Smarter Tolling: On to Round 2

On August 3,  Governor Baker vetoed a pilot program that would have tested smarter tolling, despite strong bipartisan support in the Legislature. Because formal legislation sessions have concluded for 2017-2018, there is no possibility of a veto override.

The linked letter accompanied the Governor’s veto. The letter includes an instruction to MassDOT to conduct a study on congestion, to be completed by April 3, 2019.

You can read the Boston Globe’s coverage of the veto here.

T4MA shared this statement with the media:

“We are disappointed that this toll-discount pilot has been deferred, despite bipartisan support in the House and the Senate. It would have provided a useful regional test of a traffic-busting tool that has been effective and equitable in other parts of the country. We want to work with the Baker Administration, which is why we have engaged in a discussion with MassDOT on this toll-discount pilot for more than a year. For the sake of everyone stuck in traffic across Massachusetts, we urge the Governor to take action on congestion. The status quo is not working.”

While we would have obviously preferred that the Administration embrace the pilot, this conversation has moved forward, with a broad range of voices in support of experimenting with pricing as a tool to alleviate the Commonwealth’s growing traffic crisis. This included three Boston Globe editorials (1, 2, 3) in support of the concept, a Shirley Leung column, and a Commonwealth op-ed by Mike Widmer. With these supporters and more, we have changed the conversation on how to reduce congestion on our roads.

T4MA thanks many allies for their help in advancing the concept with the Administration, the legislature and the public.

The pilot made it this far because of leadership in the House and Senate, including Senators Boncore and Tarr, as lead sponsors of budget amendments, and a wider, bipartisan group of legislators. We are grateful for their support, and hope to engage with them on this concept in the next legislative session.

Recently, the science journal Nature — the most-cited scientific publication on the planet — published a piece that concluded, “Let’s get a move on. Dynamic pricing is the only way forward for roads.” More than forty roads around the United States use some sort of time-of-day or dynamic pricing to provide drivers, truckers, and bus riders with a better trip.

We in Massachusetts need to get comfortable with trying out the concept here in Massachusetts. T4MA is considering how best to engage with the Administration on the congestion study, but it is clear that the study must include serious consideration of smarter tolling as a congestion-busting tool.

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