Downtown View:Imponderables

July 14, 2017
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By Karen Cord Taylor

News articles extoll Massachusetts’ wealth. From the Boston Globe on June 28: “The Massachusetts miracle: rich and thriving.” In January, “A Waterfront that’s rapidly transforming,” which reports that $1.5 billion of construction was taking place with $850 million about to begin. These new properties mean exploding tax revenue for Boston and higher revenue for Massachusetts with those construction workers’ salaries and the sales taxes contractors are spending on materials.

Massachusetts has been disappointed in actual revenues collected versus revenues predicted, but the numbers are still impressive for both the state and the city.

This leaves questions: If we’re so rich why can’t we afford public transportation at least as good as Paris, which has struggled with high unemployment? Why can’t we keep day care at UMass Boston, not to mention building excellent facilities? Why do our leaders cry poor when schools need funding, when roads need repairing, when rail needs expanding? Why are we so fearful of spending money, while at the same time everyone brags that we’re rolling in it? It’s a mystery.

Do you follow plastic surgery? If so, you might have noticed an interesting spectacle going on in the boobs department. Ivanka Trump and Melania Trump have matching chests. Same size. Same look. And they’re not even related. They don’t look like any of the women I know, except maybe Angelina Jolie, who has a good excuse. (I don’t actually know Ms. Jolie, but I’ve seen photos.) Maybe same surgeon? Maybe the company producing the product makes them only in one size. Who knows?

Then there is Charlie Baker. Will he become a Democrat? Not in next year’s election, since he is popular with voters from both parties.

But, as a Republican, where does he go from here? Nowhere. We saw Mitt Romney embarrass himself repeatedly in his presidential campaign as he tried to please Republican voters by walking back from all he told us he believed in while he was governor. Charlie doesn’t seem like that sort of person. While he hedged on global warming the first time he ran for governor, he finally split with fellow national Republicans and admitted he was concerned about it.

On most matters he’s more in line with Democrats than national Republicans. Charlie is unlikely to get an appointed position in Washington, given his opinions of Trump, and it is unlikely he could win the Republican presidential nomination given his opposition to many of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s policies. Charlie is the antithesis of those guys—the kind of old-fashioned Republican many of us started out to be before the Republican Party left us standing in the sea without a boat.

Charlie could become the head of some company that he’d relocate to Massachusetts with the appropriate tax breaks or be named president of a prestigious university, and he’d have a fine life. But if he hopes to achieve higher office—president, let’s say—he’ll find little support in his own party, and would be welcomed by Democrats. Interesting to watch.

Why are we building parking garages that will attract more cars when we don’t have enough space for the cars already driving into Boston?

City leaders are bringing two government-subsidized garages holding 2,100 cars to the Seaport rather than spending the money on trolley service or other public transit (Red Line extension, anyone?). Traffic is already stopped dead because the Seaport has only limited access to other parts of the city. As if we didn’t already know, The Economist concluded that, “the costs and availability of parking affect people’s commuting habits more than the rapid buses and light rail lines that cities are so keen to build.”

That means parking will only attract more cars. We shouldn’t build parking if, as the mayor’s Imagine Boston 2030 concludes, we want less reliance on cars. But without parking, we must provide those rapid buses and light rail lines. Technology in streetcars is sophisticated—Seaport leaders should visit Bordeaux, France. That city has streetcars powered by rails that respond to the streetcar passing over but can’t be activated by a person stepping on them or a bicycle crossing them. Street cars running on those wide Seaport streets could move people to transportation hubs like Andrew, Aquarium and South Station.

MassPort is in on the act too, building a new garage at the airport when other cities are putting their money into rail lines to airports. Instead of providing more parking, Massport could extend the Blue Line and improve the sad Silver Line, which now takes four or five times as long to get to the airport as does a cab.

Rapid transit doesn’t work unless it is rapid. That’s what we need, not more parking that will slow us down even more.

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