A wicked smart idea to fund public transportation

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2006 photo (cc) by Adam E. Moreira.

The Boston Globe’s Tim Logan has an important story today about an emerging new paradigm for funding public transportation: charging a fee to property owners who will benefit from it.

It’s already working in some areas, Logan reports. Columnist Shirley Leung notes that Steve Wynn is paying a substantial subsidy to improve Orange Line access to his proposed Everett casino (which I still hope will never get off the ground, but that’s another matter).

My wicked smart Facebook community has already been talking about using such fees to pay for the $1 billion extra that it’s going to cost to build the Green Line Extension into Somerville and Medford. It sounds to me like a great idea, especially since — as state Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack tells Logan — developers are already assessed fees for road improvements. I’d rather see them pay for a new MBTA station than a new interchange.

As always, we need to avoid unintended consequences. There’s already a danger that small, independent businesses will be forced out as property values soar. Perhaps they could be exempt from whatever fee structure the state ultimately decides to adopt.

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Debating the merits of MBTA expansion

In today’s Boston Globe, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone and I debate the merits of expanding the region’s public transportation system following the winter of #MBTApocalypse — a no-motion catastrophe that is not yet over.

I actually don’t think Curtatone and I disagree all that much. We both reject the “reform before revenue” silliness (we need both). And I certainly think expansion is a good idea — some day. But we’ve got to fix the system we have before plunging ahead with ambitious new plans.

Monday update: While we’re talking about MBTA expansion, let’s think about what kind of expansion would give us the biggest bang for our buck. The Globe reports today that there’s not nearly enough parking at T stations, forcing people to drive to Boston even though they’d rather take public transportation — as anyone who’s ever arrived at Oak Grove much after 7 a.m. can attest. Building parking garages isn’t cheap, but they also generate a lot of revenue.