Mayor Wu said she will know she was successful in transport when more people take the T with her


“Congratulations!” another person shouted over the rumble of the train. “I voted for you! another said.

Getting more Bostonians to ride the T is critical to Wu’s success as mayor, she said. By the end of 2022, she’ll know she’s been successful if there are “more options for our families and commuters, more people trekking, biking and walking, and safe streets in the city. our whole city in every neighborhood, ”she said.

Mayor Wu took the MBTA Orange Line during the early morning rush hour to Boston City Hall.David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

She has already taken several steps to launch her program: Earlier this month, she appointed Jascha Franklin-Hodge chief of the city streets, a position vacant for more than eight months. Upon taking office in January, Franklin-Hodge will be responsible for implementing Wu’s transportation program, including creating more bike paths and protected bus lanes and seeking to create more toll-free bus lines by partnership with neighboring municipalities.

Wu has secured $ 8 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to cover the cost of bus tickets on three MBTA routes for two years starting next year: 23, 28, and 29. The line bus 28 has been free since late August in a separate pilot program and has seen traffic skyrocket.

However, the plan hit a speed bump – a requirement by the Federal Transit Administration that pilot tariff programs lasting longer than six months undergo a formal fairness analysis “to determine if there is a disparate impact. on the basis of race, color or nationality. original, ”according to a spokesperson for the agency.

The two-year pilot programs Wu wants to roll out from Jan. 1 aim to increase bus access and speed up service by allowing people to board through all doors without queuing to pay. Passengers on buses 23, 28 and 29 that pass through Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury are predominantly low-income people of color, according to a 2019 report from LivableStreets, a public transport advocacy group.

When Wu visited the White House last week with a group of newly elected mayors, she raised the issue with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Wu said the FTA’s six-month rule has already been lifted.

“We’re going to work on it,” she said. “We need to find a way to make this work for our climate future, for our economic recovery and for delivering the fairness we know is possible.”

Mayor Wu had a conversation with Colleen Flanagan on the orange line.
Mayor Wu had a conversation with Colleen Flanagan on the orange line. David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said, “The MBTA continues to discuss the City of Boston’s proposals for free bus rides with the city, including FTA guidelines for funding these projects. “.

If the issues cannot be resolved by January 1, the MBTA will resume charging passengers on Bus 28 after the current free pilot ends.

“The intention from the start was that it would be a seamless transition, we would get there by January,” Wu said. “We’re still working on it. “

While at the White House, Wu also touted three Boston-based projects that she wants to consider for the new federal infrastructure funds available: the remake of the Interstate 90 interchange at Allston, including the shutdown long-awaited transit of the West station and pedestrian bridges to connect the district; the MBTA Red-Blue connector, which she said would cut daily one-way trips by half an hour for many residents; and the electrification of the Fairmount commuter train line, which it says will provide better service and cleaner air.

Soon Wu will begin to focus on his first budget as mayor, which could reshape the way the city approaches transportation. She hopes to strengthen city departments so that they are able to do design, engineering, construction and community engagement in-house, instead of relying on outside consultants and firms.

Analyzing internal data from new bus and bicycle lanes, for example, would be useful when talking to business owners who are concerned about losing parking spaces. Wu said she was eager to build centralized bus lanes on Blue Hill Avenue, which will likely require these discussions. New centralized bus lanes on Columbus Avenue – the first of their kind in New England – have reduced street parking by about 30%, worrying some business owners and residents.

“Every resident and business owner should be heard in the process,” she said. “What are the numbers really telling us about the real problem? How would it look different with the solutions we present? Making it really concrete this way changes the conversation.

By making bold transportation changes in Boston, Wu hopes the city can influence transportation policy in other cities and at the state and federal level.

“Cities across the country are where we can innovate and scale quickly, and prove the benefits,” she said. “We are talking about small steps that add up quickly for a better quality of life, better health, better opportunities. “


Taylor Dolven can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on twitter @taydolven.


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