Join us for our installment of the Pacesetters Doing Business series featuring Boston Planning and Development Agency on December 7, 2023.
3:00pm - 4:00pm
Jenny Holaday will share her journey into leadership as President of Encore Boston Harbor and first woman to run a casino in Massachusetts.
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Encore Boston Harbor
Step into Winter Wonderland at our BIMA Holiday Gala. Gather your digital media and marketing peers for a night of networking and entertainment.
6:30pm - 9:30pm
Designed for mid-level managers and supervisors, this new certificate program addresses workplace well-being through unique, innovative, and actionable methods.
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Our Boston’s Future Leaders (BFL) program provides emerging leaders with a socially conscious and civically engaged leadership toolkit, as well as the opportunity to apply their knowledge through experiential assignments.
City Awake empowers young professionals in a variety of ways that encourages these rising leaders to stay invested in the region’s future success.
We are developing an ecosystem of corporations and partners with the influence and buying power to transform economic inclusion for minority business enterprises (MBEs).
The Fierce Urgency of Now Festival brings Boston’s diverse young professionals together with business leaders, organizations and their peers to build connection, advance careers and ignite positive change.
BIMA (the Boston Interactive Media Association) serves a vibrant community of like-minded professionals from agencies, brands, publishers, and ad-tech companies with business interests in the New England market.
For nearly 30 years, the Chamber’s Women’s Network has connected female professionals of all background and career levels. Today, our Women’s Network is the largest in New England, strengthening the professional networks of women each year.
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On December 4, 2020 the Chamber submitted testimony urging the Fiscal and Management Control Board to delay the decision to reduce MBTA services as part of the Forging Ahead initiative.
We urge the Fiscal and Management Control Board to delay any decision on significant service reductions until there is a better understanding of both the MBTA’s and state’s fiscal 2022 budget, more clarity on potential federal assistance, and more certainty regarding the pace of the return to the workplace.
First, the Chamber appreciates the enormous challenges that MBTA employees at all levels have managed this year, in particular their work to keep the system operating and passengers safe. We acknowledge that significant ridership drops exacerbated the MBTA’s financial challenges, and the agency must create plans to adapt to changing demand. The framework for service changes rightly considers equity and transit dependency and we understand some service adjustments are necessary.
However, public transportation is an essential aspect of any thriving city and with funding made available in the CARES Act, the MBTA does not face a budget gap in fiscal 2021. As we navigate our way out of this pandemic and turn our focus to an economic recovery, a strong public transportation system will ensure that we do not encourage the use of single occupancy vehicles and a return to gridlocked streets.
Given that the MBTA does not face an immediate budget gap, service change decisions should be moderated as much as possible and consider the impacts post-COVID and the time it will take to restore service. For example, the proposed limited stop eliminations and increased commuter rail headways are reasonable changes.
If additional service cuts are needed to balance the MBTA’s fiscal 2022 budget, they should be assessed by the Legislature along with all competing state priorities. The state needs to have a holistic fiscal 2022 state budget discussion that considers the balance between service reductions, increased borrowing, and additional revenues. Strikingly, we are halfway through fiscal 2021 with virtually no major reductions in state general fund spending compared to fiscal 2020. It is important that the FMCB not prematurely send a message that public transportation is among the lowest priorities for the state next year without engaging in a discussion with the Legislature. While there is decreased demand right now, the state needs to begin a strong economic recovery in 2021 and robust public transit will be a necessary part of that.
Given the importance of public transportation to the region, the Chamber continues to support additional state revenue for the MBTA, including temporarily increasing transfers from the general fund to sustain operations during and immediately after the pandemic. We support raising fees for rides with transportation network companies (TNCs) and directing these funds to transit authorities across the state. We also support an increase in the gas tax, which has risen only 14% since 1991 despite increases in MBTA fares of over 200%.
A clearer picture of potential federal funding is also important because it may reduce the need for service changes. The Chamber and many other business groups continue to advocate for another federal COVID-19 relief package that includes assistance for transportation authorities. This funding would allow the MBTA to preserve service and continue to invest in much needed capital projects. With the stimulus conversations ongoing in Washington D.C., the FMCB should delay its decision until there is more clarity.
The MBTA’s service levels must be ready to adapt to demand for service, not drive the demand. A prolonged period of reduced service – especially if it lags the return to work and more – risks permanent losses for MBTA ridership as riders shift to single occupancy vehicles. A recent study from the City of Boston showed that an increased number of workers anticipate driving into work more frequently. We already see evidence of this trend: Massachusetts’s average weekday vehicles miles traveled in September are down only 20% from pre-pandemic levels while MBTA trips are down over 70%. This should raise red flags given the severe congestion that plagued the region prior to COVID. While there may be more employees working remotely in the future compared to pre-COVID, its unlikely to stay at current levels.
We understand that the Forging Ahead options and this review process were developed amidst tremendous scientific uncertainty, most notably regarding the efficacy and timing of a vaccine. We now know that before the end of the year, the federal government is likely to authorize at least one COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on the distribution pace, this will result in earlier demand for services as people return to the workplace, socialize, and participate in other everyday activities that were paused or postponed during the pandemic. As a result, Economic Scenario #3 – which is being used for budget forecasting and represents the worst-case scenario for the return of riders – will likely prove to be too conservative. If the FMCB must choose, you should consider using Economic Scenario #2 in order to avoid service cuts that are not necessary to balance the fiscal 2022 budget, especially given the projected surplus embedded within Scenario #3 planning.
As the MBTA moves forward with service planning, it should maintain communication with the region’s largest employers, particularly health care institutions, to ensure cuts and restoration of service align with employers’ return to workplace plans. The Authority’s planning efforts must respond to the decisions of residents and employers, not create a dynamic in which demand is influenced by a lack of supply.
We urge the FMCB to delay the vote on the Forging Ahead initiative currently scheduled for December 14, 2020 as long as possible until there is more certainty around vaccine distribution, expected employer and commuter behavior, as well as the availability of federal and state funding to minimize service impacts. If, however, a decision is needed now, Scenario #2 is the most appropriate choice.
Senior Vice President, Policy & Research