange Line to Roslindale Square is very popular down there. Washington Street from Roslindale Square to Forest Hills is over capacity and the commuter rail doesn’t have enough service (to say nothing of the fact that getting on at Roslindale or the stations in West Roxbury is about twice as expensive as getting on at Forest Hills). However, actually doing it could be expensive and complex, so it seems unlikely that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority would commit to it, no matter how much money or pressure the City brought to bear (if the City would even be interested in pursuing it following an MBTA rejection).

Finally, the transportation agencies involved have a bit of a reputation for not following through on their projects. For example, the Silver Line was supposed to be bus rapid transit and instead it’s just a normal bus line, or how the City committed to Vision Zero, but wants people to wear reflective wristbands.

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