Catia has used every mode of transportation available (except personal vehicle) to commute to work from her home in Davis Square. Catia has felt unsafe while walking and biking the streets of Somerville, despite enjoying the exercise and freedom of these transportation options. She has had to perfectly orchestrate her trips around infrequent bus schedules with bus transfers that are farther away from the start than the destination, and has been late to meetings as a result of bus delays, overcrowded buses that zoom right past bus stops without making pickups, and traffic congestion. Catia has also squeezed herself onto overcrowded subway cars, been late to work because of broken signals and broken trains, and been forced to use ride hailing or other services when the T simply stopped functioning at key moments.
A thriving and equitable economy requires the infrastructure to support workers. Our current system fails to do this. More reliable, safe, and equitable transportation options will not only improve commutes and expand economic investment in our area, but can also help us to reach our climate goals.
Studies show that the transportation sector is the biggest contributor to climate change through greenhouse gas emission in Massachusetts. If we are to dramatically change our economy from one reliant on fossil fuels rapidly, we must make a community-level transition to methods of transit that aren't personal vehicles. If we want people to change their behavior on this scale, we must invest in a reliable and pleasant commuting experience.
For those communities who don't live near the subway - which tend to be communities with lower cost housing - bus service is unreliable and infrequent. We must invest in making our transportation system equitable so that people in lower-cost neighborhoods can commute easily as well. Catia will advocate for more frequent bus service, protected bus lanes to make service more reliable, and eliminate fares for bus service to encourage use and reduce inequities.
Catia biked to work at the State House during the summer and walked to work in West Medford for a time as well. She felt unsafe many times due to failures of critical infrastructure to make these options viable. There were many times where car traffic on Massachusetts Avenue came dangerously close, or unloading trucks blocked the bike lane, requiring bikers to swerve into the left lane of traffic. Catia has also seen sidewalks and crosswalks that were incredibly unsafe and unaccessible to people with disabilities in her pedestrian commute to the Middlesex Sheriff's Office in West Medford. For example, accessing Assembly Row from across Interstate 93 as a pedestrian, requires walking through a poorly lit, construction-enclosed underpass between crossing on- and off-ramps for the highway. Crossing Mystic Avenue to catch a bus is nearly impossible as well, with safe protected crosswalks few and far between.
Protected bike lanes and crosswalks on major roadways and prohibitions on construction that closes needed sidewalks could help to make these options more accessible. Somerville has started to invest in protected bike lanes, for example on Beacon Street, but more are certainly needed. In particular, infrastructure that connects less wealthy neighborhoods to jobs is sorely lacking. Community members living on the East side of Somerville near Interstate 93 lack safe transportation alternatives and reliable bus service.
Our built environment in Somerville prioritizes cars. We can change that to reduce traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle traffic, and improve our health and safety in the process.
Catia rode the T to work at the State House during the winter of 2015, when 7 feet of snow piled up outside and the T completely failed many workers. Catia saw how riders boarding at Porter Square that winter had no chance of boarding packed trains running infrequently, and had colleagues who were forced to work from home or take sick days due to their inability to take public transit.
The T was originally built over one hundred years ago, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it requires maintenance. Our state leaders have completely failed to maintain our aging subway system at even the most basic level of functioning. But maintenance is not enough. We also need to make critical investments to bring the T into the modern era to allow it to run more frequently and quickly (aging track infrastructure limits train speeds and intervals so that there is a maximum flow of trains through the system), to reduce maintenance costs (currently, some parts they need to fix the T aren't even produced by the manufacturer anymore), and to make the system more equitable (for example, the Central Square elevator is out of service for over a year for maintenance, forcing mobility-limited riders to travel an extra stop and board a bus back to Central Square).
We deserve better, and we can afford better.